Chapter 14: Primordial Truths
"Where the fuck did all this rain come from? I didn't see a cloud in the sky earlier," Issei groaned after pulling over with Ingvild.
The half-devil frowned, "I've been wondering Issei…you said the Shinto Gods showed up when you met all those evil dragons right? Do you think it's possible they're watching you?"
The dragon immediately snapped his head back at her, "How could they? I have an illusion barrier up. People could only watch me directly. I'd be able to tell if they were at that range."
"Well those people back there seemed off to me. You said you thought they were giants? What if gods are the same way?" Ingvild asked.
"Yeah, but they weren't looking for me. We just ran in to them. Honestly, I don't know what they are…but I thought they were giants or heroes. I'm typically good about sensing people if they're watching me. I can smell devils kilometers away after all. I mean…it's possible a kami could spy on us though. I've never encountered a god until the other night," Issei replied with a deeply concerned expression. It seemed apparent to Ingvild that he was now suspecting it to be true.
"Yeah, but what does a God or a Giant smell like?" she asked.
The delinquent brushed some of the rainwater off his face as he thought for a minute, "I…don't know. Those Shinto gods just smelled like people to me. I sensed weird strength from them, but they didn't have a smell that stood out. That Magni guy had a foreign smell, but it was distinctly human."
"Do you think it's possible they could hide their presence like you can or in some other way?" she asked quietly.
Issei shook his head, "Maybe, but it'd have to be a pretty damn good spell. I don't know that much about gods, so it's not impossible one might be able to slip past my senses."
'Gods have many special abilities Issei. They are rivals to dragons after all. Over the years they've gotten very good at masking themselves from us. Mostly out of fear. Considering those people back there only seemed like humans at first, it's entirely possible the Shinto Gods or other deities might be able to hide themselves at a decent range. My last host wasn't able to track gods very well. I wish I could help you more, but I never dealt with pantheon gods to the same extent a lot of the evil dragons did. Vritra's insight would certainly help on this matter. We should get him after his host leaves school,' Ddraig added.
"You have Great Red's powers though, don't you? Doesn't that help?" Ingvild whispered in his ear.
The dragon sighed as he whispered back, "Yeah I do…but it works under the condition of the illusion magic use. I can't wholly block someone out unless I put up a barrier like I did at the house. Plus I can't track down and cancel who's doing it unless I know what I'm looking for. It's a dream power…imagination essentially. I have to imagine what I'm looking for, and right now I don't know what we're looking for. I can only keep up a basic illusion barrier to stop scrying, but something more advanced could probably watch me if I wasn't aware of it. Red told me people have tried to spy on him a lot in the past and that he couldn't block it out until he was aware of where it was coming from or who was doing it. If he has that issue, then I guess it's a problem for me too. I suppose at the very least I should focus on blocking out those Shinto gods."
'We should definitely be more careful then. Gods aren't a joke, Issei…some are even more powerful than the evil dragons are. Plus if Ophis or one of them kills a god, it will be full-scale war,' Ddraig noted.
'Maybe they're watching me because they know Ophis is going to come back for us? That's a cheery thought. Just how many mother fucking people are going to get involved in this mess?' Issei thought annoyed.
'The next time we encounter someone suspicious you should try to call them out and see what happens. You could try one of Great Red's spellbreaks too,' Ddraig suggested.
'Good idea…I'd prefer to tell them off now rather than later. I don't want any damn Shinto gods trying to get in my way when Ophis comes back. Those dumbasses would probably instigate a fight. I mean that Susanoo guy was itching to fight Orochi,' Issei nodded.
"We should be more careful in public from now on Ingvild…I don't know if I trust my illusion spells right now. Let's go back to the house real quick and we'll figure something out," Issei whispered.
Looking around to make sure no humans were watching, Issei opened up a portal and drove his motorcycle through it taking him directly back home.
By the time the gods caught up follow Issei, they only arrived in time to see him opening a portal.
Amaterasu stared at it surprised, "Portals…so that's how he's getting around the city. He's probably going home."
"Unfortunate…he probably got suspicious when the weather drastically changed for no reason," Athena sighed as she glanced over at Thor and Artemis.
"Now what are we supposed to do? There's no telling where that portal leads." Amaterasu sighed.
"Wait…he and that girl were looking for someone at an apartment earlier remember? We should go find their friend," Artemis suggested.
Amaterasu's eyes lit up, "Of course…Vritra's host. They'll probably come back for him later."
"Where did Vritra's host go?" Rossweisse asked curiously.
"I think he went to school…at least that's what they thought. At any rate, we can just stake out the apartment. I'd prefer not to go near the devil territory if we can avoid it. We don't need them getting involved. From the way uncle Hades describes devils, they're nothing but a nuisance," Artemis answered.
Thor frowned, "Yes, but how does that deal with the portal issue? We can't just follow him through one even if we do wait for their friend. What if Issei Hyoudou opens a portal in this guy's apartment?"
"All we can do right now is wait. I would be quite interested in studying the dragon a bit further. If we can discover his intentions, maybe we can approach him," Athena suggested.
"You...want to approach him?" Artemis asked surprised.
Athena nodded, "I don't fancy deception in this instance. If we can confirm he's opposed to joining Ophis then he might be willing to hear us out."
"Are you sure that's a good idea? If he finds out we've been watching him, his defenses will be extra high and we might lose any future opportunities to learn valuable information," Amaterasu said disapprovingly.
"Well we can't do anything until he returns. I guess we should just wait close to the devil school and keep an eye on his friend until he comes back to the city," Athena responded.
Artemis crossed her arms, "You don't want to look around and see if we can find his lair?"
"No...if he has illusion magic and the ability to open portals, it could be anywhere. It might not even be near the city for all we know," Athena replied logically.
"Well this is going to be boring. Guess we should find some way to pass the time," Artemis groaned.
"Thor, your children are all grown up now, right? Do you have any pictures of them?" Amaterasu asked as she sat next to him.
He nodded, "Yeah, I carry a little book with their pictures for my travels. I can show you if you care to see it. You haven't seen them since they were young."
Artemis and Amaterasu watched curiously as Thor pulled a small flipbook out of his pack and opened it up, "There's Magni, Modi, Thrud, and Ullr. Magni's the oldest, his mom's a giant and he's almost bigger than me these days. Modi's the boy there. Classic middle child right there. He and Magni used to fight all the time, but they're pretty much inseparable these days. Modi's not as strong as Magni is, but he's better at using lightning spells. That's my little girl, Thrud. She's the baby of the bunch and definitely my favorite kid. The boys are always fighting over who'll get to inherit Mjolnir, but honestly I think she's the worthiest to wield it. That last one is my stepson Ullr. Good kid and definitely smart too unlike my other sons. I think his real dad was some Vanir god that died in the Aesir Vanir war. He's my favorite one to take traveling though. The kid's a great archer and he always does right by me. He gets on pretty well with Modi and taught him a lot of magic."
"Is that your wife right there then? She's beautiful!" Artemis remarked as she looked at Sif.
Sif had honey gold hair and was a perfect balance of warrior and wife. She was wearing a dress in the picture and had a soft smile. She still had a sword sheathed at her side though.
"Yeah, that's her…she's been good to me over the years. Plus she's a great cook. Prettiest woman in Asgard too. That's saying something considering how pretty Freya and Idunn are. Plus all the Valkyries too," Thor said as he stared at the picture.
Rossweisse perked up, "You actually think all the Valkyries are pretty, Lord Thor?"
"Well most of you are like teenagers to me, so in an aesthetic kind of way I think they are." he laughed.
"Wow, your daughter looks the most like you. She looks more like you than any of them." Amaterasu said surprised. Thor's daughter Thrud had her father's same golden orange hair, icy eyes, and intense facial expression. If Thor were a 20-year-old girl, she's exactly what he would look like.
Thor nodded, "She acts the most like me too much to her mother's concern. Her name 'Thrud' means strength. Don't let her size fool ya…she's beaten up Magni and Modi before in fights. She has my fiery temper and isn't into all that lady stuff like her mother. She wants to be like me and become the strongest god in Asgard one day."
"Thrud is stronger than all the Valkyries and is definitely Lord Thor's most powerful child. Freya asked her if she wanted to become a Valkyrie recently since all my shield-sisters like her." Rossweisse added.
"She sounds like a strong woman then. I find it odd a god like you would favor your daughter," Artemis remarked.
"Honestly, you remind me of her a little bit. You two would probably get along," Thor chuckled.
Issei, Back at the House
Upon passing through the portal, Issei pulled up outside of his estate. To his absolute shock, the place looked completely different. Everything now had a stylistic overhaul and the house was even larger than before. A huge garage was in place of where the old one was, and the house looked to be twice the size. It looked like a cross between a Yakuza mansion and a European castle now. Dragon statues decorated the area and the entire house had been repainted red gold and a bit of green.
He saw the top of the house now had a Japanese flag at the 'tower' and a welsh flag right next to it. Issei recognized the Welsh Flag because it had Ddraig on it.
Issei looked around shocked, "What the hell?!"
'Ughh…it always makes me cringe when I look at the Welsh Flag. They could have drawn me better than that! I still can't believe those people put me on a flag.' Ddraig said gruffly.
'This had to be Red's doing…nobody else would have done all this!' Issei replied.
"The house looks different! Someone altered it? How did they get past the barrier though?!" Ingvild asked worried.
"It had to be Red…I mean look at that damn garage over there!" Issei pointed at the garage with amazement as he drove the bike over towards it. Upon doing so his jaw dropped at an unbelievable sight. Parked inside of the garage was what looked to be Issei's motorcycle. It was vastly different than before. His bike was now painted red, green, and gold. There was a dragon head shape to the front that matched Ddraig's head. The front wheel had two dragon legs clutched onto the side and the back wheel had the back legs sticking past it. Four exhausts came out the back with one above and one below each back leg. The exhausts connected to the unique looking engine. What also stood out were small wing-like extensions folded in over the side to match the same position Red made before flying into a Dimensional Portal for an explosion stunt. The metal on the motorcycle reminded issei of Red's Apocalypse Mail in a way. The most surprising part of all was the motorcycle looked modified to have more seat room on the back as well. Issei almost laughed when he saw that the license plate was a custom Japanese one. With its five-character limit, it simply said his name: ISSEI.
Upon staring at it for a few seconds, he quickly noticed a note was attached to the bike. He eagerly grabbed it and began to read: 'Sup kid, I finished upgrading your bike finally. It looks more like mine now, but I made sure to put in some aesthetic parts to match Ddraig too. Since you always got bitches riding on the back, I gave you some more seat room for your groupies. Don't worry about the wind drag either. I put apocalypse mail on that thing, so it's fucking INDESTRUCTABLE AND WAY FASTER NOW! SEE THOSE WINGS ON THE SIDE?! THEY CAN POP OUT AND TURN THAT THING INTO A JETBIKE! AIR, LAND, SEA, SPACE…AIN'T NONE OF THAT SHIT TOO MUCH FOR THIS BAD BOY! The best part of all is I PUT IN A BADASS STEREO SYSTEM with all the best music! It even plays in a vacuum! I'm gonna make mine the same way when I get it back. I also upgraded your house too while I was here. Enjoy all badass shit DAD got you, son!
P.S. I finished that obstacle course and training area. Feel free to use it, and don't worry about the time dilation. The training area is in a pocket dimension and it mirrors Earth's time. The bottom of your pool leads to it. I was going to stay and train with you, but something important came up that I have to take care of. I'll be gone for a little while and won't be around…sorry kid. You're on your own with goth girl, but I know you can deal with her. Make me proud Issei! ~ Red.'
Issei blinked several times as he lowered the letter, 'He thinks I can deal with Ophis?! Does that mean he doesn't think she'll try to kill me?'
'I don't know whether to find his statement reassuring or troubling…' Ddraig added.
'Where do you think he went? I mean Red taking care of something important sounds even more dire than this battle we're about to be in,' Issei thought concerned.
Ddraig sighed, 'I couldn't say, but that is worrisome to me.'
"What does that note say, Issei?" Ingvild asked.
He handed it to her, "Red fixed up the house for me and gave my bike back. He also said the training course he was building is done and that he's going to be busy with something for a while."
After skimming through the note, Ingvild looked up concerned, "Busy? What do you think he's doing?"
"I have no idea, but we don't have time to waste finding out. We need to train…but we need to go back out to get Saji first. I'll go pull his ass out of school if necessary," Issei stated seriously.
She nodded, "I just wonder about Saji-san. If anyone's watching us, they would definitely keep an eye on him until we go back. Abducting him at Kuoh would certainly arouse suspicion from the devils there too."
"I don't know if we're being watched by gods or giants, but from now on we should be careful about what we say in public. I don't want any gods showing back up in the middle of my confrontation with Ophis. I especially don't want an army of devils and angels flooding the battlefield and trying to start shit with the dragons. The less people that know about this, the better," Issei sighed.
"Honestly, Issei-kun, I don't think we're going to be able to keep this a secret from them. You said Gabriel knows you're the Sekiryuutei now…it wouldn't be surprising to me if everyone in Japan found out about the dragons and about you soon. I mean if you start fighting Ophis' followers, it's certainly going to alert a lot of people," she noted.
He sighed, "Yeah, but I was hoping they wouldn't find out until after the fact. The last thing I want is someone like Serafall trying to help me and getting killed."
