Owo wats this? ANOTHER update before a year has passed?

Just letting you know i'm rewriting the earliest chapters of this story, so you might want to reread the oldest chapters. There's a headnote telling the date the chapter's rewritten to be on par with my current standards and fix some gaping plot holes. Right now it's up to the… 5th chapter. I think.

Welp. anyway

note: not yet betaed cuz i'm impatient


Death's Chosen


[XVII]

||Fates Reforged||


'It's over.'

He let the words rang again in his head. He quite liked the sound and its meaning; in this particular case, an end of a conflict, and he hoped this one could last for quite a bit. At least until the Rating Game with Riser, because he wasn't sure if he could focus on handling multiple things at once save for Rias' breasts.

But Issei felt he shouldn't be thinking about her delectables when there was another woman on his lap and another one behind him, one who was tending to his wounds via the wet caress of her hot red tongue.

"Stay still. I'm not yet done." Tiamat said when he shuffled. Her tone was strangely calmer than usual, almost like… almost like she was trying to be considerate for him. Tiamat? Considerate?! The world might reach its end soon.

"Look, you can lick me all you want later on. I know I'm bleeding but I'm fine, thanks." Issei replied, and Tiamat huffed but pulled away from him, picking herself from the ground.

He awkwardly bent down to lay the archer Chosen, but refrained after he felt her warm blood trickling down his fingers. She was bleeding from the back, he recalled, and shuddered at the thought that he could have blasted a person's chest open with the full blast from his borrowed Power of Destruction if they weren't a Chosen or strong enough.

"Ise!" Rias' voice grew louder and closer. Issei was about to panic, but this situation should be easily explainable and he knew Rias listened to reasons; if only his future foes could do the same. She rushed to him, consciously putting herself between him and the dragon.

His battle wounds did not go unnoticed. Her eyes grew one size as she saw the nasty bite marks on his shoulder, looking like a small lion had just tried to maul his flesh. His shoulder was still there, though bleeding, and worry immediately surged from her stomach.

"A-are you alright?"

"Am I alright?" Issei parotted, still very much keeping the unconscious girl in his arms. "Are you cold?"

Rias allowed herself a sigh. "...You're alright…" Yes, she was wearing her nightwear still, but her attire was the last thing in her mind. "What about the curse? Are your wounds able to be healed?"

"I dunno. I think they do. You can take a look at my back and tell me how it is."

"They can." Tiamat said just as Rias began to walk around him, gasping at the ten gashes marring down his back. Three of the red lines were noticeably shorter compared to the other seven. "I was tending to him until he stopped me."

A blush from reminiscing the time the dragon tended to her was held down purely from the high-stress situation before her. First, she addressed the latest threat; presently sprawled on her boyfriend's body. There was jealousy, and her Master-Servant 'curse' stung a little, but failed to bother her.

"So this is our attacker…" Rias scrutinized the unknown huntress, now missing her bow, narrowing her eyes in confusion after noticing the two cat-like ears resting atop of her verdant green hair and the coarse tail sticking out from her rear. "She doesn't seem human… Lady Tiamat, are you able to discern her origin?"

"Of course I know." Rias had crafted her words fully knowing it would stir the Chaos Dragon's pride. "And she's a human through and through. She masked her scent using herbs from the forest. Why a human would possess an animalistic pair of ears and a tail does not concern me. Curse from a god, most likely."

'Shit.' Issei cursed. If Tiamat dropped the bomb, he couldn't see any way out of this without explaining the whole Chosen ordeal or telling another bullshit lie to cover up a lie.

Rias hummed as she pondered. "...Earlier you said she's here for you. Do you know her, Issei?"

Welp. It was him who blew his cover.

"Not exactly," he said truthfully, struggling to find words to properly explain his circumstances of being a massive bullseye for all the gods that Death hadn't murdered. 'Raz, help me out here buddy.'

{If you're going to explain it to her, then it's better to only have Tiamat around. You trust her, do you?}

'Yeah.'

Before Balthazar could complete his suggestion, the Gremory heiress sighed wearily. Almost as if it was her who fought the battle. "That's alright, Ise. We can save that for later. Is she alive?"

"Thanks." Issei smiled. Sure was nice to be understood, though Rias did look a little bit hurt. That one wasn't so nice. "She's still breathing but… can't leave her wounds open like this."

He was a bit tired and a bit in pain as well, now that the adrenaline rush had dissipated.

Rias frowned. "You want to save her?"

{Say she was cursed.} Balthazar was quick to voice a way out when Issei fumbled for a sensible answer. {That'll buy her some time to clear her name — if possible.}

"I think she was cursed. Tiamat said so as well." He told her, keeping a straight, serious tone. "Look at her clothes and her hair. They were purplish before, not green and brown. They don't seem like 'bad' colors…"

"...I see… if her curse was the cause for all of this mess, then we'll hear her out first before we cast our judgements. If she's an assassin sent by someone then… it'll confirm my suspicion this wasn't as straightforward as it seemed."

Issei exhaled a breath he didn't know he was holding. He wished he could stop hiding parts of the whole story and start telling her the truth. He didn't see any harm in letting her know, but… maybe he wasn't thinking of the bigger picture. The repercussions that might come. Probably not from Death, but from her knowledge alone. However, the fact that Chosens could attack people who weren't Chosens brought him to the realization that the people around him were in the same danger as his.

And if one of them could defeat a notorious criminal stronger than Rias and her group, clouds of doubts were starting to swirl in his head.

"Is something wrong?"

"Nah I was just… just catching some breath."

She knew he was lying, but refrained from questioning him. Not after he had just been in a fight. "Whatever the case, we can't have you or here lying here with those injuries. Let's head back to the mansion, Ise…"

Issei nodded and got up to his feet, all while managing to shift the Chosen in his arms so he was holding her the same way he held Kuroka. He looked again at Rias, and noticed the worry in her face wasn't about him. She looked too conflicted for it to be his. The tension hadn't left her shoulders yet; tiny tell that Balthazar mentioned to keep an eye for. And if there was anything that could pull away his earlier thoughts, it would be her.

"Rias? Are you alright?"

"There's…" The words jumped at her lips but she hesitated, trying to find a way to soften the news. She settled on vagueness, allowing him the time to prepare. "Something happened when you were fighting, Ise."

It was over. Yeah right. He could still hear his thoughts echoing, mocking him for his hopeful thinking. None of this would ever be over. Only interim breaks between the next event. And next time, he couldn't be certain if he would have placed the devils in greater risk.


Break


'I do this for you and your sister.'

Those were the last words of her mother before she died in a freak explosion triggered by the man who dared to call himself her 'father'. He fucked her, yes. Consensually. At least that was what her mother told her and believed, but that never magically turned her into believing the man who put more attention towards whatever he researched for than his own children and a woman so smitten on him. He was just a stranger who occasionally slept in their home.

