Fate/Bonds Beyond Humanity


77- Destruction Vs Immortality: Ashes to Ashes


Explosions filled the sky as the two Queens moved rapidly to dodge and attack the other faster than light and stronger than ballistic missiles as both ramped up their powers slowly, trying to catch their opponent off guard.

Yet they both knew the other was still holding back, memories of their past battle and belief in their enemy's capability kept their minds open to possible tricks. Neither had brought out the 'big guns' either as Lightning and Fire kept colliding in barely formed states as they used mostly basic attacks.

Basic for them at least since the Queens were demonstrating a huge meastry over their respective Elements. Akeno's Lightning took the shape of spears and spikes that utterly failed to penetrate Yubelluna's wall and balls of Fire. Their collision was more than unstable and even the Bomb Queen couldn't control how their attacks would explode upon contact.

All they knew was that they would explode and a fast paced chess match of positioning began as the purple haired woman focused much of her mana in her staff to create a huge ball of flames with a magic circle in its center. "Cluster Bomb!"

It was the first part of her new set up and one Akeno would have to dodge as the sphere exploded after just a few meters of flight to spread several similar balls over the skies. Anyone who knew Yubelluna's fighting style knew she was trying to build her Bomb Cage, something that locked the younger Queen up in their first match.

But there were differences as the woman was using specific techniques and words of power to build her trap. Also those bombs were stronger than in the past so the priestess wasn't going to underestimate the smaller ones' capability. No, she wouldn't even allow them to take the skies as Lightning danced between her hands before she called her other Element.

"Thunder Spheres!" Where the older Queen made over a dozen smaller bombs the younger one created barely ten much faster and less focused.

They spread around quickly before exploding, shockwaves going around to create a chain reaction that dismantled the cage before it was ever built.

Sure the sky from the pocket dimension was a mix of red and brown but only then did it was lit with enough fire to reflect the land below. At least around the tallest peak as the two Queens clashed several kilometers above it. Powerful flames were formed with each bomb and their owner was quick to manifest her will.

Yubelluna smirked as she raised her staff with one hand in a circular motion and the flames made by her bombs began to focus around her. "Still much to learn, little girl!" Taunted the Bomb Queen while focusing her magic to give the flames a new form. "Past the gates of Hell I call the Guardian who protects the Domain of the Rich One!" The blaze began to take a new shape; a giant hound with three heads spitting fire from its three mouths. While not the even closer to the Original's might, its size was at least twelve meters of length made with the fires from all previous explosions. "Blazing Cerberus!"

It roared without a sound but plenty of fire as the three dog-like heads directed all their fury forwards towards Akeno's figure. "Oh dear, that is new." The High Priestess Reinforced her body as Lightning Chains formed beneath her haori.

"That is me taking you seriously from the start!" Raising the staff the Cerberus was like a storm of fire condensed on that form. It wasn't alive and couldn't exactly follow orders but Yubelluna had several magic circles along its body and necks which, much like her bombs, gave her all the control she needed. "Get ready, little girl!"

With a swing of her staff the older Queen sent its creation towards Akeno who looked excited about facing such a thing. "Are we on this again?" She asked about the nickname while flying straight towards the fake Hound of Hell.

Despite not having a mind of its own the creature spit flames in her path but chains of Lightning and Thunder danced on its owner's arms cutting through the Fire without difficulty as Akeno coordinated them in a rhythm that saw the fake Cerberus cut apart.

Just for her to see Yubelluna's smile. "It is so easy to trick little girls with a fake Aria and such." She made a motion like hitting her staff on the ground but a magic circle was created and it took control of the flames faster than any predecessor. It had help from several of those already inside the Cerberus but when it was done, the trap had been set. "Bomb Cage!"

Indeed Akeno was once again surrounded by several spheres of concentrated mana ready to hit her from all directions. The ravenhead found herself looking around for any exit but her attack on the construct of flames had spread them all to perfectly surround the young priestess.

She remembered very well the trap from the first Rating Game, Yubelluna's trump card that demanded her sacrifice for just a tie. 'Not this time. If I can't defeat this, then I haven't grown at all.' Akeno couldn't help but smile as the Bomb Queen created more traps to fill the skies. 'I still have a few tricks.' The Serpent Eye shone on her neck. 'But I will escape this on my own.'

Bomb Cage was a terrifying space where the smallest use of mana had all its 'mines' moving to attack its target. Just having her chains out was already getting a reaction as every single one of them moved in her direction. Sure it was slow, at least for her standards, but the Queen knew it was only the beginning.

The closer they got the faster bombs would move and Medusa's priestess only had a few seconds before they stopped being turtles and became missiles. With how much Fire the Cerberus had been made off there were almost as many bombs as the cage from the first Rating Game.

Almost but not quite and as Yubelluna worked there were some openings left and Gremory's youngest Queen didn't hesitate to dive low for one of them. Only to be shocked when all bombs moved at once, some faster than others despite being very far which should be impossible.

Unless the technique was different. 'I have been played~' Akeno thought with good humor just as several bombs were about to hit her. "Raijin!"

Arrow heads formed on the chains' tips and they quickly bounced around several bombs causing as many explosions. Because where she was the Queen was caught between several of them but she retained her flying path while moving around to hit the most distant bombs charging her way.

When she was about to crash with the ground she batted her wings to fly horizontally while the bombs pursued her trail. With a glance she could see Yubelluna was using a hand to create more mines around herself while the other controlled her staff. Once she had speculated that possibility and thought how fun it would be to see it play out.

Didn't stop it from being quite frustrating at the same time.

Smiling regardless, Akeno created a magic circle and used it to raise several stones in the air to not only unleash more explosions but also hide her from sight. Only for Yubelluna to send more bombs in that location and the feet of the mountain became ground zero for dozens of sudden explosions.

The Bomb Queen quickly created more bombs with her free hand while her eyes scanned everywhere for the priestess. 'She should have attacked by now.' A profissional rating gamer, she wouldn't consider her opponent beaten and done until the judges said so. "Where are you? Where are you, Akeno?"

A beat of her bat-like wings later, she approached the ground slowly and methodically, never stopping from creating bombs while also keeping them around her in a radius where the explosions couldn't reach.

Good for her too because when she was close enough she saw a hole big enough for a truck. "Underground?" Yubelluna could see lava beneath the earth and frowned. "You think I will fall for such an obvious trap?" Holding her staff with both hands she accelerated bomb production while spreading them around. "If you are a coward, you are running away… and you are no coward."

After a challenge like that, and her new personality that had the purple haired woman slightly worried, Akeno wouldn't just drop their fight. Better yet, Yubelluna refused to believe she would and so that could only mean the ravenhead devil had something planned.

Deducting that the younger Queen was hiding in the area, the Bomb Queen proceeded to bombard several kilometers of the desert in less than five seconds. It was the sort of image that belonged to the Apocalypse despite the bombs actually being sorta weak. At least when comparing to what the older devil could actually do.

Their goal was just to rip apart the surface and leave behind only fire or lava, giving Akeno no place to hide. If anything the feet of the mountain were quickly covered with several rivers of lava where no life could survive. Just looking at the sight had Yubelluna a little unnerved at how dedicated the arena's architects had been.

"Did they really just fill everywhere with lava and some spells before calling it a day?" It sounded so simple yet what she was seeing was a place more inhospitable than Phenex Territory. Quite a feat in her opinion. "Goodness, this is insanity. A good blast in the center of the map and everyone won't have anywhere to go but to fly. Now, where is Akeno…"

Once again her eyes searched and once again she came up with nothing but that wasn't enough to convince her that Akeno wasn't around. Closing her eyes she could feel the younger woman power and her gaze shifted towards the mountain with a frown after realizing her mistake.

Spinning her staff she started creating more bombs when something bursted out of the mountain. "A snake?!" At least something that looked like it as the creature couldn't be made of flesh. "Made of Lightning? Trying to imitate my trick?" Yubelluna asked when the serpent's golden eyes turned on her. "You will have to do more than that! Medium Bomb!"

As far as she was concerned any Elemental construct could pack as much punch as its creator wanted but a strong enough hit could destabilize it. All the Bomb Queen needed was enough power, in the right place. Creating a familiar or anything similar out of nowhere was the territory of the gods and magicians could only make facsimiles at best, after all.

So to say she was surprised when her bomb exploded on the Lightning snake's face and it remained intact was an understatement. When it flung itself at her, Yubelluna moved quickly to dodge with every intention to blast the wall where it came from in the belief Akeno was behind it, powering her creation.

Her logic was sound since the snake's tail was emerging from that hole and the priestess had to be there to control it. Unfortunately before she could do anything the Lightning Snake turned in her direction and lunged at her with its mouth open. The whole thing was as big as a train and its open mouth lacked teeth but nevertheless meant defeat.

Abandoning any plans for a counter attack, Yubelluna created several magic circles to shield herself and another use as a platform. The snake destroyed the shields easily, not falling apart even as the devil used her circles to try and blow it up from the inside. At that point the Bomb Queen didn't even know if the snake was some specific spell or pure Elemental manipulation.

Regardless, she used her newly created platform to propel herself away several times faster than normal with a sequence of quick explosions from her 'Small Bomb'. Obviously the weakest of her skills, so much so she never bothered to invoke its name for more power, but useful for the rapid fire movement she was after.

And the snake chased nonetheless, its tail finally leaving the hole and allowing Yubelluna to see its whole twelve meters of length. 'Where is Akeno? How is she controlling this-' All her focus returned to dodging as the Lightning wrapped itself around the mountain to try and reach her. 'Forget it. The trick doesn't matter! She is still there and so…'

Focusing on her staff the Bomb Queen called to all her remaining creations before taking a swing in the mountain's direction. A blink of an eye later and every last bomb remaining fell on the tallest rock and the serpent wrapped around it. Having used most of them to destroy the landscape, there were less than twenty bombs remaining.

Certainly not enough to destroy a mountain taller than Everest and consequently not enough to flush Akeno out either. However it was enough to destroy the snake which quickly proved to be another mistake when it blew up in an explosion of energy.

While safe from her own blasts, Yubelluna felt the concussive force and the Lightning from the snake consuming her body even as it grew numb. "Damn it!" She pushed through and began to fly up as fast as she could, knowing she was vulnerable as her body recovered from some spams. "I did it again! I underestimated her again! How could I have been so stupid?!"

Cursing herself, the Bomb Queen realized that the Gremory's peerage last match had been more subdued not because of Akeno's weakness but because of the rules. She had no way of knowing how strong Tsubasa or a Noble Phantasm was as her only point of reference was Bakuya which could be considered incomplete.

She had no way to know how strong Tsubasa was with Galahad's shield nor to know how much greater the Queen of Gremory's focus had become. Not without feeling it in her own skin.

Watching Gremory versus Sitri was actually a bad reference as Akeno didn't go for anything too 'flashy' to avoid being eliminated which in turn had Yubelluna confident the younger Queen's power hadn't grown much.

The blow back from the snake's destruction more than proved otherwise as the Lightning was several times stronger compared to when they first fought. Panicking in those sorts of circumstances could be fatal so she flew to the peak of the mountain, hoping that Akeno's reach with that snake wasn't long.

"Yahoo~" A vain hope as Medusa's priestess revealed herself by flying downwards from the very peak Yubelluna was escaping towards. "Took you long enough to find dear old me, fufufu." Her chains gained life, each incorporating one of her Elements as her violet eyes grew serious. "One god, two names. Let the Storm Rage. Raijin, Raiden!"

Hastily Yubelluna raised her staff and created as many shields as she was able in the space of a second. Thunder got through them first, blowing several barriers in smithereens before doing the same with every bone of her left arm. Lightning came next and the Phenex Queen's world became one of pain.

Lightning ran rampant all over her body and if asked she would say fire was less painful. At least when she was burned because of her studies and research the woman could confidently say she didn't scream.

Prideful as she was, the Bomb Queen tried and failed to stop the cries of pain that left her throat since the worst thing that had ever happened since her Reincarnation and even before was having Akeno's Lightning run around inside her when the blade pierced her midriff.

From there the power ran freely from one Queen to the other with the older one screaming all air of her lungs for a moment that was lost in the wheels of time. Muscles stopped responding and Riser's most faithful mistress fought to not lose her conscience. It was the memories of her King, his sister and her companions that kept her going.

But just barely as any weaker devil would have died if they had ended up in her position. However she was the Bomb Queen and even if Akeno shredded her pride and earned a scream of pain it was still there. That pride filled her resolve forcing the fingers around her prized scepter to stop shaking.

After mustering a titanic effort that pushed her very being to her limits, Yubelluna managed to move her staff and blow up one of the chain's links. Unfortunately the damage was already done as she felt her body spasms and failed to stabilize her flight.

Making matters worse Akeno was already by her side twirling like a ballerina, a symphony in her lips and a ball of death shining ever more brightly. "Raiden!"

When the priestess let the attack go it grew until it was Yubelluna's size and the purple haired woman didn't even have time to show disbelief. With that same titanic effort that allowed her to blow up the chain she raised her staff once more. Either for countering or blocking, the truth was that not even the older woman knew.

It was too late anyway and the demolition ball hit her without any real obstacle, the Queen of Phenex crashing in the mountain before the thing roared one last time as its Thunder was fully unleashed.

Akeno placed a hand on her forehead over her eyes in a mockery of protecting it from light that wasn't there or better yet it was but she was the one responsible for it. Her attack had been so strong and devastating that the mountain gained a new hole in it, one so big that despite being its center the peak began to fall apart.

The rock slide poured on her creation without mercy, covering several of the lava pools and fires that hid inside the mountain. The Queen of Gremory had seen plenty while evading Yubelluna bombardment but she could easily admit that the mountain had far more lava than she previously thought.

Looking up pensively she frowned before muttering. "No call? Oh dear, don't tell me she survived all that. I pretty much dropped a mountain on her… Fufufu. Well, not all of it."

Indeed the end result of Raiden had been a huge hole that looked like a mouth trying to devour the sky. There was plenty of the mountain still standing and luckily for Yubelluna the whole thing didn't fall at once.

In fact the purple haired woman got lucky in several levels since she didn't fall in the magma nor was hit by the whole of the rock slide. She was still buried alive by several tons of stone but she was a Queen and her Rook defense meant it wasn't enough to take her out.

She was close to defeat regardless as the Bomb Queen never had been so wounded in her life, certainly not in any previous Rating Game. 'How am I still awake?' Yubelluna asked herself while trying to move from her uncomfortable position. "Gah."

Took a lot of her strength but she managed to dislodge a few rocks to start getting herself up but it was a slow process as her left arm was beyond worthless at that point. Same could be said about her legs which she couldn't feel and it was a small miracle her right arm was functional.

When she emerged from the rocks it was in Akeno's sight and the ravenhead couldn't help but wince. "What are the judges doing?" She asked out loud while landing on a rock formation. "Seriously, you lost most of your skin and barely look functional…" One lone eye as the other remained closed from swelling and blood, glared at her and the younger Queen was nonplussed. "Doesn't all that hurt?"

"Yes… it does…" Yubelluna managed to say while pushing mana to her right hand and calling a magic circle. "But we are… the Phenex-"

"If you think I will let you use a Phoenix Tear then you are already delusional." Lightning gathered around her finger as the priestess let out a sigh. "Really, at this point, I am doing you a-"

A huge blast of fire consumed the Gremory Queen but not for long as she jumped out of it with smoke covering her form and some of her miko outfit burned. The disorienting experience didn't take her mind from reality and she knew the Queens were no longer alone.

One of the new fighters revealed herself with a battle cry and Akeno raised her hands in time to block a flaming fist courtesy of Isabela whose half masked face was glaring at her with fury.

"So, who else is here?" Akeno asked just as the short haired woman brought her other fist up towards her face, forcing her to duck. The ravenhead deflected a follow up elbow before trying to swipe the Rook off her legs only to fail and being forced to jump back. 'That is a solid stance.'

However there were no other thoughts to be had as another blast of fire was rapidly approaching from outside the cave and the priestess barely had time to dodge again only to have her path cut off by Isabela who returned with a high kick before transitioning to a side swipe that ended in an uppercut that actually connected with the ravenhead's chin.

It was the only real hit she got and Akeno was determined to make her pay for it, the Queen's bat-like wings bursting out to pull her back while the chains of Lightning came back to life one more time.

Isabela was caught off guard so a scream of fury was heard but the attack was far from done as the priestess moved around the Rook dragging the tied up arm over her shoulder. Despite the pain Isabela fought back and managed to follow the younger woman while keeping her arm in place.

But the chain wasn't in check so Akeno began to tie the short haired woman up, every link that touched her body amplifying the rate of Lightning punishing the Rook for her defiance. The Phenex Piece tried to punch the Queen during a pass but in a display of flexibility the Daughter of Baraqiel went under the arm to tie up the older woman's waist.

And she still had another chain to use which she did by turning its tip into a stake and stabbing Isabela's leg which had her screaming with pain while the second chain tied up her arm.

"Up we go~" Akeno sang fiercely to elevate her mana as she repositioned her feet to lift Isabela off the ground.

In that her Rook strength could do most of the job but the melody was useful to fortify the chains around the masked woman's body. Either from panic or resolve Isabela was doing her best to break free but the Lightning was stronger so long as its owner kept powering it up.

Had that been a one versus one then the Rook's capture meant the Queen's victory but the ravenhead was well aware there were two other enemies present. Yubelluna was already using a Phoenix Tear but that wouldn't be enough for a full recovery. No, the problem was the one who hadn't shown her face yet.