"Serafall Leviathan? You two are rather close, aren't you?" Ingvild asked carefully.
Issei looked away, "Yes and no…she's alright for a devil, but she's also a Maou. Being friends with her is a problem in this situation. People around me are going to get hurt if they try to help. I mean that's why I sent the rest of them away. Saji has Vritra now so he is pretty much involved in this mess, and you…"
"What about me? Are you saying I'll get in the way? I mean if you don't want a Maou or an archangel's help, you certainly wouldn't want me there." she asked sadly.
He frowned, "The difference between them and you is you aren't part of some big faction. Your help doesn't have any weird strings attached and you have a Longinus. I'm not sure how helpful it will be but considering you could avoid Ophis' detection at a decent range, I have a feeling you're going to be good support. Plus, unlike someone like Serafall, you know when to run and hide if things go bad…"
"You're considering that, aren't you? That you can't win…" she asked insightfully.
Issei sighed, "I'm very powerful Ingvild, but I don't know how I can stop Ophis if she tries to fight me herself. Beating all those evil dragons is a tough feat in and of itself."
"You don't think Great Red can help us if things get that bad?" she asked hopefully.
"No…if he showed up on Earth to fight Ophis, it would destroy the world. He purposely left at the parent teacher night just so he wouldn't. Great Red doesn't care much about the Earth, but he did it for me. He knows I don't want my human parents to die and he's cool like that. I'd feel like a total pussy if I asked him to come fight my battle for me. Besides, Red's busy with something important anyways. He already helped us by building that training course so I can practice Nightmare Mode. If I can master that, then I might be strong enough to at least beat Ophis' generals and make her retreat. I doubt she'll go all out to try and destroy the world…she needs her allies to fight Great Red. If we take them away from her, then she might give up on it. Red isn't scared of her or her army…I had a dream about them hunting him down and he saw it. He laughed at the idea and isn't worried about them. I don't think he's in any danger…so all we have to do is stop Ophis' generals." Issei explained heavily.
A moment later Ddraig spoke up, "Your plan isn't a bad one, Issei…Ophis will doubtfully fight anyone herself. She's too powerful and it would destroy the Earth. The main issue is her Infinity Snakes powering her followers up. If we can find a way to disrupt those, you'll have the advantage against her Qlippoth Dragon generals."
"Is that…the Red Dragon Emperor?" Ingvild asked as she stared at the green light on Issei's arm.
He nodded, "Yeah, it's Ddraig."
"Nice to meet you, Ddraig-sama," Ingvild addressed him respectfully.
"Well met Ingvild Leviathan. From what I've seen of you…you're the least annoying companion Issei has had so far. We both appreciate your ability to keep secrets. I hope your Longinus proves beneficial in the battle. Issei remarked it was bard-like…perhaps you can enhance or weaken dragons with it," Ddraig replied to her.
She tilted her head, "You really think I'm Issei-kun's least annoying companion? Do you not like his other friends?"
"They're tolerable…but they remind me a lot of the companions previous hosts of mine have had. I've seen it time and time again where good intentioned people get my hosts involved in pointless wars. It's even more annoying when my host is some self-righteous 'hero' or power-hungry asshole. I grew tired of being used for people's petty politics or personal crusades. After my last host died overusing Juggernaut Drive, I swore I would try to avoid it this time around by encouraging my new wielder to keep a low profile." Ddraig explained.
Ingvild looked confused, "Who was your last host? How did he die, exactly?"
Issei tilted his head, "The last one was the chick right, Ddraig? She was the hero one from China?"
The half-devil's eyes lit up, "I know we're pressed for time, but can you please tell me about her?"
Ddraig sighed, "Yeah…she was a hero-born human from China named Jia Hongyu. Her surname means red jade or something like that. A lot of her underlings just called her the Red Jade Dragon. I'm probably still known by that name in China. Considering red and green are my colors it kind of works I guess. Her parents were monster hunters from some ancient clan whose name I don't care enough to remember. This was like 140 years ago. She manifested the Boosted Gear at seventeen or something like that, so she kind of had a weird identity crisis about the whole thing. She hated everything that wasn't human, and her clan was pretty bloodthirsty and self-righteous in their desire to kill non-humans. While I didn't care about that, their clan worshipped some gods and they considered all dragons evil too."
Ingvild looked at Issei curiously, "Have you heard about her before?"
The delinquent shrugged, "Not the whole story, but it really made me understand why Ddraig wanted me to avoid revealing myself for a long time."
"Like something out of a movie, her mom got killed by a devil and she used my power to get revenge when her own proved to be too weak. It scared her clan when she accidentally killed people in the crossfire, and it turned her into a self-pitying hypocrite since she thought she was a 'monster'. Her clan exiled her for being a 'dragon'. Eventually when her self-pity was too much for me to tolerate, I tried to convince her that she needed to get over it. I told her that as a dragon and my host, she had no choice but to master my power or eventually die when Albion's host found her. She agreed but said she would only use it to protect humans and to destroy 'evil creatures' with it. Boy do I regret that one…she went on some self-righteous crusade to kill off all the non-humans she could in China and would purposely just instigate fights with various factions for no reason. As you can imagine, it quickly made us a ton of enemies. The girl went nuts and power-hungry in her obsession to beat more and more noteworthy challengers. She killed everyone from devils, angels, youkai, to even other dragons. She defeated the dragon king Yu-Long pretty badly one time too. He's actually kind of nice, but she didn't care. For a while, she had everything she wanted, and everyone was afraid of her. She got a little boyfriend and a team of friends that helped her out. The girl thought she was invincible and didn't care enough to be cautious or pick her fights and allies wisely. I told her multiple times that even I got beaten and that she should be more aware of her limitations. Well she ignored me as usual and eventually bit off more than she could chew. After purging China of enemies, she decided she would go to India to do the same. Her warpath was stopped by a dragon named Pakhangba. He sought to protect various dragons around India that she was hunting down. Well she killed him…despite me telling her that Pakhangba was not an evil dragon. This pissed off a lot of people including his most powerful friend…the god Vishnu. Well needless to say, she tried to fight Vishnu and that ended very poorly. Jia just couldn't match him with the boosted gear. Even at my full power, I don't know if I could beat Vishnu, but she was determined to win. She pushed herself beyond Juggernaut Drive and it killed her."
Ingvild looked both sad and amazed by the story, "Wow…so is that why you encouraged Issei to not reveal himself?"
"I convinced Issei when he first manifested the boosted gear that we should avoid politics and keep our identity a secret. I knew it would one day become inevitable, but I hoped the isolation would temper him with wisdom. Too many of my hosts have done stupid things and made me look bad. Some have become underlings to angels, devils, or whatever else. I just wanted him to see things the way I did and learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of his predecessors. It's a shame that despite my best efforts and his own, that we are destined for a life and pointless fighting and drama. Nevertheless, Issei has always valued my advice unlike most of my other hosts and I am grateful for that," Ddraig elaborated with a heavy sigh.
Ingvild nodded, "That makes sense to me. From the history I've studied, Sekiryuuteis are usually power-hungry conquerors. I was amazed when I first found out about Issei. For someone like him to be so down-to-earth is quite commendable. For what it's worth, I think you did the right thing. Sorry if I'm a burden to you guys and I'm sorry this keeps happening to you Ddraig-sama."
"It's not your fault…nor is it Issei's. It's just bad luck…or fate. Whatever the hell you want to call it. Maybe a curse from the stupid Bible God. Regardless, Issei has been my favorite wielder thus far. He understands what it means to be a True Dragon more than any of the others, and he heeds my wisdom and advice. I'm not a tool to him…I'm his friend. He's one of the few in this world I would consider my friend. Through him I have also come to understand Great Red a lot more as well. The time we spent with Great Red has been quite refreshing and enlightening. He is a true dragon…and I am happy that I can join Issei on this path to be like the greatest of our kind. If we have to check some arrogant fools on the way to that path, then I'm all for doing it this time around," Ddraig responded reassuringly.
"So you and Issei thought those people back at the café were giants, Ddraig-sama?" Ingvild changed the subject after a brief silence.
"I just speculated on it. The man said his mother was from Iceland, and his surname sounded like a giant's name. I am not too familiar on northern deities, so I couldn't confirm anything sadly. Nevertheless, I expect we will be seeing them again…as well as everyone else under the sun. They're in for a real humility check whenever Issei and I unleash our full power." Ddraig announced almost eagerly.
Issei chuckled, "You're looking forward to it now, Ddraig?"
"Yeah…it's finally time, Issei. This is a battle worth fighting and we have our pride to defend. We're going to show these people what a True Dragon is, and all our kin are going to learn that the Red Dragon Emperor is someone never again to be tested. Albion will finally give up on trying to fight me, and the rest of these annoying factions can stop flexing on us," he grunted in approval.
"Ha! Great Red has been rubbing off on more than just me it seems," Issei smirked in approval.
"Well, how should we start with our training then once we get Saji and go to the Dimensional Gap?" Ingvild asked.
Issei thought for a moment, "We'll figure that out once we're there. I want you to test the limits of your Longinus while I'm teaching Saji dragon stuff. After that, Ddraig and I will be working on Nightmare Mode."
"What is Nightmare Mode exactly?" she wondered.
Issei looked away for a moment, "It's…difficult to explain. You'll see what it's like firsthand when I practice with it later. I've never combined it with Boosted Gear successfully, so that's my main goal in my own training."
The half-devil widened her eyes with amazement, "So…is it like a reality warping power?"
"Sort of…you'll understand when you see it," he concluded.
"Well we've already wasted enough time. Let's go get Saji-san. Do you want me to come with you?" Ingvild said anxiously.
"Yeah, let's hurry up," he nodded as he opened a portal.
She looked over at the motorcycles, "You don't want to take your bikes?"
"Not for this…we're slipping in and out. Besides, I'd be too tempted to go joyriding on it," he shook his head.
After passing through the portal to reach school, Issei locked on to Saji's scent right away. The newly added Vritra smell was only detectable by him thanks to the spell he put on the Sitri pawn. As he passed into the hallways of the school with Ingvild, he realized Saji was in the Student Council Room much to his annoyance.
"He's with the others right now…well shit," Issei sighed.
Ingvild looked up at him concerned, "Are we going to wait to get him then?"
"No…we don't have time to wait. Saji needs to learn how to use Vritra's powers. He needs the training more than either one of us. Fuck it…I'm just going to get him," Issei shook his head.
As they walked through the school together, they got a few weird looks from other students. Most of them were probably wondering why Issei wasn't in his school uniform and why Ingvild was with him.
"Should I wait by the front Issei?" Ingvild asked him.
"Yeah…the less questions they ask, the better. I won't be long," he nodded as the two parted ways.
On his way to the Student Council room, he unfortunately passed by Rias and Akeno who were on their way out. Both of them had somber expressions and appeared very distraught about something. The two devils looked at him completely shocked by his presence at school as he passed by them.
Rias immediately voiced her confusion, "Issei-kun? Why aren't you in your uniform? Kiba told me you weren't in class earlier. Your human friends didn't come to school either…is something wrong?"
"I'm busy with something…" he said without giving any explanation.
"Are you looking for Sona?" Rias asked as she and Akeno began to follow behind him much to his annoyance.
He ignored them as he finally reached the door. Without even knocking he pushed the door open and glanced around the room.
Most of the Sitri devils were in there and they appeared to be having a meeting or something like that. They all perked up with confusion at Issei's presence. Judging by the tension in the room, he guessed that Saji might have told them something.
The blonde devil himself looked a bit spooked by Issei's sudden appearance. Sona was quick to address him, "Hyoudou-kun? Is there something you need?"
Glancing at Saji now, Issei jerked his head motioning for the devil to follow him. Without hesitation, Saji got up and walked over towards him.
"Saji? Where are you going?" Tsubaki asked confused.
"He and I business to take care of…" Issei finally answered.
Sona looked concerned now, "W-wait! You're not going to hurt him are you?"
"I'll be fine, president," Saji said without explaining anything.
Sona immediately stood up, "Issei-san, please! Tell us what's going on."
He didn't acknowledge her as he glanced at Saji now, "What's with the somber mood in here?"
"It's just politics, Issei. The Fallen Angel Cadre Kokabiel recently launched an attack on our territory in the Underworld. He had a bunch of allies from the Old Satan Faction helping him as well. He hunted down and killed the nine guardians that hold the key fragments to Cocytus…the Maou are concerned and it sounds like we're going to war with them. The Fallen Angel leader Azazel contacted us afterwards and said that the Gremory and Sitri heirs are in danger now too from Kokabiel," Saji explained.
Issei gave Saji a dangerous look, "I see…well let's go then."
"Saji, what is this?! What's going on?! Are you in trouble? Where is Issei-san taking you?" Sona asked with a worried face.
Looking over all of his worried friends, Saji sighed, "I'm sorry president…I can't tell you. Don't worry about Kokabiel though. Issei is going to deal with him."
"You are?!" Sona asked disbelievingly as she stared at the delinquent.
He nodded, "Yeah…just lay low and don't get involved."
"Why do you need Saji, though?" Tsubaki interjected with confusion.
"Let's go," Issei commanded as he walked out of the room.
Rias and Akeno were blocking the doorway out, but Issei simply walked through them without a care.
Saji followed behind him without looking back despite all of his friends voicing their concern.
