Hello there! You may or may not know me unless you read my other stories, but this is my 3rd story So far. So for those of you who are new to me and my stories, welcome! For those of you who are following me or my other stories, welcome back. And yes, I'm making another story. Don't worry, don't worry. Like I said with my second story, this story will not get in the way of my other stories. Those take priority. In terms of importance the stories would go: 1. Red Dragon Of Golden Light, 2. Red Dragon Of Stupidity, 3. This one. That doesn't mean this story will be dead for months at a time (like CERTAIN writers on this site). I will still try to update this story at least once a month like my other stories, which I update twice a month. So this story will still live well I'm just saying the other stories are more important. Anyway, this story came up as an idea after I received a challenge fic. My 3rd one! The first one I forgot because it was uninteresting. The 2nd one….was a lemon story...I'll explain later...And this one! Technically….You see, the person who actually sent me a challenge gave me one that was just waaaaaay too ridiculous and just kind of stupid. I'm sorry but if you're gonna send me a challenge fic send me one that isn't ABSOLUTELY INSANE. His challenge started as a Self insert/OC becomes Issei after dying. Which is unacceptable. I hate stories like that. So then I had him fix it and Issei was somebody who had his family killed at a young age, but after that it was just INSANE. Having a Harem with like 10 or more members? Making the Devils into pure antagonists? Having certain characters as harem members just because you want it instead of it making sense? OP Issei? Issei has powers that don't make sense within the original universe?

I CAN'T! I'm sorry, but I just fucking can't! I absolutely detest stories that are so ludicrous that they can't even be written properly. Like, come on guys, can't we think of more original ideas as a community, even if they're simple?

Anyway, no hate to that guy, everyone has their own preferences, I guess. But in the end, we had so many disagreements about the story that it ended up just being an idea of my own and not even one he came up with, not even close. They were just completely different stories. He's not even the reason I thought of this story specifically in the first place. It's thanks to my boy JC who wrote "Red Dragons power" (check it out) because it essentially has the same basic premise. It's just that having that talk with that other guy convinced me to actually write this because he said "Issei has his family killed and awakens his Sacred Gear" and that made me think of JCs story, so I just said "fuck it, I'll do that instead." So, yeah.

I won't be naming the challenger because I don't want to put him on the spot. But at the very least, I'll say that, without that guy, I wouldn't have made the decision to write this one so thanks? This one goes out to our boy JC!

(Lol, "two stories." Ah, what a young and naive lad I was.)

Speech = "..."

Thoughts = '...'

Sfx = Sound/SOUND!

Flashbacks = ("...")


THE BOY


In a town known as "Kuoh", there was once a normal family, living happily, in a normal house.

This family consisted of 3 members. The mother, the father, and the young boy - their son. This family was known as the Hyoudou family.

The young boy, despite being born into a normal family, unbeknownst to even himself, was a special existence.

This boy's name — was Hyoudou Issei.

Ding!

"Ise! Lunch is ready~!"

The person who's voice rang throughout the kicthen was the boy's mother, who called out to him from the kitchen of their home. A timer had dinged from the left side of the stove, indicating that whatever his mother was cooking up was done settling and ready to serve. Though she was already preparing the table, which her husband, the boy's father, was sitting at, she still received no response from her son.

"Iseeeeeee! ...Honey, where is Ise and why isn't he answering me?"

The boy's mother prodded her husband inquisitively, wondering why she was receiving no response from her hyper playful and food addicted boy when lunch was ready.

The boy's father, who was reading a newspaper in a stereotypical manner, simply answered her casually while continuing to read.

"Hmm? Oh, Ise? If you're asking about Ise, he left quite a while ago. He most likely went to the park."

"What?! When time did he leave? He didn't even say anything."

"Mm... I think he may have left around an hour and a half ago? I didn't notice it right away either. He must've gone unnoticed intentionally."

The boy's mother glanced towards the door worriedly.

"..But to not tell us? It doesn't seem normal at all."

"Well, he has been quiet lately. But it seems pretty obvious why, doesn't it? Irina just left a week ago. He's all alone now after all."

"..That's true, but... where could he have gone? Even if he's sad, Ise hates being alone much more than anything. It wouldn't make sense for him to go to the park with no one else.. I would've at least expected him to ask you to play with him a bit."

The father continued speaking to his wife as she set the table.

"Mm.. Maybe he went off to talk with that old man?"

"Oh, goodness no! I hate that old man! Such a dirty, perverted person is a bad influence on my poor Ise. Honestly, he should be arrested!"

"Hahahaha! Now, now, Kaa-san. Isn't that going a bit far? Ise's still young. He's just trying to look up to someone. I don't see any harm in it."

"HA! —Are you joking? He is the worst role model there is! He is the last person Ise should be around! Don't you see that he is making Ise think of bad things? Just last month when we took him to the beach, all he did was make large, round mounds of sands mimicking Oppai, instead of sand castles like Irina!"

"Oh, come on! He's a boy. I'm sure I did something similar when I was younger."

"At the age of 6? I highly doubt such a thing. Not only that, but he's done worse! Just a week ago, when I decided to bathe him after so long, he asked me what was it that was inside my breasts! Then, when I told him it was nothing but fat, he asked if he could t-touch them!? Do you have any idea how ashamed I was?!"

"Hahahahahaha! I think you may be confusing "lecherous" for something else, honey. To me, that just seems like a child's curiosity. I like to touch your breasts and that doesn't make me lecherous."

"You're my husband."

"And he is your son."

To her husband's response, the mother gave an almost hopeless sigh of despair.

"Haah... Nevermind, you are a lecherous husband so it is useless."

"I am lecherous and he is curious. I see no difference."

"How do you expect him to take responsibility for his actions if you always take his side?"

"He's my boy. I will always take his side."

"And will you take his side if I have you sleep in the living floor?"

"Yes. Then I will just sleep with Ise in his room."

"And if I forbid you?"

"Then I will sleep with Ise in the living room futon."

"You would force Ise to join you?"

"No. But he will join me because he will not want me to be lonely. I know my son."

"HAAH... Such troublesome boys."

The mother sighed once more, finally taking a seat at the table. She sounded irritated with her family's actions, but she was smiling sweetly.


Part 1

The subtle sound of rusted metal creaking. An empty swing moving back and forth, slowly.

A boy was swinging on the next swing oh so slightly. Alone. Looking to his feet with a melancholic expression, his shoes not fully reaching the ground below him.

—The boy named Hyoudou Issei.

"Ossan wasn't here today, huh…"

The boy said that meekly, to no one in particular.

It seems the person he had expected to see wasn't present. He was the only one in the park.

"...Guess I'll go home then…"

He spoke half heartedly to himself again. No matter how odd it would seem, the boy felt like there was possibly someone listening. Or at the very least, he never truly felt alone. He wondered why he always felt that way, despite his newfound loneliness.

Issei stood up from the swing and proceeded to make his way home in silence.

He felt odd.

For some reason, he felt like he wasn't at that park for that long. And yet, it was somehow already sunset. He had arrived at the park around 3PM. It couldn't have been that he was sitting there doing nothing for that long.

Not only that, but it seemed like there weren't many people around as well. Usually, more people would be at the park so that Issei could at least play with someone else while he was there.

But, this time, nobody was there, all day. From the time he arrived, to now when he was leaving. It's almost as if they were avoiding it. To be fair, not many people actually went to that park altogether, but there were some kids and their parents. Circumstances aside, there should be at least one family, or a couple kids.

