"So, we've gone from worrying about the Eldritch faction destroying the earth on purpose, to the Eldritch faction worrying that they'll destroy the earth by accident," Sona summarized evenly.

"That would be about right," Rias said with a sigh. "Issei had a point though; having a backup plan for the potential omnicide of the planet isn't an unwise thing to do."

Sona sighed. "We're basically an island in the ocean to them, filled with exotic life they want to prevent from dying off. The question is, do we end up in a zoo or in a nature preserve?"

"Grim but not untrue," Rias admitted. "Issei already agreed to make sure everyone is returned...if they want to be returned."

"I'm not touching that for now," Sona said blankly. "So, Issei is suggesting we work with this Collector, possibly even the people that were buying devils and other supernaturals to repopulate the species in the worst scenario?"

"I believe in Issei's intent, but I do admit that would be hard to sell to others," Rias mused. "But he is right that if any such plans are made, devilkind should have the most say in how that looks, for ourselves at least."

"And that's how my sister will have to sell it," Sona agreed knowingly. "Because I know my sister, and I know your brother. They're worried about the Eldritch still. Not the Queen and her court, not with their King keeping the peace. No, it's every other literal abomination that tags along we need to worry about. And because of that alone, this is a good plan. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst."

"Question becomes, how many other factions will feel safe agreeing to anything like this?" Rias mused.

"Depend," Sona said with a scowl. "How many won't look at this and think the Eldritch won't care if the Earth is destroyed, if they can safely bring back most of the species here?"

Rias hummed in agreement before changing the subject. "How is your peerage doing, by the way?" she asked with a friendly smile.

"Fine. Saji keeps marveling that we were on Jupiter, which is understandable. I told Tsubaki about Issei being the King of the Eldritch. She is...trying to process that, I think."

"Aren't we all," Rias murmured, looking up in thought. "I can understand becoming an Eldritch. We have the Evil Pieces after all. But a god? An Outer God?"

"Issei and the others insinuated it was a process, him still being mostly human currently," Sona recalled, tenting her fingers. "But that just makes it all the more unbelievable. Mostly human, and the Outer Gods defer to him."

"...You think Issei has slept with the Time Goddess, or the Dream-Witch already?" Rias asked absently.

"If he hasn't, I'm almost certain it's an inevitability," Sona said, leaning her head against her hands. "I'm actively trying not to think about what that could mean, him being intimate with an entity embodying time itself."

Rias thought about that for a second before shaking her head. "No, you're right, that isn't a train of thought I want to untangle," she admitted. "Have you...talked to Issei or the Eldritch Queen since we've been back?"

"No, we've been busy getting resituated as the student council," Sona admitted as she looked back up at her friend. "And I'm not sure how to even hold a casual conversation with either of them."

"It works best if you just pretend they're both like us: noble devils on friendly terms with you. Casual but with enough respect you're not worried about offending them," Rias explained with a smile.

Sona raised a skeptical eyebrow. "That helps?"

"The Eldritch have a hierarchy, but there seems to be a lot of casualness with irregular, seemingly random bouts of decorum that pop up when you least expect it," Rias mused. "But yes, you should be fine if you just act yourself."

"I suppose I should try to ingratiate myself to them a bit, being the co-ambassador of devils to the Eldritch," Sona mused, a meaningful glint against her glasses. "Though, I believe you might be ahead of me there. Offering up your queen to Issei, Rias?"

"She offered herself and you damn well know it," Rias said evenly before groaning in exasperation. "And she somehow ended up becoming friends with the Queen."

"Which is good, technically. Diplomatically speaking," Sona agreed. "But also very concerning as to how and why that happened. Are you SURE Akeno isn't less sane than she already was?"

"Trust me, I ask myself that every time she talks about "Aza" as just a normal, eccentric girl and not the strongest of the Outer Gods," Rias assured, running a hand through her locks. "Which just goes back to the previous point. You can talk to them. Just be ready to get out of the sanity-splash zone if something else upsets them."

