Remember what I said in the AN last chapter? That the next chapter was gonna be the first part of the Rating Game?

Well I lied.

My bad.

Needed a kind of a prologue thing, a chapter between two arcs, like a connector. Because in the middle of writing the actual chap 18, several things were not right and was kinda awkward if I just jump into the RG

So here it is. Hope you like character interactions, cuz i do


Death's Chosen


[XVIII]

||A Promise Made||


'I forgot to ask, where did you go two nights ago, Raz?'

{Kicking out a kid from my place. Nothing to be concerned with.} Balthazar replied with a lack of enthusiasm. {Just focus on what you have to do, lad.}

'A kid?' Issei asked, splashing his face with fresh water. Balthazar responded with a low, growling hum. Issei didn't press the issue as he thought it wasn't a big deal. 'Okay then. If you're being vague, you're being vague. Won't push unless you want me to.'

Balthazar hummed, causing a tiny tremor inside Issei's head. {And I appreciate it.}

Exiting the bathroom and re-entering the Occult Research Clubroom, where several reincarnated devils were readily on standby to wait for another devil's arrival. Grayfia Lucifuge. The official arbitrator or the referee designated to oversee the upcoming Rating Game. Or any other fancy term to make it sound more official.

He did a quick headcount.

It was very quick since there were only three people including him.

Rias was nowhere to be seen, likely giving her Servants a personal visit. He wouldn't mind getting one himself and make it twice as personal. He did spend the entire day with her yesterday once she got back from the hospital. No sex at all, sadly, as she was tired from her trip since she had zero hour of sleep. However, she asked him to accompany her in bed for an afternoon nap, and didn't fail at being needily adorable at it that Issei had gotten his fix of her.

Deciding to mentally prepare himself for the big event; part of the reason why he got his ass kicked by Tiamat all day long, Issei took a seat.

Behind Rias' desk.

The chair was very soft.

Coincidentally, Rias' butt was very soft too.

He couldn't help but remember their last night's nightly activity that involved a lot of pounding and a lot of moaning. And ending with him storing a lot of Power of Destruction Balthazar was raring to have another go at molding it and unleash its destructive force.

That said, this office chair had nothing against the Gremory's divine rump. In fact, it should be glad to be a chair built to keep Rias comfortable while she did all of her nightmarish paperworks.

Issei promptly wondered if he could turn into a chair.

A daydream shattered by a sentence meant for him.

"You nervous, Hyoudou?"

He flinched out before he could fully manifest the image and the sensation. "Hm? What?"

"I asked if you are nervous." Yumi repeated her words, and Issei refocused himself.

"Nervous… Huh…" He looked at his hands. Steady as a lighthouse. "No. Not really."

He shifted his attention to the blonde Knight.

"Really? That's… impressive. But I shouldn't be surprised you feel that way." Yumi smiled a friendly smile. "Not after every surprise you throw at us out of nowhere. Having you on our side does make me feel at ease."

"Hey thanks. That's a massive boost to my ego."

For some reason, Rias had decided to set their school uniforms as… well, uniforms in the upcoming Game. Maybe that was the reason why the girls' uniforms were made in such a… evocative manner; to provide ease of mobility while looking fashionable.

Yumi, however, decided against it and instead wore her tracksuit, leaving it unzipped, not disturbed that her black sports bra were showing between the zippers and was very much being gazed upon by the certainly lecherous boy. She held out for five seconds before she realized she wasn't as undisturbed as she'd thought, pulling up the zippers slightly.

"Dammit."

"...Sometimes I wonder how you devils are able to tolerate him." Opposite of Yumi, Raynare openly spoke her mind. "Well. Ignoring his powers, I guess."

"He's a good person." Yumi replied without thinking. "No one's perfect anyway."

"Evidently so." Raynare huffed.

"What about you, Raynare? Are you nervous?"

"Me? Nervous?" The fallen angel scoffed, crossing her hands. "I've been waiting for this day. Being able to slice devils all I want without getting slapped in the wrist? This is just an extension of our vacation."

Yumi played a coy smile. "'Our', vacation? I see you feel included enough in our small little group, do you?"

That immediately murdered Raynare's eager grin. Replacing it was one disgusted scowl followed with a groan and a rolling of her violet eyes.

"Good to know you're looking forward to this. They wouldn't know what hit them until it's too late."

"Yeah, yeah…"

"What about you, Yumi-chan?" Issei spoke up. "You any nervous?"

"Well…" The blonde Knight trailed off for a moment, thinking. "I'm not sure, Ise-kun. I think I am calm, but might be wrong. My heart's racing a little."

