Disclaimer: I don't own Highschool DxD.

Pouring the Fuel-


"Griselda," he replied in kind after the teleportation was finished. On his shoulder, Margalo chirped her own greeting cheerfully while Cheshire did accordingly in her lynx form to his right. "I'd say it's good to see you, but…"

"The situation is less than ideal, indeed," she said with a smile on her face that seemed to try to hide a grimace. "Gabriel told me to inform you that with this, you'd be more than making up for Carnwennan," the woman told him before turning slightly and signaling for him to follow. "This way, please."

"Are exchanges in the supernatural always open-ended or is that just a thing for me?" Joshua asked then, slightly amused. Because yeah, he usually did leave deals like that, considering that he didn't want much. However, there also seemed to be others that did the same with him. Notably, the angels, as was becoming evident now. There was also Shed and the Egyptian pantheon, but Joshua wasn't too sure if that counted.

"I'm reasonably sure that it's not a common thing, no," Griselda said, and her lips pulled up on a much more real smile this time. "Maybe it doesn't mean much coming from me, but the angels are placing a lot of trust in you with what they are doing, now and before."

"I gathered," he replied with a slight nod, his mood brought down a bit by the seriousness of that statement and the situation. That's when his eyes started taking his surroundings. The place looked… he wasn't very sure how to call it, really. It was like seeing a hotel or a school or something like that, but mixed with a church. He wasn't sure if there was a name for that kind of thing, that sort of architecture, but it was certainly interesting. "Nice place."

"Thank you, although I'm not sure that description quite fits one of the biggest, most important bases of the Church," Griselda commented, making his eyes widen. This seemed to amuse the woman quite a bit, if the glint in her eyes and the half-smile on her face were any indication. "Well, one of them outside of the Vatican, that is," she continued as they walked through a long corridor. "That one is under close protection of the angels now, so extra measures aren't quite as necessary as in other places such as this one," she explained, to which he nodded slowly as he considered that.

"Good to know," he mused, glancing around to take everything in. Every little detail would be useful for the spell crafting he'd need. Most of his wards would need to be tailored to the place, but at least he was unlikely to need to make anything too complex from scratch. "I didn't ask before, you guys kinda dropped this on me really suddenly, but am I allowed to place hexes around here or will it be only wards?"

"Wards only," Griselda said, but at least she didn't sound nor look offended or disgusted by the suggestion. If anything, she sounded like she regretted having to say that, which was interesting and something Joshua noted for himself. "The situation is shaky at best now, even with the people on our own side. The angels and those of us that are fully on their side would like not to shake the boat much more than it's already been."

"That makes sense," he mumbled, and it really did. However, that meant that his options would be limited. Sure, both wards and hexes worked well enough separately, but they worked even better when they were put together. There were things that they did better than the other, which meant that one could get much better effects if they took advantage of that. It was unfortunate, but he'd expected that restriction when he'd gone there. He'd just wanted to confirm that. "Anything I should know about this?" he asked.

"Making defenses that can differentiate who is on our side and who isn't is a complicated matter," Griselda answered slowly, taking a moment to consider what to say after that. "Especially since some of them are not actually that different from us. People who have been… misguided."

"That makes sense. You have any ideas of how to deal with that?" he asked, his mind already running through possibilities. Many of which, he was pretty sure the church and the angels would veto. "I'd like to know before I propose anything of my own. Especially since some of my ideas… Well, they aren't as church friendly, let alone angel friendly."

"We are working on it," Griselda said, drawing his attention towards her more fully. "You know the circle that signals the location of the user for Khaos Brigade to teleport?" she asked, making him blink. "We are thinking of making something like that. Something to signal to us who is on our side and who isn't."

"That's gonna be hard to accomplish, I imagine," Joshua replied, thoughtful. "You need to make it so that nobody but who you want to have it will get one. No way for it to be passed around, no way for it to be copied and so on," he mumbled, wondering how hard that would be.

"We are aware," Griselda nodded. "For the moment, we want you to build wards around some of our bases that will, hopefully, stop people with less than noble intentions towards our side. I know it's a complicated matter, probably a more complicated goal to accomplish than what we are attempting, but it doesn't have to be perfect. It's a temporary measure until our own efforts are ready to be applied."

"Hm, I can do that, I think. I need to check with you guys how… Invasive you want my wards to be," he told her, absently going over his options still. He could probably do something similar to how he read people with Magic Sense and Life Sense to pick up lies and such, tweak it into picking on intentions and certain attitudes or such. That was a possibility and something that could be approached from several sides and in several ways.

