– Mizuki –

Staring at her bastard brother, Mizuki tried her damndest to control her temper, already having accidentally frozen half the city block they were in, keeping Asia safe and untouched behind her. None of them moved an inch, and it did not take long for her to realize what this was about once she sensed Majima and Saejima fighting in the distance.

The Mad Dog's choking aura nearly engulfed all of Kuoh and the Tiger's roars could be heard across all of Japan from a concentrated storm seen to the east of town. He was keeping them busy. Keeping the only people capable of handling Kokabiel away from the battlefield.

And as Mizuki continued sensing the battle raging on, she'd only gotten more and more furious. She could feel her daughter fighting, her power growing rapidly against insurmountable odds, only for it to just… vanish. Along with the Warhawk's power.

It dropped to a level she couldn't sense, certainly not with this nearly blinding anger. She was doing her best to not explode and break the seal right here because she didn't want to be responsible for the deaths of millions, including her daughter.

She was tough and probably had good inherent resistance to ice magic, but Mizuki wouldn't risk it. The intense magic she had was far beyond Akane's league. She doubted even her daughter would survive the initial blast.

Even if she did, everyone else wouldn't be lucky. Ichiban, Asia, Issei, even those young devils would perish in an instant, giving these monsters the perfect opportunity to snatch Akane away

Mizuki would not be responsible for it. She had to control herself. For once, she had to do this.

"I'm almost impressed." He suddenly spoke, tone as dead as ever. "I didn't expect you to last this long."

Mizuki said nothing, cold and furious blue eyes boring into his dead black ones.

"...She really is dead, isn't she?" He continued. "Rin, our most powerful. The pride of our clan… killed by this coward wearing her skin."

Once again, Mizuki did not respond.

"Do you not have anything to say?" He asked, waited for a moment, then continued. "I suppose not. At the very least, you still have those eyes."

The eyes of a remorseless monster. Her traitorous thoughts whispered.

"No, I'd say it's even fiercer than ever. Had I sent anyone else, they'd be frozen in fear at your killing intent. Interesting." Her brother kept on yapping. "Is it because of the daughter you want to protect? Your maternal instincts?"

Mizuki twitched, her anger flaring even higher, but said nothing.

"Of course it is. You're attached to her." He concluded. "She's your final lifeline. The last thing keeping you going. Without her…"

Her wretched brother then paused, his blank smile dropped and was replaced with a somewhat annoyed frown.

"Tsk, so the bastard failed…" He muttered, eyes looking in the direction of where Kokabiel and Akane's fight took place for a moment. "Disappointing."

And a moment was all Mizuki needed, using whatever magic was currently fueling her to charge forward at the bastard brother of hers. Jo quickly reacted and aimed the gun at her head, pulling the trigger. However, she saw it coming and ducked just in time to dodge the bullet, slapping the gun out of his hand before punching his face with all her might.

Unexpectedly, the hit landed, making him throw his head up as he was sent a few paces back. Mizuki quickly created a thick shield of ice protecting Asia as she prepared several ice spells in the shape of modern artillery aimed at him.

She paused and frowned, surprised at what she saw once he lowered his head to look at her. Half his face was metallic in color as if he wasn't made of flesh anymore. Did he really go that far? Did he physically abandon his humanity as well?

"What the hell did you do to yourself?" She questioned.

"What is this, concern? For me?"

"You embody everything the Amon hates now," Mizuki growled. "You're no human. You're no Amon. What… made you do this?"

It didn't make sense. They believed in human superiority with them at the top, as the rightful royalty. Sure, their strongest point was in their advanced technology, but none ever would go as far as this. Technological modification to this degree was forbidden.

For the first time, Jo chuckled.

"Oh, I've seen things you would not believe." He responded cryptically, his skin turning to its original color. He then began glowing blue, preparing to teleport away with one of his devices. "...You're lucky this time, but expect the worst when I decide to pay you a visit. Hurry up and break that seal on your magic. Would rather be a shame if I don't have one final battle against the legendary Rin Amon."

With that said, he vanished, probably back to his new base.

Now even he was telling her to break it. Did they not know how hard it was to do that without accidentally killing people?

Once she was sure no threat was nearby, Mizuki collapsed, falling to her knees as she panted, the magic leaving her body very quickly. The shield around Asia broke, letting her free. The blond gasped and rushed to her side, immediately using Twilight Healing to ease the fatigue.

"Are you okay?!" She asked, looking around. "Where's the strange man?"

"I fought 'em off," Mizuki said with a strained grin. "Told ya, I beat lotta thugs back in the day. One with a gun ain't that much different."

Still shaking, Asia swallowed, horrified at what she had seen earlier.

"Why… why did he do that? Why did he kill them?"

Mizuki frowned but said nothing. She didn't know what to say to her. Better off to keep her mind off this than to comfort her.

"Let's go find Akane," Mizuki said. "Here, get on my back."

"Huh?"

"Faster this way." She explained smoothly. "Come on. Hold on tight."

Asia hesitated a bit, but obeyed. Mizuki narrowed her eyes in focus and rushed toward where her daughter was. She was beyond relieved when she felt Majima and Saejima on their way too, as well as Akiyama already there.

Her daughter was safe.

And that was all that mattered to Mizuki.


– Akane –

So obviously, I don't regret killing that shitstain, not even with the… surprisingly little consequences, but I sure hope this guy is done with his lecture soon. I already told him why I did it and shared my side of the story, twisting the truth here and there, but he keeps going on and on about this stupid shit.

Honestly, thinking about it more, I had every right to feed him lead. He was in my territory, threatened to hurt me and my friends, and even nearly killed me there. I was doing what anyone else would be doing. Show that son of a bitch what for.

"Not when he was already incapacitated, Akane." My uncle pinches the bridge of his nose. "He couldn't fight back, he was dying. There was no point in killing him like that."

"Tough," I respond unapologetically. "Don't care what state he was in. He was an enemy."

"Akane…"

After the battle ended, Akiyama, Azazel, and me – and also Lucifer after he was done laughing – went back to the training grounds we used for Rias' Rating Game, going inside the facility building to discuss what happened.

Azazel didn't look very fond of me after what I did, but really, this is his fucking fault for not taking care of his mentally-ill rabid dog. Should've put him down when he noticed something was off, but no, he let the guy run around until he became our problem.