And whenever Kuroka asked why she kept on latching herself onto that man, that line was always the answer.

She resented the fact she resembled him more than she resembled her mother. Her mother was kind, lovestruck, gentle, and dead; everything Kuroka swore to never be ever since she was left an orphan.

She had to. She had to be pragmatic and calculating, otherwise neither her or her sister could live on without resorting to petty crimes. Personally, she wouldn't have minded that kind of life. But Shirone had the qualities of their mother. She would rather die than to make her baby sister be turned into an outlaw and sleep ina dusty abandoned ruins of a building or behind a fucking dumpster out of fear of her pursuers.

It was then she slowly realized the annoying truth behind her mother's words. Everything she had done, she did it for her. For Shirone. Always.

Maybe because whenever she smiled, she saw the ghost of her mother. Or maybe because of a much simpler reason and stupid like love.

In the grip of a feverish dream, her eyes shot open. Pain surged throughout her entire body. It hurt staggeringly similar to the time she agreed to be a guinea pig for a deranged devil, and she thought she would be accustomed to it by then, but it never did. It felt like a dozen knives stabbed her and twisted.

But she never let the pain break her. She was strong for her sister, because her sister was weak.

And the bastard devil realized it too. Realized his experiments could make her stronger. Too bad he didn't realize putting her baby sister in the equation meant he had forsaken his life. Killing him was easy, leaving her sister was the hard part. Having to beg a Satan was even harder.

But she did it all anyway. She became a murderer and a criminal for her sister, because her sister wasn't suited for that kind of life.

It took everything in her not to make a noise and alert the devils prattling about something or her sister laying next to her, but one of them caught her either way when she turned her head.

"Prez." One of them said, warning the others of her.

Several devils instantly closed in on her, but they didn't matter. She never did anything for them. With desperation and stubborn will, she reached a hand to her. Her fingertips brushed her skin, and she found her burning. Shirone was hit by the same arrows after all. No wonder she was feverish.

Able to read her intent and the hard thin line of her lips, a devil spoke to her. She didn't bother looking at her.

"We'll move her to a hospital soon." Rias said, trying to assure her and herself. "She'll be alright."

That didn't matter. Even she could read the uncertainty in the devil's tone. When her baby sister was lying helpless next to her, wrapped in bandages, writhing in pain from a cursed fever with no clear guarantee of her survival, Kuroka realized how nothing else mattered anymore.

She closed her eyes, and focused the remains of her ki to flow towards her left arm, coursing through her hand, and to the fingertips. A gentle light glowed in white, travelling through the small space between them, and slowly seeped itself into Shirone's body.

A dreadful cough hacked her chest, and she could feel blood in her mouth.

"Kuroka, what're you doing? There's no need for this!"

"What is she doing, Rias?"

"She's spending her life force—" Rias explained abruptly. "You'll die if you do this in your current state, Kuroka."

'So noisy. Shut the hell up.' Kuroka thought, ignoring the Gremory's warning that was growing quieter and quieter. At least she wasn't trying to stop her physically. She already knew she wasn't going to make it anyway. Not with these barely treated wounds.

She coughed. More red speckled the sheet under her head.

"I'm sorry it ends this way…" Rias muttered softly. "I will tell her everything."

Sorry? Ah right. She supposed she should say a couple or two to her sister. But it hurt when she tried to speak. It hurt when she tried to do anything, really, and Kuroka wasn't a big fan of hurting. It did hurt when she knew she had to stay away from her sister and no longer coddle her, and she hated it. It probably hurt her sister more, though. Shirone wasn't the toughest of her family. Much like her mother.

Her vision blurred. Inky black darkness clammed the edges of her eyes. She felt her breathing slowed and less in pain as she spent the last of her strength. But at the least, she was finally able to see her sister's face for one last time. A shame she was sleeping, but Kuroka knew beggars can't be choosers.

Now then… where to start? Maybe for teasing a bit too much when they were kids… like putting her favorite toy on a high shelf… Actually, she should apologize for leaving her first. Yeah. That should do.

"Shiro...ne…"

Kuroka never managed to apologize in the end.


"Oh…" Issei muttered sadly after hearing the brief story. He had placed the Chosen at the next empty room along with Koneko, with the two being attended by Asia, whose nightgown was now stained with dry blood. She healed his wounds first, of course, much to Tiamat's mild annoyance. Yumi and Raynare were with her for protection. Tiamat begrudgingly had agreed to stay around in the room as well instead of turning in for the night.

Akeno was somewhere else in the mansion, waiting for Grayfia, leaving Issei and Rias alone in the bedroom where Kuroka had passed. Her body was left on the bed and her kimono had been readjusted. She looked like she was sleeping, only there wasn't any breathing.

"Can't you… can you use your Devil things…? Or something?"

Rias shook her head, eyes remaining still at the deceased Nekoshou. "Evil Pieces can't override another Evil Piece. It doesn't work on someone who's died twice either." She sighed. "What a tragic end… This could've been avoided if she was captured."

She leaned against his body in search of support and comfort. As her King, Rias would have to deliver the news to her Rook. No doubt Koneko would be shattered by the news, that her sister had never gone insane, and that she had sacrificed her life for her.

Now with a fresh shirt, hopefully one that wasn't going to be torn apart this time, Issei slung a hand around her shoulder, squeezing her once.

"Her sister was the only family she had." Rias whispered. "And all her life she believed she had gone mad and killed their previous Master, when in truth she was protecting her all along, and it was their Master that had gone mad. I just wished the truth had been revealed sooner, because at that time, Kuroka had been branded a killer and had been hunted and killed her hunters. If she was caught, other nobles would still have wanted her charged for manslaughter, effectively putting her in prison for a lifetime."

Another sigh. "What kind of a mad sister would come to visit me once the investigation had ended, and made me swear to never tell Koneko the truth?"

Issei scrunched his brows. "Why not?"

She looked up to him, and put on a sad smile. "For her sister, of course. She thought it'll be easier for Shirone; Koneko's real name." She spoke softly, resting her gaze on Kuroka once again. "Easier to hate her than miss her and wonder when she'll return. I doubt Koneko ever truly believed it. Not that she ever spoke about her sister since then. I'm guessing she's forcing herself to hate her."

Rias straightened herself, and Issei let her go, keeping his silence. Listening.

"Part of me knows I'm to blame. I always put on a brave face for them but in truth I've been afraid. I tiptoed around topics that would hurt them or discomfort them, pretend it doesn't exist and hope they'll forget it." Her smile weakened, and Rias stared at the floor. "But like Koneko, they never forget. But like I did to Koneko, instead of sitting down and having a talk, I provided them with distractions. In return when I felt brave enough to try, they instead gave a smile, and lied that they're alright. But I'm fine with that. What I'm not fine with is that they have no one else to talk to when they're not feeling alright. They knew others had their own struggles, and they refused to burden them with theirs. They're good friends, of course… but… there's a wall between them."

