Author's Notes: WE! ARE! BACK!
Disclaimer: We don't own Highschool DxD and/or the Disgaea franchise. Only our crazy stories and our even more crazy minds.
Chapter 11: Dungeon Dwelling - Part 1
As Always, Bad Decisions Feasted On Our Asses
"This place is a fucking dump." Something impacted against Issei's head from behind. At least it wasn't anything sharp, hard or heavy enough to seriously injure him. This time. "Ohi, pervert. I'm bored: do something to entertain me or I'll kill you."
"Do it yourself!" the brunette snapped as he turned over his shoulder, giving Gig an angry glare. "Dammit, what the hell does Revya see in a jackass like you?!"
"She digs me because I'm fucking awesome. And you're just a pervert with a dragon in his hand. I bet it's the same one you use to play with yourself, too!"
"That's my right hand, actually."
Shiro groaned in disgust. "Too much information."
Two weeks (in the Netherworld anyway) had passed since Revya and Gig had joined up with Issei's party. In that time the group had managed to get stronger, their encounter with Gig having served as something of a wake-up call. It had been hell, like his first meeting with Priere the human boy has been forced to work to the bone until he was a bloody, sweaty and exhausted pile of flesh. [Boosted Gear] was a truly wonderful addition to his repertoire, as it saved his ass on more than one occasion.
By now everyone had more or less hit Level 40 or so. Issei even dedicated some of his own spare time to help get Rathina up to par as well, much to her joy. She often gave Issei bone-crushing hugs that, while obviously very dangerous, were absolutely wonderful. At this point Issei had a hard time determining who had the bigger bust: Rathina, Shiro or Priere. Of course, he never had the opportunity to tell if the latter two's were firm or soft.
And before you ask: yes, he was still debating the pros and cons if offering his life in exchange for squeezing Priere's boobs. Given that they had access to the Nurse's Office he could come back. On the other hand, Issei didn't want to risk it: since he was human, what if he die and never come back? It was certainly food for thought, hence why he made sure he was always careful.
To Issei's surprise, the Netherworld also celebrated Halloween. Of course, this being the Netherworld, they had a huge different meaning of the holiday.
Namely, a free-for-all battle royal to the death.
Issei wanted no part in whatever the hell it was, but Kelly was practically frothing at the mouth. She was bouncing off the walls in anticipation for it to come, and practically begged Reno to allow her to head into the [Maps] so she could level up, kill grunts, increase the potency of her fire magic and loot their bodies afterwards so she could be prepared for the slaughter fest.
'And I can't believe I just thought all that up.' Issei wept. 'I must have been here for like two months now. My Summer Break's probably already over, and here I am, spending it in an alternate universe's version of Hell! I'm starting to go crazy.' He paused. 'Then again, maybe going crazy isn't so bad. For starters, the women here are totally fucking hot! It just might be worth going nuts over! NO! Wait, focus Ise! If you stay here you won't be able to check out your beloved stash again! Much less see your parents! Focus, Ise! FOCUS!'
"You know, our equipment's getting pretty crummy." Asagi noted as she tossed a card into the pile while Rathina munched on a piece of steak. "You think we should stop by Rosen Queen's and get some new gear? We've got HL to burn, after all."
"Maybe." Shiro shrugged, taking a card from the pile and adding it to her hand. "But we should probably wait to do that until the Freshman Battle Royale's over. It's going to start in, like, what? The next couple of days?"
Agnes nodded. "I believe so. Kelly's been so excited she's started resorting to burning passing students." She gave a small whine at that. She had tried multiple times to stop the Fire Mage, but they had all been unsuccessful. Reno had eventually told her to just give up and focus more on healing the poor students that she had set on fire. "I really don't like the event. It's always so chaotic!"
"An odd thing for a demon to say." Priere remarked from her lounging chair while a Prinny fanned her. "What's the whole point behind this battle royal, anyway?"
"It's to decide the Class President." Reno informed the Overlord as he polished his sword. Next to him, Revya was browsing a book she had gotten from one of the Priests she had befriended during her time with Issei's party. "The Sophomore, Junior and Senior classes have similar events. But the Junior Battle Royale hasn't been held in a long time."
Issei cocked his head. "Why's that?"
"Because in the past the Senior class killed the entire Junior Year."
Gig chuckled. "That sounds like a lot of fun, if you ask me. These Senior asshats... They're the strongest demons here 'sides the Overlord, right?"