"So basically you're nervous." Raynare pointed out.

"That, or I'm just as eager as you are."

"Hehe yeah, go get 'em. Go wild. But… not that wild." Issei muttered. Yesterday, during their last tactical meeting, he had been reminded by Rias that she wasn't going to fully utilize him as she could for the most part of the Game, but Issei had made peace with that. As long as he could take part, he'd do it. But still, Rias would be relying on these Servants of hers, and so would he.

Then the door opened.

Dark hair with bright orange ribbon peered inside.

"Issei-kun, can you come with me for a second?"

"M'kay." He said as he rose from his seat, pace walking outside to meet Akeno in the hallway. When he arrived, Akeno was walking down the corridor, heading towards the dormitory wing. "Uh… Akeno-senpai?"

"Come with me, Issei-kun."

He shrugged, but went ahead with her anyway, jogging to catch up. She swiveled next to a room, and entered it, beckoning him to join her with a wag of her finger.

A lavish bed… cream white carpeted wall… carpeted flooring… and… several display racks with weird collector stuff set in it. It seemed to be one of the girls' bedrooms. And from the faint yet fragrant scent, this had to be Rias'.

"Hmm… I have some thoughts in my head about where this is heading and none of it should exit it."

Akeno smiled coyly. "Are they? Mhmm… maybe one of those isn't just a possibility… A best friend stealing her best friend's boyfriend… such a scandalous and nauseating idea yet one so tempting once you're in the moment…"

Issei blinked. "You wouldn't do that to her."

"Oh…?" Akeno raised an eyebrow, striding towards him, pressing her uniform against his simple black sport shirt, pushing to the door. "And how would you know that? I~se~kun~?"

"Well, frankly, because I don't think you want to hurt Rias," He said simply, still staring and focusing his senses at her chest for a good second, determining that she had a sports bra underneath given its smoothness, before finally looking into her eyes. They were one shade lighter than Balthazar's scales, he realized, and oddly enough, there was something hidden in their look of surprise.

"You okay, Akeno-senpai?"

"Huh. I did not see that coming… You are full of surprises, just as she said." The flirtatious devil dropped her act as a giggle escaped her lips. "...I can sort of see what makes her so smitten with you. Brief as it is, our small moment made me want to genuinely try and steal you away from her."

Issei thought for a moment. "Well… My harem spots are always open. Not like they've been filled."

"Oh? Careful now, Issei-kun. I might see that as an invitation rather than a joke."

"Hey, I'm serious about it." Issei frowned, meaning every word, shocking the devil. "But I promised Rias to only let girls who really really love me in it, so I gotta be conservative, Senpai. Don't want to betray her. Or hurt her."

"Hmm… a pity…" Akeno frowned teasingly. A fake frown that turned genuine not moments later. "...I…had a talk with her yesterday, Issei-kun. She didn't want you to know, but…I think that you should."

"...Okay," Well this had taken a strange turn. He didn't think he had ever seen a sad Akeno before. "What is it, Senpai?"

"She… you know no matter what, Rias won't give up, yes?"

"Uh-huh…?"

"But that doesn't mean she doesn't have any… say, contingency plan. Should the worst happen..."

"...Uh-huh…" Issei nodded cautiously. He didn't like where this was heading anymore.

"So she told me that… if we lost this fight… I should try and take her place for you."

He felt like his stomach just flipped. "What."

The flattest 'what' he had said.

"I know. Of course I can't do that to her. Tempting as it is..." Akeno tried to mask her conflicting feelings with a fleeting giggle. It didn't really work when she was this worried. "...She couldn't show it to anyone else; this anxious side of her. Always worrying. Always counting every possibility including the worst ones. A bit stubborn, she is just like that. I had hoped that the fact she gained two additional Servants-two very powerful ones I don't doubt-, would've added more to her confidence, but Kuroka can't help yet, and Koneko-chan is hospitalized. We do have Atalanta now… but this is an Immortal Phoenix we are facing. You are strong, Issei-kun. But so is Riser."

He furrowed his brows. No wonder Rias was clingy yesterday and wanted to be with him the rest of the day. Even going so far as to beg for Tiamat's permission to let her keep him for a day.

"Yeah. Yeah he is," Issei blandly agreed.

Not a hard fact to make when all the replays of his matches ended in a victory - not counting the ones he yielded on purpose to increase family relations. The Young Phoenix was good with his fists, but Issei and Balthzar had thought of several ways to main the flaming bird.