And Medusa's priestess had a good guess of who she was if the fire being thrown around was any indication. Said devil had already sent another fireball her way to either free the Rook or take the Queen out once and for all. But Akeno pivoted with one foot to pull Isabela in the projectile's way.

Only for the ball of flames to vanish as majestic orange wings that reminded the ravenhead of her own opened themselves and enveloped Isabela just when the fire was about to make contact. Akeno felt her chains break and pulled back when the fire dissipated to reveal Ravel Phenex who was holding her Rook with an arm while the other rested on her hip.

"Well now, those are some different wings." Akeno pointed out with a small smile. "Not devil-like at all. Almost like-"

"Phoenix's wings. Phoenix True WIngs." Ravel cut the older woman off. "My wings. I need to thank Rias for the lesson in imagination. Would you like to tell me where your King is so I can do so in person or is she too much of a coward to fight herself?" Part of the line sounded like it was from a script and in truth it was.

An amused Akeno saw it as one of the blond's many attempts to undermine her friend. "Don't worry, she will show up soon enough. If you earn it." Lightning formed in the tip of fingers before she pointed it at the still recovering Yubelluna. "Lightning Bolt!"

Several things happened at once; unrestrained Lightning flew towards the downed Queen who was still severely wounded despite consuming a whole bottle of Phoenix Tears while the Sole Daughter of the Phenex let her Rook go to dart like a missile to save her strongest Piece, leaving Isabela open for Akeno who dashed at her with a Lightning Spear forming in her hands.

Using her wings Ravel saved Yubelluna while creating a magic circle to drop three Phoenix Tears at the purple haired woman's feet before flying back at full speed. Fortunately Isabela had managed to summon her magic parry the spear with a punch but Akeno danced around and stabbed her side regardless.

However the point of contact was minimal and with a roar the masked warrior threw another punch that landed on the ravenhead's face. It wasn't enough and the spear soon turned into a chain to tie her arm again as its creator jumped back, pulling the Rook.

Isabela lost her balance easily enough but it was Akeno's turn to be surprised when Ravel came back with a scowl, a shout and using her left wing to cut the chain in half. Then she beat them three times; once to form a gust to push Akeno back, the second to make it stronger and the third to send a wave of Fire with the Wind.

Using a magic circle Akeno created a wall of rocks while her chains formed an improvised shield. The first barrier barely delayed the flames but the shield worked perfectly giving the priestess enough time to pinpoint Ravel's location with her senses. She was mildly disappointed when instead of attacking the blonde had flown back towards her Pieces.

Which was really good news for them as the Queen and Rook pair had their King's protection as they recovered. Yubelluna was basically bathing herself with Phoenix Tears which restored her skin while Isabela just drank hers.

"Whoa. All that for just little old me? You shouldn't have." Akeno taunted playfully while evaluating her situation as her chains returned to her sleeves. "Aren't you investing too much in just taking down a single Queen or did you supply your peerage with a city worthy of Tears?" Her hands came to her mouth as if scandalized. "Oh dear, please tell me it ain't so. That can't be good for your health."

Ravel failed to hide her annoyance before taking a deep breath and realizing hiding the truth was a moot point.. "Yes they are my Tears." Violet eyes grew wide at the confession. "And I gave one to each of my Pieces. Since your team already took down some, I saw no problem in redirecting my resources here." She opened her wings fully and the Hybrid truly could see how similar the devil's wings were to an angel's. "It was always my plan to overwhelm you all with numbers."

Akeno knew the young devil was buying time for the other women to heal but played along for the sake of Rias' plan. "So that was your plan… A little basic, don't you think?"

Taking a moment to collect herself, Ravel retracted her wings a little while replying. "I learned from Rias that, sometimes, simple is best." Looking to her right she saw Isabela jump to her feet and punch her fists together. "Even managed to anticipate that she wouldn't stay on the defensive this time. Not if she is that confident in her Pieces."

"You shower us with praise." The Queen of Gremory offered a small bow, her eyes never leaving Ravel. From her periphery she saw Yubelluna slowly stand up with a frustrated expression. "But everything hasn't gone according to the plan, or has it?"

No, it hasn't but Ravel wasn't going to admit that while Rias sending most of her Pieces was within her predictions, all of them proved to be far stronger than she expected by a huge margin.

The biggest example was the Queen before her, someone her own Queen had assured victory against but utterly failed. Yubelluna was right to be frustrated as Ravel being there meant she wasn't helping someone else as it was the plan. Obviously she suspected some push back but that was where she and Isabela would go in and secure victory.

Yet that didn't happen, Rias' team spread out just like hers as if to try and catch their Phenex counterparts on a sort of net. In simple terms both sides left their bases looking for a fight but only the redhead's had been able to cash out so far.

'So far' being the key element in Ravel's plans. "The plan is going just fine." She declared as Yubelluna summoned another staff from her magic circle and Isabela took point in front of both. "We just need to defeat you while the others distract your whole peerage."

"I think you are underestimating us a little too much." Akeno replied with a huge grin.

Which only unnerved her fellow Queen. "You may be stronger than we anticipated," Yubelluna pointed her staff at the younger woman, "but we will crush you all the same, Himejima Akeno."

"Three on one is hardly fair… for you." Mana flowed around Akeno as the gem on her throat shone brightly, waiting for the right moment. "Fufufu, I still have tricks in my sleeves. Want to see?"

"Stay calm, Yubelluna." Isabela couldn't believe she was saying that to her Queen but she clearly needed to. "She is trying to goad you."

"Yes but also not at all." Akeno confessed without hesitation. "I honestly believe I can crush all of you by myself." She could almost hear her counterpart gritting her teeth. "So let's move along and start this dance before the rest of my friends finish beating up yours. As their Senpai it will be a little disappointing if I am the last to finish… even if I do have a little extra work." Raising a hand with two fingers inches apart, she added. "Just a little."

That time Ravel utterly failed in hiding her laugh. "Ahaha! You think my strategy and a few Tears were the only things I prepared for this match?!" Opening her wings fully once again, she began to float above her Pieces as Fire gathered above her head almost like a crown. "Now who is underestimating who?"

"Are you talking about the Dragon Slaying weapons?" The Queen asked innocently but the Sole Daughter of Phenex offered no reaction. "Because they aren't strong enough to take down our Red Dragon Emperor~"

Indeed that was one of the procured resources to tip the scales in her favor and Ravel had no troubles admitting as much. "They are just the tip of the iceberg. Especially for the Red Dragon Emperor." She sounded extremely proud of herself. "Didn't he learn anything in the last match? Letting his earthly desires rule him in a fight can only bring him ruin."

Those words actually managed to make Akeno worried. "Do you-"

"Greater Bomb!" Time to talk was ended and Yubelluna renewed the fight by throwing her strongest attack; a huge ball of mana with a pulsing magic circle inside it.

It was the sort of attack that Akeno couldn't let hit her or anything in her vicinity if she didn't want to be blown up to smithereens. Her and whatever was left of the mountain as well.

But the best way to solve her problem was to make it not just her problem. "Lightning Bolt!"

Behind her attack the Queen was quick to raise some shields but instead of the expected explosion what she got was a ball of flames falling apart and her own blast flying harmlessly outside.

"Still falling for fake arias?" Yubelluna asked with a confident smirk, her previous frustration missing like it wasn't there.

Stunned, Akeno barely reacted when the Fire began to take the shape of spears or feathers of some sort. "So long, Akeno-san!" Ravel waved her hands and the attacks flew at her opponent even faster than the bomb.

However that attack was safer to dodge and the priestess did so by flying to the right while using her chains to bash some of the feathers away. It left her open to Isabela who shoulder tackled her before throwing a kick with her left leg on Akeno's side followed by two fast punches; one to her stomach and the other to her face.

Then the short haired woman tried to grab the ravenhead's hair but the Lightning Chains sprung into action by capturing her arms. She pulled down and headbutted the Rook on the unmasked side of her face to stun her before dropping low to deliver a kick to her midriff.

It barely sent the Rook away and she had no time to push her offensive as the Bomb Queen came back into the scene. Several bombs left her scepter and the priestess wasn't willing to play games anymore as she created several magic circles and unleashed Lightning on the purple haired woman's direction.

All bombs blew up in the air, all of them had been real and every single one of them left Fire behind for Ravel to use, a huge fireball already flying towards the Gremory Queen as the smaller flames gathered around the Phenex's wings.

"First we take care of you and then we will settle things with your Rooks. After that everyone else will be a piece of cake!" The King of Phenex revealed her plan while beating her wings and throwing more Fire around.

Yet Akeno remained defiant. "Raiden!" Thunder and Lightning moved around, cutting the fire apart before it became a threat. Isabela, who had recovered, tried to press the priestess again but she was sent flying to a wall by the Thunder Sphere in the chain. "Oh dear, are you really dismissing Ise-kun that much? I know he is a pervert but he is strong."

Retorting with Fire first, Ravel beat her wings and unleashed a rain of flames. "Blazing Feathers!" Fire fell everywhere around Akeno as she did her best to dodge and block everything but one Feather hit her back and she crashed on the rocks. "Haha! That doesn't matter. Didn't you hear what I said? So long he is ruled by his earthly desires he is weak!" Beating her wings again she sent several projectiles where her target was but Raiden's Sphere grew, blocking them all before blowing up. To the Phenex King that looked desperate. "And as long as one of my Pawns is there, he will be easily dispatched."

Siris hated the Red Dragon Emperor.

It was a new development but a fact cemented in her mind a dozen times over as she and her teammates tried and failed to take the boy down. It was personally more frustrating for her because her pride as a Knight was at stake.

Her job in Riser Peerage was always to take down Rooks. In their formation where everyone had a job she was supposed to be the one who took care of the heavier hitters beneath the Queens. While a common tactic in Rating Games, it was a part Siris was always happy to have.

Even when Koneko defeated her, that pride remained untarnished as the white haired girl didn't defeat her by having an absurd defense. She fought unlike any Rook Riser Peerage had ever faced before and so while the Knight held a small grudge it was more for a question of principle than outright pride.

Against Ise it was completely different; in that very moment Siris was dropping down from high, all her strength in her arms as she took the strongest swing of her life only for the Red Dragon Emperor to raise an arm to negate the hit.

Not really 'negate' as the shockwave from the impact and the shaking of her sword told her the hit had absolutely connected but the Pawn didn't budge. Instead he looked at her, first at her breasts then at her face, before his fist caught fire and he threw a punch that would break several of her ribs if not outright retire her.

Mira was there to rescue her friend, her spear hitting the armored figure several times in his wing instead of the back, much to the bluehead's surprise. 'It's like he has eyes in the back of his head.'

However the Phenex Pawn had no time to be surprised as Ise truly abandoned Siris to attack her with a back fist followed by a kick. The kick missed when the Knight hit the armored shoulder hard enough strength to imbalance Ise just a little. Enough for her friend to escape at the very least.

Still it was a small thing that the Red Dragon Emperor barely noticed and he just spun a little farther to hit the Knight's side instead of the Pawn. The tall woman was sent down when her wing broke with the impact, her descent only ending when Mira used several magic circles to slow down her fall.

Which left their opponent to his own devices and he gathered mana in his left hand. "Dragon Shot!"

"DODGE!" Siris warned her friend but they all had forgotten the third Pawn present but Shuriya who was standing on one of the margins reminded them of her by revealing a giant veil that embraced Mira, protecting her from the blast.

"What the hell's that?!" Asked the brown haired man.

[A Dragon Slayer cloak? That is new. And she used it as a shield too. I really don't like this. By how weak this stuff is they couldn't have killed the dragon to get their blood. Wimps.] Ddraig grumbled, mildly irritated as most of their energy was nullified.

Most but not all as Mira was revealed floating above the river of lava with several burns in her body and the veil had been completely obliterated. The dragon blood used on its creation had countered most of the dragon energy behind the attack but not the demonic energy.

Which meant the silver haired woman had lost their shield after a single use, making her grit her teeth before turning to the Knight. "Siris, I am ready!"

[Better stop whatever she has prepared before it becomes a problem. I would say to go all out but-] Ise half ignored his Partner and dove at full speed towards his fellow Pawn.

It was too fast for Shuriya to apply her magic but the other two women knew the dancer was their best hope of bringing the Red Dragon Emperor down and so both didn't hesitate to throw themselves in the Gremory Pawn's way.

Since only one of them could fly, Mira used all her bo staff skill to try to hit him from behind once again. She saw how the Scale Mail's back seemed to have a bulge between the wings which was an easier target than the rest despite her lacking any real skill with a spear. But that was the weapon she was given as a simple bo staff couldn't survive dragon blood.

'Just hit him. Hit him hard and let the spear do the rest!' The blue haired woman unleashed a battle cry and threw as many hits as she could in a single second. Thirteen hits, that was her limit without Promoting to Knight.

Pity that none of them reached their target but her goal was reached when the Red Dragon Emperor stopped and used his wings to protect his back. "Okay, this is starting to piss me off." He grabbed the spear with a hand, keeping a firm hold as the bluehead tried to free it.

[At least break this shitty weapon already.]

"Alright, alright. I get it. I get it!" He tightened his grip on the spear until it broke apart, much to Mira's horror.

[Thank you! Honestly, I am offended they thought these mockeries of Dragon Slayer weapons could even scratch my scales. If this was a fight to the death I would demand you to rip their hearts and force them to watch as they slowly died.]

Seeing his fellow Pawn's ever increasing panicked face, Ise waved his hands to calm her down. "I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't do it! That's way too much gore for me!" He always hated finding one of those stories on the Internet. Doubly so after his almost demise. "Look, I won't rip your heart out. Buuuuuuut I kinda need to knock you out because, well, this is a game and Buchou is going to be mad if I keep wasting time."

[She probably will give you an earful later anyway. And you deserve it.] It was easy to make the brown haired boy flinch.

"I just would have preferred to beat the Fried Chicken… Not his girls… again. Why does that bastard have a harem?!"

Mira couldn't believe what she was hearing and watching as Hyoudou Issei, that generation's Red Dragon Emperor, held his head pitfully. She wasn't going to complain either way because every second the boy struggled with indecision was another second she stayed in the game.

Another second for Shuriya to do something to catch the dragon's attention at the right moment for her spell.

Unfortunately for her, Ddraig had all but lost his patience. [Because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Can we move on?!]

"Right, right." Raising his fist, Ise charged a considerable amount of energy to knock Mira out but not outright kill her. He really wasn't confident that the Rating Game system could save her in time. 'It's just that they are so weak…' Sona's team had been more of a challenge.

Only that they weren't done yet and Siris moved to capture the Red Dragon Emperor's attention by concentrating flames on the tip of her sword and, mirroring the opening move of their fight, shot it all up not at the sky like previously but at him.

Despite being a magical attack unleashed with a Dragon Slayer weapon it wasn't enough to do much and Ise refused to be distracted any longer, his gauntlet connecting with Mira's face and sending her to Hypnos' Domain.

*And the Red Dragon Emperor makes his first victim! Ladies and gentlemen it looks like today is the day of Gremory domination.*

*I wouldn't say that just yet.* Ise recognized his teacher's calm analytic tone like he was about to give his class a surprise exam or deliver a dress down of their magic when particularly disappointing. He had been in the receiving line from one of those before. *As usual, Hyoudou-kun is failing to pay attention. At least it isn't in my class this time.*

'What's he talking about?'

Before Ddraig could answer a voice caught them both off guard. "Hey, overgrown lizard! Over here!" It was Siris and her shout worked as intended as Ise's focus turned to her.

Only not to her but to the woman a few feet to her right dancing in a manner that could only be called sexually captivating. Her movements were slow and deliberated in a manner to highlight her curves just the right way and her dancing outfit made the sight even more desirable.

Desirable and hypnotic as mana danced with the woman in a way the Pawn had seen when Akeno practiced in the club once but also totally different as instead of building the silver haired woman's power she was spreading it around the area.

In fact Ise couldn't help but gulp at the sight as his heart began to beat faster and he failed to hear Ddraig's voice trying to snap him out of it. The mana Shuriya was using wasn't really spreading around but focusing around him before entering his body. Scale Mail failed in protecting its owner as he found himself entranced from the sight.

The dance Shuriya was doing wasn't common nor normal. It was part of a ritual born to calm down dragons and it usually involved dance, music and some sacrifices. Several members of Ravel Peerage had practiced its individual steps but her Pawns were the ones who mastered them.

And none mastered that dance more than Shuriya who had been a dancer somewhere in the Middle East before Reincarnating. Thanks to her experience she managed to combine movements which would calm down a dragon in a sensual pace to please a particular individual.

Ddraig was unaffected by the dance as he was far too smart to let such a thing take hold of him but Ise was vulnerable because of his desires. [This again? First four eyes and now a dancer? Partner, just grow up a bit and we will have as many females as you want! Get a hold of yourself! Now!]

The dragon's shouts were in vain as Ise slowly descended to the ground to watch Shuriya's movements up close, paying particular attention to her modest breasts and slim waist for a second before she raised her leg just right for it to catch his attention.

With the revealing clothing she wore it was easy to imagine her naked and that just made things easier for him to be entranced by the dance.

From his side, Siris began to charge more mana in her sword. 'That is right, you idiot, keep your eyes on the pretty lady.' Her smile was feral as even while channeling most of her energy in her sword, the Red Dragon Emperor ignored her in favor of the shorter woman. 'I will put my everything on this blow!'

The scimitar began to glow orange as the Fire focused within and not without. Siris knew nothing about being a Dragon Slayer but she knew how to break someone's defenses. Distracted as her opponent was, the Knight predicted the Scale Mail wouldn't be able to stop her blow. Not without Ddraig trying something.