"I can't just force them to talk out of their will either. In the end maybe they did it out of courtesy, or they thought since I was born a princess and had no dark pasts like theirs, I wouldn't be able to understand them even if I tried."

Issei stood in silence, struggling to find the right comforting words to say. He wasn't expecting her to pour her heart out like this, especially with a dead body in the room, but he would damn well try to.

"But you would." Rias spoke before he could find those words. "I'm sure you would. You did it to me back at the park, remember? You have the right kind of heart for this kind of stuff. Granted their issues are… far worse than what I have, but… I think if given the chance, you'll do better than me."

She drew closer, giving him a gentle smile. "I don't mean to push my duties as their Master to you, of course. Just… in the case you ever find yourself talking to them alone. Maybe when they're sad or troubled… maybe you'll find you easier to open their hearts to."

"You don't need to ask for that. I'll do it anyway."

Her smile softened. She pecked him on his lips. "See? I knew you'd understand."

"Just make sure you know you've helped them." He told her firmly. Rias looked at him with a splash of confusion. "Whatever their troubles are, just knowing someone else is giving a damn sometimes is enough. I don't want you thinking you haven't done anything because you didn't sort out their life. You care. That counts for something."

"I… yes." Rias dipped her head to his shoulder again, sighing deeply. "...Thank you, Ise." She felt his warm hug as he squeezed her. "I only wish I could've done more."

"You'll figure it out." He said, letting her go again. "...Now about Kuroka… I know you said what you said, but… can you give it a try?" 'You sure about this Raz? False hope is a bit cruel if it doesn't work...'

"Huh…? But… It's impossible to reincarnate someone multitudes stronger than I am, Ise."

{False hope is cruel regardless.} Said the Void Dragon, wise and confident as ever. {She said it wouldn't work on someone who's died twice; that cat-woman has only died once otherwise I won't detect a speck of remnant of her soul here. As for the inability to override; she's not a devil. Perhaps she was before, but when we met her and you activated your Vision—}

'It's all purple— she's a full Yōkai!' His eyes lit up and he grabbed her by her shoulders. "Rias. Trust me on this. Give it a shot. We won't fully know unless we try, right?"

"...I suppose I'll give it a try. There's nothing to lose either way."

The two approached Kuroka's unmoving body, and Rias magicked her remaining Evil Pieces into her palm, debating which one to choose for a moment. One Rook, one Bishop, one Knight, and four Pawns. She recalled Kuroka was a Bishop, so the choice was obvious this time.

She picked up the crimson piece as the others vanished. Issei was by her side, keeping his silence while at the same time consulting with Balthazar regarding his part in this ritual.

A flash of red, and the Gremory family sigil appeared over the bed sheet. The pentagram radiated a bright crimson glow as it swiveled, enveloping Kuroka's body in their bloody radiance as the bishop chess piece floated in the space above her chest.

"I command you to rise again… to serve your new Master, and to live your life as a devil reborn. I command you by the name of Rias from House Gremory."

The Evil Piece glowed brighter as it descended, slowly making its way to its new host. As it did, Issei grabbed Rias' hand as the black mist swirled, coiling around their hands. The move surprised Rias and further as she felt a sudden surge of power. Her Master's raw, undeciphered power. Her eyes grew wide as the mist shot through the air, wrapping around the floating Bishop Piece as it began to change in appearance.

The red color darkened. The semi-transparent glass material had fully solidified, allowing no light to pierce through its body as deep violet color began to emerge along with several tiny spikes, signifying Balthazar's interference with the devil's piece. It became half-red and half-violet by the time it inserted itself into Kuroka's chest.

And deep in the vast blackness of the Limbo, they met. The cat and the dragon.

Wake up, feline. Death's Chosen has decided to interfere with your fate.
Refuse and I'll devour you whole.

The breath of life punched into her lungs.

Kuroka jolted awake.


Break


Kuroka had fallen back to sleep not long after her revival, and Rias had Issei transported her to a room that didn't have a broken window. No doubt Rias had a plethora of new questions in her head after what had happened, but she had refrained from bringing any of them up for the day. The two agreed there had been enough surprises for one night, and the night wasn't even over just yet.

Grayfia had arrived, and she didn't look pleased at all when she saw him.

Then again, Issei had never seen an inch of a smile either. She seemed like the type to respond with 'smiling is not a part of my duty'.

The head of the Gremory housekeepers was in a private conversation with 'Lady Rias', and it was made clear to him that he was not to barge into their meeting room. At least he got to see Rias change her outfit as a reward. That part was nice. Her body was nice. It'd be nicer to lay her against his body again once it was over.

The phrase 'it's over' kept on chiming in his head, and he could picture himself smiling at him with a shit-eating grin. Oh how so naive the Issei-from-half-an-hour-ago was.

Presently, he was outside that room, standing against a wall, hands folded, head dipped down, alone with his thoughts and the Voidfarer dragon.

'Do you think she was under a curse when she attacked?'

{Unlikely. We saw her change when she fought you.}

'Yeah… thought so as well.'

{Odd how there's no presence of a god, however. She's a Chosen. That bow of hers was not man-made. By the time of her defeat, I would expect a god to show up to lambast you with insults.}

'...Seriuosly? What have I done to be insulted by a damn god? Other than not praying to them I guess...' Balthazar shrugged. Not that Issei could see it. 'Well… anyway… maybe the god isn't here because this place is the devil's territory?'

Balthazar scoffed. {Hah! As if that would stop them. The only time they'll consider not stepping over a border is when that border is owned by another god. Even then I doubt it'll fully guarantee it.}

Issei tried to think.

He failed.

Big surprise.

'Fuck. I'm spent.'

{No surprise there. I'd expect a fight against another Chosen to be as draining.} Balthazar crooned. {This night feels like five chapters of a book crammed into one. I wish you and the rest of your entourage a peaceful tomorrow. It's your last day here, aye? Before the game?}

Issei mentally nodded, subconsciously nodding his head in reality. He sure would hope so.

Then the door clicked.

He remained deep in his thoughts as Rias and Akeno exited the room. Grayfia followed not far behind. The maid was unreadable, but Rias and Akeno were more honest with their feelings. Judging by their faces, they didn't look too frustrated with whatever the outcome. Or maybe that was because they were just too tired to care.

Half of his attention shifted as the maid suddenly talked to him. "On behalf of Satan Lucifer and the Gremory Household, I humbly thank you for the assistance you provided in keeping Lady Rias out of harm's way."

She bowed.

Issei blinked. He wasn't good with noble courtesy, but managed to dip his head anyway. "Yeah. Sure thing. Pleasure's all mine and… stuff." He was doing good until the 'and… stuff part.', but he figured he was too tired to care as well.

