Disclaimer: I don't own Highschool DxD.

Faith Is Moving Without Knowing

"No offense, but you being here is kind of worrying," Joshua commented, receiving an elbow to his side courtesy of Jeanne and making Cheshire sigh. In front of him, Griselda's eye twitched and Xenovia and Irina looked at him like he was a confusing, disturbing and insulting sight. Those were some reactions to get, but he could kind of understand.

Still though, rude.

"Is that so?"

"The last time someone strong was added to one of my visits to you, guys, it was because there was danger of attack," Joshua explained, grinning wryly. "So, I think you can connect the dots between that and now a Seraph making an appearance."

"I assure you, while this base is the most important you've visited so far, I'm not here for any safety concerns," Gabriel reassured amicably. It was relieving to hear that, Joshua would admit, but that didn't stop him from checking thoroughly with Magic and Life Sense. Sure, the angel could probably very easily keep a secret from him, but one never knew. "No, I'm here for a… social visit, if you will." Yeah, he didn't believe that for a single second. "Michael wanted to tell you that he's thankful you seem to have been treating Asia right. He was very happy when he saw her the other day."

Oh, the head Seraph had checked on Asia?

The Church had picked her up to slowly give her duties and help her be an actual part of the machine that made the Church once more. She'd basically been taken out of the equation with the mess that was that faction as of late, but that had changed now. Asia would be a more active member of it, even if it was little by little.

It was nice to know that the higher ups in there cared for her, Joshua would admit.

"It's what you paid me for," he replied simply, looking around the room he'd been directed to in order to cast some more defenses for the Church. Carnwennan had been a great addition to his arsenal, after all, and Joshua was more than happy with it. Looking after Asia, and being more connected with the Church was a small price to pay, the Holy Dagger fit him too well to pass it up, he now knew.

Even through the dimensional separation between him and the weapon that now laid in his personal Storage Spell, he felt the dagger give him what one could describe as an affectionate thanks.

"Be that as it may, you didn't have to go to the lengths you did, and for that my brother is grateful," Gabriel told him, smiling beautifully at him.

"Well, you are welcome," he replied, deciding to just let things go. No need to keep the back and forth. He was there for a job, after all. Better get on with it before someone had the time to attack them. "Now then…" he mumbled, pulling up his notebook and summoning all the circles and wardstones into the room so that he could get started setting up the arrays. Before he could do that, he paused. "Nagini, stop spooking the girl."

"I'm not spooked!" Irina squeaked from the side, standing straight and half-glaring at him. Poor girl didn't seem to realize she'd basically given herself away. "I'm not!" she protested when everyone turned her way.

"Sure you aren't," Joshua replied with a roll of his eyes. After that, though, he gave his snake familiar a pointed look. She didn't sound very apologetic, considering the hissing giggle she let out, but it was what it was. He just really hoped Nagini wasn't turning into a bully.

Her offended reaction was a little reassuring, he supposed.

"Is…" a new voice started from the side. "She feels… holy," Xenovia decided to go with in the end, looking at Cheshire who was sitting in front of the girl, in her cat form, and looking up at the Excalibur wielder. The familiar meowed up at the swordswoman.

"That's because she is," Joshua replied, gaining everyone's attention. "A holy tiger, as far as I've been able to gather," he explained.

Which wasn't much at all, really. He'd not been able to find much information regarding most of his familiars. Holy tigers, curse snakes or song birds were a mystery. If they existed in the world, then none of the people that wrote the books he checked had been aware of that. That was saying something, considering that Sirzechs Lucifer himself had provided him with some pretty obscure books that belonged to devil families more connected to animals and such.

Sure, there were some references and other creatures that fit somewhat with their descriptions and such. Lots of birds that channeled powers through cries and songs, for example. However, nothing concrete about those specific races, at least from what he'd found.

Morag, however, had rendered much better results, even if they didn't clear much stuff up.

Earth Spider wasn't supposed to be a literal name, apparently.

