Hiiiii~ Another chapter is here!

Fanfiction app is bugging for me again, not opening on my phone but for some reason the browser is still okay.

EDIT: This is an official chapter and and Omake at the end. Fanfiction removed the plus sign for the title

Not much to say other thank you to my newest patrons: Celestial, Jimmy, Joini, James Alspaugh, Reece Lynch, Jarrod Dembitz, Andrew, Castle, Lucian Arrieta Martins, Nameless Hobo, Snarky Asshole, Arlos, Twyjoman, The 3 B's, Sam Grose, Nero Artorius Syrinx, Gamers and Gizzit. Y'all Rock!

Longest chapter written so far, nearly 16k words.

Next update is Fate Coiling Sword.

That's all,

Author NimtheWriter out!

Beta read by Paragon of Awesomeness, Maglad and Shigiya.


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-Training Grounds Manor-

(One week ago)

(Early morning)

"Hmmm… Archer… clothes… off…"

A tired and spiritually exhausted Rias mumbled as she reluctantly opened her eyes when the first rays of sunlight struck her face.

If she were to be completely honest with herself, Rias had privately ruminated on humanity's concept of she-devils being akin to succubi more than once. How could she not, given how much she herself hated the sensation of fabric on her skin? In fact, she despised the feeling so much that it was something she simply tolerated in her daily life out of respect for social norms, preferring to be nude when in the privacy of her home. And she absolutely refused to put up with wearing clothes in bed.

Her precious rest time was sacred, dammit! It wasn't meant to be a continuation of the awkward, smothering itchiness of daytime! Or so she thought until her Servant began squeezing every single ounce of energy out of her on a daily basis.

Indeed, now she was perfectly aware that once she was tired enough, the feeling of clothes on her back suddenly seemed like much less of an issue, and even felt akin to silken sheets. At least that was how she felt as she fell atop her bed one night with her clothes still on. The heiress struggled to recall what had been going through her head in her exhausted state, as come morning the feeling of having had clothes on all night felt vastly different.

Morning time was hell. Not the homely Underworld type either, no, but actual Hell. With the way her everything now itched, she could easily admit that wearing anything besides her dear birthday suit to bed just wasn't something she was willing to put up with.

"Master, you have to get up, you can't skip breakfast, as you won't have enough energy for the day ahead, which I assure you will be just as difficult as the last," said her dear Servant who treated her so nicely and like a true gentleman at this moment. Yet she now knew better than to fall for this false front of his! What hid behind that handsome face of his was a ruthless, devilish, crazy drill instructor who held not a single iota of empathy or mercy!

"Mmhh…"

"Master?" Her Servant stared at her with a smirk on his face, the smug traitor.

"…This is your fault."

"Odd, I was sure your muscle aches would be gone by now. Perhaps I should modify everyone's breakfast, something to help get rid of any lingering aching in your bodies…" He mumbled for her and his own ears. As much as she wanted to start the day with a warm, delicious meal cooked by her Servant, which would also serve as one of her few reprieves for the day that was to come… Rias just couldn't be bothered right now. She'd reached a point where her own momentary wants were of a higher priority than the demands of the day.

"…It's not that. My muscles are fine, actually. The problem is the itch all over my whole body that's driving me nuts." But then again, just because she couldn't muster up the will to perform certain tasks… that didn't mean others couldn't. He was her loyal Servant at the end of the day, and she now saw fit to take advantage of that. "Archer…"

"Hm?"

"I hate sleeping with any clothes on."

"I'm well aware. But that's hardly my fault, isn't it? I recall you having enough energy to drag your butt to bed on your own last night, so one would naturally assume you could have also taken your own clothes off if it was such a priority."

"It's absolutely… your fault. From now on, you have to make sure I'm naked in bed every night… This is your punishment."

"My my, what a strict Master I have, punishing her poor Servant who's working himself so hard every day to prepare her and her peerage for the upcoming Rating Game," Archer said with a smirk, chuckling at the glare he knew she had on her face but was too lazy to turn around to show it to him. If his Master were a little more crass, then he knew she would be giving him the middle finger at this moment. "If I didn't know your sleeping habits, then I fear that order could have been very easily misunderstood."

"Whatever, just make it happen. My everything itches, Archer. I'm not joking, it feels awful!"

Hm, it wasn't a problem for him honestly; he had gotten used to her exhibitionist tendencies long ago. Plus he knew she genuinely did not enjoy wearing clothes to bed, so it wasn't like she was playing a trick on him.

"Fine, I'll see to it moving forth." It had only been a couple days since he had to tuck Akeno into bed after she fell asleep in the bath, 'If I did it for her, I can do it for my own Master. Hmm, come to think of it, I should check on Koneko, make sure that she brushed her teeth and changed into her pajamas before making it to bed. Actually, did she even make it to bed, or did she fall asleep on the floor?'

A quick peek into the girl's bedroom confirmed that the little Rook had not, in fact, made it to her bed. Rather, she just curled up and fell asleep on the fluffy rug at its feet.

'Well, what's one more to tuck into bed…' He thought as he gently woke up the girl. He'd make sure she got a proper night's rest with good posture going forward as well.

He hoped Rias and the others would adapt to his regiment swiftly. It wasn't going to be an easy task for any of them, but it was necessary if they wanted to see any results in such a ridiculously short amount of time.

{Break}

(One day before the Rating Game)

-Rias Gremory's Home-

Things only became even more intense as the days progressed, with Archer cranking the dial up ever so slightly each day from the previous one. Much to everyone's relief though, they'd managed to score a "win" at the end of the ninth day, and he granted them all a day of rest and recuperation right before the day of the Rating Game. Upon hearing this announcement the next morning, everyone agreed unanimously to take a day off back in Kuoh rather than stay in the mountains where their memories of his nightmarish training sessions remained all too fresh.

"Archer," Rias called to him the moment her luggage hit the floor.

"Yes, Master?"

"Strip me. I'm going to bed, and I'm not coming out until it's time to blast off Riser's arrogant smirk along with the rest of his face."

"Again with this," he sighed, realizing that these requests of hers had started to get worryingly frequent these last few days. "You've gotten a bit too used to having me take off your clothes for you, Master. I think you picked up a weird habit."

"Huh?"

"I understand you were too exhausted at first to do it yourself, but towards the end of the training camp, you kept insisting on being prepared for bed even when I knew you had the energy to do it yourself. Don't you think you're being a bit too much of a spoiled princess, Master? Will you ask me to brush your teeth for you and scrub you off in the bath, next?"

"Uh… Well… since you're already so used to seeing me naked… washing me in the bath isn't a bad ide—"

"—No. Just no." He cut her off, making the heiress pout at his instant refusal.

The least he could have done was think about the proposal!

"Archee~er." She whined.

"I am fairly sure you really are beginning to fit the mold of an actual spoiled princess, Master."

"Archee~er!" She whined again, now with an added pout.

"Doesn't it bother you at least a little bit to have someone else take your clothes off for you like this?"

"…Ah." She began to blush, then seemed to remember something, and her complexion went back to normal. "I mean, you've slept with me from day one, so you know my preferences in bed."

"…What a dangerous statement."

The redhead just continued on with her own thoughts, considering his management of her diet, workout routine, and baths. Archer had fully surpassed Grayfia in every category in her mind, and it left her in awe of just how diverse he was with housework and taking care of people despite acting like a complete jerk at times. "And you're really good at caring for my body, too."

"I feel like that perverted maid would… no, scratch that. I'm sure anyone would misunderstand if they heard you say that without the proper context. So please keep your surroundings, company, and occasion in mind before you ever say anything remotely similar to that again."

"Strii~ip mee~e~" She demanded as she stood with her arms up and apart.

Archer sighed. "A spoiled princess indeed."

Then again, it was just as much his fault for always giving in to the whims of his dear Master.

Archer moved closer to his Master until they were only a few inches apart, while Rias still had her arms apart, waiting for him to begin.

He started with the tie as always, being the easiest article to remove. Rias then watched her Servant bend down slightly to unbutton her black corset, then came unzipping her skirt, before he moved to unbutton her white short-sleeve shirt.

She let out a breath of relief to have the outer clothes removed, finding them especially suffocating with the way they clung to her chest. Rias moved closer to Archer until her breasts were pressing against him, making sure that he got a good feel of how soft they were, while trying her best to be subtle about her intentions. Archer seemed to ignore it though, and continued his task to undress her as he gently pulled his Master's arms back and slipped the white shirt off her. He then proceeded to kneel down and take her right leg in hand, smoothly pulling her sock off and then repeating the process with her left leg.

Once those were off, Rias was left standing there in just her underwear, having decided to go with a black lingerie bra with stitched floral patterns that went over her nipples with a little bow that was holding everything in place nestled between her large breasts. The panties were of the same design with double straps that hugged her wide hips and heart-shaped rear nicely. It was no coincidence that her choice of undergarments for the day were ones that featured a minimal amount of actual cloth, only covering the bare minimum required to still be decent and also be highly sensual.