"What I'm trying to say is… we can't lose." Akeno clasped his hands, staring into his eyes earnestly. "Regardless of what she tells you, during the game or before, you must help her. None of us want her to be miserable because she's trapped in a marriage she didn't want."

"Of course. 'Course I'll help," he said without needing a second to think. "Don't worry too much, Akeno-senpai. You won't have to replace anyone's place. Especially not Rias'. She can shout at me later on, but no one's taking her away from me."

The much needed relief washed over her face, and Akeno felt she was able to smile, if only for a little. Like Rias, she wasn't allowed to show their vulnerable parts to their juniors. They should instill them with confidence, not worry over their seniors.

"I don't care if Riser is the Immortal Bird or the Flaming Peacock," he declared, grabbing her shoulders. "Rias is mine."

A simple statement, but one that suddenly made her jealous to the core.

"She's mine."

The boy repeated, this time to himself, and with a fierce look and determination, and he seemed to suddenly turn into a man. The burning resolve almost evident in the warm chocolate eyes, blazing hotter than a Phoenix's flames.

"...Yeah. She's mine."

Akeno swallowed her spit without realizing. The sting of jealousy had dissipated, and what took its place was a stronger feeling of envy. Since when did the boy matured, she wondered, momentarily lost in his fiery gaze. He was looking at her but inside his mind was another woman; her best friend. She couldn't help but wonder about a particular scenario… a 'what if'... of how it would feel if she was in Rias' place. How it'd feel knowing there was someone this committed to her, with the fervor to topple mountains for her.

Perhaps she might really take up on his offer and fill that spot...


Break


[Each team has ten minutes to strategize during the Preparation Phase.]

[The match will be concluded within 2 hours or the retirement of a King.]

[Let the Rating Game commences.]

The robotic voice of Grayfia Lucifuge rang across the artificial Kuoh Academy - perfectly copied that Issei didn't even know he was in another place after he stepped in that teleporter. Neither he or Atalanta did, actually, until one of the devils pointed that outloud. The air did feel strangely different. As if it was cooler than normal, which shouldn't be possible as summer was lurking around the corner.

And as Rias Gremory and her Peerage and Master made minor tweaks to their pre-planned strategy in the Occult Research Club's room serving as her home base, so did Riser in one of the classrooms located at the third floor of the new school building.

During the first two minutes, he ordered his Knights to search the school's faculty room for the school's layout, and once Karlamine found it, he rewarded her with a quick kiss on her lips before spreading the map over the whiteboard, and studied it with his fifteen Servants. One Bishop being his own little sister, Ravel Phenex, dressed in her pink noble attire and hair styled in their usual princess drills.

"There's an open field on the left side leading to the woods, the gymnasium dead in the center of everything, and the football and baseball field on the right…" Riser smirked as he finished his assessment. "This should be a cinch…"

"We can attempt a sneak attack to their base through the forest from the far left, Lord Riser," suggested Mihae, his Bishop in her pretty colorful traditional Japanese outfit called a kimono. He bought it for her the moment she became his, and she had always worn it whenever they fought in a Rating Game or attended formal events. "Let me take Burent, Marion, and Shuriya."

"No," he shot down the suggestion quickly. "Rias is crafty. That forest is probably laid out with a dozen traps set up by her Queen. Avoid the woods at all costs. We'll strike through the center and the right, where the forest is thinner. By then, the control of the map should belong to us."

5 minutes before the first game phase ended.

"...We'll take control of the gymnasium and use it as our front base. It's surrounded by open fields and the forest, but it should be easily defended from the outside as it is from the inside. We outnumber her two to one… let's use our numbers wisely."

"Yes, my lord." All fourteen of his treasured Servants spoke to him. Ravel being the only one disinterested in strategy like the brat she was. It was fine though, because their mother had her sent here to have some Rating Game experience.

"Mihae and two Pawns will stay in this schoolhouse as reserves. Me, my sister and Yubel will go to the top of the roof and observe and send help when needed. I want Siris and Mira on sentry duty in the clubhouse near the grounds to cover our flank and warn us if they're coming from the east, while the rest of you decide how you want to split up. Isabela, Karlamine, you two take the lead. Bring a vial of Phoenix Tear with you as well."

His two most experienced veterans put a hand over their heart and nodded promptly.

"Then I'll lead the assault to the gymnasium. It's an enclosed space. Your agility will be restricted if you go there." his half-masked Rook declared, earning his approving nod. "As it is within their territory, I'll take either twins or the maid sisters. Your call, Karla. You should take Xuelan too to cover your rear."

