First off, I apologize for the delay. This chapter was not easy to write. With it tough, True Bartender Dragon progresses farther than the original did, story-wise. I like to imagine we already surpassed it based on quality. We have two guest reviews tough!
That's the end plan, but nothing ever goes smoothly. Powerwise tough... Base Issei, not using his Sacred Gear, is probably mid-class. As soon as he brings Boosted Gear and has enough time, that goes in the high-class territory. I think it's hard to place anyone with "Boost" in any class tough since with enough time, they can technically reach and surpass any and all classes. On paper at least.
Here's the new chapter. Hope you enjoy it.
I OWN NOTHING! I'M BUT A HOBO THAT SNEAKS INTO THE LIBRARY AND WASTES TIME WRITING THIS INSTEAD OF WATCHING PORN!
"Hello there." - regular talking
"I am with you, partner." - sacred gears talking
"I can win I feel great!" - inner thoughts
This chapter was beta read by Marethyu. Thank you for your awesome work!
Kyoto was in even more of an uproar. The informants there had gotten a whiff that Kokabiel was once again walking on Japanese soil. Yasaka was looking picture-perfect, but those who knew her (which was not many) could see that she was worried and unrested. She listened to the advisors argue over themselves, before exchanging a brief glance with the Monkey King who once again decided to attend. This has gone long enough.
At the sound of her voice, and the flash of her tails, the entire room froze. Slowly she looked over every Yokai present, before speaking once more.
"Kokabiel is already secured and hidden in the Devil territories. It is out of our hands now. The Grigori have already declared him a rogue. We will send negotiators to Mao Leviathan to ask for their assistance in apprehending him, but this is no easy matter. We are dealing with a Fallen Cadre, a being that survived the Great War. We must carefully pick amidst our midst who to send after him."
Advisors seemed to agree with her nodding and declaring her words and wise and well thought out. But then the Monkey King spoke. And everyone froze in terror.
"Sekiryuutei could defeat him. He can't be all that strong then, right?"
Yasaka glared at the Buddha, but he seemed to not be affected at all, even though he could see clearly what she was doing, blindfolded or not. But she could also see some of the other Yokai present thinking over his words, and finding no fault. She better cut this in the bud.
"Sekiryuutei defeated the Cadre, utilizing a technique that almost led to his death. Those of us who worked with him, know well of the immense power he gains, using it, but also the harsh drawbacks. Please inform yourself before opening such matters, Sun Wukong. Now I think we could all use a break. We shall reconvene in precisely two hours. You are dismissed."
Everyone left. Except for the one, she wanted to leave most. The Monkey King stuck around, not afraid of her wrath in the slightest.
"Because you're both being stupid. At least for him I know he plans to come back. Now I need to make sure you'll actually hear him out, instead of just running away."
That came as a shock to her. Issei would come to Kyoto? To see her?
"Why would he come here? After all I did…"
"You know he doesn't see it that way."
"I'm not talking about Kumamoto! I… I made peace with those demons a long time ago." And it was true. Her nightmares no longer contained a city, bathed in golden flames, or the screams of thousands.
They sat together in silence for a moment, each contemplating their next set of words and actions carefully. Wukong realized there was still something missing from the story of Issei, Yasaka, and Inari. Meanwhile, the blonde Kyuubi questioned herself, and her actions in the distant past.
"Does Issei know it was Kokabiel that killed Inari?"
She was glad he didn't. Issei would not stop chasing Raven of Treachery if he knew.
"No. Only my inner circle knows."
"It doesn't matter if he knows or not. They have more than enough reasons to hate each other already."
"I suppose. They both marked each other. Still, if the Raven of Treachery opens his mouth, who knows what effect it may have on Issei."
Monkey King spoke aloud what Yasaka feared most. She decided to visit her husband's shrine in the morning. Maybe even in death, inari could provide guidance to his wife, what to do about their best friend.
Saji was reluctantly following Mao Leviathan across the streets of Kuoh. It was early in the morning and usually, he would be preparing to traverse his newspaper route. But he was to do something else instead! Meet a real dragon!