As a matter of fact...it didn't even seem like there were people around in general, oddly enough..

Issei didn't see anyone outside of their houses on his way to the park, but that much was normal within a residential area. The problem was that you would see a car pass by the park occasionally on weekdays. People heading to and from work, or to the store, or elsewhere.

But he didn't see any cars today. He didn't even hear anyone. It was like he was the only person left on earth...

As Issei was walking home, he noticed something.

—A smell.

A pungent, and unfamiliar smell. An unpleasant smell.

But he could not pinpoint where it was originating from. Almost like it was all around him. It made him feel uneasy. He decided to walk a bit more quickly towards his home.

His home….wasn't this far, was it...?

For some reason, even though he was walking down the right path, it seemed like he should've already reached the exit of the large park…. It was a longer walk than expected...

He felt incredibly uneasy. He felt like his instincts were trying to warn him of something.

Something behind him? But there was nothing there.

No, maybe it was something that was "all around" him. He certainly felt like that was the case. As if he was locked in some never-ending dome.

"Haah... Hah…"

Issei's breathing became ragged.

What's going on? He wasn't tired. He was walking a bit quickly, but definitely not enough to warrant him being out of breath. The reason was simple.

He was afraid.

He doesn't know what it is that he fears, but he can feel it.

It's right next to him. It's over him. It's all around him. In this "dome" of a world. A world that never ends. A place he can't escape.

Just as he was feeling paranoid, the sky began to curve. It looked as if the evening sky was now visibly a ceiling. The path he was going down began curving upwards as well. Almost like he was peering over a hilltop that was gradually rising before. He could only think one thing.

—It was like a dome.

Issei started running. It wasn't a full on sprint, but nevertheless, the boy was making his way quickly down the path.

He was right. The ground below him was curved upward. The more he ran, the more he would just see more of the same concrete rolling over the top. It was as if the path was endless. As if the world was contained within some sort of fisheye lens.

He then felt something approaching him from behind. Yet when he glanced back, he saw nothing.

No, something was still there. The feeling of something, he can't get rid of it. What should he do?

As if answering his call, something 'indistinct' answered.

Not a voice, but more like a 'physical' response. It was like something was trying to speak to him, but subconsciously. Something that existed inside of him, but that could not be heard.

And yet, despite not having a voice, he knew perfectly what its message was:

(Run, you fool.)

[—?!]

The boy was in a full sprint. He was running with everything he had.

He could feel it. "It" was behind him. Something was chasing him. It was closing in. It was right behind him. He could feel its presence with every fiber of his being.

He didn't want to see it. He wanted to keep his eyes shut. He didn't want to see the same path stretch further and further. He simply kept his eyes closed out of fear, and sprinted.

It was there. It was going to touch him. It was mere inches away. It was reaching out towards him. It's going to touch him.

And only one last feeling was surging through his body—

DEATH.

BAM!

Issei suddenly tripped and tumbled over, falling onto his back.

The next thing Issei knew, he was looking up at the sky. It was no longer the same, odd color from before, it just seemed like your average evening sky. It wasn't in any bizarre shape like a dome either, it was just his regular perception of a sky...

...And most of all, that "feeling" from before was gone…

Issei picked his upper body up to look around.

He wasn't in the park anymore, from the looks of it. In fact, the park was now behind him. Somehow, it was almost 30 meters away, hardly even in sight for him... Had he really ran that far? But he was just in the park, wasn't he..?

At that moment, he remembered: he tripped over something. Issei looked down to whatever caused him to lose his footing before.

—It was the corpse of a small dog.

"Ah!"

He couldn't help but squeal. After what he had been through, he was already paranoid enough, but now there was suddenly a dead puppy in front of him. Upon closer inspection, it looked like the dog had been crushed by something.

"Oh.. You must've been run over, huh, wan-chan…."

Despite seeing the corpse of an animal, Issei calmed down quite a bit. As weird as it must've been to admit, the puppy corpse must have given him a sense of reality after the surreal, nightmarish event he was experiencing earlier.

Out of an underlying fear, he resolved himself to "forget" about what happened earlier to the best of his ability.

Meanwhile, the poor dog was laying there, lifeless. Its death was most certainly instantaneous. Issei assumed that it must have been a truck or some other type of vehicle. It appeared to have its midsection completely crushed. It must have been a vehicle. After all, nothing else could have done something like that...

Issei stood up straight, despite the subtle weakness he felt in his legs.

Despite the misfortune for the puppy, Issei couldn't help but think "oh well." After all, there wasn't anything he could do for it now. The poor thing was long gone. The best he could do was tell a neighbor or an adult. He was in the suburban area now so that was the wisest choice.

Issei walked over to the nearest house without a fence and knocked.

Knock, knock.

…..No response…

"Oh."

Well, maybe he should've rang the doorbell first, he thought.

Ding-Dong~

The cutesy sounding doorbell rang and Issei waited patiently for someone to eventually answer the door.

But it was odd. It seemed a bit too easy to hear the doorbell from his side of the door, didn't it? It wasn't a loud doorbell, so for it to be so clearly audible to him was off-putting. That only meant that the house was eerily quiet.

Not to mention, the lack of an answer. Could no one have been home? No, that couldn't be. All of the lights in the house were clearly on. As a matter of fact, there was even some light peering through the door frame.

Issei pushed the door a bit.

The door creaked open. No, in fact, it was already left cracked open just a bit...

..Realizing this, another bundle of fear began to swell within Issei.

He wanted to go home. He did, but... "something" urged him forward… Right now, it felt like his being was comprised of two clashing "personalities." One was telling him that this place was dangerous, the other was telling him he needed to check inside…. Was it possibly because…there might've been someone in there..?

Was it his "instincts" telling him these things?

It certainly didn't sound like anyone was in the house. So, why does he get the feeling that there is someone? And why does he feel like that same "thing" from earlier, was telling him the exact opposite; 'don't go inside'?

….His better judgment would've been to listen to whatever was telling him otherwise and back away. Walk home.

But… If there was someone in there, then…..why does it feel like Issei shouldn't abandon them in here either?

Creak...

Issei finally decided to open the door entirely. He didn't announce his presence. A wise decision, unbeknownst to him.

The lights were on, just like he thought. The first thing he noticed was the staircase, presumably leading up to the bedrooms. To his left, he saw a living room. It was empty, but other than that, everything seemed relatively normal. The TV was also left on, playing some random talk show.

Meow~!

"..Ah!"

A cat scurried past Issei's legs, running straight out of the doorway with no hesitation. It almost appeared to be running from something. Well, if the family was home, then he might as well apologize for letting their cat escape.

The next room was to his right. It was a kitchen that—

"—Onii-chan?"

Issei froze.

….There was a little girl standing there. She was standing near a kitchen table, staring right back at Issei with an emotionless expression.

She was a small girl, probably around 4 years old, with blue eyes, a brown haired bob cut, and wearing a large pink shirt that basically went down over her knees. But most of all—

She was drenched in blood.

[—?!]

Issei approached the little girl without hesitation, despite his overwhelming sense of fear. Every part of him was screaming at him to run out, yet he didn't.

"..Onii-chan?"

The girl said it again and stared blankly at him. Her eyes were empty and dull, like that of a dead fish. Her expression was hollow and aside from her head, she didn't bother to move. She had her arms hanging down loosely at her sides, with a rabbit plushie in her right hand. Issei's mind was racing now.

