Aaaand we're back!
THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!
So, the vast majority of people voted for Option B in the last chapter, with a few people inputting in an 'Option C' in which they want the story to simply flow along as it does currently.
So, onwards we charge, into the ever spiraling and deepening abyss! Huzzah!
Thanks to everyone who voted and helped ease my mind, it's with you lovely people that I can continue to write and churn out content to ensure that the day-to-day difficulties of life are alleviated with glorious wish-fulfillment. Special shout out to the reviewer Lolmax who recently turned 18 (though I'm questioning if it's a bad thing that you've been reading my stories before you were 18) and who never fails to send me a message to make sure I'm still alive and kicking and haven't died from the you-know-what virus.
Another shout-out to the lovely readers who bought my original work, my first book Janus and Oblivion, and it's sequel Janus and the Prince. As a rookie-writer trying to turn writing into something I can hopefully do for a living, every tiny bit helps and every review and comment improves the quality of my work. Who knows, maybe one day in the future, I'll write the next Game of Thrones. I mean G.R.R Martin wrote it in 1991 when he was 43 years old, and I only turned 23 recently. Still got at least 20 good years of writing and life experience to accumulate before starting a grand dark medieval fantasy series that'll be adapted into a show with a phenomenal success until the final season renders it unwatchable for all eternity.
Screw you D&D.
The directors, not the board game.
Speaking of which... a friend did actually introduce me to the board game. D&D is way more fun than I thought, and helps generate unique story ideas ripped straight out of game sessions. Might actually create a story based around D&D mechanics in the future, kind of like Harry Potter and the Natural 20.
ONWARDS WE GO!
Dead Man's Drink
The song was about weed, female dogs and money. Her multilingual race talent enabled her to understand it, though not enjoy it. It blared too loudly around the bar for her to hear herself think. The seconds were harder to count, the more the dizzied, mind-altered humans hopped up on supernatural pacification jumped up and about as shoeless, sockless, venerable idiots.
The humans 'made it rain' every night. The yen bills and coins littering the floor were being swept by one of those human girls, Murase? Katayama? It mattered little. She might as well just paint numbers atop their foreheads to identify them. Her nose rumpled at the idea, a short snort escaped her lips, all for what may have been a fraction of a second. Her gaze went back to the hidden hatch, leading down to Seth-sama's quarters.
Her fingers lightly drummed against the bar. She watched one of the patrons climb atop a table, whipping his back and hips wild as he swirled his tie in the air like a movie-cowboy wrangler preparing to snatch up a villain. His comrades cheered him on in drunken, reverie, mugs of liquor raised high and accompanying catcalls.
They wouldn't remember much of this night. According to Seth-sama, they'd remember that they had a great time, but tiny specifics and incongruities would slip their memory. They'd be back, in part because of Japan's afterwork drinking culture, and in-part because no other place in the world would give them the same feeling of relaxation that they got merely from walking through the doors.
Dragon-prince was brooding, once more, in the corner. He'd at least managed to put on the uniform. She didn't know when, or how Seth-sama had the time to get the kid's size, but it was a perfect fit. He crossed his arms, leaned against the corner wall and gave off the feeling of someone who thought they were more aloof than they actually were. It amused her.
The broody dragon pushed off the wall, muttering under his breath as he took a seat at the bar. "How long has it been?"
"Too long," came her reply. Fourteen hours, fifty-three minutes, and thirty seconds.
"What are they doing in there?"
She let her shoulders fall. "I don't know." They're fucking; probably. "It's not our place to ask."
"Not our place…" the boy looked ready to argue. She watched the stillborn flames of conflict sputter. "…right."
Her undead eyes scanned the scion of Lucifer. He was young. Younger than her. Hell, younger than Seth-sama. Not as young as the ditzy nun, but almost just as inexperienced. He moped around like an abused puppy in the hands of new owners.
Seth-sama really likes picking up strays.
Something in her chest, beat warmly and quickly and hotly whenever she thought about Seth-sama. It was a dangerous thing. A deadly thing. She knew that road had nothing but dead-ends ahead, and yet, like a fool, she still clung to a bit of hope.
…fourteen hours, fifty-four minutes.
That was the amount of time it had been, since Seth-sama excused them from his office and told them not to disturb him. She'd seen the look in his eyes. The way he looked at the Satan's clone, like a child who'd been given the newest and hottest toy in town. He didn't look at her that way. He'd never looked at her that way.
And who could blame him? Who, on this godforsaken planet, would choose granite when they could have diamond?
"Can I get a drink?"
She regarded the boy with a piercing look. He stared back at her, brows furrowing. "A drink," he repeated. "Did I say something funny?"
"How old are you?"
"I'm not a child," he scoffed. "That… mead? You called it? I want that."
She crossed her arms. "No."
"Did someone change the definition of 'no' while I wasn't looking?"
The brat had the gall the bare his teeth at her. "You gave me one yesterday."
"Yesterday, you looked like you could use one."
His face was getting incredibly close. "And now I don't?"
"No," she jabbed her finger into his chest. "I don't think you do."
His hand gripped her wrist. "I want the drink."
"You have about half a second to let go of me, brat, or –"
"You'll cry out for your dear Seth-sama to come up and save you?"
She aimed her finger down and charged her magical energy. "I'll melt your dick off."
"You wouldn't dare."
"I'm thinking, if you don't have your dick, you won't feel the need to swing it in my face every half-second." The ball of magic energy formed. "Seems reasonable to me."
"I'm stronger than you. Faster than you." The boy scoffed. "I'd die a thousand times before you ever touched me."
"Is that a challenge?"
"It's a fact."
She grinned. "I like facts."
She ejected her finger outwards. The idiot fell for the feint, giving her enough time to rear her head back and slam it forward. Mr. stronger-and-faster didn't react quick enough to stop her forehead from making sharp contact with cartilage. He fell off the barstool landing in an undignified heap unto the floor, blood dripping from his nose.
"Huh, what do you know," she said. "It is now a fact, that I stand before milord Lucifer, Master of a Thousand Deaths."
"You… headbutted me."
"Oh, goodie, it seems your short-term memory is in order." She said. "Now, here are three words that'll hopefully stick in the long-term one: it doesn't matter."
She gestured around them.