"Well, yeah. Supposedly, each of them are potential Demon Lord candidates." Reno answered.
"Whaat, only Demon Lord? Disappointing." He scoffed. "But I suppose that enough of them all at the same time could make for a decent distraction."
Revya lifted her head from the book and raised an eyebrow, a skeptical expression on her face.
"What do you mean 'not at my current level'?! I am the great Gig! Destroyer of worlds! Death Incarnate! The baddest of the bad! I need no stinking level to kick ass!" Gig protested violently.
Revya calmly used a bookmark on the page she was reading and put down the book before the Onyx Blade materialized in her other hand.
"Is it a fight you want?" Gig grinned viciously. "Is it a fight you want?! Bring it-"
The door slammed open, followed by Hakase walking inside the classroom. "Greetings test subjects old, new and Overlord. I am here with your next curricular activity."
"...Who's the soon-to-be corpse?" The grey-haired man growled, excitement quickly turning into annoyance.
"Our Homeroom teacher." Issei replied, a not small part of him hoping for Gig to pick up a fight with Hakase and getting trounced as a result.
"I have come to learn one of you possess special circumstances." Moving behind the desk the Professor put down her suitcase and pointed at Issei. "Yes, you. The otherwise unremarkable human. Is it true that you have a dragon sealed inside your hand, with said seal taking the form of a Magichanged Accessory?"
The brunette blinked. "I... Yes, it's true, but where did you learn about it?" Not that he made much of a secret about it, but he didn't want to attract the wrong sort of attention.
"Excellent. Your curricular activity will involve it." She fixed her glasses and continued while ignoring Issei. "You will delve into the seal's Item or Class World and explore it. I'll accompany you to record the data, but I will not fight to avoid tainting it."
"Wait, what? Slow down, teach! What are you talking about?! What the heck is an Item World?"
It was a Prinny who answered this time, being one of the lucky few who wasn't chosen to serve Priere. "It's a special world that lets you delve into the world of an item, dood! That includes consumables, armor and weapons! But it's super really hard, dood. Most noobs tend to die on their first run, dood!"
Delving into the world that lies inside an item? Okay, that did sound kind of interesting. He looked down at his arm, where Boosted Gear resided. 'What do you think, Ddraig?'
[Hard to say, but it could be worth looking into.] The dragon admitted, feeling slightly excited at the idea. [Perhaps we'll be able to have a heart-to-heart talk. Who knows? You may encounter one of your predecessors. The impressions of their souls do reside inside Boosted Gear, after all.]
Meeting his senpai? This was sounding better and better every moment. Reno, however, looked slightly skeptical. "Would it be even possible for him to do that, though?" he asked. "I mean, Item World has you enter an item directly, so it has to be pulled out of your inventory or unequipped first. [Boosted Gear]'s permanently equipped to him."
"Theoretically, it is possible." Hakase answered, adjusting her glasses. "After all, it is classified as a Magichange. Then again, no one has ever attempted to use Item World on a Magichange item before. It will be quite the learning experience."
"Ise." Asagi called out to the brunette. "We should probably stop by Rosen Queen to stock up on items and crap. Item World's no joke. Trust me."
Oh, he trusted her alright. He trusted her judgment and the fact the Netherworld was deadly no matter when he goes. "Okay then."
At long last Issei had found a weapon that was not completely absurd-looking. In fact, it looked quite practical. Admittedly it was missing the 'Brass' in Brass Knuckles, but [Knuckles] looked pretty wicked. And it felt pretty light. In terms of equipment, however...
"Dude?" Issei gave Reno a flat look, despite the latter looking quite pleased with himself. "I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in regards to Paper Clothes, but these are hardly much better! These are rags! Rags!"
"Well, it's called a Rag Suit for a reason." Reno said as-of-matter-of-factly. It made the brunette want to punch him in the face. "Anyway, I'd say we're prepared enough. Plenty of healing items and a Mr. Gency's Exit. Quite useful to get the hell out of an Item World when you're in a real bind."
Issei nodded. Reno had given him a basic run down of what Item World was like: an Item World's strength and power was determined on the item in question. Weapons usually had powerful enemies waiting for them, and there were 'levels' that usually branched off, giving everyone an opportunity to explore different potential powers that lay dormant inside the weapon. Since [Boosted Gear] was irregular among items, no one knew exactly what they might find.