"She's with me then," Karlamine muttered, his clear-eyed Knight with a bit too much emphasis than he liked, but she was a capable swordswoman nonetheless. "The cat-sisters are more experienced and they're good with their fists. The gym is our important goal, so they should go with you while I take the chainsaw twins. I would like to request Mihae to go with Isabela as well, Lord Riser, if that is possible."

Riser nodded. He technically only had one active Bishop since he didn't want to expose Ravel to harm. His mother would chew him out if his little sister got a tiny scratch, but it should be fine.

"Take her. Shuriya will fill her spot."

"My thanks," the olive-haired Knight said. "Burent, Marion, you're with me."

"Ile and Nel, you're going with Shuriya," Riser told her exoctic Pawn. "Shuriya, I trust you'll make the right call. Remember, the gym is the door to our final assault. Me and Yubel will patrol the skies in case Rias' Queen tries anything funny with her thunder, and Ravel, you should feel free to move around. If they try to take you down, just tell them you're not in the fight."

"Sure, big brother."

"Watch out for Yumi Kiba. She's trained by Satan Lucifer's Knight. If there's anyone, she will be Rias' ace other than her own Queen."

"What about her contracted Servant, Lord Riser?"

Riser scoffed. "He's brave but he's weak. Mira could even take him on by herself," he ruffled his Pawn's blue hair, who smiled happily in response. "Focus on breaking her Servants. Rias is mine to handle... Understand?"

"YES"

With the strategy laid out, the Young Phoenix flared his wings. "This match is already in the bag, my beauties! Win this, and Rias will finally be mine…" he seethed. This would finally put an end to this whole unnecessary mess because of her stubbornness. "Move out."

Without sparing any seconds, his Servants moved to their destination as he blazed through the stairs with his Queen following behind her, never realizing of the troubled frown marring her face.

.

.

.

[Lord Riser's Pawn retires.]

"WHAT?! Who was that?!' Riser's shocked voice rang through his Servants' ears via the tiny magic circle next to their ear serving as a magical transmitter and transceiver. "Karlamine, Isabela, report!"

"That was Marion! Lord Riser!" Karlamine managed between her breaths, presently tracking back from the football field after something pierced the brunette maid clean through. "I-I don't know what happened! There was a flash of black and then Marion got taken out from the Game!"

"—HGAAH?!"

"XUELAN!" Karlamine yelled in shock as the same black blur flashed before her eyes, piercing through the Rook's chest with frightening ease. Her other Pawn, Burent, immediately put herself between Xuelan and where the black missile had come from, casting a barrier of magic as Karlamine slung the Rook's arm around her, carrying her back to safety.

"Wh…what… was that?" Xuelan rasped, coughing a tiny amount of blood from her mouth as she kept a hand pressed to her wound.

"You're not leaving yet, Xuelan," Karlamine said, "Lord Riser, Xuelan's badly hurt. I'm going to use the Phoenix Tear on her—"

"Gha…? Ah…"

The color drained from her face as Karlamine saw yet another of her comrades in arm had fallen from the mysterious attacker. The black bullet didn't even travel through the magical barrier; it completely pulverized it like a bullet to glass.

As Burent dropped to her knees, the blue pillar of light carried her to the medical ward prepared for the Game's casualties. Located in Hell, in the Phenex's territory.

[Lord Riser's Pawn retires.]

"DAMN IT! Again?!" Karlamine cursed, finally back in the relative safety of the school building and taking cover behind a pillar, laying her injured ally there as she took out her necklace, yanking out the vial of Phoenix Tear from it.

Another voice chimed in right after Grayfia's unfeeling announcement. Isabela's. "What's going on with you out there? Losing two already? Well regardless, we're in the gymnasium. The fallen angel is here with Yumi Kiba. We're going to be busy for a while..."

"Get out from the open field and make your way there, Karlamine," Riser ordered, gritting his teeth. "That can't happen again. Avoid being exposed in the outdoors. I didn't know Rias had a damn sharpshooter on her team..."

In the far distance, in the treeline just outside the baseball field which was around 100ft away from her last prey, Atalanta lowered her greatbow as the Huntress's impeccable aim had earned her team the first blood of the match. An arrow through the poor girl's heart.

"Ara~? Nice shot, Atalanta-chan. That's two out of three now," next to her, her Queen commended her with a look of genuine amazement on her face. She was sent here by Rias to protect her in case she was spotted before her first surprise attack. "Dear… I couldn't even see anything from this distance. You have a terrifying aim and eyes, ufufufu~"

"That was nothing," the Huntress muttered, keeping her eyes trained in the skies. "I should've aimed for their eyes."

