Chapter 56 – Departure

"Oops! Almost got me!"

Takeshi grinned under his helmet as he evaded a swing from the blade of Rias' Destruction Avatar by sliding underneath it. Swinging his axe, he released several crescent-shaped miasma waves, with the avatar forming a shield on one of its left arms to defend itself.

Spreading his armor's four wings and flying up to avoid a rain of Destruction arrows, Takeshi formed numerous ash tendrils with bladed ends all over his armor, swinging them at Rias' avatar. The Gremory heiress pointed at them, shooting several crimson arrows and a barrage of Destruction beams to either disperse of vaporize the incoming constructs.

"You have to try a bit harder than that, Takeshi!"

Rias grinned, with her avatar forming several buzzsaw-shaped rings in its hands and throwing them at her opponent. Takeshi weaved through them, pressing the sides of his buckle twice as he did so.

[Charge! Malice Overflow!]

Opening his mouth wide as the announcement echoed, Takeshi released a wave of ashes. It enveloped the surroundings, creating a large ash cloud which reduced Rias' visibility. The Gremory heiress attempted to conjure wind to blow it away, but Takeshi emerged from the ash cloud and rushed to the avatar's side before she could do so.

[Abyss Impact!]

Copious amounts of miasma, draconic aura and demonic power enveloped Takeshi's arm as he delivered a flurry of punches at Rias' avatar in rapid succession. Although he tore through the outer layer, he wasn't able to penetrate the inner one before Rias launched several crimson arrows at him. He dodged most of them, but a couple struck his armored fist.


Takeshi clicked his tongue in irritation as both the aura and the armor enveloping his arm vanished due to Rias' Lock Control. Jumping back in haste to avoid an oversized Destruction lance and using the miasma-clad axe to parry the avatar's Destruction blade, Takeshi landed a few steps away from Rias as the armor reformed around his arm.

"Alright, let's go with this then."

Takeshi muttered, with dozens of large Destruction shuriken coming at him as he gave a mental command to Cataclysm Zone.

[Revolve On. Hazard.]

Eight Branch Ethereal Surge's armor replaced Dead Shore Advent with a flash of light. Jumping on the materialized chariot and evading the rain of incoming projectiles, Takeshi raised his hand high, summoning a large amount of storm clouds above Rias' avatar.

The next moment, numerous black lightning bolts rained down on Rias' avatar nonstop, chipping off the outside layer bit by bit. Enveloping his tails in raging black wind and forming small tornadoes, Takeshi jabbed at the avatar from multiple angles while circling it at high speeds on his chariot, piling up damage.

Rias grimaced, but didn't lose her composure, conjuring several crimson arrows and firing them at her avatar and her body at the same time. Her aura swelled in response and the deterioration of her avatar ceased, with the destroyed portions reforming faster than Takeshi's attacks could destroy them.

"Make sure to dodge this properly!"

The avatar's four hands extended after Rias shouted thus, with torrents of Destruction energy erupting from them. Takeshi dodged the first three, but found himself right in the path of the fourth one, forcing him to jump off his chariot and soar upwards.

Looks like Rias is making good use of Aži Dahāka's implanted knowledge to better enhance her power. Takeshi thought. Even so, that won't be enough to defeat me!

[Hell yeah!] Orochi cheered. [Let's show your red-haired wench who's top Dragon around these parts!]

Don't call my girlfriend a wench, Orochi.

Takeshi thought as he dove into the clouds above while dodging Rias' oversized Destruction spears, pressing the sides of his buckle twice.

[Charge! Hazard Overflow!]

Large amounts of black thunder enveloped Takeshi's body and a blade made out of solidified poison extended from his arm-mounted stinger following that announcement. As Rias was about to launch a barrage of crimson arrows to disperse the clouds above, Takeshi descended from the sky like a lightning bolt, aiming for the avatar below as he shouted.

"This is my special attack, part two!"

[Venom Impact!]

Faster than the eye could see, Takeshi struck and tore through both layers of the avatar, opening a large gap and leaving Rias wide open. Before she could reform the avatar, Takeshi propelled himself with a burst of black wind, tackling her to the ground and pointing his seven tails at her.

"…This match is my loss." Rias admitted with a sigh. "I see you've come up with a new variation of a finishing move once again. I hope you're not pushing your body too much with all these fancy techniques you're creating one after another."

"Pain is of no concern." Takeshi said as he released his armor, grimacing due to the strain from before. "For a tokusatsu fan like me, being able to experiment like this and come up with all sorts of cool ideas is a joy like no other."

"You're incorrigible. Then again, that's also part of your charm."

Rias smiled as she wrapped her arms around Takeshi's neck, pulling him in for a kiss. Their bodies pressed together as Takeshi deepened the kiss, his tongue slipping inside her mouth and exploring every nook and cranny in a heated manner.

After a while, their lips parted, the two of them having matching flushed cheeks and wide grins. Standing up, Takeshi helped Rias up, with the two of them surveying their surroundings.

"Looks like everyone's going at it with all they've got once again." Takeshi remarked at the sight of the explosions rocking the wide and barren underground space expanding before them. "Too bad Dia-san isn't using her pocket dimension-creating abilities today. While it's good that this specialized training area is sturdy, it's rather dull to look at for long periods of time. Not to mention, I would have preferred it if it was ready prior to our hijacked game."

"We should be grateful that Beelzebub-sama finished it ahead of schedule for our sake." Rias said. "Plus, he was able to push the time dilation to almost eighty times in here. Thanks to that, we've had plenty of time to practice our newly acquired skills over the past two days. Moreover, thanks to this training area being deep underground in Gremory territory and having the latest security systems installed, there's no way it'll be breached by terrorists."

"I hope so, because the Khaos Brigade has proven itself to be both slippery and unpredictable for the most part." Takeshi said as he checked his watch. "Our time in here is almost over. Better start gathering the others and leave if we don't want to be late for school."

"Right." Rias nodded. "I also need to contact my brother and Azazel later. Judging from something Sona told me in passing, there might be some…unforeseen complications regarding the investigation in the States."

"What sort of complications?"

"I don't have the full picture yet." Rias said. "I would have asked Sona for more details, but considering the fact that she and her Peerage also entered their specialized training area almost at the same time as us, I doubt she would have any new information."

"Hoh?" Takeshi raised an eyebrow. "The Sitri Peerage has also received an underground training area from Beelzebub-sama? Let me guess, Sairaorg-san and Seekvaira Agares also got one? Considering that all of us are participants of the Youth Rating Game Tournament, it wouldn't be fair otherwise."