"I'm so excited..." Rathina squirmed. "Ooh, I hope we get to see this dragon inside Ise's arm!"
"What is this Ddraig like, anyway?" Reno asked curiously. "Given he's from your world, he must be radically different from our dragons."
"As general appearance goes he isn't much different from the dragons we saw until now." Issei explained. "But he's red. Also big, and I mean this whole room big." Issei gestured to the vast hall that made up the hub of the Academy, the place where all necessary stores and facilities could be found. "And much scary looking."
"And how did he end up sealed inside this Sacred Gear?"
"According to him one day he was fighting another dragon, until they stumbled into a battlefield where three large armies were fighting each other. He and this other dragon managed to piss off everyone else, who then banded together to kill them."
Reno and everyone else that was listening nodded. "Make sense."
Issei tilted his head in confusion. "...It does?"
"That sounds like something than a demon would do. And since here dragons are demons, it means dragons are the same everywhere." The samurai explained.
Issei slapped a hand over his face. What was he even hoping for anyway?
"Everyone gather!" Hakase approached the group, followed by someone else. "I found an Item Worlder for the experiment."
Said Item Worlder was a young girl with slitted orange eyes, blonde bangs and a mischievous smile. She was wearing a small white tube top, a brown jacket with orange lines and baggy sleeves, gloves that looked almost like cartoonish animal paws, brown hotpants, orange and white stripped stockings and animal paw-like boots. On her head she had a brown hat shaped like cat ears and a pair of googles.
To Issei she looked like a middle schooler cosplaying. Kinda cute, even if not really sexy.
"Hey there!" The girl spoke with enthusiasm. "I'm the Item Worlder, here to help with all of your Item World needs! So, where is this special item that need my expertise?"
"Uhm, here." Issei raised his left arm and manifested Boosted Gear.
"Mh, mh! Very interesting!" The girl began to move around Issei, looking at the red gauntlet from various angles. "This is indeed a peculiar item. High-grade stuff at that. But maintenance hasn't been done for a while, and the bugs kept piling up. So if I do this, and then exploit this like this..."
While mumbling all the while she did some kind of ritual, and with a flourish a large, greenish portal appeared before them.
[It really worked!] Ddraig exclaimed. [This whole place got a sudden make-over. I can see the portal on my side.] There was silence for a dozen of seconds. [I can't interact with it. Damn.]
Issei started feeling a certain amount of dread. "Ddraig... Did you just tried to burst out of my soul?"
[Partner, do you know how long it's been since I've seen something with my own two eyes instead of through somebody else's?]
The brunette sighed deeply and shook his head. Agnes and Rathina looked positively excited. "C'mon, let's go let's go!" she exclaimed, bouncing in place. "I wanna meet Mr. Ddraig!"
"You guys should be good to go." the Item Worlder told them with a grin, hands on her hips. "But I should warn you, compared to other spaces this one is going to be pretty different. Even by my standards."
"Makes sense, given what this thing is." Reno nodded. "Alright, let's get going."
And with that everyone descended into the world within Boosted Gear.
In the depths of a crimson space, several figures began to stir.
"Weird... Is it just me, or did this place change?"
"I sense multiple presences. Many unfamiliar. One like us."
"Aah... So our new junior has arrived, eh? Guess I should go greet him."
"Try not to kill the boy. He's still a fledgling."
"I make no promises, Elsha."
Compared to his last visit the world within Boosted Gear had changed significantly. For starters, there was actual solid ground instead of an invisible platform. Secondly, there were buildings scattered throughout the area. However, they were bizarrely all from different eras and places: Greek, Roman, Japanese, European... Many buildings of different styles populated the area. Additionally, crystalline objects were growing out of the ground or hanging in the air, resembling what Issei had seen in the Heart Bank's area. The sky was painted a bright red with black clouds hanging overhead, giving the area a rather dark feel. It felt unnerving for the human.
Naturally the demons felt right at home. Priere herself seemed to be enjoying the view. In fact, he could swear he saw stars in her eyes. "Such overflowing power is flowing here..." she murmured, her body shivering with excitement. "Goodness, I haven't felt this way in years. How many powerful opponents must be in this place?"
"Not too many, I hope." Issei muttered. "Especially if they can make you excited."