Ever since he learned of the origin of his Sacred Gear, he asked Kaicho for books on Dragons. There were scarce few, and many of those few held information that frankly seemed preposterous. But even a few tidbits that were confirmed to be true were useless to him. He did not feel any presence of any kind of aura or element like he was supposed to.
Sona tried her best to get him even a single day of training with Tannin, who used to be one of the Six, now Five Great Dragon Kings, before becoming a devil. But now he was supposed to meet someone even greater, who owed Mao Leviathan a favor?
Saji had no idea who it might be, but he knew enough about Sona's sister to be mindful of where she was taking him. To his immense surprise, it was a cafe that Tsubaki worked at, the Happy Dragon. And suddenly he felt like smacking himself on the forehead.
They entered the empty place to find the young bartender/owner already at work, mopping the floor. Saji never really frequented the establishment, a unanimous agreement between the majority of Kuoh male students to boycott it, as a small measure of revenge against the bartender who caught the eye of their female classmates.
"Thanks for bringing him, Sera. I know your sister doesn't like me around the school."
"No problem! I'm happy to help!" Saji was quite shocked by the casualty between those two. To not call a Satan by her name, but by a nickname? And the sheer happiness in Mao's voice? The only time she sounded like that was when she was talking with Kaicho.
Before he could ponder these questions an icy blue shine blinded him and where only a moment ago stood one of the leaders of Hell, only a few snowflakes danced in the air.
The pretty boy barman elected to put down the broom and sit at one of the tables, so Saji followed his example. He felt a bit awkward since both he often cursed his name behind his back with his fellow men, when they heard the female population gush about him.
"Well, might as well get started. My name is Issei Hyoudou, and as you probably figured, I'm at least in some way, a dragon."
"Um, Saji Genshirou, Pawn of Sona Sitri, thank you for having me. And what did you mean 'in some way'?"
"I'm not a full dragon. I'm mostly human with some draconic body parts, and a dragon sacred gear. While the Gear alone is releasing draconic energies inside your body, the process is slow, even with a powerful gear like my own. As it stands now, my best guess is that I'm about 30-ish percent dragon."
Saji digested the information. At the end of the day, this guy might be a better trainer for him than Tannin since they had something in common. Before he could ask another question, the man in front of him gave him a command.
"Release your Sacred Gear. We can make more accurate assumptions and plans once I know what you have."
Saji called upon the Gear within him, and it materialized on his left arm. It was a small thing, reminding Issei of a black chameleon. He did not recognize it, but Ddraig did, and he gave a quick rundown to his partner.
"I see. Vritra, huh? The piece that absorbs. Well, Vritra was a powerful dragon, but you only have a single piece of him. I'd say in maybe 100 years there would be something inside of you that could be called draconic. If you didn't use it at all."
"That's pretty long…"
"It is. But since you probably plan on actively using it, it will be a lot faster. Also helps you're a devil. Your magic runs on imagination, so it should not resist the transformation."
Saji memorized the information. But at the same time, there was a question he wanted to ask, ever since he learned of the supernatural.
"Um, Mr. Hyoudou, I wanted to ask… What does it mean to be a dragon?"
His… guess he could call him teacher, appeared thoughtful for a moment.
"Dragons are beings of chaos, power, and aura. First Dragons born are still the mightiest beings in existence. The Infinite Dragon God, Ophis. And Dragon of Dragons, the Great Red. Following them were the Heavenly Dragons, and Six Dragon Kings."
"So Dragons were here first?"
"Well, not 'here'. Both Great Red and Ophis predate the 'here' by a long shot. But they are the oldest ones, yes. Did you ever wonder why Dragons are depicted as evil in so many pantheons?"
Saji shook his head and leaned forward. This was already more information than those books had!
"Because, what gods most desire, is order. Control. And creatures, born from chaos energies, creatures of freedom, are their opposites. God of the Bible was one such example. Although he was powerful indeed, not even he could control dragons. And he loathed them for it. They would not bow to him, nor could he create them with the methods he and Heaven endorsed. His one attempt at making a dragon himself, Samael, failed quite spectacularly."