Grayfia's cold silver eyes sized him up. He would be squirming if his whole attention wasn't being held captive by her breasts.

"...I-Issei." Rias coughed.

"Hm? Oh right. Sorry." He shifted his attention to Rias' breasts instead, looking deeply focused. In truth, he was continuing his conversation with Balthazar regarding the Chosens and their gods, and innately decided to stare at beautiful things. Things that came in two.

"Th-this was not what I meant…" Rias blushed. If she could stifle Akeno's tiny tittering by willpower alone, she wished this was the time. "I'm sorry Grayfia. He's… a bit tired, is all."

The maid didn't respond to either of his acts, instead moving the conversation forward. "I won't disturb him more than I was required. Where are the ones you wish to be brought to the medical ward, Lady Rias?"

"Ah yes, Koneko and her sister, Kuroka. They're in a room downstairs. Akeno, can you guide her there first and accompany her to the hospital? No need to wait for me. I will join you soon after."

"As you wish, Lady Rias. Miss Akeno, if you please."

"Gladly." Akeno said, then batting a knowing glance at Issei, then at Rias. "Don't take too long now… On a completely unrelated note, I heard sex after combat brings twice the pleasure."

The word 'sex' snapped him off his mind. When he came to, Rias was blushing furiously.

Rias' eyes widened. Grayfia's chilling glare swept her skin. "A-Akeno! What nonsense are you sputtering about?"

"Just the usual~"

"W-well I'm not having any of it! Get my Rook and my new Bishop to the care they need at once!"

"My, my… so passionate… Not at all a surprise, I suppose. You were this passionate too."

Thankfully, that was the last of her Queen's relentless shameless tease she had to deal with. For now. Akeno and Grayfia headed down the corridor and disappeared into the stairway, but thanks to that, the only thing in her mind now was their moments in the hotspring.

She could feel her curse pulsating, and she tried her best to calm herself down.

"Do you think that's true?"

Rias looked up. At least Issei was staring at her eyes this time. "...What?"

"Sex after a fight." Goddammit Issei. Her fading blush immediately returned to redden her cheeks. It didn't help that he looked so inquisitive as well. "Tiamat has said that kind of thing too but… well… she's a dragon."

"W-well I— I don't— that's not— A-anyway that's not what's important right now Issei—"

"What about later?"

"I-Issei please!" Rias cried, and Issei finally relented on teasing her. For now. This had been fun for him, much to her dismay. No wonder Akeno liked doing it. "...I need to talk with you about something… about Grayfia and Koneko and Kuroka. And that… huntress, whoever her name is."

"Aight."

Rias calmed down. "Like I said, they'll be brought to a hospital. I don't expect either of them to participate in the Rating Game… but it's better they don't. I'm sure Koneko would like to finally have time with her sister, and Kuroka to her."

Issei nodded, smiling. "That's… good, but also bad…"

{I'll be back boy.} The Void Dragon suddenly said. He was gone before Issei could offer a thought.

"It can't be helped. I won't risk either of their health so Riser can humiliate them."

"Then I'll make up for them." He said without a beat, confident, unknowingly causing Rias to swallow her spit because of how determined he sounded. It wasn't what she needed to hear, but it certainly put her heart at ease. "What's going to happen to her? I mean, her criminal status?"

"She'll be tried, of course. Just because I'm her new master doesn't mean she'll be immune to our law. But don't worry. She's sacrificed her life for my Rook and she did fight our attacker, and not to mention she's my Bishop now. My Servant. I'll do everything in my power to keep them safe. At worst she will be placed under house arrest under my name for several days."

"Alright. That's excellent then."

"That's not all," Rias continued, "I didn't mention anything to her about Tiamat or our attacker. Tiamat's in her room right now, so hopefully they won't have to meet tonight. As for our unnamed assaulter, I told her that she's dead. I figured you'd want to question her while you're able to."

Issei raised his brows. "Yeah. That's pretty obvious huh?"

"Of course. She came here for you… I would like to know why as well. Grayfia's sharp… however. I doubt she believed all of my words and is simply pretending what she heard is the truth. She's going to press the matter soon enough."

"Oh. Yikes… okay. Good thing she's pretty considerate…" Issei muttered, hopeful. "Anything you want me to do?"

"No. You've done enough for us for the day." Rias smiled, caressing his cheek. "I want you to rest well, and maybe miss me a little while I'm away until tomorrow." She knew she would. Clingy as she might be right now, she wanted to lay in bed with him, not deal with the paperworks in the hospital or Grayfia's interrogation.

"Sure will." He returned the smile. "Are you leaving now?"

"No. Not now." Rias said, putting down the smile. "I should have enough time to ask several questions; assuming she's awake. Raynare and Yumi are keeping an eye on her at the moment… and in case she gets up and still poses danger to us, then..."

"They'll kill her."

"Yes."

Issei sighed. He would appreciate it if there wasn't anymore death for the night, thank you very much. But he knew better than to stubbornly cling to that hope. Without him knowing, he had adapted to their world.

And it saddened Rias.

"Alright then… let's go ask some questions."


The bedroom was dimly lit when they arrived. And to their surprise, it appeared a conversation had been occurring. The huntress was on the bed, sitting straight, her head hung low and it seemed she was frowning. What surprised the two the most was the fact Raynare was standing by the bedside, hands folded, holding what appeared to be a small dagger.

"What happened?"

"You careless fools didn't check her boots." The fallen-angel-devil seethed. "This idiot tried to take her own life when she got up."

"Raynare was about to head out." Yumi followed. She was seated on one of the two chairs beside the bedroom's desk, somewhat near the bed. They didn't seem to expect any danger. "Good thing her bladder called for the right moment. It just saved a life there."

"An unwilling one nonetheless." Raynare grumbled, throwing the dagger into the crack between the floor.

Issei blinked. 'Damn. Nice throw. Hey you should teach me that sometime. That'd be useful.' It took him several seconds to remember the Void Dragon wasn't present.

"Fleeing from judgment?" Rias finally said to the girl. "You attempted to take the life of others yet you're afraid to take responsibility?"

Issei studied the Chosen with a critical squint. A twist on the edge of her mouth. Her eyes dripped with spite, but Issei was familiar with that kind of look she tried to mask. In his case, he hid them by laughing. No… this wasn't it. She wasn't trying to run away. Not from her sentence, at least.

"You're just tired, aren't you?" He finally said, and for once, the girl moved her head to look at him. The devils turned to him as well, both confused and surprised, all safe for Raynare.

"As if you'd know."

"I felt it pretty often. Think I'd know."

"Liar." She sharpened her eyes. "I saw you. You were happy."

"Wasn't always that way."

"But you were happy."

He stared at her, holding her furious gaze in silence, thinking. Perhaps he didn't need to keep his lies for much longer.

"Where's your god?"