Sona nodded absently. "Rias? How many of the humans at school do you think are already Eldritch Cultists?"

"My guess? Not as many as you'd imagined, but more than we'd like to think about."

Meanwhile

Aika, her limbs restored, hummed as she lurked about the library after hours, smirking as she saw an empty spot in the bookshelves.

The Lessernomicon, or the Herald of the Star, was a very special book. If it was put anyplace it wouldn't be noticed, such as on a shelf of other books or in the back of a dresser, no one would notice it. Not even devils or yokai.

The only ones who would notice it were those who were open to what it had to offer, a path to becoming an Eldritch Cultist, a servant of the Extraterrestrial Gods. It had no curses or dangerous spells. It was the "safe" option, or safe as such a thing could be.

For it to be missing, someone had to have picked it up.

A smirk grew on her face as she curiously reached into her school bag, and pulled out a white book with red writing.

Another Lessernomicon.

Aika was the one chosen to spread the word of her gods to Kuoh Academy. To this end, if anyone picked up the book and kept it, another copy would appear on her person. So that she could replace it, for another to find.

Sliding the corrupting text back onto the shelf, Aika hummed and turned away.

Only to find someone looking at her already.

Someone holding a familiar white book

"You?" Aika said with a raised eyebrow before she grinned. "Well, that certainly makes things interesting."

The new cultist didn't respond, just turning her eyes down to the text, absorbing them and committing so many of the dark lines to memory.

Aika nodded in approval. "The Kungur will be glad to have you, I'm sure."

The convert only kept reading.

Aika smiled and began her plotting for a fledgling cult. Should she found a club? One to pretend to be anything other than a pack of worshippers dedicated to the Eldritch Gods?

Having a group was nice, but sometimes being more independent and spread out had more advantages for survivability.

After all, just because the Eldritch themselves weren't going to war with anyone, that didn't mean Cultists like herself wouldn't be pruned and exterminated. A few dead cults were never a cause for the Eldritch Gods to grow too worked up over. Curse the killer? Maybe. Go to war? Not without other motivations and offenses, surely.

The Cults of the Eldritch were not for those who intended to be reliant on their gods for everything.

Meanwhile

"I am never looking at a puppy the same way again," Asia lamented with a lost look on her face as they all walked home.

"Don't worry, we'll get Yog or someone to help purge the memory," Issei promised apologetically.

"I can do it," Aza offered with an innocent smile. Asia and Issei shared a look. "What? What is it?"

"No offense, Lady Aza?" Asia said carefully. "But you might purge a little...or a lot of my other memories that I'd rather keep."

"Why would I be offended? You're probably right," Aza agreed without insult.

"Oh no, she's perfectly correct," Yog answered casually, suddenly drifting above them, sitting on her sword like it was the most uncomfortable version of a flying broomstick. "A hundred percent. There is literly no possible reality where she tries that and we don't need Yidrah to help get back something important."

"Yog, if you're going to take human form, at least say hello like a sane person when you arrive," Issei said flatly.

"But I'm not sane. By some definitions, I'm not even a person," Yog countered smugly.

"You're a person by MY definition," Issei said pointedly. "Now, can you help Asia delete this memory or not?"

"Oh yeah, that's a third of why I'm here," Yog assured, suddenly hanging upside down, so her face was right in front of Asia's.

The former nun stopped in surprise, full awareness back in her eyes now. "Lady Yog? When did you get here? And, umm, why do I hear growling?"

"Oh, you can hear my hound. I guess dog-related trauma helps with that," Yog mused in idle interest, raising a finger to point at Asia's eye.

Then she poked right through the eye.

"The fuck!?" Issei exclaimed in alarm.

"...!" Asia made no noise but she was frozen and trembling. Not from pain, for the finger was twisting and distorting into tiny, long limbs that had snaked through the center of her eye. "L-Lady Yog?"

"Shhh. Let me work. This is perfectly safe, just really scary for a human like you," Yog assured with a smile.

"Yog, there are days I consider taking that sword and ramming it up your ass," Issei said, pinching the bridge of his nose, his other hand taking Asia's as a gesture of comfort.

