Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii~ Another chapter is here!

Well... chapter came later than I wanted to. For some reason I lost a large chunk of words while writing the latest chapter. Thankfully, it wasn't the entire thing or I would have cried. So yeah, having to rewrite that was a pain and definitely took some time.

Anyways, here's the latest chapter.

Also, thank you to my latest patrons: Willy, Angel, Aaron Tomaso and Archer E. Y'all rock!

That's all,

Author NimtheWriter out!

Beta read by Shigiya.


Kuoh Academy-

Riser

The last person I ever expected to ever meet in Kuoh was anyone from Sobu High. But seeing the guy whom I technically 'stole' his fiance, furthermore, while making him suffer crushing defeat in the eyes of the Underworld by sprinkling some nice words and a promise to his opponent to give them a kiss as a reward—the latter of which went Beast mode and destroyed him with a constant barrage of destruction.

Did he come here for revenge? I hoped not. I already was on the bad side of the exorcists here and needed to watch my back for any crazy magical girl who had the power to create a frozen hellscape.

And said crazy magical girl was right there, hiding behind a bush while having several branches tied around her head like it would help her hide better!

Seriously, why couldn't anyone I know be more normal?

"Surprise to see me? Good! It would mean that my entrance has been a major success, and I have dazzled you enough with my greatness!"

'More like horrified of you.'

I just stood there, a finger pointing at the trio that were approaching me.

"You tell him, Onii-sama!"

Even the twin-drill ojou-sama was here, acting like a little cheerleader to her dear brother.

Neither of them have changed at all, from the same clothes and mannerisms. Though I could tell that something was off with Riser, just a bit, but I'd worry about that later. One would think that the stupidly rich family of the Goetia clans would have a closet filled with different sorts of high-end clothes designed by the best seamstress and flaunt it around to show off their wealth and status. Or maybe they had a closet filled with the same designed clothes, which sounded frightening in its own right.

Granted, Rias liked to wear her school uniform most of the time, but she at least changed into different outfits when she was lazing around my house. Or just wander around naked in the middle of the night.

"What are you doing here, Riser!" I asked.

"Why am I here? How ignorant of you, Black Dragon. You, of all people, should know why I'm here! That talk we had before let ablaze a new passion in my heart, a passion of which I never knew possible, and this kept growing day by day, and I couldn't hold it in anymore until I saw you again!"

Oh my…

"Sorry dude, I'm flattered but I don't swing that way."

I never would have expected him to swing both ways, or that he felt attracted to me of all people. I would have been far more elated if it was someone like Totsuka which I wouldn't mind going on a date if he asked me, but I wasn't gay. To think he traveled all the way from the Underworld to the human world just to ask me out? Well, I couldn't say that the Devils never did anything half-assed. In such a situation, it was better to quickly deny their feelings and hope that they move on.

"I sometimes, most of the time, question the sanity of you people that live in the supernatural, on why you all seem to have an attraction for me. I'm trying to not sound narcissistic about this, but what the heck guys? I'm not someone special, even that powerful compared to some of the freaks out there, or even the protagonist of this world, and I'm fine with that, too much of a hassle in my opinion. But somehow, I keep having to deal with powerful people on a daily basis that seem interested in me. So why am I getting so many people confessing to me, despite my looks being completely average? I mean, if anything my eyes sometimes scare people away if that isn't more proof. I already accepted the fact that both Akeno and Rias may not be all there in the head for wanting to be with me, but I am grateful that they are willing to give this poor schmuck a chance. Nevertheless, I have to decline your confession and politely ask you to move on. We can still be friends, though."

"..."

After I said that part, which was more of a rant now that I think about it, the area descended into a quiet atmosphere. Not a single soul uttered a word over the next few seconds, making me turn my head around, finding both Xenovia and Irina giving me weird looks.

Riser's face morphed from a surprise and baffled look into a furious snarl before he forcefully calmed himself down.

"Woohoo! Dragon-kun sure has a way with words!" Serafall broke the silence as she made her way toward me. "Riser-kun over here came to me and asked for permission for him to attend Kuoh Academy a few days ago along with Ravel-chan. Seeing no problem with his request, I brought them here for a visit. Didn't expect to see you battling against Exorcists…."

Her smile died down as I felt that dreadful aura return for a split second before it disappeared.