Saji was drinking the words and trying his best to commit them to memory. But before he could learn more, his teacher seemed to snap from some kind of daze.
"Um, Mr. Hyoudou, if you don't mind me asking, what is aura?"
"Ahh. Hmm, how would I put this? Actually… Yes. I shall show you instead."
The young adult closed his eyes. And suddenly Saji felt something in the room shift. He felt the heat of fire, greater than any he knew off. He could almost feel rigid scales, intermixed with human skin. What he felt next was… yearning? Yearning for something, no, someone. All the while a cold breath of solitude was against his back. And the dread of something old, so old looming over him. And with it came the desire to submit to a being, much superior to himself.
He came to with a gasp, staring at his teacher, who looked at him, clearly familiar with the feelings that passed over the young devil.
"What I just did was envelop you in my aura. Now, do you understand what it is?"
And Saji did indeed. It was… everything.
"Aura is not unique to dragons. But what separates us from others is the amount. Dragons, even myself who could barely be called a hybrid, have a much greater amount of it. As it stands, the day you learn to use your aura without exhausting yourself halfway to death is the day you'll truly be able to call yourself a dragon."
Saji was excited! If he became a strong dragon, he would be able to make Kaichou's dreams come true! But the wind was taken out of his sail when he remembered something.
"You said that the transformation will take long, Mr. Hyoudou."
"Hmm, yes indeed. Tell me, did Vritra ever speak to you?"
"Ehh? It can speak?!"
"Apparently not. Vritra's soul was split between 4 Sacred Gears, and you possess one of them. It's possible that you either need all of them to wake him up or maybe his consciousness resides in one of the other gears. Either way, we'll find out quickly."
"Um, how exactly?"
"Simple. I am also a practitioner of Senjutsu. I will use it to try to feel around the Gear for a bit, maybe stimulate the production of the dragon energy. I make no promises, but maybe it will help you grow and develop faster."
Saji was reluctant. One of the things he learned under Sona, as a Sacred gear possessor was, that it was a part of his soul. So one could understand why he wasn't entirely comfortable with someone poking around in there.
Still, when asked, he extended his arm forward, and Hyoudou gently grasped it. He then looked the blond in the face, and seriously spoke.
It helped lift the spirits a bit, and Saji was almost inclined to laugh. But then he began feeling it again. The Aura. Wait no, it was different this time. This time it was only the energies that made him tingle all over his left arm. He saw it surrounded by crimson energy. He watched, fascinated as it slowly seeped inside the small black chameleon.
It felt like hours, yet in reality, it was only about 15 minutes. His teacher took a deep breath and let the energies disperse, while Saji was busy flexing his arm.
"There's a part of Vritra in there alright. Not sure if it's whole though. I couldn't wake him up from his sleep. I guess that you're gonna have to get stronger. Like a lot."
Saji was a bit disheartened.
"At least I managed to increase the production of draconic energies. My advice, for now, is to eat more, since you'll need to fuel that increase. Other than that just keep up your training. We'll meet again at the end of the month. I don't expect much progress but it should help us gauge how you'll develop."
Saji thanked his teacher, before taking his leave. It was still school day after all, and as a Student Council member, he had to set an example. Issei watched the young devil leave, a pleasant feeling in his chest.
"Huh. You've only ever taught two people and already you're arming up to being a teacher."
"Must be that I like people. Comes with being a bartender."
"Mmm. It's gonna be interesting to see how the young one grows. With Vritra inside him, he could develop in several different ways."
"I just hope he succeeds. I know that look in his eyes… He's a good kid, so I know he'll be great."
Rias breathed a sigh of relief. With the last signature, everything was over! Who knew that annulling an engagement required so much paperwork? She quickly tapped the pile of papers and sent them on their way to her parents who would then exchange them with the Phenex family, in public to show that there was no animosity between the two Pillar families.
But. Only now did the full weight fall on her. She was free! Finally free! She could finish her education in the human world. She could spend her time like a normal girl, dating, picking out a man who would love not Rias Gremory, but just Rias.
