"SONA! WHERE ARE YOU!? WHAT HAPPENED?! WHY ARE THERE GIANT BUGS?!"
Issei winced at the yell. Upon getting confirmation from Shub that, yes, they could contact their families in the Underworld from here, Rias and Sona stepped aside for some relative privacy.
"Well, that sounds like it's going well," Issei remarked, thankful said "giant bugs" paid the noise little mind, before glancing over to Shub. "So, Shub...Noggorath?"
He could hear Ddraig silently cursing him in fear, refusing to let himself be sensed by this particular Eldritch if he could help it.
Shub, however, just giggled. "Just Shub is fine."
"Right, so, what are you the Eldritch God of again? I mean, besides your kids?" Issei asked curiously.
"Oh. Mainly fertility. And space. Life in general," Shub answered thoughtfully. "I also might be the Goddess of Dark Matter?"
Issei found himself confused but amused. "Might be?"
"I don't really know what humans mean by Dark Matter," Shub explained uncertainly. "But if it's what I think it is then yes, it's related to me."
"I'm not going to ask, I'll find out eventually," Issei decided, waving the subject off.
"I must say, you're adapting quite well," Shub said, smiling much the same as one would welcome a new neighbor. "Aza is amazing sometimes. I've been trying to convert mortals to Eldritch with minimal stress or pain for millions of years, but with ascending you? She might have outclassed me on her first try."
"Yeah, Aza really is amazing," Issei agreed, the corner of his lips rising easily in fondness. "...Shub? What was Aza like, before she met me?"
"Uhhhh," Shub looked owlishly. "Before she met this you, or the first you?"
That question didn't even bother him anymore. "This me."
"Not much different than now, really," Shub answered casually. "She wasn't...AS happy, but she was still the same Aza. She'd visit different Eldritch she stumbled across, settle disputes, help deal with Nyarlathotep, other problems in our family, and try not to destroy anything important on accident. Or in frustration. The usual. She'd destroy the minds of most mortals that she met, but they often snuck up on her."
"...How does anyone sneak up on her?" Issei asked with a furrowed brow.
"Do you notice an ant crawling on you every time?" Shub countered.
"Okay, fair, just...weird. I've seen that true form of hers, so now I have the weird image of it jumping in shock stuck in my head," Issei stated with a distant look.
"It's funnier when she's near a star and makes it pop," Shub answered playfully, holding up her hands to make a bursting motion.
"Oh gods, I can see it," Issei said with a reluctant grin as he shook his head. "Anyway, not to be weird, but is there a...Father of the Thousand Young?"
Shub's whole body seemed to jerk but covered it up with an easy smile. They both choose pretend not to notice the closet Blattnungs scurrying away from their position. "Oh no, not really. It's part of the whole All-Mother thing. I don't strictly...need a mate."
"Sounds like it takes the fun out of it," Issei mused.
"You have no idea," Shub muttered to herself.
"Hmm? I'm sorry, what?" Issei asked in surprise.
"I think they're done," she answered, nodding to the devils heading towards them.
Rias sighed. "I don't think I've ever seen my brother that worried since the day Millicas was born."
"I'm just glad he's there to keep my sister in check," Sona remarked, giving a small but exasperated smile. "I'm not sure how she would have gotten here, but I'm sure she would have found a way."
Shub's eyes softened. "It's nice to see children so protective of their younger siblings."
Rias and Sona felt fairly awkward by the kind words but didn't let it show.
"Speaking of children," Shub remarked, glancing up at something that perhaps wasn't there. "If you'll excuse me, I think there's someone here I need to see."
While confused, none of them tried to inquire into what Shub meant as she floated off the floor and headed to one of the tunnels in the ceiling.
Sona tilted her head as she observed the retreating goddess. "No wings. That's almost to the point of surprising."
"What, you didn't see them?" Issei asked, watching where Shub left to.
"No?" Rias answered with interest. "See what?"
Issei hesitated as he tried to put it into words. "Umm... let's just say she's using tentacles from beyond reality to pull herself up there."
An uneasy silence fell over them as they continued to wait. Issei could feel Aza's irritation and knew she wasn't done yet. But he wasn't sure just what in the universe he should talk about with these two. They were basically princesses of hell and he was married to a tentacled spaced queen.
It felt like they should have a LOT to talk about, but for the eternality of him, he couldn't figure it out.