As the two made it a few more steps down the hallway, Akeno called out to them, "Please just tell us this Issei…is Vali Lucifer involved in all of this?"
He stopped in his tracks and glanced back at her, "Don't get involved or you'll die. I won't be able to protect you guys if you get in the way. This is dragon business…"
Akeno and Rias traded horrified expressions as Issei pretty much indirectly confirmed their suspicions. Without another word, the two of them continued onwards.
After they were gone, Rias and Akeno walked back into the Student Council room. The red-haired devil princess shook her head, "What the hell is going on?"
Tsubaki adjusted her glasses and sighed heavily, "I don't know, but Hyoudou-san getting involved like this is genuinely concerning. His friends didn't come to school and he just took Saji without any explanation."
"He told us not to get involved…if that's the case, what does he need Genshirou-kun for?" Akeno wondered.
Sona thought for a moment, "Saji's sacred gear had something to do with the evil dragon Vritra. I think he said it was one of the five pieces."
"Well considering Issei said it was 'dragon business', that would make sense…" Rias nodded.
Momo spoke up confused, "I thought he didn't like Saji-kun. Hyoudou-san is super powerful…what would he want him for?"
"I don't know, but we have to report this to the Maou. I know he doesn't want us involved, but I can't rightfully ignore this problem," Sona said solemnly.
"It's that Vali girl…I'll bet she's with the Old Satan Faction too. It's no coincidence that the Cocytus guardians were attacked the same night those girls disappeared," Akeno said distastefully.
Sona frowned, "I hope not…she's the White Dragon Empress. It'll be extremely difficult to fight a heavenly dragon wielder if she's with them. What's even worse is that would imply Tiamat is with them too."
"Do you think Issei-kun plans on fighting them? He knows who the Sekiryuutei is…maybe he wants to protect him from them?" Tsubasa suggested.
Rias sighed, "I don't know, but I agree with Sona…we have to report this."
Outside of Kuoh Academy
After intercepting Ingvild, the three of them walked outside of the school's front gate. Issei looked around briefly to make sure nobody was looking before addressing Saji, "Just so we're clear…you didn't tell them anything, right?"
"No, Issei…you were right. They would definitely get hurt if they got involved. They don't know about Ophis or about me," Saji nodded.
"Why the fuck did you come to school today?" Issei growled.
"I didn't have a choice…if I didn't show up for our peerage meeting, they would have assumed I got abducted and that would only put them in more danger," he tried to defend his actions.
Issei shook his head, "Well there's some stuff we should talk about when we get back to my house."
Saji nodded, "Alright, sorry Issei…"
"Let's go find some cover so I can open a portal," Issei sighed as they walked towards a side street. As they progressed along a few blocks from the school, they were soon met by a stranger who looked completely out of place.
All three of them stared at the man curiously. He seemed extremely familiar and had a familiar draconic scent. Issei's defenses were raised high as he stared at the approaching threat.
He had medium length dark brownish hair. His eyes were a fiery red color and he had a tanner complexion than most people. His clothes looked about as normal as one could expect, but they were definitely foreign looking.
His shirt had an unusual language written on it. Issei had no idea what the language was, but it looked middle eastern in origin.
'Do you recognize this guy or that language, Ddraig? He smells like a dragon I've met before.' Issei asked.
'Yes…that's Azi Dahaka. I had almost forgotten what his human form looked like under the mask. Don't let its lack of intimidation fool you though…Azi is very mentally unstable and immensely powerful.' Ddraig answered.
Issei immediately tensed up, 'Wait…this guys is the same Azi Dahaka we saw the other night?! He looks like a teenager. So is that language on his shirt Persian then? Can you read it? What do you think he's here for?'
'It technically is Persian, but that language isn't a modern one. It's Avestan I think. It is an incredibly old Persian language…one of the oldest in the world in fact. I can barely understand what all of it says, but I do know those characters in the middle. It says Angra Mainyu,' he replied.
'What is Angra Mainyu?' the delinquent wondered.
'Who…and it's Azi Dahaka's father. Angra Mainyu or Ahriman as some called him was a god of darkness, chaos, and all that fun stuff. I don't know that much beyond that, but I heard he was pretty evil. Tiamat could probably write volumes on the topic. I scarcely remember her rambling on about it back when we were friends, but I wasn't really paying attention,' Ddraig explained.
He walked closer towards them and stopped a mere meter's length away. Saji looked even more anxious now. There was no doubt in Issei's mind that Vritra had probably already told Saji who he was.
"I would like to speak with you, Issei Hyoudou," Azi finally spoke as he took a few steps closer. Saji and Ingvild both twitched in response, but Issei remained calm and unfazed as the two locked stares.
"If you're here, does that mean Ophis is too?" the delinquent asked seriously.
The evil dragon shook his head, "No…I came alone. The others have gone to retrieve the Midgard Serpent Jormungandr from Loki. I simply wanted to ask my fellow dragons some questions and tell you both some things that you should probably be aware of."
"Is this some selling point to convince us to join you guys?" Issei sighed.
The dragon shook his head, "No…it's more personal than that. You deserve answers and I would like to know more about you as well. I am simply here for a conversation."
'I'm kind of amazed how civil he's being right now. Azi Dahaka is not known for being rational or calm like this. This might actually be worth listening to. Granted it could drastically backfire if he says the wrong thing,' Ddraig noted.
'At this point I don't even care if someone's watching us. They can see firsthand that I'm not rolling with Ophis,' Issei thought to himself.
"Alright, well ask your questions then…Azi Dahaka," the Sekiryuutei nodded.
"Tell me…Crimson Nightmare Dragon…what is your origin? I asked Tiamat and Vali. To my confusion, neither one of them knew. They mentioned you had a dragon father. Who is he?" Azi asked with a calm curiosity.
"Does that really matter? What is my father to you anyways?" he shot back defensively.
Azi stared at him for a moment before looking away distantly, "I suppose it doesn't matter, but I wanted to understand your origin. You are Japanese like Orochi, but he and I have not identified many powerful dragons from the far east that could have been your father. He speculated your father could have been the dragon of Enoshima…Gozuryu. Tiamat speculated your dragon father was from the Americas and that was why she did not recognize him. She believes he could be Amaru from the Incan religion. From what I know of him, Amaru could go between worlds and open portals anywhere he wished. Judging by your battle against the devils in the underworld I can see that being a possibility with your similar power. Apophis and I both came up with another possibility though…we think your father is the horned dragon Pakhangba from India. It seemed to match the red and gold colors that Tiamat described from your father's attire and the advanced illusionary powers that you also possess. Pakhangba was also known to protect weaker beings and I would consider him decently powerful enough to have produced a son like you. Pakhangba is also missing. It seems quite convenient."
'I guess he didn't hear about my former wielder killing him. I hope Ophis doesn't revive him…Pakhangba is actually as strong as a Dragon King,' Ddraig commented.
"Maybe he is one of those and maybe he isn't. Do you really think I'd tell you regardless of whether it's true or not?" Issei scoffed.
"I suppose you wouldn't…but it seems likely he is one of them. All three of those dragons were missing during our recruitment." The evil dragon stated with certainty.
"Right…" Issei said blankly not confirming or denying anything.
The evil dragon looked back at him now, "My next question is: what are your goals? What do you aspire for as a dragon? I see that you keep interesting company. Are you like Tiamat then? Trying to befriend everyone you can? Seeking out shields and allies so you don't end up in a sacred gear?"
"I'm not like Tiamat. I'm just a dragon that wants to live my life without people telling me what to do. I deal with people appropriately when they cross the line, but I have no ambitions for fighting anyone that doesn't bother me. I really don't care about the politics of the mythological world. Tiamat seems to think Ophis gives a shit about helping dragon-kind. She's delusional…as are the rest of you if you think the dragon gods give a shit about the mundane affairs of this world," Issei replied sternly.
Azi's mouth twisted into a light smile of approval, "You're smart…I too have noticed that Ophis isn't really interested in us. There's more to her than any of us truly know."
"Then why do you follow her? What did Ophis give you in exchange for your allegiance? Power? A promise of vengeance? What are your goals? They call you an evil dragon…is that true?" Issei asked his own question now.
"Evil dragon…it's a pretty damning title, but I won't deny it's true. However, if you condemn someone or something as a monster enough times then it eventually becomes true. The gods made us evil and many of us were bitter and hateful about being hunted for sport or slain for being amalgamations of chaotic power. Very few of us have grown past our old grudges. Nidhoggr, Grendel, and especially Ladon are the same as they ever were. Others like Apophis, Orochi, and Tiamat have tempered their malicious nature…but they now buy into a cause that Ophis can give them purpose. Crom Cruach only follows Ophis because she's more powerful than him…we had to force him and Vali to both join us. As for myself, I am different. I did request vengeance and power from Ophis, but not for the reason you might think. My aspirations for retribution are connected to something more important that I want from her. I wanted her to help me free my father from Cocytus." Azi Dahaka said slowly.
"Your…father? Why is he in Cocytus?" Issei couldn't help but ask.
Saji looked horrified at the mention of this as his head slowly turned towards Issei. He remained silent despite his obvious concern though.
"My father is the evil god in the Zoroastrian pantheon, Angra Mainyu. He is better known as Ahriman to other religions and pantheons. As you probably know, Cocytus is the worst prison in hell reserved for powerful beings that are too strong to kill and too dangerous to leave anywhere else," Azi explained.
"So you want to free an evil god from the worst prison in hell? Why? That seems like a bad idea…unless you intend on destroying the world or something," Issei shrugged.
Azi sighed, "He is not as evil as many believe…that is only what the zealots of Ahura Mazda proclaimed. My father is brother to Ahura Mazda, the supreme god of their pantheon…they represent duality and balance at least that is what Angra Mainyu told me. Complete order or complete chaos are both unreasonable forms of existence. Both must exist in unison for life to be possible. The Zoroastrian religion disagreed. It painted him as the force of all evil, darkness, and negativity…but these things are required. A perfect world does not exist and while many would proclaim Angra Mainyu to be the great liar, the truth is the opposite. He knows many things about this universe. Truths I wish to spread. My goals go far beyond getting petty vengeance against ignorant gods. I seek to clear my father's name and to destroy this great lie that all deities have been living in."
"So…your father is a god then, but you're a dragon? What does that make you?" Issei asked.
"I am also a god…in a manner of speaking. Like Apophis I am half god and half dragon. How do you think we were so powerful compared to the rest of our kin? How do you think the heavenly dragons were so powerful? Those variations are ultimately irrelevant though. We're all the same thing…just a different manifestation of powers. Think of it as how all atoms in the material universe form different variations of elements on a periodic table. Most gods are born from principalities of order and divine energy…most dragons are born from chaos, entropy, and residual fragments of creation. Some are born with mixtures of both," Azi stated.
"What does that make giants then?" he followed up.
Azi tilted his head, "It depends on what kind of giant you mean. Certain giants are god-like beings. They are another race of deities like gods and dragons. Grendel for example is half giant…as is Jormungandr. There are many such outliers and mixtures throughout the world and all pantheons. All of the Norse Gods came from a giant, and dragons like me came from a god. The truth is we all originated from the same thing. We have a common ancestor so to speak."
"Which would be?" Issei narrowed his gaze confused.
"The true God of our reality. I do not know his…or its name, but it was the real creator of this existence we live in. It was split asunder by unknown means long ago into various deities. The most powerful ones were the rulers and progenitors of the various pantheons across this world. All of these gods are aspects of the true god. Fragments of the sundering." Azi explained.
"So all gods, dragons, and giants come from the 'True God?'" Issei cocked his head disbelievingly, "does that include the dragon gods? How did you learn this weird shit? Why should I believe it?"
"The dragon gods are unique beings and they originate outside of our creation from their own dimensions. They are true gods just like the creator. I originally learned of this from my father and Ophis confirmed it to me after we met. She told me the original god was a dragon god like her and Great Red…and according to Ophis it was more powerful than both of them," Azi continued.
'Ddraig does this sound as crazy to you as it does to me?' Issei asked his long-time friend and companion.
'Uhh…yeah it sounds insane. Azi Dahaka is pretty insane, but this sounds about as unbelievable as half the corny infomercials your parents watch. I have a hard time believing the original creator was a dragon. That sounds absolutely ridiculous. Plus he claimed it was stronger than Ophis and Great Red…that's even more ludicrous,' Ddraig replied.
"How was this True God split apart then?" Issei shook his head.
"Nobody knows; not even Ophis does…or so she says. Ophis would not tell me much about it but she did say that Great Red tried to battle the creator several times and lost all of them. It could be possible Great Red killed it, but Great Red was not as powerful as the creator. My father had two theories on the matter: one was that the contrasting powers within the creator eventually caused it to split apart naturally into beings of order and chaos. The other theory which my father believed was more likely suggested that our True God was killed by something else…something more powerful than Great Red, Ophis, and itself. My father was obsessed with discovering this truth, and I would see him freed so we could unravel it. It is a mystery that must be solved…for the sake of every living being in our reality. I don't pretend like I'm some saint, but saving this world is my ultimate goal. Call me evil if you wish, but that is why I follow Ophis," Azi Dahaka elaborated with deadly serious eyes.