It was a translation.

Tsuchigumo, Yasaka had explained to him, were a race of spider youkai. Some remained in spider form while others seemed to have more humanoid forms. Morag, for her part, didn't seem to be the case of the latter. She had gotten nothing with her evolution that even hinted at being able to turn into a human.

Yasaka had given him as much information as she could in regards to her but… Well, while it made for neat reading material, it wasn't really all that useful. Morag was different enough that he wondered if the system had only put that name to her race because it was what fit best.

His scattered thoughts were pulled back to the present when Cheshire decided to shift into her biggest form, the Greater Tiger. Joshua didn't need sensing to know that almost everyone had been caught off guard. Even Gabriel's life energy seemed to twitch in surprise.

'Show off,' Joshua thought, getting amusement through his bond with Cheshire. As it turned out, after their newest evolution and the progress they'd all had with the Bond skill, he found that his familiars could understand him much better through their connection. It didn't quite work the same the other way around, but they certainly could make themselves understood much better now, even if they weren't really using words.

"Fascinating," Gabriel breathed out then, taking a few steps towards Chesire almost without thinking. "You are just full of surprises, aren't you?" she asked then, seemingly snapping herself out of whatever thought had occupied her mind before. "How'd you accomplish such a thing?"

"A bit of magic, a bit of the familiar bond and a bit of the meddling of a particular god," Joshua replied, moving to start casting his magic finally. Through the Charm, he felt Shed "grumble" something at him, which was more amusing than anything else. The other two deities seemed to agree with that too, so Joshua thought he was safe. 'Any chance of me getting another beer after I'm done?' he asked, taking advantage of the opportunity.

Nephthys replied to him with an amused and smug feeling that had Set joining Shed in the grumbling. Joshua was pretty sure the goddess was bragging, but quite honestly, her beer was good enough that she deserved to be able to do it. Not to say that she was his favorite, really. All of them brought great things to the table, after all.

And maybe she was trying to make up for the fact that most of her blessings hadn't come into effect since he was nowhere near maxing out his magic skills? The only one that had actually gone over its previous cap was Spell Modification, after all.

Suddenly, both of the male deities were the ones to be smug while a certain goddess sulked.

'Uh, sorry,' Joshua apologized wryly while he started casting.

"You said we could talk to you?" Gabriel asked him, to which he nodded, not really looking up from his work. He hadn't wanted to kick the Seraph out in her own base – room, really, but still –, and besides, he could cast just fine. It was just that he didn't want anyone interrupting more… violently, so most of the time it was better to have his guards outside wherever he was working.

Somehow, he didn't think there was quite as much danger now that one of the top angels was there to have his back.

"I heard that you got the books on Boons from us after the last time you helped one of our bases?" the angel asked, but she didn't seem to actually want an answer to that this time. This was proven when she immediately continued talking. "I've heard that your arrays have helped to find some of those that aren't… quite on our side, despite saying they are," the woman said then, sounding both unsure and hurt. "For that, you have our gratitude."

"Just doing my job," he replied simply, but not curtly. He needed most of his focus on casting, even if he could still participate in the conversation. "The books being given in advance was appreciated."

"Have you had any chance to check on them?" the angel asked curiously. She hadn't quite gotten rid of the downtrodden emotions, however, from what he could hear.

"I have," he replied with another nod. "They are fascinating, especially when compared to Wards and Hexes."

And they truly were.

It was very interesting to be able to see all three branches with a better understanding of them. They were, in a way, sibling magics, but that was something he'd already known by just looking at the two he'd already been working on. Adding Boons had added not only a third part of a picture that he hadn't been aware of before, but also thrown a few puzzle pieces on the sides that he'd once considered complete.

From what he understood, and everything pointed to this conclusion being correct, Wards were the neutral branch of the trinity. They could do just about everything, but they were average, the Jack-of-All-Trades, as it were. Hexes, for their part, were a more aggressive branch, good at dealing damage, inconveniencing and overall acting against their targets. Boons, on the other hand, did the opposite to those latter ones, being good at helping, supporting and overall acting in favor of their targets.