She was pondering how to celebrate her newfound freedom. But the answer was clear from the start, wasn't it? Coffee jelly at Happy Dragon! And with any luck, Mr. Hyoudou would also be there, and maybe they could talk for a little while, ask about the man who saved her…
A small blush overtook her. Boy was she glad Akeno wasn't in today, otherwise, she would get teased mercilessly. Mother warned her against the Sekiryuutei. But, someone who would save her, with no promise of reward couldn't be a bad, person, right?
Asia shyly poked her head from behind the door.
"Oh, Asia-chan, you don't have to call me that when we're alone. Aren't we friends?"
"Oh. Y-yes! Rias then…"
The exiled nun fidgeted in the doorway, making her King sigh. But also smile. Asia came a long way since being incarnated, but she still acted super shy. It was just too cute! Which was why she never left her in the room alone with Akeno for too long. She was a good friend, and poor Asia wasn't ready for the Queen's antics just yet.
"Well, what is it?"
"Oh! Um, some girls from class invited me to go shopping with them, a-an I wondered…"
"Asia, we talked about this. You don't need my permission to go out and have fun with friends. I encourage it even. Though I do appreciate you telling me in advance. Just use your phone next time, alright?"
"Y-yes! Thank you Bu- I mean Rias!"
The blonde turned around and prepared to leave, before being stopped by the redhead.
"Wait! Do you want your allowance early?"
Much like Sona, Rias too gave her servant some money each week. There was a set amount, and then a 'bonus' for those who worked extra hard.
"A-ah, I couldn't possibly-"
"Nonsense. You work hard Asia, and your clients have nothing but praise for you. Remember last week when Mrs. Miyamizu sent those treats for you?"
Asia blushed slightly and tried not to drool. Those were some of the best pastries she ever tried, not that she had tried many in her life.
"Because of you, she can work as a pastry chef again. So never sell yourself short, Asia. Even as a devil you still help people."
Asia smiled shyly, before giving herself a determined not. With a slight bow towards her King, she spoke loud and clear.
"Buchou! Could I receive my weekly allowance in advance?"
Rias smiled, glad for her Bishop. Pulling out her wallet she gave Asia the amount she earned.
"Here you go. I hope you buy yourself something nice. And please, for the love of Satans, do not try to buy another rosary! I can't keep wiping that poor man's mind of your burnt hands."
Asia blushed deeply at the memory of the incident, which, admittedly, occurred more than once. Prayer and faith were such a big part of her life, it was hard to let go. Still, Rias was right! Even as a devil, she was still able to help people! And have fun with friends! And eat nice food!
Rias watched amused and Asia was joined by her classmates outside, and they all took off towards the shopping district. She was also glad to see Murayama and Katase with their shinais, in case the perverted Duo decided to follow them around.
Now, it was her turn to enjoy herself! With purposeful strides, she took off towards the Happy Dragon! There was a delicious coffee jelly to eat, and a pretty bartender to question!
"I don't think anyone's home."
"Thank you for stating the obvious."
In front of a house stood two figures, both wearing light cloaks, that concealed them neck to ankle. One had stunning blue hair, with a green streak, while the other one wore twin-tails of chestnut color.
The blue-haired one hefted a wrapped package on her back while looking at her partner. She assured her that accommodations were arranged and to not worry about it, so she did not. But she also hoped they would not have to wait for the owner of the house to appear.
"Maybe if I blast the doors off…"
"Xenovia, no! I remembered it now! Ise has a bar in the town, so he should still be there working! Aunt Miki said we can find him there and ask for keys!"
"Then let's go."
They headed into town, the twin-tailed one leading them with purposeful steps. She had a childhood friend to reunite with!
Issei was serving the last batch of students. It was starting to get late, and soon he would have to shoo away the last of them, clean up, and then open the bar for business.
For once he was by himself. He let Murayama get off early since she had a big Kendo competition soon. Tsubaki was absent due to academic reasons, and Simon took a week off.