"Sona-chan has really grown up, hiding such an important piece of information from her big sister. How naughty of her~!"

As her words sunk in, my face turned crimson red from embarrassment.

Damn it, I shot myself in the foot with my little speech.

It was probably the adrenaline messing with me.

"Ah, I see… Sorry about the misunderstanding, Riser."

"...I'm going to burn you alive if I ever get the chance."

Sigh

What did I even expect at this point?

.

.

.

(A few minutes later.)

After the fight, we returned to the club with more people this time. Neither of the two Exorcists protested as they knew who Serafall was. And despite the apparent suicidal devotion to go against any enemies of their faction, both girls didn't dare offend a Maou, no matter their feelings on this.

Especially one who wore some sort of magical girl cosplay while twirling her wand.

Still having to give the Phenex duo a tour of the school, Serafall quickly left the room with a nervous Rias following them. The redhead did not want to have her school burned to the ground by the Phenex siblings if they felt like they were offended. And just to be on the cautious side, she forcefully dragged Kiba along with the help of Koneko, in order to keep him far away from the two Exorcists.

"Are you okay?"

Asia put her hand on Xenovia's stomach and healed her wound with Twilight Healing. The blue-haired was wearing the spare uniform Rias kept around in the old school building. She was wearing it because our fight really damaged her clothes earlier. For combat clothes, they certainly ripped quite easily in certain areas more than others. My theory of there being an Issei-level pervert within their ranks, manufacturing these things might as well turn out to be true. The warm green-colored light that was made from her hand surrounded her stomach and healed any residual bruises or cuts.

For the entire time, neither Xenovia nor Irina talked and just let Asia heal them.

Akeno was behind me, giving my shoulders a massage that I did not ask for. Telling her to stop proved fruitless as she seemed to enjoy doing it, and I had to admit that she really gave one hell of a shoulder rub. I could feel the tension leaving my body with each of her movements. It was so good that I had to actively keep myself in check and not accidentally let out an embarrassing sound.

It would've made things awkward.

Unfortunately, this was not the case with the rest, especially Xenovia and Asia.

I could see that they were not comfortable with what happened, and seem to be regretting it.

"Why are you healing me, Sister Asia?" Xenovia asked, not looking at the gentle nun. "There is no need for it."

Oh, still using the Sister title?

Asia shook her head, a smile still on her face.

"I can't let you go while you're suffering. I may not be a nun or one of God's children any longer, but I must still continue to follow his teachings. And my heart would not accept myself ignoring healing a person in need."

"..."

"I'm glad that your wounds were minimal after getting hit by Hachiman-san. I was afraid that he might've hurt you both too much."

"Oi, you're talking like I was going to cripple her or something worse. I'm not that kind of guy—unlike some people who are a bit too trigger-happy with their weapons." I said while giving both Exorcists a stink eye, causing Irina to look down in shame.

Xenovia, on the other hand, didn't look me in the eye as well as Asia.

I was still annoyed over Xenovia threatening to hurt Asia, and that feeling wasn't going to disappear anytime soon. Funnily enough, the one that was threatened had already forgiven them, and to add salt to injury, both Exorcists were getting healed by the person they called a witch.

Irony? Karma? Something else, probably.

"Hachiman-san does get a bit overprotective of me, and you weren't hiding your intentions during the fight."

"True, Hachi-kun can be unpredictable at times. Some of your actions clash with that uncaring act of yours. Are you a tsundere by any chance?" Akeno joined in on the conversation, still massaging my shoulders.

"I'm not a tsundere. I'm open with my thoughts and feelings and don't bother beating around the bush."

"Rias would disagree if she was here."

I refused to acknowledge that.

"Still, quite surprised you acted so out of character with these two here and literally punched a lady out of the room. You then proceeded to unleash your magic, which you never do, and even tried to make them submit to you. Now that I think of it, it does work with your eyes. They enhance the effect."

That was a tactic to intimidate my opponent and crush their will before the fight even began. Also, I was grateful for that comment about my eyes. No one ever said any good things about them.

"..."

God, I just realized how chuunibyou my phrases just sounded.

Good thing I didn't say it out loud.

"Sister Asia," Irina spoke, getting up from her seat.