Much to her dismay, the bowman once again ignored the beauty of his Master's luscious, well-developed body, and with unwavering hands moved to remove the final articles of clothing. The same ones that Rias had been hoping would at least make him do a double-take.

Rias inwardly pouted, as he didn't seem to be fazed by her lingerie in the slightest. She bought it earlier that day just for him when they took a detour on their way back home to visit the mall at her insistence, and had been hoping to at least get some kind of reaction out of him.

And it was a very sexy set too, in her opinion.

'I'll get him next time,' she vowed. 'Maybe something even more risque will finally do the trick?'

Archer moved behind her to remove the bra, but didn't find the latch.

"It's the little ribbon in the front~." Rias told him, a teasing tone in her voice.

Archer just huffed, but instead of moving back up front to take it off, decided to just untie it from his current position. He stepped close enough for his well-muscled chest to touch Rias's almost-bare back, and brought his arms around her as his hands went to the center of her chest, and proceeded to undo the ribbon holding the skimpy bra together. Rias was glad that Archer wasn't able to see her face at the moment, as the position that they were now in was a bit embarrassing for her.

And… more than a little exciting.

If anyone were to walk in on them right now, they would instantly assume that Archer was embracing Rias intimately and passionately, as one would a lover whilst in the throes of desire.

'Calm down, Rias. You need to make him come after you, not the other way around.' thought the red-headed young woman, feeling her heartbeat rapidly accelerating.

It didn't take long at all for him to set the bra aside and move on to her panties, which proved to be the quickest removal out of all her articles of clothing. It was simply a matter of him gently tugging it down over her hips and rear, and once it was midway down her thighs, he allowed gravity to handle the rest, letting the cool air caress every inch of her now nude body.

Overall, this is always the best part of the day for Rias.

And yet… she still felt that the things she could do with Archer when they were alone together could be… so much better. She wanted that. More than she'd wanted anything in a long while.

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"Now that that's taken care of, Master, have you made any plans for the fight against Riser?" Archer finally asked the question that had been bugging him the most, folding up her freshly removed clothes while the redhead got comfortably settled in her bed. "I know the training must have been very draining for you, but there is a reason why I gave you all a day off other than just to recover your strength."

"…" She didn't answer, pushing her face into one of her many pillows as the seconds ticked by.

"You forgot, didn't you…"

"N-No," she protested weakly, her voice coming out a bit muffled. "I had two plans! Though I'm not sure which one to go with and… "

He recognized that hesitation. She was worried about telling him something that would somehow offend him, and that he'd think she was stupid. "Speak your mind, Master. Nothing you'll tell me will be seen badly. You have to know that no one is perfect, and it's perfectly fine for a leader to seek the counsel of another, especially with matters they are not familiar with. In fact, being willing to listen to others is widely considered one of the most admirable traits a leader can have."

"Yeah, I guess that's true." Getting a bit of energy, she forced herself to sit back up and look her Servant in the eye. "At first, I… I wanted to just have you eliminate Riser and his group for us. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how wrong I was with this kind of plan."

That threw him for a bit of a loop.

"I don't think I understand," he said, genuinely wondering why she thought that was a bad idea. "It seems to me like a perfectly acceptable way to fight this battle, not to mention highly efficient."

Rias looked at him in shock, "You… really think so? You don't think it'd be lazy of me to rely on you so much by having you take on the full responsibility of beating Riser after everything you've gone through to train us during these last ten days? It's like me stating that all our hard work was not enough and you've wasted your time on us, which isn't true in the slightest! I know we're no closer to being able to actually beat someone as powerful as you, but we've all gotten stronger than I ever thought possible in such a short time, and it's all because of your training!"

Seeing her get this worked up over his own reaction, he was at a loss for words momentarily before calming her by resting his hands on her shoulders and looking the girl directly into her eyes. "Calm down, you're overthinking everything here, Master. First of all, what you said is at least partially true; ten days is just not enough to make your group that much more powerful and competent no matter how many times I pushed you all to your breaking points."

Rias' eyes darkened a bit at those words, saddened to hear that even in the end, they hadn't exceeded his expectations as she'd hoped to.

"Second of all, I do believe at your current level, taking down Riser yourself is more than achievable even if I were to not participate for whatever reason. Understand that this training I subjected you all to was about far more than just this Rating Game, and was instead focused more on preparing you for the challenges that undoubtedly lay ahead. Riser may not be aware of it yet, but you are now strong enough in your own right that he's essentially been reduced to a non-factor as far as you are concerned, perhaps a formality at best. So I do not feel 'offended' if you wish to have me fight on the front lines of this Rating Game on my lonesome. That is literally my primary purpose as a Servant, in case you forgot." Fortunately, his words seemed to have calmed her down, as her breathing returned to normal, and a small smile formed on her lips.

"You say that, but it doesn't make me feel any better." Rias noticed how from the beginning, Archer never changed his perspective on his role as her Servant. She wanted him to feel like he was a part of the family, especially since she knew that was how most of the peerage already saw him. But from the way he worded that last part, it was clear to her that perhaps she hadn't done enough on that front.

"It is the truth, Master. Frankly, in a war involving Servants, a Master would rarely if ever be anywhere near the battlefield. That's how it usually works, but since my summoning in this world, all signs so far indicate that we are not dealing with any kind of Holy Grail War, so it's understandable that some things will be handled differently. Even so, know that I am more than happy to destroy your enemies on your behalf before they even have the chance to realize what hit them; it's efficient and saves you a lot of trouble. But of course, as the Master it's up to you to choose the path you want to take — my duty in this is merely to carry out your will."

There it was again, that same tone he used to describe himself and their relationship. No, she couldn't let him continue to believe that. She had to do something.

"No, I would rather not go down that path. Archer, I know that not just myself, but everyone in the peerage wants to show you how far they came because you pushed us to be better than we were. But more than that, I also want you to be included as part of the team. So let's win this Rating Game with all of us together as a team, rather than as Master and Servant."

He chuckled, finding the girl putting too much importance on areas that did not need it. Sure, in a way he felt assured knowing that she was trying this hard, but ultimately still convinced that his way was more efficient.

Though a part of him did appreciate the sentiment if nothing else.

"If you say so."

"Ah, by the way, how did your sessions with Gasper-kun turn out?" That was a member of her peerage she'd worried about this whole week. She'd been too exhausted to actively stay informed about that particular subject though, since Archer would almost always train the boy during nighttime. Since Servants didn't need sleep or rest, he invested a significant portion of his attention towards the Dhampir, since he clearly needed it the most.

"Harder than I would have liked. He really has no control over his Sacred Gear and activates it out of sheer impulse whenever he feels like he's in danger… which is always. So I had to use some admittedly extreme methods to get anywhere with him. Rather than having him control his powers by learning to restrict them on his own, I made sure that being able to control his power became his only means of survival, or else it would become his undoing."

"I'm scared to ask what you did, but a part of me is also curious. Did you use some super secret training method to make him ten times stronger?"

At that, he rolled his eyes. "Indeed, Master, I had him do one hundred situps, one hundred pushups, one hundred squats, and a ten-kilometer run every night." He revealed sarcastically to the otaku whose eyes started to shine with stars… Did she actually believe him? "I'm joking, by the way."

"…"

Never had he seen her get so demoralized this quickly, as if he had done something heinous in her eyes.

Archer wordlessly Traced a wooden shinai, the sight of which scared the living daylight out of Rias as she nearly fell out of bed, trying to dodge by beaten-in instincts. "That cursed thing again!" She quickly moved to distance herself from that abomination of a weapon with its stupid little tiger accessory. That thing had brought her and everyone else so much pain over the past several days that she had quickly grown to detest it more than anything in this world!

"Heh, now you understand. Basically, I went easy on him for the first night, just giving the boy light pokes or little taps every time he made a mistake or tried to run away crying. And whenever his Sacred Gear activated, I made sure to become far more aggressive and increase the speed and power of my assault. So unless he deactivated it himself, I wouldn't stop until I did it for him since I could break free of his power."

Rias' mouth hung open at such a barbaric method, and she couldn't help but look at him with both horror and disgust. "Y-You monster… No wonder I kept having nightmares about a screaming banshee! That was Gasper!"

Her reaction made him smirk, "Call me whatever you want, but the results speak for themselves seeing as he figured out how to have at least a rudimentary level of control over his Sacred Gear within two days. It was definitely better than trying to teach him to control his powers with just positive encouragement from the sidelines. Besides, the circumstances left me rather pressed for time, and he had even more catching up to do than Issei and Asia combined after being allowed to hide away in the basement by himself for years on end. You really were coddling him far too much, Master. And while I can admit that my methods were harsh, I promise you it was better than leaving him as he was until a real emergency came knocking and he suddenly found himself forced onto a battlefield in which he had no control over himself."

"Still! He was just an innocent boy who didn't deserve such treatment…"

"Oh don't worry, I'll be sure to use the same tactics on everyone the next time we train as a group."