That question officially befuddled everyone present except for the two Chosens. Even Raynare couldn't stop her flat and ridiculed "What?", wondering if this boy was really going to bring religion into the fray. Their confusion was multiplied by the fact that the girl responded as if the question made perfect sense.

"What does it matter? You beat me. Rule states I'm no longer hers."

Another answer, yet five other questions were given birth. However, the devils held back from asking him. This was another part of him none of them knew existed, and perhaps a chance to uncover a layer of the mysteries shrouding Hyoudou Issei and his questionable growth of strength.

"You're not mistaken." A voice invaded their mind without entering their ears.

All heads turned around, and fear entered their hearts as white mists flooded the wooden floor. Their eyes saw but none could believe what they were seeing. A tall, gaunt figure had been standing by the corner of the room, adorned by a black cloak and heavy steel armor. Wispy skeletal wings sprouted behind its back, covering the entire half of the room.

The temperature plunged down, whether it was imaginary or their mind playing against them, they felt coldness raising their hairs.

Yumi shot up from her seat, conjuring a sword the next instance.

Raynare stumbled backwards, eyes wide. "Wh-what the fuck?! What now?!"

Rias held her breath, unable to avert her gaze away, stricken with fear and a new sense of dread she didn't even know existed.

"B-Boss!"

A collective 'What?!' was thrown by those who hadn't met Death.

The door swung open. In came a concerned Asia.

"I-is everything alright? I heard a scream and— oh!"

"A-Asia, get behind me…" Rias managed to mutter.

"Sir Death!"

Silence and worried stares filled the room.

Death didn't say a word because He found this funny.

Until Raynare got pissed off. "Alright. First the boy's talking to her like they've met and brought up religion for whatever reason, and now you're talking to— whatever that is, like you've met. Can someone explain what in the fuck is going on?!"

Issei cautiously glanced at his Boss, waiting for anything while Asia quietly squirmed into the room, standing by Raynare as she was the closest to the door.

"Well?" Death finally said in a casual tone. "You planned to lay every truth all at once, don't you boy? I am here to observe. Closely."

"...Wait, is that alright?"

"Why not? Never once did I limit what you may say. You kept it a secret because you decided to. Until this moment, that is."

Issei gulped, not bothered by the stares he was receiving. That last bit sounded like a warning if he screwed up his explanation. He knew not that Death was simply messing with him.

"W-well… everyone, this is Death… He's my… Master or the sort…"

"Your Master?" Yumi was the first to ask, feeling somewhat safer after hearing that. Her sword was still gripped tightly in her hands, however. "...Well that explains your smokes…"

"Death…?" Rias muttered, still very much cautious of the otherworldly presence. "As in… the God of Death?"

Déjà vu. "No. Just Death." Issei corrected.

Death nodded once.

That didn't answer much. "As in… the Four Horsemen mentioned in the Bible?"

"...Uhh… I don't know anything biblical very much."

"No." Death replied this time, His ghastly voice seeping into their minds.

"A-and… You're his Master…?"

"Patron." Death shifted, moving eerily without moving an inch of His muscle. If He had any. Still very much on high-alert, the devils dispersed a few paces back. He stood by the huntress bed, opposite Rias and Issei's side, and spared a quick glance at Atalanta, who looked away, then to His Chosen, who looked like he was going to be scolded.

"Go on boy. Continue."

"Right…" Issei straightened himself. At least this time he wasn't the only one scared shitless. Being scared together somewhat made it feel easier to be braver than usual. "So… I'm His Chosen… and the girl here is… well, was some other god's Chosen. We're sorta like… a God's Champion I'm assuming?" Issei vibe-checked Death. Death approved his simplified term. Issei continued. "And there are many others like us, and, well. These Chosens have only one goal, and unfortunately it's my head."

Rias did not like that one bit. Her gasp was silent, but this realization had crushed her. Now she knew why she couldn't turn him into her Servant, but that wasn't something she minded anymore. This, however…

Issei… her lover… to be hunted by assassins sent by Gods?

"B...but… but why?"

"Unfortunate that the simplest of questions sometimes have the most complicated answers." Death said. "However, let's just say I am not the most likable entity among the gods. The boy is the only possession I have that they are able to try and take. Have I mentioned pettiness isn't beyond gods?"

Knowing what Death had done to those gods, Issei wasn't exactly surprised. But he kept that part to himself. That'd be Death's history, not his.

"But… that matters little." Death continued. "He's defeated his first Chosen. An occasion I expect to be filled with joy, not drowned by fear and dread to the uncertain."

Raynare laughed forcibly, hating herself for being this scared. "Hah. That's rich… coming from the source."

"You fear what you think should be feared." Death responded informally. The gods might have taken offense, but… Death wasn't humorless. "But yes. It is easy for me to say."

"Gods are scared of Him… makes sense we're quaking."

"Why would… Why do gods fear you?" Rias rephrased.

"The very exact reasons why you are terrified of me."

Afraid of death was one of them. Fear of uncertainty too. Fear of knowing they were no longer in complete control of their fate as He could wipe them without lifting a finger without repercussion was the one other among many other reasons.

In short, the gods knew He could kill them effortlessly. The effortless part Rias didn't know, but being a God Slayer was enough reason alone to be more than cautious to Him.

"So… uh… long time no see…?"

"Has it? Hardly a blink since our last meeting."

"Right, right… time's like that relative for You…" A year was likely a second to this… scary gaunt Primordial surrounded by mists spookier than his.

"...Do You come here for my soul…?" Atalanta asked. She had been quiet for long enough time.

"Possibly." Death responded vaguely. "Within the next hour."

She sighed. "...There's no reason to wait." She fell back, resting her head against the propped up pillow. "I've had enough."

"Wait, wait, within the next hour?" Issei responded to the disturbing hint Death might have knowingly phrased. "What does that mean."

"Gods despise having their toys taken away." Atalanta said harshly. "Three days. Isn't that what You have agreed with?"

"I never made any agreement with them. I set the terms." Death clarified. "They added their own."

That only made her angrier.

"Wait… what do you mean now by 'three days'..."

"It means what you likely have guessed." Atalanta snapped at him. "I'm here again by their miracles. If I don't serve them then they no longer have reason to retain their blessing to me. That includes my life."

Issei held his breath for a second, processing her words and the worrying almost binding term. "That's… that's not fair."

"You're a fool if you think gods are fair."

"Not all of them, right?" Issei looked up to Death.

"He's not them; He's Death." Atalanta then said. "He likely existed before there were gods."

"Before anything were, rather." Death added. These mortals may use that knowledge however they want. It mattered little in the greater scale, thus allowing Him to skew around the Rules. It was satisfying seeing them trying their hardest to wrap the fact they were talking to a Primordial around their head. It was like seeing puppies trying to learn a mirror, or His own sister trying to decipher how to split atoms without causing it to explode.

"You seem hated by the Olympians. Mentioning even Your name or, rather, what they've chosen to call You by is a taboo for them."