"You're stronger than me, yeah? So what? We're monkeys in a cage kept by a zookeeper and somehow you think being the strongest monkey makes you closer to being human. Newsflash: it doesn't."
"I'm not a monkey."
"No," She said. "You're just a slave."
"I'm nothing like you!" he roared.
"You don't have the balls to be."
"I'm different –" he panted. "I'm… I'm…"
"You're…" she probed. "What?" She crossed her arms over her chest. "What? Go on. What are you now?"
He struggled to say something. Anything. His face was a fiery red. Blood dripped from his broken nose, veins bulged on his forehead as he struggled to say a word.
"If you can't handle this life, then die."
The boy whipped his head to her. "Die?"
She exhaled, rubbing her forehead. "Die." She repeated. "If you can't live like this, kill yourself." She shrugged. "Of course, it won't make a difference. Seth-sama can revive the dead, and he'd just revive you immediately, but at least you'll have sent the message. You chose to die on your feet, like a good, prideful asshole. Cause living on your knees was just sooo painful."
The boy snarled. "Fuck you. You don't know what it's like –"
"Fuck you," she snarled back. "Fuck you, you entitled brat. You don't fucking know what it's like. You're acting like it's the end of the world because you just now realized that there are people with more power in their cumshots than you'll ever have in ten lifetimes. Well guess what? The rest of us have lived with that knowledge from day-fucking-one and you don't see us moping around like a lovelorn bitch."
"It's – it's different for me."
"Because what? The sun shines out your ass? Because you had a fancy-pancy Sacred Gear and thought you could compete with the rest?" She snorted. "Well excuuuuuse me, Kid Icarus. Keep on soaring! Do you best! Keep trying, and maybe, one day, you too will bend the fabric of space and time with your words! You can do it Vali-kun!"
She shook her head. "Is that the bullshit you want to hear? Is that it?"
The pretty-boy went quiet. She didn't question it. Whatever puberty-related shit he was going through was honestly none of her business. She wasn't his babysitter or caretaker. She just didn't want him to make any trouble for Seth-sama, and she was glad that he was a guy. Being a guy, he wasn't 'competition' and that was honestly the only benefit to having him around.
If he was too much trouble and Seth-sama decided to kill him, his replacement would most likely be another unusual woman from satan-knows-where. Viser definitely didn't want that. It was honestly the only reason she still put up with him.
"Listen, you've gotto work on your shit. I don't really care how you do it, but whatever method you choose better not make Seth-sama decide to axe you." She pointed to her bar. "That means no drowning yourself in booze. Go jerk off or get one of the schoolgirls to blow you or something. Or find a fucking hobby that'll make you useful."
"I'm not in your bloody head. Figure it out for yourself."
She sighed. She doubted he'd be able to actually accomplish that feat though: figuring it out for himself. "Before you got your ass kicked by Seth-sama, what did you do to blow off steam?"
"I fought strong opponents."
She rolled her eyes. "No shit," she scoffed. "And what did you do on the rare occasion you were happy?"
"I fought strong opponents."
She could feel a headache coming on, amazing considering she was a zombie "…and what did you do, when you're not busy fighting?"
"Looking for strong opponents to fight."
She pressed her lips tightly together. "Oh for fucks sakes. There's got to be something you do when you're not fighting and not looking for people to fight."
"Of course there is," Vali nodded. "Training."
He's hopeless… "Do you have any bloody interests that have nothing to do with fighting or training?"
He sat there, staring silently for several seconds. Viser waited, patiently, counting the seconds. At the sixty second mark, her patience turned into annoyance. At the ninety second mark, her annoyance turned into irritation. At the one-hundred and thirty-three second mark, her irritation was about ready to explode into anger.
"I enjoy watchmaking."
The anger subsided away immediately, and instead, she found herself blinking, wondering if she'd heard correctly.
"Watchmaking." She tested the word. "Watchmaking." The boy rose, wiping the blood away from his nose, and giving it a long glance.
"I'm not buying it." She said. "All offense, you don't strike me as the type."
"I'm not," he grumbled. "Azazel made me do it. It was part of a training regime, to control the finesse of powers. I'd have perfectly to minimize individual screws and bolts of some complex, expensive analog watches, return them to their original size, and put them back together. If I messed it up, the price of the watch was taken away from my feeding money. It was torture." The boy said. … "…but I found it relaxing."
"That's what you consider relaxing?"
"I'm at my best when I have a challenge in front of me. Azazel said classical watchmaking was one of the most difficult skills that humans could spend their entire lives in pursuit of mastery. Yet it was something easily overlooked because modern watches are now factory made, and the value of a masterclass watchmaker isn't what it used to be."
Viser didn't believe it. Perhaps couldn't, believe it. Someone as hotblooded and impatient as this kid, being interested in an art which took great finesse and patience. "You must really know a lot about watches then. Like how to actually set it with those little knobs –"
"The crown," Vali said. "The 'little knob' on the side of the watch used to set time is the crown. The crown is the command center of your watch. You use it to make adjustments whenever something's not right. It may also serve additional functions depending on the watch. You can use it to wind the mainspring on mechanical watches, for instance."
Well I'll be. "I'll take your word for it." She said. An idea sprung in her head. "Better yet… why don't I take your skills for it? How about, rather than sitting around moping all day, you try to make me a watch?"
"Why would I do that?"
"Are you're saying you can't do it?"
"I'm not a child who'll be baited by such an obvious tactic." Vali frowned. "Besides, I don't have any of the tools needed. I was using Azazel's tools all the while."
"So? Just buy your own toolkit."
"I don't have money."
"How do you not have any money?"
"Azazel – "
"Stop." she rose her hand. Azazel made the brat extremely dependent, didn't he? "Forget I asked." She shook her head. "Just give me a sec," she pushed a button on the cash register, ignoring the ding! A few seconds and a handful of bills, and she had a confused, questioning boy staring at her.
"Are you allowed to do that?"
"Seth-sama doesn't have any need for money. Yes, I'm allowed to do that. Now, take this money, shut up and make me something fancy." She thought it over. "And maybe get some takeout for all of us while you're at it. I don't feel hunger, and my sense of taste is kind of crap, but I could really go for some takeout. Seth-sama might want some once he's done with the Magic-Satan clone, and ditzy-nun upstairs can sometimes be so socially dense she'd rather starve than ask people for food because she doesn't want to 'bother them.'"