Why was this girl covered in blood? Where is her family? Where are her parents? There was nothing in the kitchen that indicated anything bad occurred. Everything around them appeared spotless, aside from the girl's bloody footsteps leading into the kitchen from a separate hall.

What on earth could have happened that could bathe her in this much blood—

Thump, thump..

The sound of heavy footsteps brought Issei's mind to a halt... Coming from the left of Issei, where another door was leading into the back section of the house. It was the same area that the girl's footsteps led into from. Meanwhile, the entrance which Issei came through was behind him.

For some reason, he had the feeling that he needed to be ready to run for his life.

That reason was..

Creak...

"..Eh?"

A tall creature with an elongated body of black, leathery skin— no eyes and no mouth— ducked its head under the doorway it entered from. And in the grasp of its elongated, three-pronged claws - was a severed woman's head.

[!?—?!]

Issei grabbed the girl and ran outside of the house without thinking.

KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!

A blood curdling, ear piercing scream was let out from behind him. It undoubtedly belonged to the monster.

'It screamed and even though it had no mouth!?'

The sound of glass breaking, originating from the house. The loud thud that followed after indicated the beast's escape from the house and into the street, where it brought itself up. And although Issei saw none of it happen and continued running, he knew exactly what was happening.

—It's going to chase after them.

KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEE!

In a second, it was above them. It was running and jumping across rooftops with little difficulty. No matter where Issei took a turn, the beast jumped to an adjacent rooftop and effectively caught up.

Only Issei's fear ridden mind ran faster than the monster itself.

'Run faster! Faster, faster, faster, faster! FASTER!'

Issei was running with all of his might, but along with the girl's weight and his previous sprinting, he was already at a phyiscal disadvantage. It's hard enough carrying another child when you're a child yourself.

—No. In reality, that didn't matter. This monster was certainly faster either way.

A monster. A real monster. Issei questions whether this creature was at the park before or not? Is that what was following Issei originally? If that was the case, why didn't it get him right away?

'No! Wait! If it's the one from the park..! T-Then, maybe I can outrun hi!'

The moment that Issei's thoughts had become slightly optimistic—

SLICE!

—The monster had slashed his back open.

"AH!"

Issei tumbled over, while still maintaining his grip on the girl that was latched onto his chest. He rolled over multiple times, sliding against the hard ground to a stop, smearing a blood trail across the street. Despite that, he couldn't feel the pain due to adrenaline.

But as a result of the attack, Issei was left discombobulated.

...Where was he? Issei didn't even know. He was totally confused. He had to be in some neighborhood near his house... Yes, he recognized this neighborhood. His house wasn't too far from here. Ah, that's right, wasn't he running from something just now..? Why does he have this strange girl with him?

KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!

[—?!]

—The monster's harrowing screech dragged Issei back to reality.

Issei sprung himself up and realized that he was on sitting on the floor, with a searing pain and wetness arising from his back. Soon, those senses left him and his mind went back to full survival mode. His eyes darted everywhere around him.

'T-The monster! I can't see it! Where did it?!'

DON!

Out of nowhere, the monster landed on the ground ahead of Issei, cracking the floor beneath it. Gradually, it stood, 3 meters tall and with an unnatural, elongated form. The creature appeared as it was made from leathery, black skin and bone only. And slowly, it approached him.

"—NO!"

Issei tried to scurry back, but..

Clang!

His back was met with the fence of another person's residence.

"S-SOMEBODY..! H-HEELP!"

Issei cried out in terror, hoping that someone, anyone would hear him.

Were there even any people around? Did this thing kill everyone? No, something like that couldn't be possible. Yet there was no one around. Did they just not hear him? Do they not hear the monster's screams?

For all of what was happening, only one thing was certain to Issei.

No help was coming.

"S-S-Stay back!"

Issei mustered up the last of his courage and extended his left arm, hoping to halt the monster somehow.

Of course, he knew that was futile, but it was the only thing he could think of. For reasons he couldn't understand, this was the best, final act of desperation that his childish mind could come up with. All the while, the monster continued approaching them slowly, while clicking its fingers and its head in an inhuman manner.

"I-I S-S-S-SAID STAY BACK!"

Was this it? Was this how Issei was going to die? Without even saying goodbye to his parents? Or the pervy old man? Or Rin?

Is this how he was going to meet his grandfather again?

..He didn't even at least get to help this girl..?

...

(No.)

—Something stirred within him.

'I don't want to d-die! Not here! Please! At least if I die here..! At least..! Not this girl..! Don't let her..!'

As the monster approached, clicking its body, stepping closer and closer - something moved. From inside of Issei, something stirred itself awake...

'PLEASE! Just..! Just..!'

In one instant, something inside of Issei truly..

"STAAAAAAY BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCKKKK!"

Awakened.

SHIIIIN!

KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

A green light blinded the monster and forced it away from the two children.

KIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeee...!

The light was so bright and powerful, that it caused the monster to flee, its screams dying down just as the light did. Finally, once Issei could finally see…

...There was nothing…

The monster was nowhere to be seen.

"...I did it…?"

...

...

"I-I did it!"

Issei felt a modicum of hope return to his heart after realizing that the monster was gone, though he didn't understand it.

'I-I-I don't know what I did, but I did it! It ran! I actually made it run away! I scared it off! Yes, yes!'

"Ah... Hahaha… I did it.."

Issei laughed tiredly. For some reason, he felt exhausted. His childish body couldn't keep up with the extraneous physical activity he forced upon himself. Not to mention, he felt even more exhausted after he had stopped screaming. And his left arm felt heavy for some reason as well…

Issei looked down to his left arm, curious about this bizarre feeling of weight.

"...Eh?"

—His arm was encased within a red gauntlet…

"...Eh?... What is…?"

Issei lifted the gauntlet. The green jewel set in the middle of the gauntlet reflected the moonlight. The entire gauntlet itself gleamed against the backdrop of the night's sky...

'This is… W-What is this?.. This thing...I'm wearing it..?'

Issei didn't understand what he was looking at. He wasn't even at the age where he could identify an item like a "gauntlet" yet. However, his immediate thought was to compare it to something out of a Tokusatsu that he watches in the mornings before going to school.

And despite his general naivete and ignorance, he was a clever enough boy to put two and two together.

'...Is this thing why that monster was chasing me? B-But then why did it run? Was it scared..? Is this some sort of "super power" that I have? A-Am I like Son Goku? And what even was that monster in the first place..?'

[That beast was known as a "Nightwalker." Those creatures stalked the woods in northern Europe during what you would refer to as the "middle ages." They happen to be quite cowardly when properly threatened by an unfamiliar power. Though, regular humans will most usually fall prey to them very easily.]

.

.

.

.

.

[—?!]

"Wha..?!"

Issei's head and eyes darted around in every direction, hoping to find the mysterious voice that spoke to him.

[Do not search for me, child. You will not find me out there.]

Issei felt chills run down his spine.

'A-A-Another monster?!'

[If you wish to "see me," boy, then look to the device located on your left arm.]

Issei hesitantly moved his eyes down towards the gauntlet.

[As I said, you will not "see" me, for I reside within you. This voice and this gauntlet is merely the greatest representation of my current self. In other words, I am part of you.]

(—!)

"You... You're...inside of me..? Am I...p-possessed?"

[No, I am not "possessing" you. Your body is your own. I have no control over your thoughts, nor your actions. I am no more than a voice in your head. My spirit is simply sealed within your "gear," foolish boy.]