So yeah, negative rep with the guy, but fuck him anyway.

Soon after, Majima and Saejima arrived, looking slightly scuffed, confirming my suspicions. So something did hold them off, huh? Something powerful from the looks of it. Not strong enough to beat them, but whoever it was, they did their job. Must be more of these Amon bastards. I doubt the Grigori has more of Kokabiel's level, ones that followed him anyhow.

Once the Yakuza patriarchs arrived, they took Azazel to another room to talk about what happened. Probably. They left me alone with Akiyama for him to reprimand me, which isn't working because I don't think I did anything wrong, and I won't pretend that I did.

"I mean, why does it even matter?" I raise a brow and scoff. "You said it yourself, he was dying. I just put him out of his misery."

"You should never be so callous when you're talking about these things, Akane." He reiterates, "This isn't a game. These are actual lives. Don't treat them like they're nothing."

"Of course it isn't a fucking game. You think I'm a child?" I scowl, getting annoyed. "Why the hell do you think I killed him in the first place?"

He pauses and says nothing.

"I don't care who or what he is, but whoever's a threat to me or my home, I'm willing to tear to shreds without mercy." I continue. "And I can't give two fucks if it's heartless or dishonorable or whatever. Not you or anyone else will make me change my mind."

Now I could've said "Oh my bad, I was panicking too much" and whatnot, but that didn't really sound convincing. Sure, with my several Charisma perks, I probably could've done it and gone off scot-free, but I don't know. Half-truths are always more effective than pure lies.

So instead, I'm building this character that's closer to the real me than this 'stupid scared girl does a stupid thing when scared'. I can afford more half-truths than actual lies, and it wouldn't be so easy for them to spot said lies later on, which works for me in the long run. Sure, it would not help me much now, but I think after that little outburst of killing a cadre, thinking with a clear head and a good plan might be a lot more helpful.

And like I said before, I don't regret it one bit, because aside from it feeling oh-so-satisfying to put a bullet in his brain, the amount of EXP I got from killing him was more than I expected. To put it simply, before the whole battle, I was level 120. Before the fight with Kokabiel and after we've gotten rid of the cannon fodder, I brought myself up to 142.

Now?

Name - Akane Amamiya

Level - 195

Title - Undead Slayer

Primary Class - Swordmaster - LVL 95/100 [81%]

Secondary Class - Illusionist - LVL 1/100 [0%]

Race - Human

Rank - Mortal

Alignment - Neutral Evil

HP - 23,100 [1540 per minute]

MP - 55,614 [26,736 per minute]

SP - 23,100 [1540 per minute]

STR - 2520

END - 1540

DEX - 2140

INT - 2852

WIS - 2578

CHA - 1540

LUK – 850

[Photosynthetic Skin] – Perk

Your skin has extraordinary properties, absorbing sunlight and turning it into energy.

Being under sunlight increases HP regen by 10% and increases all stats by 10 points

Works as a food source

[Essence of the Warrior] – Perk – 2500 STR

With such force within, a fragment of your soul gained a powerful essence. This is only the beginning…

Physical Damage is increased by 35%

All weapons you hold are one thousand times more durable

Physical attacks have a slight chance of permanently damaging armor

[Essence of the Hermit] – Perk – 2500 WIS

With such force within, a fragment of your soul gained a powerful essence. This is only the beginning…

Mana Regen is doubled

Casting speed is increased by 20%

Taking damage restores a flat portion of your MP

Almost level 200. 750 points in both DEX and STR from pure level-ups excluding the stats I gained from the quest. I'm more than twice as fast and strong as I was before the battle. Sure, not as insane as what I would've gotten from Kokabiel had I devoured his soul, but those stats alongside the new essences are already a massive jump in power. And on top of all of that, I finally unlocked the next stage of the dungeon.

That would give me a considerable power boost by itself. Five levels and I get to pick a new class, one focused on END. I have to get the endurance essence assuming it's as strong as the other ones. Might actually make me withstand a hit or two.

I don't like being a glass cannon.

But really, more than anything– more than the exp or levels or stats I got… this fight made me realize just how weak I am in the grand scheme of things, and it's not just about physical or magical strength. Those were clear to me from the beginning. I was what, ultimate class dealing with a Kokabiel that's so much fucking stronger than I anticipated.

I was ready to have my ass handed to me in case things went south. That was fine, I'm not dumb enough to think I can take on someone one or two tiers above me unless I was swinging Excelsis around like a lunatic.

An unfortunate event, but not one I was really able to control.

…Is what I'd say if I was some pathetic loser, but I am not. I had no excuse there.

I knew he was going to attack, I had all the cards and options I needed to beat him effortlessly. I had this gamer powers for like a month, yet I barely even scratched the surface of the level of power required to defeat him. It's simple as it is infuriating. I should've prepared better, and I had no one to blame but myself.

This is not the fault of Akiyama or that Shin guy interrupting my soul-eating, not even the game's fault for not helping me that much. I just wasn't proactive enough. I didn't work hard enough, and this disastrous battle was enough proof of it.

I'm so disgusted that it makes my skin crawl.

And the fact that I couldn't do anything, merely frozen in fear and incapable of even trying to retreat made me realize another thing. The Thanatophobia trait is a lot more detrimental to me than helpful, especially considering the world I live in. I need to adopt this fearless mindset. This 'shonen-esque' way of thinking.

On paper, it sounds hilariously stupid, sure, but I know it's exactly what I need right now. I'm not at a level where I can play by my own rules.

Someone might argue that fear is a natural thing– even Lucifer said so, and I'm pretty sure people like Ichiban or Issei can still feel fear but this? This isn't self-preservation instincts, it's a weakness. Being so afraid of something or someone to the point of freezing was always going to affect me negatively. When I can't hope to grow in strength unless I take massive risks and throw myself in danger, such a trait will only hold me back.

I can make all the armors I want, and build whatever type of tech that'll help me survive, but I can do that without this trait. I can be careful and plan ahead without it because from what I've seen so far, all it does is turn me into a coward.

It didn't help make me more careful, it didn't help make me more patient. It just made me more easily scared.

I can't fucking believe I even debated whether I should help Ichiban or not when that was the perfect opportunity for our win. And having the goddamn devil god try to comfort me in that way? I've never felt so humiliated in my life. I don't want to feel that shame again. Never ever.