The boy stared at the money awkwardly in place. She was reminded that he was just a child. Even by devil standards, the boy was young. Less than two decades was practically an infant in the lifespan of beings who lived for millennia. He was an incredibly awkward, highly anti-social teenager who'd been drunk on power and battle for years and knew nothing else.
Once the centerpiece of who he was had been stripped away, he was left struggling and grasping and searching for any tiny remnants of his old identity.
"Why are you helping me?" he said. "I don't understand it."
She pointed at her wrist. "Make me a good watch and maybe I'll tell you."
"It takes time to make a good watch."
"I'm undead." She shrugged. "Do I look like I give a shit about grains of sand in an hourglass?"
He didn't say anything after that. Didn't spend long before departing after that. Viser melted into a chair once he left, groaning to herself. She felt like a glorified babysitter for Seth-sama's ever-growing collection of awkward teenagers, and sometimes for Seth himself. First it was the ditzy nun, slowly doping herself to increase her confidence, now it was the Broody Dragon Emperor. If Serafall's clone turned out to be another childish brat, Viser would bite off her tongue and call it quits.
It wouldn't achieve anything, but it was the sentiment that counted.
The door opened, and Viser sprung back to attention, shaking her head at it all. I just don't want to deal with any more damned teenagers today.
"Um, hello," a young, female voice called out to her. Viser could already feel the headache. She glanced up. A young girl, large rimmed glasses, trying to use bravado to hide her gawky shuffling back and forth. "I – I – I'm here to free Asia-chan from you foul villains! Unhand her or I'll call the police!"
Viser really hated teenagers.
The door swung open before she could tell off the girl, and Viser was about ready to kill someone, but stopped once she noticed it wasn't another teenage brat who entered this time around. The middle-aged man had sharp eyes and a formal look, but most interestingly, he seemed to have some sort of resistance to the calming effect of the Dead Man's Drink.
"Um, I said –"
"Shut up and sit down Megane-hime." She ignored the teenager in favor of the man. "Welcome to the Dead Man's Drink. Who are you, and who the fuck are you looking for?"
The middle-aged man gave a shrew smile. "Nakamura Ichijo. I believe this is where I may find the man you call… Seth?"
Chemicals bubbled, ingredients crackled and popped and the Vampire muttered. He seemed to do a lot of that, she noted. Muttering. Underneath his breath, he'd mutter and hold entire conversations with himself as though he were the only being in existence. Sometimes he'd stop his muttering, look up, squint as if staring at words and objects only he could see, and then he'd mutter some more.
Her attempts to get his attention were short-lived. He'd turn to her, blink, and then return back to his workstation. Temporal dissociative disorder, she diagnosed. A bad case too.
She couldn't decipher the source, but she knew the symptoms when she saw it. Individuals who'd served time in Tartarus had the same symptoms. To a lesser extent, individuals in heaven possessed it to. Experiencing time at a different or non-existent rate for an extended period was capable of significantly shifting an individual perspective of time. Hours would pass by like seconds, days would be hours, and entire weeks would feel like a single day.
There wasn't a cure. Not truly. If the temporal distortion he experienced was minor, then he'd readjust in a few years. If it wasn't, then there was no telling if he'd readjust in a few centuries or if he'd ever readjust at all.
Fortunately, there were ways to momentarily restore his proper sense of time. He just needs something to get his… attention. She summoned a bit of her magic power and winced immediately at the action. The sensation was like peeling thick bandages from leg hair.
"Don't," came the warning. The Vampire didn't even turn to face her. "Your current magic power is barely higher than a newly reincarnated human." He rose a strange vial of blue liquid in the air, swirling it. "Try to use magic and you'll pass out from exhaustion."
I know that, she wanted to say. She wasn't a fool. She knew just how much weaker she was. So much so that attempting any sort of rebellion would end horribly well for her. Even with his back turned to her, she could barely breathe from the suffocating amount of magical energy that exuded from the monster in front of her.
She'd be utterly overwhelmed by him even if she were at full strength. So, for now, she needed to play her cards smart. Play her cards wisely. She needed to figure out why Ajuka had abducted her, crippled her magic, and then handed her over to this weird Mad Scientist-looking Vampire. Ajuka wasn't the type of person to do things without reason, but even for him, this was going too far. Once she managed to escape, she'd be having a long stern talk with her fellow Satan about what was and wasn't acceptable.
"Oh." The Vampire said. He turned to face her, for what felt like the first time since she'd been stuck together with him. His red eyes were like beams of judgment from a lighthouse. Despite being wrapped in a nondescript leather cloak he'd handed her, she felt utterly naked at his simple glance.
"You don't know, do you?"
I don't know? She pursed her lips together. She wasn't given a chance to ask a question. The Vampire rose his hand into the air, and uttered a single word. "[Clairvoyance]."
A bright light nearly blinded her. She squinted her eyes, waiting until the brightness receded. Once it was done, they were standing in a room. An immensely familiar room. Her heartbeat immediately began racing. She knew the room. How couldn't she? This was the room she was in before Ajuka abducted –
There was someone on the bed. She stared, and no matter how much information was absorbed by her retinas, her brain had difficulty making sense of it. The person on the bed had familiar long black hair, tied in familiar pigtails, and hugging a very familiar pillow in a very familiar manner.
"…who is that, in Sona-tan's bed?"
The Vampire's red eyes were unreadable. With a wave of his hand, he muttering of the word: "[Magelight]." Bright lights formed in the air, illuminating the face of the person on the bed, before spelling out, boldly:
Her heart started beating faster. "No, no, I'm Serafall!" The lights faded, the bedroom, too, began to vanish. She rushed straight for the imposter on the bed, roaring. "I'm Serafall!"
She grasped at air. The bed, the figure on it, vanishing like wisps of smoke in her hands. She was back in the strange, hybrid workshop office. On her knees, grasping at empty air, she turned her gaze up to the Vampire.
"I'm Serafall… I – I –"
A disturbing pit settled in her stomach.
Ajuka didn't abduct me.
Her fellow Satan still possessed limits as to what he was willing to do for the sake of Devil Society and Sirzechs. Abducting a fellow Satan and handing them over to someone wasn't something even he could do and get away with. So, no, he hadn't abducted her. He didn't need to abduct her.