Akeno giggled. "Don't be too harsh on yourself. This is only your first Rating Game. Unofficial as it is… I'm certain your body count will build up drastically. I'm glad you're on our side."

"...Thanks," Atalanta sheepishly said, not really sure on how to take compliments.

"Excellent work," Rias's voice came from the tiny red magic circle hovering next to her feline ear. "I received words from Issei that Riser is purposely steering clear from the woods. Since they know the open space is never safe, he'll surely focus on the gym now. Do you have sight on any of them?"

"No, but the forest stretches there as well. I'll find another spot to lay covering fire."

"Good. You know your trade better than anyone. Akeno will accompany you until you find one, but then I will need her to prepare to help Raynare, Yumi, and Issei."

The two girls nodded subconsciously despite knowing it was impossible for Rias to tell, and headed to their new destination.

.

.

.

[Lord Riser's Pawn retires.]

A wicked grin filled her face as Raynare watched the pathetic whelp dematerialize before her, leaving only a bloodied lightspear previously lodged through her stomach. A shame, really, because she was about to send another spear across her neck.

Oh well.

Her violet eyes traveled to the other whelp… the cat-girl with the red hair. What was her name again? Li? Ni? Mi? Eenie? Whatever.

"Li...no...you'll pay for that, you damn crow!"

Raynare smirked, her violet lightspears buzzing and pulsating with violent lights. The girl with the strange sailor outfit that revealed her underbreasts said that to her, but she was visibly shaking in fear. Terror was rich in her sapphire eyes. Something Raynare truly enjoyed seeing. It granted her a special feeling of sadistic pleasure, almost cathartic after all the shit she had been through.

"Go on then…make me," she whispered huskily, challengingly, temptingly. "I finished off your sister a bit too quickly… I'll be sure to be especially thorough with you, kitten."

Ni backed away one step, the brightness of the gymnasium making her horror clearer. The twins' punches and kicks were nothing compared to what she had endured. She took on the punishment dealt by four devils at once, and that was before she had these… 2 Pawns inside her. Evidently, she possessed a bigger capacity towards pain than they do.

Her violet eyes traced the fearful sapphires as they searched for help. To their left, Yumi was battling the weird girl with the weird mask as well as another girl in pretty clothing. Not like Raynare was in any place to comment on it considering her outfit that put bikinis to shame. It wasn't so much of a fashion statement than a statement of her fearlessness towards torment and agony. Her body would break first before her spirit did.

"What's the matter, kitten? Scared? Don't be...I only sting…a lot."

With that, Raynare commenced her assault, her four black wings carrying her forward in a burst of speed. She relished every slashes and every wound she inflicted on the beastgirl, who desperately tried to fight back with no avail. Shallow cuts maimed her poorly armored body, her thighs were slowly being drenched by blood, so was her exposed stomach and arms, literally anything Raynare could put her lightspear through without ending her enjoyment.

"No… stop—KYAH!"

She dug her heel on the girl's stomach, bringing her down to a prone position, and then grabbed her by her red ponytail, and dragged her across the wooden panelling of the gym, leaving a trail of fresh red blood as Ni cried out in pain, pleading pleas that fell on the fallen angel's deaf ears.

"Not so playful now, are you?" Raynare teased, "what's the matter, girl? Scared now that there's no one here able to help you?"

"Unhand her this instant, you vile animal!"

Not a voice she had heard before. Lifting her gaze, Raynare spotted two new arrivals into the cage that was the gymnasium, coming from the front entrance. She smiled ear to ear, dropping the girl in her hand. Ni fell unceremoniously, gasping and coughing and clutching her slashed arm. Her eyes shot wide open as Raynare sent a lightspear through her back, and through her chest.

"...I'm….sorry..." she coughed weakly, her blood splattering against the cold wooden floor. She couldn't even muster a scream before darkness overtook her vision and her body dematerialized into particles of soft blue light.

"Well this should be fun…" Raynare hummed as the two devils adopted their battle stance. One had a blue chinese dress while the other was a knight with an annoying look on her face. For some reason, Raynare wanted to strip her off her armor and pulverize her.

"I'll handle this one, Xuelan. Go help Isabela."

Ah… that was it.

The bullshit code of honor...