'Makes me careful' my ass. It's laughable that I tried to trick myself into believing that. I'm gonna get rid of it. I refuse to ever be so weak-minded as before. I refuse to show that side of me ever again.

Who knows, maybe if I never had this trait, I would've been more efficient, and successfully stolen Kokabiel's soul.

But I don't want to waste my energy thinking about what could've happened. I've been dealt this hand, and all I can do now is focus on the future and make sure this doesn't happen again. Don't want to ever fuck up like today.

No matter what I need to do.

"Akane, I'm not saying you shouldn't kill to defend those you love." Akiyama sighs, his expression softening as he sits next to me on the couch. "I had to do that too, and so did most people around. But was it necessary to cut off someone saying his final goodbyes? He was already defeated, at death's door. He was not a threat anymore."

"No, he didn't deserve that luxury," I respond with a venomous tone. "He waltzes in, starts attacking us, kills an ally, and you expect me to show sympathy? Fuck him, and that moron leader of his for not aiming at his head."

Thank god he didn't, actually.

Also, I knew for sure that he'd have survived had I not splattered his brain like that. Supernatural entities like him are way, way more durable than normal humans. I don't want him jailed somewhere, I want him fucking dead. I don't give two fucks about what sort of information he might've had.

My uncle rubs his temples but doesn't really continue the argument. He just looks at me with concern. Now to hope he puts this under my 'anger issue' file, and not the 'sociopathic tendencies' one. That would be pretty bad.

He speaks up after a moment of uncomfortable silence, though.

"It's almost uncanny, you know." He says leaning back, but my worries evaporate as he continues. "How similar you are to Tatsu I mean."

"Him? Oh please, the only thing I share with him is my eye color." Which is weird really. Why did he have red eyes? He doesn't have any Yokai ancestry as far as I know. "I've never seen him hurt a fly."

"Heh, if only you knew," He shakes his head. "You're practically the same exact person. The only difference is his lack of the social skills that you have. For the most part anyway."

I squint my eyes at him as he whispers that last part, Lucifer chuckling in mirth. The fuck did he mean by that?

"I understand you might've felt angry and frustrated at Kokabiel. So much so that you felt the need to avenge that priest." He returns to the earlier subject. "But you always have to have a reason before you kill. Always. You should never let your emotions control you in this regard, under any circumstance. Killing without cause will always put you in very bad places."

"Are you saying I killed Kokabiel without cause?"

That'd be untrue. I did it for the levels. A worthy cause indeed.

"No, but letting your own anger cloud your judgment like that can lead you down that road." He says. "Just… keep it in mind, alright?"

I mean, the only reason I'd kill anybody is if they're an enemy or if it'll benefit me, so I guess that's already covered? I don't really get why I'd kill someone for the hell of it. Sounds rather wasteful and stupid unless I get their soul out of it. Besides, being and acting evil won't really net me any points with the people around me.

Ugh, them and their pesky little morals. Could do without them. Too bad I like some of these morons.

Yes, that was directed toward you, asshole. Hurry up and fix the sociopath trait thing before we end up dead.

"...I'll try to control myself better," I reply. "I guess I'm sorry about the possible political problems I caused?"

"And I'm sorry for not getting here earlier." He smiles slightly. "A lot of things would've been avoided if I was."

"You're saying you could've taken on Kokabiel alone and won?"

In response, his jacket caught on fire, but unlike the usual red flames he demonstrated before, they were dark blue in color. I'm quick enough to use observe and see most of his stats immediately vanish, turning into question marks. Oh…

"Interesting," Lucifer says, muttering to himself. "How did Suzaku end up in a Sacred Gear?"

Oh okay. Right, he's like, in his mid-forties and he has a Sacred Gear. Of course, he already unlocked his Balance Breaker. It's only natural.

"Positively." He answers with confidence, the flames disappearing.

This was when the door opened and in walked Daigo alongside Mine, a serious frown on the former's face. He gives me a glance, and as I prepare for another lecture, he surprises me entirely.

"I'm glad to see you're not hurt. You've done well defending Kuoh against a fearsome foe." He praises. "I'm sure Tatsu would've been proud of you."

"...Thanks?" I blink. "I kind of killed a cadre, though. Wouldn't that cause problems?"

"And I'll deal with the consequences." He nods. "You've had enough for today."

Oh… That's nice? I guess?

Daigo looks at Akiyama, who stands up and nods as they communicate silently. My uncle turns to me and speaks.

"Let's go." He says. "We'll let them talk this out. You haven't checked up on your friends yet, have you?"

I shake my head and get up as well, following my uncle to the room where everyone else was. I give Daigo one last glance, not really understanding his deal. He's a bit too nice to me, and I'm not sure why. I don't think I did anything wrong, but I'd understand if political figures like him were annoyed.

…I probably should be on guard around him and his ilk. I don't like this niceness one bit.

Feels kind of artificial.

How ironic.

You be quiet.


– Sona –

"That's enough, Tsubaki," Sona said, flinching at her painful wound as her Queen applied some magical healing salve on it. "Go check up on the others."

"But–"

"I'll be fine." She assured her. "Fallen Angel holy magic isn't as dangerous as pure light, and I wasn't hit in a vital spot. I'll be fine."

Her queen hesitated for a moment but quickly obeyed, returning to help some of her injured peerage members. Sona sighed to herself, looking around at the rather… gloomy atmosphere. Most of her peerage were fine, only suffering minor injuries here and there.

Rias' was fine as well. Her peerage had been relatively untouched in the fighting and had suffered no damage. The redhead herself was unconscious, but not in too awful of a state. Sona would argue that she'd had it worse, taking a holy spear like that. That was the worst pain she'd ever suffered in her life, and it wasn't even close.

Then, beside Koneko, there was Ichiban, who also was out cold, but it was more out of exhaustion than damage. He was hurt, but not terribly so. She didn't know what it was she'd felt, but his power had exploded after she and Rias retreated, and Sona assumed he had unlocked his Balance Breaker.

But to do that, he must've been pushed to it, and he was incapacitated last she saw. Sona had assumed the worst at the time, thinking something might've happened to Akane, but then her power skyrocketed for some reason.

And at that point, Sona couldn't really think clearly, the searing, agonizing spear that was in her thigh making it hard to even stay conscious. That was the first time she'd had to deal with a Fallen Angel, much less a damned cadre.