"So...what's it like?"
"Huh, normally I might be asking that," Issei murmured to himself, looking to the she-devils curiously and grateful they managed to break the ice before he put his foot into his mouth.
"Being in a relationship with an Eldritch," Rias clarified, glancing around the rust-red hive that the "Blattnungs" called both a home to live in and a detention center to staff.
"Well, Aza is my first girlfriend, so I don't have anything else to compare her against," Issei remarked hesitatingly. Both looked less than satisfied with the answer. "I'm not sure what to tell you. It's like an extreme version of how I'd imagine dating a foreign girl would be; I have to help her understand some things about humans and Earth but at the end of the day? She's the girl that had the weirdest idea that falling in love with me was a good idea."
"And can break reality whenever she's upset," Sona pointed out.
"Like I said, extreme," Issei said with a shrug. "What's it like being a devil?"
"Wings, enhanced bodies, magic powers, live almost forever," Sona listed off casually. "Among other things."
"Compared to humans, we're also a lot less repressed in most ways," Rias remarked with a smile. "It might surprise you, but polygamy is the norm for us."
Issei stared for a long, long moment at that.
"...I just gave you an idea, didn't I?" Rias asked knowingly, feeling a bit sheepish.
"No, no, just putting devils on top of the list of things to make sure Aza doesn't accidentally erase," Issei answered bluntly.
Sona's eyes widened in a slow, minute manner. "I realize you're mostly joking, but is there anything...excluded from that list?"
"Not really? I'm still mostly human, and wiping out an entire world still makes my still-warping morals queasy," Issei admittedly with a sigh. "Sorry, I probably freaked you out with that."
"Yes, but I'm freaking out inside every time your "girlfriend" so much as speaks," Rias admitted before taking a thoughtful look. "I suppose this is similar to what it's like for humans we turn into devils."
"Right, I've heard that a few times," Issei recalled with an interested look. "Has that always been a thing?"
"Not particularly," Sona answered with a frown. "At least not commonly. But we had to after the Great War."
"I'm going to assume that's not WW1?" Issei asked with a raised eyebrow.
"No, it was a conflict hundreds of years ago between all parties in what's called the Biblical Factions: The Devils, Angels, and Fallen Angels," Rias elaborated. "Our numbers were so depleted, converting other races was the only way to prevent the collapse of our species."
Issei paused in consideration. "Wait, so Koneko is...or was an actual catgirl before? That's not just some subspecies of devils or something?"
"Somehow, I'm not surprised that's what you picked up," Sona commented neutrally.
Rias chuckled. "Yes, the ears are natural, and yes, you can probably find more of her. It's not just humanoids though; we've had creatures like Dragons reincarnated as Devils too."
"I was so glad you were able to work that out."
Rias and Sona made an effort not to jump away as Shub spoke up from behind them, simply turning to face the small Eldritch Goddess.
"That can always be a messy venture, finding ways to turn one race into another," Shub stated matter-of-factly.
"I'm...sorry, but are you implying you had some hand in creating the Evil Pieces?" Sona asked warily, the implications leaving her more than a little uncomfortable.
"Oh no," Shub assured in amusement. "But some Eldritch Gods do something similar, converting their worshippers into their spawnlings."
"Spawnlings?" Rias asked, glancing at Issei.
"That's a new one for me," Issei answered curiously as he eyed the supposed mother of a thousand children.
"Really? No one told you about those yet?" Shub asked in surprise. "I guess it would still be a while before you have to think about those, but still."
Rias and Sona furrowed their brows at that phrasing but didn't press that question.
"Just so we're clear, is that a word for baby eldritch?" Issei asked in alarm. He had been very careful about not thinking too deeply about what a baby between him and Aza would be like. Not because he found the idea itself unappealing. On the contrary, the thought of knocking up the Queen of the Universe was arousing in ways he didn't know possible. It was just...the idea of a baby eldritch god was sort of terrifying. He did not know what to expect or how he'd deal with that.
"No, no! Well, not how you mean anyway. Spawnlings are like my Thousand Young and Cthulhu's Deep Ones. They're an eldritch race that is tied to you as their creator. They...literally spawn off your power. Usually, your body to, but that's mainly just for... convenience," Shub explained carefully. "Some are less parental with their spawnlings than I am, sadly."