He was almost glad Tsubaki was not back yet. Aside from the Satans, Saji, and Koneko, any of the other devils had yet to learn of what he was. But, with his lurking days now over, his body proudly declaring him a Dragon to anyone who stepped within 15 feet, 50 if they had a sharp sense of smell, he should at least come clean.
He was inside, washing the tables after he got done stocking the fridge when the chime at the door rang twice in quick succession. Maybe someone had to use the bathroom?
"Hi, Mr. Hyoudou, I know it's close to closing time, but I was just wondering-"
"Ise-kun! Did you miss me?"
A familiar smell assaulted his nose. One of the enticing hair products, used by the high-end nobility, mixed in with burnt sugar, Power of Destruction.
But there was something else. Something that smelled vaguely familiar, but was overpowered by the smell of rosemary.
Next, he felt a tingle down his back, in a peculiar pattern, that he came to associate with Holy energy. And there was a LOT of it here.
He turned around, eyes widening as he saw two girls drop their coats, revealing the combat attire of a Church Exorcist, and unveiling two blades, which were the source of Holy energy. But what surprised him more was Rias standing in front of him, as if to protect him, the arcs of Destruction already surging from her hand.
The situation was going south fast, the standoff about to turn into a skirmish that held the potential to re-ignite one of the biggest wars in history. So he did the only thing he could think of. He introduced a third side that dwarfed the other two.
Rias was fully prepared to protect Mr. Hyoudou with her life. He was someone who, albeit indirectly, saved her from Riser. Something about him always gave her that special feeling, the one which led her to almost every single one of her servants.
So she was reasonably startled, but also elated when a firm, dominating pressure rose from behind her, arresting the movement of all three girls, and also affecting what few students remained outside. None collapsed, but all suddenly experienced difficulty in breathing and raising their limbs.
Seeing that the attention was now on him, Issei faced the trio of girls fully, his eyes serious, the green glint inside them much more prominent than usual, and his pupil narrower than they had any right to be. A crack of thunder outside shook everyone from their stupor.
"There will be no fighting in this establishment. Miss Gremory, could I trouble you with modifying the memories of the remaining guests outside, and contacting Miss Sitri?"
Rias, still in awe of the power the handsome bartender possessed, nodded and went to deal with humans before they could properly start panicking. Meanwhile, Issei took a proper look at the two Exorcists. And was promptly hugged by one of them.
"Ise-kun! I missed you so much!"
"Baka, Issei, of course, it's me! But what was with that pressure, Ise? I thought your sacred Gear was only a Twice Critical?"
"Um, no, it's something else."
"What is it? What is it?"
Issei was out of his depth. The Great War almost re-started inside his bar, and his childhood friend was an exorcist, and just WHAT?! It was only now he realized Irina was still hugging him, so he gently removed her arms from him, and took a step back to get a proper look at her.
"Could you maybe tell me first what is going on here? Why are you back in Kuoh?"
"Did aunt Miki not call you and tell you we're coming?"
"No, mom did no such thing."
It was at that moment that Rias returned inside, followed by the second owner of Kuoh, Sona Sitiri, and both their respective Queens. The young bartender could already feel a headache incoming.
"Mr. Hyoudou. Sister mentioned you had ties with the supernatural, but I never imagined you'd be someone so powerful."
Sona was straight and to the point. He could respect that.
"I think it's best we take this conversation upstairs. Please make yourselves at home, and I'll know if anyone touches the liquor cabinet! I just need to close up shop here."
The group of young girls moved towards the stairs, but no one was certain who should go up first. Issei sighed, before gesturing to the two exorcists, following them behind, and following him the devils.
Once everyone took a seat, with Issei amusingly observing that Rias and Sona both took the same place as their respective siblings, he decided to open this impromptu meeting, first by placing a glass of water for everyone and then sitting down in between the two groups.
"I will do my best to act as a neutral party. By stepping through the door, you have entered my domain. While you are under my roof, no fighting will be tolerated. Does everyone understand?"
Getting confirmations, he turned towards the devil's side.
"Since this is Devil territory, I will allow the owners to ask questions first."
Sona took that as her cue.