"AMAZING!" Rathina cried, staring at the red dragon that lounged comfortably in what looked to be the main plaza of the area. "HE'S HUGE! AND BIG! AND STRONG!"
"S-so this is Ddraig..." Agnes shook slightly. "He's certainly intimidating."
Kelly cocked her head. "He's all big and red and scaly." she observed. "Does he breath fire?"
"I do. And I can also hear very well. Despite the distance Ddraig's voice was heard loud and clear by everyone. He first opened one eye, revealing an emerald slitted pupil, before standing up with a predatory, almost feline grace. His wings spread open, the tips going from one side of the plaza to the other. "This is the first time I have so many visitors at once, but it's not a bad feeling. I am Ddraig, the Red Dragon Emperor, one of the strongest beings of my and Issei's world." He snorted, smoke and fire coming out his nostrils.
Kelly's eyes shined like starts. "I like him!"
"Of course you would..." Reno sighed, shaking his head. He then cautiously approached Ddraig's large body before he bowed his head. "Greetings, Ddraig! I am-"
"Reno, yes. I know of you, as well as the rest of you." Ddraig said, surprising them. "I see the world through Issei's eyes, and through the Gauntlet that rests on his arm. It's a pleasure to meet you." His gaze then settled on Priere, who in turn looked at him with the utmost attention. "Especially you, Overlord Priere. I must admit, it's been some time since I've laid eyes on someone of your strength. I dare say you could face off against the Maou of our world and win.]
"Oh, I'm flattered to be praised so much." The redhead chuckled before cracking her knuckles, bloodlust suddenly pouring out of her as she licked her lips. "Especially from a Level 3000 badass."
Issei's eyes shot wide open at Priere's words, a reaction mirrored by most everyone else in their group. Fighting against the voice in his head begging to not damage his own sanity even further he willed himself to look at Ddraig's Status Screen: the dragon shared his title as [Red Dragon Emperor], and as Priere said his Level was 600 higher then hers.
It made the boy both sad that he couldn't have Ddraig appears in the real world to help him, and terrified at the thought of the kind of force that was necessary to kill him.
"I met only one demon with that kind of power before, an Overlord among Overlords that called herself an [Overlord God]." The Prinnies flew in a panic as Priere released more and more of her power, a red aura forming around her. "That battle was interrupted before a winner could be decided, but now-"
"Now you will get disappointed again, Overlord." Snorting again, this time in irritation, Ddraig's tail slammed into a building. Leaving it totally unscathed. "This is still my prison. Despite how I appear before you all now the entirety of my power is being siphoned off by Boosted Gear. Only Issei can unlock and use it once he's ready."
"...Fuck." The aura of violence dissipating Priere slumped back on her seat. "That'll teach me to get my hopes up for nothing."
"Now you know how I felt a few minutes ago. Partner." Ddraig turned to face Issei. "Partner. As you can see this place has changed since your last visit. The memories of the numerous battles that the past wielders of Boosted Gear went through materialized together with your predecessors. They're scattered around this place, and I feel they're at the peak of their strength before dying. I didn't really have a good relationship with most of them, or one to begin with, but I know them well." He looked in the distance. "Do not underestimate them."
"Great..." Issei whined. "So... What kind of guys are we going to fight? From what Reno said, they're probably... What did you call them again?"
"Item World Generals." the samurai chimed. "They guard certain floors of Item World. There are also those above them, but let's not talk about it for now. I assume that the previous users of Boosted Gear will be Item Generals. Speaking of which: out of curiosity who were the previous users?"
"I don't remember many of them, but the ones that stand out to me the most were the ones who were people you probably read about in the history books. Arthur Pendragon, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Nobunaga Oda-"
"Wait! Hold a moment!" Reno interrupted, suddenly incensed with a wild look in his eyes. "Did you just say Nobunaga Oda?! As in, the warlord Oda?! The same man who nearly unified Japan?!"
Issei felt sweat run down his back. "The same guy who has the pleasant nickname of Demon King of the Sixth Heaven?"
Ddraig chuckled. "To tell you the truth it wasn't the monks who gave him that name. It was in fact the Angels when that upstart of a brat decided to break into Heaven and make the Archangel Gabriel his wife. He killed many Angels and nearly succeeded were it not for Michael, the leader of the Four Cardinal Archangels, stopping him. The damage he did was quite horrendous, and Nobu's temperament was just as bad as any hot-headed Devil in the Underworld. Hence how he earned the name Demon King. The monks just added the Sixth Heaven part."