"Promises, promises, Kungur," Yog said with a playful smile.

"Well, we've already done that plenty of times, so I won't object," Aza said idly.

"...Did you just give me permission to fuck Yog?" Issei asked with a raised eyebrow.

Aza tilted her head. "When did you think you needed permission?"

"Careful, Issei, I'm not a hopeless romantic like our dear Sultana," Yog teased before turning back to Asia as her misshapen finger continued to move about in Asia's eye. "Oh, here we are! And my, you have such lovely perverted dreams and ideas!"

"Ahhh! Please don't say anything!" Asia cried out frantically, covering her blushing cheeks with her hands.

"I won't, I won't. It'll be better as a surprise, "Yog said conspiratorially, her warped digit retracting and unwarping itself. "But I have dealt with the memory. Or, rather, I unrecorded that specific part of her memories. You won't remember what happened now, but you will be aware that something happened all the same."

"Something with Aika," Asia said while rubbing her eye, less from pain and more from the feeling of wrongness that came with the procedure. "But...yes, I don't recall what, or why it bothered me," Asia said in surprise before smiling at the Time Goddess. "Thank you, Lady Yog."

"Not a problem. After all, you are the Kungur's pet human," Yog teased.

"I-I am...!?" Asia exclaimed with a blush.

"Really, Yog?" Issei asked, face-palming in exasperation.

"I mean, is she wrong?" Aza asked in consideration. "And if she is, what is Asia exactly? We take care of her and she belongs to us as far as the other factions are concerned."

"Ladies, Asia is not a pet unless she wants to be," Issei said firmly before blinking. "That sounded a bit better in my head."

"N-no, thank you, umm, Issei. And I understand what Aza means. A-and I think Lady Yog is just having some fun at my expense," Asia summarized, still blushing and not quite looking at Issei.

"But Beloved, I thought you enjoyed the idea of having a few human pets," Aza reasoned in confusion

Issei gave a meaningful stare to Yog. "You're going to help me get her to understand petplay at some point."

"You can just give her a hands-on example and she'll understand everything very quickly," Yog countered knowingly.

"Do you have anything useful to tell us?" Issei asked blankly.

"Not really. But you have a guest waiting for you back home, so don't be surprised. Bye!," Yog informed with a wave before she inverted herself out of existence.

"A guest?" Asia repeated, looking at Aza. "Do you know who she meant, Lady Aza?"

Aza just smiled knowingly at Issei. "Do you have an idea, Beloved?"

Issei blinked. "Why would I-"

"It's Shub-Niggurath," Ddraig answered, a green light on Issei's hand.

"Ddraaaaaig! I wanted to see if Issei could sense her!" Aza whined, pretending not pout.

Ddraig was nervous at her annoyance, but far less than he would have been prior to meeting the Eldritch Queen. "Ahh, my apologies. I suppose his powers are growing faster due to my presence."

"Say what now?" Issei asked, holding up his hand. "What is happening?"

"Your "Eldritichification" would take many millennia to complete on its own, if not longer. But the nature of my power is allowing it to accelerate somewhat," Ddraig explained.

"You didn't know?" Aza asked in surprise. "I thought Ddraig told you while training you."

"I wasn't certain until the fight against the Crawling Chaos's feathered pet," Ddraig explained.

"Oh. I knew instantly. I always keep track of how powerful my Issei is getting," Aza said with a proud smile.

Issei smiled a bit bashfully.

"Hello, Ddraig, I believe this is the first time we've properly met," Asia greeted politely to the glowing light on Issei's hand. "I am Asia Argento."

"I am aware. Ddraig, all the same. Your Sacred Gear is a great help to have around. And I'm sorry your sanity has been drawn into this situation," Ddraig said casually.

"I want to be annoyed by that, but he isn't wrong," Issei mused.

"Oh, it's no problem. Minus...whatever happened earlier today, I haven't had any issues with my, um, sanity," Asia assured with a smile. "Lady Aza and Lord Issei have been very kind and caring for me."