"We are most curious as to why the Church decided to send two exorcists, armed with potent Holy objects to our town."
It was the blue-haired girl that answered.
"Our mission here is to investigate the theft of Holy Swords. We followed the trail, and it led us to this town. Me and my partner were sent on a mission to retrieve the swords and dispose of the heathen."
The rain was pouring, and Kiba was in a rush. Rias told everyone something unexpected had happened, and that they all should group up and stay together. He was on his way to pick up Asia and Koneko when it started to rain.
Suddenly a man in priest clothes tripped out of a side alley- His weapon clattered to the ground, as he clutched at the wound on his chest. He tried to tell the Knight something, but Kiba's sole focus was on the weapon, the potency of the Holy element identifying it as the thing he hated most.
Excalibur. Right in front of him. He could feel the rage rising within him, the rage he suppressed for so long! But before he could do anything, someone else appeared. It was the mad priest that attacked Koneko!
"Oi, shitty devil! Your master is one cruel bitch, ya know?"Killin Raynare and others in cold blood, just for starting a little fire."
Kiba stood up and summoned a sword. The rage was still surging inside of him, but he refused to let it take control. He bit back the witty retort, in favor of taking the initiative and charging forward.
It seemed that the two groups came to some sort of understanding, along with trying to arrange another meeting, so everyone could familiarise themselves with each other and know who NOT to attack. But both sides were reluctant. The devils with letting not one, but two Excaliburs inside their headquarters, and the two exorcists meeting so many devils on their home turf. But there was a solution none of them foresaw.
"The meeting will be held tomorrow, inside this room."
This seemed agreeable to most of them, except for the blue-haired exorcist who introduced herself as Xenovia.
"You are powerful, mister. But do you really have the authority to hold back so many devils, who are treacherous by nature? And should you have it, how can we trust you to remain neutral?"
It seemed he was being challenged. Inside his own lair? That couldn't fly.
"I possess authority, not derived from any faction, but myself! You stand in front of this generation's Sekiryuutei!"
On his left arm appeared in all of its splendor, the Gauntlet of Ddraig Y Gosh, releasing a domineering pressure through its presence alone.
"You may have a shiny new sword, Freed. But you have no idea how to use it."
Kiba cooly swept past his opponent, breaking his guard, directing the Holy Blade away from his person, and giving him a good slash in his side. The cut added to numerous wounds the corrupted priest was already sporting.
Kiba made sure to always keep himself between the priest and the Excalibur on the ground, not willing to let his chance at revenge slip away.
"Tsk. Shitty devil. I will- Eh?"
A communication circle appeared next to the crazy man's ear, and though Kiba could not hear the conversation, he could discern it from the priest's face.
"Retreat?! Are you fucking nuts? I have him right where I- Fuck you! If it weren't for the boss- FINE! I GET IT!"
The spell dissipated, and Freed gazed at him with the crazy murderous eyes of a man who just got blue balled hard.
"Enjoy your fucking toy, devil. It's not like you could even pick it up. But I will be back for it! Just wait and see!"
One flash spell and Freed was gone. Kiba took stock of his surroundings, before finally letting go of his tight control. Rage coursed through him unrestrained. Summoning the biggest sword in his arsenal, he struck at the Excalibur, laying on the ground.
"It's your fault! It's your fault! IT'S YOUR FAULT!"
He couldn't tell if the water running down his face was rain or tears. He could not feel his muscles strain, not used to lifting something so heavy. He did not feel the groundbreaking beneath him. He raised the sword. He struck. He raised it again. He struck. After a while, the sword in his hand would break. But he would create a new one.
Somehow no one passed by that ally that night.. but if they were, they would see a teenager on their knees, his arms trembling, barely lifting the remains of a broken sword, before dropping them, striking at a sword that shone as bright and true as before, not a single mark marring its blade.
I'm being told I keep the info on issei and his past too close, and not leaking enough of it, so I hope this arc, once it's done will give some concrete answers to you all. READ. REVIEW. Let me know what YOU think, and we'll read each other next time. NPGamer out.
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