Issei had no idea how to comprehend or believe this information. It sounded like some crazy conspiracy theory or the ravings of a doomsday lunatic. He finally responded after a long silence, "That's insane…how can you actually believe that nonsense? Do you have any proof?"
"Your reaction does not surprise me. It goes against all known doctrines, creeds, and religions in the world. It also minimizes every powerful being's own feelings of self-worth and importance. It is this great lie that I wish to shatter. These gods on Earth, in the Heavens, or in the Underworld aren't true gods…and we're not true dragons. Think about this before you dismiss my logic, Issei Hyoudou. Why do you think so many pantheons around the world have their own creation stories? Why do gods like Brahma, Ahura Mazda, or Allah think they were the creator of the world? Because they all are…simultaneously. Born from the death of our creator. Why are gods, giants, and dragons so similar and yet so different? Why are gods, giants, and dragons found all over this world? How could any of these so-called creator deities have made them all? Why are some more chaotic like me and others more virtuous and divine like Ahura Mazda? It comes down to a spectrum of variations." Azi replied seriously. He looked almost angry declaring this statement.
"Okay I'll humor your delusions for a minute then. Let's say this shit is true…what gods around the world are the most powerful fragments of this True God?" Issei asked.
"The Abrahamic bible god is probably the largest fragment. He is also the same being as Allah and Yahweh. Humans just had different interpretations and religions of him. He was killed in a weakened state by Albion and Ddraig after sealing the Beast. They stole his power as well which is why they are both the greatest of our kind excluding the Dragon Gods. Having divine and draconic power makes them the closest thing to the original God. That's why Apophis, Crom Cruach, and I are also close in power to the heavenly dragons as well. The three great Hindu Gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva were other powerful fragments. Had they been one being, they would have been the most powerful being in the world. The original giant Ymir was another one of the largest shards. He was the progenitor deity of the Norse pantheon and all Jotnar. The Primordial Chaos which eventually spawned the Greek pantheon was a powerful shard. It spawned variations of deities and it also explains why the Greek Gods are cruel and chaotic beings. The Egyptian progenitor Nun was also remarkably similar to Ymir. My uncle and father, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, were also large shards. They are brothers but they are completely contrasting gods. Among all deities, some embodied different traits or aspects of the original God. My father's ultimate goal before his imprisonment in Cocytus was to unravel the mystery of the true God. He told me that as a dragon, the True God was not a being of light and virtue like most religions like to believe…it was a being of order and chaos. Stasis and change. Life and death. A being of duality and balance. It was everything that made up our creation. It was man, god, giant, dragon, and so much more. My father's beliefs were…heretical to many pantheons. That is what led to his great war with my uncle Ahura Mazda. After his imprisonment all of his writings were destroyed and only Ahura Mazda remembers them…as do I. This is the truth dragon-kin…Great Red and Ophis are the only True Gods and the only True Dragons just like our creator was," Azi ranted almost obsessively.
"So you're helping Ophis and in exchange she'll free your father? What is your opinion of killing Great Red then? By your logic, wouldn't doing that cause gods and other things to be born of his flesh and blood like the original God?" Issei wondered.
"Possibly…I was curious at what the result would be. Whether he dies or not is beneficial to my goals either way. If he does die it proves my father's beliefs and if he lives, then we might be able to convince him to tell us about the Creator. Ultimately, I do not wish for Great Red's death. He is a true god, just like the mighty Ophis. Such beings of greatness should be respected and venerated. Ophis only aspires to reclaim the dimensional gap from him, but I'm hoping that after bringing him to heel, we could possibly ask him questions. She told us a bit about Great Red and said he is a very prideful and apathetic being. He doesn't talk to anyone and he has no interest in Ophis herself or in this world. What's curious though is Ophis claimed he knew the Creator better than she did. Great Red knows what happened to our creator," Azi answered seriously.
"I told Ophis it was a bad idea to kill him…assuming it was even possible, it would just give other forces the idea that they can kill her and the rest of us as well. What do you think will happen if you kill Great Red? You'll all be weakened, and they'll betray you. It's like the most predictable plot-line ever," Issei shook his head disapprovingly.
"She told us about your request. Ophis seemed receptive to your logic about not killing Great Red. I am certain she knows a lot more than what she's willing to tell us, but your point about how it would cause others to wipe out the rest of us dragons was a valid argument. I agree with your logic, but to be honest, I don't think killing Great Red was her true intent to begin with. She likely knows that killing him will spawn a new reality. I think this has less to do with Great Red and more to do with the Dimensional Gap itself. Ophis has a hidden agenda involving the Dimensional Gap but none of us know what it is. None of the others seem to care either…except for myself and Crom Cruach," Azi Dahaka concluded.
"I find this theory of yours preposterous, Azi Dahaka…Ahriman is a great liar and even we dragons acknowledged he was evil. You can't expect us to believe that dragons and gods are the same thing or that we were born from a dragon god. Even as a dragon myself, I could not believe such a delusion," Vritra spoke through Saji's arm interrupting the conversation.
Azi Dahaka narrowed his gaze with hostility at Saji, "My father is certainly not benevolent, but this is the truth about our creation. What else would explain why all these pantheons exist? In all my years, nobody has ever had an answer for that…other than this one."
"If it is true, then why has nobody else ever reached this conclusion across all the known worlds except for Ahriman?" Vritra countered.
"Others did learn this truth…and they were slaughtered for it. The Jotnar discovered it and were slain for knowing. Ahriman discovered it and was imprisoned. Where do you think the ancient stigma between dragons, gods, and giants originated? The gods craved control and power…they sought to eliminate the so-called darker aspects of our True God and sought to usurp creation and control over everything! I won't let some power-hungry god decide how others get to live in this world!" Azi declared angrily.
"How can you be so sure Ahriman wasn't after the same thing?" Vritra countered.
Azi looked taken aback by Vritra's comment and hissed, "He wasn't!"
"So all the gods are in on this big lie then and you're just a righteous crusader?" Vrita asked skeptically.
Azi shook his head, "No, you fool…very few of them know about it. The ones that do have done their best to silence the truth. I seek to expose it…I seek to dismantle the lies of these so-called 'creator deities' who masquerade as the progenitors of our reality. Ahura Mazda will be exposed for the fraud he is…as will all gods. Balance must be restored!"
"Even if you're right and you do expose this supposed truth, then what will that accomplish? It won't change their minds about wanting to wipe out or subjugate us if we're the product of the chaotic aspects of the original God. They will see us as undesirable aspects that should be removed for their ideal paradises. Also, how do you know Ophis is even telling the truth? She could be manipulating you with this twisted knowledge. You said it yourself that she was hiding something. It seems clear to me that she knew a lot more then what she wanted to tell you. Issei is right when he says that Ophis doesn't care about any of us," Vritra countered.
"Then why has Ophis been deliberately avoiding killing everyone? Why does Great Red avoid this world? The Dragon Gods know things about us and about our creator…and we need to discover what it is! This isn't just about my petty vengeance Vritra! I am trying to save men, gods, and dragons! I seek to free the world of tyranny and lies!" Azi declared seriously.
'My head hurts…this guy is a self-righteous nutjob,' Issei pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes.
'Still…it's interesting that he agreed with your point to Ophis about not killing Great Red. I am concerned that she has a hidden agenda though. That makes this much more complicated,' Ddraig groaned.
'This is weird…I really want to ask Red about this shit, but he's gone for a while,' Issei sighed mentally.
'Maybe it's connected? He might know what Ophis is after…' Ddraig assumed.
'Don't tell me you believe all of this…' the brunette dismissed.
Ddraig was quick to respond, 'I don't believe it entirely…but certain things do seem more than a little coincidental. Mostly the parts about Ophis being after something.'
"So…why can't Ophis just go somewhere besides the Dimensional Gap? By your logic she's a True God, so she could just make her own reality, couldn't she? What the hell is in there that she wants so badly? She told me she desired silence...but that didn't make sense to me." Issei asked.
Azi shrugged, "I don't know why she's so obsessed with the Dimensional Gap specifically. I think there's more to her goals than she's telling us. It could be possible she's afraid of whatever killed our creator and wants to hide there. Something I find unusual about Ophis is she doesn't want to kill anything in this world. It's quite possible she restrains herself out of respect for us beings born of the creator…or out of fear that she'll be noticed by something else."
"Okay man, now you've lost me…you think Ophis is scared of something? OPHIS?! She's not even scared of Great Red and he's more powerful than her! Like do you have any idea how stupid this all sounds? Miss me with your wackjob conspiracy theories! Until I see some proof, I am not going to believe this shit!" Issei shook his head.
Upon finishing his sentence, Issei saw a golden barrier cover the sky. Azi Dahaka looked up at it alertly, "We have company..."
Before Issei could respond, a massive golden boar appeared out of nowhere and blindsided all of them. Saji and Ingvild barely managed to avoid it as the godly golden boar smashed both Issei and Azi Dahaka into a wall collapsing half a building in the process.
The boar immediately transformed into a man by the looks of it. He was adorned in golden battle armor and had a sword and shield in hand. His eyes were a golden color and he had black hair and a beard from what Issei could see beneath his helmet, though they were filled with patches of white and silver.
"You made a mistake coming here, Azi Dahaka! I will send you back to the abyss that spawned you, fiend!" he announced angrily to the Persian dragon.
Issei looked over at his companions as he opened a portal, "Go…I'll be right behind you."
Saji and Ingvild didn't protest at all much to his relief as they immediately ran through the portal. After it closed behind them, Issei stared down the newly arrived attacker, "Who the fuck are you?!"
"He is Verethragna, dragon-kin…a god-servant of Ahura Mazda …" Azi Dahaka answered his question.
Another individual appeared nearby a moment later. Issei recognized it was Susanoo. The god drew one of his swords and charged in at Azi Dahaka to attack him. Before he could reach the dragon, Azi Dahaka blasted him back with a wave of shadow magic.
He snarled fiercely, "I had a feeling you gods were lurking around in this city. I'll give this warning only once…get in our way and you'll die! As for you, Issei Hyoudou…consider what I've told you and think carefully before challenging us. I doubt you're anywhere near as powerful as Crom Cruach or Vali and we forced both of them to join us. You and Vrita will join us whether you wish it or not."
"You can go to hell...I'm not following Ophis!" Issei shot back.
Without another word, the evil dragon then summoned an infinity sign over his hand. The purple and black magic engulfed him, and he disappeared shortly afterward.
"Damn it! He got away!" Susanoo growled angrily before refocusing his anger towards Issei.
Issei glanced over Verethragna and Susanoo, "I figured some assholes were watching me, but I didn't expect you had the balls to show yourselves."
Susanoo clutched his sword tighter, "Show some respect, dragon…we are gods!"
To their shock all four of Issei's wings shot out of his back a moment later. His normally brown eyes turned golden and sharp as the draconic slits formed. Scales began to form up Issei's arms and legs now as he released a dangerous surge of apocalyptic red magic. Normally he wouldn't do this, but the golden barrier around them seemed to be blocking out the rest of the city.
Issei said nothing as he began to inhale deeply. Even though he was in the middle of Kuoh, he didn't care right now. Verethragna raised his shield to block the incoming dragon breath, but both gods were surprised when they saw a portal open up in front of Issei the second it left his mouth.
A split second later, another four opened up around them in all directions incinerating them in apocalyptic red fire. Despite its fearsome power, they were still gods and it only managed to damage their armor and burn them slightly.
They seemed to take him a lot more seriously now as a tail emerged from Issei's lower back and horns sprouted from his head. He spoke darkly, "You're gonna regret picking this fight with me!"
Charging in with burning fury, Issei brutalized both warriors in a melee skirmish. After knocking down Verethragna, he caught Susanoo's sword with one hand and snatched his throat with the other. Issei squeezed as hard as he possibly could causing the God to spasm in his grip and drop to his knees.
"You'll regret the day you ever fucking looked in my direction!" Issei hissed as a dark red surge of power flooded from his hand.
Before he could kill Susanoo, Verethragna transformed into a massive golden boar again and charged at him.
As he charged a portal opened above his head. Chains rained down attached to spikes as they brutally impaled the god's boar form. Issei then swung Susanoo at it by the neck hurling both gods through a building. They took their time to recover and jump back out as Issei slowly walked over towards the two gods.
"He's powerful…a lot more powerful than I thought," Verethragna stated the obvious.
Before either side could make another move, an owl flew in between them and transformed into a woman. Staring at the woman curiously, Issei found her appearance very bizarre. She was obviously foreign. She had a complexion between fair and tan with long brown hair. It was long and free flowing from beneath her helmet. Her face was very aesthetic and beautiful but had the shape of a warrior as well as a lady. Her eyes were a bright teal color that had a piercing gaze to them. She was wearing some type of short white dress with golden armor covering the chest and shoulders. A golden shield with a gorgon likeness was fastened to her back with a leather strap as well as a golden spear. On her head the full-face golden helmet had a massive red plume that looked distinguishably Greek or Roman. Issei clearly recognized it as some type of Spartan helmet. It had incredible decorations on it from the laurel wreath on the front, the teal gems along the side, and many amazing designs. Her legs here fairly exposed minus two golden shin guard plates and warrior sandals. Her forearms had matching bracers and to his surprise, they had serpents and owls on their designs.
"Enough! Verethragna, Susanoo…stand down!" Athena commanded.
Issei paused as he saw the two gods reluctantly listen to her. She then turned towards Issei, "We mean you no harm, Crimson Nightmare Dragon."