"It's a given that all four of us would share this privilege, though it's up to each of us to make the most of it." Rias said. "I only hope that our match against Sairaorg will proceed as planned. I need to redeem myself after I was outwitted by Sona in the last game. If I can't overcome Sairaorg as well, I have no business dreaming about standing on the official Rating Game's stage."

"I understand your feelings very well, Rias." Takeshi said, clenching his fist. "Ending this tournament without us having achieved anything of note would leave a sour taste in my mouth as well. Defeating the strongest youth, who's the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing, is a good way to raise our estimation and reclaim our pride."

"For the time being though, we can do nothing else but wait and hone ourselves further."

Rias said as she and Takeshi headed towards the rest of their comrades. In one section of the field, Akeno, Dia and Pandora were facing each other, holy lightning, dense holy power and a variety of elemental attacks clashing against one another in an awe-inspiring spectacle. Despite their efforts, neither side seemed to be prevailing over the other for the time being.

Some distance away from them, Koneko, Asia and Gasper also practiced together. The two girls would launch ki blasts and light spears from various angles at the young Dhampir, who would in turn use his Sacred Gear to freeze the incoming projectiles in midair. While clearly worn-out, Gasper didn't utter a single complaint as he kept activating his time-freezing ability.

Meanwhile, the trio of Irina, Yuuto and Xenovia were dueling against Leon while using their swords alone, with Irina using one of Yuuto's mass-produced Holy Swords as substitute for her missing Excalibur. Despite facing three skilled opponents at once, Leon was holding his own with little issue, his superior skill allowing him to outmaneuver and counter his opponents.

"That's enough for today, everyone!" Rias shouted, using her demonic power to raise her voice's volume. "Our time is almost up! We need to head back!"

Following Rias' words, all members present ceased fighting, joining Rias and Takeshi as they headed towards an area of the field where a large transport-type magic circle could be seen while chatting among themselves.

"Geez, why does it feel like you had it out for me these past days in here, Akeno-san?" Pandora complained, her body glued to Takeshi's left side. "When we fought, you seemed to be focusing more on me than Dia-san."

"Hmmm, I wonder why~?" Akeno said with a playful smile while pressing her body on Takeshi's right side. "All I can say is that even the walls have ears, and they picked up some interesting gossip a while back, ufufu~. Because of that, I couldn't help but tease you a bit."

"I thought as much…"

Pandora sighed, a downcast expression on her face. Rubbing her head for a bit, Takeshi turned to Akeno.

"I understand that Pandora's sudden 'attack' wasn't fair to you, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't torment her too much over that, especially since nothing happened." Takeshi said, his voice dropping a few octaves. "I know I've kept you waiting for too long, but I haven't forgotten my promise. The next opportune moment is yours and yours alone, Akeno."

"That's what I like to hear." Akeno smiled. "In the meantime, how about some advance payment?"

Akeno raised her head with an expectant look in her eyes. Leaning forward a bit, Takeshi captured her lips in a deep kiss that went on for several seconds. Feeling a sudden weight falling on his left shoulder, Takeshi broke the kiss and turned to the side, only to see Koneko's face hovering a few centimeters away from his.

"…My turn."

In a show of agility, Koneko vaulted over Takeshi, using his shoulders as support, and landed on his front, wrapping her legs and tail around his waist. The next thing he knew, Koneko was kissing him, channeling ki into him through his body both to restore his stamina and stimulate him further.

"…Devils really have no sense of proper time and place." Irina muttered with a disapproving look on her face. "And why are you looking at them with such an intrigued gaze, Xenovia, Dia-sama?"

"…Taking notes." Dia said. "…Future reference."

"I must observe my potential future rivals and learn from them." Xenovia said with an intense look. "Who knows, this might be useful when I commence my own 'attacks' in the near future."

"Such sinful thoughts are unbefitting of current and former servants of the Lord." Irina said, and then frowned. "Well, it's not like I haven't caught myself wondering how nice it would be if I…no, no, what am I thinking!? Oh, Michael-sama, please help steer your wayward servant back to the righteous path!"

Irina clasped her hands in prayer, though if one paid close attention, they would notice that her wings had been switching from black to white in rapid succession.

"Hm, looks like Irina is harboring some wicked thoughts of her own." Xenovia said with a knowing smile. "I wonder if they are vague ones, or perhaps they are directed towards a specific individual?"

"It's not like that!" Irina denied Xenovia's words in a frantic manner. "These are momentary impulses, nothing else!"

"Now, now, Irina, it's not proper to lie to one's self."

"I'm not! You're the one trying to blow this out of proportion!"

While the two girls bickered and Dia watched over them with a curious look, Gasper was speaking with Leon.

"You wanted to ask me something, Gasper-kun?"

"Y-Yes." Gasper said. "I've been c-curious about something. Leon-senpai's wings, unlike those of other Angels, are red. I was wondering why that was the case…"

"Oh, I've been wondering about that too." Asia said. "Leon-sama used to have white wings like most Angels do in the past, right? What happened to them?"

"First of all, how many times do I have to tell you to drop the honorifics and respectful tone with me, Asia-chan?" Leon said. "Friends don't address each other in such a stiff manner. As for my wings, the change in color was a side effect from my first attempt to use the Juggernaut Drive about a year back."

"By Juggernaut Drive, you mean that terrifying form you and Vali Lucifer entered during the conference, right?" Yuuto asked from the side. "I imagine the first time you tried to use it wasn't a very pleasant experience."

"It was the worst." Leon said with a grim expression. "The past possessors' curse almost drove me crazy, and the chaotic aura outburst almost levelled the entire area around me. Restraining myself from rampaging and forcing myself out of that state took monumental effort that left me bedridden for almost a week. I was lucky that the only major aftereffect was the change of my wings' color."

"Takeshi-kun said that you've been working on a way to master the Juggernaut Drive." Yuuto said. "Is such a thing possible?"

"It has never been done before, that's for sure." Leon said. "I'd like to believe it's not impossible though. If I could somehow deal with the past possessors' resentment, which is the reason why the transformation's aura is so unstable and why it's so hard to retain control of myself, the Juggernaut Drive could be refined to a much safer variant. Still, that's all hypothetical for now."

"Speaking of new paths, I need to step up my game when it comes to Blade Blacksmith." Yuuto said with a frown. "Sword of Betrayer is very useful, but I would like to unlock my second Sacred Gear's Balance Breaker as well for additional options in battle. However, I haven't made much progress on that front as of yet."

"Balance Breaker was a rare phenomenon to begin with." Leon said. "It's only in recent years that the number of Balance Breaker users has increased. You're already a unique case yourself, so I believe you'll be able to attain Blade Blacksmith's Balance Breaker as well at some point, Kiba-kun."

"T-That's right!" Gasper said with a smile. "Yuuto-senpai will definitely soar even h-higher in the future!"