To that, Rias answered him by throwing her heaviest pillow right at his face, which he took with a chuckle.

The more she got to know her Servant, the more Rias became convinced that the 'Hero' she'd summoned was actually Satan! As in the original one that the four titled Satans of today were based off of!

{Break}

-False Kuoh Academy-

(Day of the Rating Game)

It had finally come. The day of the Rating Game against Riser Phenex. An event Rias had been both looking forward to and dreading for so many years. Despite her certainty in the outcome, it somehow still felt stressful enough that she could feel her heart thumping as loud as a thunderclap with every beat. But as a King… the redhead refused to show so much as a hint of this apprehension to anyone.

Ever since she'd found out about her engagement to the Phenex son, her world had turned dark, as it felt like everyone she trusted had betrayed her. It honestly sounded like a death sentence to the young girl at that time, once she had seen for herself how the boy behaved. All her life, Rias only wanted to be free and be allowed to explore this amazing world. To expand her horizons by experiencing for herself all the niceties Japan had to offer along with engaging in its wonderful culture. To slowly build up a peerage with members she could call her family and enjoy the life of a teenage school girl until University.

All she'd wanted was to be allowed to live out her dreams and desires over the next few decades, to be a regular girl and not Rias Gremory, the heir to the Gremory family. Was a few decades of freedom really so much to ask for someone whose species had lifetimes that could easily be measured in millennia?

Not that she was ashamed or even discontent with being the heir to a Pillar House, but at times it felt that this was the only aspect of her identity that gave her any value in the eyes of other Devils. When they spoke with her, most saw her as just a Gremory — trying to wean relationships with her solely because of her family name, and that Rias herself had nothing to offer beyond that.

The redhead had always hated that.

She wanted to be more than just a woman who'd been lucky enough to be born with the name Gremory. Someone who was even better known for her own accomplishments rather than status or birthright. Sona was honestly a good inspiration; that bespectacled rival of hers shared a somewhat similar ambition — she had the goal to be known as the one who brought equality to the underworld concerning the reincarnated Devils and the purebloods… Sona sought to create a school with a more equitable academic environment, where all parties could work together, study, and form relationships without any discrimination.

Rias knew better than anyone how hard achieving such a goal would be, yet she cheered on for her friend every step of the way, and she knew that if anyone could do it, it would be Sona. The Sitri heir had also given her an idea: what if she made her name known through the Rating Games by following in the footsteps of her cousin Sairaorg, and becoming an undefeated champion?

Even though her cousin had suffered countless hurdles in the past, he still became an icon of the younger generation. The poster boy, the strongest Devil in the younger generation purely through his own effort and now he had countless wins under his belt. No one saw a helpless little boy who did not hold the Power of Destruction, they gazed at him as a powerhouse to be admired instead.

Of course, there were still a few stubborn heads here and there — but she honestly didn't care about the opinions of those arrogant idiots in the slightest.

This fight against Riser would be her first step to reaching such a goal. The starting line to her future, and one that would set the stage for how difficult her path forward would be.

"Is everyone ready for the match?" She asked her peerage members, who were all gathered inside the replica of the club room, each and every one of them tired yet eager. Even Asia was looking at her with an adorably determined expression. They had all lived through hell these last ten days, getting beaten black and blue, nearly cut open, and even getting uncomfortably close to losing a limb on a couple occasions — with Yuuto and Issei standing out in that last category. Those two had both managed to almost get one of their arms chopped off at one point.

"Yes, Buchou!"

Calling it a training period was downplaying the entire scenario. Instead, it had turned out to be a boot camp straight out of the lowest level of Hell, which they were all tasked with surviving lest they be left to die a miserable death from sheer pain and exhaustion.

She had never been so wrong in her life… her Servant wasn't a kind man, he was the Devil in the truest meaning of the word! She wasn't even sure how she and Akeno, Koneko, and Asia survived. Most of her memories within the forest were foggy, filled with explosions, getting her face planted against the ground, getting kicked through trees and seeing the sky after getting punched on multiple occasions by either her Servant or her own group who were disoriented from pain and exhaustion half of the time. And she had no reason to think anyone else's experience had been significantly different.

One time she came close to drowning thanks to Sona missing her spell attack, and there were far more similar experiences that she'd prefer not remembering. Archer had been proven right by the end: all of them grew to hate him at one point or another. The desire to finally see him fall and be injured became the only driving factor that kept them all going.

Now that it was over though, she could see with clear eyes the results of them all being pushed so hard. Even among those in her peerage who still had resentment lingering in their eyes, Rias could also see their gratitude toward Archer for making them all stronger.

"Buchou, the Rating Game will start in ten minutes. What kind of plan of attack do you propose we proceed with?" Asked Yuuto, wearing a few pieces of leather armor over his body, ranging from shoulder guards, vambraces, and leather leggings. But even more noticeable than his new armor, was the aura around the Knight, who had easily changed the most compared to the others as they mentally prepared for battle. Confidence radiated off his entire being, leaving not a single trace of doubt behind, and it felt inspiring to behold.

Granted, there wasn't anyone here who suspected in the slightest that they would lose.

"Alright, listen carefully everyone. From my research, it seems that Riser isn't someone who participates in the front line if he already doesn't take his opponent seriously, and you'd better believe we're going to use his own confidence against him in this. He'll spend as much of his time as he can at the starting area, lounging with one or two of his servants while waiting for the rest of the battle to be decided on its own. Out of all his previous Rating Games, he's enjoyed a clean record of victories with only two losses to his name, and even those were mostly due to an agreement he had with his opponent, who was an ally to his family that he respected a great deal."

"He's only ever lost twice, and it was because he just gave the win to the other guy!?" Issei shouted with pure astonishment, unable to believe their opponent was so dangerous before he put on an eager look and raised his gauntleted fist. "Don't worry, Buchou. We'll crush that yakitori bastard without you needing to raise a finger. He won't get to steal you away!"

The King smiled at her Pawn's enthusiasm, his energetic and vibrant personality leading the others to share his confidence. "I know you will, Issei. But remember, I just want you and everyone else here to do your parts and be ready to retreat as soon as you hear my signal. Your goal is not to try to defeat Riser and the entirety of his peerage on your own." Her eyes went to Archer who had remained silent the entire time, his arms crossed while leaning against the wall. Their true judge today was not Grayfia, but rather the bowman behind them.

"Now, continuing where I left off, our opponent likes to use his own immortality as a weapon and his ultimate defense, to show off how it makes eliminating him all but impossible and causes his enemies to either tire themselves out or just give up, and then he wins by delivering the final blow himself. He has a tendency to let his little sister manage his peerage and handle all of the battle planning, so we need to make sure to focus on Ravel at the first opportunity if we catch sight of her. And of course, there's his Queen, Yubelluna, the strongest out of all his servants. Yubelluna is known as the Bomb Queen, so it should come as no surprise that her magic is mostly centered around explosive spells. She has no Sacred Gear unlike some of the others, but she's still someone you cannot look down upon."

Archer, who listened to the description in the background, was carefully making plans of his own in case anyone in the peerage failed to carry out their part of the plan. If this were his Rating Game, the very first course of action would be to take out this Ravel. Without their main strategist, the enemy would be bound to fall into chaos at least temporarily. Even a short window of opportunity could easily be used to wreak havoc on Riser's servants as they lost their cohesion as a unit. Of course, that was by no means a sure thing, as intel showed Ravel wasn't much of a fighter herself, so she might not even take the field. Riser on the other hand was an interesting case; the Servant still didn't truly believe in this vaunted Phoenix immortality his Master spoke about.

An ability of that caliber, assuming for a moment that he did in fact possess a power on par with those mythical beasts… then there was no way the group could beat him on their own. Ten days of intense training could only do so much. Unlike Emiya Shirou who benefited from the bleeding effect between them, none of the people here had anything so conveniently available to them for obvious reasons. 'I taught them how to survive and escape when faced against impossible odds as best I could in the time I had. Yuuto's swordsmanship has become more polished and I managed to engrain the importance of a good defense in him rather than focusing so heavily on offensive speed.'

The leather armor wasn't even his idea, the boy had come up with it all on his own. He simply Reinforced the pads for him so they'd provide a bit more protection.

"His Pawns should be easy to deal with, especially if we don't allow them to Promote. They are numerous and capable in their own right, but not to a degree that we cannot handle. Their speed and power are nothing to brag about and most of them are just pretty faces Riser collected to add to that little harem of his because they were his type, instead of choosing servants based on their power or following Sona's method of recruiting members whose abilities complement one another."

Pawns, from what Archer recalled, had no noteworthy abilities granted to them by their Evil Piece unless they made it into the enemy territory and Promoted to a higher value Piece — which with him acting as the final line of defense, was never going to happen.