It was safe to say that he'd be checking on Boon information to tweak his Phoenix Spell. The branch was basically made for that kind of magic, that kind of effect. Maybe he'd be able to turn the whole thing from a Ward-but-not-really into a Boon.

Interestingly, both Hexes and Boons had more in common with each other than with Wards. Joshua had expected them to be closer to the middle ground than their opposites, but that was just not the case. If anything, the neutral variant seemed almost – but not quite – disconnected from the other two. One such instance was that both of the contradictory branches used the same concept for their foci, items whose symbolism and meanings better fit the purpose of the spell, instead of the more bland and generic wardstones.

There were many other such similarities between the two though, such as-

Cheshire meowed, calling for Joshua attention back to the present.

"Sorry, my mind got away from me," he said sheepishly. "Did I miss something?" he asked, looking around the room a bit. 'Besides casting the whole outer circle of the array?'

"Nothing much," Gabriel reassured kindly, looking more amused than anything else. Irina and Xenovia looked rather put off, but not too much. That was good, he didn't want to be put back in their shitlists. That'd be annoying. "I just said that I look forward to seeing what you can do."

"Yeah, me too," he replied with an excited grin. "I'll probably start casting in a week or two. I can't wait to start experimenting with that branch. The things I could do with it if I get it to work together with Wards and Hexes," he commented, feeling like a kid again, unable to wait to read a new book in a series or something of the sort.

As he turned back to his job though, he missed the widening of both Gabriel's and Griselda's eyes.

[}-o-{]

"Joshua, she's cheating!"

"I'm not!"

As the two children in the room whined, Joshua could only stare at them, thoroughly distracted from his work. In that moment, he wondered how his life had come to the point that it had. When had he gone from the guy that worked in a cafe and had a relatively peaceful life to… This.

"Joshua!"

"Joshua!"

He stared at Kunou and Serafall as both of them gave him the puppy dog eyes. Kit fox eyes, in the former's case, he supposed. Normally, that kind of weapon would be devastating to him, but in this case… Joshua found himself sighing.

"Kunou stop cheating," he said, giving the girl an unimpressed expression. "And yes, explaining the cards in a confusing way or not completely counts as cheating," he added when the little one went to protest. After that, she deflated, looking down. "And Serafall… Aren't you a little old to be arguing with a child?"

"Old?!" Serafall exclaimed then, eyes wide and hand on her chest.

He just raised an eyebrow at her.

"That's how you see me?! Am I an old hag to you, Joshua?!" she asked then, sounding like she was on the verge of panicking. Sighing and massaging the bridge of his nose, Joshua wondered if he should just teleport back home. He didn't think he had what it would take to deal with things as they were.

Maybe testing the now mostly finished card game Kunou and him had made had been a bad idea…

Especially with Serafall.

"You are an adult, arguing with a child, Serafall," he replied in the end, giving the two of them the most "done with this" expression he could manage. "That's what I was saying."

"Aha! So you admit that I'm a smoking hot young woman!"

"... That's… How did…?" he muttered, blinking as if trying to check if he was actually in the real world and not in some weird dream or illusion. "... You know what? Sure."

"Yay!" Serafall cheered as Joshua dragged a hand over his face.

Cheshire meowed, apparently as bemused as he felt.

"Yes, this is my life now," he muttered, placing his hand over the cat's head and petting her absently.

"What about mom?" Kunou asked innocently. "Do you think she's also, how was it? Smok-" Joshua fixed the girl with a look that made her stop talking. "What?"

"Oh, so you don't think I am?" a new voice asked.

"You are supposed to be the sensible one, Yasaka. Please don't join them," Joshua said, trying not to whine as he turned towards the woman, who was now standing by the door. "I need someone that's not a child in the room."

Cheshire protested that, scratching him a little with her claws.