"And I'm here to give you the information that you'll need to tailor your wards," Griselda told him, finally leading him into a room with a big round table in the middle. On top of it were blueprints and files and books. Idly, he looked at the formers to check if there was anything that would make his job more difficult or, unlikely but possible, easier. "I'm sure you understand why you have to come here to get this information instead of it being sent to you."

"Yeah, that'll be troublesome if I have to make the trip here every time to work on this but I get it," Joshua nodded. After all, these were important bases he was gonna ward, so the information regarding them needed to stay secret. Speaking of information, as they talked, Joshua found a book that was supposed to detail what kind of defenses were already set around the place. Now that would probably be the most useful part of all the information he was given. After all, he didn't want to set up a spell that would interfere with any of that. Neither did he want his wards to be canceled by another thing accidentally.

"If there's anything else you need, just say the word, Joshua," Griselda told him, but he was only half listening. There were some impressive things on the defenses of the base, including, but certainly not limited to, wards. One thing in particular got his attention quite powerfully.

"You said you guys would owe me if I did this, right?" he asked, eyes fixed on what he'd found. The more he read about it, the more interested he was. He heard something affirmative be said, but he was barely paying enough attention to notice. "You think it's enough for you guys to provide me with books on these… Boons?" he asked.

Because those things looked to be stuff right up his alley. They were exactly like wards and hexes, from what he could see. Or, maybe it was better to say that they were similar to wards and the opposite of hexes. From what he was seeing, while hexes were strictly aggressive and damaging, boons seemed to be exclusively soothing and helpful. 'Interesting, very interesting,' he mused as he continued reading on it like the text would disappear in front of him.

"I'll have to check, but it should be doable," Griselda said and he turned to stare intently at her. His gaze seemed to catch her off guard, if her slightly widened eyes were any indication. She even seemed to be a little embarrassed about not having a straight answer to give him, blushing the smallest bit. "I'm sorry, but I'm unlikely to have answers myself. I'm not… really the most qualified person for this, but I'm the one that's…" she trailed off after that, but Joshua could guess.

"The most qualified to deal with me?" he finished, a corner of his mouth pulling up. "I guess that makes sense. I imagine I don't have many fans in your faction, all things considered," he added, turning to continue reading, if not really focusing on it. "What with being allied with the devils and the fallen to some extent."

To that, Griselda grimaced.

"That's some of it, yes, as… Xenovia showed," the woman told him, and that last part looked as it actually pained her to admit. "And it also doesn't help your case that… Well, some people are blaming you for the current state of affairs. From our joint ventures with those factions and the youkai, to the angels turning a blind eye to a Satan's presence close to our territory."

She was talking about the attack on Phil's house, he realized. Feeling like someone was grabbing and squeezing his heart, Joshua brought a hand up to thumb his locket. Yeah, he guessed Serafall's arrival there wasn't good for the political scene of the Church and Heaven. However, he had to wonder what was going on there. Why was it such a big deal when in canon they'd signed peace without a Civil War? Was it some change he'd made that had spiraled out of control really fucking terribly? Or was it some other alternative universe thing?

"I guess I should do this for free then and keep the Boon Magic in mind for next time," he mumbled with a grimace, simply continuing looking through everything he was provided. Maybe he could get info on those from some other source. Surely Agnes could help with that, right? The Director of House of Water didn't seem to be very confident in getting information about Hexennacht, so maybe-

"Nothing of the sort," Griselda told him, interrupting his train of thought and making him turn towards her with slightly widened eyes. "Things were tense before your involvement. There were many incidents that had nothing to do with you either, Joshua. It's difficult to admit, but before you came about, there were more problems, even if a Civil War is a lot more drastic in comparison. The Church was… It wasn't in a good place before Heaven started getting involved again."

"I… guess…" Joshua mumbled, unsure of what else to say. How was he supposed to react to that? Was he supposed to answer in some way? The empty smile Griselda sent his way didn't give him any clues, quite honestly.

"I'm just telling you so you won't feel guilty," the woman continued, sighing and then taking a seat on one side of the table and waving for him to do the same, which he did. "There's a reason Xenovia was… as extreme as she was, it wasn't just me failing to raise her well… Or so I tell myself, at least."

"If it makes you feel any better, I don't think it's your fault either," Joshua said, turning to look at the files once more. He wasn't sure it was his place to comment or not, but… "You don't strike me as the kind of person that would raise someone as… extreme as Xenovia seemed to be," he said, deciding to use the same descriptor the woman herself had used.

"Thank you. I appreciate those words, Joshua," she told him, to which he nodded and continued reading. Regardless of if Griselda or anyone else thought it was his fault or not that the woman's faction was at war with itself… He felt responsible for that and if nobody would hold him accountable for it, he would do it himself. Thus, he could do his best to make up for that and place wards so good that even he would decide it was enough.