"So, he broke into Heaven to take some Angel for a wife..." Issei muttered, rubbing his chin. "Was she hot?"
"Ise!" Agnes cried with a blush. "It's a sin to think of Angels that way!"
Asagi gave the girl a flat look. "Isn't it the whole point of being a Demon? Being sinful and all that?"
The dragon scratched his chin. "Well, last I remember she was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in all the world. Most notably for her breast size. Something you should find interesting, Partner."
Oh, he was. For all history made him out to be, Issei was starting to find a kindred soul in his predecessor. Well, minus the whole 'Mad Fool' part. Of course, the brunette did make a mental note to keep his other predecessors in mind, especially if he was going to have to deal with powerful figures straight out of the history books.
"All we have to do is just beat one Item General and we can haul ass out of here, yeah?" Issei asked in confirmation. "Then let's get to it."
Rathina raised her fists. "I'm combat ready!"
"So freaking lame..." Gig rolled his shoulders before he smirked. "Then again, this could be fun. Wonder what kind of shits I can destroy this time?"
Revya shook her head, but it was clear by the sharpness in her eyes that she was also ready to delve into the depths of Boosted Gear.
"I'll do my best to support everyone!" Agnes declared fervently, holding her spear close to her chest.
Reno adjusted his glasses. "Let's hurry up and get a move on! I wanna meet Nobunaga Oda for myself already!"
"Good grief..." Shiro sighed. "Let's get this over with so Master can stop having a nerdy orgasm."
"This sounds pretty exciting." Asagi noted as she spun her revolver around. "Can't wait to see what kinds of folks we'll be taking on in here! Ooh, maybe I'll get a chance to show off my Main Character skills! Yahoo!"
"Kelly will burn anything and everything!" the resident fire spellcaster of the group cheered, already prepping up for a fire spell. "Let's go, go, go!"
Thus, the party moved on. Ddraig watched them leave, inwardly smiling to himself. These fledglings were sorely underestimating this place. While he didn't know how much the inner world had changed, he did know that the past users were no joke. Already he felt them beginning to wake up from years of slumber. Each one was feared in life, and beside some embarrassing exceptions they were always a match for their respective generation's own Vanishing Dragon. Thinking about his rival Ddraig briefly wondered how the fated meeting between his host and Albion's would go.
It made him a little excited.
He then took notice of Priere, who was staring at Issei's back fervently. "You do realize that it will be a very long time before he will become strong enough to satisfy your cravings, yes?" he asked the red-haired Overlord, who stopped to look up at him. "His progress has accelerated, yes, but it will still be a long while. Are you sure you can wait that long?"
Priere gave him a small little grin, a fang poking out from the corner of her lips. "I'm a patient woman." she said. "In comparison to Issei, however... How strong are his predecessors?"
"I said it already, didn't I? The answer is: very. Especially two in particular: I dare say they could have given even me a run for my money if given the opportunity." he admitted. "However, they're also the most sane of my previous hosts. The others... Well, suffice to say all they care about at this point is a good brawl. Some have even lost their minds and became ruthless berserkers, in no small part due to them being inexperienced. They thought they could tame the full power of the Red Dragon Emperor."
Ddraig closed his eyes. "Issei will come to learn of it, eventually. However, if he uses it... Well, if he were a being with a long lifespan like a Devil he'd still have plenty to live for. But as a human, with a finite existence? He'd drain himself dry in a mere moment. The [Juggernaut Drive] is not something to abuse however one pleases." He made a brief pause, as if considering something. [Then again, considering the nature of this world he might very well find a way to tame its power. Either way, I'll continue to watch him." He looked back at Priere and leaned forward, showing off his many fangs. "For the record... I look forward to the day my partner and I face you on the battlefield, Overlord Priere."
Priere reciprocated with a wide smile, filled to the brim with pearly white fangs and a menacing look in her eyes. "The feeling is mutual, Red Dragon Emperor."
The more the group moved further inside the Item World the more the buildings around them took on an European style, until it looked like they were transported straight into an European city during the Middle Age. "The Item Worlder was right, this place doesn't follow the normal rules." Reno muttered. "Professor, can you tell us more about it?"