"Hardly a surprise. They thought it would stop me from peering into their thoughts."

"Did it?"

"No. They're being silly over their paranoia. Their efforts matter little."

"Olympians?" Rias repeated. "Were you an Olympian's Chosen then?"

"Not anymore I'm not." Atalanta sighed, glancing towards Death, pleading for a quick end, when then she remembered His words said to her before she began this… this lost quest and self-justification for the murder of a boy.

'Do understand there are those who can lessen the pain.'

She took a deep breath. There was a first to everything. Might as well say it since she was on the eve of her death.

"I was cast out." She began, unwittingly clutching her blanket. Remembering that day was to fuel her rage and to give her reason to drop all sanity. "As he's said, there are other Servants."

"Servants?"

"Another label the gods made up." She replied Rias. "Either to spite Him or to belittle us, I don't know and I don't care. Apparently we've become legends or the sort according to histories… I was the Goddess of the Hunt's Servant. From day to night, we sparred with each other in the Floating Arena. I happened to be the second weakest. Not a surprise. It was an open area; my proficiency with a bow is severely hampered if I enter close combat. Evidently, it was seen as a weakness and a glaring one."

"Artemis…" Rias muttered. Atalanta visibly flinched as anger flashed within her green eyes. Her only regret was that she wasn't able to shoot an arrow to her mouth. "...I see… This is just a guess but… are you, perhaps… Atalanta herself?"

She shifted her eyes at the crimson-haired devil, standing next to Death's Chosen. A look of surprise. "Yes. That's my name. You seem well-versed for human history, devil."

"Rias Gremory." She said. "I read books in my spare time. Not that I have plenty any more, but I do try."

"Nerd."

Rias shot a cold glare in Raynare's direction, who shrugged in response.

She returned her attention to the Greek Heroine. "I do recall reading several versions, however. One that is the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the other with the footrace."

"I've partaken in both, yes. I won but it seems I have an aptitude in losing regardless of the result. I drew first blood from the boar, yet I received a curse in return. It wasn't right for a woman to draw first blood, apparently."

"I never read about the curse, however… Still, I would've skewered them if that happens here." Rias muttered. "At least power speaks first in Hell, no matter if a woman or a man has it."

"Surprisingly sound for a devil-lead society."

Ah right. Devils were generally bad weren't they, Issei remembered.

"Was this event before or after the footrace? If you don't mind me asking."

"Before." Atalanta replied. "The 'King' refused to allow a 'misshapen child' into his realms."

"Even though you were his daughter?"

"I was never his daughter." Her eyes flared, and Atalanta gritted her teeth, showing a little of her fangs. "He abandoned me and only agreed to bring me back because he needed an heir; a son. I beat him in his little game, but it never mattered in the end."

Rias hummed, holding her head in thought. "Hmm… I thought it was you who arranged the game."

"No. Not the footrace. I did arrange the archery contest, in which case the king himself agreed to let me kill whoever loses. He was angered, I suppose, and arranged his own game." Atalanta shot a weighted stare at Rias. "Do you believe the word of the person who participated in these events or a scribe who had been paid?"

"I think we all know the answer is obviously you." Rias said plainly. "Although… that doesn't explain why you attacked my Servant earlier."

"She got in too close for my comfort. I didn't want to hurt children but… I did what I had to do." A different expression this time. Guilt. "Is… is she alright?"

"She'll be fine. She's a strong girl, fortunately."

"...What of her sister?"

"She died, but me and him brought her back. You haven't killed anyone here, if that's what you're most concerned with."

"I… see…" Atalanta let loose of another sigh. "I suppose I should apologize for the trouble I caused. For what it's worth." She looked at Issei. "And… you… thank you for… unbinding me from the curse."

"No problem." Issei gave an 'ok' hand sign. He would tell her Balthazar wanted another one if they were alone.

"Tell us about your curse."

"Pf— I'm sitting down." Raynare suddenly said, sitting beside Yumi who also took a seat after she dematerialized her sword.

"It was a curse that if I ever became… enraged enough, I suppose… I'd lose my sanity. I'll blindly attack everything until I either kill everything or is killed."

That derived another question for Rias. "Then why were you enraged?"

"I…" The words seemed caught in her throat. She glanced at the devils, then at Death's Chosen, and lastly Death Himself, and took another deep breath. "I was… jealous."

"You seem to have everything I wanted." She looked at Issei. "Everyday you were surrounded by your friends. I saw you fool around with a dragon. Trained with one too. You were… are wanted here. And you have Death as your Patron, and despite His menacing appearance, He's the most reasonable 'God' I've ever talked to."

"So… what… you just decide he should be dead because you're jealous?"

"Raynare."

"What?" Raynare stared at Rias. "Sad as they are, those sound like excuses to me. Who'd expect a Heroine from legends would be this whiny."

"Raynare that's enough."

"No, she's right." Atalanta admitted. "I was looking for excuses. 'If I kill him, this entire Game will end', was that excuse. If I kill him, there'll be no need for Servants. They won't need to suffer being ditched by their god. This realization of course came late when it doesn't matter, but… 'tis what it is. He defeated me fair and square and prevented me from turning into a monster. At the least, I may die as myself."

"Oh here we go again." Raynare grounded loudly as she dropped down her chair onto her feet, blatantly ignoring Rias' glare. "Maybe I should just kill you now and spare us all the self-pity."

"Raynare—"

"No, Rias. This is enough." The fallen angel seethed. "Let's drop this charade shall we? You want what he has? Cut the crap and join him. Or her. Whichever works for you." Raynare then returned Rias' glare. "And you. You want Servants. Here's a free one, and she has her own goddamn legend. I'm not going to sit here and listen to wallows and exchange sad sob stories when there's something else worth doing like getting a fucking sleep."

"Enough!" Rias' turn to seethe. She walked up to her newest Pawn and held her glare. If she backed down, that'd be a sign of weakness. Letting her Servant speak freely was also a sign of weakness. She couldn't have that. "While there are truths in your words that does not mean you're free to be uncivil. I dislike having to remind anyone I am their Master but you are, and this will be the last time you overstep your boundaries as long as you are my Servant. If you want to sleep, then go. Yumi can keep watch."

"Tch- goddammit… you devils are unbelievably complicated…" After a while, Raynare loosened her shoulders. Another fuel to spend during the Rating Game. "Fine. Whatever. I'm getting some sleep."

She walked past Rias and Issei undisturbed, exiting the room.

Rias sighed. "Yumi. Make sure she doesn't do anything we'll regret. We've had enough for one night I'd say."

"Right'o." The blonde knight jumped from her seat. "Then I'll excuse myself. Erm… I would say 'see You later' but I'm not sure if that's wise…"

"Wise or not, we'll meet in the end."