Unlike Xenovia, she didn't have any notable injuries during the fight with Kiba. Maybe a few minor cuts here and there but nothing major, even her 'combat suit' was mostly untouched. She came in front of Asia and did something no one in the room expected her to do.

Irina kneeled and apologized.

I was surprised one of them actually did it, I was thinking that I would have to use force again to make them keep up our bet.

"Forgive me and Xenovia for our actions till now. We acted out of line and said things that we shouldn't have been saying. Even after pointing a blade at you, you're still healing us and have shown us the grace and kindness that we did not expect from you to give nor do we even deserve it. Please, accept my sincerest apology."

"What are you doing, Irina!?" Xenovia reacted with shock at her partner's action.

I realized that even though Irina was the most bubbly and childish among the two, she still acted a tad bit more maturely than Xenovia. More accurately, she didn't respond negatively to the things opposing her belief—which I found to be a praiseworthy aspect.

"No buts! Do you remember what mother Quarta told us concerning Sister Asia? We just violated her orders and will get heavily punished if she were to find out!"

Xenovia's appearance went stark white as she seemed to catch up to her words. She looked as if she was about to face death soon.

Seriously, how scary was that nun to make this dunce fear her? I felt that she was quite a pleasant and polite lady. Maybe it was all a ruse, and she turned out to be a sadistic Exorcist like Freed, but with more of a conscience.

"Speaking of Griselda, I believe we have a meeting with her later," I said while motioning Asia to come along. "You two are accompanying us or what?"

"Unfortunately, we can't, we have other duties to attend to, and this matter between the two of you is of great importance that even both of us weren't allowed to know anything about what mother may want with you and Asia."

Huh, interesting.

For all I knew, this could easily be a trap designed to kidnap Asia while killing me as well. But that worry immediately went out of the window when I realized I was strong enough to defend myself and escape if the situation required it. Not to mention, this was Azazel's and the Devils' territory, and with Kokabiel on the loose, no one was going to do anything drastic. Serafall also vouched for Griselda. I wonder how they knew each other.

Before I left the room, Akeno leaned against my ears and whispered, "So, when are you planning on taking Rias' virginity? After a date like we did? Better hurry up before she becomes too restless and takes the initiative, fufufufu~."

Curse this beautiful succubus!

"I'm not bringing her on a date just to get in her pants. We will do it when she is comfortable with me and at the right time."

"Like last morning? Bummer that Asia interrupted you both before you were able to seal the deal."

How did she know about that!? Rias must have told her!

Or more likely that Akeno weaseled it out of her.

"Just… let's not talk about me taking your king's virginity here of all places. Just give me some time, okay?"

I got confirmation with a short peck on my cheeks.

She was too good for me.

"Just expect a threesome in the near future."

{Break}

-Abandoned Church-

According to the address Griselda gave me, this was the place I was supposed to arrive at with Asia.

The old church.

Or at least the replica built in place after Vali completely bulldozed it.

If memory serves me well, Asia was supposed to come here after she was excommunicated by the Church, and Raynare or whoever else pulled some strings and made a plan for the nun to come here. Had I not met Asia that day, had Raynare not been captured and Freed were to remain alive, then I couldn't imagine what would have befallen the innocent nun.

"How sad to see one of God's homes reduced to such a state…." Asia said, making a small prayer.

The place was dilapidated and worn down to the extreme. Every single window was either broken or covered in dirt and grime. One couldn't even make out the color of the panels. Not to mention, the creepy atmosphere outside with the dead trees and the sound of crows cawing gave the place a really ominous atmosphere.

It made me remember the countless scenes from the horror movies I'd seen in the past.

"Vritra, is the place safe?" I asked the only being I could trust to check my surroundings for any dark intentions.

"With the presence, I'm sensing inside, and if it really ends up being her, you might as well consider this place the safest area in all of Kuoh at the moment."

Hm?

I wasn't expecting that kind of answer.

It made me curious about just who could be inside to warrant such a reaction from him.

"Ah! Vritra-san can hear us?" Asia asked, her eyes widening in surprise.

Oh right, I never talked out loud with him with people around.

"Uh, yeah, he can hear everything I hear. And somehow managed to peer at the outside world like you and me without much of an issue."

"Awawa!" she suddenly became all flustered and started bowing at my arm. "I-It is a-an honor to meet you, Vritra-san! I want to give you my sincerest thanks for keeping Hachiman-san safe from his dangerous adventures!"