"His Knights on the other hand may pose a problem. Their speed being superior to most of the peerage means they are still a threat; we have to take this into account, along with the Rooks and Bishops. At least one small blessing in all this is that Ravel isn't really one for direct combat, so we won't have to worry about her on the field. Though her strategic capabilities more than make up for it." Bit by bit, she gave a brief profile on each of Riser's servants, reading from the stack of papers prepared just for this occasion. She'd have to thank Sona for helping her gather all this information.

Having little time to do anything else other than train and sleep, Rias had to rely on her friend as Archer hadn't invested as much time on the other peerage. The redhead remembered skipping a few meals at one point, with so little energy left she couldn't even manage to speak a couple sentences before falling unconscious on her bed.

"Fufufu~! Buchou sure has done her homework." Commented an amused Akeno. "I have to ask though, where are your glasses? I remember you like to wear them every time you start reading."

Rias sent a side glance to her Servant on the other end of the room, "Archer, if you would please…"

Knowing what she wanted, he rolled his eyes and traced a small pair of glasses before handing them to Rias. He did not know why, but the Servant was certain that he already made her a couple pairs of glasses in the past, and even a fair amount of clothing. For some reason, his Master had gotten into the habit of replacing most of her items with his constructs despite knowing full well they might disappear if damaged enough or if he dismissed them.

Even now he feared the clothes she wore were of his own creation… Was she doing this on purpose?

"I still feel sore…" said Koneko as her head rested on Akeno's thighs, the Rook having experienced an especially brutal training period given the way she fought. More days than not, Asia had to heal Koneko as frequently as she did Issei despite the Rook's vastly superior durability. By day four she had already lost count of the number of times her bones had been broken, let alone all the scrapes, cuts, and bruises she received. It didn't matter how fast or strong her punches were, they either never reached the target or were easily overpowered.

After the first few spars, Koneko finally came to realize what Archer meant about Servants being entities few could compete against. A punch without her holding back anything still got brushed aside by a mere backhand slap. At that time, her mind hadn't even processed what happened before her instincts went crazy as a blade inflicted multiple cuts on her outstretched arm before she got kicked back into a tree.

This continued to occur nearly a dozen times the very same day, and every time she had to get healed by Asia.

"Blame Archer, he's the one who was pounding all of us so hard all day every day. Mmm… I still can't even stand properly…" moaned Akeno with a smile, getting a weird stare from Rias who once again grew suspicious over the sudden change in attitude her Queen had toward her Servant.

'Something happened, but for the life of me I can't figure out what!'

"W-What about me, B-Buchou? I-I want to h-help everyone as well!" From the corner of the room, a small box with two holes in it spoke as crimson eyes shined from the darkness. An eerie and weird, yet oddly fitting image in Archer's mind concerning the Dhampir Bishop.

"Do you feel comfortable enough to participate, Gasper-kun?" Rias asked the boy, a trace of worry showing within her gaze. "You don't have to push yourself if you're not feeling comfortable, we can handle this ourselves."

A quick glare from Archer forced Gasper out of his box as he rushed right behind Issei. "I-I-I will help everyone fight today! W-we will d-defeat that jerk together!"

Though his words sounded confident, his eyes just kept fearfully glancing at the bowman in the back. Gasper had to admit, he would much rather be thrown into the middle of a chaotic Rating Game or even fight Riser Phenex himself than face Archer again.

"…"

"…Aaaah, to have a cute girl hold me like this is a dream come true." Issei hummed in pure bliss as Gasper used him as a shield, only to have his reality crash around him by Koneko's next words.

"He's a boy."

.

.

.

"SHIT, I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT THAT! WHY!?"

"Wah, Senpai is scary!" His outburst ended up scaring the boy behind him, who had already rushed over to hide behind Asia instead.

As Issei continued to have his mental breakdown, Grayfia's voice suddenly sounded all around them, "Lady Rias and Lord Riser, please get ready, as the Rating Game will commence within one minute."

"So it's finally time huh. We're going to beat their asses!" Shouted Issei, who was brought back to his senses thanks to Asia calming him down, "I've been dreaming of crushing this yakitori and his little harem to ashes!"

Rias chuckled at his enthusiasm, "That's good to hear, Issei. Also, Asia and Gasper will be accompanying you during the battle. Make sure to not overdo anything without always making sure you can retreat at any moment, and protect both of them. Asia, keep him in line for me, will you?"

"I-I will do my best!" Exclaimed the former nun, "I will make sure to keep your blessing close, Saint-sama, so I may keep everyone safe and remove their pain." She clasped her hands together, not giving a prayer, but the intent behind her actions made it abundantly clear what she wished to convey.

"I told you several times, it's not a blessing. Just a contingency in case things don't turn out as intended." He sighed, seeing the girl still having this much reverence towards him when he actively made sure to teach her otherwise.

"Blessing?" Rias and Akeno exchanged gazes, wondering what the Bishop was talking about. Unfortunately, they did not have the time to ask him or Asia as the timer soon reached zero and the Rating Game officially commenced.

"Alright everyone, let's begin!"

.

.

.

Closing the door to the club room, Archer calmly headed up the stairs and all the way to the rooftop with Rias following along. Neither of them spoke a word as he could sense a certain pressure pressing down on the heiress's shoulders as she carefully listened to everyone's feedback with her magic and issued one order after the other.

"Yuuto, in case Issei and Asia run into trouble and can't retreat, I want you to be ready to help them and then return to the club building as soon as possible. Even if some of Riser's peerage members are following you, let them. Archer will deal with them if they try to enter our territory."

She sounded more confident, prioritizing everyone's safety first and foremost rather than winning the battle. Some could see it as a flaw, but he let her work her strategy as she saw fit. So long as it worked, then that was all that mattered.

"Koneko-chan, make sure to stay next to Akeno after you're done, I want you both ready to support one another. If you come across Ravel at any point, prioritize her immediately, or send a signal to Akeno if there are too many enemies protecting her."

This Ravel girl again. He remembered seeing her back when Riser summoned his peerage inside the clubroom just to show off. For someone as young as her, he wondered just how good her tactical thinking truly was. If she turned out to be comparable to or potentially even better than Sona, then he would seriously recommend Rias to keep an eye on her for the future.

Opening the door to the rooftop, Rias flew up just enough to get a grand view of the entire school. "I don't see Riser anywhere, and neither does anyone so far. So it's very likely he's still sitting inside his room on the other side." She informed Archer, the latter turning towards the general direction of said building, not many obstacles blocked his view… not that such things mattered in the first place. "Hmm, no one has found any traces of Ravel or even his Queen yet."

"We always knew Riser was going to refrain from getting directly involved for as long as possible. As for Ravel and Yubelluna, it seems that our opponent is keeping all of his aces in the backline for now. My guess is Ravel probably intends to use her side's Queen as a hidden trump card and blast one of your high-value Pieces while they're busy with their own opponent." Archer provided his own insight, with Rias passing on his words to everyone below. For now, he was more interested in how the other members would handle themselves fighting opponents more on their level….

"Looks like Koneko is up first."

From his position, he found one of Riser's Pawn wandering by the trees near the gymnasium. "As I recall, that girl is called Mira. The one who tried to take a swing at me."

"Is she all alone?"

"It would seem so, but I doubt that's truly the case. Though she could be a scout of sorts," he noted watching the blue-haired staff user carefully observe her surroundings while twitching at every single sound around her. Not noticing a certain white-haired Rook encircling her like a predator stalking its prey. "Hmm, she's smart enough to keep an eye on her surroundings in case of an ambush. Not good enough to spot Koneko, though."

The Pawn started getting increasingly jumpy, now swinging her staff at every small noise, visibly nervous and unable to spot Koneko as the young girl closed in on her target. The Rook moved around her like a ghost, able to blend with her surroundings despite the rather contrasting colors on her body. He saw Mira shout, reading her lips with "Come out! I know you're here!"

Unfortunately for the Phenex Pawn, another distraction in the form of rustling in the bushes behind her led to Mira turning her back toward Koneko. This was no accident, as Koneko had sent out her kitten familiar for this exact purpose, and the Rook took this opportunity to jump forward with an interesting change along her hands. A transparent film of green energy that did not feel like demonic energy coated her body before she viciously grabbed onto the terrified Pawn's head.

And with a single twist…

"One of Riser Phenex's Pawns has retired." The announcement was heard all across the field as Mira's body instantly was teleported away. Seeing it made Archer question just how this system worked on removing people before they could get permanently wounded or die. As Rias mentioned, in one of his past Games Riser had half of his head blown away yet still remained despite such an injury being instantly fatal for almost anyone else. It wasn't as if all of them were copies that could be killed without consequences.

A question for another time.

"I don't think she even noticed the power she just used." He'd learned about the girl's innate ability to use Senjutsu and consequential fear of losing control and going mad because of that same power. Archer wasn't familiar with Senjutsu, which sounded highly similar to Philosophy Magecraft or Xian arts — all of which were mostly a mystery to the Servant of the Bow. All he knew was that in his world, Ki manipulation was generally equivalent to Od manipulation since Ki and Od were just two different names for the same form of energy. Even so, the two systems differed greatly, so even if the idea of Senjutsu turning its users mad sounded odd to his ears, he didn't dismiss it.