"It will be a difficult path, rising to the top, especially with some many skilled rivals and enemies around me." Yuuto smiled. "Even so, becoming the ultimate Knight for President's sake and the most skilled swordsman of my generation are worthy causes to exert myself for. More importantly, I must have the strength necessary to ensure I don't lose anyone precious to me ever again…"

While chatting like that, the group arrived at the magic circle. One flash of light later, they found themselves back to the transport-type magic circle in the Ryuugamine residence's first basement floor. After changing clothes and having a quick breakfast, the group made their way to Kuoh Academy as usual.


"An incident?"

Takeshi asked, his tense expression mirrored on everyone's faces. The members of the Occult Research Club, alongside Sona, Genshirou and Tsubaki, were listening to Azazel, who was communicating from afar by projecting his image through a magic circle.

[Indeed.] Azazel said. [Looks like the worst-case scenario has come to pass. We've lost all contact with the members of the investigation team tasked with surveying the ruins of Section Thirteen. Moreover, an unnatural dark fog-like barrier has enveloped both the forest and the nearby town of Peshtigo, barring access to the area. Initial attempts to dispel it have failed, meaning that someone powerful is involved there.]

"Could the culprit be a high-ranking member of Khaos Brigade?" Rias asked. "Perhaps this Alkaid fellow or one of his associates?"

[Possibly, or it could even be a hostile God.] Azazel responded to Rias' question. [At this point, we know too little to say for sure.]

"Did you reach out to the local North American deities and spirits?" Sona asked next. "Perhaps one of them witnessed something vital that might lead us to the identity of the mysterious attacker."

[We have sent emissaries to them, but we don't expect anything to come out of it.] Azazel said. [North American deities, much like the Japanese Gods, are fiercely territorial and care little for matters outside of their respective domains. If Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit that spawned all these lesser deities, could be persuaded to commune with us, we might have more luck. However, since they're among those who despise us Biblical Factions for our intrusion in their lands, that might be rather difficult.]

"Looks like there was something of value left in that abominable facility after all." Leon said, clenching his fists. "What are our next steps here, Sensei?"

[Now that our scouts have finished their reconnaissance and haven't found traces of more enemies lying in wait, taking down that barrier is a priority.] Azazel said. [Since it's made up of concentrated negative energy, Heaven will dispatch Raphael, who is an expert when it comes to purification, in order to dispel it. Metatron will also accompany him alongside two of your Miracle Children and Baraqiel from our side. I wanted to send Armaros instead, but since Metatron will be there…]

"Yes, Metatron-sama and Armaros-san's rivalry is well known, so it's probably for the best that these two aren't in the same area." Leon said. "What about you though, Azazel-sensei? Won't you be there as well?"

[Unfortunately, another important matter came up that requires my attention.] Azazel said. [Amaterasu, Indra and the Jade Emperor are having a meeting to discuss the potential for closer cooperation, and Serafall, Sandalphon and I are busy participating on behalf of the Three Factions. I cannot afford to be absent from that.]

"I see." Rias said. "It's unfortunate, but it cannot be helped. More importantly—I request that my Peerage and I are allowed to participate in this investigation."

Apart from Akeno, everyone else seemed surprised by Rias' sudden declaration. As for Azazel, he pinched the bridge of his nose while sighing.

[…I thought you'd say something like that.] Azazel said. [It's because of your father's Bishop being a member of the missing investigation squad, right?]

"I owe a great debt to Agrippa-san." Rias said. "Not only did he teach me a lot about territory management when I was younger, but he was also the one who mediated with the Himejima clan regarding Akeno's case. If not for him, she might not be standing here today. That's why, if he's still alive, I want to rescue him."

"My sentiments are the same are Rias'." Akeno added from the side. "Not doing everything within my power to help my benefactor would leave a sour taste in my mouth. While I'm not sure what exactly our group can contribute, at the very least, we won't be a nuisance for the personnel there."

"What is everyone else's opinion?" Rias said, addressing her Peerage. "While Akeno and I feel strongly about this, I understand if you have your reservations about suddenly heading to a foreign country and potentially finding yourselves in yet another dangerous situation."

"Come now, President, who do you take us for?" Takeshi grinned. "Diving headfirst into dangerous situations has become our forte at this point. Furthermore, since Agrippa-san is the reason Akeno's life was saved, it stands to reason that we should repay him by doing everything we can to help him if we can."

Plus, the ruins of Section Thirteen might hold secrets that I can use to further my research. Takeshi thought. Might be a good chance to test out the chimeras I've completed so far at some point as well if we end up fighting.

[Would be nice going back home after so long.] Grendel's voice echoed in Takeshi's thoughts. [Reminisce about old times, see how much everything has changed, disembowel any fool who dares stand in our way. Can't have a proper homecoming without a celebratory bloodbath after all!]

And to think that you actually sounded like a normal individual for a bit there…

Takeshi sighed in his thoughts as Yuuto spoke.

"I'm President's Knight and her sword." Yuuto said. "As long as the cause is worthy, I will follow you everywhere and face any enemy."

"…Ditto." Koneko said. "We stand with you as always."

"If it means we can put an end to another sinister plot that could endanger more innocent lives, you can always count me in." Pandora said with an intense expression. "Bastards like them deserve to be damned in Hell for all eternity."

"For the sake of Akeno-san's s-savior…I'll do all I can!" Gasper said, and then his expression fell a bit. "Even though I'm not sure if I'll be of any h-help… I was useless in the last battle after all…"

"America, huh?" Xenovia wondered. "I only visited that country once when chasing after a necromancer who fled to Detroit. It would be nice if we could do some proper sightseeing this time around after we've dealt with this issue."

"Looks like it's a unanimous decision." Rias said with a smile. "Thank you, everyone. What about our Church friends though? What do you plan on doing?"

"We will join you of course." Leon said. "It's our responsibility to never let an evil scheme succeed, and we have to close that bleak chapter in the Church's history once and for all."

"…Offer assistance." Dia said. "…Save as many as we can."

"As Michael-sama's Ace, there's no way I would stay out of this." Irina said. "With all of us working together, there's nothing that can stand in our way! Amen!"

"What Irina-san said." Asia smiled. "Also, since Raphael-sama will be there, I must assist him as his Queen."

[Sheesh, you kids are such hot-blooded folks as usual.] Azazel smirked. [Always eager to throw yourselves into danger, consequences be damned. Well, since there's already reliable support on that side and you are all determined, I don't think there'll be an issue with you joining them. You've got to get Sirzechs' permission first before you can depart though.]

"Understood." Rias said. "I'll speak with my brother at once."

"My Peerage and I will hold the fort here as usual." Sona said. "We still need to run tests on the improved barrier around Kuoh and ensure its stability after all. If you need extra hands over there though, don't hesitate to call us."