Both she and Shuriya could see the armor trying to force some kind of movement with only Ise's left arm trying to pull its owner without sucess. A good thing the Pawn used to dance in front of an unruly audience because those sort of gestures would scare a lesser woman. But not a professional who knew her audience was too entranced to harm her.

Perfect for anyone to stab him in the back but considering Ddraig could still move the wings somewhat, the front would do just fine. "AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!" Roared the black haired woman only for a pair of red lights to emerge from behind the red armor and she suddenly lost him from sight. "What the fuck?!"

Falling victim from the same circumstances, Shuriya couldn't dance any longer. "Siris?! Where is he?!"

"I don't know!"

"Gah!" They all heard Ise's voice from high above and looked up to notice the armored devil holding his head with a tired looking bat flying by his side. "I can't believe I fell for that!" That definitely didn't sound good to the Phenex Pieces.

[I told you to finish them fast but nooooooooo… You had to be nice. Just because they are weak doesn't mean you shouldn't stomp them like a dragon would!]

"Senpai, can I get back into the armor?" The small bat asked. His tongue outside his mouth as the small creature landed on the Pawn's shoulder and began to pant before saying weakly. "It 's too hot."

"Sure thing, Gasper. Sorry that you had to get out to bail my ass." Ise offered a smile that the Bishop couldn't see but he was too busy cooking alive to care either way.

Without wasting any time the small bat turned into a cloud of smoke with tired red eyes and Ise opened his chest plate so the former dhampir didn't have any difficulties to get in since the Divine Metal armor was usually sealed tight.

Before long he felt a small bat resting on his back, practically hugging him from behind even if the wings could barely get past his lungs. Once Gasper explained that turning himself so small was a little uncomfortable but the Red Dragon Emperor's scales had more than enough space for both of them.

Nevertheless Ddraig was still upset over his Partner blunder and made his opinion known. [You got lucky.]

"Oh come on-"

[No! You got lucky that Rias Gremory predicted that your pervertedness would be your downfall! Sending you to fight an army of women without a chaperone would get us both defeated!] If anything the notion of 'defeat' offended the Original Red Dragon Emperor more than anything. [Even if her first movements were made to entice a dragon, you barely cared about them before getting hypnotized!]

The Pawn had defense against that argument and he was slightly disappointed with himself. "Yeah. You're right!" Red aura exploded from his body but he took care to not use fire for the Bishop's sake. "I'm going to make them pay for toying with my feelings!"

In a last ditch of defiance, Siris asked. "What feelings?!"

"Of teasing me with so much skin and not showing a single pair of BREASTS!"


Power exploded around Ise as the Boosted Gear pushed his body to its limits.

The artificial clouds vanished.

The volcans grew silent.

Fire bowed.

The Red Dragon Emperor laid its claim of dominance in the battlefield and his challengers could just look up in horror as a power close to Ultimate Class devils made itself known to all.

When fear took over completely, Shuriya dropped to her knees in despair. "How… how… How are… How are we supposed to fight that?" She asked with a shaky voice.

Instead of fear, what Siris felt was rage. "This isn't fair." The Knight said softly before roaring to the sky where her opponent laid. "This isn't fair!"

A dragon's roar filled the area as the armored Pawn flew down to finish his prey.

Not everyone saw the beacon of light nor heard the Red Dragon Emperor's roar but the Gremory Peerage knew his power enough that some of them could easily identify it even at the farthest corners of the artificial dimension and were able to tell that Ise was particularly angry about something.

"Pervert." Mihae didn't know why Koneko said that but considering she had Li in an arm hold while also using a leg to suffocate the nekomata she didn't care and tried to help the Phenex Pawn as best as she could.

Unfortunately any magic proved itself worthless against the white haired Rook and strengthening the other devil was impossible as the Bishop couldn't pump any extra power in the redhead even if she was capable.

Partially it was a lack of skill on Mihae's part but also that Li just couldn't take any more energy without side effects. Not that the kimono dressed woman believed it would make any difference regardless as the Rook of Gremory had dominated their match from the start. Still she would try, for her King and her love she had to try.

Golden eyes locked in her face the second she began to gather more mana almost in challenge. The nekomata wasn't leaving the ground, arms and legs holding the Pawn down with little care in the world. Ki flowed around all of the smaller girl's body in perfect harmony to keep the redhead Pawn in perfect check despite her lashing out to keep breathing.

And Koneko showed no intention of stopping the Bishop from moving, if anything she was waiting for it to happen so she could jump the black haired woman to knock her out before finishing the redhead.

Finally Mihae realized they never had a chance with just two of them against Toujou. 'Could we… even beat one of them?' Because she heard several of her friends being defeated but unlike the last Rating Game they had utterly failed in taking a single enemy down.

"Hum~ Say, did you feel something odd?" Luvia asked Xuelan who focused Fire between her hands before roaring while throwing a huge fireball. The Rook didn't bother to react as her carapace moved for her, nullifying the attack with minimal cost. "That really sounded like the cry of a beast who was denied their meal… or perhaps my imagination." The blonde looked at the exhausted woman with a raised eyebrow as she charged her fist with flames and threw a powerful hook at the blonde's face. If the carapace of mana wasn't there to absorb it at least. "No, no, no. You aren't doing it right. Aren't you a martial artist?"

"Shut up!" Xuelan roared while bringing up her still bad leg for a kick on the blue magus neck only to pull back with her wings in the last moment to deliver a fast sequence of punches, neither of those managing to break the defensive spell.

But it was growing weaker, of that the Rook of Phenex was sure. Every blow sapped a little of its energy and every single one of her strikes carried the force of a grenade. Fire also helped her move faster and hit harder while its lingering also took more energy from the magus' shield.

Yet Luvia wasn't worried, watching her fellow Rook's struggle with a mildly bored expression as her spell denied any damage. Sure she knew her gem was running out of fuel but for her it wasn't a problem at all.

When the jewel powering the carapace lost its light, another took its place and so all Xuelan's efforts were rendered worthless in less than a second.

Which obviously made her even madder. "Fight me damned! Stop hiding behind a shield! Aren't you also a martial artist?!"

"Less than you but yes. This is just not a fight worth my time." Those words made her fellow Rook freeze so Luvia decided to explain the situation. "All these rings who are being such a hassle to you? They have far less mana than the gem I used back in my previous match. And that man, my History teacher of all things, managed to break it down with just skill alone." Failing to withhold a sigh, she looked at the other woman with pity. "Both of you are mostly pure martial artists but compared to him you are just lacking."

Remembering that fight made her blood boil with excitement as if there was one type of person she respected above all was hard workers and Kuzuki's form showed years of dedication until it had reached perfection.

When researching Riser Peerage for their fight, Rias had pointed out that most of them were over a hundred years old, with the youngest member being Ravel with less than two decades of age so the magus got 'pumped' over the idea of meeting others with the same level of skill as Sona's Knight.

And she ended up utterly disappointed. "That is to show that no matter who old one can be, strength can only come to certain people; those who never stop improving themselves." Luvia observed Xuelan grit her teeth without phasing. "Compared to Kuzuki-sensei who mastered his body, his breathing, to the point of absolute control, you are lacking and so… this fight lost its meaning."

After all, Luvia had wanted to test herself against someone stronger and Xuelan was definitively weaker than her.

Regardless it was obvious the older woman wasn't going to give up and so she took one of her bigger gems from her dress, making the other Rook flinch. "It seems I will have to keep pestering Sensei for lessons. A pity Sitri-sama works her peerage to the bone. Oh well, what can you do?" Closing her fist around the topaz, the blue magus slammed it on the ground before uttering a single word. "Aries!"

A pulse left her palm and spread in the area which made Xuelan concerned until she realized that the carapace, that the spell Cancer, was gone. "An opening!" She roared while hitting the back of her left hand with her right and unleashing a huge stream of flames.

Only for a wall of rocks to block its path which made the older woman angry but determined. Her pride had been ripped to shreds and it demanded some sort of repair or compensation. Unlike many in her peerage she didn't practice martial arts to be fancy or because her King liked watching.

Since she was little Xuelan had trained her body and mind to become a warrior even if it was during a time where fighting with one's fists was finishing losing ground to firearms. Even after years as a devil she could still remember her father teaching her the basics in their home together with many of his disciples.

'Where did I go wrong?' Xuelan finally asked herself when she realized how complacent she had been over the last few decades. 'I didn't just Reincarnate to be lord Riser's woman but also because I could keep practicing, immune to age. When did I stop growing?'

Her mind distracted from those thoughts she barely registered the rams made of stone until they finished forming with two huge horns each. They were the size of SUVs and charged in her direction just as the Rook snapped herself back to the present and jumped back to evade.

It was then that her leg hit its limit and her leap far smaller than she was used to which resulted in one of the stone animals hitting her with enough force to break her ribs again. 'The younger me… would be disappointed.'

Was her last thought before mustering the last remnants of her strength to stand up one last time as the very earth moved like waves and more rams made of stone emerged.

Both fighters moved to the side in sync before Karlamine lost her patience with their dance and dashed towards her fellow Knight with her shield held high. It was how she trained to fight over the last few weeks and the only thing keeping her in the fight at that point because her movements were growing sluggish.

It wasn't exhaustion but the many, many wounds covering her arms, legs and left shoulder as her armor had been damaged several times due to Kiba's magic blades. 'At the rhythm things are going…' The Knight of Phenex didn't even want to think about it, gritting her teeth and throwing a fast swing from behind her shield. "ORIAAA!"

Her counterpart evaded the first slash before parrying the second and raised his foot to stop a tackle with her shield while sporting a handsome smile which was starting to get on her nerves.

Losing much of her patience the Knight of Phenex covered her shield with flames before continuing to press but Kiba had already dislodged his foot from the weapon to move around it, Holy Eraser destroying the remaining armor on her back.

Doing her best to take hold of her anger, Karlamine asked, "How? Last time we were almost evenly matched," while taking several steps back.

She almost stumbled on a hole that had some fire in it but opened her wings to preserve her balance while preparing for an attack because of her carelessness. Her opponent was all too happy to let her recover as he did little but reposition himself where they would have no obstacles between each other.

"I was… a very different person back then." Kiba consoled the girl with a gentle smile and a kind look. "Bakuya, your Noble Phantasm, reminded me of something… really bad. The worst day of my life." Looking up the blond took a deep breath and somehow managed to ignore the smoke and ash that filled the battlefield. Then he looked back at her with determined eyes. "Things are different now."

Karlamine's eyes grew wide, like she was seeing her opponent for the first time. "I can tell. You are calmer. Almost serene, even on a battlefield." It was something that didn't click for her until they started talking.

Battlefields were the sort of place where adrenaline was always pumping and the fighting could be constant in the worst occasions. Even in those there were moments where one needed to stay calm or lose the fight due to a mistake and haste, a challenge in most if not all occasions.

Last time when she fought Kiba, there was only hostility and despair.

Completely different from the young man who she had been fighting against for several minutes without a proper pause. Yet, despite some sweat and a few bruises, the Knight of Gremory looked like he was just on a long job after falling a small set of stairs, getting up and choosing to keep going.

However, his emotional control aside, Karlamine saw several problems with that argument. "Even if you aren't going ballistic this time-"

"That is a fair assessment, yes."

"-you are barely struggling while I…" The brunette shook her head before fixing her stance while ignoring the pit in her stomach. "Doesn't matter. I have to beat you and I will!"

Kiba nodded in respect before his eyes caught sight of a red dot at a distance. "Isn't that…"

Karlamine couldn't help herself and looked to the side before her eyes grew wide. "The Red Dragon-" She cut herself before looking at her opponent and biting her lip. 'Shit."

"If you are planning to help your allies, sorry but it isn't going to happen." He raised Holy Eraser higher with a resolved look. "Even if Buchou hadn't given me orders to stop exactly something like that, I wouldn't let you gang up on my friend."

Which she expected from a Knight like Kiba who, despite his rage in their past match, always gave her the impression he was an honorable man. He proved it several times as while he had struck her back it was always after outmaneuvering her and more punishing her mistakes than anything else.

Allowing his opponent to recover or pass on openings created by distractions was a foolish thing to do but Karlamine was old fashioned and in reality she liked old fashioned man.

In fact if circumstances were different she would have loved to talk to him in a calmer setting as he was exactly the type of man she liked which made her realize, 'I don't love Riser anymore…' For a moment horror grew in her face before the woman shook her head to focus. 'Doesn't matter. I have a duty. After that…'

"Are you alright?" Kiba asked gently as he had a front seat to see the Phenex Knight's grieving face.

Looking down, she asked, "Why aren't you using your Balance Break? You could have finished this time any time if you did." Her shield's magic was supposed to counter it but as things were going the Gremory Knight was too fast and so her weapon was useless.

"Because I want to finish our last fight." He replied with a handsome smile that made Karlamine chuckle.

"'Our last fight', huh. Unfortunately, I am missing a real sword." Then, without a drop of hesitation, Karlamine threw her weapons aside with an excited grin. When Kiba did nothing but let her prepare, her smile grew more gentle. 'That is how a man should be; steadfast and honest.' Despite not knowing what the future reserved for her, she wanted that fight to last a little longer. "This one isn't a Noble Phantasm but… meh, close enough. At least it isn't as stubborn."

From a magic circle she called a bastard sword slightly taller than the previous one she was utilizing. Like many weapons in her team's arsenal it had been bathed with the blood of a dead dragon and so there was an ominous aura around it.

Besides the blood it was also enchanted with several spells for two purposes: to make it heavier and to make it last.

Compared to Bakuya it just didn't fall short, the sword was cumbersome unless the owner had some real arm strength and even with the extra weight its edge couldn't compete with a Noble Phantasm.

But its damage capability was really high and she could trust that blade. "Prepare yourself, Kiba! I will blow you away with a single strike!"

"I was born ready!" The Knight of Gremory said back with a grin of his own, rising Holy Eraser to match her.

Which pleased the woman immensely. "Let's make this the last attack!" Fire blew up around the area before focusing on her blade. When it caught fire it was no surprise, a Fire so hot that it could melt any weaker weapon. "This is my best attack, Kiba!"

"Right!" The blond Knight changed his posture and threw as much mana he could in his sword. It wasn't much but they both knew brute force wasn't where his real strength lied. "Here I come, Karlamine!"

"OOOOOORRRRRRAAAAAAAA!" In the back of her mind she thought, 'That is how competitions should be. Not about policy or something stupid like that, but two warriors putting their honor on the line for the sake of being the strongest.'

Watching the Rating Game from her office, with a hidden television her subordinates pretended to not know about, Okita Souji couldn't help but grin. "Are you imitating me? Then you are using the wrong sword!" Still she watched proudly as her disciple used a bastardized version of her technique.

It warmed the former Shinsengumi commander's heart to know there were still people in the modern day living by the blade.

It grew warmer when she remembered he wouldn't have to die by it, like many of her old companions. "Hehe, he would have made an excellent Shinsengumi, don't you agree, Saito-san, Hijikata-san."

Several explosions covered the battlefield as Akeno danced around Fire Feathers, bombs that somehow made smaller explosions than the former and a frustrated Isabela who was forced to dodge one of the Queen's chains that almost caught her neck.

Counter attacking soon proved to be a mistake when Ravel herself came at her with wings fully extended. The priestess raised two magic circles above her head before throwing her chain in the Phenex's direction. Yubelluna's bombs failed to break the barrier and the King flew lower, threading a needle to not touch the floor and avoid the chain.

However the links moved with a little nudge from their creator, hitting the blond's back and sending her crashing on the ground. Not something that could be capitalized on as the short haired Rook was already in the ravenhead's personal space and threw a kick on her extended arm before going for a grab.

Akeno ducked under the arm and tackled with all her might to put the older woman on her back before doing a flip, getting ahead of the Rook for a jump while opening her wings. The Bomb Queen committed a little friendly fire as Isabela had no space to dodge while the priestess of Medusa giggled, gaining attitude.

She ended up intercepted by Ravel who caught up quickly and threw herself at the ravenhead with her wings extended. When the Queen saw her coming she threw her chains to stop the pureblood devil who spun between them, avoiding them both.

It also left her open to Akeno's hands. "Lightning Bolt!"

"Wings of Phoenix!" Suddenly Ravel accelerated while a layer of Fire surrounder her. Lightning clashed against it and despite the explosion the pureblood devil was undetained.

Chains tried to trap her down but their links failed to take hold of anything before she reached her target who was already flying downwards in an escape attempt. Then the priestess saw the layer of Fire vanish as the angel-like wings opened once more, shining more brightly than before.

The heat of the battlefield was already excruciating but when Akeno took the hit on her left shoulder she could swear it was like her arm was melting. One of her wings suffered the same fate as Fire tried to spread at a rate that could kill most devils.

Sparing no time to take note of the wounds, Medusa's High Priestess focused her attention on getting down and dodge around Yubelluna's blasts as the Queen was clearly trying to support her King.

None of them made contact but soon Akeno realized she was surrounded by very familiar bright spheres with magic circles inside them. 'I played around too much.' She couldn't help but think with a pained grin as they all exploded at the same time.

"Did we get her?" Isabela suffered several burns on body due to the friendly fire and looked ready to quit.

Her Queen frowned both at the Rook's condition and question. "Not the cleanest hit but yes, it was a hit." She also was already preparing several new bombs while looking at Ravel who focused more Fire in her wings. "But until the announcer says it-"

"The game goes on." The masked woman finished the line just as she got up.