Thankfully, as Kokabiel's power slowly dwindled into nothing, she'd realized that they'd won the battle… but not without cost.

Sona glanced at the dead body of the veteran exorcist, feeling sympathy for the two grieving girls beside him. Irina seemed to have taken it especially terribly, not bothering to hold her sobs. Xenovia, while obviously distraught, looked a bit more in control of herself.

The devils might not have lost anything in this fight, which was a miracle on its own, but it certainly felt like it. And the same could not be said for these two or the church. David was quite formidable and the two novice exorcists looked fond of him.

Could he have been saved? Sona wondered. Had we helped him earlier…

It was hard to say. If they did, then they might've not been pressured as much, and Ichiban might not have unlocked his Balance Breaker to end the fight. Kokabiel still had a great advantage over them even with David on their side.

But there was no point in thinking about what could've and couldn't have happened. In a practical sense, they'd won without suffering any permanent damage on their side. The church was their least priority. They had succeeded in defending their home and themselves.

Sona finally had a breather for once in what felt like years. No more weddings or faction leaders to worry about for the time being. She felt free, like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She could actually sleep well for once.

She then glanced at Kiba, aware of his… issues with holy swords. Thankfully, even with his hatred, he wasn't cold-hearted enough to interrupt the girls' grieving, even looking a bit sympathetic. That was good. At least he wasn't going to start anything now.

The door to the infirmary opened, and in walked Akane alongside her uncle. Sona felt herself smile in relief, even though she knew she was safe a while ago. Still, seeing the human girl alive and well was easy on the eyes. Sona did try to ignore the holes in her clothes, especially the one showing a small part of her chest.

She didn't know why she felt a certain way seeing that, but she crushed those thoughts in an instant.

Akane gave her the tiniest smile back, but then she looked at the grieving Xenovia and Irina, the former only giving her a passing glance before returning to what she was doing. She approached them slowly, putting a gentle hand on Xenovia's shoulder.

"Without him, all of us would've died." She said. "He fought and died valiantly like a hero. I'm sure he's in a better place now."

That seemed to have an effect on the exorcist, her eyes watering as she nodded slowly, greatly appreciating Akane's attempt at comforting them. The Yakuza Princess then turned to address Sona.

"How's everyone?"

"They're doing well," Sona answered. "We made a good call when we told everyone else to retreat."

"They'd done more than enough against his troops anyway. They deserve praise for their work." Akane said out loud, somewhat lifting their spirits up, but then whispered to the Sitri in the quietest of tones. "Kokabiel would've torn them to shreds anyway."

Oh, Sona knew that. She was very proud of her peerage and Rias', but she knew they did not stand a chance against Satan-class Kokabiel. As much as she hated to admit it, they would've been a liability in that fight.

It wasn't their fault, of course not. Sona couldn't possibly expect them to face Satan-class opponents when they'd barely reached High-class strength. They were still young and inexperienced, both as devils and as humans.

…That battle really revealed many things to the young devil heiress. There was truly no telling when catastrophe could strike.

"Everyone. You've all fought well, and with your efforts, we successfully defeated a well-known war general that fought in and survived the Great War." Akane addressed the group. "You should all be proud of yourselves for coming this far in such a short time, but don't get complacent. This only proved to us how much stronger we need to be."

With simple words alone, Akane managed to brighten up the mood. At least for everyone who wasn't an exorcist. However, not wanting to leave the two girls alone like this, she spoke once again.

"Irina. Xenovia." She said. "For your efforts, as well as your leader's, you two are free to stay in Kuoh for as long as you'd like, whether to grieve or take your mind off this tragedy. I recognize you two as allies."

How oddly kind of her. Sona thought. She hadn't expected such a thing from Akane, especially considering how their conversation about the 'bait' went. Likely politically motivated, though.

Sona had to give to her, she was shrewd. She didn't know if Akane did at least feel bad for them, but that was definitely earning her points with the church. Assuming the two girls reported it to their higher-ups.

"We're honored." Xenovia nodded. "Thank you very much for your kindness."

"T-thanks." Irina sniffled.

"Of course. You two should go and rest." Akane said. "There are a lot of bedrooms on this floor. Pick whichever you like."

Once again, the door of the infirmary opened. This time, Akane's mother and Asia walked in, with the former nearly tackling Akane to the ground.

"Ow!" Akane hissed in pain, scowling at her. "Calm the fuck down, you old hag. Nearly broke my ribs with that gorilla strength of yours."

"I was so worried," Mizuki said, her embrace tightening around her daughter.

Akane paused but then returned the hug reluctantly, obviously uncomfortable doing such a thing in front of others. Sona thought it was very sweet, though, as did everyone else. Clearly, they had a very powerful bond.

"Yeah, yeah…" Akane clicked her tongue. "Can't we do this at home, though?"

"As much as I hate to interrupt this, your daughter is right, Mizuki-san." Akiyama finally spoke up. "Come with me. Daigo-san is waiting for us in the other room."

Daigo? Sona frowned. He's here? Since when?

"...Yeah, sure." Mizuki pulled back but gave Akane a smile. "I'm so glad you're safe."

"I am too."

"For me, or yourself?"

"What do you think?" Akane smirked playfully. "I don't worry about you cuz I know you're not kicking the bucket any time soon. You're too stubborn for that."

Mizuki chuckled in response, then her smile fell when she saw David's corpse. She looked both sad and grateful to him, very sympathetic to the two novices who lowered their gaze.

Sona nearly flinched when the mother's eyes landed on her, but to her surprise, they did not hold as much malice and anger as before. There was apprehension still, but Mizuki didn't regard her with hate anymore.

In fact, Sona could almost see gratitude in that look. Mizuki didn't say anything, though, and left Asia with them before leaving with Akiyama.

…Success?

Asia, as diligent as ever, was already healing everyone, starting with Rias and Ichiban, then Sona. The annoying pain of the hole made by Kokabiel's holy spear was gone in a near instant, and Sona could kiss the blond for that. Holy energy was unreasonably unpleasant.

Once she was done, she approached the two exorcists and sat beside them, clasping her hands together and silently praying. The two looked rather touched by the gesture but didn't say anything.