"That sounds like a no," the woman commented, giving him an amused smile.

Joshua stared at her, then looked to Serafall and Kunou, both of whom were watching intently. Seeing that nobody would say anything, he sighed again. 'How many times does that make?' he thought to himself as he decided to get things over with.

"You are both beautiful young women… That should be above this sort of childishness," he said, giving them both a flat look.

"What about me?" Kunou asked innocently this time.

"You are a brat."

"Joshua!"

"It's great that you are here, Yasaka. You deal with them," Joshua said then, before anything else could happen. "I keep reading about this bit in the books on Boons and I want to see if I find more. It sounds like it'd go well with-"

"Before that, Joshua," the woman interrupted, making him blink and look up. "You wouldn't have anything to do with the handful of magicians that sent me messages saying they'd be open to do jobs for me for free?"

"Oh, they sent them already? They are fast," he replied, a little surprised. "I told them in today's class and that was… like an hour ago."

"Two," Kunou corrected helpfully.

"What did you do?" Yasaka asked him, eyes narrowed.

"I just told them that I could get them their feet on the door with you. One free job and if they did well, then you'd add them to your contacts for such things," Joshua answered, grinning. "That way, I'm not actually pulling favors and you don't have to trouble yourself with payments that only complicate things for you right now."

Maybe it wasn't a good idea to have such a conversation with Serafall present, but she was a friend and a good one at that. Joshua was confident that she wouldn't spread the word around creating misunderstandings. She might act dumb, but she was far from that.

"Joshua…"

"What? Is it a bad solution? I thought it was good enough," he asked, suddenly a little concerned. He'd been sure that doing that wouldn't be a problem. After all, this way it was more him doing them a favor getting them Yasaka's attention and Yasaka giving them a chance to show her what they were worth for free. His students were young and low enough on the totem pole that they would do it too, from what he knew of them.

"No, no, it's fine," Serafall told him cheerfully. "Yasaka is just shy."

"Ah, that makes sense," Joshua replied, getting more used to the Satan's mannerisms by the day. He was pretty sure some time ago he might have found it at least a little weird to have someone call a faction leader shy.

"What was that about being childish?" Yasaka asked him.

"Turnabout is fair play," he answered, grinning at the woman. "And seriously, just take it. My students are good, as far as I can tell, and they could really use something like this to get their names out there. So, it's not like you – or I, for that matter – are scamming them or anything."

"... You are not going to cave, are you?"

"Doesn't sound like he is," Serafall answered for him, looking very amused. "For once. Maybe you can use the kit fox eyes?"

Disturbingly, Yasaka seemed to give that idea some serious consideration.

"Is it so hard to believe that I just want to help my friends be happy and not, you know, struggle and such things?" Joshua said, because he wasn't sure how he'd deal with the pleading eyes of the youkai leader if she decided to give Serafall's suggestion a try. He'd resisted Serafall and Kunou before, but that had been a different situation altogether. "Just accept the help, will you?"

The woman sighed and Joshua did much the same internally.

He'd dodged a bullet there, certainly.

"You don't make things easy, do you, Joshua?" Yasaka asked him, and when he went to argue with that, she continued. "I don't think you realize how deeply ingrained in the supernatural the need to repay debts and favors is."

"Even between friends?"

"Even then."

Joshua stared at her for a long moment before massaging his forehead.

"If it makes you feel better, just add it to my tab or something and you can see about repaying me later," he told her, suddenly feeling just as done as he felt before when dealing with Kunou and Serafall. "Sometimes I forget that the supernatural is… not normal. Which, I know, makes me stupid."

"... I'll keep that in mind," Yasaka told him with an unreadable expression. It confused him a fair bit, if he were honest. Sometimes, it was a little frustrating how little he could read Yasaka and Serafall. A little unfair too, but that was beside the point.

"I feel like I'm being left out of something here," the Satan in the room commented, narrowing her eyes as she looked between Joshua and Yasaka.