Without saying a word, Issei simply turned around and opened a portal. He was about to pass inside until Athena called out to him, "Wait! We are not your enemies! This was a misunderstanding…"
Slowly turning around, he glared at her, "I didn't misunderstand a thing. These two assholes thought they could talk down to me. I don't know how many of you gods are in Japan watching me, and I don't know what you've heard…but you should mind your own damn business."
"I apologize for their actions, Issei Hyoudou. Please, we mean you no harm. It's clear to me now that you're not an evil dragon and you're not interested in joining Ophis. If you have any questions, you're welcome to ask. I would prefer we not be enemies," Athena tried to be diplomatic as she stabbed her spear into the ground before walking closer towards him.
Verethragna and Susanoo didn't know how to react to the situation and remained still and quiet as they watched the scene unfold. Issei reluctantly allowed Athena to approach him. When she was within arm's length, she raised her hand, "I am the Greek Goddess Athena…"
Susanoo looked at Verethragna surprised, "That's Athena?"
The Persian god nodded, "Yes..."
'Athena?! What the hell's a Greek God doing in Japan?' Ddraig groaned.
'Those Shinto gods talked about warning other pantheons…I guess they did. Fuck…we WERE being spied on earlier. She smells completely human too!' Issei confirmed.
The dragon stared at her hand before rudely crossing his arms, "And what the hell do you people want?"
"We seek to stop Ophis' plan. We overheard everything Azi Dahaka said to you. Forgive our deception, but we were under orders by our pantheons to watch you until Ophis' return," Athena explained as she finally lowered her arm reluctantly.
"Why are you getting involved here? Ophis could easily kill any god in the world…I almost killed those two assholes over there and I'm barely using my power. You guys are just like devils and angels…arrogant morons who think they need to be involved in everything," Issei scoffed.
Athena frowned, "I wouldn't be here if I had a choice. The idea of dying in this foreign land is not appealing to me, but my father Zeus ordered me to help the Shinto Gods. Listen, Issei Hyoudou…you're clearly opposed to Ophis just as we are. Would you consider helping us?"
"Athena, you can't be serious!" Verethragna protested, "this dragon is dangerous and he-"
"You're the one that attacked him for no reason! You and Susanoo! You also blew our cover and ruined his impression of gods now!" Athena interrupted him fiercely.
Issei shook his head, "Don't get involved…this is my fight."
"If Ophis is a danger to us, then what are you going to do?! Azi Dahaka said he would force you into their ranks even if you resisted. I would not that see happen if I could stop it. Please, reconsider. You're clearly powerful, and I would welcome your aid. Despite what these proud fools say, we need all the help we can get…and no offense, but I think you need do too." Athena responded sincerely.
'I would normally advise against accepting an offer like this, Issei, but they're going to be there regardless. We have nothing to lose letting them help us. I mean even if they can take a few of the evil dragons off of you, it would vastly improve our chances of success. If they pull some underhanded tactics afterwards, we'll deal with them accordingly,' Ddraig suggested.
"Is that Magni guy with you gods?" Issei asked Athena after a long and awkward silence.
"Yes…" Athena nodded.
Issei sighed, "Fine…if you want to die helping me fight Ophis and her dragon army then be my guests. Don't blame me if you get killed in the crossfire. She's coming back in two days."
"Thank you, Issei Hyoudou…I promise that you will have my favor for this," Athena said gratefully.
"I have a question for you guys…is that shit Azi Dahaka said true?" Issei asked Athena.
"Honestly, I don't know…but his father Ahriman is a very evil god. He was imprisoned in Cocytus long ago. Parts could be true, but like every great lie it is probably filled with half-truths."
'Wait…didn't the devils say Kokabiel was trying to get into Cocytus?! Is that what he has planned for me?' Issei thought about Saji's earlier fear.
'In that case, we definitely want their help,' Ddraig replied.
'This is so lame…why did this have to turn into such a giant clusterfuck?!' Issei groaned mentally.
'I know it hurts your pride, Issei, but we should be smart about this. Plus if they're present to see your full power it would send a strong message to gods across the world.' Ddraig tried to reassure him.
"May I ask you a question, Issei Hyoudou?" Athena broke the silence.
"What?!" he almost spat.
She looked at him a bit concerned, "You attacked the Underworld recently…why?"
"Some devil punk kidnapped my friends and was going to rape them. I sent a message to the devils that I wasn't afraid of the Maou and that they weren't untouchable," Issei answered her. He didn't know why he was being this civil with Athena despite how pissed off he had been a minute prior.
"Really? I had no idea…I'm sorry," Athena responded with genuine empathy.
He finally unfolded his hands, "Yeah…well I'm leaving now. If you're serious about helping me be ready in two nights. If you get any ideas about betraying me…"
"We won't! I swear upon Olympus!" Athena interrupted urgently.
"I'll kill you all…" Issei finished his declaration before walking into the portal finally.
Once he was finally gone, Athena let out a sigh of relief, "Well that went better than I expected…no thanks to you fools!"
She turned around and glared at Verethragna and Susanoo, "What were you thinking, attacking him?!"
Moments later, all of the gods who had been watching the scene came down to group up with the three of them. Athena glanced at Artemis right away, "I'm surprised you didn't jump into the fray either, sister."
"I was going to, but Thor told us to stay back…he said too many gods might have agitated the dragon more. Plus, you looked like you had it handled. I can't believe you convinced him to help us," Artemis remarked.
"He specifically asked if you were with us Thor, and called you by your son's name. You might have been able to help convince him as well," Athena addressed the Norse God of Thunder.
Thor sighed, "Yeah, but I stayed back to make sure Amaterasu and Artemis didn't jump in."
Unlike her usual serene self, Amaterasu looked angry. She glared at Susanoo disbelievingly, "I can't believe you blew our cover, Susanoo! You're lucky Athena-dono was here to salvage your screw-up!"
"It was my fault, Amaterasu…I saw Azi Dahaka, and I assumed that the dragons had all returned," Verethragna bowed his head shamefully.
"We didn't know you guys were here watching them. Verethragna sensed Azi Dahaka and we came running up to catch him," Susanoo defended himself.
Athena cocked her head at them, "So you didn't overhear their conversation?"
"No, we did not," Verethragna answered.
"Did you seriously make an alliance with that dragon?! How do we know we can trust him? He threatened to kill us just a moment ago!" Susanoo protested.
Athena rolled her eyes at him, "He threatened to kill us if we betrayed him."
"Well at least we know he's not our enemy," Artemis broke the following silence and tension.
"Those things Azi Dahaka said were quite strange…what do you all make of that?" Rossweisse asked the nearby gods.
Thor shook his head, "The dragon's theory does seem possible. I mean the Norse Gods all did originate from Ymir."
"What did he say exactly?" Verethragna spoke up in protest.
"He pretty much said that all gods, dragons, and giants come from an original god…which was a dragon god like Ophis and Great Red," Rossweisse answered the Persian war god.
Susanoo looked alarmed by her answer, "Don't tell me you believe that nonsense…"
"Azi Dahaka is the son of Angra Mainyu…the great liar. He can't be trusted to tell the truth," Verethragna dismissed the idea outright.
Thor shrugged, "I'm not saying all of it is true, but there are parts that seem believable. It seems more likely Ahriman twisted the narrative and parts of the truth to suit his goals. As Athena said, the greatest lies are usually half-truths anyways. The part that seems believable to me is that Ahriman might be after the power of creation himself."
"That aside, the stuff about Ophis was useful information. She wants the Dimensional Gap for something specific…what though? Could she really be afraid of something?" Artemis interjected.
Susanoo growled, "You cannot trust the words of serpents. Verethragna is right…Azi Dahaka is the evil serpent spawn of an evil god. He is also crazy and delusional. That just sounds like a justification for his evil."
"You two weren't there to hear their conversation, so your dismissal can't be taken seriously," Athena countered.
"I'm just glad that the Crimson Nightmare Dragon saw reason. He didn't believe Azi Dahaka, and he's blatantly opposed to the evil dragons. We owe you a debt, Athena…I shudder to think how poorly this would have turned out had you not been here," Amaterasu bowed respectfully to the Greek goddess.
"From what I've seen so far, this Issei Hyoudou has done no harm to people here and he's resisting the idea of following Ophis. He seems like a thug, but considering how easily he manhandled two gods, I'm not opposed to having his help," Artemis added.
The Shinto Storm God crossed his arms, "We were not manhandled…"
"Yeah you were…but there's no shame in that. Issei Hyoudou is a lot more powerful than I thought he'd be," Thor spoke back.
"I can't believe you're all for this making friends with dragons shit, Thor…you're nothing like your reputation," Susanoo shook his head.
"That's a good thing," Artemis defended Thor.
"We'll see how serious this dragon is about helping us when Ophis shows back up. Until then, I have no intention of trusting him." The Shinto Storm God spat.
"What do you think, about Azi Dahaka's theory, Lady Athena? Have any wisdom to share?" Rossweisse asked the silent Greek goddess.
Athena glanced over all of the other gods and Rossweisse, "Like I told Issei Hyoudou, I honestly don't know what to think. Azi Dahaka's story is something that could theoretically be possible, but it seems like some crazy conspiracy. I agree with Thor's take on this…parts of it could be true but the rest is a lie that Ahriman fabricated. It is fortunate that Issei Hyoudou does not believe it."
"If you even humor anything from the Azi Dahaka's lies, it implies you believe Ahura Mazda is a liar. He is a benevolent lord," Verethragna protested.
"We never implied he wasn't a benevolent god, Verethragna. It could be possible that Ahura Mazda imprisoned his brother for a selfless reason and for Angra Mainyu and Azi Dahaka to be somewhat honest about this. Perhaps Angra Mainyu sought to reclaim lost pieces of the original God and take the mantle of ultimate power from every other god, dragon, or giant. Ahura Mazda could have kept it a secret to prevent more wars. Also if we consider the various origins of our pantheons and realms, they can all be simultaneously true and fit this narrative. Brahma, Ahura Mazda, Yahweh, and other gods could have been creators of the world all simultaneously from the flesh of this original God. It would also make sense for some of the older beings such as ancient giants or evil gods to have originally warred with our ancestors because they sought to reclaim the mantle of true divinity. Thor's own account about the ancient giants warring with the gods fits this narrative quite well." Athena responded logically.
"So you're saying that Angra Mainyu could possibly have been trying to usurp the divinity of all other beings and remake the universe in his image then?" Verethragna asked. He seemed more receptive to Athena's logic now.
"This is insane…I can't believe any of you are even considering this idea," Susanoo grunted.
"I am simply being objective and considering all possibilities. A wise person doesn't dismiss an inconvenient truth simply because it contrasts with their world views. I'm not saying I believe it, but I'm also not going to dismiss it until we prove it false with legitimate evidence. The truth is, we don't know and only a blind zealous fool would wholly dismiss all possibilities without disproving them," Athena replied curtly.
Amaterasu frowned, "I wonder if mother and father know anything about this?"
"Hey, Thor…what did your pantheon call the world tree that connects all the realms?" Artemis interjected.
"Yggdrasil," the Thunder God answered slowly.
Artemis put a hand to her chin for a moment, "If we're looking at the dragon's theroy literally, then could Yggdrasil be the original creator's corpse?"
Thor looked confused, "How could a tree be a corpse?"
"What is Yggdrasil exactly?" Verethragna asked.
"It's what the Norse Gods and the Jotnar called the collective of realms and worlds that make up our existence. It makes up a spiritually connected cosmic tree where various realms are separated by branches and roots. In their pantheon, they acknowledge nine realms, but there are of course more than that if we look at other pantheons and other realms," Athena replied.
Verethragna stroked his beard for a moment, "So what could the dimensional gap be? I thought that was the space between worlds?"
"Not exactly. The heavens, earth, and the underworld are all connected to each other in some way as are other realms. My theory is that the Dimensional Gap exists outside of Yggdrasil or whatever else people call it," Athena added.
The Persian war god glanced at Thor now, "I find your pantheon's take on this Yggdrasil interesting. In our pantheon we have a similar thing called the Cosmic Tree of Life. It connects the universe. The Kabbalah is what the Hebrews called it."
"That can't be coincidental. Many of our creation stories revolve around trees and they all have a similar association with knowledge and enlightenment," Rossweisse's eyes lit up urgently.
"I would be curious to see what the Egyptians would have to say about all of this. Ra is one of the oldest gods in the world and he did know the progenitor of their pantheon, Nun. From what I understand, Nun was born of primeval water Azi Dahaka was right in that he seems remarkably similar to Ymir who was born of ice. Plus then there's the primordials to consider as well…" Athena speculated.
"Lord Thor said that King Odin was going to see Mimir. The Allfather took Mimir to the Norns at the Well of Urd a few centuries ago so they could remake his body after the Vanir decapitated him. If anyone could decipher this mystery, it's definitely Mimir. He's the smartest god we know," Rossweisse noted.
Thor nodded, "Mimir also knows a lot about the Dragon Gods. His expertise on this information could confirm or denounce it. He might also know how we can stop Ophis or about what she's after in the Dimensional Gap."
"Lord Verethragna, I would be interested in speaking with Ormuzd about this at some point. His input about this matter would be invaluable…especially since it regard Ahriman. Is he going to join us?" Athena asked.