"..."

At this point, I was starting to think my luck in this world was abysmal with how easily I attracted danger that even the innocent Asia can tell that I get into too much trouble. I could easily blame my dragon gear for my shitty luck, but I also felt like my own luck had something to do as well remembering the trouble I used to get into back in my old home.

"Hahaha! No need to thank me, young Asia. I am doing my duty as a dragon bound to a host. Any danger to Hachiman is my responsibility to ensure he remains safe and out of harm!"

Why did it sound like he was boasting?

"You're amazing, Vritra-san!"

"Alright, you two, enough wasting time. We need to get done with this as soon as possible." I said while heading towards the church door, whose hinges creaked loudly as I opened them.

The inside was built with a gothic-influenced style. Two separate rows of benches where half of them had long since deteriorated with time and the other elements. The roof was filled with holes, traces of water dripping down occasionally on a small puddle on the floor. A faint stench of mold and dust filled the air, making my face scrunch up a bit. Fortunately, the holes in the ceiling made some light pass through and illuminated the place enough for us to see.

Considering Vali flattened this place when I captured Raynare, it was a wonder how Rias and Sona managed to rebuild everything to its smallest details. Or maybe it was Azazel who did the work, as having Devils build a church sounded very outlandish and probably dangerous.

But why couldn't they just build a brand new church and not this molding mess?

"..."

Someone stood in front of the altar with a large cross on the wall, seeming to finish a prayer.

It was Griselda.

"Good evening, Hikigaya-san, and good evening to you as well, Sister Argento," she spoke politely, a gentle smile on her face.

"Is he the Black Dragon King?"

"Hm?"

I became aware of a third person's voice.

Emerging from the shadows behind Griselda was a figure which made me, for just a moment, forget to breathe. Even Asia froze in shock, mimicking my face as she stared at the person in front of us with shock and awe.

Twelve giant golden-colored wings that glowed with a radiance that made me think that I was staring at the sun itself. A beautiful young woman with a breathtaking, heart-shaped face that could enchant any mortal and long blonde curly locks that seemed to shimmer like the purest of gold as they fell over her shoulders. Bright crystal blue eyes that shined with innocence, kindness, and love that I felt overwhelmed the longer I looked into them but her gaze seemed to be focused on me at the moment.

I prided myself on not falling over a pretty face. Doing so would have anyone easily led by the nose if they weren't careful. But right now, I stood in front of someone who I considered to be beautiful, just absolutely stunning.

Her body was wrapped in an extravagant white robe that barely held her breast and her voluptuous figure in their confines. Above her head, there floated a golden halo. The dazzling golden aura radiated across the room as she walked in, enveloping me in a feeling of warmth that reminded me of Asia's Twilight Healing.

It was like staring at the sun without the latter's light burning my retinas.

The young woman showed us a gentle smile that nearly made my legs weak and gave us a light bow.

"How do you do? I am one of the Four Great Seraphs, and my name is Gabriel—Guardian of the Throne of Heaven!"

I felt my jaw drop to the floor and began questioning myself if this wasn't a dream.

"Gabriel… Never expected to see you of all people here without your brother keeping an eye on us," Vritra spoke as he appeared on my arm.

"Ara? This aura's quality… it's surely you, Vritra. This brings back memories, though you feel different from your past self."

"Times have changed. I have made some choices many would call me a fool over. Yes, for what I have lost in eternity, I have gained the aspect of living once again, and I do not regret it. But I cannot say the same for you, Seraphim Gabriel—you have not changed one bit."

She laughed.

"You sound more lively. Your bond with Hikigaya Hachiman is quite marveling to look at."

What was up with these overpowered beings able to see through such things with a single glance?

"Indeed, I am grateful to the system for having chosen a suitable host for me this time."

A weird expression crossed her face for a split second before disappearing.

"Chosen… yes… that matter remains to be discovered."

Huh, did something happen?

Not being able to follow the conversation, I decided to speak up.

"Excuse me, I know this is sudden and all, but can you tell me the purpose of this meeting?"

Especially when it concerned Asia's presence. I wanted to feel that she was a threat. I wanted to feel the slightest trace of wariness against her—but I couldn't. She had this aura around her that made the notion of having hidden any evil ploys or evil intents just seem impossible.