"I'm still gathering data." She replied, a strange device in her hands. "However, I can hazard a preliminary hypothesis: since 'Boosted Gear' is an item tied to the soul, and one able to store a facade of the consciousness of its wielders, then it is possible their collective memories and feelings have a profound influence on its Item World. In that case, the current area would be a reflection of the Item General that governs them."
"You mean, like the dungeons of Persona 4?" Issei asked, the connection easy to discern.
"Persona 4 came out already in the human world?!" Agnes and Reno looked at Issei in shock. "There are still no news of its release here in the Netherworld!"
"Oh, it only came out a month ago." Issei explained. "I-"
"NO SPOILERS!" They shout in unison.
"...Haven't finished it yet." The boy shrunk back. "So, sure?"
"Neeeeeeerds." Gig taunted them.
Rathina suddenly smelled the air and hissed. "Someone's coming!"
The sound of a large group of people hollering all together reached their ears, and a few minutes later they could see the origin: demons in heavy armors wielding all manners of close-range weapons, while behind them were a smaller group of demons wearing long coats and wielding bows.
"Heavy Knights and Rangers." Asagi summarized. "And they are looking for a fight."
"I take it talking is out of the question?" Ise asked.
Reno nodded. "Item World denizens are demons who exist solely for the purpose of testing whether or not you can bring out an item's full potential. So yeah, we can't talk our way out of this. Not that we should: when presented with a fight, you take it!"
Issei sighed and drooped his head. Why did he even bother? Just once, just once he wished they could talk things over and not get involved in a fight that would cause him bodily harm. Shaking his head and sucking in a breath, he readied his fists and raised his left arm, the emerald gem flashing.
Somewhere, not far from where Issei and the gang were fighting the denizens of the Item World, a single figure waited.
From head to toe they were clad in crimson red armor, intricate in design and themed after a dragon. Sharp talons took over their fingers, sharp as knives while a tail, autonomous to their body and not a part of them whatsoever, wished about leisurely. The helmet was shaped in the vein of a dragon's skull, albeit less defined. Emerald gems adorned the armor, mostly on the shoulders, knees and on the bracers on the back of their hands. Some sort of coat was wrapped over the breastplate, with golden tips at the collar and the hem reaching down to the knees. They sat leisurely in a cross-legged position, head in one hand.
"These idiots can barely fight worth a damn..." the armored figure muttered, their voice distinctly male. "All they're good for is just toughening up our junior. Then again, it isn't a bad thing."
He didn't have high hopes for the newest user of Boosted Gear. While him and everyone has mostly been asleep, he knew that the boy awakened to his power. only recently That being said, from what he could sense from his position the whelp did already have a significant amount of power. The mooks themselves were weak, so the boy shouldn't have too much trouble reaching this place.
When he did, the draconic warrior will be able to test the boy's worth for himself. Either he'd die here, or prove himself worthy as his successor to the Boosted Gear.
He looked down at his other hand, which was resting on his knee. His fingers were twitching madly, as if wanting to fight. The previous user of Boosted Gear chuckled, noting how anxious he was.
"Either way... This should prove to be a good fight. A shame about the setting, though. I would have liked such a grand battle to take place in my home country."
It would suffice, however.
Compared to his hellish training under Champloo and in his long and arduous grinding endeavors, Issei found that taking out the mooks had been relatively easy. They did take a few scraps, and had some annoying trouble with the Geo Panels, but aside from that things had progressed fairly well enough.
However, there were more than a few things that baffled Issei. On more than one occasion he found himself traversing the strange and bizarre mystery rooms at the halfway points. Reno said they were rare, but often had benefits.
Coming face to face with a giant ass green dragon was not one of them. Especially since it talked like Drill Sergeant Nasty. On the plus side, the second visit was absolute heaven: namely because he found himself in the wonderful company of Succubus, who were more than happy to talk to him when they learned of his obsession and fondness for boobs.
"Dammit, Reno!" Issei growled. "What gives?! I was about to cop a feel or two! And they were willing to let me grope 'em!"
"I was stopping you from wasting our hard-earned HL, that's what!" the samurai refuted, glasses glaring with great intensity. "That room has you drained of HL the longer you stay!"
Shiro and Asagi sighed. "Oppai Baka, indeed." the Nekomata said. "If he could, he would sell his soul if it meant losing his virginity to one."
"I wouldn't put it past him." Asagi muttered. "Isn't he still considering the idea of copping a feel from Priere in exchange for death?"