"...Right…" Yumi shuddered, aware of the truth behind those words. "Pleasure to be Your acquaintance. If you'll excuse me…"

And she left, leaving Asia alone in the middle of the uncomfortable silence, until Rias took note of her uncomfortable fidgeting, knowing she didn't want to be rude.

"You may leave too, Asia. Get some rest. Thank you for your help.

"Thank you, Ms. Rias." The former nun bowed politely, excusing herself from the scene. Before she did, she gave Death one last look. "Um… g-good night, Sir Death."

"Yes. It is."

The girl squirmed and fled the scene after saying goodbye to Issei, who sorta nodded and trying his best not to make any stupid faces.

And then there were three…

"I…" Rias sighed. There had been an awful lot of sighing in this night. "First off, let me apologize for my Servant earlier… She was a fallen angel. Still is. And they are not… exactly the most in control of their emotions. I suspect her frustration came from the fact she sees herself in you, even for a little."

Atalanta shook her head. "There's no need. Her words cut but nonetheless true. Although... what do you mean by that?"

"Well, like you, she tried to kill him."

"Yeah I've been getting that a lot lately." Issei said, indifferent. A bit sad, really, that he had gotten used to it to the point of being desensitized. "Must've been the looks."

Atalanta looked quizzical. "And yet now she serves you?"

"In a way, yes. 'Servant' is just the official term for Reincarnated Devils; another term for anything-turned-devil via a powerful magical item called the Evil Pieces."

"Not really evil, to be honest." Issei commented. "Asia's a sweet angel. Can't hurt a fly. Still can't and she's been a devil for… what… ten-eleven chapters?"

"You mean days?"

"Uh… yeah..."

"A week or less, I'd say." Rias said, a bit mystified she was able to still speak somewhat casually when there was a literal Death in the room, just hanging by, observing without saying. "...But yes. Evil Pieces aren't inherently evil in nature. They enable anyone to reincarnate as a devil without necessarily dying. The limit is it's unable to turn anyone stronger than it's possessor… something we have completely bypassed not an hour ago."

Rias glanced at Issei with clear intent; she knew how it happened, now that she knew he wasn't a boy with strange powers but also the Chosen of Death, but that didn't mean she wouldn't ask him how he knew it would work. Not now, at least.

"...And you're now offering me to be turned into one…"

"Yes." Rias said firmly. "I won't decline the chance to have a legendary archer as a Servant. Now more than ever. If… that's alright with you, Issei. Sorry it sounded like an afterthought. You are the one who defeated her."

"Nah, nah. It's fine. I'm okay with it. Better that than letting her just fucking die."

Rias was the only one concerned with the curse word, taking a cautious peek at Death. He responded with a rather casual shrug, causing His steel silver pauldrons to shine briefly.

"You do realize I've taken a life… even though she was revived. And I did attack him."

"I'm desperate enough that I've taken in a fallen angel who has actively tried to kill us." Rias replied without missing a beat. "Yes there were other benefits such as mending the broken bridge between the Underworld Empire and the Grigori, but if I had better options, I would've opted out. I didn't have options then, and I don't have the options now. But I do have precautions if she ever tries to rebel."

{Aye. By turning her more aroused than a treefull of monkeys high on nitrous oxide.}

That wasn't a pretty picture Balthazar had painted in his mind.

{Oh… er... I didn't realize the Boss was here… No wonder the Void was… emptier.}

Issei stole a glance at Death, who tilted His head slightly to one side.

'Yeah I think He heard that.'

{...Balls.}

Atalanta mulled it over. Debating. Considering if it would be worth it.

"...Even if I say yes, my fate doesn't belong to me." She said, staring up at the pool of blackness underneath Death's cowl.

"It doesn't." Death simply said. "Good news, however. I'm here also to congratulate and reward you for defeating your first Chosen. As the gods have promised reward for their Chosen should they ever defeat you, you may decide their fate as you defeat them."

"Well… well that's obvious!" Issei beamed. "If she agrees, she stays. If she doesn't then… well I won't force her to do anything."

"I'll allow it." Death said. It had been interesting, and it just got better. "You will still be mine and no longer a Chosen regardless. In addition to becoming Rias Gremory's Servant, I will strip Artemis's blessings from you, including your Tauropolos greatbow - as it is the term I've set and I'm unwilling to change."

"They're not Servants like the gods' Servants." Issei added. "They're really just friends. Even Raynare, when she's not angry. She's also a Gremory and apparently her family quirk is that she treats her Servants like family… but I honestly think that's just her actually having a soft heart."

"...Issei you're embarrassing me more than Raynare did."

"Oh." He glanced to his right. Rias was red. "Oops."

She cleared her throat. "In any case… I do see them as my family. Devils perhaps are not best known for their tolerance or greed, but we are changing. At least we are trying to." Rias said. "You've been through a lot, maybe an awful more than you should. So were my Servants before they became mine. And Lilith… well, Death knows I'm doing my best to provide them the best I can, and even though I'm unable to help fix their past grievances, I do try to give them a better life, at least a life they can enjoy."

"Be mine. And I swear to you we will never abandon you."

Atalanta nearly cracked upon hearing that.

"...Swear it."

"Pardon?"

"Swear it." Atalanta raised her eyes, meeting the Gremory's bluish greens. "I need to hear you swear it."

Rias smiled softly. "I swear. On my name as Rias Gremory, I will never abandon you."

Atalanta nodded, fighting back her tears. Those were the words she died to hear. "Then I swear I will follow you to the edge of the Earth."

"And I swear I'll protect the two of you so you can wander around and not fall off the edge and not get rammed by other Chosens..."

The Gremory giggled. Hearing that caused her love to grow. If she could leap into his arms and shower him with kisses, she would, but that wouldn't be appropriate.

Not that Death would care even if she did. He was here to see the boy's growth from a closer distance. It had sufficed. He'd grown and had reforged several fates without knowing. There would be no need for a talk. Balthazar should relay His message without fail.

.

.

.

Once it was done, Death requested a time alone with the new devil. Rias and Issei had no qualms and had left the room.

Atalanta was standing at a clearing of the room, now in a turtleneck black sweater belonging to Yumi. Two bat-like wings flapped briefly before she made them disappear into her back. Oddly enough, despite the weird, strange feeling, the wings didn't seem to actually insert themselves into her body.

She turned around, now faced with Death. A small smile on her face.

"...Thank you. For allowing me… this. A new chance."

Death gave a brief nod. "And here's your new bow."

A black greatbow materialized itself out of thin air. She immediately recognized the bow as it fell into her hands. While it was much lighter; almost weighless, actually, and the golden markings were replaced by violet, it was the same bow she had before.

"This… isn't this my bow?"

"Tauropolos? No." Death said. "I'm confisticating that one. This one's simply a better copy with the same capabilities albeit no longer cursed or inflicting curses. Use it well."