After a few quiet moments, with everyone feeling at least a little better than before, Ichiban stirred, groaning once he woke up. He looked around the infirmary, a bit confused and very obviously bothered by a painful headache.

"Did we win?" Was the first thing he asked.

Some of the girls smiled and giggled in amusement. Sona did so as well, thinking a one-track mind like his was refreshing.

"We did," Sona answered him.

"Heh." He grinned, glancing at Akane. "Knew I made the right choice."

Sona was a bit confused at that, but didn't ask.

"Guess you did." She snorted, extending her arm toward him. "Can you walk?"

"Yeah. Head's killing me, though." He winced as he took her hand. "I'm also starving. Feels like I haven't eaten in days."

"Dinner's on me." She said, pulling him up. Akane then looked at Sona. "You too."

"Me?"

"Need to discuss everything that happened." She said, then addressed Akeno. "If you girls are hungry too, then order whatever you like. I'll cover the tab."

"Alright."

"What about Rias?" Sona asked, getting up from her seat.

"Let her nap in peace. She had it rough." Akane said. "Let's go."

With that, Akane led the two outside the building, walking back to the city in strangely comfortable silence.


– Daigo –

"My apologies, Daigo-san," Azazel said, glancing at Kokabiel's headless corpse on the other side of the room. "I'm not sure what's gotten into him recently. I knew he was getting more unstable, but I… certainly didn't expect him to do any of this."

"No need to apologize," Daigo responded. "We knew this wasn't your fault. Kokabiel made a reputation for himself, one that was the complete opposite of yours. It was only a matter of time."

Of course, Daigo wouldn't have really said that if one of his own were hurt. If Kokabiel really did kill Akane or even Ichiban, then they would've gone to war. Peace conference be damned– some things would not be forgiven.

And Daigo couldn't and wouldn't forgive himself if he let Tatsu's daughter die. She was the rightful heiress of the currently-disbanded Amamiya Family. Aside from her close relations with one of the biggest contributors to the Tojo Clan, she was practically the matriarch. There would be hell to pay if she got hurt.

Daigo was willing to burn a lot of bridges for her. Azazel was lucky that his rabid dog failed whatever goal he set out to achieve because everyone knew that out of the three factions, the Grigori was the weakest. They would not survive a war, not even one with the Tojo Clan.

He only acted politely because it was the tradition at this point. He was sure that Azazel didn't buy his words either.

The Sixth Chairman took a quick look around the room, noting two of his patriarchs slightly damaged. Those Amon allies of Kokabiel were a different story, though. Even holding Majima and Saejima back for a few minutes meant that they had very powerful individuals.

"So it seemed." Azazel muttered. "I'm not sure how long it'll take me, but I promise compensation for this."

"There's no need for this, Azazel-san." Mine said blankly. "Kokabiel attacked and swiftly paid the price. His death is more than enough."

"I see." The Grigori leader glanced at Daigo's right-hand man. "I suppose that works for me. However, I hope this doesn't negatively affect the peace conference we're having soon."

"Of course not." Daigo shook his head. "I understand it was out of your hands."

This didn't exactly change the fact that he'd have more ammo against Azazel, even though he didn't need it. Daigo, and by extension, his clan, had no problems with the Grigori as they did with the devils. It's not like they'd been enslaving humans, and not like they were responsible for the deaths of two yakuza legends.

"That is good to hear." He said. "I'll be taking my leave, then. May we meet under better circumstances next time."

Keeping it short and simple? Well, not like he had any more to say unless he wanted to start brown-nosing, which was unlike him. He knew it would only serve to annoy Daigo and the patriarchs around him.

Azazel approached Kokabiel's body and made a magic circle under them, giving the Sixth Chairman one more look before teleporting away. That was when the door opened, and both Mizuki and Akiyama entered the room, having apparently waited for the leader of the Grigori to leave before walking in.

"All of you." Daigo addressed everyone in the room. "I want a detailed explanation of what happened on your side. Majima?"

"One of them Amon fucks got in my way." He said. "I would've taken care of them quickly if he didn't have an Excalibur piece. Couldn't even sense the guy, was completely invisible. No scent, no life signature, no nothin'."

"What?" Mizuki looked at him in bewilderment.

"Same here," Saejima added. "He was using Rapidly I think. Bastard was too fast."

"Excalibur Pieces?" Mine frowned. "You need a certain holy factor for it to respond. How did they get two wielders like this? Mizuki-san, do you know anything about this?"

"No, this is new. Not a single one of our clan was capable of using an Excalibur." She shook her head. "If anything, they'd even refuse them. They hate 'handouts' like it."

"Did they find a workaround?" Daigo asked.

"The church did find a way to make Excalibur wielders if I remember correctly. Vile methods aside." Akiyama rubbed his chin. "And with how technologically advanced the Amon are, maybe they did something similar."

"Doesn't sound like 'em." Majima crossed his arms. "Ain't they some type of human supremacists or some shit? She just said they don't like using 'handouts' either."

"...That's what I used to think, but now I'm not sure." Mizuki suddenly said.

"What do you mean?" Daigo questioned.

"I couldn't help in the fight because I was held back by their leader." She revealed. "And he was different. He wasn't human anymore."

"Not human?" Saejima's frown deepened.

"I managed to land a hit and I realized that he… technologically modified his body. He was part machine." She explained. "And this goes against their philosophy, so either this is a one-off thing, or this isn't the Amon Clan I used to know, and that's honestly more likely than the former."

This was good information he could put to use, but also a bit troubling. This meant that Mizuki might've shared faulty info with them prior. Which wasn't her fault, obviously– she left this clan twenty or so years ago. Obviously, not everything is going to be perfectly accurate.

"That's a bit worrisome," Daigo muttered, then looked at Majima. "Do we have any footage?"

"Ain't much. No audio, only visuals, but yeah." He then glanced at Mizuki. "It's somethin' you might wanna see."

Majima pulled a remote out of his jacket, pointed it at a screen in the living room they were in, and pressed a button.

The camera was half-cracked, showing the block where Mizuki's house was. Daigo narrowed his eyes at the destruction caused but then spotted two individuals. It was an Amon agent and Akane, a few meters apart and apparently talking about something.

"Akane?" Mizuki's eyes widened.

"No way, did she…?" Akiyama was equally shocked.