"Thank you, Sona." Rias said as she stood up. "Everyone, please make sure to prepare everything you might need as soon as possible. Once we receive permission, we shall depart immediately for New York to join with the members of the Three Factions stationed there before heading to Peshtigo."

[Yes, President!]

The members of the Occult Research Club apart from Rias and Akeno left the clubroom alongside the members of the Student Council. As they exited the building, Genshirou approached Takeshi and Leon.

"Looks like you guys got caught up in something big again." Genshirou said. "It's shame that we of the Student Council can't join you. I wanted to test the results of my training in a real battle."

"You obtained the power to transform into Vritra by awakening his consciousness during the previous battle, right?" Leon asked. "Were you successful in controlling this new form during training?"

"Hard to say…" Genshirou said with an uncomfortable expression while rubbing his neck. "Vritra might not be as savage as Ryuugamine's Evil Dragons, but he's still pretty damn wild. Sometimes, I have trouble directing his actions without losing myself. When that happens…it might become dangerous for my allies. Still, it's a useful trump card to have in my arsenal."

"If it's you, I have no doubt you'll be able to control this transformation, and eventually reach Balance Breaker." Takeshi said, and then a sly smirk appeared on his face as he put his arm around Genshirou's shoulders. "On an unrelated note, has there been any progress with Sona-senpai? After you showed her your manly side, I would think she'd see you in a different light."

"I don't know about different light, but Student President was scolding me like crazy after the battle's conclusion…" Genshirou grimaced. "She did thank me in the end though, and even Leviathan-sama praised me for protecting her sister. Maybe I'm imagining things, but I think she's got a bit gentler with me ever since then."

"That's good, that's good." Takeshi nodded. "Small, yet important steps forward. Have you tried making opportunities to spend some alone time with her like I suggested before?"

"It hasn't been easy, but I've managed to get her to agree to play chess with me from time to time under the pretense of wanting to improve myself." Genshirou said. "We've also played a few rounds of Vanguard and Duel Monsters at times. She's crushed me every time, but I've been having fun, and so has she from what I can tell."

"Ah, isn't romantic love such a wonderful emotion?" Leon said with a gentle smile. "I hope I can experience it in full as soon as possible."

Takeshi and Genshirou stared at Leon with a curious gaze, prompting him to frown.

"What? Did I say something weird?"

"Eh, yes, you did." Takeshi said. "I mean, aren't you and Dia-san practically a couple? Don't tell me it's actually a one-sided crush and you don't feel that way for her? That would be sad for the poor girl."

[More like, it would be a golden opportunity for us to sweep in and claim this delicious morsel for ourselves.] Orochi said. [Making the venerated daughter of one of the most holier-than-thou Gods around fall to pleasure…my whole soul shivers at the thought of that.]

"That's…a little complicated." Leon said with some hesitation. "Make no mistake, I have feelings for Dia and would be ecstatic if our relationship moved to the next level instead of being stuck in this nebulous phase. The problem is that I'm not certain if Dia's feelings for me are genuine."

"Are you retarded or something, Ainsworth?" Genshirou said with an incredulous expression. "That girl is obviously head over heels for you. Anyone with a functioning pair of eyes can tell that."

"Yes, but is this affection born out of true love…or of unhealthy attachment because I was the first person who treated her as a living being instead of an object of worship when we first met as kids?" Leon said. "That's what troubles me, and that's why I want her to experience many things as a regular student, broaden her limited horizons and become more complete as a person. If she still feels the same for me as she does now after all that, I'll accept her wholeheartedly."

"Sounds to me like you're making things needlessly difficult for yourself and Dia-san." Takeshi said. "Are you telling me you'd be fine if someone came from the side and tried to snatch her from you? Wouldn't you fight for her?"

"I wouldn't stand for it, that's for sure." Leon said without missing a beat. "While I want her to choose without any bias, I'll still do my damnedest to ensure that I'm the one she chooses in the end. It's one of the things I refuse to give up on."

"That's a good answer." Takeshi smiled, patting his friend's back. "If you had said anything else, I would have been smacked you. I'm curious though, can you guys have sex without falling? I remember you saying that Angels needed a lot of preparation before mating with a human, and even then, it was a difficult endeavor."

"Well…that might be somewhat difficult." Leon said with a frown. "To begin with, Dia is a demigod, not an Angel, despite her looks, so she doesn't have that restriction. Moreover, Miracle Children like me and the others can't fall as easily as pure Angels, so there should be some leeway there."

"Should be?"

"Remember, I'm a Reincarnated Angel now, virtually indistinguishable from a pure Angel." Leon said to Takeshi. "It's possible that I might end up falling if Dia and I do…that and I'm overcome by lust. The good news is, Heaven's research department is working on something to help Reincarnated Angels with that matter."

"Interesting." Takeshi said. "I hope everything works out for you two in the future."

"Since we're on the subject of romance, it looks like Vice President and Kiba are getting along as usual over there." Genshirou said, gesturing at Yuuto and Tsubaki, who were talking to each other some distance away. "Vice President seems to have become more smitten with Kiba after the Rating Game between our Peerages. It's kind of fun seeing her being reduced to a stuttering mess whenever Meguri or Kusaka tease her about that."

"These two would make a cute couple for sure." Takeshi said. "However, I don't see that happening any time soon. Yuuto is too reserved, and Shinra-senpai is too timid. It'll take ages for them to take the next step at this rate."

"Maybe we could assist from the side somehow?" Leon suggested. "If we coordinate with the Sitri Peerage, maybe we can create opportunities that will bring them closer."

"That's not a bad idea." Takeshi said. "Truth be told, it'd feel more at ease if Yuuto had someone precious to him, someone he'd be willing to fight Death himself in order to return to. I know he's moved past his revenge and has found a new purpose in life, but in a desperate situation, I fear he might slip into old habits and treat his life as disposable in order to protect us."

"So, what you're saying is that Shinra-san can act as Kiba-kun's 'anchor', or perhaps 'scabbard' in this case." Leon said. "It would be great if things worked out like that, but we can't force the issue. In any case, right now, resolving the incident in the States takes priority."

"You guys have the Devil's own luck, so I'm certain you'll be fine." Genshirou grinned. "Give whoever was responsible a good ass-whooping and hurry back. We have lots of plans to make for the upcoming school trip and school festival."

"You got it, Saji-kun."

Takeshi grinned back as he and Leon bumped fists with Genshirou before hurrying to join the rest of the Occult Research Club.

At night…

"It's time. I hope you all brought everything you wanted without forgetting anything."