A limit they set upon themselves, these so-called 'virtuous' European Knights. And for what? To make them feel more 'just' on killing others. Excuses. A feel-good excuse to make them feel as if they stood above others with their superior morality and judgment, when in truth, they would butcher anyone in the name of 'honor' just as much as she would kill anyone in the name of her Lord Azazel.

Well… it didn't matter to her.

Wrath -her greatest sin- pulsated through her light-based spears, their violet color darkening as the crackles grew more violent. The insatiable hunger of breaking these devils in half further fueled her strength, burning her lightspears brighter.

"...You wear a strange outfit to a fight."

"And you think your cute shiny armor can save you from me?"

"Hmph. I Karlamine, as Lord Riser's Knight, hereby challenges you to a due—" her declaration of duel was promptly cut off as she was forced to block Raynare's dual lightspears. The blow sent her to her side, skidding on the polished wooden floor as a sudden realization crashed her mind.

The fallen angel was deceptively strong despite her appearance.

"Shut your whore mouth and talk with your hands," Raynare spat, slinging one spear to coil around her arm. "Else I'll break your mouth first."

"...Tch…" Karlamine adopted a defensive stance, lowering her center of gravity as flames engulfed her bastard sword. "You'll regret saying that."

"Oh I'll enjoy myself with you alright..." A sinister smirk found its way to Raynare's lush lips. She thought she could win because her sword had a little bit of a flame? Tough luck. She was quite fast, however… but then again…

"Let's take this outside," Raynare sneered, still with her weapons lowered to her sides, "where your master can see how brutalized you will be. This place is getting stuffy anyway."

"It doesn't matter where we fight. The result has already been determined."

"Yes… and that's you eating the dirt," she huffed. "Come on little knight. We can continue this behind the building if you're scared of being arrowed. Or are you telling me you want to be carried outside like the little girl with armor you are?"

"Rrgh… fine."

The best thing about honorable people? They were so gullible. And she could break their body before they admit their defeat. The moment Karlamine exited the building, sword pointed at her, Raynare approached her calmly after dematerializing her weapons. Her hands were folded as her high heels clacked among the ongoing violence at the other part of the gym.

That Queen better keep to her words after all this...

As their clash was just about to begin, another one-on-one battle was about to happen as well in the gym.

"Two Major Pieces and two Pawns…" Rias' voice repeated in his mind as Hyoudou Issei emerged from the depths of the shadows cast by a stack of gym equipment. Nobody had noticed his arrival yet, but he did notice a girl making her way to Yumi, who was already dealing with two other females.

He wasted no time in helping his blonde friend.

A black blur of Balthazar's mist was left behind in his wake, as Issei straight out bulldozed the charging Rook, taking her by surprise as he bodycharged the girl off her track.

"Wh— where did he come from?!" Xuelan shouted, skidding across the gym floor.

"From the backdoor!" replied Issei, "Sorta…"

"Issei!" Yumi shouted, dodging and then leaping herself out of the way of a flaming kick and deflecting a flurry of magical bullets with her demonic sword. "You couldn't arrive sooner!"

"Yea I had to scout a bit," Issei replied, raising his hands, palms still open, as Xuelan had recovered and was now approaching him with intent to harm. "You good over there, Yumi?!"

"Never been better!" Yumi yelled with an eager toothy grin on her face that was glistened with sweat. "Just getting warmed up a bit over here…"

"Why you—" Isabela gritted her teeth as she missed another fiery haymaker. The Knight was too quick for her to track and was an expert with her sword and spatial awareness for Mihae to actually land a hit even with her attention divided. "Focus on our fight!"

"You should get going Yumi-chan!" Issei shouted, parrying Xuelan's fist by tapping her not-flaming wrist to the side. "I'll take it from here!"

So it was time? "Roger, good luck Issei!"

"Don't let her run away!" Isabela shouted, but Yumi had disengaged and promptly cast Sword Birth to cover her escape. "Tch— damn it… Don't pursue her Mihae! The gym is our first priority, not her!"

"Yes!" The Bishop exclaimed, switching her focus to the only man in the building, presently deflecting all of Xuelan's flurry of blows with an unnerving amount of ease. Whenever the fire in her fists or legs collided with him, it would almost instantly dissipate by the strange mist coating his body. As if it was being consumed by the black haze.

This was the second part of Rias' strategy. Issei would act as a tarpit where he slowed down as much of Riser's Servants as possible while Yumi would take a short rest, before eventually rejoining with Akeno and Atalanta for a push from the right side through the forest, who were still very fresh as they had conserved their energy by avoiding any fights. Rias believed he could take on three devils all at once, and so far, she hadn't misjudged him.