"I suppose it's good that a pet likes her owners," Ddraig said in jest, making Issei and Asia blush. "That said, I'm going back to slumbering. I'd rather avoid any confrontations with Shub-Niggurath."

"You're Yog's Specter creature in that regard, Ddraig," Aza commented as Ddraig's light vanished.

"Spirit animal, Aza," Issei corrected automatically. "Think Shub wants anything important?"

"No. Well, not "important-important" like the world will be destroyed or an infestation of Xaaga-Usas," Aza explained, waving it off.

"What's a Xaaga-Usa?" Asia asked with a furrowed brow. "Is it bad?"

"Kind of. There's this Eldritch God, we call him Xaaga? He died once in space and his body became asteroids and comets. When one of them crashes on a planet, they unleash a swarm of these little monsters that hunt and eat everything on the world."

Issei stared as Asia's eyes went wide. "That's only "kind of" bad?" he questioned.

"Well, they have very short lifespans. Even compared to mortals! They usually end up turning to cannibalism and making themselves extinct before they kill a whole planet. I think one of Earth's mass extinction events was one of them," Aza mused, tapping her chin at the end. "Or was that Venus? It was in this solar system, I know that much."

"I...okay, I think it's time we go see Shub," Issei mused, deciding to file that information away for later.

Meanwhile

Flames burned wrathfully as the training ground was left burned and scarred.

"Honestly, brother, are you still throwing this fit?" Ravel asked in slight disapproval as she approached her elder sibling.

"Ravel," Riser greeted, turning to her with a curious frown. "Why are you here?"

"Well, the rest of your peerage is worried about you, but won't disobey your demand for some private training," Ravel remarked.

Riser snorted. "I'd rather not scar my servants just because I'm venting. Granted, I might welcome Xuelan's company. She is almost as hard to burn as a Phenex."

"You're changing the subject, dear brother," Ravel said knowingly. "Everyone knows you're upset that the engagement was broken off. But mother and father agree that it makes perfect sense to keep certain options open."

"Losing the beauty that is Rias Gremory is one thing, but to imagine losing her to a slimed thing from beyond the stars...," Riser said in distaste.

"Riser!" Ravel said in alarm. "Careful what you say! Please tell me you're not thinking of challenging an Eldritch God?"

Riser snorted. "Riser is not so foolish, Sister. An Avatar or Incarnation? Perhaps. But to risk their wrath in full? No. I wouldn't risk our family's safety on such a thing, let alone you, Sister."

Ravel smiled in appreciation. "I know it's not what you wanted, but simply wait. We devils live a long time. Once this time of unrest has calmed, there will be nothing stopping the arrangement from being made again."

Riser hummed. "Perhaps you are right."

"Of course I am. Now come inside and show your peerage some appreciation. They've been worried about you this whole time, you know," Ravel suggested sternly.

Ravel smirked. The Phenex familiar might not have the Gremory reputation for caring for their servants, but he made sure that his peerage's loyalty and devotion were rewarded rather...vigorously.

Meanwhile

"Yid asked you to stay on Earth long term?" Issei repeated curiously.

"I saw that one coming," Aza mused to herself.

"Indeed," Shub answered, sitting on Issei's bed while she was served tea by Nctolhu and Nctosa. "By the way, you look very adorable, my slithering granddaughters," Shub praised kindly.

"Thank you, Great Shub-Niggurath," they answered in sync, smiling while bowing their heads slightly.

"But yes, Yidrah asked me to stay," Shub continued, taking a sip of her tea. "With all the extra Eldritch-traffic around Earth, it's starting to warp space. As I'm the Eldritch of Space, I can help regulate and...well, soothe it, would be my word," Shub explained.

"I followed that easily enough," Issei mused. "Did you come to ask for royal permission or something? Cause you have it if you need it."

"Oh no. I assumed if either of you wished me to not do so, you would inform me," Shub answered honestly.

"Well, space-warping can potentially result in Earth suddenly circling a black hole, so yes, your work is appreciated, Shub," Aza said in amusement.