"Weird, but neat," Issei said, filling that away as just another thing to know about the Eldritch. "Does Aza have any? Or is that what Gactha is?"
"Technically yes, but Aza was a bit...unconventional. She tried to seed a world with life. She found one race she took a distinct liking to, and made them her spawnlings. I call them her warnuns," Shub explained with a smile.
Seed a world with life. That phrase was said with such casualness that it truly put into context how out of their depth the two devils were.
"That's the unconventional way? Do I even want to know what the Eldritch consider normal for making a spawn race?" Issei asked.
"Spawnlings, not spawns," Shub corrected in a rather motherly manner. "And the way most of us do it is ripping off a piece of our flesh, breathing life into it, and shaping it how we desire."
"...I think I like Aza's way better," Issei remarked uncomfortably. "Is that how you did it?"
Shub suddenly became started and glanced to the side. "Mine were more of an...accident. I was actually one of the first Eldritch to make spawnlings," she said defensively.
Issei could tell he touched a nerve, deciding it best to use Sona and Rias's shock as an excuse to change the subject. "Sorry. I sometimes forget how freaky this is for most people," Issei apologized.
"N-no, it's alright," Rias assured. "Just...a lot has happened today."
"Oh, so you devils do have a more human perspective of time?" Shub remarked in idle interest.
"We interact with them a lot so that probably helps," Sona answered. "Not to sound impatient, but do you know how long this might take? It just occurred to me that the Eldritch definition of soon can be months or years."
"Oh no, the Blattnungs are very punctual. They use to have extremely short lifespans, and that sense of time never left their species entirely," Shub informed helpfully. "In fact..."
"Akeno?" Rias turned with a smile, finding herself engulfed in a hug from her queen.
Behind her, flying out of a hole was the rest of her peerage, along with Sona's, accompanied by three of the Blattnungs as they touched down in the large room.
"Sona!" Tomoe and Reya cried out, rushing to gulp the petite devil in a hug as well.
"I'm glad to see you as well, but that's hardly necessary," Sona said, awkward happiness peeking through her stoicism.
Rias, however, had no trouble smiling in relief while embracing Akeno, breaking the hug to face the others. "By all the underworld, I was so worried about all of you," she said with a warm smile, unshed tears glistening in her eyes.
"The feeling is mutual, Rias," Kiba said, glancing back at Saji, who was limping while being helped by Momo.
Sone frowned. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing to worry about," Saji waved off. "I just need to heal up a bit and these guys aren't sure how to treat devils."
"We're more worried about your little vampire, Lady Rias" Momo admitted with a worried frown.
"Gasper?" Rias asked, looking around for him.
She was surprised and concerned to see him passed out in Koneko's arms, but pleasantly relieved to see Koneko appeared to be doing well. "What happened?"
One of the Blattnungs stepped forth. "Housings of Containment have restrictiveness on powers of most. Bat-Creature attempts to turn into many of himself," it explained in what almost sounded apologetic. "Measures of this are expecting ones of power that are far greater. Apologies are given for the distress of this one, but damage seems to be less than any. Awakening will happen after well rest of normal passing for his kind."
Rias paused to go over that in her head before nodding. "I understand. Thank you for your care."
"Thanks are not needed. But what is needed is a signing," the Blattnung said, holding up something green and see-through. It had a curved surface and appeared to have broken off of something. On it was a strange writing that Rias could not even begin to understand. "Please sign for the dismissing of these that were unworthily held."
Rias furrowed her brow. "Is this your...molted exoskeleton?"
The creature tilted its head. "Not my own."
She accepted that easily enough. "I'm sorry, but I'm not sure how to...?"
"You just put your finger on it," Shub supplied as she approached. "Channel some magic into it."
"..." Rias frowned. "I'm not sure I'm comfortable using my full name."
The Blattnung holding the "paperwork" made a displeased sound. "No! Full names not used! Only the parts of starts."
Rias blinked, causing Shub to giggle. "Trust me, they understand your concern. They only need your initials," Shub explained.
"That works?" Sona asked in surprise.
Shub smiled. "It's enough for a signature: Your magic, your initials, and your intent of them being the first letters of your own name."
After a moment of hesitation, Rias did as requested, holding her finger to the carapace and inscribing her initials on it with magic.
"Sign as well, Mistress of the others held unworthily," the Blattnung requested, holding the shell to Sona.