"Is she safe?" His Master asked worriedly, to which he shrugged.

"The girl started using this power unconsciously after the first few days of training. She does not want to use that power out of fear of losing control but subconsciously relied on it back then to remain alive and intact. You can say one fear surpassed the other, and drove her to make use of that power, even if only in minor bursts."

"That… sounds both cruel and effective."

Certainly, but at least it gave results.

"Two of Riser Phenex's Pawns have retired."

Another announcement came, surprising both individuals as they felt the air around them vibrate as an explosion went off within the gymnasium this time, this was coupled with Rias getting information on what happened.

"It's Issei, he managed to take out the twin Pawns as they tried to sneak attack Asia. There is another one, a Rook. Gasper is asking to help out…?"

The energy radiating from that area along with the shape of the explosion made it clear that the boy used a couple of Boosts to power his Dragon Shot attack. "You knew this would happen."

At that Rias chuckled, "Issei is a hard worker by nature, but if he has a fair maiden to protect, then he becomes twice as effective. I don't need to tell you this, you saw it in action yourself during the training period. And with Gasper by his side…"

"One of Riser Phenex's Rooks has retired," she let Grayfia prove her point. Having the ability to stop time within a localized area will remain a very powerful and useful ability in any scenario.

"Can't argue with that," all that was left were Yuuto and Akeno, though he couldn't see them from his location. "What about the others?"

"Three of Riser Phenex's Pawns have retired."

"Hm, that was Yuuto. As for Akeno, she said that she found someone but hasn't confirmed who." She answered, making him wonder if Ravel might have had a change of plans. Just under half of Riser's whole team had just been defeated within minutes of the Game starting with seemingly no effort from Rias' side — so he doubted Ravel would send a single member to face anyone in their group after such a display. Logically, Akeno being the Queen meant she would either face Yubelluna or Riser himself.

"I'll be back soon, Master." His body dematerialized, turning into his spiritual form as he disappeared from Rias' view.

{Break}

"Ah!" The skies darkened as a low rumble filled the area, and Mihae could feel her heart beating like a drum as she heard the ghostly chuckle of that frightening enemy Queen. "N-Not yet!"

She drew upon the power of her Bishop Piece and her own innate talent in spellcasting to construct a solid wall of energy around herself, acting as a perfect shield just in time before a column of lightning descended from the skies.

Crackle!

"Argh!" The impact of said attack created a large explosion of static electricity. The barrier she put up barely withstood a single impact before a secondary column of lightning struck and shattered it into pieces. Thrown back with great force, Mihae found herself at the mercy of that sadistic Queen who kept toying with her.

"Ara Ara, is that all a Bishop in Riser's peerage is capable of? I must say, this is quite a major disappointment." From the skies above descended Akeno wearing a traditional miko outfit, an image that very much contrasted with the heavy blush on her face. "I wanted to play a bit longer, but unfortunately Buchou wants me to wrap things up~!"

Mihae stayed in place, facing her opponent with a heavy glare, "You're a sick freak," she spat. Never had she met someone this depraved in a Rating Game. This girl was genuinely turned on by seeing her suffer!

"Why thank you!"

As Akeno was about to fire one last lightning attack, "—!" her body froze as a chill creeped up her spine. Her wings flapped, moving at speeds easily comparable to a Knight as a large fiery explosion rushed past where she had just been and struck the tree behind her.

"What a dirty move," she commented with a dissatisfied tone, less than thrilled about having her fun ruined right at the end. From the sky above descended the purple-haired Bomb Queen, holding a glowing staff as a smug smirk was plastered on her face.

"I could say the same to you, Priestess of Thunder. Your group has evidently gotten better from those ten days of training than we'd anticipated, but that ends here. Your power in particular admittedly exceeds Lady Ravel's expectations, so you have earned the honor of facing me yourself."

"But of course. Unlike a certain fried chicken who only keeps a peerage to stroke his ego and satisfy his own desires, my King prefers to have us motivated to become better than we were yesterday." Her taunt worked as the Bomb Queen tightened her grip on her staff with a disapproving look in her eyes. "Tell me, how does it feel to know that your King will always see you as inferior to Buchou? A woman who, might I add, doesn't even see him as anything other than a cockroach. You may think you're special to him, but we both know he can replace you within a single day; it's the whole reason he's fighting this Rating Game in the first place after all. He might even want me badly enough that he'd trade you to Rias in the event he wins."

"—!"

A vein bulged on her forehead, unable to let such an insult on herself or her King pass.

"Don't you dare talk about Lord Riser like that you bitch!" Enraged, Yubelluna launched a flurry of explosive attacks, creating a massive cloud of dust and debris, the center of which was right where Akeno had been. Joy emerged upon her face as there was no way the opposing Queen could have dodged that. "Hahaha! In the end, you were nothing but a—argh!"

A searing wave of pain suddenly spread across her body as smoke started to form. Just before falling, she turned her head to spot the still-smiling ravenette flying right behind her.

"H-How…" It made no sense, Yubelluna was certain she struck the girl with the full force of her strongest explosion!

"Surprised? Unfortunately for you, your movements and attacks are no different from a snail when compared to him, and you don't have a very good sense of your surroundings either. Look, you didn't even notice him." She pointed downwards and following with her gaze, Riser's Queen was shocked to see Yuuto, the Knight having pierced Mihae's throat with the tip of his blade, an unreadable expression on his face as she faded away.

"One of Riser Phenex's Bishops has retired."

"T-this can't be… I e-eliminated you…"

Those were almost the last words to make their way past Yubelluna's lips. Though just as she was about to collapse, the woman pulled at the last vestiges of her strength and managed to grab a small vial from her clothes and consume the single drop of liquid inside it.

"Watch out!" Yuuto shouted a warning which Akeno was slow to react as a shadow jumped out from the treeline, and with a lar, Zweihänder slashed at the Fallen-Devil hybrid who barely managed to put up a last-minute barrier and got smacked down to the ground with a loud impact. "Akeno!"

"You sure took your time, Siris." Now fully healed thanks to the Phoenix Tear she just consumed, Yubelluna spoke with a harsh tone to the long black-haired Knight wearing a white top with black accents that was modeled after a Chinese cheongsam. "I thought you were supposed to be with Karlamine."

"There has been a change of plans, Lady Ravel has ordered everyone to return to base at once. Something isn't right here."

"Tch! We were just a little surprised. Now that I'm fully healed I can begin our counterattack, starting with the Gremory Knight. But… I promised Lord Riser to always follow his sister's orders, so let's go. I might lose my temper if we stay here any longer with this worthless bunch." The rage from Akeno's previous comment remained fresh, the desire to torture the brat and make her feel pain nearly blinding h—

"—Where do you think you're going?" She once again heard that infuriating voice, but this time the rumble from the skies grew louder, and larger arcs of white lightning with a tinge of a sensation that sent a dreadful sensation to her Devil side came full force.

"Move!"

Siris sensed the danger and pushed Yubelluna to continue forward as she hastily raised her blade to the sky. Her entire world turned white, and all sounds disappeared along with her sense of touch. As if her body had been dropped into freezing water before every individual nerve ending was skewered by needles. Not even a cry of pain escaped her mouth before her entire body got charred.

Crackle!

The thick lightning pillar descended with enough force to crater the ground and scorch the surrounding flora. Yubelluna was briefly left stunned by the display of power that annihilated her comrade. She never imagined this kind of power coming from that girl!

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.

.

Back where Yuuto and Akeno were, the latter got back up with little to no injuries on her body other than a torn sleeve and a cut on her arm that she was already healing. "Yubelluna had a Phoenix Tear," she noted, berating herself for not being quick enough to finish her sooner. "She got away…" Similar to what happened with her, the dust cleared to reveal a missing Queen. Though quickly enough, she instantly spotted the Bomb Queen in the distance rushing back to her base.

"One of Riser Phenex's Knights has retired."

Once again, Grayfia's announcement marked the elimination of another of Riser's servants, while Akeno prepared to give chase until Yuuto stopped her. "Wait Akeno, it could be a trap. You may be stronger now, but facing so many enemies — including the opposing King, Queen, and more — all at the same time will be an impossible task for even you." He warned, words she stopped to consider before letting out a sigh.

"Hmmm, you're right, Yuuto-kun. I let my guard down after finding out how easy they were to overpower. I haven't experienced the satisfaction of crushing an opponent under my heel for so long that I let myself get carried away. But to think I fell for a sneak attack like that… Hah, now I want to hurt them even more."

Similar to Yuuto and Koneko, Archer had made sure to have Akeno take full advantage of the wide variety of powers that her Queen Piece afforded her. She recalled the Servant calling her an unofficial third Bishop rather than a true Queen. Thus for much of the training exercises, she was targeted just as much as the front-line fighters and forced to rely on both her speed to avoid attacks, and her enhanced defense as Archer forced her to endure what had felt like hundreds of hits at minimum from that wretched tiger shinai!