"He… cloned me."
Saying the words out loud made it more real. She gazed up at the Vampire, who said ne'er a word in response. His red eyes were watching, judging, with all the impassivity of a court judge rendering a final verdict.
A laugh escaped her lips. That bastard. Another one escaped, bitterer than the first. That bastard cloned me and… used me as a gift? A third, further disgusted laugh came. …has he done this before? How many times has he done this? Are there dozens of clones of me out there, sold to the highest bidder?
Even if there were, what was she going to do about it?
The idea made her laugh a fourth time. Right, let's just go fight Ajuka. Ajuka who could fight on even footing with Sirzechs? Ajuka, who'd made perfect replicas of Zeus' Aegis Shield and Thor's Mjolnir just to use as disposable crafting materials? Ajuka, the being whom with the right data, could calculate the location of precise atoms in the universe in such a manner that allowed him to have knowledge of past, present and future?
It was a fool's dream. No, she couldn't fight Ajuka. The best she could do, would be to appeal to Sirzechs, and hope that Sirzechs took issue with it, and told Ajuka to stop. Even then, if Ajuka felt it was necessary, he would go ahead and do it regardless of Sirzechs instruction.
She fell to the ground, a boneless blob. She didn't even have the strength to laugh anymore. No one controls Ajuka Beelzebub. Ajuka cloned her, gave her away, and he would never face any repercussions for doing so.
"Poor, poor, Serafall."
A hand landed on her shoulder. She jerked back instinctively. She'd almost forgotten where she was. The Vampire's hand remained outstretched, grasping the empty air from wherein her shoulder once lay. He glanced at his hand, staring at it as though he were seeing the object for the first time. His gaze swerved from the hand, back to her.
The villain licked his lips.
Her mind began to race. She wasn't a fool. There weren't many reasons as to why a ludicrously powerful being would want a clone of her. She re-examined the room in a completely new light. The shackles on the walls, the metal cage kept in the corner. The innumerous sharp objects – all of it took on a new, menacing glint.
"Do you know, what you are?" The Vampire said. His voice permeated through the air and wrapped her like thick, viscous honey. She felt herself paralyzed just from a few utterances.
"A confirmation. No – no, nononono – a revelation. You are... the final step. The grand question. The ultimate answer. Have you any idea what you are?"
Think Sera-chan, think. Her brain began to rack for solutions. Escape was not possible, so an appeal was her best option. Play along? Plead? Barter? No, no – she had no bargaining chips in this situation. The power dynamic was entirely one-sided. What were her options then? What were her options in situations where the enemy's power was beyond common sense and she had no cards to play?
"I asked you a question."
She was pinned to the ground. Breathless. Immobile. Wild, almost insane red eyes stared down at her. Her lungs felt like balloons being squeezed in the hands of a toddler. Her bones were like brittle biscuits, breaking away into crumbs from the pressure of a single human finger. She couldn't think. She didn't think. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't do… anything.
A finger came down on her chin. He lifted it, right and left, examining her face like a farmhand examining new cows for his herd. "He… created you. Like a child performing a party trick – he waved his hands, and you appeared. Soul and memories, experience, thoughts and fears…"
"I –" she was barely able to gasp the word out.
A single finger landed on her lips. "Shhh," The Vampire's smile was beastly. "This isn't a conversation. You don't speak: you listen and you nod. You see, I'm not quite in the mood for any mental games you Satans seem to enjoy playing. Ajuka has managed to simultaneously disgust and amaze me enough to fill a thousand lifetimes."
The Beelzebub did have that effect on people.
"You, are a clone of Serafall. A perfect clone, identical in every significant way and manner that matters. Now, I used a special power that allowed me to check if that was true…" The Vampire's index finger moved down from her chin to her chest, directly above where her heart lay. "…but it did much more than that, you see. It showed me the essence of your soul. The complete A-to-Z index of your existence. For a brief moment, your life was but an open book and I, my dear, was its omniscient narrator."
She didn't move. Didn't breathe. Her thoughts were running. If he knows –
"If he knows every single thing about me, then he must surely know what I'm thinking, was that the thought about to go through your mind?"
She felt like ice pierced through her chest.
"You'd be correct. I know you, Serafall Leviathan." His finger went back up to her chin. His red eyes locked unto her gaze. "I know you better than I know the back of my own hand and the front of my own chest. I know you better than da Vinci knew the Mona Lisa and better than God knew Adam. So listen clearly, because I will say this once and once only."
His nail came down to her chest again, and this time, it dug into the flesh.
"I am the Beast of Villeneuve and you are my Belle. There is nothing in this world under the sun that you desire which you cannot have, so long as your loyalty to me is true. Betray me and I will make your existence into an unending cycle of suffering and torment to which neither death nor insanity shall grant you reprieve. Your flesh shall be my workstation, and your soul shall be my clay. Your loved ones will topple like dominoes and your legacy will be but dirtied crumbs of an eraser on the pages of history."
His finger emerged, a single drop of her blood resting on the nail.
"Do you understand?"
She nodded once.
The overwhelming pressure preventing her from speaking vanished. She found herself able to breathe again. The villain walked away from her, moving back over to his workstation as if nothing at all had happened. Her legs, to her utter dismay were still shaking. Trembling. No, it was more than just her legs, her arms, too, followed suite. Her hands were shaking so much she could barely use them to cloak herself properly.
"Y-your name," she managed to say.
The man paused from his workstation, glanced at her, and said a single word: "Seth."
"…do I call you Seth or... M-Ma –" she struggled, hard, with the word. "Master."
"Either is fine."
She didn't know what else to say. What was she to say, under such circumstances? I understand why Ajuka cloned me. Ajuka… Ajuka couldn't beat this man, this… Seth. No, Ajuka couldn't compete with him. She wasn't sure if she knew a person who could.
He claimed to know her better than she knew herself. The claim seemed almost impossible to believe. Yet, he did not seem to be lying. Someone with this much overwhelming power had no reason to resort to cheap deception tactics. No, the truth was far more effective.
Beast of Villeneuve, those were the words he used. He'd used them for a reason. The work of Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve was one of her favorites: La Belle et la Bête.