*Change of pattern,* Ravel's voice reached their ears through the communication spell, *Isabela, stay back while we box her in with a bombardment. Only move if she tries to escape.*

""Yes, young miss/lady Ravel.""

As far as plans went it was a good adaptation to have and yet the purple haired woman couldn't help but be wary as she felt the ravenhead still had some sort trick in her sleeve. In reality that bad feeling had an origin point earlier in their fight when it was only the two Queens duking it out.

For Yubelluna couldn't forget the giant serpent made of Lightning that was considerably hard to take down. "Lady Ravel-"

Before she could voice her thoughts the cloud of dust began to settle down revealing Akeno on one knee, a pained expression and holding her left shoulder that both had a nasty burn and an extremely clean cut.

Cutting with fire was something possible but the focus and temperature needed to such, akin to the process of cutting steel, was extremely high. When cutting flesh the situation should be a bit different as the burns should 'melt' around the cut. Despite that the area where the Phoenix True Wings had hit was both cut and burned at the same time.

To say Akeno was surprised by such an event would be understandable but she buried those feelings for later, focusing on the fight she had ahead of her while also healing her wound with EM.

Not even her clothes were spared the damage as half of her haori was destroyed and her left breast would be certainly visible by the audience if she wasn't covering it to focus the healing on her shoulder.

Since her miko outfit was woven to be extremely durable and was blessed by a goddess to boot, even if it was a minor blessing born due to her working on it while praying for her priestess' safety, the damage was far more relevant than it appeared.

Glancing at the wound while she had some cover, Akeno knew that for sure, 'Gracious me, she is really dangerous~' A dangerous smile grew in her lips. 'Looks like the time is right to show everyone what Medusa's High Priestess can do.' Excitement danced in her eyes as Serpent Eye shone on her throat.

By the time the dust settled, every member of Phenex present saw the small scalpel and the King grew furious. "Blast her-"

*What is this?! Is the Phenex being pushed back?!* Naud's voice interrupted the King's order. *Is Rias Peerage amping up? Several of them just- And the Red Dragon Emperor finished off a Knight and he is moving to, yes, another Pawn of Phenex was retired!*

'What? How? Did no one manage to get there to help?' Ravel asked herself but had little time to ponder as Akeno took advantage of their distraction to fix her shoulder. Snapping out of her surprise, the blond ceased gathering Fire for her next attack and dove to join her Rook and Queen. "Yubelluna, we need to-"

*Domination! The Red Dragon Emperor's spirit reached his companions and one of their Rooks just retired another Pawn! And she is moving to- Yes, the Bishop of Phenex is out!*

Another announcer, Bedeze, asked amusedly. *Was there some sort of sign? Or were they playing around with Ravel Peerage this whole time?* He sounded too pleased with the notion for Ravel's tastes. *Before the Sole Daughter of Phenex's peerage was at least-*

*Hold your horses good sir because we have another knockout! In the battle between Rooks, the Gremory side emerged supreme once more. The Blue Aristocrat finished the fight brutally and elegantly by burying her opponent under several statues made of solid rock.*

"What the hell happened back there?!" Isabela couldn't help but curse and Yubelluna didn't blame her.

Looking at their King, the Queen wouldn't be surprised if the noble wasn't doing the same in her thoughts. "Lady Ravel, they must retreat. Karlamine is still out there and if we lose her-"

*This must have been planned, right? Am I the only one thinking that?* Bedeze asked loudly. *Another Phenex was soundly defeated in a fight where they both barely were using any spells. I mean, I can appreciate a sword match but I would prefer some magic.*

*Better fight with what you are good at then trying something you aren't and losing.* Waver pointed out. *About a signal to 'amp up' hostilities… there wasn't none from what I observed. I was trying to keep up with all the fights and it seemed the Gremory had held the advantage for most of it. To an almost dominating decree, I might add.* That was terrible news for the survivors of Ravel Peerage but the man wasn't done. *They had an opportunity to take Hyoudou-kun, the Red Dragon Emperor, when they caught him off guard but Vlad-kun, Rias' Bishop, emerged from his armor to save him in the nick of time.*

Naud's disbelief was clear in his voice. *You mean that cloud of smoke that turned into a bat was competitor Gasper Vlad? Incredible! I didn't know dhampirs could transform like that. I thought it was a vampire's thing.*

*True vampires are known for those sorts of skills and there are few dhampirs for us to compare.* Bedeze pointed out. *Makes me wish I had one of those in my peerage. But credit goes to lady Rias Gremory who figured out Ravel Phenex had countermeasures for her strongest Piece and hid her Bishop in the right position to protect him.*

"Now that is just rude." Akeno's voice caught their attention and the woman didn't hesitate to stand her full height and relax her right arm after fixing her shoulder, revealing one of her breasts to the Underworld. She didn't care but Medusa did so after a second she covered it up with her remaining sleeve before adding. "Saying Ise-kun is the strongest Piece while I am around and dealing with your three. Actually, do you all think it is an insult to me or you?"

Her three opponents were shocked and the priestess didn't know if it was because of her bold statement or the fact that all their peerage had been already defeated regardless of whatever plans they had made.

Akeno was doing her best to not laugh at the other women's faces, especially Ravel's. 'So that is what happens when someone's jaw drops. Wonder how long it will take for the anger to come back.' Going on a hunch, she figured it would be sooner rather than later so playing a little was out of question and taking the fight seriously should be her priority. "Personally, I think it is more of an insult for me. If you girls don't get any credit then mine goes to the gutter." Of course she couldn't resist teasing them, strategy and common sense be damned.

"Shut up!" Only for Ravel to try and cut her off immediately, her face still holding some of her shock before it was replaced with anger. "Just shut up!"

"You know what will happen if you lose~" Akeno moved her head to the left and let a Fire arrow pass by. The pureblood devil was pretty much seething with anger before biting her nail.

For the first time since the Rating Game began Ravel started to feel the weight of her decisions, especially about signing a certain contract. A contract that the Queen in front of her admitted having written and a part of her was screaming to take her anger on said Queen.

Only to be silenced by the rational part of her brain which remembered the Geas' terms and told her it was a terrible idea.

Meanwhile their lady struggled between despair, anger and loss, her Pieces looked at each other before a nervous Isabela asked. "What now?" She knew they had no chance of winning.

Zero enemies had been defeated, their allies were all taken down and Rias Peerage had access to two sorts of healing. If they all decided to huddle on their fortress until they were rested it would only take a few hours for everyone to recover and they couldn't do anything about it.

Even if they were allowed to do the same, Isabela wasn't sure they couldn't win regardless since their whole team was defeated without inflicting a single loss. She knew how strong everyone one of them was and even if Ravel and Yubelluna were far superior to them all that meant nothing against Rias' group.

Between the Red Dragon Emperor, the nekomata, the sacred gear users and Rias herself, the Rook saw no hope of even taking down a single one of the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess' Pieces.

"What now?" She asked again, panic starting to set in. "We can't defeat them. We can't win." Akeno had been running in circles around them for several minutes. If even a single one of her team's was as strong they had no chance. "Lady Ravel, we need to surrender. At this point there is nothing we can-"

Akeno closed one eye, winced when she saw the slap her fellow Queen delivered to the Rook. "That must have stung."

"Quiet, Isabela."

"Yubelluna, I know we planed revenge and did somethings that-"

"I said quiet!" The Bomb Queen repeated. "There is no going back. Not from this. If we lose, the contract…"

The masked woman realized, much to her horror, her young lady had signed something she definitely shouldn't. "What was in that contract?" She grabbed the Queen's shoulders the second Yubelluna avoided her gaze. "What was in that fucking contract!"

"Doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!" Ravel shouted angrily, glaring at Akeno. "We won't give up. We-" Pausing to control her emotions, her anger remained but behind an obvious mask of calm. "I can't give up. If you two want to leave then go, retire yourselves. I will fight alone if I have to."

"You won't, my King." Yubelluna declared firmly, ready to give her life if necessary to not see that contract fulfilled.

However the only way the Bomb Queen would get her wish was if her peerage won and that was a rather tall proposal on its own at that moment.

Especially with Medusa's priestess in the vicinity. "Oh no, that won't do at all." Akeno spoke with an obvious and fake shock. "My King was so close to get her wish and you two had to go there and snatch it. Such a disappointment." Contrary to her words, the ravenhead didn't sound disappointed at all. "Well, more work for me, I suppose~"

"What for? Are you here to break me?" Ravel challenged out loud with a glare as her wings spread once again, Fire escaping every feather.

"No, no, no, of course not. Rias, I mean, my King," she reminded herself there was an audience and proper conduct needed to be followed, "set her whole strategy to get a meeting with you; to bury the hatchet as it was."

Not really a necessity since the Geas was iron clad and Ravel understood that much if her wide eyes were any indication. Yet the surprise didn't last for long as the fury returned together with some deductions.

"So she always saw me beat?! That all of this was, what? A stroll in the park?!" Remembering most of her peerage was already beat she held back her tongue.

Which prompted Akeno to pounce. "Hmmm~ Pretty much." She offered the most genuine smile possible, enraging the three Phenex Pieces. Then she pouted while adding. "It is not our fault that to have a real one on one with you we have to defeat the rest of your Pieces. You actually fighting is a real surprise." She touched her bare shoulder. "Compared to Riser's harem, you actually know how to hit."

Isabela lost her patience first but Ravel held her back. "Don't. That is what she wants." The blond pointed out with a glare. "We can only win this by playing carefully and it all starts by defeating her first."

"Whoa, what confidence." Akeno would have applauded but she was still conscious of her lack of clothing. Or her goddess' rant if she exposed herself further, anyhow. "But you all realized that if they wanted, half of my friends would be here before you could say 'kaput', don't you?" At the lack of response, save some gritting of teeth, she continued. "That means that Buchou is holding them back and leaving you all to myself~ So long as I leave you for her, Ravel-chan~"

Upon seeing the girl who she had protected for years cower in fear, despite how well the blond tried to hide it, Isabela charged with flames covering her arms. "Let's get this over with!"

"Isabela, get back here!" Yubelluna shouted in vain as the Rook just accelerated, fully intending on bashing Akeno's face in. Seeing no choice the Bomb Queen raised her staff once more for a spell. "Great Bomb!"

Already growing used to detect her fellow Queen's faints the priestess noted how the new bomb had a strong core within the magic circle in its center, implying a very real threat and a support for the Rook.

Akeno smiled serenely as her hand moved to her neck, touching her Noble Gear. "Ahh~ I wish I could use this in a better fight." Because in her eyes only one of the three was a worthy opponent. And unfortunately for her Rias had already called dibs. "Behold my goddess Gift, Serpent Eye!"

A blast of purple energy exploded around Akeno just as Isabela's fist was about to reach her, throwing the Rook back, past her King and Queen. The latter snapped out of her shock quickly to send her bomb towards the ravenhead and by the time it arrived the energy had vanished.

Or coalesced in its owner's new form, one who held so much more power than the priestess was presenting before that it managed to surprise and even scare the only pureblood devil present who fully believed Akeno had ascended to the levels of an Ultimate Class with a power that far surpassed anyone in her family.

There was also a new power covering the woman that Ravel couldn't comprehend but felt far stronger than just demonic energy. Perhaps things would be clearer if she could see the priestess but the Bomb Queen lived by her title with a bomb as large as a truck.

After a second Yubelluna's spell collided with the younger Queen and the explosion was deafening, making the area shake in its wake. Isabela struggled to get up because of it while the other Phenex's devils just stared ahead, waiting for the result despite the dread already taking over.

Dread not born from the lack of Akeno's defeat announcement but by the power which had not diminished a tad despite a blast so strong that several meters of stone had been destroyed and lava began to pour up their battlefield.

Lava which quickly began to melt stone in the area where the ravenhead was which made Yubelluna realize something, "This place… she got in here before it was covered with rocks… before we even brought down the mountain."

Ravel's eyes grew wide at the implication as more lava emerged from below. "She arrived from where?"

"Down below from the lava~" Akeno's melodic voice snapped their attention back to her as her power seemed to grow even more impressive. Around her there was magma pretty much everywhere but the young woman stood there like if she was in a shallow pool. "Not really easy to swing around but not really hard either if you get what I mean~"

Glowing with a purple aura that shone softly was the High Priestess as her new form wore what was like an evolution of her previous clothes. The color scheme remained the same with several shades of purple, but instead of just a priestess it was safer to say Himejima was also a princess of some sort.

It certainly would explain the elaborate hair piece holding the long ponytail of her long raven hair that remained fully exposed even as the face wasn't. Now the Priestess of Medusa wore a mask without a mouth and a visor that covered her whole face with a smooth light purple surface.

Her haori was covered by an elegant kimono with several layers of exotic silk that extended past her legs and rested in the lava without burning. The haori itself was lower, exposing the woman's shoulders as her midriff and breasts were covered by a piece of light purple armor that ended in her waist.

Above her bosom, was the Serpent Eye in a bigger size, as big as Akeno's hand, and surrounded by more armor which embraced her neck like a necklace with the Noble Gear's Core resting in its center.

Thin was the ribbon which appeared to float behind her head as it went around her shoulder embracing each other behind the raven hair, its tips touching the lava without troubles much like the kimono.

A kimono whose sleeves were longer than its owner's arms but her left one was folded enough to reveal an arm she held up, two fingers extended. Thanks to that it was possible to see the armor covering her arm which went deep inside the kimono. Those fingers had withheld the explosion pretty much all on their own as nothing behind Akeno had been damaged.

Similar fashioned heels could be seen through an opening from the kimono, it was impossible for anyone but a few to know was thigh high and with her feet on the lava they couldn't know Akeno's 'toes' were exposed to the elements.

'Exposed' in the sense they could be seen but much like the devils could feel there was an aura around the priestess that could be easily called Divine. That sort of aura couldn't be penetrated for mere elements as the world itself bowed to its might.

As a priestess, having such protection wasn't necessarily wrong or odd yet Yubelluna couldn't help but think, 'That is too much power.' She gulped and began to sweat. 'Where did it come from? Why so sudden? Couldn't she use it before? No, she crossed the lava to get into the mountain and…'

Her mind was running so fast that she didn't even care that her explosion had been neutralized. The Bomb Queen of Phenex, considered one of the strongest Pieces of her generation, respected enough to earn a title and fame, felt shock and despair.

'Is that… a goddess?' Ravel asked upon seeing Akeno's new attire before biting the inside of her mouth to lift the fog that had descended in her mind. 'No, it is the power of a goddess… we can't win… we absolutely can't win.'

When she understood the truth, the blond felt like a weight she didn't know was there had suddenly left her shoulders. The inevitability of defeat broke her spirit completely to the point she just dropped on her knees as her wings of flames began to vanish. The Sole Daughter of Phenex didn't even find the strength to surrender.

A sigh, a melodic sigh that captivated the three women as well as the audience in the stadium, left Akeno's lips. "Now that really won't do at all. There is no point in a game if the other side isn't going to fight back." Before any response could be given, the ravenhead moved her hand, the kimono covering her arm fully, and began to sing a slow melody. "There was once, in our Land, a Great Serpent that announced Destruction~ It was Chaos, it was the Storm, it was the merciless mountain~"

Much like in the Sitri match, every word elevated her power further which had Isabela gasping in disbelief as Yubelluna stood up with her staff, ready to continue fighting. "Lady Ravel! Stand! We can't lose like this!" Yet the blond was mute, stunned by Akeno's ever increasing power. "Tch! Isabela!"

"Got it!" The Rook jumped to her feet then dashed to join the Queen in front of their King.

Neither attacked as the song reached its conclusion. "So the Serpent fell to the God of Storm and War but its Legacy lives~ Through its name, they gain form~" Raising a hand, Lightning danced on the ravenhead's fingers as she waved carelessly to her right. It suddenly exploded, growing in size until it was as big as a train with several carts. "Yamata-no-Orochi teaches us the shape of the Storm~" She then turned to her audience, those she could see, and added without singing. "In many cultures, serpents represent death, in others, it represents life." Touching her Gift, she added, "From my goddess I learned both and thanks to the efforts of the two men I love the most I gained the means to apply her wisdom."

Delicately she leaned down and touched the lava with a finger full of Lightning. A second later the melted rock began to rise almost unprompted, its shape changing to one of a snake's. Yet she wasn't done as from her back Thunder also took the shape of a serpent and began to fly around its kin.

"My Serpent Eye isn't just proof I am my goddess' High Priestess. It was made with effort, sacrifice without death. And so, it can give me these beauties~" She coed as the snakes' showed everyone their tongues, caressing her. "They aren't really alive, they are more like… destruction incarnated by combining the Life and Death aspects of serpents. Phantasmal Beasts whose true conscience lives here." She tapped her jewel with a finger, telling them the absolute truth. Her creatures were a combination of her magical prowess and the significance that came with taking thousands of snakes skins without killing a single one. "We call them Orochi!" The three serpents hissed and directed their attention to the Pieces, one for each. "After coming so far, are you really going to give up like this, Ravel Phenex?"

The question caught the noble off guard more than did her Pieces but the ravenhead didn't care for those. No, she had orders to prepare Ravel for a meeting with Rias so their future could go along smoothly.

With that in mind Akeno abandoned all playfulness, all teasing and offered something she felt the younger woman needed more than revenge; a challenge.

"Using this power wasn't the plan, it is really unfair. But you all just had to come three on one against me…" While the ravenhead believed she could win if she went all out, that would involve defeating Ravel before Rias had a chance to properly talk with her. Considering the contract she herself wrote, Akeno really wanted things to go smoothly. "But let's make a bet, shall we?"