"G-Gear..?"

[—"Sacred Gear." Devices created by the Biblical God. This device on your arm, which I am contained in, is known as the "Boosted Gear," one of the 13 "Longinus": god-slaying weapons. It is a "Mid-tier" Longinus, to be precise. As it is now, however, it won't display much potential. The fact that you were even able to unlock it through sheer will is remarkable on its own, especially considering your age. The potential will most likely come from you... Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like you are capable of activating its power yet. If you had done so, then you would have surely collapsed. Even whether you would survive that or not is uncertain as well. Be grateful that the beast had fled when it did.]

"..I…..D..."

Issei had no words. If anything, he didn't have thoughts either. Hardly anything the voice said was being properly processed within his young mind. Too many "big words" didn't help his case much either.

[It seems that I was the foolish one to believe that you could comprehend such complex and foreign concepts. Forget about what I've told you for now, that can be discussed later. More importantly, you must find somewhere safe to hide.]

The disembodied voice's words reignited the fear in Issei.

"W-What?! Why?! Is there another monster?!"

[Quiet, boy. Do not speak aloud. You can communicate with me through thoughts alone. You needn't announce yourself to anything else.]

'Eh? I can "think" to you? Oh..! O-Okay! T-Then, what's the problem um..'

[I am the Welsh Dragon Emperor, "Ddraig." You may address me as such when needed.]

'O-Oh, okay... Um... D-Ddraig...? What's the problem now? Why do I need to hide? Is the monster from before coming back?'

[Well, as of currently, there is no immediate threat within about twenty-five meters of you. The problem lies outside of that radius.]

'R-Radi...us? Uh, "Immediate" means "now," right? So, I'm not in danger now, but something far away is dangerous? Twenty-five "meters?" Um, okay.. How far is that?'

[Unimportant. The main issue is what, not where.]

'Oh, okay... Then, "what" is it?'

[Many things. Magical beasts of different variety, measuring in completely different levels of strength. The one you faced was a major weakling. Much of its power outside of physical capability was nothing to note. It's only because you're a child, let alone a mere human before unlocking me, that it even posed a threat to you. Had those people from before not been measly humans like you, they might've survived their encounters.]

(—!)

Issei remembered the woman's severed head from before, and was then suddenly reminded of the girl in his arms. She was unconscious. Maybe it was during the roll or the initial mayhem, but she ended up passing out. What was he supposed to do with her now?

[Focus, my young partner. We have greater issues at hand. If you don't find somewhere safe soon, then you will surely perish. There are many approaching threats far greater than the measly Nightwalker roaming about. They are all moving in separate directions, at random. They are most likely like-minded beasts with no true direction, wreaking havoc across this village you reside in. They're bound to find you at some point.. Tell me, boy. Is this a capital?]

'Uh... I don't know. This town is called Kuoh..'

[I see. I cannot fully grasp the size of your town because you are still too weak. Our connection isn't very strong yet. There is a limited range that I have with this body of yours. And even now, it is taking most, if not all, of my focus in order to create a "radius" for the purpose of keeping you aware. If our connection was stronger, or perhaps if your body was, then I could do more. But for now, this is the extent of it. So the greatest estimation I can make about how many "beasts" are located in your town is limited.]

'So… How many monsters do you think there are?'

[Hmm.. I can't give you a proper estimate, but the unsettling truth is: You are surrounded by them.]

CHILLS..!

Issei's throat felt unbelievably dry. He couldn't even begin to imagine what else could be out there, even more dangerous than the "Nightwalker." He needed to find somewhere safe. He needed to go hom—

[—?!]

"OKAA-SAN! OTOU-SAN!"

Issei shouted unintentionally.

His parents. That's right, Issei was so distracted by thoughts of self preservation that he'd forgotten about his own mother and father.

[Your family, is it? That is troublesome. If you truly care for them, then I believe this is more of a disadvantageous situation than I thought. Are they regular humans?]

'Yes! They don't do anything crazy or have anything like this! We don't have special powers! ...I think…'

[Hmm. I also don't believe that they possess any abnormal qualities. If they had, then at the very least, the mere exposure to it would stir me in my sleep, even if just a bit. I experienced no such thing in my short time with you. That place you called a "park" was the first instance of my being feeling unrest.]

'Oh no! I need to go get to my parents right now!'

[I wouldn't suggest that, partner. As it is now, I do not know the location of your home, as I have never experienced being "aware" in that specific location, nor do I recognize the "presence" of your family. Therefore, I cannot find them myself. You would be wandering aimlessly if you went looking for them now.]

'But..! Aren't you a "spirit" or something, like my grandpa? You can't find people?'

[While it is true that I am a spirit, I am not the sort that you're referring to. I am an entirely different existence. However, I do believe it is people to locate "people" as I am now, just not specific presences. At least, not specific enough to tell "non-threatening" existences apart.]

'I-I don't know if I understand all of that, but... If you really can "find" people, t-then all you have to do is just find two people who are alone together! Like my parents!'

[Nicely thought for a mere child. Not a bad suggestion. Very well. I will try it.]

Issei waited anxiously while Ddraig initiated a search.

[..I feel multiple groups of people.]

'Really?! Where?!'

[There are three benign presences directly west of you. Then, there are another two, directly east of you. West is behind you, East is in front of you.]

'..So, east? That's...this way! In front of me!'

Issei looked ahead of himself. Indeed, that did seem like the general direction of the house. He can only assume his parents haven't moved yet. Even though he lost his way initially, he should know his way back if he reaches a certain street he's familiar.

[Ah, it seems one of the groups disappeared.]

Ddraig's statement gave Issei pause.

[Within the group of three, directly west of you. One member of that group that I had detected seems to have vanished. They must have perished.]

Issei's body experienced another wave of chills and his stomach felt nauseous.

Death.

That's right. People were dying. Just like this random girl's family, people were being killed by monsters. People were dying and there was nothing anyone could do…

Nothing Issei could do..?

'..Hey, D-Ddraig-san? You said this "thing"... This, um, "gear." You said it does things right? It's my "power," right? .. Do you think...I can use it to k-kill those monsters?'

[No, that's entirely impossible. As you currently are, you will die in an instant if you go up against any of these.]

(—?!)

….Nothing.

This wasn't like Issei's favorite super-hero shows that he always watched with Rin. No. In this situation, Issei could do absolutely nothing...

'...Why?... Why is this happening to us, Ddraig?... Why?'

[I'm afraid I don't have the answer to that, partner. I've never witnessed such a peculiar event either. It's odd for such an ensemble of powerful creatures to be in such close proximity to each other naturally. Their auras differ in magnitude and compatibility. Most of them feel as if they belong in entirely different parts of the world, and some even remind me of the netherworld. Something like this could not be a spontaneous event.]

'Spont...? W-What do you mean by that, Ddraig?'

[It means: This was intentional. Someone did this to you.]

'..?! Intentional…? That word means "on purpose?"...'

[Yes. There is no other likely possibility. You are in the human world, with the wrong beasts in the wrong areas, all packed closely together. This situation does not, and cannot, occur naturally.]

'No way... Who could've done something like..?'

—The image of the random girl's decapitated mother flashed through Issei's mind once again. It was quickly replaced -- by his own mother's head.

'I have to go! I have to find Mum and Dad!'