Her wings fluttered slightly, golden feathers falling to the floor, causing some of the dust to fly away. Almost as if the environment itself wasn't capable of staining any part of her being.

'Vritra, in the extremely small possibility that she will try to do something out of our interest, what are the chances of me escaping?'

I didn't even count my chances of beating her in a fight as I literally couldn't bring myself to hit her face! Furthermore, she was a Seraphim, for god's sake! I could probably fight against a Cadre in my current state if I used all of my trump cards from the get-go. But the difference between a Cadre and Seraph was bigger than the distance between heaven and earth. According to Vritra, the disparity was greater than a Cadre was to a two-winged angel!

'Forget it. Gabriel is known to be the strongest woman in Heaven for a reason. She equals Serafall in terms of power, and do you not remember how the latter easily trapped us in ice from her mere presence? Unless you attain the Boosted Gear at its strongest form while being fully in sync with Ddraig, then you'd have the power to equal them. For now, leave this train of thought to rot away, as she does not even harbor any nefarious intentions against you, nor will she ever. Remember, you are safer here than in any other place in Kuoh. She is THAT trustworthy that even her own enemies would trust her words without question.'

Alright, I needed to stop my paranoia from getting the better of me. If even Vritra repeatedly asked me to not worry about Gabriel, then I must believe him.

'Also, she is absolutely terrible at lying. I heard stories where she broke down in tears over a white lie.'

Well… That was good to know.

"We've received news that the Welsh dragon's host turned into a Devil just recently."

So Sona managed to turn Issei… how? She wasn't strong enough to use the pawns that she had on her, nor did she have any stronger pieces. Sanji alone consumed a few pawn pieces, while Issei might as well require all pawns. Unless…

Our conversation during the chess match came back.

'Serafall must have helped out her sister.' Vritra stated.

I agreed with his statement. Her sister must've given her something to help convert Issei.

Good luck to her. Hopefully, she could make Issei into a respectable human being and a powerful devil with how he wanted to become THE harem king.

"But I did not come here for that."

Her words threw me out of my thoughts.

Gabriel approached us. My heart started to beat faster the closer she came. My face remained calm and almost uninterested, but I was panicking inside.

Asia, on the other hand, was already on the verge of crying. I couldn't blame her. Seeing an angel—much less a Seraph—must have been quite a dream come true for her.

Gabriel gently grabbed the nun's shaking hand like a mother gazing lovingly at her child. That feeling made Asia whimper slightly at her gaze, tears starting to spill down her cheeks. She couldn't take the love and care coming from those eyes at her, not when she still felt responsible for what happened back then.

"My sweet child, you have served our Father and followed his teachings from the day you were brought to us as a baby. And when you grew up, you devoted yourself to his teachings and chose a path to heal the poor and sick, praying with your heart every single day for a better future for those unfortunate and for those seeking salvation. I watched you grow to be such a strong and beautiful woman. To use your gift without asking for anything in return. No matter if they were human or a being of the supernatural, your only wish was to ease their suffering. Even when you were betrayed by those that you trusted, you still forgave them. You truly represent the best that humanity has to offer. I ask for forgiveness as I could not save you the day of your banishment." Gabriel's tears started to fall from her eyes as well, gently bringing the weeping girl into an embrace, her wings wrapping around them like a blanket.

Sometimes… I forgot just how amazing Asia was in her own right.

"I berate myself for not coming to your rescue. I berate myself for having ignored my Father's teachings, and I berate myself for having committed such a sin in the first place. I understand that you may harbor hatred towards us, but I have come to mend our mistakes."

I remained quiet.

"N-No! It's not yo-your fault, Gabriel-sama!" Asia exclaimed out loud, look up to the woman. "You have done nothing wrong, and I have never blamed anyone from the Church. They still are my family, and I dearly love every single one of them. I want to thank you instead, as it is through my mistakes that I have met Hachiman-san and forged a new friendship with Kalawarna-san and the Devils."

I expected Gabriel to frown hearing Asia getting close to the Fallens and the Devils, but she instead smiled brightly at Asia. Almost looking proud and glad about the outcome.

As if reading my thoughts, Vritra spoke up.