"A bet? You want another condition to this-"

"Defeat my pets and I will forfeit." Akeno interrupted her fellow Queen, ignoring everyone but Ravel completely; "Not only that but I swear if you manage to do it, I will make sure nobody else but Rias fights you three." Alarm bells hung on the older women's faces but her attention was solely on the youngest of them all. "What do you say? You against Rias. That is all you wanted, right?"

Accepting defeat meant understanding that the Geas would be activated. Knowing its conditions Ravel could understand why Akeno was so amenable when she could easily crush the three of them in an instant.

'With her power output and skill, how many Orochis could she make?' That was the question in the minds of hundreds of devils, several gods and a few magicians. Either way, Medusa would get more faithful looking for the chance to gain that sort of power alone.

"Fine." Hope was a powerful thing and the fact Yubelluna didn't look surprised when the first snake appeared meant she had faced one. That made Ravel move forward and her Phoenix True Wings to burst open one more time. "We will crush your pets and then Rias."

They couldn't see Akeno's smile but everyone knew it was there, her posture practically screamed amusement. "Well then, let's begin the last round." With a mental nudge she released the metaphorical chains around her Orochis and they all pounced, one for each opponent.

It was a short skirmish, more in a matter of time than anything else as when the serpents bursted into action the three women did the same.

In total the three versus three lasted less than twenty seconds.

Because of how her Noble Gear worked the priestess no longer needed to pay attention to the fight but she sent one last nudge towards the snakes to choose their opponents; Fire would fight lava while Lightning would avenge its previous incarnation against the Bomb Queen.

Leaving Isabela to deal with Thunder which bounced sections of its body around a few times, sending shockwaves around the battlefield and opening more areas for magma to escape, before reaching the short haired woman.

Who didn't hesitate and tried to put up some sort of fight with her arms covered with Fire and a roar when she ran towards the Phantasmal Beast. The Orochi raised its head and dived for a bite but the masked woman managed to dodge right while throwing a punch. Her wrist broke with the impact.

Thunder itself was given form and a spirit to inhabit, a being composed of hundreds of snake skins, blessed by a goddess and created by one of the most powerful priestesses to have ever lived.

So many actions were waved on the Serpent Eye creation that they even powered its Phantasmal Beasts further and between all that there was Akeno's own skill when creating her Orochis' bodies.

But Isabela didn't quit and when the Orochi turned to swallow her the short haired woman jumped above its head, opened her wings to get a boost and dived at full speed towards her target with her hands together for a double punch as Fire kept blazing around.

The result was that Thunder blew up in her face but with far less impact than it should, a feat that proved Isabela's victory over the Thunder Orochi. Unfortunately it could only be called a pyrrhic victory as it was because the blast was strong enough to take out the Rook while damaging the mountain further.

She wasn't the only one facing troubles either as the Lightning Orochi was as strong as Thunder and it hunted Yubelluna relentlessly even when the woman tried to fly away. It wasn't her intention to reach the sky but the Bomb Queen quickly gained attitude once she noticed the serpent was crawling in her direction.

As the Element Akeno held the greatest degree of proficiency with its Orochi obviously had some extra abilities. Her father had collected some monstrous snake's skins during his journey and if the priestess tried hard enough she could imbue the Orochi's with their characteristics.

Like a pair of wings behind its head originated from one of Egypt's legendary snake servants of the goddess Wedjet. Baraqiel had gone for those despite later dropping by America because he judged Quetzalcoatl the more dangerous divinity and didn't dare to go for her emissaries. Either skin would power Medusa further and the same was true for his daughter.

"Greater Bomb!" A huge spell flew towards the creature as Yubelluna kept trying to go up but she was slow when compared to the Orochi.

It danced around her attack and bounced like only Lightning could, reaching her in less than a second. She let go of her bomb's control, having it blow up beneath them, to raise her staff and several magic circles together with a barrier.

When she saw the huge serpent's maw opening the Queen felt fear, when it closed around her barrier after decimating her magic circles there was only dread. At least it made her fight back harder even as Lightning kept pushing through her last defense and electrocuting her.

Yubelluna fought harder than she ever did in her life but soon she lost any control of her flight as the snake began to push her back towards the mountain as its nature as Lightning demanded it to do.

Down there Ravel was still fighting the Lava Orochi, definitively the weakest and slowest of the three creatures. But nonetheless extremely dangerous and it was safe to say that if Akeno unleashed it in a random city of the Underworld the whole place would be decimated in hours if not minutes.

The average devil couldn't hope to survive lava and a creature made of the substance was a nightmare given form for most people. Definitely a lot of devils were going to lose their sleep for a few days after the Rating Game, especially those who lived in lava prominent regions.

"Blazing Feathers!" Yet Ravel fought with all her will and power, her gambit of using her Fire with hopes of distorting the Orochi failing as it took no damage. But it didn't grow larger or anything similar either which was good news for her. 'Deep down, that is still Fire! I need to take control of it!'

With a beat of her wings several rocks flew towards her new opponent which didn't damage it but still made the Orochi slow down as the rocks melted on its 'skin'. It was intelligent on a superficial level even if the Orochis were basically spirits which existed inside the Serpent Eye and only acted when called upon.

So it was smart enough to stop when something new happened and since its temporary lava body wasn't a natural part of itself, that particular one having existed as water in a previous training session, the creature felt the need to pause to observe what rocks did to its temporary body.

Orochis weren't supposed to work like that, they existed more as an extension of Medusa's power to be guided by her priestess and without anyone to give it orders then the Phantasmal Beast didn't know how dangerous or useful its body was.

Buying Ravel two extra seconds which she used to send a blast of Fire to blow more rocks in its direction, the Orochi roaring in challenge. Destruction was its mission and understanding that stone couldn't affect it meant nothing could stop its attack.

"Wings of Phoenix!" Yet it missed its target as the King flew over its head towards the ceiling, her fiery wings shining brightly as she used it to cut down part of the mountain.

To the Lava Orochi that was just a big rock and it already knew that smaller rocks couldn't affect it.

Key word 'smaller', that one was several times bigger, enough so to crush its head completely before the lava could melt the stone. Unlike its Thunder kin, there was no explosion as it wasn't in lava's nature to blow up unprompted.

Which Ravel was grateful for especially when she witnessed Isabela's fate with shock and panic. Those emotions only grew more intense when she watched Yubelluna's defeat, the barrier failing just as she crashed on the ground, leaving her open for Lightning to finish its job.

Neither of the women had time to think about their mistakes before they were retired in just a few seconds, one knocked out by pure concussive force while the other was hit with far more energy she could take.

The Bomb Queen's staff, her focus and simple of her power was all it remained before the Lightning Orochi turned around to get up, turning it to ash with just a passing from its gigantic body.

Despite losing her last two Pieces the blond refused to give up. 'First this then Rias Gremory! Just surpass this!' A small glare went to Akeno who remained still like a statue before she was forgotten again.

Without hesitation the Phenex noble charged at the Orochi before it could even turn towards her. Reaching her full speed the pureblood devil prepared her attack hoping that serpent was just as slow in the uptake as its sibling even if made of a different Element.

Of course the Orochi noticed her approach and even without understanding the danger of Ravel's wings the giant snake still moved around and tried to bite her from the side only for the Phoenix Wings to shield her body.

But much like Yubelluna before Lightning punished her upon contact. The Power of Immortality kicked in immediately as the serpent's mouth tried to close around its quarry. Only to keep failing as the woman kept fighting back with as much power as she could muster.

Despite being named Phenex and using fire, the devils from that Clan weren't part phoenix or anything similar nor made of flames. They were flesh and bone, just like any other devil and like most creatures a huge amount of electricity could certainly be fatal. Only her Power and will kept her going.

That and Akeno actively not trying to win. 'I better do something or Rias will get mad-'

As the fight hit the nineteen second mark, Ravel took another gamble and dove inside the Lightning Orochi's throat. She had correctly assumed that since it was purely of an Element there would be no real resistance so long as she could push through the Element itself.

Unfortunately it was sturdier than Lightning had any right to be so she couldn't break through. To her credit the blond didn't quit and so quickly went for another gamble just as risky as the first.

Covering herself completely with her wings was easy and something she practiced constantly once her imagination had developed enough to create them with minimal effort, a trick she picked up from Rias in their last fight.

Inside the giant snake Ravel went but with Lightning punishing her challenge constantly that sole second where she traveled inside the Orochi reached levels of pain the Sole Daughter of Phenex had learned to tolerate only later in her training.

Escaping was proven impossible so channeling whatever Fire she could spare the pureblood devil unleashed her flames outwards in an explosion.

The audience rumbled with excitement because of the back and forth of the Rating Game with the two sides giving their best. The show got better when some fighters started to pull out their trump cards, whispers and cheers running around constantly as banners from both sides wavered joyfully.

Fights where both parts fought on equal grounds were judged as the best to be watched but little by little people saw the truth; that wasn't one of those fights. Especially thanks to the colorful comment which didn't bother to hide the fact that the Gremory side was overwhelmingly stronger than the Phenex one.

Little by little Rias Peerage began to demonstrate more of their power and suddenly the fights became absolutely one sided. And the crowd ate it up with gusto as the redhead was truly the more popular noble with the masses. It wasn't long before the cheers grew louder and people proclaimed the Heiress of Gremory's victory.

Only for the stadium to grow quiet when Akeno used Serpent Eye.

Upon seeing such a demonstration of Divinity several VIPs, gods, magicians and devils alike, grew curious about how Medusa was doing to already be able to empower her priestess that much.

Truly it wasn't a deed impressive for a god so any watching just grew curious about the method which didn't fit with their knowledge of Medusa. The same couldn't be said about the magicians, who saw a new avenue of research. Neither could it be said about the devils who found a new path to power.

However not much was seen from Akeno and her Serpent Eye's capabilities because just barely a minute of its reveal everything seemed to be over when Ravel was swallowed by the spell Orochi.

Only for every crystal ball and screen to flash brightly to the point of blinding pretty much every member of the audience. It was so bright and because of the naturally nocturnal environment in the Underworld one would not be blamed to think several suns had raised at once.

Fortunately that situation didn't last long as the crystal balls were turned off and the screens began to show static. Which was very good to devils as their eyes really were not ready for such a shift. A good thing they were growing accustomed to artificial suns because if they were not some of them could have gone blind.

*Ladies and gentlemen it seems that lady Ravel's last attack had caused a chain reaction of great proportions!* Naud just barely got the information before announcing it to everyone as the monetization team did their best to recover the signal. *I just received the news the arena is intact but the boundary field keeping it on the Dimensional Gap wavered a little. We will get back in instants.*

Didn't take long for his words to turn up true as the giant crystal ball was the first thing to come back on giving everyone a premium view from inside a cloud of dust and smoke.

*... Perhaps we should zoom out of that particular battlefield.* Waver suggested and so it was done as Naud took the controls once more.

Slowly at first it didn't take long for the profissional commentator to speed up the process and the spells to take their view several kilometers up high. And still inside the cloud of dust which made the man speed up even further until they were out.

*... The mountain is gone.* Bedeze pointed out with a chuckle. *Completely and utterly gone. Someone, call the architects and tell them to make a fortify the battlefield for the next Rating Game. These kids aren't playing around.*

Indeed the mountain was gone, completely and utterly gone with a cloud of dust and smoke resembling a mushroom floating above where it once stood tall. From it there was only its remains, rocks and dust, with not even its feet surviving the blast.

Naud must have seen a chance to hype up the crowd even further because he was soon proclaiming. *Such massive force can't be understated nor denied. And it goes beyond the power of a goddess! All hail Akeno Himejima, Priestess of Medusa! Priestess of Lightning and Thunder!*

"You have to call off the match." Riser, who was a guest on the Gremory box, demanded with fear. He was dressed in a black suit that was a bit too tight for him but nobody commented on it, either out of pity or respect. "Ravel-"

"If anything happened, it already happened." Sirzechs said with sympathy. "Since the artificial dimension is still standing, odds are that Ravel is still in play, still alive." But not intact, Lucifer doubted any devil her age could get out of that blast unharmed. "And in that case, there are only two people who can finish this game."

Riser whimpered knowing the taller man was right. Zeoticus' hand landed on his shoulder and he offered a smile of sympathy but the blonde barely paid attention.

He was just too worried for his sister to care about anything else.

Ravel managed to dig herself out from beneath a huge rock, her body covered in blood and her coat missing its back just as her pants were missing a left leg. "I am alive…" She couldn't help but mumble as the Power of Immortality kept her going, fixing the internal damage she had.

Problems began to appear when she tried to get up and realized her legs weren't working despite being covered in flame. Calling them flames was generous since the Power of Immortality was producing embers instead of a proper fire to fix her limbs. Not just them but several small cuts and scratches that were once bigger wounds persisted.

Too many wounds, too much damage to fix both internal and external. Adding that to the defense she had to pull off to even survive the blast itself and Ravel was truly spent.

Phoenix True Wings was the technique she developed to counter the Power of Destruction, a barrier based on the wings of the Legendary Bird, a True Immortal, that could be used both offensively and defensively.

Were Ravel been anyone else in her age group, had she not tried as she did nor fortified her defenses before trying to break out from the Lightning Orochi, she would have turned to dust.

Thanks to her wings, surviving the epicenter of the blast became possible but only the Power of Immortality could truly secure her life since, besides the explosion itself, she was thrown around like a rag down several times over before slamming on a corner of the crater the blast made.

Her Power was what kept her functional as she dragged herself to stand once her bones were mostly restored. "What happened?" The noble couldn't help but question out loud, not really expecting an answer.

She got one anyway. "Probably a reaction when you added your mana to Orochi's which made its existence extremely volatile." Slowly, at a snail's pace, Ravel turned her head to see a familiar figure floating a few meters behind her. "Apparently Lightning and Fire don't mix so when you tried to blow your way out my pet reacted and unleashed all its mana. The end result, well, my Orochi self-destructed in the most catastrophic way possible." Akeno offered a nonchalant shrug. "I doubt anyone expected something like that to happen and I am just relieved you didn't die."

Floating without wings, just a few centimeters above the ground, was Medusa's priestess still wearing her Noble Gear as elegant as ever. In fact the woman was completely unharmed and her Divine aura was as strong as before.

Her kimono didn't even have a single spec of dust which forced Ravel to ask, "How?"

"Hmm~ 'How' what?" Clearly Akeno was playing with her but the blond had no more anger to give.

"Did you… get this strong? It has just been a couple of months?!" She questioned what many wanted to know.

And the ravenhead replied with something the strong already knew. "'Experience is the greatest teacher' as they say. We saw the World, we tasted its fruits and understood our impotence… and decided to change that."

Explaining everything would take too long and that wasn't the right environment to do it however Akeno still made sure to sound as sincere as possible. The truth was just that simple as while on the Phenex peerage trained, they hadn't experienced everything she and her friends did nor had the same opportunities.

From the priestess' perspective only one had managed to keep up with them; surviving an explosion that surely would kill her former self and any version of her that hadn't truly dedicated to growing strong proved Ravel worthy.

In fact if she wasn't under orders from Rias to not fight everything she had, Akeno would love to go a few rounds against the blond. Both rested and better prepared, of course. Also no Serpent Eye. Definitively the Daughter of Phenex wasn't ready for that.

The pureblood herself was lost in a sea of frustration since, as far as answers went, that was too vague for her tastes but her anger was truly gone and resignation began to take place upon realizing that the woman before her was on a completely different level. "How didn't you take any damage? That explosion-"

"Let me tell you a little secret." The ravenhead leaned forward and whispered. "Between everyone in our peerage, I have the highest defense and the second best offense. Only Buchou beats me on that one, fufufufu."

The noble devil couldn't believe it. "But you guys have the Red Dragon Emperor. How are you so strong?"

Giggling a little more the priestess replied,"Oh, Ise-kun isn't fully realized yet but I don't plan falling behind." She returned to her full height and landed gently beside the blond. "But really, you survived that… very impressive." Lightning sparked on her fingers and Ravel prepared to pass out when it hit her. Only for her eyes to widen in surprise when the girl felt her energy reserves returning even if only a little. "Didn't you hear me before? Life and Death, the snake has many interpretations. It isn't a complete transfer but my reserves are more than enough to give you a 'pick me up' before the final event." She then stopped and turned to the side. "Don't you agree, Buchou?"

Landing besides the two of them was Rias Gremory herself and the redhead looked like she had a rough flight. Her school uniform was dirty and there were some scratches on her knees which indicated something had hit her.

From her expression alone, the King of Gremory blamed Akeno for whatever happened. "Is anyone going to explain that explosion?" She asked rhetorically, not expecting anything and even if her best friend's face was hidden behind a mask she knew the ravenhead was smiling. "Akeno…"


"Didn't we agree that she would be left alone?" Asked the Heiress of Gremory, her thumb pointing to the devil covered by Fire.

Thanks to the little boost Akeno gave her Ravel's healing had accelerated tremendously but she wasn't out of the woods just yet. Like the Queen herself had implied the transfer of energy was inefficient and it would have taken far too much time for the blond to get enough for a full regeneration through that method.

Which Rias wasn't going to have so she summoned a magic circle, once more prompting Ravel to prepare for the knockout blow, to drop a bag in front of her. "There are healing potions and several special brands of coffee in there to keep you going for a few more hours." The older woman informed her fellow noble with a deadpan tone. "You will drop like a rock once the effects wear off but with this we can have our fight… That is what you wanted, right?"

"Why?" Was all Ravel could ask.