Yuuto dismissed his blade, taking one last look at his surroundings before answering. "I see. I have to admit, it does feel strangely refreshing in a way to be fighting opponents more on our level after getting smacked around by Archer for so long. No way this fight would have been this easy if it weren't for him. But we can't afford to underestimate our enemies just because they're weaker than us individually. Least of all Riser himself."

"True enough. That reminds me, Yuuto-kun, I don't suppose you've seen Ravel anywhere?"

The Knight shook his head, "Unfortunately no. I spotted someone within the forest after I took out those Pawns, and went there to find both of Riser's Knights. I engaged them both and was about to finish them off, but then I got attacked by a passing Yubelluna. I managed to get away in time and decided it would be best to retreat for the moment rather than face them all on my own."

"Hm, I didn't see or hear any sign of the other Knight, so if I had to guess, then most likely they are regrouping." Her ears twitched as Rias issued an order to everyone to stay away from Riser's base much to her and Yuuto's confusion. "Ah, Buchou? Are we going to play the waiting game now? I'm certain that just Yuuto-kun and I are more than enough to take care of the remaining enemy Pieces if you'll let us, and we can all gather together to defeat Riser."

To that, Rias gave her a simple response. "Archer just wants to make sure you don't get caught in his attack."

"Eh?"

{Break}

-Germory Base-

"Are you satisfied?"

Manifesting at his Master's side, Archer heard her ask him the question, to which he nodded his head.

"They all performed adequately, if not more so, especially Koneko and Yuuto. The latter showed sound judgment in avoiding a fight with both enemy Knights and their Queen once the latter showed up, and right as Akeno started to get a bit too eager in pursuing the enemy he was able to make her see reason. Overall, I'm quite satisfied. However, it seems the opposition has finally taken note of your group's unexpected strength. Ravel has called everyone left back to their side's base, so they will probably be shifting to a more defensive approach rather than attempting to strike at us — smart decision on her end, even if it does grant us the opportunity to let Issei Promote should we assault their headquarters. But that is also very risky with everyone now present in one spot, even if Akeno and Yuuto joined we may suffer casualties… so it's better to not do it."

Regardless of the enmity between their groups, he had to admit that the little Phenex girl had no small amount of talent in such scenarios. And at such a young age, too. She had the potential to easily reach Sona's level if not surpass the Sitri heir in the future. "So tell me, is it now time for me to make my own move in this Rating Game, Master?"

Rias took a deep breath, she had been torn on this decision at first, but knew that it had to be done. "Yes, I want you to eliminate Riser, Archer."

"Oh? Not willing to earn the satisfaction of defeating him with your own hands?" He asked, feeling more curious than anything else.

While it was true that she desired to show off her progression and those of her peerage members to him — she equally wanted to show the world the awe-inspiring power of her Servant. Rias knew that it sounded selfish, she accepted that, but she wanted for him to be respected. Devils only respected strength, and no way was Grayfia going to spill the details of their little battle to the public. Even if she did, many just wouldn't believe her. So instead Rias would make them bear witness to what Archer could do with their own eyes.

"Yes, of course I do. But there's something else I want even more right now. To see just how powerful my Servant truly is, and have that power recognized by the entirety of Devilkind. I didn't get to see you against Grayfia, and you kept holding back in the training field... So here and now, I want to see for myself what a Heroic Spirit can do."

He smirked, having no objections to her decision. Though he would have personally done things a bit differently, she was the Master in the end.

"As you command, my Master."

He moved to the edge of the building, facing the direction where Riser's base was located. Even Rias had to squint to get a good view of the building, and being able to see the inside clearly would be impossible without some sort of binoculars. Not that it mattered that much, Rias was just looking forward to seeing Archer bring out his weapons and show the world how amazing he was! During the entire training training period, she knew he kept holding himself back from hurting them too much — but here he could go all out!

"Are you going to head over there and eliminate them yourself?"

"Head over?" He gave her a weird look before chuckling much to her dismay. "Oh my, it seems the last ten days have affected my Master's memory to the point that she has forgotten that my Servant class is that of an Archer rather than a Saber. Why waste my time and energy by approaching the enemy at all when I can easily just take them all out from here?"

Rias held her breath as a large black bow appeared within his grasp. The familiar matte black, western-style longbow, with a simple design that stood as tall as her. 'No matter how many times I see this bow… it still astonishes me how big it actually is this close up.' She rarely got to see her Servant using his bow only despite calling himself 'Archer.' There were some times when she even started to believe his skill with blades was exceedingly superior.

Whether he was sparring against Yuuto, her entire peerage, or even hers and Sona's combined, his usage of swords was second to none in her eyes.

"W-Will that really be enough to counter Riser's immortality?" She muttered without even realizing it, in a trance to the point that whatever came to her mind just got blurted out.

"Immortality… that's where I must disagree with you, Master." As he spoke, Archer raised up his other hand, where this time a sword like no other she had ever witnessed came into existence.

No, was this even a sword? The metal itself wasn't shaped like what one would consider a blade, swirling and bending as if it was mimicking the form of fire, red as blood and holding an aura that made her feel as if an intense heat was licking at her skin.

The heiress stepped back, instinctively fearing what was not a holy weapon, but clearly still powerful enough that it didn't even matter in the end. Yet despite all of that, she found the construct just as beautiful if not more than the black and white blades that Archer usually wielded. Perhaps it was the red color that spoke to her? She always loved how she and Archer shared the color red, from her hair to his clothes, a perfect pair.

"I may be from another world where rules differ, and so do many supernatural creatures and their abilities. One aspect that remains the same though, is the nature of true immortality, and how arduous it is to even get close to such a concept. I have studied this man just as much as you did, along with the history of the Phenex clan in my spare time. To me, it looks like he simply possesses high-speed regeneration. Not invincibility, immortality, or the power of rebirth like the legendary Phoenix."

Right before her eyes, an unbelievable scene occurred that confounded the redhead and made her question everything she knew about her Servant's power. As the once beautiful sword started to further twist and turn, the metal emoted a loud screech as if alive. The weapon progressively became thinner, rolling up into a shape that… resembled an arrow?

"—!" It was that moment when a recent memory of the past returned to Rias, one from that terrible moment when she believed Archer was going to hurt or even kill Grayfia. That attack at the end that she only caught a tiny glimpse of, yet had remained a memory the girl could never forget. "This… back then against Grayfia…"

"Oh? Not quite, but a keen observation you have there, Master. It's different in many ways, you'll see it with your own eyes." Placing the sword-turned-arrow on the bow's string, Archer pulled the projectile back with enough effort that she could see his back muscles bulge at the strength being exerted to bend that monster of a bow. The wind stirred as she sensed a slight dip in her demonic energy, not as much as last time but still enough for her to notice.

The crimson energy around the blade became more intense by the second, and further resembled the very essence of fire itself.

"And with this, you are now free," said Archer as he released the blazing Noble Phantasm.

"Aestus Estus."

{Break}

-Phenex Base-

"What in Satan's name is going on out there!?" Ravel was flabbergasted, as barely a few minutes into the match between her dear older brother and her soon-to-be older sister, she found herself being forced to change her tactics completely.

"One of Riser Phenex's Pawns has retired."

"Two of Riser Phenex's Pawns have retired."

"One of Riser Phenex's Rooks has retired."

"Three of Riser Phenex's Pawns have retired." Grayfia's calm voice continued to announce casualties for her brother's peerage faster than she could comprehend what had gone wrong. She expected that a few would be lost to the Gremory peerage, especially with the Priestess of Thunder by their side along with that priest who gave her a bad feeling since the beginning. But this… this was too much!

Ravel raised a hand to her ear and formed a magic communication circle. "Siris, go help Yubelluna, and then get yourselves and Karlamine back here as soon as possible! Something isn't right here, we need to regroup and change tactics!" She then turned to the remaining Rook who was in the middle of giving her unperturbed brother a shoulder massage. "Isabela, you keep watch over the area around the base in case the Gremory Pawn tries to sneak in for a Promotion."

"Understood," Isabela confirmed, showing no change to her half-masked expression, taking a seat by her King's side who started to fondle her body without reservation.

"Sweet little sister, why must you interrupt my relaxation time with dear Isabela? She gives excellent massages, ya'know? Having hands that manage to be both tender and strong does wonders for my aching muscles. You should try it out as well, you're looking a bit stressed." For his part, Riser was just as unbothered as ever, completely certain of his victory to the point that he had been speaking about his plans for the wedding ever since the timer started.

"Do you think I should have Rias wear a red wedding gown instead of a white one? I know that white is the traditional color for brides, but part of me feels that a red dress would suit her much better with that luscious hair of hers, and I know a tailor who will craft a perfect design to compliment her wonderful figure."

"One of Riser Phenex's Bishops has retired."

'Mihae too now!?' Ravel was sent reeling at the announcement that another of their high-value Pieces had been lost already before remembering her brother's question.