Besides, if there was Khaos Brigade corruption causing this mess too, then that was all the motivation he needed.


"Hmmm…" Kunou hummed exaggeratedly. Or, at least, Joshua thought she was exaggerating. However, the girl looked to be entirely serious, considering her expression and the intensity of her stare. That was… a little surprising, he'd admit.

"So, what's the verdict?" he asked, raising his eyebrows as he looked back to the full length mirror on the wall to his side. There he was, trying out the clothes Kunou and Yasaka had picked together, which was a little funny because they were basically the same things he usually wore.

Sneakers, jeans that in this case were black, a plain white shirt and… Well, the last item was a plaid shirt over the other one and left open, which was the only thing that was sort of new for him to put on. He was reasonably sure that it was all Kunou's choosing, really, and Yasaka had just made sure the girl didn't pick anything silly or such. That was his guess, at least.

"I like it," Kunou declared with a firm nod as if she were deciding on some super important matter. It was very amusing, which made Joshua share a smile with Yasaka before the woman giggled behind her hand. "We are getting more of those," their daughter said firmly, in a tone that brooked no arguments.

"Sure thing, Kunou," he agreed easily, because really, it wasn't uncomfortable or anything. Besides, she could have gone for something much more troublesome that he might not have wanted to wear. He'd much rather those shirts, quite honestly.

With a slight grin, he thumbed the locket over his chest as he saw Kunou move around the store again, looking for more shirts.

"You don't have to indulge her," Yasaka told him, to which he rolled his eyes.

"It's fine," he assured her, waving off her concern. "I sort of like it, I think. It's definitely new, and not the bad kind. Certainly better than some other things she could have gone for," he commented with a grin. "I'm paying for all these, by the way," he added, drawing slightly narrowed eyes from the woman.

"No, you are-" she started protesting but he was already moving to follow Kunou. It was just to make sure she wouldn't get lost or in trouble, just that. Nothing else at all, no sir. "Come back here, mister," Yasaka called from behind him.

"Your daughter is adorable," a woman told him once he reached Kunou and the girl showed him another plaid shirt but with a different color.

"I know, right?" Joshua answered with a grin, planting his hand on top of the girl's head and ruffling her hair. "Cutest thing in the world."

"Dad!" the girl whined, trying and failing to get his hand off her head. When she realized the futility of her efforts, she put her hands down and pouted at him. The only thing he replied with was a wider grin.

"Now, how about we get a few more shirts and go for ice cream, yeah? Before your mother tries to convince me she can pay for the stuff," he said, instantly making the girl's expression shift to a beaming one.

"Sure!" she exclaimed, quickly picking a few shirts and then grabbing his hand to pull him away. Behind him, he heard the woman giggling. As they reached the counter, Yasaka cleared her throat, which he dutifully ignored and paid for the clothes. As he finished that, he turned and gave the woman an unrepentant smile while Kunou snickered, hiding behind him as if that would stop her mother from knowing she was doing so.

"I will be paying for the ice cream," she declared.

"Sure you will," Joshua replied with a nod, drawing a narrow-eyed gaze from Yasaka once more. To that, he smiled innocently at her. Behind him, Kunou started laughing.


Joshua looked outside the window on the upper floor of his house. There, in the backyard, was the rest of his little family, or most of it, at least. Jeanne and his familiars were doing another round of practice while Asia worked diligently on her beloved plants. Normally, he'd have been there with them, but he was working on something pretty important that couldn't wait.

He took a moment to marvel on how well the nun was doing, however. She was still pretty shy and a little too willing to help anyone with anything. She was making progress little by little though, and the important part was that she was happier now, which was all Joshua cared about. That girl certainly deserved better than the lot she had been given in life.

'Ok, that's enough distraction,' he told himself, looking back inside and at his work.

The Phoenix Spell had gone through a lot of stages since he first started. He'd studied and re-studied countless times the Phenex Tears that Serafall brought with her whenever she came by, making wards and hexes in great quantities just to acquire as much data as he could. He'd studied other forms of healing, from Healing Magic to Twilight Healing and even Recovery Magic. He'd studied healing ingredients and plants and creatures, from books and sometimes even in person whenever Yasaka or Serafall could get their hands on one.

Hell, he had even delved into other branches that had nothing to do with healing to look for stuff.

Joshua had modified and tinkered with Healing Magic circles so much, and now adding what he'd managed to get from George regarding Recovery Magic circles… He was pretty sure he was turning that spell into something that was no longer from any of those two branches, or even from any other. He wasn't sure if it was a branch of its own, but it was certainly not what he'd started or worked with. There was more stuff that was different than stuff that remained the same, if it could even be considered "the same" at all.