"You read the contract. Do you think you can willingly deal with it unless we finish this the right way?" Rias asked back with a raised eyebrow and the blond found herself without words. Fine for the redhead who had more to say. "One way or another this is all about burying the hatchet, it is why I made sure both our peerages would be out of this fight. Speaking of which," she turned to the silent Akeno who had an smug aura around her, "shoo, shoo."

"Ah~ I really can't watch?" She was pouting, Rias was sure of it.

"And forcing Ravel to watch her back the whole time? As if. She isn't getting any excuses." Blue eyes focused on dark blue and she added. "Ravel made her bed, time for her to lay on it. The contract is signed, after all."

Having her previous words thrown back at her like that lit a flame Ravel believed extinct. "Like you don't have a Queen right here who can take me out with a flick of her finger!" She pointed at Akeno who waved in amusement. "What is the point, Rias?"

"To bury the hatchet so you can't complain. What else?" That silenced the blond again and after a small stand off the redhead tilted her head to the bag. "If you just want to rest, do it. We can start whenever you are ready but I really recommend you to get something to stay awake. You are dead on your feet."

Realizing that Rias didn't need poisons or any cheap tricks to defeat her, Ravel took the bag and the potions inside it for what they were, a chance to have a clean fight despite her blunder of challenging the redhead's Queen.

If anything they were an indication that if the Sole Daughter of Phenex had challenged the Heiress to a duel the older woman would have indulged her, contract or not. It made the blond feel silly but she bit it back and focused on directing her Power of Immortality in the most optimal way to preserve energy.

"Fine." She took the first fast and began to drink in a hurry only to cough a few seconds after because of the bitter taste.

"There is a lot of coffee in there." Akeno pointed out far too late. "And chocolate."

Much to Rias' chagrin. "Go back to the others."

"But Buchooooouuuuuu~"

"No, not after all this!" She cut off while motioning to the devastated area around them. Rias knew her Queen was just playing coy and that she needed to put her foot down fast.

Petulantly and mostly playfully, Akeno pointed to the youngest one present. "Half of it was her fault~"

"And that wasn't part of the plan but everyone can see you took things a step too far." She was obviously referring to the unleashed Noble Gear. 'Seriously, I need to get Shiro to make me one… as soon as I figure out what would be the best Core for me.' Shaking her head rapidly, she focused on the present, turning towards Ravel. "Go back to the others and tell everyone to retire. This is the best way to finish this mess."

For the first time in a while Ravel felt some sort of control over the situation and nodded before adding, "You also promised you would get everyone out of my way for me to face Rias." Already the potions were working because her wounds closed at a rapid rate as her reserves recovered. They weren't full by any extent of imagination but she wasn't winning in raw power regardless so it didn't matter. "Either I will submit or I will triumph… nevertheless, I will fight with just one regret."

"'One regret'?" Rias asked with interest.

The blond nodded sharply before speaking softly enough so just the two of them could hear.. "I truly didn't want to take Seekvaia's eye. For that I am-"

"Save it for her. One way or another." Ravel looked up upon noticing the tone of respect but didn't dwell on it.

Akeno saw that things were going like Shirou and she planned so the priestess opened her wings and began to leave. "You girls have fun~" She was gone before any retort could be given.

Leaving Rias to sigh. "I love her to death but sometimes Akeno can really be too much." She was still smiling at her Queen's shenanigans. "Do you need a break or a few minutes?"

"No. I am fine." Better than fine, the potions did wonders. But the side effects would be terrible and Ravel knew that very well she really was going to crash hard for a whole day when all was said and done. "Can I ask something? Why do all this? You weren't half as kind when putting my Clan under your boot."

Raising an eyebrow, Rias was about to challenge her that her Clan deserved it but changed her mind. 'Honor is a privilege of the strong…' She reminded herself. "Because the man I love is kind and he convinced me this was the best way to stop further violence between us… that doesn't involve me crushing the Phenex Clan so hard they stop being a Pillar all together."

"The man- you love-" Stuttering, the noble soon shook her head with a look of frustration before Fire burst from her back and Phoenix True Wings emerged.

Earning an appreciative whistle from Rias. "That is certainly a beautiful pair of wings. Mixing magic circles with them?" Ravel seemed to bite her tongue which confirmed her theory. "Concentrating a lot of power and giving them a new form with multiple purposes," Born To Be Wild appeared behind its creator who couldn't hide the mirth in her smile, "doesn't that reminds you of anything~"

After a few seconds of consideration, Ravel nodded. "Yes, I was inspired by your own design." Suddenly fire and lava began to erupt from the earth, forcing the redhead to jump back several meters. The flames danced around the blond as the area began to look a lot more hellish. "And it is the magic I created to defeat you! Blazing Feathers!"

With a beat of her wings, fire and wind were under her command, exploding in Rias' direction with the strength of a hurricane. Surprised, the redhead's eyes grew wide just before she jumped even further back while throwing her creation in front as a shield.

Some of the Fire made contact and the Heiress felt her Stand shake with the attacks but barely paid attention to it as her focus shifted to her right where Ravel was already repositioned, wings pulling back for a follow up.

Born To Be Wild ceased to exist as Rias did a backflip before jumping away with a smile on her face as the blond unleashed her attack on an empty space. Ravel looked at the redhead with anger as the older woman opened her bat-like wings and kept retreating, prompting the younger one to give chase.

In a few seconds they were already out of the mountain's crater and flying through the battlefield unimpeded as they were the only ones still fighting. Noticing her opponent was faster than herself, Rias remained close to the ground maneuvering around any obstacle as the Sole Daughter of Phenex approached rapidly.

Not only Ravel seemned to be naturally faster but she also didn't need to worry about the geysers of fire or shifting temperatures, something the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess couldn't claim.

"Born To Be Wild! Destruction Bullets!" Her Stand appeared mid-air and unleashed its first salvo which its target avoided by flying higher, enveloping herself in her wings to become a smaller target.

Unfortunately for Ravel, Rias had grown to be an excellent markswoman since their last match and every single bullet met its mark. Fire was already closing the wounds when the wings opened again, the blond holding two of her feathers made of flame before throwing them like javelins.

Keeping herself calm the redhead ordered her Stand to shoot the projectiles down while also shooting Ravel behind them. Once again the bullets met their mark but a curious event happened; the feathers had been split apart by Destruction before reforming a millisecond later and continuing their trajectory.

Rias found herself with no choice but to raise her defenses, Born To Be Wild blowing up when the feathers connected. For her part Ravel took the shots on chest and shoulder yet her body was already regenerating and it wasn't enough to interrupt her flight.

Unlike the Heiress who was a little shaken from the explosion and landed to recover her bearings. That finally gave the blond the time needed to catch up and she pulled her wings back while charging more mana around them. Mountains blew up as fire gathered behind her back and she unleashed her attack.

"FLIGHT OF PHOENIX!" She shouted with all the strength of her lungs and Fire responded by directing itself towards Rias from everywhere.

The ground beneath her feet broke as flames exploded but the redhead was already running as the rest of the attack descended in waves and streams of Fire all aiming towards the Heiress' position.

But she kept running, jumping and diving, never opening her wings to avoid becoming a bigger target. Good thinking because there was so much Fire around her that she couldn't avoid some burns on her arms and legs.

Those weren't enough to break the redhead's run and Ravel noticed such, pulling her wings together to give herself a focal point. Soon the storm of flames was joined by lasers of fire which easily melted rock.

One of which Rias had to block, "Born To Be Wild!" while not breaking her run, leaving her Stand to disappear as soon as its job was done, no counter attack in sight. Focusing on escaping was her priority either way and she dashed behind a rock to recover her bearings. "This arena sucks."

It wasn't just a complaint but also her accepting the fact that Ravel was using her field advantage very well. She didn't even dare to touch the rock giving her shelter since it was possible to see Fire consuming it little by little. While that proved how dangerous the blond had become it also gave Rias an opening.

After all, if her shield was going to vanish anyway she might use it to reposition and catch her enemy by surprise. Either by attacking through its back or moving to one of its sides, whichever gave her the better position.

For that she took a second to evaluate her situation and noticed that besides the area behind the huge rock, everywhere was covered in a carpet of fire. 'Crap. Is she planning to use all her mana? Maybe this is an attempt to suffocate-'

Her thoughts were cut off when Ravel emerged from her right at speeds that would impress Kiba by a huge margin. Condensing the mana around her hand and legs, Rias raised an arm to block the fireball flying her way before jumping back. That frustrated the blond who knew her attack should have destroyed such a 'weak' defense.

So she leaped after the redhead, wings at ready. "You won't escape! Wings of Phoenix!"

"That wasn't my intention! Born To Be Wild!" The mana already in her hand changed in less than a millisecond from pure energy to several magic circles which combined into the shape of a standard revolver just as the Phenex Daughter was in reach. "Act II!"

Shots were fired at the same time a wing was used as a blade.

Because of the sudden attack that hit her forehead, Ravel lost her balance and even her awareness for a second, her wing missing its mark. Still the attack just had hit Rias' legs instead of her midriff, burning and cutting her tights despite the small barrier the redhead had placed exactly against that.

Yet Rias didn't stop retreating, using her wings for stability as she jumped on several patches of earth in the inferno of Ravel's creation. She also kept firing at Riser's former Bishop but after a second the younger woman was already back in action.

Phoenix True Wings raised to block the shots but Destruction cut through easily, almost as if they were made of air which irritated Ravel further. 'Since when her bullets are so dense?!' Compared to when she faced Rias in the past her destructive power was far more condensed and dangerous. However, even if the blond's defenses failed, her Power was on point and her wounds healed just as the bullets left her body. 'Her ability changed! I need to adapt! Long range is not an option!'

Not knowing the exact differences between the more concentrated bullets, the blond pureblood still managed to estimate those shots cost far less energy if the smaller weapon was any indication.

'I cannot allow the fight to ground or even land in a stalemate. If I do…' The image of herself falling due to the lack of mana crossed her mind as she opened her wings to unleash a huge gust of wind to thwart the redhead's aim. It failed and she took five more shots in several parts of the blond's body, blood pouring even as Fire healed her. 'I need to change things or- I won't lose!'

With that in mind she hit her wings on the ground, raising a cloud of fire around herself and putting Rias in the defensive as the redhead expected some sort of trick. She was right to be suspicious because several blasts of Fire flew from different points of the cloud in her direction.

The Heiress was still retreating but for good measure she changed her revolver for a high caliber rifle and opened fire towards the center of the blasts while focusing hard on her own bullets.

Even when they made contact with the flames they didn't react, instead piercing the Fire as only Destruction could. That was because Rias had involved her Mana Bullets in a thin layer of her Power and once they were far enough inside the Fire she let her concentration slip for them to blow up.

Fireworks took over the area for a moment as the Heiress' volatile mana forced three huge shockwaves and put off several fires. At least on the surface as the redhead wasn't naive enough to think that was all the fire the area had.

Which meant that Ravel still had plenty of options but the one she took caught Rias off guard as the blond had closed the distance between them again. The Crimson Haired Ruin Princess's eyes shone with power and she brought her rifle down on the other woman's face and opened fire.

Ravel's face was shredded into pieces, destroyed and rebuilt in a space short of a second that it should have been impossible even for a member of the Phenex Clan. Something similar had happened in the last match and the damage to the brain had been enough to stun Riser's former Bishop completely.

Not so much anymore as she pushed forward and sent a wing in Rias' direction. The redhead's weapon fell apart in mottes of mana as she retreated again but fire exploded around them. It wasn't out of nowhere as Ravel's other wing had unleashed a giant flame while the Heiress escaped the first attack.

Both ended up burned but only one had the Power of Immortality so Ravel channeled more mana on Phoenix True Wings. "Blazing Feathers!"

With how close they were to each other the blond saw no way for her opponent to escape and she was right. Instead of escaping, Rias held her ground by creating two handguns and shot down the dozen feathers while dodging a dozen more.

"Ahhh!" She still roared both from pain and determination as fire hit her midriff creating a nasty burn. 'Pain is a friend! It forces you to keep going!' Rias told herself, remembering her training with Kiritsugu as she kept firing.

And that time she didn't stop and Ravel felt every hole the Heiress created in her body as Destruction and Immortality worked constantly on the girl.

For a few seconds she had lost her head only to see her own back before fire reconnected her neck, her hands were torn apart several times each, she definitely lost an arm at least once, her wings were shredded as the hand guns were visualized as semi automatics machine guns and every attempt to take a step forward saw her legs turned into cheese.

Somewhere in that torture Ravel also started to shout with fury and determination as she tried to gather as much Fire as she could to keep attacking. It was in vain, her lack of defense meant Destruction would extinguish any attempt of a spell unimpeded. Only Immortality couldn't be stopped but it was a matter of time before she ran out of energy.

Realizing that took almost a minute because her brain was getting damaged almost constantly but eventually the Daughter of Phenex surrendered herself to instinct and began to fall back in a panic to avoid the pain.

Rias only realized what was happening when the Phoenix True Wings burst forward and the blond turned around to fly away as fast as she could. Obviously the Heiress of Gremory wanted to give chase to press her advantage but found herself hissing and falling to one knee while holding her side.

Her body was burned in too many places, her legs and wings having taken the worst damage because of the terrain. "Tch. Born To Be Wild!"

She summoned her Stand for a moment to blow up some of the area and extinguish every fire visible before transforming it into a magic circle to summon an EM. While her wounds healed quickly she chose to stay put to catch her breath, her eyes locked on the cave her opponent was using for a hideout.

"That is some monstrous regeneration! More than the Power of Immortality should be able to afford." The Crimson Haired Ruin Princess pointed out loudly, eyes fixed where Ravel was hiding. "Care to share the secret?! I bet it was some sort of stupíd training!"

A lull settled on the battlefield before Ravel replied. "How did you guess?!"

"Mostly because I went through the same thing!" Rias had no idea what Ravel did to improve her healing to a level she could be almost ripped apart and get back up but could acknowledge the effort that must have gone on it. When the silence began to stretch, she added. "Doesn't mean you can keep this up forever?! Even if you started fresh, how much damage can you afford before running on fumes?!"

"Enough to beat you!" Anger had returned to Ravel's voice and Rias could see flames escaping the cave. Inside it the blond took stock of her resources and bit her lip in frustration. 'Even if we started this fight from the start…' Defeat was the most likely outcome no matter how much she wanted to deny the fact. Yet she refused to quit because even if she lacked the raw power to beat Rias, she had a few tricks left. 'Her healing depends on external factors. If I harm her enough-'

From the outside the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess joined her hands together before pulling her left hand back slowly. "Born To Be WIld, Act II." A red blood bazooka took shape and she quickly took aim. "Mana Missile!"

The projectile looked exactly as advertised, like a real missile painted red and with its own propulsion which came in the form of red mana leaving its tail taking it to the cave, straight to its mouth despite having to take a sharp turn to get inside.

An impossible shot for anyone else several factors were in the redhead's favor in that case; Rias' precision was sharper than any modern weapon's, mana didn't need to be affected by wind and her control was extremely good.

So much so in fact hitting an imobile target was a foregone conclusion even at hundreds of kilometers of distance, Emiya Kiritsugu made sure of that personally.

By the time the cavern exploded, Rias was already changing her weapon into a heavy assault rifle while repositioning it on her shoulder for better aim. She doubted the blast would have taken Ravel out even if it was a surprise, it wasn't even a fifth the size of Akeno's for starters.

Patiently the redhead took flight for a better view that covered every angle but Ravel had been waiting for that and flew straight towards her. Unfortunately for the blond her speed hadn't changed much since the fight began so the Heiress had little difficulty to shoot while flying away.

Once more it was clear that Ravel was going to catch up but, thanks to Act II, Rias had plenty of space and control over her shots to punish the other devil for every centimeter she took.

At every second, a bullet, sometimes in even shorter intervals. There were few parts of Ravel's body that didn't have a bullet wound at one point of the fight or another. Yet she persisted, using the battlefield's fire to fuel her own and increase its longevity. Another trick she picked up to save energy.

'A little further. Just a little.' Were the younger woman's thoughts as she focused everything on healing and flying as her mouth remained open in a cross between a scream and a roar.

Rias remembered how Riser did something similar during their fight, abandoning every sort of defense to reach her, and noticed how Ravel was taking that same idea a notch or two above the original by ignoring the Mana Bullets exploding on her.

Yes, the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess was already using her most explosive ammunition but the damage was being brushed aside. Or at least mitigated as the Power of Immortality restored the blond's left shoulder and arm just as the Heiress blew it off.

With that iron will Ravel tackled Rias at full speed and the two began to fall into a spiral towards the ground and as the redhead lost her focus Born To Be Wild vanished. On the air they struggled and the closer they got to the ground, the more desperate the fight became as neither wanted to take the brunt of the collision.

It wasn't a matter of luck but strength and in hand to hand combat no amount of training could prepare the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess to deal with someone who was on fire all the time.

Even if her aura was superior, even directing everything to her own defense, the Power of Immortality and the area made it easier for Ravel to increase her Fire's output until it began to devour Rias' strength.

She tried to push the Daughter of Phenex away but Ravel grabbed her arms and refused to let go. It ended with Rias back on the ground when they finally crashed. "Born To Be Wild!"

Only for her Stand to take most of the damage as her uniform began to burn since all her energy and concentration was on preserving her creation. She once more hissed but the advantage of being on the ground was that suddenly her leverage had increased exponentially and kicking Ravel off was easy.

Far too easy and Rias realized too late that she was exactly where her opponent wanted if the rain of Feathers was any indication. Breaking apart her Stand once more, the Heiress had no time to transition into Act II. Instead she raised several magic circles in front of herself to wait for an opening.