"Can't tell much from this since it's the end of their fight, but it tells enough. Akane-chan sure is somethin'." Majima smirked. "She single-handedly held off one of them agents you're so scared about on her own."

"I… see."

"That's what I've been sayin' Mizuki-chan." The Mad Dog's grin widened. "She's like a mini Tatsu-chan. Treatin' her like glass ain't doin' her any favors.

The footage wasn't even a minute long with Ichiban arriving at the scene, the Amon agent retreating, and the two kids rushing toward the battlefield after Akane wore some sort of crude-looking armor.

"What's this?" Mine asked, pointing at the armor.

"Ah. Some mechanical armor Akane's been working on." Mizuki revealed, surprising all of them. "I didn't know she was going to wear it unfinished, though."

"Mechanical armor? Is that why you asked for some supplies?"

"Yeah. Akane didn't look very comfortable with asking you, so I did it in her place." The mother responded to Daigo. "Sorry I didn't explain much earlier."

"No, this is fine."

Daigo saw a massive opportunity there. An amateur building something like that? Even if it was nothing compared to the actual armors they could make, it was still incredible. Talent like this should be cultivated, and he was willing to invest.

"Also," Majima began once more. "Arakawa's kid got his Balance Breaker."

"Excellent." Daigo smiled. "Saejima-san, can I count on you to train the boy? A Longinus user like him would have a bright future under your tutelage."

"Should probably ask Arakawa first." The Tiger of the Tojo Clan said. "I ain't gonna go easy on him."

"I doubt he'd want you to." Mine quipped with a snort.

As they continued to discuss, Daigo realized that he had actually gained more than he thought he would from this… 'invasion'. Would he want it to happen twice? Fuck no, too many risks. But silver linings are silver linings.

Grateful it happened, but they should probably work on their security so it doesn't happen again. The civilian casualties were already hard enough to deal with, even if they were few.


– Ichiban –

Maybe it's because it wasn't his own money, or because of how weirdly starving he's been, but this was the best meal he'd had in a while. He didn't know why he was hungry– he'd eaten like, an hour before the battle started, and the battle itself didn't exactly take too long. It felt that way, but in reality, it was what, fifteen minutes? Twenty at most.

Still, he had been craving sushi for a bit now. Thank god Akane didn't argue with him this time.

It's because of your Balance Breaker. Ddraig suddenly said.

What?

Since it was your first time using it, it took a lot of energy. He clarified. Besides the fact that it was a subspecies of course.

Right, that made sense. He'd barely contained that power for a minute. It siphoned all of his stamina damn near instantly. Still, the power boost was nuts. He could remember what it was like, and Ichiban felt invincible in it. Kokabiel's attacks barely even hurt him, like being punched by a child.

Which was wild to think about now. He had been manhandling them like toys prior to that.

"A subspecies of the Boosted Gear…" Sona said, finishing her plate as she looked at him in shock. "That is incredible. Such a thing has never been recorded in history."

"Is it really that big of a deal?" Ichiban blinked, taking another plate from the conveyor belt. "I mean, what's the difference between that and a normal Balance Breaker?"

"That is too specific of a question, I'm afraid. Every subspecies is different." Sona responded, adjusting her glasses. "But in general, they're more powerful variants than normal Balance Breakers. Subspecies form around the user's specific desires. They're incredibly rare."

That was good. Right? Honestly, things just seemed to get more and more complicated for him. He understood it well enough, but at first, Ichiban thought Sacred Gears were pretty simple. Apparently not.

"Do you remember what you felt like when you unlocked it?" The devil heiress asked.

"Not really. Things kinda happened a bit too fast." Ichiban answered truthfully after swallowing. "I just know that I wanted power. More power than what Kokabiel had."

"Hmm, that sounds rather basic," Sona said, a thoughtful frown on her face. "But perhaps a simple Balance Breaker wouldn't have been enough, and the Sacred Gear knew it somehow, giving you a subspecies instead. Do you remember what it felt like whilst you were fighting?"

"Well, I guess? I kinda felt stronger every time I got hit." He said, trying to recall what happened exactly. "Also, now that I think about it, after the first time I got hit by a holy spell, the Boosted Gear shouted something like 'endure'. After it, none of his magic damaged me as much."

"A defense-focused subspecies?" She put a hand on her chin, looking extremely interested. "No, it sounds more like some sort of adaptability, otherwise you wouldn't have gotten stronger. Just tougher to kill."

I thought the standard Balance Breaker already did that. Ichi thought in confusion.

No. A regular one only brings you to your boost limit instantaneously, rather than having to wait for it. Ddraig clarified. Heh, Albion and his host are in for a surprise.

"What do you think, Akane?" Sona glanced at his best friend. "You've been quiet for a while now."

Akane, who looked like she was zoning out, answered after a moment.

"I think it's pathetic."

Neither Ichiban nor Sona had expected that response.

"What do you mean?" Ichiban frowned.

"All this power we have, all this training we went through, and we still couldn't handle it ourselves." She explained. "Someone had to die for it. Simply because we were too weak to do anything."

"That's not really fair to say–"

"Would you say that if the church didn't send their emissaries?" Akane cut him off. "You know damn well the fight wouldn't have gone anywhere near as smoothly without David weakening and holding Kokabiel off for us."

Neither of them said anything.

"We were lucky that they suffered the brunt of the damage, not us." She continued. "If it weren't for him, any of us could've been in David's position. Would you still say that if one of us died instead? I know I wouldn't."

She was right. Ichiban knew he would've never forgiven himself if he had let Akane or any of his friends die. They really were lucky that someone of David's caliber was on their side.

"It's frustrating. Even with the efforts we put in, we still weren't nearly strong enough." She said. "We needed outside help to even survive, much less win. In reality, we didn't stand a chance."

"We had no way of knowing that Kokabiel was going to attack until recently," Sona argued. "No amount of preparation could've helped us."

"Stop making up excuses." Akane countered harshly. "Why do we need a warning like this? Why can't we be prepared for anything that might happen?"

"Well…" Sona struggled to form words.

"You know more than anyone that tensions are still high. That something like this could happen again." His best friend said. "Even after whatever peace conference the leaders plan to hold, why can't we just prepare for the worst? To prevent this from happening again? We're not going to be lucky all the time. No one is going to be holding our hands every time this happens."