And now, he looked down at the circle he'd managed to put together with all that work.

It was a prototype at best. At worst, and looking at it more realistically, it was the prototype of a prototype of a prototype. There were flaws in it that he was very aware of but he couldn't fix just yet because if he tried, the whole thing fell apart. They were flaws, for sure, but they were necessary ones for the thing to work.

The biggest of which was the drain in energy. The thing was designed to suck the energy out of whoever it was targeting and use it to heal them. If his math was right, and he was pretty sure he was right, then that drain would be very fucking drastic.

Another problem was that it needed a hell of a lot of finetuning. This particular circle had been tailored for Joshua himself and it wouldn't work on anyone else. Likely, it'd fail spectacularly if used on someone other than him, really.

A third problem was that he was pretty sure it was a one time use thing and it'd completely obliterate the wardstone used as a foci for it. The energies used were just too wild and strong for the poor things to survive a single use. At least, that's what Joshua expected would happen, and he knew a thing or two about wardstones, if he did say so himself.

There were also a million other little – and not so little – issues. He'd have to work through them with time, look for a way to fix them without the spell falling apart. It'd probably take a lot of time and a lot of work, but… But that was for the future.

At the moment, Joshua wanted to test the damn thing. He had worked and worked and worked on the fucking thing and he was so goddamn tired of it. He'd researched, studied and worked on the spell for what felt like forever. He was tired of it, he wanted to use it, even if it was faulty and it barely held itself together with duct tape.

He needed to use it, because every day he worked on it, he didn't feel like he was making progress anymore. It was always more of the same thing and he was growing weary of it all. He needed to know he was making some kind of progress or he'd go mad. He needed to know that he hadn't been wasting his time for so long, he needed to know that the goal was achievable sometime soon.

He didn't remember the exact date for the Phenex to push things forward faster but considering a few clues that were around… Well, he didn't have that much time. So… he needed to know if he could make it. Otherwise, he'd have to take some other approach. There were some paths, like contracting with Rias and helping her much more directly and thoroughly. He didn't like those paths, of course, which was why he was doing what he was doing, but… If things didn't work, he'd have to choose from one of those options. He liked even less the idea of leaving Rias to Riser, after all.

So, there he sat, with notes and books pushed to the side, a circle in front of him and wardstone in his hand. Taking a deep breath in, he placed the gem in the middle of the spell array and looked at it for a long moment, as if the thing would tell him something he didn't already know. When nothing happened, he activated the spell, the circle shining brightly for a moment before going dormant once more, like all his wards.

'Now… the last step,' he mused with a grin as he placed a Shield Ward to protect himself and his things when the wardstone blew up… if it did, he wasn't sure if that would happen or if the thing would just crumble away. Either was very likely, really.

'And so, we test it,' Joshua thought, picking up a knife from his side and moving it towards his other arm. After a second, he made a cut that would not be considered small by anyone.

The effect was immediate. The wound lit up instantly. Little flames appeared right there, even though he felt no heat whatsoever and then… The whole thing lasted barely a second, before the fire disappeared and the light dimed. Idly, he was aware that the wardstone had indeed blown up and sent little shards everywhere that were stopped by his Shield Ward. He could have cared less for how he felt like he was just about to be hit with another bout of Magical Exhaustion, even though his reserves had been almost full before the ward did its thing. His attention wasn't on that, however.

No, Joshua's attention was on his perfectly healed arm.

A wound like that would have taken a while with a Healing spell, or with Asia's Sacred Gear, or with any other method he knew off. This one went away in no time at all… Which was exactly what he was trying to achieve.

Slowly, a grin formed on his face.

[} Chapter End {]

Hey guys! How's it going?

Well… The main thing I wanted to talk about here is that I know we've been stuck forever in the Phoenix Spell thing, but that's on purpose. It's supposed to be a very long and very time consuming endeavor. It's supposed to be a huge thing, and I didn't want to do it even remotely in a way that felt forced or quick. An argument could be made that it still took too long, but I don't think so. If anything, it's still going too quickly, I feel.

Remember, devil bloodlines are a big deal.

We've also taken a peek into the Civil War situation, even if from very much outside of where the action is going on. After all, Joshua has no business being there at all. He's not part of the Church or Heaven. He's an outside force, even if he's tangentially involved in this conflict. Not sure how much we'll see of this, to be honest, but the story will tell as it goes on, I guess.

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: We have a lot of plotlines going on right now, don't we? Which is the one that interests you the most?

See you.