Rias said. The members of the Occult Research Club had gathered in the large transport-type magic circle placed in the Ryuugamine residence with suitcases on hand. Meanwhile, Akeno and Dia were busy completing the final adjustments for their imminent departure.

"Did you have any trouble convincing, Sirzechs-sama, President?" Pandora asked. "One would think he'd be reluctant to let you head to the United States all of a sudden."

"Persistence won in the end, especially when I brought up Agrippa-san's fate." Rias said. "He understood my concerns and unwillingness to sit around, hence why he relented. My brother has a close relationship with him as well after all."

"It's a shame we had to hypnotize your parents once again, Takeshi-kun." Yuuto said. "There's no convenient excuse we could offer that wouldn't make them suspicious about going to the States all of a sudden at this specific time period. This was the only way."

"It's alright, Yuuto-kun." Takeshi said. "Like you said, we had no other option at this point."

"We're all set here." Akeno announced. "Jump points have been locked on, and no abnormalities have been detected in our projected path. You may take it from here, President."

"Thank you, Akeno." Rias said as she turned to the other club members. "In a short while, we'll be departing for New York in order to participate in the investigation regarding the ultimate fate of the team tasked with exploring Section Thirteen's remains and the identity of their attacker. While it would be preferable if this didn't turn out to be a major issue, knowing our rotten luck, that's very, very unlikely."

Everyone in the room snickered at that, with Rias continuing.

"We have no idea what to expect there, or what sort of enemies might be lying in wait." Rias said. "That's why, constant vigilance and prudent actions are a must, and overly reckless actions aren't advisable. Looking at you, Takeshi."

"Hey, why am I the one being singled out again!?"

"You know why." Rias said. "If you don't like that, try and take care of yourself a bit more. Now, if there are no questions, we should be on our way. Keeping our comrades waiting for too long would be rude."

Following Rias' words, all members stepped into the magic circle, which let out an intense glow. One flash of light later, the Occult Research Club found themselves standing on top of a small hill surrounded by foliage that overlooked a beautiful white sand beach.

"Erm…while geography isn't my strong subject…I'm pretty sure this isn't New York." Gasper said in a nervous manner while looking around. "W-Where are we…?"

"Ritidian Point, the northernmost part of the island of Guam." Rias responded while Akeno adjusted the magic circle below them. "New York is quite far, thus requiring several jumps through magic circles to reach it."

"W-Why is that?"

"It's because the chaotic mix of energies from the various Pantheons, power spots and supernatural beings that engulfs this world interferes with teleportation spells." Pandora explained. "Said interference becomes more intense the farther you try to go with a single jump, throwing you off course. That's why we need to jump to various other locations first before arriving at our intended destination."

"…Several areas are also off-limits due to their importance to their respective Pantheons." Koneko added. "That's why it's imperative to plan your teleport route beforehand in order to avoid any nasty surprises."

"I see…"

Gasper muttered as Akeno spoke.

"The circle is ready. Next stop, Hawaii."

Following her words, a bright radiance engulfed the Occult Research Club once again. After a few more such jumps, the group arrived on the roof of a luxurious hotel overlooking a vast city spreading out below them. The East River, with the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges over it, and the Hudson River could be seen on their left and right side respectively, and some distance away, the Statue of Liberty seemed to glow under the rays of the morning sun.

"Welcome, members of Rias Gremory's Peerage and agents of the Church. Azazel sent word that you would be joining us a while back."

The Occult Research Club turned around, coming face-to-face with five individuals standing there. Said individuals were the Fallen Angel Cadre Baraqiel, the Miracle Children Kaori and Bruno, and two unknown Angels with twelves pure white wings growing from their back and halos above their heads.

Baraqiel, the one who had spoken, took a few steps forward as he approached Akeno, letting out a small sigh.

"If possible, I didn't want you to come here, Akeno…" Baraqiel said. "Not too long ago, you were involved in a dangerous fight that could have cost you your life. We might face something similar here, and the thought of something happening to you…"

"It'll be alright…Father." Akeno said with some hesitation. "I'm a big girl who knows how to take care of herself. Plus, if things get too dangerous, my amazing boyfriend will surely protect me~."

Akeno said with a cheerful smile, wrapping her arms around Takeshi's arm. Baraqiel narrowed his eyes at that sight, a few sparks flying from his eyes as he appraised Takeshi. The young Devil couldn't help but feel a chill go down his spine due to the pressure coming from the Fallen Angel Cadre.

[Heh, looks like that crow bastard's itching for a fight!] Grendel cackled. [I say we give it to him, whelp! What better way to celebrate my triumphant return home than turning a high-ranking Fallen into mincemeat!?]

That's my girlfriend's father over there, so keep your murderous impulses in check, Grendel. Takeshi thought. You'll get your fill of carnage later.

[I'll hold you to that!]

"You must be Baraqiel-san." Takeshi said, making a small bow. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Ryuugamine Takeshi, Akeno's boyfriend. I saw you from afar in the school festival, but didn't have the chance to introduce myself at that time."

"I am aware of your identity." Baraqiel said with an even expression. "You are Azazel's latest student and the current Evil Dragon User."

An awkward pause ensued for a few seconds until Bruno stepped forward and headed towards Leon.

"So good to see you again this soon, mon frère!" Bruno greeted his fellow Miracle Child with a wide grin. "And of course, it's always a pleasure to see Dia and my fellow Reincarnated Angels. It's too bad our meetings must always happen during times of crisis. Don't you think so as well, Kaori?"

"It is, but when duty calls, we must respond without complaining." Kaori said. "More importantly, shouldn't you introduce yourself to the others?"

"Oh, where are my manners?" Bruno said, turning to the members of Rias' Peerage. "Ça va, Devils of Kuoh Academy? I'm Bruno Armand, Subject One of the Theotokos Project and Metatron-sama's Ten. For those of you who don't know her, the girl next to me is Amakusa Kaori, Subject Four and Uriel-sama's Queen."

"It's good to see you again, everyone."

Kaori said, making a small bow. Then, the two Angels on the back took a step forward, with the tall and thin man on the left, who had long green hair, matching eyes and a gentle expression, speaking first.

"How do you do, everyone? I am Raphael, one of the Seraphs of Heaven. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"The pleasure is ours, Raphael-sama."

Rias said. Then Raphael turned to Asia, a smile appearing on his face.

"Asia Argento, it pleases me to see that you are doing well." Raphael said. "Tell me, have you been enjoying your time as a student in Japan? Did you encounter anything that might trouble you there?"

"Not at all, Raphael-sama." Asia smiled back. "Everyone has been very welcoming and kind to me, both from the supernatural and the human side. So far, I've been having lots of fun and have experienced plenty of wonderful things. Ah, but rest assured that I haven't neglected my duties to the Church and Heaven as your Queen!"