"Eh? Oh! Y-Yes, she will look beautiful in such a dress. But big brother, we should be careful about the Gremory group. They seem much more powerful than what the intel we gathered on them suggested." She said, easily the most nervous out of all those present in the faux-principal's office they were using as their base.

All the while, Buret and Marion served them some tea. She didn't know where they got the ingredients for it, given there wasn't any around last she checked, but didn't bother to question it as she had far more pressing issues to deal with. Namely how half of the entire peerage had been eliminated within the opening minutes.

"Why are you so nervous, Ravel? Even before we came into this Rating Game, you quickly made some changes to the agreed-upon formation, having several of my darlings remain here rather than take on our opponents."

That she did. Originally Ravel had intended to be out on the field herself and possibly intercept the Knight with Sword Birth or the Pawn who possessed the Boosted Gear. Taking them out would basically cripple the Gremory team to the point that they may as well have forfeited the Rating Game with just those two casualties. The Priestess of Thunder and Koneko would have been handled by Yubelluna alone with a bottle of Phoenix Tears to aid her just in case. Basically, the strategy for Riser's peerage had been to have their high-value Pieces engage, delay, distract, and if possible, defeat, their counterparts on Rias' peerage. Pushing their numerical advantage, that would keep the other team preoccupied while their Pawns would make their way to Rias' base and all Promote to Queens, before doubling back and sandwiching whatever remained of Ravel's soon-to-be sister-in-law's servants between their combined might.

That was the plan, but…

"I've been having a bad feeling about that priest fellow since the moment I laid eyes on him. It's bad enough that you told Rias that her contracted mage could participate, but even if that was disallowed Rias could have easily turned him into a Knight or Rook. And if he's not a Devil, he still has that holy artifact on him and was fast enough to cut off your hand before you even realized he'd moved. For Rias Gremory to be this confident must mean she intends to rely on him and the Red Dragon Emperor, so we need to be ready."

At her words, the Phenex scion scoffed, "You're being paranoid again. That useless piece of shit does not deserve to be treated as if he holds such importance. Frankly, it's an insult that we are changing our plans just for this measly human." His originally joyful mood soured considerably as the image of Archer flashed before his eyes, and his hold of Isabela's breasts tightened with his Rook letting out a soft gasp.

"Humph, in the end, if things proceed as you fear and Rias proves herself to be a more formidable King than expected, then I will just have to personally burn down each and every one of her peerage members myself, and especially make it a slow process for that man! The gall to kill my familiar and then treat me with such disrespect to my face!"

Ravel's heart calmed down at his words. Of course, her brother was one of the most powerful and talented Devils in the younger generation. Why was she worrying about a former nobody priest? "You're right, Brother, with you here we can't lo—"

"One of Riser Phenex's Knights has retired."

"What? How… I just… huh?" That announcement shocked Ravel. Siris or Karlamine got eliminated as well? This quickly!? She didn't even receive any feedback from the woman about who she was fighting…

"Hm? Interesting. It seems those ten days made a much bigger difference for Rias and her little group than I gave her credit for. Then again, I'd expect nothing less from my future wife. If she were so easily defeated, then not only would the reputation of the Gremory plummet but so would the Phenex for allowing such a weak Devil to marry into our family. Now she has indeed proven her worth, to the point that I'm honestly impressed. Over half of my peerage taken out, and not a single casualty on her end? Heheh, perhaps the lovely ladies of my harem need to step up their own training after this."

Getting up from his seat, he stretched his body before patting his sister's head. "Thanks for doing your best. Now sit tight and get comfortable. Big brother here is going to destroy this little circus group just for you, so be sure to enjoy the show."

He said that just in time for Yubelluna to return with Karlamine close behind, the pair of them shaken but very much still in the Game much to Ravel's relief. "L-Lord Riser, forgive me, I couldn't defeat Gremory's Queen, and even her Knight got away." She said with a hint of shame, unable to look the siblings in the eye and worst of all having Siris get eliminated in the process.

"I must also apologize, my lord," Karlamine bowed her head, feeling disgraced for failing her King. "Even with Siris at my side, I not only failed to overcome the Gremory Knight, but Yubelluna also had to rescue us. Then the Rook ambushed me as I was making my way back, which I barely escaped because of my speed."

"Forget about that, who is eliminating everyone so quickly? Is it the white-haired man that Rias referred to as Archer?" Ravel asked instantly, getting a confused stare from Yubelluna who quickly shook her head.

"No… so far I haven't spotted him, nor did anyone from our group before they got eliminated. We've only seen her Pawn, Rook, both Bishops, Knight, and Queen take the field."

This further confused the twin-ringlet-haired girl while also instilling an ominous feeling within her heart. But she quickly shook such thoughts away. No matter what tricks the enemy had up their sleeves, her brother could still wipe the floor with them. Nothing could overcome the immortal flame of the Phoenix.

"Pft, I bet Rias is gleefully reveling over her delusion, convinced that she's going to win this little game of ours. That silly girl… Guess that means it's time for me to personally show her the power of a Phoenix, and why I was chosen to be her husband." Riser once again showed not so much as a hint of worry anywhere on his being, fully confident to the point that it boosted the morale of everyone around him.

"Riser Phenex always delivers on his promises, and I will show the world that out of all in the younger generation, I alone am truly worthy to live up to the idea of what a High-class Devil represents!"

Yes, Ravel was worrying about nothing.

"Now, let's end this farc—!?"

It all happened in less than a second. A chill that shot up the spines of everyone present. A sudden sensation of dread that made it hard to breathe while the temperature rose to an outrageous degree.

"Lord Riser!" Riser heard the shouts of his Knight, Karlamine at the end, the last image his eyes caught being that of a girl using her body as a shield while a… charred hole appeared where her stomach had been. Flames had already consumed half of her body as she was still in the middle of shouting out his name.

His vision turned red for an instant, and then everything went black.

Eh? What was this? What happened? Why couldn't he see anymore? Such thoughts filled the son of Phenex's mind as all he heard were the defeating sounds of a high-pitched explosion, and could only feel searing hot flames that melted his flesh.

A vast dome of fire exploded and instantly consumed the room, swallowing everything in its path and melting stone into molten lava within a flash. The blast continued expanding past the building's confines and engulfing half the school grounds. Trees were reduced to ash, and for a moment the air around the building itself turned crimson, the sight of a true inferno being seared into the minds of every single witness. The intense flames ate at the charred remains of Riser and Ravel faster than their regeneration could ever hope to keep up, having been left with a fraction of themselves and threatening to turn them both to ashes if the system didn't teleport them out in time to join the rest of their peerage in recovery.

It truly was an apocalyptic sight. The attack behind it had been one from which no trace life could ever hope to survive while the still-expanding sea of fire threatened to claim the entire Phenex Base within seconds. All the while, Archer looked on with a calm expression, analyzing the results of his work.

The actual impact would have been painless, fast enough that no one could have survived long enough to even register the sensation of pain. He didn't hold any kind of grudge for the Phenex scion — let alone any sort of hatred. Aside from seeing him as a bit of a brat and a nuisance that his Master wanted dealt with, he didn't have much of an opinion on Riser at all, having barely interacted with him. But at least this should be sufficient to remove this little obstacle from Rias' life for good.

"…"

Rias on the other hand continued to watch the blazing sea of fire and magma with a gaping mouth, unable to believe or even comprehend the pure destruction before her. Getting a front-row seat to see his powers, Rias once again came to realize that she had been vastly underestimating Archer's abilities.

This… this was a Servant's power?

"…Riser Phenex's peerage and Riser Phenex have all been eliminated. The winner of today's Rating Game is Rias Gremory."

Grayfia announced the Rating Game's conclusion, but no one cheered. All were still stunned by the overwhelming display of power before them that had scorched even the mighty Phoenix.

{Break}

-Kuoh Academy, Student Council Office-

"…Let's try again," within the Student Council room, a large magic circle became illuminated, surrounded by a pile of ashes and numerous destroyed precious resources that had been compiled by Sona and her peerage. How many times had they done this over the last twenty-four hours? She'd lost count, but Sona refused to give up now.

Not after seeing the end result of the Rating Game, where Archer had ended Riser Phenex and all of his remaining servants with a single, devastating attack. That kind of power… if that was what having a Servant could give her, it would make a certain dream of hers so much more plausible. No, it would make it practically guaranteed to succeed!

"Kaichou… this is the twentieth time already… it's very possible that Rias-senpai got lucky that time." Whined Momo, equally as exhausted and sick of the countless failures on their end. The hours of studying the notes and trying to find any ways to improve a formula that neither could fully understand or deconstruct now felt like such a wasted effort.

"We can't… stop… now," Sona responded stubbornly, her hair completely disheveled and skin covered in soot. Their repeated failures had left Sona feeling almost completely drained and reduced the venerated Student Council office to its current charred state, causing her to regret not doing it somewhere else instead. But a gut feeling told her that she couldn't stop here, or else this opportunity would never present itself to her again.