Issei didn't have much grace, but from his lack of grace came a brutish efficiency - telltale sign of him being asskicked by the Chaos Karma Dragon for three days straight.

Whenever Xuelan was about to land a hit, his speed boosted by Atalanta's natural gift had allowed him to land four, effectively preventing her assault as he forced her to be on the defensive. And it wouldn't take him long to break through her defense, considering her arms were shaking and filled with ugly bruises, and pain was practically screaming from her expression. The magical bullets striking him on his back felt like rubber bullets - a bit painful, but none he couldn't tolerate.

"Gh-HRK—!" Xuelan lurched forward as he struck her deep in her stomach, right at her solar plexus just as Tiamat had taught him. Without hesitation or a sliver of mercy, he followed up his blow with an uppercut into her throat. An ugly noise followed with an unnerving crunch as Xuelan grasped her neck, struggling to breathe just as Issei coated his fist with Power of Destruction, and delivered a black blast of Demonic Energy right into the Rook's belly.

The blood she coughed spattered on his cheek as Xuelan was sent across the gym, unable to even let out a single scream before she was transported away.

[Lord Riser's Rook retires.]

He'd say sorry for that, but it was for Rias, so he didn't say anything.

{Well done. That's one major piece so far. There's 2 more here. Which one is going to be your punching bag, boy?}

'Hey don't say that…' Issei responded, raising his guard again as he adopted Tiamat's fighting stance, eyeing the devils who were evidently unnerved by what they had just seen. 'They're doing their best for that bastard bird. Think that means something about him… still not gonna give up Rias though.'

{Hah! It takes a special kind of person to be able to respect their enemies. Who they just brutally pummeled.}

'If I don't take them seriously, I'd feel like I'm looking down on them!'

Balthazar let out a gravelly snigger. {Yes, yes. Never underestimate your opponents. I see you remembered your first lessons well.}

'You're a better teacher than most of my teachers.' Issei dodged another fist of flame. This one was a bit faster than the other one, he noticed. Not like it made any difference… It slightly stunned him on how much he had grown. From having to throw rocks like a caveman to actually dodging and trading blows with a skilled opponent.

And none of this would have happened if Death hadn't picked him.

There were people far stronger than him. Atalanta was better at him than when he started out, and yet He chose him.

He could have gotten angry at him many times for doubting himself, but Death was patient with him, as was Balthazra, and they even praised his growth no matter how small his accomplishment was.

If this world was ever in need of one true god, then Death should be that God. And if possible, all Chosens who had been misused like Atalanta should be able to find refuge in Him.

But enough emotional daydreaming. He had a fight to win and a girlfriend to protect from a lousy marriage and a promise to keep. He'd rather not ever see Rias or Akeno making that kind of face again. The kind that made him feel weak in the knees and not for a good reason.

His fist crashed against Isabela's jaw. The blow stunned her as she felt her brain shake, and a sharp gasp was ripped out from her lungs as a flanged mace struck her stomach, pulverizing a portion of her green jacket as she was sent reeling down into all fours, struggling to breathe as thick blood shot out from her throat, outside her lips, and puddled on the wood panelling beneath her.

"Eugh… you probably should get that looked at…" Issei muttered. Just because he had no issue with necessary violence didn't mean he wanted to hurt more than necessary. His sympathy was unheard as a magic missile plinked his forehead. "GEH—"

"S-s-stay away from her…" The Bishop in colorful and admittedly gorgeous kimono declared at him, her arms outstretched as the Phenex's family crest hovered millimeters in front of her palms. Fear was evident in her fair face, and it sorta made him feel kinda bad.

'...In their perspective, I'm probably the bad guy huh.'

{Well,} Balthazar grunted, {everyone's their own hero in their book. Villains too, most of the time.}

'True. True…' Best he could offer her was a swift end.

Then he caught the cracking of a glass, and followed with a whirlwind of flame as a rejuvenated Isabela spun herself off the floor. Issei had to leap away a considerable distance, as the Rook got up with all of her injuries nonexistent.

"...Okay. That's bullshit."

"Phoenix Tear," the masked woman wiped away the line of blood running down her chin, and brought up her fists. "Round two."

"What is this a fuckin' Tekken or something…?" Either way, Issei drew his flanged mace - the black and red Power of Destruction reverberating from its head, twisting violently as it misshapen the air around it.

"You can leave him to me, Mihae. Find Karlamine. Siris and Mira should be with her soon."

"Y-yes. Be careful, Isabela…"

"Wait… where'd he go?"