Sona hummed before looking at Issei. "You do understand why we're wary, right?"
"One moment," Issei said as he closed his eyes-
Shub looked at him with a surprised expression, while Koneko inhaled sharply at something only she could see or hear.
-and opened them a few seconds later. "Okay, I just asked Aza. She says there are zero ways to use these things to hurt or bind you. Which is the whole reason why it's just initials. The worst they can do is track you to the world you're currently on," Issei explained with a shrug.
"...Did you just talk to her with telepathy?" Rias asked slowly, everyone else staring in shock and horror.
"Something like that, why?" Issei answered in confusion.
"You had the Queen of the Eldritch in your mind?" Tsubaki clarified slowly.
"I like to think of it more like I'm in her," Issei countered with a meaningfully smirk.
"...How is he still sane...?" Momo whispered quietly.
"Even I'm a little surprised," Shub said owlishly. "Even with you, I didn't think Aza could do that without some mental agony at the least."
"..." Sona decided to ignore that disturbing fact about Issei, turning her attention to signing her initials.
"Thanks are given, Devils of UnderEarth. Please do not linger. We care not for your suffering in this place to house those worthy of holding," it requested earnestly, leaving with its associates.
"These creatures do speak rather strangely," Tsubaki commented as she glanced at Issei. "I suppose we should thank you."
"Don't worry, these two have been doing that plenty," Issei assured with a smile as he motioned to Rias and Sona.
"Oh?" Akeno said, her smile turning playful. "And just how were our dear Kings "thanking you" Issei? I imagine Rias's was more to your liking."
"Akeno," Rias scolded, but still smiling at having her friend safe and sound.
"I've learned to appreciate smaller knockers when they're from someone that loves you," Issei answered with a shameless grin.
Everyone gave him blank or patient looks, except Akeno, who only looked more amused as her chest bounced a bit. "Oh? Does that mean you don't enjoy big boobs anymore?"
"Fuck no it doesn't," Issei answered instantly.
"Wait, did he just imply he's groped this Eldritch Queen we're all scared of?" Saji whispered in bewilderment.
"Oh, he's done more than that, Little Prison Dragon."
Everyone jumped in alarm at the new voice, except Issei, who regarded Yog with a raised eyebrow as she stood there, leaning on her sword like a cane as Saji fell on his rear. "I was wondering when you'd show back up," Issei mused.
"Who the hell is the navy chick?!" Saji yelled, staring up at the katana wielder in alarm.
"Yog-Sothoth," she greeted casually, making them all freeze in horror as she smiled down at him. "That was a wonderful greeting, Saji Genshiro."
"You...know my name?" Saji asked, paling under her gaze.
"Oh, little Enveloper, I am the Outer God of Time," Yog said in amusement. "I know everything."
Sona was about to step forward, but Issei beat her to the punch. "Yog, stop teasing them, they just got out of prison."
"Must you kill my fun, Lover Boy?" Yog asked, standing straight with a twirl of her sword and a smile on her face.
"Lover Man, thank you very much," Issei said, crossing his arms and lifting his head in mock pride.
"Careful, Aza might actually call you that," Yog teased, glancing over her shoulder. "Speaking of whom, we have about four minutes before Aza gets back here and takes Issei off to a date. So to avoid frying anyone's mind again, let's make a hasty exit back to Earth."
Issei looked to Koneko in concern, who was still holding Gasper and pointedly looking in the opposite direction of Yog to preserve her healing sanity. She caught his look. He blinked as she gave him a thumbs up and...was that a little smile?
"Earth?" Sona repeated with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes, and to answer the question of why I'm not dropping you back in the underworld?" Yog started preemptively as she opened the portal, cutting open a rip in reality with her sword. "We need a day in real-time to clear up the void between realms. This stunt of Nyarly's made passing through them dangerous at best for anything less than an Elder God. And believe it or not, this place and Earth are still on the same side of reality, so-"
"How long are you going to ignore me, Yog?"
Yog jolted as if struck before turning to a frowning Shub. "Shubby, you know I could never ignore you!" Yog defended with a weak smile.
The devils all gave the exchange looks of confusion and uncertainty, while Issei frowned in concern.
"Then why haven't you said anything to me this entire time?" Shub countered coolly.
Silence overcame the group.