"That's an issue…Ahura Mazda can't exactly leave his current location," Verethragna trailed off.
Athena looked at him confused, "Why not?"
"He's connected to the Tree of Life…he had to bind himself to it in the heavens to keep Angra Mainyu's powers from seeping out of Cocytus and corrupting the Underworld. It also allows him to use his own power to nourish and shield the Earth on a broader spectrum," Verethragna explained.
"I had no idea…" Athena said surprised as she looked away, "I'm sorry."
"It is alright…we can still speak to him, but it requires a trip there. That is where Mithra went," Verethragna explained.
"I am curious about something, Lady Athena…Hermod said something about Zeus consorting with the Fates? I don't know that much about them. Do they have any beneficial knowledge on this matter?" Rossweisse interjected after an awkward silence.
Athena nodded, "Yes, the Fates are similar to the Norns from what I understand. I don't know much about them, but they usually only talk to my father. Hera thinks they're his daughters, but none of us really know for certain. I'm fairyl positive that they're primordials though."
"Enough of this! What's the plan now?" Susanoo interrupted.
Athena sighed, "I suppose we just have to wait for two days. I'll send a message to Olympus and notify them of Ophis' impending arrival."
"Do the same for Asgard, Rossweisse," Thor commanded.
"Yes my lord!" the Valkyrie nodded.
Beyond the Firmament of Earth,
The journey of the four Olympians to seek out the Sisters of Fate had been rather uneventful since their departure. Zeus along with his brother Poseidon and his two sisters Demeter and Hera ventured past the boundaries of the world's firmament into an island realm between realms. Other than Zeus, none of them had ever been out here before.
Poseidon, Hera, and Demeter were currently riding on the back of Zeus who was in the form of a giant eagle. Hera had made her annoyance clear as the Olympians finally approached the Island over an abyssal void past the edges of the spiritual world, "Zeus, why couldn't we just teleport here?"
"I already told you earlier…you can't just teleport to the Island of Fate. It's beyond the world in the branches of the cosmos. We had to physically enter the spiritual plane between worlds from the Hyperion Gate and now we have to go across this void to their realm," Zeus answered her despite being in eagle form.
Demeter looked out over the horizon behind them with fascination, "I've never been out here before…but I can see the threads of creation. It looks like a tree."
"Yes, according to Hermes, the Norse Pantheon calls it Yggdrasil…the world tree. Gaia once told me about it though she called it by a different name. I never saw it for myself until the first time I visited the Morai," Zeus explained without looking back.
"So these Sisters of Fate…are they your daughters, husband? You never really told any of us what the Fates were," Hera spoke up with obvious contempt.
Zeus sighed, "No, they are not my daughters, though I can see how you would think so. Lachesis, Atropos, and Clotho are the daughters of Nyx and Erebus. They are primordial beings who seek to unravel the mysteries of creation and control the flow of time and fate. They have been my allies for a long time."
Poseidon glanced at the Island in the distance ahead, "Are they the ones who told you how to free us from our father?"
"Among others, yes…they have told me a lot about the world and their knowledge about other pantheons is quite invaluable. I owe a lot of my early successes to them," Zeus replied.
The sound of a horse neighing soon caught all of the Olympians off guard as they saw a flying eight-legged horse running through the air next to them. On its back was a grey-haired man with one eye and a winged helm. He had a spear mounted on his back and was looking over at them from his flank.
"Hermod told us you sought the Fates, King Zeus…I thought I would try to catch you before you arrived. It would seem Ragnarok has destined our crossing of paths. I imagine we are expected," the man spoke with a deep and cryptic voice.
"King Odin? I haven't seen you in over a thousand years. I take it Hermes has convinced you to help deal with the dragon issue?" Zeus replied.
"King Odin, as in the leader of the Norse Gods?" Hera asked surprised.
"Your son Tyr and our Hermes have both told us about you, Allfather Odin. It's nice to finally meet you, though I wish it were under more pleasant circumstances," Demeter addressed him kindly.
Poseidon stared at the Norse God curiously before addressing Zeus, "How do you know him, brother? You two have met before?"
"Zeus and I met long ago beyond the boundaries of Yggdrasil. Like me, he too sought the knowledge of creation and to know of his fate. King Zeus, do you have any objections to me coming along on your journey to the Morai?" Odin responded.
The eagle's head turned towards Odin, "Our crossing of paths seems fated. You're welcome to join us, Odin. I hope the Fates know more about Ophis."
"Their wisdom should prove invaluable, but I am also on my way to see Mimir and speak with the Norns at the Well of Urd. I would welcome you all as my guests once we're done here," the Norse god replied.
Demeter and Hera traded confused looks before the former spoke up, "What are the Norns?"
"They are primordials just like the Fates. They live beneath the roots of the world tree. Mimir is the smartest god in all the realms…and I left him with the Norns so that they might remake his body. They along with him will have the knowledge we seek about the dragon gods," Odin explained.
"Dragon Gods? I thought we were just concerned about Ophis though," Poseidon shook his head.
Odin frowned, "There are recent events you should all be aware of. Asgard was attacked by four dragons shortly after Hermod arrived to warn us. They were after the Midgard Serpent Jormungandr to join their dragon army. The White Dragon Empress was among them as were the dragons Tiamat, Apophis, and Nidhoggr. They told us what Ophis was after…she seeks to battle the Great Red Dragon of the Apocalypse. The Dragon God of Dreams."
Zeus immediately slowed down forcing Odin to match his speed. He turned his eagle head towards Odin disbelievingly, "She's building an army of dragons to battle another Dragon God?!"
"Yes…such a battle is bound to destroy Yggdrasil and all the beings that reside across all our realms. It is Ragnarok…but nothing like my prophecies or the prophecies others have foretold. This dragon issue is stemmed in an even greater problem," Odin answered grimly.
Hera's eyes widened in horror, "Wait…what is Great Red? I've heard of Ophis, but I don't know anything about this Great Red Dragon of the Apocalypse. It's another dragon god?"
"Not a reader of the bible then?" Odin mused, "Great Red is the dragon foretold in revelation. The greatest of all their kind. The ancient Jotnar worshipped him and all dragons know him as the God-Emperor of Dragons. Ophis has power over the infinite void, and Great Red has power over dreams. Though I know little of him myself, Mimir once told me that Great Red was the most powerful being known in existence. Ophis gathering an army to challenge him is proof enough of that."
Zeus sighed heavily, "Well this just got a lot more complicated."
"Why though? Why not let them kill each other?" Demeter asked.
Odin shook his head, "They are ancient and powerful beings easily capable of destroying all of Yggdrasil in the crossfire of battle. Even if one could kill the other, the power it would take to do so would be staggering and apocalyptic."
Poseidon stared at Odin disbelievingly, "So…Ophis seeks to battle this Great Red? Why? What could two dragon gods possibly have to fight over? Is it a matter of pride or dominance?"
"It has something to do with the Dimensional Gap. Apparently, the Great Red stole it from Ophis. I do not know why beings of such power crave the Dimensional Gap, but it is vital that we find out," the allfather replied.
"It is a realm of chaos…I'm sure to a dragon it would feel like home," Zeus pointed out.
Hera looked a bit disturbed as she shook her head, "I have a wonder…if any of you know the answer. I understand that Ophis is one of the most powerful beings we know of, but just how powerful is she exactly? Multiple pantheons uniting like this is unheard of. Is she more powerful than every god in our world? If so, then by how much?"
"Ophis is called the Infinite Ouroboros Dragon for a reason. The disparity between her and us Gods is as vast as we gods compared to mortal humans. Even the most powerful gods like the great destroyer Shiva would only be like a demi-god in comparison to the dragon gods. They are undeniably the most powerful beings known to exist," Odin answered distantly.
Hera looked appalled, "I knew she was powerful…but she's THAT much stronger than all of us?! Plus with that dragon army…fighting her would be suicidal! Why are we even getting involved in this then?!"
"Surely, you're exaggerating, King Odin…you're saying we're like mortals in comparison to Ophis?! I can accept she's more powerful than all the gods in our world, but that kind of disparity is absurd," Poseidon protested the idea.
Zeus was quick to interject, "He's not exaggerating…the titans and the primordials were all terrified of Ophis. Nyx is the only being I have ever feared other than Typhon…and she too feared Ophis."
Demeter gave Zeus a confused look, "Wait…so you knew more than you said back at Olympus? Why didn't you mention it during our assembly?"
"It serves no purpose to frighten the children with doom and gloom. As the King of Olympus I was entrusted with hidden knowledge…but I was also trusted to only tell others what they need to know. They do not need distractions…they need to confidently perform their duties until we find a solution," Zeus countered.
"So why did you send Athena to the vanguard? Your favorite daughter is the most danger of dying if Ophis is as powerful as you say she is," Hera sassed.
Zeus's eagle head turned back so that an eye could see her, "Athena alone is the only child I would truly trust with the truth about what we're up against. She is also highly respected by many pantheons and is smart enough to gather intel that we need."
"Athena didn't seem too thrilled about going," Poseidon pointed out.
Zeus turned his head forward again, "That's because she knows the other reason I sent her there. Knowing Athena, she will try to be diplomatic and honorable. She will undoubtedly talk to the Crimson Nightmare Dragon. She sees in the best in other people and will gauge this half-dragon's intentions. I am not opposed to joining forces with him. If he stands opposed to Ophis, then he would make a good ally."
"Wait…you expect Athena to talk to the dragon?! You want to ally with him?" Hera said surprised.
"It is something I know Athena will attempt. Her hesitation was likely because she knows how dangerous Ophis and her dragon generals are. With Artemis there though, it's hard to say if she'll accomplish this task. At the very least she is powerful enough to help the vanguard and has the diplomatic skills to work with the other pantheons until then," Zeus noted.
"Hmm…well that Issei Hyoudou is half-human according to Hades. Athena would definitely give him a chance knowing that," Demeter nodded in acknowledgement.
"You seriously think this dragon could be an ally for us?" Poseidon said doubtfully.
"Possibly…any dragon that the angels would trust is certainly not an evil dragon. Apollo and Helios were both friends to the angels of heaven. They have both told me a lot about how angels are. They are lawfully good creatures…sometimes extreme enforcers of order, but generally a good judge of character. If they trust this Issei Hyoudou, then it's short-sighted to think he's like other dragons. I've seen dragons ally with devils and fallen angels, but I've never known one to be allied with the angels of heaven." Zeus explained.
Odin nodded, "Quite insightful, King Zeus. I agree that not all dragons are evil. Having the trust of angels is certainly a good sign of the Crimson Nightmare Dragon's character."
Hera glanced over at Odin now, "I almost forgot to ask, but did Hermes tell you Norse gods to send a vanguard to Japan as well?"
Odin nodded at her, "He did…my son Thor volunteered to go. Thor expects a battle and he wanted to be there to protect Midgard."
"It puts me at ease knowing Thor will be there with the girls," Zeus said with approval, "though I question his surveillance skills and his diplomacy. If his reputation is anything to consider, he might instigate a conflict sooner."
"You would be surprised, Zeus…Thor isn't quite the short-sighted berserker he used to be," Odin commented.
"I don't know that much about Thor. He is your oldest son, right?" Poseidon asked.
"My oldest and most powerful son. He's even more powerful than I am. In fact he's the strongest god in our pantheon. Thor is the protector of Asgard and champion of the Aesir," Odin nodded.
Poseidon looked a bit bewildered by that news, "So, your son is more powerful than you, but he doesn't rule your pantheon?"
"He might one day…especially if he outlives me. The original prophecy of Ragnarok stated we would both die. Thor is powerful yes, but he lacks wisdom and isn't very suited for ruling…at least not yet. He has matured much over the centuries though. He listens to my council, he trusts his brothers, and he doesn't see everything as black and white like he once did. If I survive, then in time I will step down and give the throne to him," Odin stated.
Demeter seemed surprised, "It's curious to see how different your pantheon is to ours. We had to imprison our father. I can't imagine him giving any of us the throne by choice. He was afraid of us usurping him."
"Your pantheon has a nasty reputation. It is one steeped in cycles of betrayal and usurpation…among other immoral things. I don't blame you for it though…my father didn't swallow me whole like Cronus did to you Olympians," Odin said shaking his head.
"You probably think we're all petty and power hungry, don't you? We've had quite a few foreign gods try to shame our unions too." Hera crossed her arms defensively.
"You're speaking of the incestual unions I assume? That is quite common in many pantheons from what I've seen. We Aesir gods don't do that, but it was prevalent among the Vanir. In times past I might have shunned it, but it is not my place to judge what other gods choose to do. My duty is to protect the Nine Realms and to safeguard mankind," Odin replied diplomatically.
"What are Vanir and Aesir?" Poseidon asked.
"The Vanir were another pantheon of gods that joined our pantheon after a great war between us. We were quite different culturally and we did not get along in the beginning. We eventually settled our differences and became united. Our pantheon is certainly not perfect though. We committed some terrible deeds ourselves in the old wars with the Vanir and against the Jotnar. We gained much joining forces with the Vanir, and I imagine we will gain even more becoming allies of Olympus. We have come to accept cultural differences since then." Odin answered deeply.
Hera crossed her arms, "Hmph…well at least you're honest. I can respect that, King Odin. So do you think your son will be able to work with Athena and Artemis?"