[Partner, I cannot guarantee that when you locate your family, they'll be safe. I can't focus all of my attention on keeping them in view either. My first priority is to make sure that you survive this. The greatest advice I can provide you with is to tell you to hide yourself. If you can't do that, then I will prioritize masking your presence, at the very least to the point where no beast will stumble upon you in close ranges. And doing that will require practically all of my attention. I might not even be able to warn you when any threats do indeed get close, maybe not until it's too late.]

'I don't care about that! I have to find Mum and Dad!

[..Very well. If you do this, I won't be able to communicate with you as frequently or easily as I am now. You will need to be the one who initiates contact with me. Be sure to keep aware of your surroundings. I don't think I'll be the one to warn you of any incoming threats. Listen well to your surroundings and look everywhere you plan to step. Move from shadow to shadow. Avoid open and well lit areas. Everything seems fairly dark around you save for the moonlight so that should be an easy task. And most of all, try not to speak aloud or scream. You mustn't make any unnecessary sounds, especially if you encounter any beasts along the way. Hold your breath and don't make any sudden movements.]

'T-That's a lot for me to do... But, if it means getting Mum and Dad then okay! Here we go!'

Issei stood up and was ready to dash towards the direction of his house with the unconscious girl still in his arms.

[A fundamental issue still remains, partner.]

'Issue? What is it?'

[The girl in your arms. I cannot mask her presence in any way possible. I wouldn't say that she is optimal for your survival. In fact, she's putting us at risk.]

"..?!"

Issei realized it with Ddraig's words.

That's right. The girl was still here with him. She was still unconscious and she was heavier than Issei realized. He wasn't focused on anything besides escaping so he had forgotten that he was running with another person in his arms. She was heavy too. How was he even holding her before, let alone running with her?

'Oh no... What do I do, Ddraig?'

[The best choice would be to cast her aside.]

'...Eh?'

[It would be wise to abandon her.]

'...A-Abandon... Y….You want me to..."leave" her?'

[That is the wisest choice you have to make, considering your options.]

Issei ran while maintaining his hold of the girl, sticking to the shadows and trying his best to be quiet. He acted as if he hadn't even heard Ddraig's previous suggestion. He took many different turns, preferring to cut through different adjacent pathways and only crossing streets when absolutely necessary.

—Issei's body felt absurdly heavy. His legs hurt, his back hurt, his arms hurt. Even his head was throbbing, thanks to the blood pumping wildly through his veins.

'I want to go home. I want this to be a dream. I want to wake up. I want to go home.'

Issei continued running. He quickly crossed another familiar street until—

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNN…

Issei's body froze.

'...Eh?...'

There was a sound. No, a vibration. A rumbling.

A "grumbling."

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNN…

A deep rumble that resembled a bellow, like the snarl of a predatory beast…

'...Ddraig… Where is that sound coming from?..'

[Yes, I hear you child, what is it— Retreat, now!]

—Too late.

Gogo….

The disgusting sound of something like moist skin... Something wet, like a squishing sound, but it was large. And whatever it was, it originated from directly to his right…. Morbid curiosity forced Issei's head to slowly creak over towards where he heard the sound coming from, directly beside him...

When he looked over, he was met with...

A giant, glowing, red eye with a golden pupil.

[Flee, you fool!]

[—?!]

Issei bolted off without hesitation.

'ANOTHER ONE! IT'S ANOTHER MONSTER! Again!? Please, not again! I-It's big..! Too big! Bigger than a house! Huge!It moved! Its eye opened! It looked at me! It saw me! It had white skin! B-But I couldn't see its body! It was too big, too close!Run! I have to run!'

Once again, Issei was sprinting more than he ever had to in his entire life. It felt like his legs would give out at any moment and his lungs were on the verge of collapsing. Only Issei's sheer willpower was keeping his body moving.

"Hah, Ha! Hah! Haah!"

[That's far enough, boy. That beast won't follow you. You are no longer facing the east, you are heading north. Many of the lower beasts are gathered in that direction, so do not proceed.]

Issei forcefully grinded himself to a halt. He attempted to catch his breath, but he could only wheeze in and out painfully and violently.

"Haaaah! Haaaaah! Haah!"

'It hurts! It hurts a lot! It feels like my chest and my head are being crushed at the same time!Help! Somebody, please help me! It hurts! Mum! Dad! I'm dizzy! I can't breathe! I feel like throwing up! I wanna go home!'

[Calm yourself, partner. Your current position actually isn't the most disadvantageous place to be right now. There are no beasts in your immediate area. Nothing has found you, aside from the "White Whale" you encountered. But that beast won't follow you. That creature's body is much too large for it to waste its energy searching for something as insignificant as you, and I am already masking your presence on top of that. As long as your power doesn't spike, it will not sense you.]

'...Then what happens if it really notices us...?'

[It will erase you from existence.]

How many times can one avoid death in such a certain amount of time, at such a young age, Issei wondered..

'...? ...Actually… Aren't I…kind of amazing?...'

Issei wanted to praise himself for a moment, but there was no room for levity for him to indulge in yet.

—CHILLS!

—A sudden feeling overcame Issei's senses. All at once, it felt as if the world was crashing down on Issei's body.

'..?! Wha?! Ddraig! What is..! What is that?! This feeling is..!'

[Above you..!]

Issei looked up, and what appeared in the sky was..

Shiin!

Lights. A countless abundance of lights in the shape of something familiar.

Shin, Shin, Shin, Shin, Shin, Shin, Shin, Shin, Shin, Shin, Shin, Shin!

They were "circles." A seemingly endless amount of circles filling the sky, all with different colors and bizarre designs comprised of unrecognizable symbols. They reminded Issei of symbols that a "wizard hero" might use in video games.

And from each of those individual circles of light, something began to emerge.

'..People? T-There are people coming out from them! They're floating!? They—!'

[—Hide, partner.]

'W-What? Hide? Where?'

[Anywhere, just hide. I will mask your presence.]

'B-But, what about this girl?!'

[I cannot hide or protect her, and neither can you. Your survival is only guaranteed if you cast her aside. If not, then hide yourself and simply hope that they don't find you.]

Issei whipped his head around, frantically searching for a place to hide. He spotted some nearby shrubbery and hopped straight into it. He didn't consider abandoning the girl for even a second before hiding. His breathing was heavy and ragged, which didn't prove well for stealth. Fear began to pulse ever stronger within him the more that the seconds passed.

—He could feel "them." Now, of all times, he suddenly began to "feel" the presence of various creatures that surrounded the area. Not only could he finally feel all of the monstrous beings that surrounded him, but even more than that, he could feel the floating people too. He could feel those mysterious, floating people, emerging from the sky. Many of the floating people began descending quickly towards the ground, different groups flying off in different directions.

Most of all, Issei could tell that these flying people were likely heading in the direction of the various beasts scattered throughout Kuoh. Like a fleet or a legion, they were in groups, flying in separate directions, hunting different monsters, presumably.

Issei also noticed that the largest group was sent in the direction that Issei was previously in. Those flying people were headed towards the giant, white one with red eyes…

—A dark, incomprehensible feeling wrapped around Issei like a blanket. It was unlike any feeling he experienced before... Was it anger or..?

'Ddraig... Are...these the people who did this to us?'

[Control yourself, partner. You may indeed be a child, but regardless of that, the Boosted Gear has just been unlocked at near full capacity. Your body, no matter how small, will release pressure in response to strong emotions. Whether or not your body will maintain itself after releasing that pressure is the issue. And I'm not confident that it will. That's why, you must stop.]