"I understand what you're saying, Akane." Ichiban quipped. "But I still think you're being a bit unfair."

"Are you saying I'm wrong?"

"No. I didn't say that." He shook his head. "But to me, it sounds like you're mad that not everything went perfectly. And I get that, it's really frustrating."

"Then what?"

"I just think that wanting to perfectly resolve every single conflict or battle we may go through is straight-up unrealistic." He argued. "Screwing up and failing are all part of life, y'know? Sure, we may blame ourselves and stuff, thinking about what we could've changed for a better outcome, but there's no point in that."

Akane waited for him to finish.

"But I think that, at the end of the day, you're right. One-hundred-percent. We should be better prepared for whatever could happen in the future. Kokabiel isn't going to be the end of our problems." He continued. "So we'll work ourselves to death. Make sure we're not caught off guard like this again."

"What was your point, then?" Sona questioned. "Seeing you agree."

"Simple. Life is going to fuck you over, no matter how prepared you are." He responded bluntly with a shrug. "You can't avoid it. It'll happen whether you like it or not. So when it happens, I don't think you should beat yourself over it, because that's time and effort that could've been spent on picking yourself up moving forward."

How wise. Ddraig snorted. And from a brat no less.

"We can't be perfect, and that's okay. Life is an uphill struggle." He added, ignoring his partner's quip. "But at the same time, that shouldn't be an excuse for us to get lazy. If and when we fail at something, we get back up, learn what we could from the experience, and be better."

Ichiban didn't know if he'd managed to convince Akane, seeing how frustrated she still was, but Sona took his words to heart.

"Those are sound words, Kasuga." Sona nodded before pausing. "...You know, I still have some free pieces, so the offer of a long life is still on the table."

Ichiban blinked.

"Oi." Akane narrowed her eyes, responding before he could. "Hands to yourself. I don't share."

"Eh?"

"Hm? Did I hit a nerve there~?" Sona smirked smugly. "Oh my, could it be that you–"

"Yes." Akane cut her off, having none of it. "Now back off."

"And if I don't?"

Instead of Akane getting angrier at her buttons being pushed, she instead grinned and suddenly leaned forward, getting close to Sona's face.

"Then I'll just have to take you both for myself~" She whispered.

Ichiban had no fucking clue what they were talking about. It was like they were speaking in an entirely different language, but whatever it was she meant, it made Sona recoil in both shock and embarrassment if her red face was anything to go by. Super effective from the looks of it.

It instantly shut down whatever response Sona prepared, making her stammer shyly.

"A-ah…" She cleared her throat. "..How daring..."

"…It feels like I'm missing something huge and very obvious, and it's making me really annoyed." Ichiban said with a frown. "What does any of what just happened mean?"

The two girls looked at him weirdly, which did make him a bit nervous, but then Akane addressed Sona with her thumb pointing at him.

"This is why I'm not willing to give him up." She said with a strange smile. "He's a gift that keeps on giving."

"Stop speaking in riddles damn it." He scowled. "What was that all about?"

"Fine, fine." Akane snorted. "I just told her that I like you too much to let her turn you into a devil."

"I'm sure that's what it is." He scoffed. "Just say no next time. You don't need to lie."

You cannot be serious…

What?

Akane looked back at the baffled Sona and shrugged.

"See?"

"It's a miracle you haven't torn your hair out yet."

"No way, it's fucking hilarious."

Goddamn it, they're doing it again.

Before he could complain, Akane paused and took her phone out, frowning deeply at what she saw. She sighed and then stood up from her seat.

"Kaa-san is calling. Need to go back home now." She said, taking out her wallet and giving them a considerable amount of money. "Should be enough in case you want more. Catch up to you later."

"See you…"

Akane walked out of the restaurant, leaving him alone with Sona.

"...Were you being serious?" He asked her. "About making me a devil?"

"While I'd certainly love to have someone as powerful as you in my peerage, I doubt the pieces I have would be enough to reincarnate you," Sona said with a sigh. "So no. I only wanted to get a reaction out of her."

Of course, Akane had been messing around. It was like breathing to her– she'd die if she didn't do it. That's how she functioned. Also, he would've refused anyway. He had already sworn to serve another.

…Wait, why did she react that way, then?

"Turns out that was a terrible idea." Sona blushed a little. "...She is scarily good at this."

"Heh, tell me about it." Ichiban snorted, taking one more plate.

Well, at least he had someone who knew what it was like now. That's gotta account for something.


– Akane –

Closing the door behind me, I think about what Ichiban said back there. 'Life is going to fuck you over, no matter how prepared you are', huh? How moronic. I actually feel a bit disappointed in him after he said that.

There's no reason to let 'life' surprise us. You can prepare for everything, and accepting this false fact that you're going to 'fuck up eventually' is incompetent talk. Perfection is achievable, he's just blind. He isn't ambitious enough to see it.

I know I can do anything I want to do. With this power I wield, there's no such thing as 'impossible' for me. It's a meaningless word to someone with limitless paths opened to her. And that someone is me.

I can do anything. I can be anything. And some shitty, half-assed wisdom won't change that. I can and will avoid every single mistake from now on, and will prove it to that dumbass. I will be perfect, no matter what I have to do.

Once I get those thoughts out of my head, I look at my mother, who looks a bit nervous under my gaze as she sits on the couch.

"We really need to talk." I start.

"Yeah…" She scratches her cheek awkwardly, not wanting to meet my eyes.

"Relax, I'm not mad." I sigh as I approach her. "But at this point, I can't just ignore it. You need to tell me everything about that side of the family."

"I know." She mutters. "I'm sorry for… not being brave enough to tell you earlier."

"It's fine, I understand." I sit next to her. "You don't have to go into too much detail about their history. I just want to know the things that matter."

"Before that, can I ask you something first?"

I resist a groan and nod. Ugh, more stalling.

"I saw some footage of you fighting someone." She says, making me freeze, my blood running cold. "Er, well, not really fighting. It was like, seconds before he left."

I don't react.

"I was just wondering what you were talking about?" Mizuki asks innocently, calming me down a bit.

"Did you not hear us?"

"There was no audio."

Oh.

Oh fucking hell that was close. So they didn't see me accidentally destroying some of the houses around, nor did they hear him accusing me of that. If they did see me involving random civilians, I don't think I'd be looked upon favorably by them anymore.