Beauty and the Beast.
"Serafall," Seth called.
The Vampire paused. "Hm. Calling you Serafall might cause confusion later on. What then… Sera? Sera. Sera seems to be fine." He turned to her. "Henceforth you're no longer Serafall Leviathan but Sera. Remember that."
"In any case, Ajuka needs me to stop the incoming war as part of our agreement, so that means I need to meet with the Angels and Fallen and 'come to an agreement.'" He muttered a sigh. "I can see Azazel choosing the pacifistic option, but I don't see the Church being as willing."
Stop the incoming war? The newly christened 'Sera' found her brain blue-screening as she took in that new bit of information. "You're going to stop the war against the Underworld?"
"Hm? Didn't I just mention that?"
"And… against the Scorned?"
Seth turned to her, raising a brow. "Scorned?"
"They're a race of fiery demon-like creatures that invaded the Glasya-Labolas Territory by the thousands," she said, quickly. "A single one of them possesses the fire-power of a High-Class Devil. You're… going to fight them all?"
"You named my Flame Atronachs… the Scorned?"
Seth's lips curved into amusement. "Oh? You don't know, do you?" With a snap of his finger, an unholy roar of fire emerged, and a floating, familiar, feminine creature of fire appeared into the room. "The Scorned are my summons."
Her breath hitched in her throat as her gaze snapped from the creature, back to Seth. "You – you're the one who summoned that army?"
"You destroyed the Glasya-Labolas Territory."
"Are you asking a question or making a statement?"
Her head was spinning. "Why?"
Seth shrugged. He snapped his fingers and the summon vanished. "The owner of the territory touched something of mine and was in need of punishment. Unfortunate that he happened to be the brother of the Satan Asmodeus, and of course, unfortunate further still that Asmodeus chose to get in my way."
She thought she'd understood, before, why Ajuka had cloned her. No, no she hadn't. Now, she was beginning to grasp it. Realize it. The subtle implications of this entire arrangement were slowly unravelling before her.
"So… you're now… allied, with… the Devils?"
"For the time being."
Her throat felt dry. "And… this alliance… am I…?"
The unasked question hung in the air. Seth walked over to her, each step reverberating like thunder in her ears. He dwarfed over her, so much so that it was impossible to do anything else but look up to him. With a single finger, he cradled it directly under her chin. His lips came down, close, ever so close to hers, but it didn't touch. Instead, he went further down, to her neck, then up, directly behind her ear.
His breath on her neck sent her heart racing as though she were in a life or death battle. His lip lightly touched her right earlobe, and she felt as though her entire body was on fire.
"What do you think?"
His whisper was predatory. Dangerous. She almost felt her heart burst in her chest.
"How does it feel to know you're part of the reason your people are spared the horrors of war?"
His lips landed, softly, on her neck.
"Your body and soul, sacrificed for peace. Aren't you quite the heroine, my dear Sera?"
His body was close. There was no warmth from it, but she found herself yearning anyway. The insanity of the situation dawned on her. She wanted to claim it was some sort of sorcery, some dastardly spell he'd cast that made her stand on her tiptoes and bite down on her lips in response to his touch. She wanted every excuse in the world to believe that this wasn't her.
"Alas," Seth didn't touch her. He turned around, leaving her awkwardly standing there, her senses coming back to her harshly. "My dear Sera, we have much to do."
She bit down harshly on her teeth. "What have you done to me?"
"Whatever do you mean, my dear Sera?"
"I'm not… not like this." She hit her palm on her chest. "You – I – I'm not – what did you do to me?'
"Nothing," Seth said. He instead gestured his hand outward. "You see… it isn't me, it's you. You, Sera. You, the proud Sera, forced into a situation with a male being so far above her in power that she's no different from an ordinary woman before him. Tell me, how many times in your life has that happened to you?"
She could answer immediately. "Never."
Seth smiled. "Precisely," he said. "Never. All your life, you've lived as the proud Leviathan – several males may show their interest in you, but it's pointless. They don't have the power you have. They're not on even footing with you. And those who do have power above you? Sirzechs and Ajuka? Well, I'm certain neither of those men have ever showed any interest in you."
He walked forward; arms outstretched. "And then, I appear. A male who overwhelms you. A male who so clearly desires you. And you, well, you have no resistance. You're like a sexually repressed housewife who just discovered masturbation. As much as you've recently come to fear me, you're simultaneously enthralled by me. You've discovered the novel experience of being a woman worth pursuing… and you want more of it."
She didn't want to believe his words. They made a lot of sense, but she didn't want to believe them regardless. She didn't know what that would mean about herself if she actually believed those words. Cloned and enslaved and I'm… turned on by it? Enjoy it?
"You don't have a lot of sexual experience," Seth said, as though talking about the weather. "You're not a virgin, but you haven't truly done it with anyone notable, not since you became a Satan. After all, you have a reputation to keep, and you know for certain that any boy-toy you pick up would likely tell the whole Underworld they slept with you. How long has it been since you've been truly satisfied? How many decades have you relied on your fingers and your sister's toothbrush to give you pleasure?"
Her face burned hot at those words. He knows. He wasn't lying about knowing everything about her. No one, absolutely no one should have known about the toothbrush.
"I'm not – I'm not that horny." She wasn't sure who she was trying to convince. "And I functioned just fine before I met you."
Seth laughed. "That's because before now, you've never met anyone like me."
"And what makes you so special?"
The Vampire's eyes glowed. He levitated off the ground, wind and waves of pure telekinetic force surrounding him.
"I am power, unbridled. Chaos in flesh and blood. I am desire without limitation, annihilation without restraint, and force without balance. The universe itself bends the knee to my words, and infinity will choke in an attempt to swallow my glory."
He floated over to her, towering over her. Amusement colored his expression. "There are no other men like me, and there will never be any other men like me. Even if you cannot see it, your feminine instincts can. And it is those instincts, which are telling you, right now, that you desperately want me."
She bit her lip. Bit it hard enough that it was drawing blood. Seth saw it. His nostrils flared, clear with amusement. He rose her own hand, wiping away the blood with her index finger. Then he grabbed that finger, and slowly, without ever taking his gaze of her, licked the blood off it.