During their exchange had slinked into his shadow, reappearing behind Mihae as he placed a hand behind her back, and fired a demonic blast of pure destructive power right through her stomach.

All that was left of her was the sputter of blood as Mihae was safely teleported away.

"Sorry. Can't just let her go like that," Issei said, actually apologetic as he felt like he just hurt a dove. "Still though… I can't let you go either."

Isabela gritted her teeth. "Who are you? What kind of person are you? How are you able to cast the Gremory's Power of Destruction as though it was your own?"

"Borrowed it," he replied simply, vaguely. "...by having sex, apparently."

"...What?"

"Nothing. Ignore what I said. Uh… engarde?" Issei pointed out his mace. "Come on! Let's tango or something!"

{You need to work a bit on your trash talk.}

'Yea you don't have to tell me that…'

Then the ground shook, as a fierce explosion was heard outside, and then another, and another, travelling around the building.

"It's Riser and his Queen!" Akeno's panicked voice broke through the intercom, "They're bombarding the entire forest on fire! We can't esc—"

The communication cut off abruptly, and Issei held his breath, waiting for Grayfia's announcement. His broadened eyes found the smirk growing on his opponent's. They were planning for this. With the forest set on fire, Rias and her Servants would have nowhere to go except to expose themselves in the air, and Riser would gain the advantage with the insane reach of his flames.

"That's Lord Riser for you…" Isabela muttered, "No trees for your friends to hide anymore."

"Ah shit…" Issei cursed. 'We haven't lost anyone yet, right?'

{Not yet, aye. Deal with her quickly and see for yourself.}

The flanged mace dispersed as its energy was reabsorbed by Balthazar's mist, shifting shape as it coiled Issei's hands, and solidified itself as a pair of black brass knuckles.

In exchange, Isabela crossed her arms as flames erupted from both her wrists. She didn't show a sign of fear, but she wasn't advancing either. Her caution towards him had surely been at its peak by now.

No more surprises, Issei realized.

He knew that by beating Isabela, he would have broken the promise he made with Rias about only taking 2 Major Pieces… but should that really matter right now?

No. Of course not.

As he turned into a black blur in front of her eyes, once again brutalizing the woman, Issei knew this 'game' was nowhere near its peak yet.


"Ah… there it is… What a pathetic barrier. And the devils pride themselves for this?"

"Hmmmn, is it wise to break in like this Amaterasu-Okami-sama? That's a bit rude, don't ya think?"

"Why would a Goddess wait for a game played by devils?" The Sun Goddess scoffed, eyeing the magical field containing the Game Field where the Rating Game was being held. "After all, we are the main attraction."

"Well… whatever you said~!" Tamamo cheered.

With that, Amaterasu delivered a crackling beam of light that immediately shattered the barrier like glass, and rebuilt it with her own.

Inside, it was as though the skies were being torn apart. It splintered, and shook like a static, before repairing itself as if nothing had happened, as Amaterasu and her own Servant descended upon the field, raising chaos and confusion to the game's spectators, and diverting all attention to her.

Just as a Goddess should.


To be continued...


Amaterasu be like 'sup bitches'

Raynare mvp pog
Writing her is fun. She's like an output to my edge buildup

I know you've probably read Rias vs Riser a thousand times, so I thought I switched things up by using Riser's perspective this time while adding 50 IQ points to him, before shifting the POV again. It's very sad when he keeps being portrayed as a loudmouthed brainless arrogant idiot when his character progression is actually one of the best in DxD. not like that's saying much

ANYWAY.

Fluff for the fluff god.

Also read my new shits. There's:

Defying Fate - Featuring Lucifer walking around a fantasy Earth to build up Hell's strength before another war happens. A sorta reverse healing fic where it's Lucifer who heals and be healed at the same time. (Adventure/Fantasy/Hurt&Comfort)

DxD: Fates Reforged - Time travel fic but with major twists. Issei sent himself back to the past but some things have changed. Some more drastic than the others, because Issei had pissed off a ton of gods, and they want his ass. (Suspense/Drama/Romance)

A Tale of Flame and Frost - Deeper exploration to the Magician side of DxD and Devil's messed up politics. Features Serafall, Lavinia Reni, Grayfia, and Tiamat as the main girls. Lavinia's dummy thicc ngl. It's mostly chill, despite the story... Probably going to be a fic with most lemons and attention to romantic developments, surpassing even Lucifer. (Romance/SoL-ish)

I rate all the above 8/8 because I'm biased and shameless

dont forget to leave a review here plox thx i write hard