'...Ddraig? Who are these people? Why do they fly? Why do they have...wings? What…are they?'

Issei questioned Ddraig worriedly. Ddraig's response indicated a slight, lingering disgust.

[—Devils.]

There was once a time when Issei's best friend, Rin, had warned him of such existences. Something called "Devils" or "evil spirits," beings who "robbed the souls of innocent." Those who insulted the name of "The Lord" simply by existing. Those who "wreaked havoc" and "disgraced the holy teachings"…

These were those same beings? They were real after all?

[Devils... What meddlesome little creatures. Our situation truly is a disadvantageous one indeed.]

Issei looked around the sky. Most of the "Devils" that had populated it were now no longer in sight. They must have scattered around and went to the monsters. —No. That wasn't the problem. The problem was that he knew they were now all around him, just like the beasts themselves. Not to mention…

'Ddraig…. Those ones in the sky….. Those are….'

[Your assumption is correct. Those four figures that you see are indeed the most powerful amongst these creatures. They seem to be surveying the landscape and providing intelligence or relaying commands. I'm certain even a child like yourself can feel the pressure they emit, even from this distance. Amongst Devils, even they are "monsters."]

"...Monsters..."

Whilst looking up at the night's sky, Issei could see those 4 figures congregated together with the shape of the moon silhouetting their bodies. Each of those four appeared a different color. One red, one green, one purple, and one pink. And, of course, amongst those 4, it was the red one that captured Issei's attention. The one that he couldn't remove his eyes from.

—No, it wasn't "red." It was a different shade. It was crimson. Yes, a crimson mane of hair...flowing freely due to the breeze of the night's sky, glistening against the backdrop of the moonlight..

'...What happens if one of those "monsters" finds me?...'

[You would perish within an instant. No resistance you could manage would reach them, even in your dreams. I daresay there are a few amongst that group that would have relatively no trouble dealing with that large beast you encountered before.]

(—?!)

'I... I can't handle this, Ddraig...'

[You will die should you refuse to. And along with you, your family.]

MAAAAAAAAAAWW!

A loud roar interrupted the communication between Issei and Ddraig. That was close by. It was only when Issei looked ahead of himself that he noticed a few shadows appear above the rooftops of some random houses.

Then, the sound of something being pierced, followed by a painful howl.

MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW!

Suddenly, the large body of a beast crashed down in the street in front of him.

'..?! Wha—?! It's dead!? What did—! W-What even is that thing?!'

[That is a manticore... Wait, watch out. They're approaching our location. Do not move.]

Issei placed a hand sternly over his mouth in order to silence himself. Multiple figures landed near the corpse of the beast that had struck the ground. Three figures, to be exact.

It was them, the Devils.

The trio of Devils stood around the corpse and began speaking to one another. They were speaking in Japanese.

"How many have they identified?"

"Unknown. As it currently stands, they have only been able to spot around fifty or more [Magical Beasts] in total. They seem to be evenly spread throughout the entire town."

"Dammit! This is chaos! How could this have happened?.. I've never heard of such an event taking place! How is it possible that someone could transport this many magical beasts of this caliber to one place?! Even the [White Whale] is here! This is madness! Had it not been for the [Maou-sama] sealing this place off from the rest of the world, surely some catastrophic incident on a far larger scale would have taken place! Not to mention, it's our homeland of Japan! If this had been Sapporo, I might've lost it..."

Issei was confused by all of the unrecognizable terms and vocabulary that the "Devils" were using.

'..What?.. What are they talking about? They killed he monster and now they are sounding...worried? Did…they not do all of this?... And the other one said Sapporo... He called it his homeland..? But that's not possible for monsters. Unless they live among us...'

While Issei was lost in his thoughts, the Devils continued their cryptic conversation.

"Indeed. What truly haunts me is the fact that, if there was a being with the capability to transport such beasts, then why would they limit themselves to only a place like this? Why attack such an unpopulated area? Why not attack the underworld with this power? What sort of motive would drive them to bring the beasts only here?"

"Perhaps their range was limited..?"

"That might be an illogical conclusion to make. They have the capability to transport an S-Class beasts such as the "White Whale." Not to mention, the other SS-Class just south of us, the one that distorts time and space. Its spectral dome is practically inescapable, but outside of that, its not as hard to contain as the Whale."

[The south. That was the original direction we had come from.]

'..Is that thing they're talking about... Was that the monster that trapped me in the park?'

[I see. That must've been why your sense of time and space was distorted then. You should thank me, boy. My intuitions were the only thing guiding your instincts into an escape route.]

'T-Thanks..'

"—In any case, whoever summoned these creatures isn't concerned with range. They must have an objective that lies within this place."

"A town of humans?"

"Yes. An ideological objective, I'd imagine."

"An ideological objective..? You mean, this is a political attack? That's not really a possibility, is it?"

"Don't forget: the current ["Lord" of the Gremory Clan] was present for some secret business before we arrived. It might involve that family."

"..!"

"It's just as he says! Indeed, [Lucifer-sama] had mention of his father visiting this place offhandedly, when he was speaking with another Maou-sama during the Rating game's awards ceremony! ..Could this be an attack from a separate faction then? A declaration of war?"

"Not likely. Apparently, the subordinates of [Mephisto-sama] have already identified the magic that brought these beasts here, it was uniquely demonic in nature... This could be the act of a traitor."

"What?! A traitor, you say!? What sort of traitor would be capable of accomplishing such a feat?!"

"Not just one, I'd guess. There has to be more of them. Something like this wouldn't be possible for one being alone. This is the act of a group, not an individual."

"A possible attack on Lord Gremory's life by a group of "traitors"…? Is it possibly the actions of a revived [Old-Satan faction]...?"

"Impossible! That faction is no more. An event like this is too chaotic to be considered a mere "civil strife!" This mayhem was constructed for the purpose of sending a message! No other reasons could be attributed to the seemingly arbitrary killing of more than a hundred humans! For what reason?! It was ordered that the humans were no longer a target by all sides! If this was the will of those in the deceased
"Satan faction," then for what reason did they transport so many dangerous beasts in areas not inhabited by anything but humans?! Why not instead send the "White Whale" to the location of the Gremory household?! Why not bring it to the territories of the Underworld? Is their only target the Gremory? This attack must be symbolic! It's ideological in nature, surely, but what message could they be trying to send?"

"Hmm... As I recall, the Lord of Gremory was also accompanied by his next heiress to the Household... This territory was to be a gift from him to his daughter... Perhaps it involves that."

"But then why attack here? Why not attack their home? Were the Lord of Gremory and his daughter the prime targets?"

"No, no, wait... Think about it... If their target was really just Gremory, then they would have attacked the estate... But since they're really aiming for the Maou-sama, in an ideological sense, what would be the best thing to attack? [Sirzechs-sama] cares for his family, but there is one person who he values above all else."

"..?! As I thought, this is symbolic! This attack is a message! It's an announcement! Someone is announcing their presence! They're saying: "We're here, Maou-sama," while aiming at the most important person to the strongest Maou..! In that case, it's likely the faction of the deceased old Satan, but perhaps a new version of it! Maybe a new group entirely dedicated to a similar cause, even!"

"But that leaves the question: what sort of group would adhere to this senseless destruction that doesn't assist in their goals towards Gremory and Maou? As you said before, wouldn't it simply make more sense to attack the estate, whenever the Gremory heiress is still present there. Why wait until they come here to attack them, causing uninvolved innocents to die? It just seems so...chaotic.."