She didn't know who engaged first, but it didn't matter. It didn't matter, that she was the one who practically threw herself around him, her lips smacking against his. It didn't matter who engaged first. He tasted richly of blood and liquor to the point that Sera almost thought she'd get drunk just from kissing him. He returned her kiss with far more expertise and gentleness than she expected. His tongue was freakishly skilled, thus that she felt as though the appendage would go down her throat if she let it.
They bashed back and forth against the walls as they kissed, and hands began to roam. Despite his pale visage she was pleasantly shocked to find nothing but firm muscle underneath his obscuring robes. A musculature that was reminiscent of some Greek heroes was always a bonus. His hands explored her body with so much finesse that she would have mistaken him for some sort of master thief. He knew the right places to touch that would sent lightning travelling down her spine, the right ways to touch them that would leave her moaning deeper and deeper into his lips.
Then, he began touching places she didn't even know could get a reaction out of her. She almost arched away from their kiss to moan, but he didn't let her. He buried the kiss deeper, silencing her moan with his lips, forcing her shudders against his body and his body alone.
He knew her body like a master pianist knew his keys.
Off from the walls unto his large table, they finally disconnected their kiss. His red eyes were alight with mischief, and she wondered for a second what was going on, but barely had to wonder further once his outfit seemingly vanished from his body. He stood before her, bare as the day he was born, with a pale vampiric body covered in battle-worn scars and clear, warrior-defined muscles. His scent was richly and uniquely of blood and liquor. Blood and liquor, so much of it that it made her dizzy. Her gaze went down for the first time, and sharply went back up to his eyes in disbelief.
Was he a man or a horse?
"How do you hide that thing in your pants?"
"With a lot of practice."
He gestured her forward with a single finger. "Give it a whiff."
She didn't know how to refuse. She reached forward, breathing in the thick, smell of sex, oh fuck so much sex – and the sheer musk –
She didn't quite understand when her tongue started running up and down, or when she'd placed it in between her breasts. Despite the rest of his body being relatively chilled, the bulging, veiny thing between her chest was hot. She didn't mean lukewarm or mild, she meant hot, to the point at which she felt her breasts were going to catch on fire.
Putting the head in her mouth and trying to work with it was a task she found challenging, right up until he took charge. By 'taking charge' she meant he grabbed her by her pigtails and slammed her face into his crotch so his cock travelled down her throat. Her mind went blank as her eyes went wide. She glanced up at him, the irritation in her eyes spurning a twisted satisfaction in his.
"That's the look…" he licked his lips, and she realized she may have made a mistake.
Her throat became nothing but a toy. Every second, her nostrils slammed into his crotch, his balls slammed into her chin, and any illusion she possessed of control over the situation vanished. Surrendering control birthed a part of her she didn't realize existed, a part of her that grew increasingly aroused each time her face slammed into his crotch and his cock dug deeper in and out of her throat.
He's going to completely… make me into an… indecent woman…
She was only partially aware of herself and her surroundings once his cock fully emerged out of her throat. So far gone was she, a puddle of pleasure, that she barely noticed when they'd moved from the table unto the ground. She was on all fours, when she felt him raise her waist in the air, and when she felt the heat slowly press against her arousal.
"Get ready, I'm going all in."
All… in? A spark of consciousness came back to her like a lightning striking her brain. "W-wait, I can't take you all –"
She didn't get to finish her sentence. Her brain exploded into a world of pleasures and sensations she'd never experienced before, her body shuddered as she went from not having had anything in her larger than a finger or toothbrush for decades, to suddenly having one of the largest men she'd ever met.
For the first time in her life, Sera knew what it meant to be fucked.
I wasn't sure how many hours had passed since I started fucking Sera. I didn't care to keep track of it. I mean, it was Serafall Leviathan.
Sera wasn't Serafall. She was, but she was a clone of her. It wasn't quite the same. Then again, I supposed I'd confirm that for myself once I seduced the original Serafall. A threesome certainly wasn't out of the option either. I wondered if I'd notice a difference if I fucked the original.
"Ohhh…. you're breeaaaaakkkinnngg meeeeee…."
It'd been a long and hard journey to get to this point. Most of which included bullshitting her that I'd somehow been able to see into her soul and knew everything about her. The [Aura Whisper] shout was powerful, but not that powerful. It'd given me a basic outline of her soul and some snippets of her personality, but to claim that I knew every single thing about her was just me talking out of my ass.
Fortunately, she bought it.
Combined with minor use of the Boosted Gear to increase the amount of dragon pheromones I was exuding, while simultaneously boosting her own arousal, and she was utterly convinced that her desire to jump my bones was entirely her decision.
It did help that she actually was really sexually repressed. Which, honestly was somehow surprising yet at the same time not. Serafall had very few options available in the dating pool to begin with. I mean, who was there, in the DxD world that would have been a suitable match for her to begin with? The list of powerful male characters that weren't villains or belonged to a conflicting faction were ridiculously low. Serafall had few prospects.
"Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck!"
Regardless, now that I knew this plan was viable, I knew it would also work on the original. Better still, the odds were even higher of it working, because I'd have Sera helping me. She'd help me, I was pretty certain of it. She might even make things easier in luring around Sona and some other devil women into the harem. Of course, there were some things I'd have to do first –
Oh yeah, how long have we been going at it anyway?
Fuck, what did it matter?
"Get ready, I'm going to fill you up Sera."
Waifu sex first, other business second.
Acrid, Koneko thought. Acrid. That was the word. That was the scent. The scent which permeated every street, every corridor, and every hall. The scent which permeated paved walkways, stone paths and tarred roads. The scent which wafted from open windows, tiny shops and food stalls. The scent which travelled down winding paths, emerged from the lips of pedestrians, the engines of vehicles, the car seats, the banks, the fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, grocery stores, butcheries and bakeries.
…Bad. She could smell it. Really bad. The quaint existence that was Kuoh no longer existed. Gone. Corrupted. She could see it in the flighty eyes of pedestrians and the subdued chatter of school children. It was present in the methodological rubbernecking of men in business suits, and the tighter grip of women unto their purses.
Kuoh's innocence was lost and there was no hope of recovery.