"It warms my heart to hear you say that." Raphael said. "Both you and Dia over there deserve to enjoy your youth to the fullest after spending so much of your childhood in seclusion. Now then, next is…"

Raphael's gaze turned to Yuuto, who flinched. The Seraph approached him and towered over him for a bit before making a deep bow.

"Erm, Raphael-sama…?"

"On behalf of Heaven, please accept my sincerest apologies for what happened to you and the other poor children involved in Valper's abominable project." Raphael said. "I know this cannot possibly compensate for all the suffering and pain you went through, but it is the least I can do as one of those whose negligence allowed this tragedy to happen. Rest assured that all of us are determined to ensure something like that never happens again."

"Please raise your head, Raphael-sama." Yuuto said. "The past is the past, and I've made my peace with it. As long as you and the other Seraphs supervise the Church better, I will be content."

"You are a kind soul, Kiba Yuuto-kun." Raphael said, his smile becoming wider as he put his hand on the young Devil's head. "May you find ever-lasting happiness that will blow away all the sadness that you experienced in the past. If anyone deserves this, it's you."

"Thank you, Raphael-sama."

Yuuto said as Raphael took a step back. Then, the last member, a tall, well-built man with swept-back white hair and glowing sky-blue eyes, took a step forward and spoke.

"I am Metatron, also one of the Seraphs of Heaven." The Angel introduced himself. "Good to meet you all."

As he stood behind Kaori, Takeshi couldn't help but notice that, despite their obvious differences, there was something alike in the way they carried themselves, their fierce gaze and their features. Turning to Leon, Takeshi made an almost imperceptible gesture towards the two, with his friend nodding in response.

Father and daughter, eh? Takeshi thought. Unlike Akeno and Baraqiel-san though, their body language indicates a sense of detachment. Guess Amakusa-san is on the same boat as Leon when it comes to their fathers.

"Since introductions are out of the way, we should discuss our next steps." Metatron said, conjuring a magic circle that projected a map of the area around Peshtigo. "Agents under the command of Chief Exorcist Beatrice De Luca, one of the Magisterium's members, have almost finished scouring the surrounding area. Tomorrow, we shall head out to Peshtigo in order to dispel the barrier surrounding it through Raphael's technique, and hopefully discover what transpired after investigating the area."

"Since both Metatron and the Red Dragon Emperor are here, Raphael should be able to remove that barrier with ease through their support." Baraqiel said. "I am certain that our enemy will have left some unpleasant surprises behind for us though. All of you should be ready for anything."

"That reminds me." Raphael said, conjuring a magic circle and pulling out a Holy Sword with the blade of a katana and the hilt and guard of a European longsword. "This is one of the three fused Excaliburs the Church completed a while back, with this sword mixing the properties of Mimic and Transparency. It was supposed to be delivered to Ace Irina in Japan, but since you came here, I was entrusted with it to deliver it to you."

Raphael offered the sword to Irina, who reached out and grabbed its hilt in a somewhat tentative manner. Swinging it a couple of times, she changed its shape into a gauntlet with three claws, and then into a sickle connected to a chain.

Satisfied, she returned it to its standard form before furrowing her brows in concentration as she focused on the blade. After a couple of seconds, the entire sword turned invisible, followed by her hand and lower arm. However, despite her efforts, she wasn't able to turn the rest of her body invisible.

"…No use, it's not working." Irina said, letting out an exhausted sigh. "I guess it was too much to except that I could use an unfamiliar Excalibur's effect flawlessly from the get-go."

"Even so, being able to activate Transparency's effect to this degree is praiseworthy." Raphael said. "I am certain you will master it soon enough, and after that, the completed Excalibur."

"For Heaven's sake and as the Ace of Michael-sama, I will work hard to prove myself deserving of everyone's trust!"

Irina said with an enthusiastic manner, though her smile seemed somewhat strained in Takeshi's eyes.

"On an unrelated note…where exactly in New York are we?" Leon said as he looked all around. "Furthermore, where will we stay until we head to Peshtigo?"

"To answer your first question, we are in New York's Financial District." Baraqiel said. "As for your second question, our base is right here, in the Grigori-controlled Azazel Grand Hotel. Top-notch security and facilities tailored to suit individuals like us are available here."

"Figures Sensei would name it after himself…" Takeshi sighed. "Since the investigation begins tomorrow, does that mean we have the rest of the day off?"

"Indeed." Raphael said. "Feel free to spend it in any way you wish. I suggest you enjoy yourselves and relax, since we have a major challenge to tackle tomorrow. Metatron and I will go on ahead and meet you there."

"Make sure to be on time." Metatron said. "Farewell."

After saying so, the two Archangels disappeared with a flash of light.

"Take these." Baraqiel said as he gave out cardkeys to everyone. "They will allow you to enter the rooms we've booked for you. The personnel are also in the know regarding our circumstances, so don't hesitate to ask for their help if you require it. If you need me for something, I will be in the hotel's library."

After saying so, Baraqiel left the roof, leaving the young Devils and Angels behind.

"Since this is a rare chance, we should take advantage of it and see as much of New York as we can." Rias said, approaching Takeshi. "Having a date on the Statue of Liberty for starters sounds a like wonderful idea, no?"

"Ara, ara, how rude of you to try and monopolize Takeshi in this occasion, President." Akeno said with a sly grin, pressing her body on Takeshi's other side. "I want to tour the famous Fifth Avenue with him, experience western fashion culture, and perhaps try out some western-style clothes from renowned brands. Doesn't that sound wonderful, Takeshi?"

"Hey, don't leave me out of this!" Pandora complained with a slight pout romantic, rushing to embrace Takeshi from the front. "I want to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art with him, have us both admire the exquisite exhibits in there."

"…That's all well and good, but food is the most important." Koneko said as she embraced Takeshi from the back. "Going around the various street vendors and tasting the local cuisine, that's what I want to do with Senpai. However, what does Senpai want to do? Which one of us do you want to go out with?"

"All of you, of course." Takeshi answered without missing a beat. "Let's see…how about this? I'll accompany each of you in your chosen destinations for about three hours. I know it's probably not fully satisfying, but that's the best way to settle this without wronging anyone."

"I suppose that's an acceptable compromise." Rias said. "When it comes to enjoying such a large city, even a whole day isn't enough. However, some time in the future, we should visit New York once again and tour it properly."

"That's a promise." Takeshi smiled. "As for the order…I think I will go out with Akeno first, followed by Pandora, then Koneko, and finally, Rias."

"Ufufu, looks like I'm the lucky number one." Akeno giggled. "Not that I'm complaining, but why is that? Do you perhaps want to get the dullest date out of the way first? I know shopping for clothes with me isn't exactly your most enjoyable activity."