"..I don't know either... Something is still missing. I myself do not understand yet why they did not attack Gremory head on... Moreover, who would even be able to bring these beasts here?"

"[Demonic Power] was detected amongst the lower level beasts. However, none of it has been detected on those of great ability such as the Whale….. Which means the weaker ones were sent here by Devils and the rest... They could be the result of a Sacred Gear…"

"A Sacred Gear?! Humans working with Devils is..! Could they be trying to hide the fact that they are Devils..?"

"No. If that was the case, it would be more logical to have just the Sacred Gear user transport all of the beasts instead of a few... This detail appears to be intentional. As if to mock us by saying: "this is what our human ally can do." Either that, or, they're using reincarnated servants like us."

"..But, a Sacred Gear capable of transporting almost [Ultimate-Class] beasts across different spaces, to and from the Underworld, in the possession of traitors….? What sort of catastrophe are we witnessing unfold right now..?"

"..What sort of enemy are we faced with is the better question."

"That isn't something we need to concern ourselves with. That can be discussed by [Beelzebub-sama] and his colleagues. We've already wasted enough time talking amongst ourselves. Our first priority is to provide enough support to seal or capture the "Whale" and any other high level beasts are also included."

"Ah, I'm afraid I must depart. My objective was to assist in maintaining a perimeter in which there resided no beasts. The associates of the [Sitri organizations] are currently attending to any humans who are wounded. They are also rescuing those currently in danger. Once they have contained them within a certain barrier together, they will erase their memories and create the false narrative of a natural disaster in place of everything. It should be easily accepted, considering the destruction and lack of connection with the outside world, as of currently. Indeed, if this were an attack on a highly populated capital, then the situation would be nearly impossible to cover up."

"I see. Good luck with that then."

"To the two of you as well."

The Devils ended their conversation, seemingly as they were about to depart.

'..Are they leaving?'

Shiin!

But right before they left, Issei's gauntlet shined a bright light and even seemed to release some energy. The Devils didn't fail to take notice of it.

"Did you feel that?!"

"Yes.. Behind us."

'..?! Wha?! They found us! What just!'

[Partner, drop the girl.]

'What?!'

[I revealed ourselves to them. I won't risk your life by allowing you to protect this girl any longer. Separate yourself from her. Just do as I say. They won't hurt her. Separate yourself and hide. Trust me.]

'Wha?! Ddraig, you?!'

Steadily and warily, the trio of Devils began to approach the group of shrubs that Issei had hidden himself within.

"It must be coming from there.."

"Yes. That feeling… It couldn't be a beast, could it..?"

'They're getting closer to us?!'

[Do as I said, boy.]

Issei closed his eyes in frustration as the Devils cautiously approached him. The closer and closer they got, the more his fear heightened.

"This presence... Is it a human?"

'Dammit!'

Issei finally released the girl and moved further down into the foliage, causing it to rustle.

Rustle!

"Wha—?! Who goes there?! Are you hurt?! Don't be afraid!"

[Don't answer. Be quiet and hold your breath.]

Issei kept his eyes shut, curled himself into a ball, and covered his mouth. He could only distance himself a meter away from the unconscious girl. Had he moved any further, they would have noticed the distance between her body and the rustling.

Rustle..

One of the Devils finally approached and separated the shrubbery, revealing the child.

"..It was a human after all."

The Devil pulled the girl out from the shrubs and held her in his arms.

"She is alive, but unconscious. She must have hidden here and passed out. But that energy…. Could she possibly possess a Sacred Gear of some kind?"

'They….can't sense me…?'

Issei breathed a silent sigh of relief.

"Nevertheless, I shall take her to the Sitri's associates. Remain vigilant, you two."

"Very well."

"Good luck."

The three men— No, Devils, extended their black, leathery wings and flew off. One went in a separate direction from the other two.

'What is going on?... I didn't understand any of what they said. Is this their fault or not? Why is this happening to us?'

[Do not concern yourself with that now, partner. If you wish to find your family, now is the greatest time. Though, I still don't recommend that course of action. This "perimeter" that the Devils have created may not stretch as far as your home. In fact, that place may now be infested with other beasts. At the very least, I can say that it thankfully isn't as clouded by beasts as the north was, but I suspect it is still the second worst place to be.]

Rustle!

Issei jumped out from the bushes and ran towards where his house should be, not caring for Ddraig's warning.

'Mum! Dad! Please be okay! I'm coming home, so please be okay! Please!'

—His body felt heavy, heavier than ever before. He couldn't believe the physical stress he was under. His entire body was on the verge of collapsing. Pure willpower was what kept him moving forward.

His sides hurt. He was hungry. He was exhausted, mentally and physically. He was hardly aware of his surroundings anymore.

It all really felt like a dream. It was surreal. It didn't feel real in the slightest. But that's alright. When he saw his parents, he knew it would all be alright. He would "wake up" when he saw them. The three of them would have breakfast together and his mother would comfort him after his bad dream, like always. He knows it.

He'll apologize for everything he's ever done. He'll be the greatest son ever. He'll make his parents proud. No more perverted stuff from the old man from now on. No more pranks against his aunties or uncles. No more being depressed about Rin. No more difficulty making friends. No more troublemaking. He'll take that martial arts class his dad wanted him to take. He'll ask his mum to color some coloring books together with him like when he was a toddler. He'll kiss him mum every morning. He'll hug his dad everyday. He'll never ask for anything he doesn't need or act spoiled. He'll never cause problems for his parents ever again.

He'll do all of that and more. That's why...

'That's why, please be okay!'

Out of nowhere, Issei slipped on something and lost his balance.

"Ah!"

He landed flat on his back, causing the wind to be knocked out of him temporarily.

Thud!

"Ugh…"

He groaned in pain. If he wasn't already in pain from the physical stress, then he was definitely hurting now. On top of that, his back was wet, for some reason..

'What..?'

Issei reached around his back to feel whatever made his back feel so cold. It was, of course, a liquid. A thick, almost "sticky" liquid. It smelled too...

Issei lifted his hand to see if he could get a better view of the liquid staining his palm. He couldn't see the color of the liquid because he was currently lying in the shadow of a house; the moonlight couldn't reach him from his position. All he knew was that it was a fairly dark color. He put his hand up to his nose and tried smelling the liquid again to see if he could recognize it.

Copper? A familiar "copper-y" smell...

Issei lifted his upper body up with a small groan. He could feel the thick liquid seep down into the bottom of his shirt and shorts. Whatever it was got on the back of his legs too. It was even in his hair. The feeling of it dripping down his back...it felt gross.

Once again, he decided to put the liquid up to his nose. It did smell familiar after all.

'Doesn't this smell like….. like that girl that I saved'

Crack!

The sound of something breaking. A different sound to the cracking of wood. It sounded more like..

..Bones?

Crack!

—Issei slowly turned his head to his right, opposite of the house that was blocking the moonlight to the left of him.

He caught sight of a tree. On top of that tree, there were little monkey-like creatures sitting across the branches. One of these creature was eating something small, an item roughly the same size as a grape. The branch these monkeys were sitting on had "vines" hanging from them too.

But…the vines were wet. They kept dripping and dripping, each drop of liquid falling from their ends then landing into a puddle below the tree branches, where there were other unidentifiable objects strewn about.