Her time was short. Limited. It would not be long before Akeno noticed her disappearance. Not be long before her path was traced and it was discovered that she'd left the underworld of her own volition. Rias would likely not believe the obvious truth, not at first. She would, more likely, choose to believe what she believed was the most likely option. Believe that Koneko had merely chosen to go on an extended, impromptu stroll. She would justify it with the excuse that the Nekoshou was in mourning, and thus, allowances could be made.
…scent is stronger. Koneko needed to make contact with the dangerous man before it came to that. She leaped, striding from rooftop to rooftop, following the overwhelming scent of blood and gore. The smell made her shudder. It made her hesitate on her next jump.
She had to do it. She needed to do it. She needed strength. Rias would not and could not grant that desire. She wanted to find her sister. Rias could not, or was not inclined to grant that desire. There was no other choice. No other option.
She did not want to end like Kiba and Gasper. She did not want to die.
She arrived, eventually, at the source of the scent. The name hung above: The Dead Man's Drink. As she approached the door, her feet remained rooted to the spot. Her hands refused to obey her instruction to touch the object. …do it. She urged herself. …you can do it.
If she did this, there would be no turning back. She would, officially, be like her sister – a stray. Hunted down and marked for death by all who would gaze upon her for the crime of independence.
The being within was the Red Dragon Emperor. Koneko knew the stories. The tales. And even if she did not believe them, the scent of blood which followed him like a vengeful spirit was enough to convince her.
Her feet, regardless, remained rooted to the spot. She knew not how long, she knew not how many seconds, perhaps minutes, passed, as she stood before the doorway that would lead to an existence to which was filled with uncertainty.
Her breathing came softly. Her breathing slowed. She came to understand, a few seconds later, that her breathing had stopped. Breathe… she commanded her lungs, commanded her brain. Breathe. As with her feet, her lungs refused the order. Air refused to be drawn into her lungs. Her palms began to shake. Her hands began to shake. Her arms began to shake.
Breathe… she tried again, Again, and again. Air did not enter. Her lungs were on fire. Her lungs were burning. She was burning. The world was burning. The street vanished, the people, the sounds and the smells. It was just her and the door. Her and the door in a sea of darkness.
It towered. It towered. It towered and towered until the top stretched beyond the vanishing point of the darkness. Breathe.
She could not breathe.
"Of course you can't do it," a voice bellowed from the darkness. "You've never made a single decision for yourself in your entire life."
It was harder to see. The door almost appeared to be vanishing. She slammed her teeth tightly against each other. Breathe! BREATHE!
"Just give up," the voice continued. "Give up and go back. Go back to being the pampered, perfect pet of the spoiled princess. That's all you're good for."
Shut up, she growled.
"Do you really think the Red Dragon Emperor wants YOU? You? You don't have any skill of value, you're not powerful and you're certainly not beautiful. What you are… is an ornament." The voice laughed. "An exotic pet. One of the last two Nekoshou in existence. You'd make a great trophy, sitting atop his lap and doing tricks for treats."
Her lips felt dry. Her throat was heart felt almost ready to burst from her ribcage.
"Face it. All you're really doing is trading one master for another. At the end of the day, you're still that scared little girl in chains. You'll always rush to be bound, because you feel safer knowing that all you have to do is go where the chains take you."
"Oi, Nekoshou. What are you doing?"
The void was gone. The world returned, and Koneko flinched as she realized her mistake. A man stood beside her, no, not man, teen, like her. Odd colored hair, like her, dressed in a suit that made him look like some sort of exotic bartender. The suit was well made, definitely, but what was peculiar about the man was his scent.
"White hair, short, and emotionless. You must be Koneko."
She blinked. For Koneko, it was the equivalent of jerking back in surprise. "You know who I am?"
"Your annoying sister mentioned you," the teen said. "Considering the description stuck, she must have mentioned you an annoying amount of times."
Her heartbeat started racing again. "My sister. You know her,"
"I did. I used to work with her." He shook his head. "Whatever. That's in the past. Now, I'm working for Seth… I don't even know why I brought it up." The stranger gestured his finger to the building. "I'm guessing you're one of his…?"
"You're here to see Seth aren't you?"
She didn't respond.
"You can go in."
"…why aren't you going in?"
The man frowned. "That's none of your business."
"Suspicious," she repeated.
The man grunted something underneath his breath. "Listen, I'm supposed to do something for my… boss? Wait, does that woman even count as my boss… ah, whatever. That's why I can't go in, because I haven't done it yet."
She stared at him. Stared, blankly. She kept staring until it was obvious that he couldn't handle the focus.
"…Stop staring at me. I just…" he pressed his lips together. "…damn it." He gave her a strange look. "Hey… you… you're delicate, right?"
Koneko's right brow went up. For Koneko, it was the equivalent of saying, "Excuse me?"
"Oh, you dear thing, now, be sure to tell your grandpa to give these tools lots of love and attention, I know he'll treasure them. "
She bowed and gave her 'smile.' "Thank you obaa-chan,"
"And tell that older brother of yours that he should learn how to speak to his elders!" The old woman harrumphed. "Imagine him, walking in here like a gangster and slamming money unto the table, telling me to 'hand over the good tools.' My poor heart almost thought I was getting robbed!"
She gave a side-eye glance to her 'older brother' who was leaning on the wall outside the shop. "I'll be sure to tell him, obaa-chan."
"He also needs to cut that hair! My lord, you children these days…" she shook her head. "When I was younger…"
She toned out most of the woman's tales with a nod and a 'smile', having long since perfected the art of pretending to listen and care. There were some moments were she interjected by repeating the last word the woman asked, simply to further sell the illusion that she was actually listening.
Once she was done, she walked out of the old antique clock store, and turned to her "older brother."
"Here you go, onii-chan."
The teen shuddered. "Don't call me that." He collected the box, opening it. She watched as his eyes seemed to scan each individual tool with the same level of focus that reminded her of the way Kiba would scan his weapons, or Akeno would analyze her tea leaves. "Everything seems to be in order… I almost thought the old hag would cheat you. I guess having a young pretty face has its benefits."
Her right brow went up. This was coming from a person that looked as though he'd stepped out of a Korean Model catalogue. "Pretty?"
"You've got Seth interested in you don't you?" the man said. "Tch. I don't get their obsession with women. First it was Azazel always telling me about how he scored some, and now it's Seth spending hours screwing a woman in his study."