"I'd offer helping you so you owe me favors, but if it's anything like doing that with Yasaka, then it's too troublesome for me," Joshua replied.

"But Joshua!"

"This is somehow your fault, Yasaka," he accused, his eye twitching. "I forbid you from asking for favors, Serafall."

"But Joshua~!"

"Domino Mask might have to mysteriously disappear, I gue-"

"I'll be good," Serafall told him, sitting straight and putting up her best innocent look. Which wouldn't have fooled anyone that knew her, obviously. It was amusing though, he supposed.

That was when the door opened.

"Fuyuko, thank goodness. I could kiss you." Joshua exclaimed, snapping his fingers to make his cup of tea appear in his hand. "Thank you," he added, emphatically.

Working so much in different projects was wearing on him, after all. He'd found himself with less and less energy through his days. Almost an unnoticeable thing but slowly, he was coming to realize that he might be burning out. 'Just need to keep it up a little bit. With the Phoenix Spell done, I'll be able to rest.'

After all, that was the only really pressing matter. Joshua knew that, at least according to canon, Khaos Brigade wouldn't become a real problem until later down the line. Same for many of the other problems that he remembered from canon. Rias' problem with the Phenex family was much closer in the timeline…

Unless the AU elements and/or the changes he'd made caused shit to happen faster? That kind of question made Joshua feel very nervous, but he had to draw the line somewhere. If not, then he'd probably worry to death.

Point was, he was fairly certain that most of his projects could wait, except for the Phoenix Spell. So, with that in mind, Joshua took the cup of tea, sipped from it and then focused on the tomes and notebooks laid in front of him. As he'd been saying before, he had found several mentions in the Boon related texts that pointed in a direction that he thought he could find something useful in to help with his healing spell project.

Now just-

Someone poked his side.

"... Do you need something, Kunou?" he asked, turning and trying not to look too tired with the girl. He hadn't quite been successful as of late in that regard, but he could still try. He blinked when the girl silently regarded him with narrowed eyes.

Then she took his arm and pulled him down.

"Kunou?" he questioned. He let her do as she wanted though, because he was curious and because… Well, she was his daughter. He could humor her with such things, he decided. Fortunately, he'd remembered to set his cup of tea on the table. It'd have been a mess if he hadn't.

"Rest," the girl told him simply as she made him lay down and placed his head on her lap. "You are tired."

"I can rest later at home when-"

"No, now," she demanded and he looked up at her amber eyes. The thing that convinced him to do as she said was the concern in her eyes. 'Maybe I've been doing a worse job at hiding how weary I feel than I thought,' he mused, letting a breath out and settling where he was.

"I guess I can do this for a bit," Joshua agreed in the end, drawing a little smile from the girl that finished convincing him that it was a good enough idea. "You feel like watching a story?" he asked, making his daughter grin wider.

"Can we?" she replied with, to which he gave a slight nod before closing his eyes.

"What do you want to see? There's this story about a boy in a world that's mostly water and that wants to be the freest person in the seas. There's another about a young man in a world of fantasy that finds a dragon egg in a forest. Or-"

"Is there one with foxes?" Kunou asked, making him chuckle.

"Well, I think I know one you'll like. So, there was this village with a big stone monument on a mountain by it. A boy lived in it, you see, and he just wanted people to acknowledge him…"

[} Chapter End {]

Hey guys! How's it going?

Eh, for once, I don't feel too nervous about a chapter, which is nice. Especially considering that I'm feeling kind of like Joshua. I might be burning out, so I'm considering taking a month off or at least a month of taking things easy, which might be possible since I have some chapters of backlog for my other stories.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the chapter.

As always, if you can't wait until next week for next chapter, there's up to three new chapters in my Pa tre on:

P a treon . com (slash) AdrianKing

Discord Link: discord .gg/UTDransjJZ

Random Question: Do you play D&D? I don't, even though I've been curious about it for a long time. I just never seem to find a group for it or the nerve to actually really look into it.

See you.