Fuck me I was too careless. Holy shit.

"You'd be surprised," I say, hiding my relief. "Why didn't you tell me I had a cousin?"

She visibly stiffens.

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"Dunno. He kept calling me that. He's pretty chatty now that I think about it." I shrug. "Thought you'd know something about it."

"I… huh. Wow, that wasn't anything I expected to hear." She responds, still shocked. "Jo had a son…?"

"Does that mean I have an actual uncle? What's he like?"

She winces.

"You do, but he's a terrible person. All of them are." My mother answers. "I used to be a part of an assassination lineage called the Amon Clan. Superpowered, technologically advanced group of pathological monsters hellbent on conquering the world."

There it is. Fucking finally.

"Before I met Tatsu, I was… their most successful." She struggled to continue, looking disgusted with herself. "'Rin' used to be my name back then. The Ace of the Clan, and I killed many people, innocent or otherwise, for a bit of glory."

I can see the self-loathing from the scowl she has on her face, making my chest tighten uncomfortably.

"But I mean, you left, didn't you?" I argue, trying to comfort her. "So you hated what you did and decided to leave. Don't see the big deal."

Mizuki chuckles mirthlessly.

"No. No, I didn't hate it." She shakes her head. "I used to enjoy it. I loved killing, seeing people cry out in pain, begging for mercy, their dead bodies and blood painting walls and floors red… all of it made me feel a rush like nothing else."

Oh…

"I was their best because I took too many missions." Mizuki continues. "You see, I have a brother. A twin, and due to our father's more traditional views, he made him the heir. He didn't want a woman leading the Amon Clan.

"I thought it was bullshit, of course. It was clear to me and everyone else that I was better than him in nearly every field. Assassination, intel gathering, spying, fighting, and I even had a bigger mana pool." She leaned back on the couch, breaking her eye contact with me. "And that drove me mad with jealousy. So I just… kept killing, wanting to prove myself. Might makes right, and I had to show them all that I was the best. It was an obsession, and hundreds of innocent people across all factions suffered from it."

I don't know how to respond to this. I knew she had a fucked up past, but that sounds nothing like her. This dork of a mother who would cry when people mistook her for my older sister because "they don't think she's 'milf' enough" used to do all that?

"Even today, I still feel those disgusting urges. Voices telling me to kill for fun again. To prove I'm better." She admits with a shaky sigh. "But I know it's wrong, and I refuse to ever return to the person I was before. I left because I realized it was wrong, but I can't just… forgive myself or forget everything I've done before that. I'm a monster."

"Don't say that."

"It's a fact, Akane. And I've made peace with it."

"That's not fair," I say, even though I didn't mean to. "You already admitted it and stopped, right? You don't deserve any of that. You're a good person now."

My mother seems surprised at my strange response. Almost as surprised as I am. I… didn't really mean to say that.

"You have no idea just how much hearing that means to me." Mizuki gives me a beautiful, warm smile. "But it's fine, you know? I may not be able to change the past, but maybe I can better the future."

"What do you mean?" I ask, trying to ignore these bizarre feelings.

"I'm going to teach you every single thing I learned from them." She answers. "Every technique, every skill, every talent I cultivated in those years, are all yours because, unlike me, I know you will use it for good."

The prospect of learning everything from a former legend was enough to make me feel incredibly giddy. I know for sure that 'Touki' isn't the only thing she knows. I don't know how old she was when she first started training, but I'm looking at at least 20 years of pure battle experience. Imparted to me.

The sheer amount of quests I'll be getting, and through that, skills and stats… I almost want to discard my riskier soul-eating plans. But for some reason, I felt happier at the trust she has in me than the promise of strength. As well as a bit of… guilt. Sadness. Disappointment.

As if I've already failed her.

"But I want you to promise me one thing." Mizuki gently grabs me by both of my arms. "If you ever feel the urge to hurt someone– the need to kill or torture… You have to tell me. I won't ever be mad or disappointed, but I need to know if you feel them too."

Once again, my body tries to move on its own, almost telling her about what I felt like when I beat those Fallen Angels, but I manage to stop myself just in time. What the fuck are you doing? Telling her won't benefit me in any way.

Fucking hell…

"I just don't want you to ever go down that dark path." She says, her black eyes look like they were begging me. "There's nothing but pain and regret, and I don't want you to ever suffer the way I have. So please promise me this."

"...I promise." I nod slowly.

Mizuki's soft smile returns as she brings me close to an embrace.

"I'm so proud of you, Akane." She whispers, making my heart twist even further. "I love you so much."

Those emotions begin to overwhelm me, prompting me to find a way to change the subject and take my mind off… whatever the fuck this is. I then remember a question I always had, and seeing she had nothing to hide anymore…

"Hey, so I know this is a bit abrupt…" I pull away from the hug. "But is this why we're rich? Did assassinating get you that much money?"

"Eh, kind of? We did get money from successful missions." She half-confirms. "But not nearly enough to be billionaires individually. No, the reason for that was that before I left, I broke into the treasury and stole a bunch of things."

In an instant, Mizuki climbed up several levels in the 'badass' department.

What the fuck?

"Seriously?!"

"Yup, though, that's not all of it, y'know. There are other factors," She shrugs. "Like my programmer job, gambling, tax evasion, investing. Y'know, boring adult things. Also, Tatsu was weirdly intelligent when it came to financing, so he helped in keeping our wealth."

"I guess that makes sense."

…Wait.

"T-tax evasion?"

"Anyway, it's getting late. And we're waking up early tomorrow for our first lesson." Mizuki ignores me, getting up. "Come on, time to sleep."

She simply just… walks away, like whatever she said wasn't big enough for its own damned conversation.

Damn…

"You know, in the days where I still walked the living world, humans did have those… 'taxes' too," Lucifer says, materializing next to me. "But I've never truly understood what they were. Can you explain it for me please?"

I'm going to bed.


New arc incoming. yay. My canon knowledge of dxd ends here, so now I'm relying extra hard on one of the editors who read the novels to help me get through this. Why do I care about canon plot even though it's an au you ask? No big reason. I think knowing the original source material and knowing what to change is a good mindset to have. Might help avoid a lot of pitfalls.

Also, I felt the need to put a warning here as well, cuz I know I've said it before, but this story is going to get really dark. Like, expect very fucked up things in the future.