He turned to her, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. "What is it about your gender that turns powerful men into idiots?"
Koneko genuinely didn't know how to answer that question. "…Breasts?"
"You don't have any and he's interested in you."
She wasn't sure whether to be offended or pleased by the comment. She honestly had a brief moment in which her brain altered between being pleased and being incredibly annoyed.
"Well, whatever disease it is, I hope I never catch it."
He shoved the case of tools underneath his right arm. "Come on, we have one final stop before we need to get back. What're you interested in eating?"
She tilted her head at him.
"I'm supposed to get food for everyone, and since you're joining us –"
It occurred to Koneko that the man may have been having some sort of misunderstanding. Does he think I'm part of the Red Dragon Emperor's… harem?
She didn't know how to feel about the idea. On one hand, it meant she was getting this special treatment because of that assumption, but on the other hand, if she told him that she wasn't, and he went ahead and told the Red Dragon Emperor that… wouldn't it be problematic for her?
Even more so, her entire reason of going stray was to become stronger, not to join someone's harem…
But if it's the Red Dragon Emperor…
She didn't know. She knew, that as one of the last of her species, whether she wanted it or not, the burden of ensuring the Nekoshou did not completely die out was placed atop her shoulders. Her sister may not care, but she did.
If she remained under Rias, her options of potential mates were limited by whatever the Gremory family decided, and worst still, any and all future Nekoshou would end up being born as servants and vassals to them.
The thought almost made her physically ill.
"Taiyaki," the man repeated. "You'll have to show me where I can get that. This city is a labyrinth."
She did. She escorted him over to where she knew her favorite taiyaki stand was, and he didn't seem to complain all throughout the journey. If anything, he seemed surprisingly amicable, for a person who smelled so heavily of a dragon. Or was it just that the Red Dragon Emperor's scent had brushed off the teen?
"Ah, Koneko-chan! It's been so long! I'm so glad you're alright!"
It had been long. A lot had happened. It felt weird, to think that just a week or three ago, she was sitting here, eating taiyaki bought by Kiba, and her biggest concern had been whether or not she'd have to report to Rias that the Perverted Trio had peeped on her, or take matters into her own hands and deal with them herself.
It felt like a lifetime ago, now.
A single droplet of water landed on her thigh. For a second, her heart leapt. She moved her hand to her face, but confirmed that it was dry. No, it wasn't a tear. Her gaze went up, to the suddenly darkened sky.
Sudden. Too sudden.
"…This weather change isn't normal."
She wasn't the only one who noticed.
The air was abuzz with the smell of ozone and before she could question it, the man at her side kicked her in the stomach. The kick launched her far, far away from him, and it was that distance that allowed her to witness as a bolt of lightning from the sky thicker than a bus crashed down unto her favorite taiyaki stand and reduced it to dust.
He saved me…?
There was no doubt in her mind that she would have been obliterated by that lightning bolt. No, not for a second did she doubt it. She tried to stand, tried to regain her confused, lost bearings, but not a second before she found herself standing before a tall, smiling priest.
"Truly, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
And once more, from the heavens, lightning fell.
"Ugh… fucking… bastard…"
And she was in his hands. His hands, the strange teen who smelt of a dragon. Blue wings emerged from his back as he soared through the air, and she could do naught but stare at him, stare, as she realized it was the second time her life had been saved.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," the boy swore as they soared through the sky. "Hey, nekoshou, do you know Senjutsu?"
"I…" Senjutsu? Who did he think she was? "No."
"Then I guess this just makes things more difficu –"
Another bolt of lightning fell from the sky, nearly cleaving them in half. The static made their hair stand on its edges, wild and frizzy, while the boy did all manner of acrobatics to dodge. He flew straight down into a subway entrance, ignoring the shock and surprise of the humans present. He dropped her off, breathing hard.
"All right, you stay put here, or better still try to find a way to get to Seth. Safely."
"Wait. You can't fight him."
"Fight?" the boy laughed. "I'm going back out there to kill him."
His glowing wings emerged once more, and before she could question it, he soared out of the subway. It took her a few seconds to identify it. To remember the descriptions.
She'd just spent an afternoon with the White Dragon Emperor… and she didn't even know it.
"For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief! For you are all children of light, children of the day! We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober!"
The religious nut was preaching. Preaching as he rained down lightning and floated in the sky. And he was letting people, see him. Regular humans, with their phones raised into the air, pointing and capturing, videoing –
Vali had met a lot of insane exorcists in his time, but this one – this one took the utter cake. "Hey, bible thumper!" Vali mocked. "Are you a fool? Do you even understand the consequences of what you're doing right now?"
The exorcist turned to him, and once more began to quote. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth."
He pointed a finger.
"This city has been infected by the unrighteous, and it is the duty of the righteous man to show them the path of truth. To purge the lies and evil from within, this is necessary." The exorcist shook his head. "I do not need to explain any of this to a spawn of the devil. Perish, evil one, and let a kingdom of light arise from the ashes of darkness."
The bolt of lightning was larger than anything Vali had ever seen. It crackled, and crackled, and overwhelmed the entire sky until the sky itself was nothing but lightning. The darkness of the clouds obscured the sun, but a new source of light brighter than the sun emerged in the form of a bolt of lightning the size of a skyscraper.
The bolt halved in size immediately, yet, the humongous crackling plasma sent soaring in his direction wasn't something one could laugh over. Vali realized he could dodge it, easily. Dodging lightning was something he'd been doing since he was young. However –
"There are humans down there!" he yelled over the raging storm. "Are you going to kill them as well?"
The exorcist gestured a finger down.
"My God does not allow the slaughter of innocents. If they die – it is by his will. And who is Dulio Gesualdo to question the will of God?"
"No, I have faith." The wind howled around him. "For faith cometh by hearing and by hearing the word of God. It is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Dulio Gesualdo has faith. With faith small as a mustard seed, you can say to a mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move and nothing will be impossible. And it is with this faith, that the innocent are spared and the guilty are vanquished."
There was no stopping him. No reasoning with him. Vali swore as he glanced down at the hapless humans, pointing their camera phones into the sky. "Get away!" he roared at them.
It was late. Too late.
And so, with two words, Dulio Gesualdo summoned lightning from the heavens.
And God willed it.