Exactly as Ravel planned as Rias was in no opposition to stop her from creating a magic circle of her own and a huge bag dropped in her hands. The sound of glass jiggling inside it somehow perturbed the redhead as her gut warned that something bad was inside that sack and the magic surrounding it didn't help.

She was half tempted to shoot it off the Daughter of Phenex's hands but not while she was on the ground below whatever could fall from it. When Ravel finally extracted something from the bag which appeared to be water, the Heiress grew honestly confused.

That confusion was enough to stop her from running for a short second giving the blond enough time to throw the glass bottle in her direction. More specifically her magic circle's direction which was still up even as Ravel's attack had died down. It certainly was the opening Rias was waiting for and an opportunity to attack.

Yet her skin was shaking with goosebumps just at looking at that bottle and so she hesitated, keeping her shields up. Her instincts were proved correct when the bottle broke and suddenly her magic circle lost all of its consistency. Its destruction was so complete that the water flowed freely.

Despite already dodging, Rias felt a few drops fall on her leg making her hiss in pain as they evaporated and not from the heat like the rest of the water that fell on the ground. It had pierced her aura and burned her flesh even more than Ravel's Fire and there was only one substance the Heiress knew could affect devils that way.

"Holy water? You are using holy water?" She felt the bitter irony and didn't like it.

And her opponent didn't disappoint. "What is wrong? It was your idea first. You don't like being on the other side of it?" The blond asked, hand on the bag as Rias gritted her teeth. "Of course you don't. That was still just a fraction of the pain you inflicted on my brother. My family!"

"Good grief, woman, at the time I had no other means of beating Riser." Sure things had changed but in the past Rias wasn't even half as strong or resourceful as she became in the present. Dwelling on that topic was useful to buy her time regardless as her eyes jumped from Ravel to the bag. 'How is she holding that bag? The answer is obvious, the spells woven on it. But touching holy water, even indirectly…' Blue eyes grew wide when she realized, "That is how you improved your Power, isn't it? You used holy water to-"

"To push the Power of Immortality to its limits!" Ravel announced proudly while drawing a flask full of holy water and everyone could see her flesh burning just from holding it. But also how it regenerated without an issue and without using fire which secured the glass' existence.

"That is a thing?" Azazel asked incredulously, voicing the question everyone on the Gremory box wanted to ask. "Can devils… adapt to holy water? Since when?"

"Probably just members of the Phenex Clan." Shirou's shock lasted less than everyone else as he leaned forward in his seat with clear interest in his gaze. "It isn't as much of an 'adaptation' as it is 'growing' used to something. Even the average person can grow accustomed to being burned if they are exposed to fire long enough."

"I don't believe that is what he is referring to, Master." Xenovia also was leaning forward, her full attention on the fight which everyone thought Rias had already won. Suffice to say that the most recent reveal changed their perspective. "Holy water is painful for devils. Fatal even. It is like… acid for us."

"Worse." Zeoticus pointed out with a distant gaze and a shiver in his spine. "Much, much, much worse."

His wife held his hand as their memories of worse times, times when the Three Factions were at each other's throats, ran through both their minds. "Calling the pain excruciating is generous. Many of our friends perished in the war not because of angels but of men who could use the Enemy's gifts, like holy water, against us."

Azazel was sweating as he also remembered those days. "Of course it depends on the quality of the water. Not all holy water is equal. The best ones need to be made in Holy Land, by a true believer or an angel. The best from the best one, those from the times of the war…"

"Could only be made with God's Blessing." Medusa pointed out, understanding how Divinity was used in the process better than most. "My priestess should be the one in this fight. Her Serpent Eye, no, I would protect her against it."

The Cadre shook his head. "To a certain extent. Look at the quality of that water; it burned Rias' leg with just a few drops." The burns were bigger than the drops themselves by what they could see in the zoomed images. "Maybe not made by an angel but… she definitely got a true believer to make that one. A true believer and some sort of Holy Land where it could be properly prepared." He wouldn't be surprised if she got a specialist or two for the process. "Either a priest or someone else."

Setsuna was growing increasingly nervous, worried for their friend. "More importantly, how did she get her hands in that kind of holy water? She's a devil."

"Wouldn't be that hard." Rin folded her arms with a cold look. "Just pay someone to have it made for them, most likely a human, and have them deliver it to you." Her gaze grew more interested and it was like a fog had descended in her mind when she asked. "But that sort of pain isn't something anyone can deal with out of nowhere. Despite that she isn't even shaking, just healing."

"You think Rias is right? That Ravel used it in her training?"

Rin nodded at the Mage's question. "Undoubtedly. I can already see it; that girl working with that water for months and months. First placing a finger on it, then a hand, an arm. How many times did she scream?" A smile grew in her lips which was too out of place for the Tohsaka. "Must have been torture."

"It was literaly torture a few years ago." Grafia pointed out helpfully, some turning to her with shocked expressions.

"Ravel, why?" Riser asked as he and his Pawns watched the fight with worried faces and rapid attention as their former Bishop held the bottle in her hand for Rias, and the audience, to see the sort of damage it was dealing.

Somewhere it got to the point everyone could see the muscles beneath the skin growing red from the cycles of regeneration and destruction. Riser more than most, at one point praised for having the best Power of Immortality in the whole Phenex Clan, knew the sort of pain his sister had went through.

His defeat was still fresh in his mind, the trauma of being forced to bathe under holy water and having it burn him alive even as his body fought back. Also he wasn't foolish enough to believe the water in Ravel's hand was worse than the one used on him. It was better, it had to be better, it only made sense in his mind.

Ravel had dedicated herself to defeating Rias, thousands of lucertes, a little less than its value in dollars, in preparation for that fight. She wouldn't buy cheap holy water nor would skirt around it if she was really determined.

"Why do all this? Torture herself?" Riser asked out loud, his hand touching her image as she said something else to Rias. "She was always strong but-"

In his peerage Ravel had been a smart Bishop with a lot of cunning but average fighting prowess and power. The cunning was still there without a doubt but in terms of capability the young woman had grown several folds.

'It was like when I wasn't looking she had become a different person.'

"All comes down to motivation." It was Setsuna who pointed out, her eyes focused on Ravel. "If I saw my sister suffering, I would do everything to help, no matter the cost."

Shirou simply said, "Agreed."

"So it's my fault? After what happened-" Riser found himself stopping short of breath out of nowhere. "Because I failed and was defeated- No, because I allowed my defeat to freeze me and became a coward."

"I wouldn't call it cowardice." The Mage of Swords pointed out gently. "Sometimes people need time to get up after-"

"But I am Riser Phenex! A Phenex! I was once considered the future of my Clan and our best inheritor of the Power of Immortality… Now my sister… she is the one who pushed herself to her limits, who took the place of her weak brother who couldn't do anything after a single defeat." The last words were said with so much loathing and poison that it surprised everyone.

"Lord Riser-" Marion tried to console her King but he raised a hand, refusing to accept her kindness.

"Compared to our Eldest brother… It is easy for me to say Ravel doesn't have the raw power to surpass him. Yet her Power of Immortality reached a level never conceived before. It is safe to say she is the strongest Phenex in History-"

"I wouldn't say that." Azazel mumbled but didn't try to cut Riser off.

"-and I can't even imagine the pain she had to go through to reach that sort of power."

Seeing the state the younger devil was in, Sirzechs pointed out, "Regardless of what was the initial impetus for her transformation, she is standing there out of her own will." They saw the fight was about to begin anew as Ravel dashed at Rias. "Don't sully her resolve by thinking you are the only factor or that she wouldn't keep going anyway after a certain point. As a brother there is a time when we can do nothing but watch our sisters shine brightly with their own strength." He chuckled, looking at some of the present like Rin and Setsuna. "But then again, in truth that applies to any sort of sibling, doesn't it?"

"I does." Was the hanyou response while the magus remained silent, watching the fight.

Yet the words had its intended effect, resonating with Riser who also nodded and straightened his posture to pay full attention while other siblings in the room grew pensive or started to pay even more attention to the fight if it was possible.

All but Rin who looked uninterested for a moment before blinking the fog away and nodded in agreement with Sirzechs' words.

Nobody but Medusa saw it, the goddess feeling something uncomfortable on the back of her neck.

Just throwing bottles of holy water at devils sounded like a good strategy but was really a waste. It would take a good deal of insanity for any devil to stand in the way of a substance that can be fatal to them. Not unless they were a particular member of the Phenex Clan who used holy water for training.

Ravel didn't need to be in the stadium to know that people were calling her mad, insane and whatever other description could be applied when someone lost their mind or did something considered utterly stupid.

Because it was stupid and she knew that much, couldn't even be confused with the brilliance of a genius with how much stupid it was. The levels of stupidity that took to take 'acid baths' willingly every single day for weeks just couldn't be measured. If they could, then she would freely claim her actions would break the scale.

Several members of her Clan died in the Great War because of Holy powers, holy water chief amongst them because of course it countered their fire. It was how her Pillar lost its Honorable Ancestor and he wasn't the only one to perish because of Holy. As a strategist, the Daughter of Phenex knew her History and yet she took the risk anyway.

And it paid off in dividends or at least least she felt it did considering the face Rias' was making as several ironies made themselves know at once; the reason why Ravel thought of holy water, that a Phenex devil was using water in the first place, even Phoenix True Wings drew inspiration from the shocked redhead.

What Ravel Phenex became a reflection, or perhaps a parody of the redhead Whatever it took to challenge Rias Gremory by following the same path in the reverse order;

She used holy water which defeated her brother to strengthen her body and Power to its limits in an extreme short time.

To push herself even further, the blond updated her concept of magic and imagination by following Rias' example to create a new form of using Fire. A phoenix was the image she pictured, going far enough to research everything about the real deal and even finding one for observation.

For the sake of surpassing the slightly older devil, Ravel became one of the strongest of her generation and, much like the Gremory Heiress' former groom did for her, Rias gave the blond an opportunity to seize victory in a way to make amends.

Didn't matter if the Princess of Ruin truly wanted to bury the hatchet, the Daughter of Phenex would make sure it would be a painful process regardless or else all she suffered would have no meaning.

"Regretting sending your Pieces away?" Ravel finally asked with smug satisfaction. The pain from holding holy water was so familiar and easy to deal with that she felt more confident because of it. "You blamed us for pride, right? Greed? Arrogance?" She laughed loudly. "But the one who has all that and more is you!" Pointing with the hand holding her instrument for training and greatest weapon was extremely painful but she found pleasure in it. In it and in Rias' cautious face. "Bet you wanted Akeno here. She could take me down."

"Of that I have no doubt." Rias replied with a smirk, surprising the blond. "What is wrong?"

"Why aren't you-"

"Afraid? Oh, I am terrified." It was holy water, even using it against Riser had been her last resort because she didn't wish its pain on any devil. However that didn't mean she was giving up. "How many flasks do you have? Ten? Twenty? Bet you don't have any more in your magic circle either since a bag that makes it safer to use demonic magic on holy water must have cost a pretty penny."

Confidence brimmed from the Heiress but Ravel just clicked her tongue and replied. "Does it matter? You don't have the Power of Immortality! Your children will never have the Power of Immortality!" Her words were obviously deliberated, a dig at what Rias gave up by challenging the Phenex. "Just a few drops, a bottle or two, and you will be at death's door."

There was no point in denying the younger noble was right. "If you can hit me, that is."

Hearing the challenge in Rias' tone was enough to get Ravel moving, her wings opening beating fast twice before she became a blur for most of the audience. But not for the redhead who was quick to adjust and fly back in a hurry.

Using holy water was a two edged knife and Rias already knew a solution to that problem. "Act II!" Two mini machine guns appeared in each of her hands and she opened fire not aiming for her opponent but the bag she was carrying.

Something obviously simple wasn't going to work that easily and Ravel dodged to the side to avoid the hits before starting to fly low. Fine for Rias who quickly adjusted and took the skies in the Sole Daughter of Phenex's place, making her frown even as she moved to the sides, dodging the Destruction Bullets.

Then the ammunition began to blow up upon contact with the ground, catching the blond of guard at the pattern's change. Silently the Heiress kept flying away while shooting the young woman to either win the match or destroy the bag. One way or the other, a stray hit could mean her win.

At least it should mean her win but it was Rias' turn to frown when a close blast failed to damage the magic bag. 'Because of course it would be made to survive a battlefield. Of fucking course!' The Crimson Haired Ruin Princess quickly reasserted herself to coldly study the situation while the rate of fire was increased. 'The best chance to destroy the holy water or its containers is a Bullet of Destruction. Precision isn't the problem, Ravel is.'

Because the blond devil wasn't taking a single hit even as she gained attitude to reach Rias. Fortunately for the redhead it meant she couldn't just charge like previously in the fight so her flight speed was quite smaller. Keeping her distance was the optimal move whose only risk was Rias running out of mana first but eliminated holy water as a factor.

However it wasn't the most optimal move and the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess quickly ran through some options.

Options with greater risk but obviously equally greater rewards.

Meanwhile Rias ran away from her and unleashed a rain more hellish than the place they were fighting in, Ravel grew increasingly frustrated at revealing her trump card and utterly failing on finishing the fight before the redhead slipped away.

Despite knowing the circumstances excused her failure somewhat they weren't acceptable excuses, not if she lost the match. 'I can't place them back in a magic circle. Rias will prioritize shooting any down if I don't have the holy water in my hands. Dropping it down isn't a choice either.' Clenching her teeth, the blond knew she was locked in her course of action as was her only alternative for victory. 'All I need is to get close and throw a few bottles. I just need to find an opening-' She smiled at remembering something Isabela taught her about fighting and feints. 'Or make one.'

Pacing herself to keep the same distance with her opponent, Ravel began to gain attitude once more which was responded to by the redhead giving up some of hers. Even if it wasn't visible, there was a ceiling in the arena and Ravel remembered it being used on their last Rating Game.

Rias wasn't going to let herself be pinned and was happy to increase her attack rate to keep the blond from suddenly charging when they both were at the same attitude, denying the opportunity from a sudden attack.

Which Ravel never planned to take, not in that moment at least.

By the time they changed places, the chase had begun anew as Ravel tried to send a few feathers Rias' way before channeling a huge fireball between her wings. The Fire fell apart a second before it was fully formed courtesy of a Mana Bullet that blew in blond's face.

She lost her balance for a moment which Rias used to try another shot at the bag. "Destruction Bullets!" The plan was to pierce the bag through Ravel's body.

Which proved to be quite difficult when the blond let the bag go during her spin, taking the bullets by herself as her left wing caught the bag. All on the Heiress' line of sight so she pivoted to shoot the Phenex's wing off.

Only for it to bounce the bag back to its owner who shot back a huge blast of Fire that forced Rias to go lower and hide behind a few rocks. 'Her healing, her magic, slowed down.' Not surprising since her opponent was already tired and previously was using the fire in the environment to pick up the slack. 'Need to keep up the pressure.'

Instead of going around the rock the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess Destroyed it, clearing her sigh, while creating a huge rifle and fixing her aim. The Mana Bullet she unleashed flew towards its target despite some Feathers hitting it. It didn't break until it was just a few meters from the blond, exploding with a mental command.

'It didn't hit.' Rias didn't even need to wait for the flash to end, suspecting Ravel was expecting that sort of attack. The blond was moving way too defensively all of sudden despite having the high ground and the Heiress smiled at that fact. 'She is preparing something.'

Her suspicion was proved correct when suddenly Ravel's wings blasted Fire towards the sky and she descended from it several times faster than before. It was like every single feather from her wings were small jet turbines to propel herself forward.

Not exactly a spell or technique, that was pure Fire manipulation by keeping Phoenix True Wings feathers in place instead of throwing them while using its more offensive form. It gave Rias the impression the younger devil was using her wings like the turbines of a jet or even a rocket.

Clearly it wasn't something the noble wanted to use since she only pulled that out as a last ditch effort but the blond's choices were few and the extra expenditure of mana was doable if she could finish Rias off before using everything.

So with a new level of speed she managed to close the distance with ease. The problem for her was that the redhead expected it and with a grin she changed her Stand back to its warrior form. Born To Be Wild moved to intercept and another problem for Ravel presented itself when she failed to maneuver with her turbine-like wings.

The hit and the blond's speed combined unleashed a shockwave powerful enough to tear the earth apart for several kilometers and almost ripped Ravel's head off. Certainly it would have done so with any devil that wasn't a Phenex of her level in the same conditions.

Regardless, Rias failed to keep attacking when Born To Be Wild was ripped apart by something she couldn't see until the Stand disappeared. 'The holy water!'

After the hit Ravel had let go of one bottle trusting inertia to carry it away towards her enemy which it did to a certain extent. Fortunately for Rias, she felt the magic circles which composed Born To Be Wild lose their stability before it actually happened, giving her enough time to throw herself back.

Unfortunately that meant she could do nothing when the Phoenix True Wings extended its tails and locked its creator in place like the roots of a mighty tree. Or a bird of prey's claws that grabbed the ground and stopped her from flying away.

The most bizarre thing was that the Daughter of Phenex neck had been broken with the hit for all to see. Some in the audience threw up when a loud crack was heard from the monitors as the neck was put back in place by the noble's flames. A deranged, almost desperate look in her face, made her appearance both pitiful and sinister.

Rias saw that as well but didn't allow herself to be shaken, reforming Act II into another rifle and unleashing several bullets. Ravel avoided them by diving closer to the ground, her hand slamming on it hard as she felt every flame beneath the earth. The artificial dimension was truly too similar to the Phenex Territory and it was almost like fighting on her home.