"As long as I'm with you, even something as tedious as sitting in a clothing store for hours on end becomes fun." Takeshi smiled as he kissed Akeno's cheek. "My reason for that choice lies elsewhere. Since your father is here, it's a good opportunity to spend the rest of the day with him after our date is over. You know, work on further rekindling your relationship."

"Ara, ara, how lucky I am to have such a considerate boyfriend." Akeno smiled. "Makes me want to give you a big reward later on~."

"…In that case, you don't mind if I pay you a visit later at night?" Takeshi whispered, his lips next to Akeno's ear. "You know, so that we can…discuss the matter of my reward?"

Akeno's smile became wider and a small blush appeared on her cheeks.

"…Don't keep me waiting for too long."

Akeno whispered back, her breath tickling Takeshi's ear and causing a shiver to go down his spine.

"While sightseeing sounds wonderful, I'd like to spend my time practicing with my new Excalibur." Irina said, turning to Xenovia. "Will you give me a hand with that, Xenovia?"

"Gladly." Xenovia said. "A little sparring is the best way to warm up before a dangerous mission."

"Just try not to go overboard and destroy the hotel again, Slashing Princess." Irina said. "Remember what happened back in Venice?"

"That was one time, and the barriers were faulty! Stop bringing that up every time, Irina!"

"As for me, I'd like to visit Trinity Church since we're here." Leon said. "Maybe going up the Empire State Building as well would be a nice idea. What do you think, Dia?"

"…Central Park too." Dia said, looking excited. "…Beautiful place."

"I think we can squeeze that in." Leon said, turning to Bruno and Kaori. "What about you guys? Want to join us?"

"Pass." Bruno said. "I'll wander around a bit on my own. Wouldn't want to get in you two lovebirds' way after all."

"I…will abstain from sightseeing as well." Kaori said, though she looked somewhat reluctant and had a wistful look on her face as she glanced at Leon and Dia. "Helping Irina-san and Xenovia-san will be a better use of my time."

[Hm, I sense some deep-rooted jealousy within that girl.] Nidhogg remarked. [Always a pleasure to see so-called upstanding individuals tormented by their insecurities and weaknesses.]

Must you always be so negative and insistent on bringing down others, Nidhogg?

[That's my nature, whelp.]

"Ah, please let me join you as well." Asia said as Takeshi and Nidhogg conversed. "I would like to train a bit more as well."

"As for me, I'll probably visit the library." Yuuto said. "I'm sure they will have a fascinating collection of books here. Want to join me, Gasper-kun?"

"S-Sure thing, Yuuto-senpai!" Gasper said. "L-Lead the way."

After that, the young men and women left the roof, each heading towards their respective destinations. Before Akeno could follow after them, Takeshi grabbed her hand and held her back.

"What's the matter?"

"Since we're in New York, I want to try something different in terms of moving around." Takeshi said with a playful smile. "Mind following me?"

"Not at all." Akeno said. "What do you have in mind?"

"You'll see in a moment. First though, hold on to me."

"Right away, ufufu~."

Akeno giggled as she embraced Takeshi, wrapping her arms around him. Moving to the edge of the terrace like that, Takeshi looked below, took a deep breath and jumped off while carrying Akeno, with the latter letting out a surprised yelp. Before they hit the ground, Takeshi shot a thick thread of demonic power from his hands, attaching it to the edge of a building and using it to swing across the air.

Shooting thread after thread from his hands, Takeshi sailed in the air, occasionally jumping on rooftops and running on them before jumping off again and shooting more threads to continue swinging.

"Any particular reason you're doing this, Takeshi?" Akeno asked as Takeshi leapt from another building's roof. "What's up with these bizarre movements?"

"When we came here, I recalled a western comic Leon once showed me about a superhero with spider-like powers fighting crime in New York." Takeshi said, using his demonic power to stick his feet on a nearby building's wall and run across it. "Thought it'd be fun to try moving around like he did."

"So, what's the verdict?" Akeno asked. "As for me, I have to say I feel rather comfortable like this."

"It's got its own charm and perks, but all in all, I'd rather stick to flying." Takeshi said as he jumped off the wall, spreading his wings to glide in the air. "Also, now that I think about it…where exactly is this Sixth Avenue you want to visit?"

"It's Fifth Avenue, and you're going the wrong way." Akeno said, taking out her cellphone and bringing up a map of the city. "Go back a couple of blocks and take a left."

"Will do."

Takeshi said as he turned around midair and spread his wings, weaving through the buildings as he flew towards the area Akeno was guiding him to.

"I should have known the rooming arrangements would have been like this…"

Takeshi grumbled as he crouched behind the corner of a lavishly decorated hallway in Azazel Grand Hotel, staring at a certain pair of doors some distance away. Having finished all his dates for the day, he had made his way to Akeno's room after dinner to make good on his earlier promise, feeling his excitement rising with each step he took.

The moment he stepped out of the elevator though, Takeshi had suppressed his aura as much as possible and had rushed to take cover. The reason for that was the unmistakable feeling of Baraqiel's aura coming from the room next to Akeno.

While it was fortunate that father and daughter were not staying in the same room, which was probably due to Baraqiel's consideration on account of their still mending relationship, his close proximity still presented a considerable hurdle for Takeshi.

I somehow doubt Baraqiel-san will be all too pleased to find me sneaking into his daughter's room to have sex with her. Takeshi thought. He didn't seem too enthusiastic when he saw me next to Akeno, and it won't do to give him even more reasons to disapprove of me. Still, I'm not giving up here. In this case…

Summoning Cataclysm Zone, Takeshi continued by conjuring Daeva Scope, doing his best to suppress the aura and power coming from it despite the intense discomfort it caused him.

Then, he cast a multitude of spells simultaneously, turning himself invisible while also masking his presence and aura. He also rearranged the defensive magic formations on this floor to ensure that they wouldn't react to him, along with interfering with the security cameras.

[You've got a lot of nerve using my power to sneak into a girl's room of all things~.]

[I haven't been gathering knowledge all these millennia for it to be wasted on such a worthless endeavor, whelp.]

[Host's amateurish chimerification experiments, much preferred to wasting time in satisfying carnal desires.]

[Hey, I take offense to that!] Orochi complained. [Having a good time with a beautiful lady is never a waste, especially when she's a voluptuous and seductive Fallen Angel!]

[I beg to differ, unless tantric rituals are involved.]

[Efficient way for mana transfer, useful for powering certain formations.]

[Bonus points if the partner is a skilled Magician~.]

[Treating women as mere batteries, what an utter waste.] Orochi snorted. [That's the difference between a connoisseur like me, and an unrefined brute like you. Females are meant to be savored down to the last bone.]