"Thor is uncultured, but he respects the strong and the wise. All I can say with certainty is I trust my son will defend Midgard with his life. I hope he gains wisdom from working with other gods. Should we all survive this impending doom, he will be one step closer to proving himself worthy to be King." Odin replied.
Zeus sighed, "None of my sons are worthy enough to replace me. I would never entrust my children to rule Olympus. Athena is the only one even remotely worthy, but she is not as powerful as I am and until such a time, I would not trust her to do better than I can. I would sooner give my throne to Hestia or my brothers before I gave it to any of the children."
"You would name Hestia your heir over me too?" Poseidon said surprised.
"I would trust you, Poseidon, but the line of succession should be respected. Hestia gave me the throne. If she would not want it after I was gone, then it would rightfully be Hera's. She is the Queen of Olympus after all," Zeus answered.
"Good point, brother. I hope you don't get the wrong impression here though. I have no desire for you to perish." Poseidon said with acknowledgement.
"What makes Hestia so worthy other than simply being our big sister?" Hera asked uncertainly.
"She is wise and her power rivals my own. Our older sister would have been the ruler of Olympus had she wished it. We spoke about it once, and she told me that I was better suited and that I deserved it for freeing you all from Cronus. If I perished, I doubt she would even want the throne though. She would probably prefer to simply do as she always has and help her younger siblings. You are technically still my heir, Hera, and that won't change anytime soon. I would not see the throne pass to any of the children unless all six of us siblings died," Zeus answered.
Hera frowned, "Well, I don't like the idea of you dying, so let's not talk about it any further."
Poseidon was quick to change the subject in the brief silence that followed, "So you said Thor is the most powerful Norse God, King Odin? How powerful would you say he is compared to our pantheon?"
Before Odin could answer, Zeus did, "Odin and I are quite relative in our power if that gives you any indication of how strong his son is."
Hera looked shocked, "Wait…his son is more powerful than you are?!"
"I had no idea the Norse Gods were stronger than our pantheon," Poseidon said equally shocked.
Odin shook his head, "They're not…god for god I would say your pantheon is more powerful than the Aesir and Vanir combined. Thor is just an outlier. He also has many magical artifacts that enhance him beyond most gods in terms of power. His hammer Mjolnir for instance is part of the reason for this disparity. You Olympians are all more powerful than most of the other Norse Gods if I had to judge. Your goddesses are especially more powerful than ours. Athena for example is probably stronger than all of my sons except for Thor. She might be around Vidar's level. By Hermod's account Demeter is more powerful than Freya, Hera is more powerful than my wife Frigg, and Ares and Tyr are relative in power. It would be interesting to find out if his theory is correct, but ultimately it's irrelevant. We in Asgard respect you Olympians for your power."
"Hmmm…that's interesting. How exactly did Hermes become so friendly with you guys? Also, why do you call him Hermod?" Poseidon asked.
"That's a long story that I would prefer he tell you himself. We call him Hermod out of respect. We consider him an honorary member of our pantheon and gave him a Norse name as proof of it. His ability to travel between realms without the Bifrost is quite useful. He even rode to the Underworld to try and free my son Baldur's soul once," the allfather replied.
Demeter nodded in approval, "I am pleased to know that Hermes has represented us well to you. I hope when this is all over more pantheons can come together and share cultures with each other. From what I saw of your son Tyr and of you, King Odin, your pantheon seems quite interesting."
"Yes, Tyr has told me much of the world and of other pantheons in his travels. He was particularly fond of you Greeks and the Hindu Gods. Though I think the Egyptians were his favorite foreign pantheon. Tyr even asked me what I would think if he married a foreign goddess," Odin noted.
"We've always been on good terms with the Egyptian gods. Our brother Hades even rules the Underworld with Osiris and Anubis helping him out. It's a shame we don't get along with Persia though. I didn't even know they were still around with all those monotheistic religions springing up in the middle east. It will be interesting to see if this repairs our relations," Demeter sighed.
"I am certain it will. The Zoroastrian Gods are quite noble from what I've seen of them. Their leader in particular is very respectable. Ahura Mazda is one of the most selfless gods I've ever met. I encountered him on my journeys through Yggdrasil," Odin said with a distant look in his eye.
"What was that like?" Poseidon asked.
Odin frowned, "Sad…honestly. He made a terrible and thankless sacrifice to safeguard Yggdrasil by binding his own body to the tree."
"Wait, he's bound to the world tree?" Demeter asked confused.
The norse god nodded, "Yes…he poured his own life essence into the tree to keep it alive and to safeguard Midgard from darkness. He also did it to keep his evil brother Angra Mainyu forever imprisoned within Cocytus. I have never seen a god make a nobler sacrifice than that. I respect Ahura Mazda greatly."
"Angra Mainyu…you mean Ahriman right? I didn't know he was in Cocytus. Come to think of it, he did just up and disappear didn't he? I always assumed the bible god killed him." Poseidon said surprised.
"We're almost there," Zeus conveniently interrupted the conversation as he swooped in to land on the island. After the gods descended, Zeus quickly returned to normal form. Odin dismounted Sleipnir and began to walk alongside the horse as the gods continued onward to the Temple of the Fates.
Upon reaching its doors, they opened automatically. One of the sisters presumably came out to greet them a moment later. She had wings and Greek looking armour and clothes on. The woman stood tall and beautiful but was clearly otherworldly.
"Come, we've been expecting you gods," she motioned them inside immediately.
Hera looked around at the temple curiously as the five gods ventured inside behind the sister. Sleipnir came in as well but the sister didn't seem to care. After a short walk, they found themselves in a grand chamber surrounded on all sides with mirrors. Each mirror was connected by threads to various magical looms. A large pool was in the middle of the chamber as well.
Waiting inside for them were the other two sisters of fate who seemed just as beautiful as the first one. They all had white hair and golden eyes. Odin spoke what was going through Hera's mind a moment later, "The Fates are certainly more attractive than I expected."
"Allfather, your coming was foretold, but I'm sure you know that. You seek an answer to Ragnarok." One of them stated cryptically.
"So if you know why we're here, then do you have an answer for us? What should we do about Ophis? What does she want? How can we stop her?" Hera tried to get to the point immediately.
"Quick to question, but slow to listen…the path will not always glisten. The looms vibrate bright and hot…insight we have, but truths we do not. A glimpse we can show you of the future we see…it is a dark and twisted reality," another one spoke up.
Poseidon sighed, "This is going to be annoying if they speak in rhymes and riddles. What are your names, Fates?"
"An introduction you seek, god of the sea? Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos are we. You come seeking answers to a frightening foe…to see what knowledge we can bestow." They creepily spoke in unison.
"That's Clotho, the youngest. Lachesis, the middle sister, and Atropos, the eldest," Zeus pointed them out for the others.
"Enough with the damn rhyming and riddles. We need to know about Ophis. If you don't know anything, then we're wasting time here," Poseidon said disapprovingly.
The middle sister Lachesis then stepped forward. To everyone's surprise, she spoke normally, "We know a bit…there is a prophecy regarding this that we once told the titans. Gaze into the reflecting pool and hear our words."
The gods all perked up as Lachesis guided them to the large reflecting pool in the middle of the chamber. Clotho went to weave a thread from the loom, Lachesis drew it out, and Atropos cut a shred of it out before throwing it in the pool. It began to play out a vision much to their interest. The scene was hazy and difficult to understand, but the fates spoke along with it in unison as it played out.
"The coming doom cannot be undone…there is no way to fight and nowhere to run. Beings older than time and more powerful than fate…will enter this world through the dimensional gate. The dragon gods will clash in a battle for the ages…a story older than time in a book with no pages. Your efforts are admirable, but you'll struggle in vain…as the Red Dragon flies into Earth's domain. All will perish and all will burn…unless the son's favor you seek to earn. The fallen brings darkness and the world's end…to free his new master does he intend. He ventures now to the frozen domain…answering the call to break the chain. A word of caution for this tale…should they find the Blue Heart, you will fail. Only one thing can save you from their dark schemes…the Great Red Dragon of Dreams," the fates all spoke in unison as the vision played out.
The vision showed many strange things to them that they could not make sense of, but the sight of Issei in the vision was shocking to them. They also saw a fallen angel in the vision and a frozen landscape. The end of the vision showed Great Red angrily flying through the Dimensional Gap as he opened a portal. The gods had a difficult time understanding what they were looking at, and after it was over they all turned towards the fates hopelessly confused.
"Is the Crimson Nightmare Dragon the son you spoke of…is he the son of Great Red?!" Zeus asked shocked.
"You were wise to send Athena to watch him, King Zeus…the years have granted you great wisdom." Clotho nodded.
He looked at the others now to take in their reactions. Odin looked almost horrified as he spoke next, "This vision is disturbing. Is there anything more you can tell us about this, Morai?"
"Seek out Mimir…he will guide you next," Atropos dismissed them with a wave of her hand.
Hera didn't take kindly to it and glared at them, "You're not going to tell us what this Blue Heart is or what any of that nonsense about a master and a chain meant?! What was with the fallen angel?!"
"Answering you will only bring more questions. Time is short and you cannot delay. Mimir will show you the way," Lachesis concluded before all three sisters disappeared.
Once they were gone the Olympians looked around at each other. Poseidon shook his head, "So, what I got from that prophecy is that the Great Red can save us from Ophis?"
"It would seem that way…and that earning his son's favor is the only way to get him to help us," Hera added.
Demeter frowned, "I really want to know what this Blue Heart is…I've never heard of such a thing."
"Mimir has…come, we cannot delay. We are now bound to this path," Odin stated as he remounted Sleipnir and headed for the door.
Poseidon glanced at Zeus, "I guess it was a good idea to send Athena after all. Hopefully, she can reason with the Crimson Nightmare Dragon. I can't believe he's the son of a Dragon God. I mean he's half human. Why would the Great Red have a child with a human?"
"Neither one of you has any reason to ask that considering how many half-breed kids you've both fathered," Hera sassed as she walked by the brothers.
Hades, The Underworld
Upon their return to the Underworld, Hades called for a gathering of certain gods to join him with his fellow Olympians in going to Tartarus. Thanatos said he wouldn't be able to come due to increasing hostility with devils, but luckily Osiris had returned and brought Anubis with him.
Ares, Hestia, Persephone, and Hades all stood in the middle of the throne room and greeted the two Egyptian Gods as they came inside. Anubis was in his anthropomorphic jackal form, but Osiris was in a humanoid form.
"I appreciate you answering my request, Osiris. Did you send word to Ra about the dragons?" Hades asked.
Osiris nodded, "Yes, he was genuinely concerned about it. He was starting to enjoy retirement, but now he's fixing up his solar barge. He says it will be ready for battle when Ophis reappears."
"Will that be enough? You got my message about all of the other dragons involved now, right?" Hades asked.
Osiris nodded, "I did, but luckily Hathor had already been contacted by Tsukuyomi. She filled them in on a lot. Our pantheon agreed to send aid against the dragons. Set, Hathor, and Bastet will be accompanying Ra on the solar barge whenever he's ready."
"Set?! Didn't he practically kill you? I thought he turned against your pantheon," Hades said surprised.
The Egyptian god nodded, "Yes…but part of his punishment is to forever accompany Ra and serve at his side. According to Basted however, Set has been quite penitent since those days. The three of them were actually the gods that killed Apophis previously. They will have the experience necessary to fight the chaotic serpents. Hathor wanted to join them since she was the one who brought Ra news from Tsukuyomi. As for us, Anubis and I will assist you down here in the Underworld. Most of the other Egyptian Gods want to remain in our lands and protect it in case of an attack. Horus will be remaining to watch over Egypt and most of the surrounding region. He has Thoth and Geb looking for better solutions to ward off dragons and other threats. My wife Isis is also with Horus at the moment."
"I don't blame you for wanting to safeguard your lands. Six Egyptian gods will be quite a substantial contribution to our forces, nonetheless. I appreciate your cooperation Osiris," Hades nodded in approval.
Osiris gave a nod of acknowledgement to Hades and then smiled at Hestia, "Forgive me for not addressing you yet, my lady. It is a pleasure to see you again after all these centuries Queen Hestia. Your red hair is as beautiful as ever."
"It's just Hestia…I'm not a queen. Thank you though," the goddess said modestly with a polite smile.
"I see, well it is nice to see you again. I wish it were under better circumstances, but I am relieved to have you joining us. Have you met my son Anubis before?" Osiris introduced the jackal god.
Ares seemed confused by it and spoke up bluntly, "I thought Anubis was Set's son."
Anubis didn't say anything, and simply shook his head. Osiris was quick to clarify, "A common misconception. He does look a lot like his uncle Set though."
"Wasn't his mother Nephthys? I thought that was Set's wife," Ares replied uncertainly.
Hestia sighed heavily at Ares' comment, "Don't be rude, Ares…"
"Oh…" Ares realized what that implied finally.
Luckily for them, Osiris took it well, "It is alright, Ares, God of War. No offense taken. I am hardly perfect, and I will be the first to admit that."
"Neither are our parents. I have more half siblings than I can count…" Ares nodded in response, "but whatever. It's nice to meet you in person. You guys are famous even in Greece."
"Likewise Olympians," Anubis only spoke two words before returning to stoic silence.
"He's not much of a talker…but Anubis has great respect for the Olympians and for Lord Hades as well." Osiris said with a chuckle.