"Why Rias… Why is she always the lucky one while I have to claw my way over endless obstacles!?"

Frustration leaked out of her tone, threatening to boil over. What should have been a perfect ritual after all of the preparations from her side turned out to be a game of gambling. Saji had already fallen unconscious, having taken the brunt of the first explosion head-on while Tsubaki remade the circles again and again. Everyone still standing looked ready to fall at any moment, barely holding on with how much demonic energy this accursed ritual sucked out with each attempt.

"B-But Kaichou, I don't believe Gremory-senpai had to even do such a thing. Didn't the symbol appear at the same time during the summoning?" Asked Reya, putting up another defensive bounded field around the clubroom.

"You remember what happened when we tried that method last time? We nearly lost the feather and much more… And no, Rias got her Command Seals when she stumbled upon that magician's own attempt to do the same. Only then did she perform the summoning. I can't summon a Servant unless I already bear the marks of a Master." Another hammer that struck her plans was the extra layers she had to go through which Rias obviously didn't!

Why!?

Why her!?

"Rias and her ridiculous reserves and stupid luck… it's really not fair at all."

She chugged another potion, a single Phoenix Tear this time, one her sister gave her when she departed to the human world only to be used in an emergency. But Sona no longer cared. A Servant would be far more useful than any healing elixir could ever be. She was willing to bet everything she had on this last attempt, even if it sucked her demonic energy dry to the point she risked dying.

"Again!"

She shouted, getting the others to sigh at her bullheadedness. Not that she blamed them, but she had to succeed here no matter what… Even if it didn't directly benefit her goals, the gap between her and Rias would only continue to grow if the redhead was allowed to be the only one between them with a Servant, and Sona would not let herself fall behind when there was something she could do about it.

Woosh!

The magic circle lit up once again, "Urgh!" Already she could feel a large chunk of her demonic energy get siphoned out within seconds.

"I can do this…" she whispered, nearly having half of her reserves emptied already. The light grew brighter.

"Just a… bit more…"

Her reserves dipped further, turning the girl's face paler than usual, but still, her bloodshot eyes refused to lose focus as the circle continued to grow brighter.

"Come on…" Barely a tenth of her power remained, yet she continued to hold strong. "No matter what… I'll summon Perseus… and catch up… to Rias! I will… become a Master!"

She clenched her teeth as all but a sliver of her power was gone, despair settling in as the circle's light lost its previous splendor and grew dim once more. And as the light faded… so too did her hope.

"No…"

Just what had gone wrong? She followed every step to the letter, and even further improved it by deciphering parts that they previously hadn't understood. So then why wasn't her arguably even more perfect ritual not working compared to the redhead's accidental stumble!?

She collapsed, unable to stand anymore and barely clinging to consciousness. Was she destined to forever be second to Rias despite her being the one who put in so much more work? What a cruel joke… she hated this…

.

.

.

"Argh!" A sharp gasp of pain erupted from her mouth, as an acute burning sensation spread across her body… before focusing down to a single point on the back of her left hand.

—-

{OMAKE}

-Rating Game-

"Riser Phenex's Pawns have retired." Grayfia's voice declared neutrally.

"Riser Phenex's Knights have retired."

"Riser Phenex's Rooks have retired."

"R- One of Riser Phenex's Bishops has retired." You could almost hear the amusement in her tone. If it wasn't for Grayfia's perfect self-control— "Heh."

"…"

Alright, maybe it wasn't 'perfect' after all.

"""EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEH!?"""

Riser, Yubelluna, and Ravel made the sound as one, completely dumbfounded about the rapid-fire announcements that declared the near-instantaneous decimation of their forces. Last they checked, Rias and her group hadn't even left their base!

"What is the meaning of this!?" Riser peeked out the window of his temporary headquarters and froze at the sight of a wall of steel covering his sight. Protecting himself and Ravel, Riser prepared himself for the impact, "Gah!" The walls around him along with the building itself started to crumble rapidly until all of them fell to the ground below, skewered multiple times over.

"What the…

"Riser Phenex's Queen has retired."

Riser didn't even register Grayfia's latest announcement. For he was far too taken aback by a sight that would remain forever ingrained within his mind, as it would for everyone witness to this unprecedented phenomenon. Riser even wondered if they were caught inside an illusion of some kind when his eyes fell on the terrain and the deluge of weapons that stretched on in every direction. Not just across the ground either, but all across the sky. As if they were raindrops, swords of every type continued to fall onto the battlefield, Filling the sky as they had formed massive steel clouds up there.

The sight of him just standing there so calmly filled Riser with a suffocating amount of killing intent, but there was nothing he could do. Nothing short of a torrent of sharp steel descended upon him, and on top of that a curtain of swords was moving toward his side of the field, leaving absolutely nowhere to take shelter or hide. The trees and walls were gone, and the rubbles of the former room were reduced to small rocks, leaving nothing but a dust-filled air with weapons of all types raining down on him.

As the impossible, incomprehensible veil of doom moved towards him, Riser could see Rias and her peers flying to the roof of the sole remaining building to land by that man's side and watch.

"What in the name of Lucifer is going o-!?"

That was the last thing Riser managed to scream before the rain of steel drowned him out, his sister echoing a similar sentiment.

.

.

.

"Woah! What the hell is this!? Why did we even bother with all that hellish training, if you were just going to do this!? Did I suffer pain that could only be found in the deepest parts of Hell just for your twisted amusement!?"

The Phenex siblings weren't the only ones shouting their frustrations, as a certain Red Dragon Emperor cried out while on his knees. Tears streamed down his face remembering all the bones broken and blood lost because of the demon in red standing next to him. If it wasn't to prepare for this Rating Game, then what had even been the point?!

"This is but one small fight, foolish boy. You didn't train like that just to win this little Rating Game, but to gain the right to stand at my Master's side long after I am gone." Archer replied in a calm, steely tone.

"And what's with that? That!?" Issei shouted while pointing wildly all around them at what resembled the aftermath of a brutal war with no bodies around. "Look at what you did to the Yakitori's base! Everything's all gone and I didn't even get to punch him once… Now, there's nothing but a wasteland chock full of swords! You turned everything into ruins! Your magic is bullshit…"

"The rain of swords? I got an inkling during my fight with that perverted maid cosplayer but wasn't sure about the true capacity of my Master's considerable magic reserves until the fifth day of the training trip. Truly, as expected of a High-class Devil, it seems I am barely making a dent in your reserves, aren't I, Master?" He turned to look at Rias, who was busy observing everything through a large set of military-grade binoculars that she had him Trace for her beforehand so she could watch Riser's expression from across the field as Archer annihilated him.

"Uhm… huh? O-Oh, of course not! Who do you think I am? I can do this all day. Just keep sending Riser into the pits of ultimate despair, until he despairs into nothingness. Hehehehehe…" Her creepy giggling sounded like it was on the verge of becoming a full-on cackle as she continued to enjoy the sight of that man suffering.

A very, very small part of Archer's mind wondered if this was the difference between a powerful human magus and a High-class Devil, or the difference in the Magical Energy held within Rin's flat justice and Rias' hopes and dreams. Immediately, his survival instinct told him to abandon that line of thought, lest the Red Devil somehow master the Second Magic solely so she could drop by and kill him in the most painful way, and then resurrect him just to do it all over again.

"No, that's not iiii~it!" Issei's tears were now staining the ground. "The music! What the hell's with that OST!?"

Indeed, almost as soon as Archer stepped into the field and began his continuous steel bombardment of the enemy, an epic soundtrack began. The sounds of vocals, piano keys, and guitar riffs were somehow even more audible than the constant impacts of weapons in the distance.

"Oh, that. It happens sometimes, don't mind it." The Counter Guardian deadpanned. Hearing that just made Issei really want to punch his face in with how nonchalant he was about this.

"What do you mean 'don't mind it'!? Why the hell do your powers get to have an Original Soundtrack, you bastaaaaard!? I want one! Where is min—oof!" His rant of jealous despair got cut short as a certain white-haired Rook socked him in the gut, doubling him over and leaving him on the ground wheezing.

"Shhh… new ringtone." Koneko admonished while holding up her cell phone, doing her best to record the moment in all its glory.

"Yes, Issei-kun, please be quiet." Akeno chirped from where she was holding her own phone, right by Koneko's side.

This world was so unfair.

"Alright, Archer, turn Riser into a pin cushion! Use Blade Rain again!"

"Oi, I'm not a Pokemon, and that's not even what it's called."

At least their King was having fun.


The next 5 chapters of Snafu, and my other Fate fics (Fate Coiling Sword with 3 chapters, A Fake Familiar Reborn with 3 chapters, Steel Eyed Faker soon to be 3 chapters, Hound having 1 and To love a sword having 4 chapters) are already available on my P treon. With 4 more Broly chapters at /NimtheWriter. Also, I post commissioned arts on each story, already posted a few on an Archer's Promise, Broly and Snafu.