As the two Evil Dragons got into a small argument, Takeshi did his best to tune them out while making his way to Akeno's room, wincing due to the strain in his mind. Taking slow and steady steps while making sure no hidden traps had been placed and that Baraqiel was still in his room, Takeshi arrived at the door and phased through it, stepping into the luxurious suite.


Takeshi let a relieved sigh as he cancelled his invisibility spell while casting a silencing spell around the room that would prevent any noise from being heard outside. Then, he dismissed his Sacred Gears as he made his way further inside.

"Oh, you made it after all."

The one who had spoken while standing near the large window wall overlooking the city below was Akeno, a sly smile on her face. She wore a beautiful form-fitting black dress with a slit on the side, which emphasized her curvaceous body and gave her a mature and mysterious air.

"That's one of the dresses you picked today, yes?" Takeshi said while devouring her figure with his eyes. "Looks even more glamorous and sexy on you than it did when you first tried it."

"You look dashing yourself." Akeno said as she appraised Takeshi. "You may have complained a bit, but it was a worthy purchase. These slacks, shirt and jacket fit you very well. I have to admit though, I did not expect you tonight, what with my father standing guard next door."

"When it comes to such obstacles, magic is quite the wonderful tool." Takeshi said with a smirk. "Besides, it wouldn't do to keep my fair lady waiting any longer, and I couldn't wait much longer myself."

"Ufufu, there's that fierce and ravenous gaze that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside." Akeno said with a sultry smile as she approached Takeshi, her finger tracing his chest. "Since you braved quite a bit of danger to come here, I should reward you accordingly, my fearless hero~."

"In that case…let's get dangerous."

A wild smile appeared on Takeshi's face as he put his arm around Akeno's waist and pulled her to him, claiming her lips with a fierce kiss.




"This…it felt incredible…" Akeno smiled with a dreamy expression, which morphed into a frown. "However, my father definitely heard all that just now. If he barges in here…"

"No worries." Takeshi let out a sly smirk. "I might not have been entirely honest when I said I disabled the silencing spells. I'm brave, but I'm not stupid."

"Sneaky." Akeno grinned as she kissed Takeshi, her body wrapped over his as she snuggled against him. "Also, that trick you pulled with the blankets was quite interesting. Mind showing it to me later for…research purposes?"

"Sure thing." Takeshi said as he caressed Akeno's hair. "But right now, I feel ready for another round."

"Ara, ara, such vitality." Akeno giggled. "It seems poor little me won't be getting any sleep tonight."

"You knew what you were getting into, so no backing down now." Takeshi grinned. "Also, since you lost the match, I think another penalty game is in order."

"Times like this, I can't help but be grateful for your competitive attitude." Akeno's smile became wider. "Please punish this slut as you see fit, master, ufufu~."

"Now you've said it!"

Takeshi said as he and Akeno shared another passionate kiss, their sweat-covered bodies grinding against one another as they began their next round.

"My lord, as we expected, the members of the Three Factions have arrived at Peshtigo and have begun surveying the area. Judging from my comrades' report, they should be breaching the barrier tomorrow or the day after tomorrow."

Inside a vast cavern, a man with ceremonial markings on his body that wore a loincloth and an ornate cloak said so, prostrating before a mass of darkness towering over him.

"Excellent." A deep and raspy voice came from the shadows, sending chills down the man's spine. "The situation is progressing in the direction I envisioned. When the Protestants' facility was destroyed, I feared that their most vital research had also vanished with it. The fact that this wasn't the case was a happy miscalculation. If my manipulations had amounted to nothing, it would be infuriating."

"Acquiring the specimen wasn't a simple matter though." The man said. "To think their concealment spells were sophisticated enough to fool even your eyes for so long… Still, to have kept watch over the area for all these years, your foresight and wisdom are truly remarkable, my lord. As expected of—"

"I do not require your flattery, worm." The shadow cut off the man with a growl. "What I want to know is if you and the other Naguals followed my orders to the letter. The critical juncture we find ourselves in does not permit any missteps."

"Of course we did, my lord!" The man said in a hurry, his forehead scraping against the cavern's floor as beads of sweat dripped from his face. "We made sure to leave nothing that might lead to them discerning our affiliation with you behind!"

"Then, at long last, the time has come." The figure concealed in the shadows said. "The eternal night arrives, and me and my progeny shall feast on the blood of our enemies once again!"

Two reds eyes shone in the midst of the dark cloud as a sinister laugh echoed all across the cavern.

This concludes Chapter 56. First, in response to your reviews.

To Appolyon: Xenovia couldn't catch all enemy attacks with Almace, hence why she was using Durandal to defend as well. The term supernatural refers to all powers and abilities that alter the environment and an individual's body beyond their normal limits.

Sorry about the no-shared-humor thing. Witty banter and humor don't come easy to me. Like, at all.

You're correct about the devices. The stamp ones are Vistamp-based, and the last one is Orphnoch-based. The belt is based on the one the Greeed wear. As for the story, yes, it follows the overall canon path, but with the addition of deviations and extra content (whether that means revamping a volume or adding an original one).

I'm still workshopping Apophis' personality, though it's likely it will diverge from the canon one. Regarding Gods like Ares, rest assured that I don't intend to portray them as one-dimensional brutes. When it comes to stories about the Gods, my canon here is that the Gods and mankind interacted much more in the distant past. However, as the centuries went by, various factors such as the Cataclysm, the wars between humans, Christianity encroaching on other factions' territories and more resulted in history being distorted to a degree.

Takeshi's show is derivative of the OG Kamen Rider, yes. But that's because the tokusatsu genre is more prominent in this Earth compared to canon DxD's Earth, hence the greater similarities. Plus, instead of breaking new ground, the Gremory family's main purpose was to improve Takeshi's image, showcase the benefits of cooperation between factions and, of course, make profit.

Hm, good point. I never considered a pose because I'm not sure I could portray it correctly in written form.

Regarding the power levels, I understand what you're saying, but I still can't picture characters like Fafnir scaling that high despite what canon might say at points.

Vortigern hates all of them because, while Heaven was the one who approached Britain first and proselytized them, it was the Devils who assisted Morgause and Mordred with their attempted coup. As for Heaven, the one leading them at the time was Deus Trinity, while Michael and the other Seraphs are the ones calling the shots now.

To Guest: The 'I agree' part was referring to Ophis' power post-Samael.

To Rai of bladeedge: That's pretty much it, yes.

Bit of a setup chapter here, with our current adversary making a cameo appearance towards the end. Like before, this chapter's 'special' scenes have been omitted and can be found in the AO3 version.

That's all for now, everyone. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May 2024 bring you all health, success and happiness!

See you all next time!