In fact, now that Issei thought about it, these loosely hanging "things" seemed more like "rope" than they did vines… After all, they were bumpy and thick. And they're all torn at the ends as well…

The liquid dripping from these ropes... Issei followed those droplets to the ground again. A thin streak of moonlight gave the tiniest bit visibility to the objects on the ground, including the liquid puddles that surrounded them…

Human blood and cadavers.

"..Ah."

The thing that was directly below the tree and Issei's shoes, it was blood.

.

The rope was human intestines.

One of the little monkeys holding a "grape" took a bite out of it.

Squelch!

It was a human eyeball.

"BLURGH!"

Issei regurgitated violently into the grass. The vomit mixed in with the pool of crimson below his knees, only disgusting him further. He hadn't eaten in maybe 6 hours and didn't make it to lunch either. And now, he threw up his breakfast, the only thing left in his stomach.

"Haah…! Hah..! Hah.."

He was wheezing painfully. His dry throat was now burned and his stomach was empty. He didn't get a good look at the deceased mother of the unconscious girl before…but now, he didn't need to… He was able to get his proper fill of death for the rest of his life.

[Partner, distance yourself from these creatures. They are small, but to a regular human, they are still a threat. As you are now, you can't use this gear to fight them. They travel in groups for a reason. They're currently feasting at the moment, so they should ignore you for now.]

Ddraig's words repeated in his head.

( [Feasting.] )

"Mmm—!"

Issei placed a hand over his mouth, as if to instinctively prevent something from escaping it. He felt the urge to vomit again. At this point, nothing would come out, just some saliva and mucus, maybe.

[Now, partner. Let's go.]

Issei stood up unsteadily. His knees almost buckled under his own weight. Whether that was because he felt weak from what he just saw or his body felt heavy after doing so much, he didn't know. He didn't care either.

All he felt, aside from physical stress, was fear and despair. The sight of the dead only reminded him of the possibility of his parents no longer being alive.

'N-No! I'm almost home! I'm almost there! Just one more minute! I'm right here!'

Issei's intuition was correct. He was only a street down from his home. He was practically limping at this point, but so long as he kept moving, he could make it.

After walking a bit, he turned the corner...

'There! There it is!'

He could see it. His house was down there, on the right side of the street. He could see it just a few houses down from his position.

He was there. Issei was almost home.

'I'm home! I'm home! I made it! Mum! Dad! I'm here! I made it! I'll never make you angry again! I'll be the best son in the world! I'll always make you happy! I promise! So please! Please..!'

Rrr!

Issei threw the small fence surrounding his house open and limped as quickly as he could towards the front door. It was closed properly. Nothing in sight was broken. Everything appeared intact. In fact, it looked like the entire neighborhood was alright, unlike most others.

'It's okay! They're okay! Mum! Dad!'

He threw the door open.

"Okaa-san! Otou-san!"

The house was silent and empty.

Issei looked around. —Nothing was out of place. The TV was off unlike the other house, the lights were off, and nothing was broken. He didn't smell anything rancid either. As morbid as it was to admit, it only took the course of one evening for Issei to become accustomed enough to the smell of blood and corpses to recognize it immediately.

"Okaa-san! Otou-san! It's okay, you don't have to hide anymore! I'm okay! There's no monsters around here! You can come out! Mum, dad?! Are you in a closet?! Are you upstairs?! I-It's okay! It's me, Ise! It's the real me!"

Issei ran upstairs and frantically searched the rooms of the second floor. His room was empty, nothing unusual in his closet. He went across to his parents room. This was the most logical place to be. Their closet would be the obvious choice. He approached it and slid the door open.

"Okaa-san! Otou-san!"

…Nothing…

...

...

'...They were saved!'

—That's right. The Devils claimed that they were "saving" people. That must mean that his parents have most likely already been extracted from this place. Issei breathed a sigh of relief. It looks like he'll have to rest in the house by himself then.

Totally relieved, Issei slowly descended down the stairs.

He was so unbelievably tired. Maybe he should eat something? His parents might be mad at him when they see him. Actually, the Devils said they'll have no memories, so they'll just think that something like an earthquake happened and he was away from the house during that time. They'll probably start crying a lot too. Or at least, his mum will. His dad wasn't always the most expressive type. Well, that might change after an experience like this.

"Ah, that's right..."

The play area. In the back of Issei's house, there was a play room. It's a room he played in when he was little. He kept all of his toys there. Nowadays, he plays games and watches TV in the living room. So now, that area is just a room that leads to their backyard and has all his old toys. It's past the kitchen. Issei didn't check there when he was initially searching the house because it seemed like such an obviously bad choice. There wasn't really anywhere to hide in that room.

"Aaaaah… I'm hungry…"

Issei stepped into the kitchen and noticed that there was some rice made in the crockpot, along with some cooked fish in a pan. It must've been part of their lunch. He just threw up so he'll at least eat something light, like the rice.

Clang..

After serving himself some rice, Issei sat down at the table and ate it quietly.

He could see a bit of the play area from the kitchen, and for whatever reason, it was bothering him. Like something was nagging him in the back of his mind, and this time, it wasn't Ddraig...

With everything that's happened today, Issei could only think about his short life whilst eating his food. He wondered where things were going to go from here. Is his life going to change now that he's unlocked this new power?

...Before he knew it, he had finished the rice within minutes. That was enough for now.

"I gotta get going.. I have to see where they took Mum and Dad. At least I'll stay in the safe area those Devils set up. Maybe even I'll be able to save some people…... Actually… Maybe I'll just sleep in the living room… Everything hurts, and they might erase my memories if I go there. It's risky to go out too..."

Thump, thump...

Issei walked down the hallway, making his way to the playroom out of a lingering, morbid curiosity. For reasons he didn't understand, he felt an impending, foreboding sensation overcoming his senses.

He could see his old box of toys sitting at the left corner of the room. He couldn't see the middle of the room from his angle in the hallway though. He couldn't get a clear view until he turned the corner, at leas—

"—Ah.."

.

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"Aaaah…"

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"Aaaah… Aah…"

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The only thing visible, in the middle of the room, was a pond of blood with a severed human hand resting in the middle of it.

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"Aaaah… Aaaah… Ah.."

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Issei groaned robotically, before promptly falling to his knees.

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"Aaah… Aaah...? Aaaaaaah..."

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The severed hand was inherently feminine. Soft, light colored skin.

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And wearing a familiar wedding ring on her finger.

.

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"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!"


The household known as the Hyoudou family — was no more.


[Report: Catastrophic earthquake reported in southern Japan. Areas most affected were Nagoya and Kyoto. Kyoto was left relatively undamaged, with zero casualties of any kind. Nagoya experienced minor damages to infrastructure. A small town known as Kuoh, located near the outskirts of Nagoya, was the most affected area. 112 reported casualties. 108 dead, 4 injured. A major tragedy that (...)]


End

Woooh! That's the first one out! Was NOT expecting this first chapter to be this long. But I just couldn't resist. For some reason more and more came to my mind as I was writing. That's passion for you. Man I love starting new stories. It's always like that. Anyway, as I said before this story is a challenge/inspiration fic. Although saying that feel like a lie because literally everything that happened here was my original plot. So the closest thing to inspiration is the fact that Issei's parents die in both this story and my friend JCs story. Other than that there's like NO similarities. And there's absolutely nothing left from that guys challenge either. This is nothing like it.

Anyway, tell me what you guys think and what you think is gonna happen next. I want to hear all your thoughts about this story. So go ahead and let 'er rip.

Read, Rate, Review go crazy.

Stay frosty.