"Umm, you should probably go," Issei whispered to Rias and Sona. "You don't want to be here for...whatever this is."
Rias and Sona silently agreed with him, ushering their peerages to the portal.
"Thank you, Hyoudou."
"We're in your debt, Issei."
"We appreciate it, really."
Issei wasn't sure whether to feel embarrassed or proud as the devils expressed their gratitude while he kept waving them into the portal.
"We definitely owe you for this one," Akeno said with a playful smile. "I might just have to reward you myself."
"I doubt I could say no," Issei said, eyes glancing down at her well-endowed chest briefly.
He started as he looked up, only to find Akeno had placed a kiss on his cheek. Despite all the kissing he did with Aza, he couldn't help a small blush.
"If you want more, you'll have to come to take it yourself," Akeno whispered lewdly.
Issei blushed harder as she left. Akeno mostly ignored the concerned look Sona and Rias shared at her actions.
Koneko stopped in front of him.
"Let me guess, I'm a perv?" he tried as he eyed the white-hair girl.
Koneko didn't answer for a moment before- yes, that was definitely a smile. 'Thank you, Issei.'
Issei blinked but said nothing as she went through the portal.
"You know, I'm sure you enjoy it, but I don't like being a damsel relying on you to save my family, Issei," Rias said despite her smile.
Issei raised an eyebrow. "Rias, I think of you in a lot of ways. Most of which I can't say in school. Or in public. But given everything so far? Damsel isn't one of them."
Rias looked surprised for a moment before smiling at the compliment. "I suppose I should move along before your queen gets impatient."
"She might shoo you through herself, yes," Issei agreed with mirth.
Sona gave Issei an even look as Rias left. "I hope that "not a damsel" sentiment extends to me?"
"Eh. If you are a damsel, you're good at hiding it," Issei decided.
Sona accepted that answer with a nod, leaving through the portal, causing Issei to sigh in relief as it closed. Now he just had to worry about whatever was going on with Shub and Yog. Because he might not be the smartest person in the world, but any kind of fight between the gods of Space and Time sounded like a disaster waiting to happen.
However, he had forgotten that four minutes could quickly run out.
"Ohhh Isseiiiiii~" Aza called as she jumped to hug him from behind. "I'm finally done with all that horrible paperwork. So now we get to have a picnic one of the moons!"
"Aza, that sounds great, but we might have a problem," Issei pointed out apologetically.
"What? But the devils already got taken home! And I know I didn't mind-fry anyone! What else could there be?" she asked, almost pouting.
In response, Issei pointed to Yog and Shub. They were still just standing with an almost physical awkwardness between them. No, not almost. Issei was sure the awkwardness was becoming its own entity by now, causing the Blattnungs to fly away with instinctive self-preservation. The two gods didn't say a word. Shub's stare was waiting. Yog's stare was uncertain. Both of their stares were sad.
"Ah. Them. This. They're in the same place," Aza realized slowly. "We should have that date now. Like right now. Away from here."
Issei blinked as he was being tugged, almost dragged away by Aza. "Umm, okay!? Are you sure this is the best time?"
"It is literally the perfect time," Aza said matter-of-factly. "Come on, we can go to one of the moons, have a nice picnic, and hopefully they'll be done before I'm done with you. Or you're done with me. Whichever comes first."
"...What's the difference?" Issei asked, trading in his concerned look for a playful grin.
"Whoever comes last."
End of Chapter
Well, everyone is back home. Before anyone asks, no, there isn't going to be a repeat attack from Nyarly on them going in-between worlds. I tossed back and forth between either sending them to Earth or straight to the Underworld. My gut said Earth, so I'm going with that.
Anyway, got some more infrmation dropepd for Issei and other, and Issei is casually terrifying everyone because he mentally communicated with Aza. Than we have Yog and Shub having a...moment. Yeah, drama there, so much so that even Aza would rather drag off Issei for fun than deal with that...okay, she'd rather drag off Issei for fun than do anything, but that's besides the point.
Also, I had FUN writting the lines of the Blattnungs. Confusing, overly complicated, and almost sounds insulting out of context. But they mean well. They just want the devils out so they don't get hurt by the Eldritch they have locked up there.
That's about it for now. Next time, we'll join Issei and Aza on their picnic~
Early viewing of chapters 17-18 avaliable on my pat-reon:
p a treon . com (slash) akumakami64