"I'm not going to ask what black holes actually are just yet," Issei decided to himself. "So, why are you here, exactly?

Shub tilted her head. "I was hoping to spend time with you both. Aza and I are, family aside, good friends. And I've been wanting to meet the one that she has yearned for so long to love and be loved by," Shub answered with a strange look in her eyes. It was happy, but also something else.

"...Are you transferring to my school too?" Issei asked suspiciously.

"If I do, I won't be a student," Shub promised amicably.

"That's...an answer," Issei decided. "Well, if you're going to be around..."

Issei suddenly pinched his hand, wincing as he did.

Shub watched in confuion while Aza tilted her head. "That's not going to work, Beloved, "Aza informed. "Here, give me your hand."

Issei did so, trusting Aza completely as she held up his hand with hers, her other hand reaching up, pointing a finger at the back of Issei's hand.

She held the position for a few seconds before poking the skin.

The Red Gauntlet appeared instantly.

"GAH!? By Great Red, what just happened?!" Ddraig yelled in alarm, Issei getting the impression of the dragon looking around frantically.

"I poked you in the soul to wake you up," Aza answered with a smile.

"Poked my soul...?" Ddraig repeated, not sure if he should be worried about that or not.

"Ddraig Goch?"

Ddraig suddenly went still before turning his figurative gaze to the Eldritch sitting on the bed. "L-lady Shub-Niggurath. Black Goat of a Thousand Young. It is an...honor to meet you?" he tried cautiously, utterly terrified despite not even having a body to hurt.

"Red Dragon Emperor, Dragon of Domination," Shub returned with a nod, looking at the gauntlet curiously. "Is there something wrong?"

"...No?" Ddraig answered in bewilderment.

"He says he and Albion- you know, Wen? White Dragon? They were fighting hundreds of years ago and some of your Young were killed," Aza answered.

"Oh," Shub said, eyes drifting down to the floor. "So they did come to Earth. I always wondered if they made it."

"I swear, I didn't mean to fall on them! Albion knocked me out of the sky and..." Ddraig trailed off in dread.

Shub blinked. "Wait, are you scared...I'll try to take revenge on you?"

"I...yes? You are known to be a wrathful and protective mother?" Ddraig answered in confusion.

"I normally am, but..." Shub sighed heavily. "I have a lot of children, Ddraig. More all the time. I protect them, but I can't be angry every time they go out looking for trouble and find it."

"I mean, you can, but it's nice that you're not," Issei mused. "But what do you mean, go looking for it?"

Shub quirked her head. "Ddraig, did you not know why those Dark Young were on Earth?"

"No?" Ddraig asked cautiously.

Shub sighed. "They came here for Dragon Hunting."

Silence filled the room from Issei and Ddraig being surprised, and Aza having nothing to comment.

"It was their favorite thing to eat. They had lived on a planet with very weak draconic races. But they decided to come to Earth to see what, umm, stronger meat tastes like. I told them they shouldn't, because most dragons on earth are at or near Great Old One level. But as some children always do, they ignored my warning and headed out. And in the end, they were killed by dragons who didn't even realize they were dragon-hunters. Such a sad waste on their part," Shub lamented softly. "Do you...remember where it happened?"

"I..." Ddraig trailed off before gathering himself. "Yes, I do. Assuming the site still exists. Time might make a fool of me there."

"Time can be rather foolish herself at times, "Shub mused with a sour look on her face.

Ddraig decided not to touch that remark. Issei wisely and silently agreed, for now.

End of Chapter

Well, the Devil Diplomats are adjusting and Asia got some memory surgey done. Riser also made a small apperance. But most importantly, Ddraig and Shub finally met. And yeah, Shub would want to murder Ddraig in most situations, but he gets a pass since her kids went hunting something they couldn't match.

Not a whole lot else, hope you all enjoyed this and had a great Thanksgiving!

Early viewing of chapters 24-25 avaliable on my pat-reon:

p a treon . com (slash) akumakami64