'Gabriel is a kind woman. She never hated anyone, she never held grudges against those that hurt her family. Her being, her very core is that of innocence. Very few can match her in kindness and love is vast. Unlike many people of the Church, she does not hold discrimination toward Devils and Fallens or any other race. Gabriel is also very forgiving and open-minded to everything that is presented to her. Her very essence, the very core Yahweh created, was made with the intentions of purity and acceptance, being one of the most incorruptible Angels in existence—probably even more so than the likes of Michael.'

'So basically, she is another version of Asia?'

The dragon pondered for a second.

'Yes, I suppose you could put it like that.'

What I didn't expect to happen was to have a graceful angel suddenly give me a hug out of nowhere!

Everything in my body spiked up as I felt both horror and elation skyrocket in my head. Her assets could be felt quite easily under the thin layer of clothes! Why wasn't she wearing more layers!?

'Don't react! Don't react! Don't react! Think of something disgusti—it ain't gonna work, dammit!'

"Thank you, Hachiman-kun! Thank you for sheltering this girl from danger. You gave her a home, food, water, and a family. Your kind deed won't go unnoticed!" She said in an excited and bubbly voice, pulling me into a tighter hug.

As I heard her following words, that intense feeling subsided and I regained my wits. I started to succumb to the warmth and comfort that was being given to me. It reminded me of the time when I was held by mom when I was a baby. What was I doing reacting in such a manner over a woman with pure intentions… I closed my eyes and went on a small trip down memory lane. The day I met Asia for the first time, helped her out, showed her my sins, got forgiven by the nun and made her a part of my family. Did I do all of that out of kindness? No, I did not. I was desperate, I had people who cared and worried about me but some parts just wouldn't heal before Asia showed up. Much to her ignorance, she played a major role keeping the madness in me in check for such a long time. Without her, I would have hurt my family and even Akeno at some point.

My heartbeat returned to normal and so did the blush in my face.

I was calm.

"Don't mention it." I said while returning the hug, neither feeling the previous chaotic emotions like your regular horny teenager, while I laid my head on her neck.

Just basking in this familiar and welcoming sensation.

At that moment, I just felt old and tired.

"I needed Asia as much as she needed me."

Furthermore, I conveyed as much of my gratitude and appreciation for her presence here. For Gabriel to descend from Heaven just to see Asia and ease her doubts for her past actions did not anger me, I just feel grateful for her actions and I showed all of it through this hug.

Unbeknownst to me, I did not notice Griselda looking at me with widened eyes and the slightly larger smile on Gabriel, the latter who tightened her embrace as well.

"Gabriel-sama, I believe you should release Hachiman-san for now. We still have much to do."

"Ah? Oh! Sorry! I got lost in the moment"

She let me go from the hug, while reluctantly pulling myself back. The two of us stared at each other for a moment, our eyes focused on our own for what felt like the longest moment of my life. I looked away, realizing what I was doing and hoped that the dark would be able to hide my expression. I pointedly ignored the pout that Asia was giving me, not feeling up to comforting her at the moment.

"I hope I didn't hurt you. I sometimes tend to forget my own strength!"

"It's alright, I didn't feel uncomfortable or anything. Honestly, it was the exact opposite."

I started to miss holding her now.

Was this the deadliest weapon in Heaven that Azazel has been clamoring on about every chance he got when we hanged out? I could see why now. I didn't think I could bring myself to fight her at my fullest, even if it was considered suicidal.

No wonder so many Fallen still respected and loved her.?

Griselda giggled at my reaction while Gabriel was clueless about it, seeming confused more than anything.

She appeared to be the naive kind of woman.

"I have a request to ask both of you." the Seraph said, gaining our attention once again, noticing her gaze becoming serious.

Hmm, I wonder what it was about.

"Anything you ask, Gabriel-sama! And we'll do our best to complete it!"

At least Asia seemed excited about it, her face becoming determined.

So cute.

"Asia Argento. I, Gabriel, request of you to join my side and unite with Griselda on becoming my personal followers. If things proceed smoothly in the future, you'll be granted the status of a Saint and be transformed into an Angel."

.

.

.

Wait…What did she say!?

"Eeeeehhh!?"


The next 5 chapters of Snafu, Harry Potter and my 2 Fate fics (Fate Coiling Sword having 3 chapters) are already available on my P treon. With 4 more Broly chapters at /NimtheWriter. Also, I post monthly commissioned arts on each story, already posted a few on an Archer's Promise and Snafu.