She immediately turned around to try it out. The bowstring felt easier to draw as she pulled it to her cheek… She felt the bow shaking but no doubt it's from the energy stored in its flexing limbs. Upon release, the bow straightened to its original state like lightning.

"...I thank you… again… I don't deserve this..."

"Whether you do or you don't, a gift is a gift. If you feel lacking, then earn it. Use it to help your new friends. They will most certainly need it."

A faint warning, one Atalanta heeded. "I will. I won't betray their faith."

"I'm not the one you need convincing. Until next time then."

"W-wait!"

"What." He flatly responded.

"Why did You… Why are You helping me?"

"I had wondered then," He began, "for what reason could a daughter thrown away deep into the belly of the forest, who had to survive on her own until she reached adulthood, forgive the father who had abandoned them. A man who called himself a King yet fails to see his own offspring as someone that is worth more than a bargaining piece. All because he wanted a son."

Atalanta went silent. She was starting to regret asking that.

Death continued. "'She's a monster'. 'A cursed child'. 'A threat to her own.'" He recited the sentences she had often heard during her previous life. "I had wondered why someone would tolerate that kind of baseless, half-brained accusation derived from a human's basic fear of the unknown. So many would have run away to somewhere else, and yet she didn't… why?"

Atalanta gritted her teeth, barely damming her tears.

"Was it the luxuries provided by the kingdom? No, that can't be it. Hardly one to cherish materialistic values… she was raised in a forest after all. What kind of material possessions were there in the forest that can't be replicated by a kingdom? But then, I understood. It had taken a race, a competition to earn her hand in marriage, for me to see a want so simple."

"What're you doing? I don't need Your pity. I don't need anyone's pity."

"Indeed." Death knelt before her, slightly minimizing His size so that the everlasting darkness of His hood was in front of her eyes. "Never was pity. Not gold, not a fine dress made of silk, not a handsome prince. Not even a place to call home. The same reason as many other people, rather."

"Stop it..." She shouldn't cry. She wasn't going to cry. She didn't cry then.

"Nonetheless, for everything that has happened to you, that has forcibly shaped you, broke your heart and froze away the warmth it once held, for the cold and bitter world you had gone through tirelessly and without knowing comfort; I am sorry."

She began to shiver. Not from the cold, but rather the strange, unfamiliar warmth in her chest. Despite this, she forced a laugh. "Both of us know You're not the one to blame."

"No. But you needed to hear it. You need to know it's not your fault."

And there it was again. That odd feeling. The moment she felt His metallic hand on top of her head, she felt it again.

But what was it?

For Death, it concerned Him that there would be someone so bitter they couldn't decipher the simplest act of compassion. So many could have prevented this outcome. How mere warmth of a family or even companionship could have prevented the malice and the resentment in her from corrupting her whole. That in truth, what she wanted wasn't that hard to be found if she stopped looking for it in the wrong place, and if Artemis didn't decide to set her free. If her own father didn't treat her like a bargaining piece. If she wasn't cheated on during a race. If she didn't have to endure what it was like to live without anyone to call family during her entire first lifetime.

If she wasn't so stubborn to deny that she was lonely.

There were too many to count. Too many souls that deemed themselves as lost. Saving them could not become His concern as it wouldn't be wise of Him if He interfered, but not rarely did Death ponder if it would be better to wipe everything clean, ending everything, than to let a very select few of living beings feel helpless during their whole life, while the rest simply watched without acting or lived their life without noticing.

"If it isn't... then why does nobody want us?"

Atalanta broke then. Her stone heart shattered and what came out was a child, alone and confused, that had been kept inside for far too long. A child that had wanted to get out, but she was too tough for her. Even during night time, sometimes, when everybody's asleep, she was tough.

She hugged someone for the first time, and Death's embrace was gentler than anything. It was the reason why Life was so fond of it.

Out of all places she found it here, here in the metallic arms of a stranger, a God she had never worshipped or learned of His existence until a few days ago. That it had to take her this long just to feel it; safe, wanted, welcomed.

And 'us', she said. Not 'me'. And Death understood. She asked for the children who had to go through the same. Abandoned and left alone, left to fend themselves from the horrifying truth that the world they had been brought to was never as kind as the fortunate ones stubbornly believe in their blissful ignorance.

"You're welcome here. Safety can never be guaranteed, but you are welcomed and wanted. Around you are good people. Cherish them. You shall never be lonely anymore."


Break


Upstairs, unaware of the event transpired within their previous room, Rias was about to leave for the hospital. It was a new day already, and still her job wasn't over.

"Four Pawns huh… That's… that's a lot of Pawns. Twice than Raynare's… Congrats. You now have a goddamn legend."

"Thank you. The rest of my Pawns, actually… mutated by your powers, not to mention." Rias muttered. "I must leave now, Ise."

"Right, yeah. Don't sleep too late."

"I won't." Rias smiled. A smile that didn't last long enough for his comfort. "...There's… a lot I've learned about you today. But out of all the things I thought you were, being the Chosen of Death is furthest from any guesses I've made."

"Yeah well… Sorry I couldn't have told you sooner. And lied about it."

"No, I understand. It must've weighed you for some time."

"Since the very start we met, actually… Well. It didn't weigh as much until we started dating or after we had sex."

He grinned his usual grin while she felt her cheeks burn. "Issei... not too loud..."

"Rias. You were louder. I think everyone heard you."

"No thanks to you." She tried her best to return his unexpected reply, but she realized all it did was make her more embarrassed and his grin more wider and smug. "Oh great… you're turning into Akeno now…"

Issei glanced down to his flat chest. "...I wish."

Out of the tiny hints of uprising jealousy, Rias pushed herself onto him, pressing her chest against his.

"I may lose in size against hers, but do you prefer the breasts who are out of your reach or the ones already within?"

Issei gulped. Before he could bury his face into her valley, Rias pulled away.

"Tomorrow..." She whispered. "Once we're done reviewing what we've learned. We have an all day off."

"Well then I'm going to sleep." The sooner he sleepeth, the sooner tomorrow cometh. A sound logic Balthazar couldn't deny.


To be continued...


It's a long one. With plenty of emotions thrown around. I can't help it. but i know you like it long don't you ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Not much screen time for Kuroka and Koneko YET. Well. Not in this chapter since they're unconscious by the will of the author because I can't cram too much more into one chapter without turning it into a fuckin balloon

A nice wrap to Nyatalanta. Here's a toast to a fluffing, and some catfight with Kuroka, who will obviously be righteously pissed

Next chap: Rating Game pt 1

Very excited to write this one. There'll be ton of fight scenes, which sucks to write no matter how vivid they are in my head because I don't want to make it repetitive. There will be blood. oh yes there'll be blood. Not death cuz of how the RG system works, but still plenty of blood to be given TO THE BLOOD GOD *unholy autistic screeching*

anyway. review. or else. idk what the else is, but i think it's pretty bad