"Flight of Phoenix!" Fire bended to her will and several geysers of flames blasted to pin Rias in place. That wasn't all as the Fire in her back exploded up, forming an effigy of the Legendary Phoenix before descending towards the Heiress.

Rias felt her throat go dry, either of heat or nerves she didn't know, but chose to try and escape the giant phoenix. The rest of the fire was quick to close her avenues of escape, pretty much locking her on a sphere, but the redhead was undetained.

"Act II!" A shotgun with a huge barrel came into existence and the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess blew up a hole through the flames. Some of it tried to reform and lock her down but the Heiress ignored the pain and jumped out of the trap with minimal damage.

Just in time as well for Ravel's creation slammed on the ground and unleashed a wave of fire that threatened to consume her opponent completely. Not willing to get any more burned than she was, the Heiress released her weapon and turned it into its warrior mode which raised its arms defensively.

Her reserves felt a dip as the fire was saturated with mana despite it being part of the artificial dimension for the most part. 'How thin are you spreading yourself, Ravel?'

Bursts of fire exploded in Rias' direction and she was quick to jump to avoid them while opening her wings. A return to the previous pattern was something the Daughter of Phenex didn't want so she slammed her hands on the ground and fully returned her wings to normal to channel more power.

Fire obeyed once more and a wave of flames raised as tall as a skyscraper to slam on the Gremory Heiress who watched it with a small measure of shock before calling Born To Be Wild in its warrior mode one more time.

In that moment the redhead dove down as the Stand unleashed several Mana Bullets at the wave. It grew weaker as its mistress got farther but had enough mana to unleash fifteen bullets before fading.

And the wave broke apart but Rias knew she wasn't safe just yet as the Fire splittied itself further and did its best in the impression of a meteor rain. The Crimson Haired Ruin Princess raised her defenses, bunkering down behind several magic circles surrounding her from all sides as the attack fell.

The flames spread even further, each unleashing an explosion that threatened to tear her barriers down but Rias held to the best of her ability. As the fire jumped around trying to get her, a gas deposit beneath the redhead blew up, worsening her situation and forcing her to drop to one knee. It happened so fast that she was a little disoriented but still forced herself to look for Ravel.

Instead finding another Phoenix flying in her direction, smaller than the previous one but still considerably big. Not as big as the first one but it was still the size of a bus and Rias saw no other choice than to focus all magic circles into one to create a sniper rifle to shoot the thing down.

"Destruction Bullet!" She barely made the weapon in time and the effigy to the Legendary Bird was gone just before reaching her. 'That isn't your best, is it? All this is a set up.'

Smaller waves of Fire tried to get to her feet but the redhead jumped only to two pillars of flames to follow after her, forcing her to stay down. Clearly Ravel didn't want her back in the skies and several fireballs proved that much when they flew towards the Heiress in rapid succession.

But the attacks were weak and a few blasts from magic circles did away with the fire before it was ever a threat. Yet the blond wasn't done as a third Phoenix manifested itself, that one barely the size of a car.

Apparently Rias didn't see any danger from the third construct and prepared to retreat only for her back to hit a wall made of broken stones. With a surprised expression she quickly turned back to the bird and pulled her magic circle up before unleashing a blast of Destruction to get rid of it.

As if that was what the Fire was waiting for, several missiles and arrows made of flames 'jumped' towards the redhead faster than the last bird. But the attacks were weaker than the previous ones and were easily dispatched by more magic circles that shot each of them down.

Only for one to resist her attack and, gritting her teeth, Rias refocused the magic circles into a single one and increased her blast of mana's size. It peeled the fire away to reveal Ravel who had embraced herself with the Phoenix True Wings to hide her form and raise her defenses.

When she was close enough the Daughter of Phenex opened her wings and shouted, "Blazing Feathers!"

Compared to even the previous fireballs the attack was slow due to how exhausted Ravel was but the two purebloods were so close to each other that Rias had no choice but to depend on her magic circle to block the attack.

The redhead got ready to dodge as well, expecting a bottle of holy water to fly in her direction at any moment, while focusing on Ravel's location and it wasn't even hard as the girl flew her way.

Next thing both of them noticed the blond had landed on the mountain's side looking down on Rias with a flask of holy water already open and a few drops already falling as she turned it upside down completely.

For the first time in the whole fight it seemed that Rias was one step behind, a belief everyone took to heart once they heard her cries of pain when the holy water landed on her face, burning hotter than any fire she had faced before.

But Ravel wasn't done, not by a long shot, she wasn't going to underestimate the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess and her attack wasn't done even if the screams of pain from the redhead made her pause and filled her chest with regret.

However she wasn't going to stop, she couldn't.

Even before she had taken extreme measures, even before the contract ever came into existence, before the moment of her Clan's humiliation during her own defeat by Rias' hands, the Daughter of Phenex saw something beautiful in her fellow pureblood devil.

Something wonderful, something unique, something she couldn't explain but she wanted and she saw one way to take it for herself.

'I win, Rias!' Kicking the wall, Ravel took flight while turning her bag full of holy water fully upside down, dropping every single flask there at once. For a moment a smile of pure joy spread on her lips as victory was on sight.

However it soon became horror as she realized her mistake; two dozen and a half bottles remained fully with water to the brim and Rias Gremory didn't have the Power of Immortality.

That much holy water to any devil other than herself was positively fatal. "RIAS!" She shouted in a panic while beating her wings desperately to destroy the water with her flames.

It was already too late as she couldn't just shift her flight's direction on a whim nor could her flames reach the bottles. Worse even, she saw the redhead look up with a hand covering her right eye while the other was raised with a magic circle being formed.

Seconds that soon seemed to extend for centuries passed by Ravel and she realized Rias dying was the last thing she wanted. What the Daughter of Phenex desired was the older devil's acknowledgement, respect, perhaps even friendship.

Ravel Phenex discovered she admired Rias Gremory just as she condemned the redhead to death if the Rating Game's spells didn't save her somehow.

Unfortunately the blond knew it wasn't going to happen, everything happened too quickly and she seriously doubted any of the judges would be able to notice the peril Rias was in before it was too late.

Vapor covered her sigh and forced Ravel to cover her eyes as she landed a few meters away from Rias' location. Even as a gas holy water retained the sacred properties that allowed it to harm devils and she needed a moment to heal her eyes. Still she was panicking over the idea of Rias' death, she accelerated her healing further to try and save her.

Intellectually Ravel knew that any attempt would be in vain as Rias would already be just bones or worse.

When she finally recovered her vision there was still some vapor but she was able to see a shadow moving inside it. Hope began to blow in her heart, "Rias, you aren't dead!"

"Of course I am not." That wasn't the voice of someone who went through the equivalent of a bath of acid. Rias' tone carried both her usual smug confidence and a pinch of satisfaction that shocked the blond. "Dying when everything went according to plan means that the plan sucks."

"^'According to plan'?" Ravel couldn't believe what she heard and when the heat finally got rid of the vapor she saw that Rias Gremory hadn't touched holy water. "That mantle-"

"Looks familiar?" Asked Rias as her whole body hid beneath the long black cloak that expelled the vapor freely. Despite her head also being covered, from her position Ravel could see the grin on the redhead's face. "It is the same one I used on our last Rating Game. The one especially made to protect devils against holy water."

Indeed some of her peerages' cloaks were damaged during that struggle but Rias had several reasons for having every single one of them restored. Why wouldn't she anyway considering those pieces of clothing were good enough to block holy water and even blades to a certain extent.

Of course she had it ready the whole time. "That magic circle!" Ravel realized after a beat. "You didn't use it to stop the bottles! Not even to defend yourself!"

"How could I? Holy water neutralizes demonic energy, remember?" Rias asked with one handed shrug while the other rested on her hip. "Still, those flasks of yours were too dangerous. If I revealed my cloak too soon then maybe you would find a way around it."

"Are you insinuating-"

"That I positioned myself to bait you into using all your holy water? Yes I did." Admitted Rias, full of pride. "Not easy to do, a single mistake and I could end like Seek-chan. Seekvaira, in case you didn't understand it was a nickname." She lowered her hood to reveal her face which had a nasty burn around her right eye. But just around it, the eye itself was fine and practically shining. "Really, Ravel, what really secured my win was you going for my eyes. Well, that and a bit of acting. Think I am getting any prizes?" She did a pose, not carrying to show the burn. "Maybe I should be on a movie."

Fighting through her shock, Ravel couldn't help but ask. "How did you know I was going to aim for your eyes? That was-"

"Exactly what you did with Seek-chan. Like I said." Some of the humor left Rias and she added, "Don't make me repeat myself… But if you want an explanation…" Her smile was beautiful even with the burn in her face. If anything many in the audience and Ravel herself would argue the burn enhanced her warrior persona. "Humans tend to repeat things that work even if the situation is a little different. 'Don't fix what isn't broken' and all that."

Those words actually helped Ravel get up to proclaim. "We are devils."

Rias shrugged with a smile. "Human enough. Either way, aiming for the eyes to cause pain for a distraction worked for you before." Reminded the Heiress of Gremory what the blond did to the Heiress of Agares. "So I was waiting for you to try and blind me with holy water, my eyes were even twitching because I was afraid of making a mistake and going blind."

However the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess persona she developed took hold and used the Magus Killer's mentality to concentrate on the plan since the risk was high but the reward was the destruction of Ravel's holy water reserves which would secure her victory.

And it worked, too well even as her opponent had wasted most if not all of her energy in the last ditch effort that was giving Rias a bath of holy water. Yet the redhead had maintained a magic circle for as long as it could, ready to bring out her cloak on the most opportune moment.

"Just as planned." Rias declared rather smugly. Then the confident facade broke as she held her face. "But man, that hurts! Good grief it hurts!" Was the only way she could describe the pain as the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess receded and the young woman expressed her true feelings. "Fricking pain! Worst pain ever!" She also was doing her best to not swear out loud. "And you trained with this? For how long?"

Surprised by the sudden question, the blond took a moment to gather her bearings before replying. "For the last couple of months… I had the idea after our first Rating Game."

"And you just took baths with it or something else?" Rias asked while holding her face. Her guard was low and if anything that was the perfect opportunity for the Daughter of Phenex to attack.

Except that both knew she was beyond exhausted with the potions Rias supplied minutes before being the only thing keeping her awake. Sure there was still plenty of fire around and she could try something but her body felt heavy and sluggish.

Ravel knew those were the side effects of the potions starting to kick in and in a handful more minutes later she would be out like a light, dead to the world for twelve or so more hours if.

Less than a week if she was lucky.

'Considering how much energy I wasted, maybe I will sleep for a month? The blow out of the contract will be done by them, right?' The Daughter of Phenx tried to be optimistic but soon noticed the redhead was still waiting for an answer. "I started with a couple of drops. Then a small cup of water each day until I felt it was safe to dip a toe in a bathtub." She saw Rias wince in sympathy and actually smiled in appreciation. "I was wrong. Don't know why but just by being in a bathtub, the water hurts much more."

"Hmm, yeah. I believe that." Without thinking, Rias had already drawn her EM and stabbed her neck. Two seconds later the burn was gone and she let out a sigh of relief. "Ahh~ That was the most painful experience of my life. Thankfully the heat got rid of all the water or else…" She shivered. "We should really think about making holy water in Rating Games illegal."

'The gall!' Ravel could barely believe it. "You were the first to use it!"

"Yes, against a Phenex. As you just proved, you guys can regenerate." She pointed to her unblemished skin, holding EM with her other hand. "Without this, and my cloak, I would be a puddle of blood." Which made Rias pause and hold her chin pensively. "Maybe I should think about investing in a personal battle uniform? Shiro's armor is good but more defense would never hurt." Looking at Ravel appreciatively, she nodded. "Certainly it worked well enough for you to survive an explosion like that. Most of it, at least."

Once again Ravel could barely believe what was happening. 'Are we just… having a casual conversation?' Shaking her head, she finally asked. "What is this about?" A raised eyebrow was the response. "Weren't we just fighting? Don't you… hate me?"

After taking a moment to think about the proper words, Rias nodded. "Yes, I sort of did… didn't I?" It sounded like the redhead was admitting that to herself as much as to Ravel. "After what you did to Seekvaira, I wanted to make you pay. I wanted you to pay so badly." A soft smile grew in her lips. "It was the same for you, wasn't it?"

And it was so easy to hate, for both of them. They saw themselves in the right and in a sense, both were right. But it was their families' fault, Rias' parents shouldn't have tried to go over her and the Phenex shouldn't have accepted things so easily. Somewhere in her mind the Crimson Haired Ruin Princess included Riser in that package.

However that wasn't what Ravel needed to hear so Rias said, "The way you fought… it was beautiful." Upon seeing the younger devil's eyes grow wide she felt emboldened to say more. "There was such grace in your moves, both against me and against Akeno, that wasn't there before. That none of your siblings has. And your imagination…"

If magic was like paint then Rias judged Ravel as an inspired artist capable of changing landscapes with careful strokes. Yet that wasn't where she shone the most as only when they were one against one did the redhead see what the Daughter of Phenex could really do.

When the chips were down she didn't pull back with fear or balked under pain. The blond kept moving forward, trusting her preparations, Power and resources. She fought with courage and foolishness but nonetheless the older woman found herself respecting the younger.

"Still think you are too childish in some ways." Rias said with quite a bit of cheek. "Rough around the edges and as volatile as fire." Her smile was playful but the words held a sincerity that touched the other devil's heart. "But you are brave and from what I learned during our fight, especially those final moments… I don't hate you anymore." She chuckled a little playfully and also a little maliciously. "But don't expect that this gets you off the hook. The way I see it, you have to work to earn any sort of redemption. If it will happen under me or not, it is your choice."

"My choice? Your contract-"

"You fight too honestly." Rias cut Ravel off with a grin. "Honorably, if you prefer. Even if you win, I am no doubt you will work hard to make amends, Ravel. If not with me…" Her friend's name didn't need to be repeated and by the expression of guilt in the younger woman's face it was clear the redhead was right. "Doesn't mean I am going to lose. I mean, I hate losing. There is no way I am giving this up just because I believe you will act honorably."

Ravel couldn't help but wince at her words. 'Is that a dig at my brother because he threw some games?' However, upon looking at the redhead's eyes, she saw no mockery on them. 'No, she is being completely honest…' Taking a deep breath, the blond asked. "So this is it? You win now, the contract gets activated and I work for you?"

"Can you still fight?" The Heiress asked bluntly. "Because if you can, we keep fighting. I said that I wasn't going to throw the game, you can still try to win. 'Try', being the key word."

"Hehehe, you can be quite cruel, Rias Gremory." Ravel failed to hold back a sigh and dropped her head. "So this is how it ends, hmm. All that work for nothing…"

Rias stared at the other woman in disbelief. "Nothing? You think you didn't accomplish anything?" She threw her arms up in disbelief. "Ravel, you survived holy water and used it to grow stronger. You refined your imagination to the point of keeping up with me and looking at me anyone can see it was a hell of a fight." Then she winced and scratched the back of her head. "Okay, forget the last one since I fixed all my wounds but the point stays." Standing straight the redhead gestured to Ravel and said, "You are strong, Ravel. And the whole Underworld witnessed your strength." Her smile grew feral as she added. "And if anyone disagrees with that, I will teach them a lesson myself."

'You are strong.' Such simple words yet Ravel's heart skipped a beat at hearing them. "I am strong…" Whispered the blond with wonder as she admired the Heiress of Gremory. Dropping to her knees, she didn't realize how much she wanted to hear those words.

Which made Rias worried. "Ravel, are you alright? Can you continue the fight?"

A moment passed between the two before the younger devil asked. "What if I can't?"

"... I can get more potions and wait for you to recover." Once more the surprise was obvious on the blond's face and Rias giggled. "Unless we fight with everything we have to properly end this… you may resent me. I don't want that. If we have to wait-"

"You think that the Elders- the audience will be content to wait?!"

"We already put up a good show. And there isn't a time limit." Rias shrugged, revealing her intentions to all watching.

Making the Daughter of Phenex laugh at the absurdity of everything. "Hahaha- This- you- hahahaha!" The fact the redhead was proving how little she cared about protocol only made everything funnier. Especially since she was supposed to be the status quo's hope and instead she was going to be working for Rias 'Looks like I am joining the revolution.'

Slowly Ravel stood up and began to approach Rias at a slow pace that had the redhead's eyes narrowing with surprise before she prepared to continue the fight. However she saw something on Ravel's own blue eyes that made her pause and drop her hands while her shoulders remained tense.

When the younger woman was at a distance that many nobles would recognize as the proper and most respectful towards someone superior, she clicked her heels before doing a deep curtsy, pretending to be holding a dress.

The message was pretty clear already but when the words came, everything became clearer. "I shall do as you bid and follow you to Hell itself, my King."

Rias couldn't stop the smile that grew in her face nor her hand that first touched Ravel's shoulder before taking her hand and kissing it. "And I shall be a just and worthy King, Ravel of the Phenex Clan."

The Crimson Haired Ruin Princess could already hear the groans and complaints from the Elder Devils, the anger of those who marked her as an enemy and how Ravel's swearing loyalty in front of the whole Underworld would curb any challenger.

But she cared for none of that, focusing on how Ravel was going to compensate Seekvaira and the happiness of having a fellow noble as a Piece. All it would take were oaths, a ritual and willingness which the blond just demonstrated to the whole Underworld to see.

"Welcome to the team. I am glad to have you." Rias spoke sincerely and from the heart.

And Ravel was all the more happier for it.


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