Hades let out an audible sigh, "Enough with all the introductions…we should get a move on. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can help the others."
Osiris nodded, "Ah yes, forgive me…we should definitely make haste. I was under the impression Lady Hel would be joining us on this journey to Tartarus. Has that changed?"
Persephone looked at Hades concerned, "I'm surprised Hel hasn't arrived yet. She got your message I hope."
"It's been too long…something might have happened," Hestia said assuming the worst right off the bat.
"There's no point in waiting around for her. Let's go this Helheim place and see what's going on there," Ares suggested.
Dionysus, who had been sitting unseen in the corner drunkenly stood up, "Wait, dontchyou guysh want to introduushe meeh?"
Ares facepalmed at his half-brother's drunken state as he walked up and almost tripped onto Anubis. The jackal god looked at him curiously and actually spoke again, "Why is he intoxicated?"
"He's always intoxicated," Persephone sighed.
"I'm Dionysus! You guys know me, right?" he stopped his slurring briefly as he stood up straight.
Osiris stared at him confused, "Is that another one of Zeus' sons? I'm not familiar with him."
Hestia nodded, "Yeah, he wanted to help out and Zeus told him to come with us."
"So, I gotta question…is this Hel chick like really hot? I need to know for research purposeshhh." Dionysus asked slurring at the end of his sentence.
Hades facepalmed at the question, but Osiris actually smirked at it, "It depends on what angle you're looking from I suppose."
"Hah! Let's go find her then!" he said eagerly charging out the door.
Ares sighed, "Why did father send him?"
"He might prove more useful than you think Ares." Hestia said as the gods all followed him out.
He turned towards his aunt skeptically, "If you say so. By the way, Hestia, do you really think Nyx would tell us anything? I certainly can't imagine Typhon or any of the titans cooperating."
"They might if they know how dire the situation is," Hestia replied, "and they might even offer to directly help us."
Ares gave her a disbelieving stare, "Do you really think that's a good idea? We can't trust the titans. Zeus would not approve of that."
"Technically we can trust some of them. Zeus allows Helios to roam free. I would only consider it for a few like my mother Rhea. Don't stress over it Ares. Your job here is to just back me up," Hestia replied optimistically.
Chained to the throne room of Hel's Mansion Palace, the Norse God of Light Baldur stared blankly at the wall. Long had he been imprisoned here ever since his death. Though since he couldn't truly die, he was now bound to Helheim. A shining light and a trophy for the Underworld jotunn goddess Hel.
He was drawn from his eternal depression when Hel returned to the throne room. She greeted him warmly as she always did, "Hello Baldur, how are you feeling today?"
"Pfft…" he scoffed at her bitterly. For some reason she was uncomfortably kind to him despite keeping him imprisoned. He stubbornly refused to look at her as she walked up to him.
"I got you an Idunn apple…they're your favorite aren't they?" she asked as she handed him a magical apple.
He refused to take it and look at her still. She frowned at his denial but set the apple in front of him, nonetheless. The Goddess walked over to take a seat on her throne before speaking again, "You should eat…that apple came all the way from Asgard. I can rarely get them down here."
Baldur finally spoke, "How did you get one of Idunn's apples?"
The god's question was answered a moment later as another individual came walking into the room. To Baldur's absolute shock it was Loki. He was catching an apple up and down in his hand as he came strutting in.
"I brought some for you guys. How have you been down here, Baldur? Has my daughter been kind to you?" Loki asked.
He cracked a fist and angrily stood up. The Norse god tested the limits of his chains as he tried to pounce in Loki's direction. He unfortunately came up half a meter short as the chains bound him back.
They magically and slowly pulled him back despite his struggling. Baldur growled at Loki, "I know it was you who put me here! Does my father know!"
Loki smirked, "What sounds like a worse scenario…the fact that he does know it was me and hasn't done anything, or the fact that he's not all-knowing and he has no power here?"
"He knows I'm here! He sent Hermod to ask Hel for my freedom!" Baldur growled.
"Then it would seem he's powerless to free you," Loki said condescendingly.
The Norse God of Light shook his head, "I always knew you were a mischievous asshole, but why would you betray us?! The Aesir have been nothing but good to you, Loki!"
"Your fall was foretold in the coming of Ragnarok…and we all have our parts to play in it. Nobody can stop fate, God of Light. Besides…you're needed here," Loki said as he took a bite out of his apple.
Baldur cracked a fist angrily, "How is fulfilling that stupid prophecy beneficial to you?!"
"A new world will be reborn from the ashes of the old…a better world. The diseased corpse of Yggdrasil must be purified of its evil so that we can all be saved. You may think me a villain, Baldur Odinson, but I do what I must for the greater good," Loki replied more seriously now.
"Whose greater good?! What gives you the right to decide that?!" he shot back.
Loki sighed, "There's a reason I put you here, Baldur…only your light could stave off HIS darkness. You being here has bought many centuries for us to prepare for his arrival."
"What?!" he asked confused.
"Angra Mainyu…" Hel interjected.
Baldur looked at Loki confused, "Who is that?"
"He is a god of darkness in the Zoroastrian Pantheon. One of the strongest gods in the world in fact. He was imprisoned deep within Cocytus many ages past. Hel warned me that his prison was weakening and that she needed help. I put you here so that the power of your light could weaken his darkness and delay his freedom. You have done the world a great service with your sacrifice," Loki explained.
"You never thought to mention that to my father or to anyone?! You didn't think to ask me?!" he denounced angrily.
Loki shook his head, "Asking them to deliver the most beloved god in Asgard to Hel is certainly not something they would agree to. I can't imagine you would willingly choose to be here either. It saddens me to see that Hel still has to keep you chained up."
"Why did that dragon Ophis come here for Nidhoggr?! Does that have anything to do with this?! You're working for her, aren't you?!" he demanded.
"Only the dragon gods know where the heart is…through them we will have the power to remake this world," Loki said vaguely.
Baldur squinted curiously, "The heart?! What heart?!"
"This is the only way to find it…had I done nothing, it would have already been found and used against us. Trust in me Baldur…" Loki responded without answering the question.
He was silent for a moment before turning to Hel, "So the reason I'm here is to ward off some god of darkness?!"
"Yes…I thank you for protecting me all these years," Hel replied with a smile.
He scoffed at her as he held up his chains, "If this is your idea of thanks, then I say fuck the next world! You guys are insane! Wait till Thor hears about this! He'll kill you both!"
"We'll see about that…" Loki said dismissively.
"So tell me this then…does Ophis know you're plotting against her to find this heart thing? I'd sure like to see your arrogant jotunn ass test her vengeance when she finds out!" Baldur spat.
Loki shook his head, "It's all going exactly as planned. Hel warned Hades about Ophis already, and as we speak an army of gods is mustering for Ophis' return. They will all die, and then once the location of the heart is revealed to me, I will take it and banish both of the Dragon Gods from our universe forever. With the power of the heart I can save Yggdrasil and the new world can be reborn."
"You better hope I don't get free since you told me your entire evil plan," the Norse god said shaking his head.
"Nothing is going to free you from your fate…but you will walk again in the new world and Hel shall be your bride." Loki said definitively.
"My what?! Bride?!" he said shocked as he looked over at her.
She took his reaction a bit sadly, "I take it you don't like that idea, Baldur?"
"Why would I marry Hel after you crazy jotnar fucking kill my whole family and the world?!" he shouted.
"The world is doomed regardless, Baldur…at least this way we can be the ones to shape the new one, and not an evil god like Angra Mainyu. Odin wouldn't understand…it has to be this way," Loki countered.
"Father…I have company arriving in Helhelm," Hel announced.
Loki nodded, "Ah yes…no doubt your allies. Make sure they discover what they're looking for, Hel…and bring Baldur with you. His light will weaken Nyx's powers in Tartarus."
"You're kidding me, right? What makes you think I'm not going to tell them you're both deceiving them?" Baldur laughed.
"A parting gift before I go…" Loki responded as he cast a bewitchment spell on Baldur, "try as you might, you will not be able to tell them anything now."
Upon returning home, Issei saw Saji and Ingvild there pacing around with worried expressions. They seemed relieved at his return but a bit alarmed by his draconic features.
The dragon receded his features as he walked out of the closing portal. He sighed heavily, "Well, I sort of have good news I guess. The Gods said they would help us fight against Ophis."
"They did?! But they attacked you though…and they hate dragons don't they? That's what Vritra kept telling me," Saji said surprised.
A moment later Ddraig spoke up, "I convinced Issei to accept their offer. It might go against his pride, but I see nothing wrong with a few gods distracting some of the dragons. Even as powerful as Issei and I are, we would not fare very well fighting all of them at once."
"I am not opposed to it Ddraig, but I was hoping Great Red might help us," Vritra joined the conversation.
Issei shook his head, "No, Red left me a note saying he had to go do something. We can't count on him to fight our battle for us. I wouldn't even want him to…"
"Ingvild Leviathan mentioned something about you having a training area in the Dimensional Gap?" Vritra asked.
"Yes, we should probably head there soon. Before we go though, I wanted to know more about your opinion on Azi Dahaka's theory, Vritra," Issei asked.
"I think he was right about one thing…Ophis definitely has some ulterior motive. I would not imagine her to be the cunning type, but her actions are bizarre. She must be desperate if she's trying to challenge Great Red. I would certainly be interested in asking the Dragon Gods about this." The dragon spoke from Saji's arm.
"Ophis told me she desired silence above all else and that she hated all the noise Great Red and everything else made. Her logic about wanting the dimensional gap back for silence also seemed dumb since she could just make her own realm or kill everything in this one. Ophis is definitely up to something…that much is true. That also means she'll probably go through with her plan to take it from Great Red. We're going to have to fight...that much is clear to me now. I don't like the idea of these gods helping us, but Ddraig had a point...I'm not invincible," Issei said shaking his head.
Vritra sighed, "While I don't believe Azi Dahaka's ridiculous story, it does seem oddly coincidental that Ophis would desire silence if she was afraid of being heard or noticed by a greater power."
"But Great Red isn't afraid of anything. He flies around the Dimensional Gap and is loud according to Ophis. Not to mention, Ophis isn't afraid of Great Red and he's more powerful than she is." Issei shook his head.
"Yes that is a huge hole in Azi Dahaka's theory. I can't imagine the God-Emperor of dragons fearing anything," Vritra agreed.
Ingvild frowned as she spoke up, "Why did Great Red take the dimensional gap from Ophis though? He could have made his own realm too if he's a Dragon God, couldn't he?"
"You'll understand when you see it. The Dimensional Gap is fucking awesome," Issei announced as he opened another portal.
"Hey Issei-kun…are you sure we can trust those gods? They did attack you after all. What if they try to kill us too?" Ingvild seemed concerned.
"I gave them the warning in advance that if they tried any shady crap that I'd kill them all," Issei replied.
"Even if they do have such aspirations, they will be afraid when they see that Issei Hyoudou also wields Ddraig's power. It will be amusing to see these gods and the other dragons reacting to Ddraig. He's pretty infamous to most of the Evil Dragons and especially to Albion and Tiamat," Vritra gave a quick chuckle.
Ddraig sighed, "Yeah, and that also means most of them will want to fight Issei and I specifically. You can expect Vali, Tiamat, Nidhoggr, and Grendel to all come gunning for us. Crom Cruach probably will too."
"Well let's not waste any more time. We need to cram in a day and half of training and then get some sleep before this calamity happens," Issei waved the others to follow him through the portal.
Good god…I went overboard with this chapter. It's a hefty 23 k words, so it's practically a 2 for 1 special by my average. (4-5 times the length of most chapters). The reason it's so long is because I'm just ready to get to the reveal soon. Next chapter will feature the training in the Dimensional Gap mostly as well as a bit of the Tartarus trip and what not. The following one should finally be the reveal and the battle…so don't despair if you're getting impatient. I know you guys don't like too many POV's, but I felt it was necessary to showcase how everything was coming together for this upcoming confrontation. You also get an idea of what Kokabiel is planning to do. This chapter is filled to the brim with plot bombs. Some you might like, and others you might not. Either way…that's where we're at now. If you've read any of my stories you know I'm always turning shit up to 11 with the scales and the backstory. I'll try not to bore you guys too much with that in future chapters.
The gods are starting to realize that Issei isn't evil, and Athena even asks if he can help them against Ophis. Now I know this might seem odd for him to accept, but you have to remember how powerful all those dragons are…especially with Infinity Snakes. Issei will be fighting multiple opponents as Ddraig suspected. He doesn't know the gods and doesn't care if they die in the fight. To Issei they're just distractions for his enemies...and they're going to be there anyways whether he accepts their aid or not.
A big thing to notice in this chapter is that Ophis and Great Red know things that they don't tell anyone else. As fun and comical as they can be, the Dragon Gods actually do have real agendas in this story, and you'll see them firsthand later on. Don't fear though…their personalities won't be changing drastically or anything like that.
I would elaborate on more stuff, but this chapter is already long enough. That's all for now, so thanks as always for reading. Stay tuned for Saji learning how to be a dragon, Issei mastering Nightmare Mode, and Ingvild learning her Longinus.
By the way…one more note here. People have been asking me about the romance in the story. The real stuff is coming…after the reveal. I might even write lemons since most people seemed to want them.