"Enough chit-chat, you lot!" Hakase snapped, feeling somewhat annoyed. Honestly, what was wrong with these people? Must they always chatter on of useless things and endeavors even when there was more important work to do? "We're only two floors away from the Item General. You must remain vigilant!"
"Speak for yourself." Gig snorted. "These idiots are too damn easy to kill."
"We ARE twenty levels higher than them." Agnes pointed out. Issei promptly ignored that statement. "To be honest, I'm kind of surprised. I thought they would have been a lot stronger. Is Boosted Gear not all that powerful?"
Priere shook her head. "No. It's probably because Boosted Gear and Item World are too different in terms of where they place." she said, catching their attention. "Something like that gauntlet doesn't exist in our universe. So Item World is just struggling to understand it."
"So..." Kelly cocked her head. "Because it can't understand Oppai Baka's shiny glove, the demons are uber weak?"
"Correct, but not completely accurate." Hakase read a new string of data on her device. "Those readings... I see. It appears that most of the available power is being diverted two floors below us, where the Item General resides. This weakens common enemies, but empowers the General. That'll be the real test of this expedition."
Revya put a fist in her palm, as if to say: 'Then all that's left is to pass it.'
"You stole the words form my mouth, partner." Gig grinned, scythe in hand and resting on his shoulder. "Better a single, strong enemy that a bunch of average ones."
Considering the amount of cooperation, or lack thereof, among most of the group's current members Issei had some serious doubts that the oncoming fight would go smoothly. There was also the possibility that the senior Boosted Gear made so they can fight Issei alone to consider.
True, they had an item that worked as an instantaneous escape route, but since when was Hyodou Issei lucky?
Meanwhile, outside of the Item World other events had stirred. The Freshmen Battle Royale was well underway, and it showed Almaz just how dangerous demons could be when they put their minds to it. Up until now he had always been involved in silly little antics and whatnot, but this tournament was something else entirely.
He counted at least twenty different times that he could have died, were it not for being saved by either Mao or one of the many minions under his employ. Really, it said something that the demons that worked for that little tyke of a demon had more common sense than the man himself, much less how they were much more comfortable to talk to.
"Huh. You're still alive." Mao remarked, sounding genuinely surprised. "I thought you died in that last round?"
"I nearly did, if it weren't for our Cleric." Almaz admitted before glaring at Mao. "Seriously! I get that I'm supposed to be your guinea pig and all that, but dude! At least have some consideration for me!"
The white-haired Honor Student scoffed. "Consideration? You're asking consideration from me?" Almaz opened his mouth, but then closed it when he realized that Mao did have a point. Asking consideration from the guy who was pretty much making life hell for him these last few days was useless. He was better off asking consideration from Raspberyl. "At any rate, I do have to wonder about your resilience. Is that something that applies only to fake heroes or all humans in general?"
"I would say all humans, but considering what I get myself into on a daily basis since I decided to come to the Netherworld I'm just gonna go out on a limb here and say it's just me. Why?"
"I've been hearing rumors going around the school that there's this interesting human here." Mao said, adjusting his glasses. "He's apparently training under Mr. Champloo, and some even say that he's got an Overlord traveling with him."
That was new to him! Almaz was aware that there was more than one Overlord, given the many Netherworlds that existed, but hearing that another one was here at the Academy was surprising. Especially since there was also another human being. Now that he thought about it, Almaz remembered that brown-haired youth he met once: he had been hoping he'd be able to run into him again, but so far there had been no such luck. If that guy was him, then maybe...
"Anyway!" Mao huffed. "I've already asked Geoffrey to look into this. Who knows? Maybe I'll find another guinea pig to experiment on!" At this, his glasses started to fog up, drool falling from the corner of his mouth. Palming his forehead, Almaz sighed deeply.
It was times like these that he wished he was back in the Human World protecting his beloved Princess. Speaking of whom, he wondered if she was doing alright.
'First chance I get after I get my Title back, I'm going to check up on her!'
"Alright! The last floor!" Asagi announced as they stepped out into what looked like a street leading all the way to a plaza. Though it was hard to make out, the party could faintly see a figure sitting on the floor. "Is that the Item General?"
Gig narrowed his eyes. "Feels like it. I can practically smell the killing aura around him. This guy's supposed to be one of the perv's predecessors, yeah? How strong do you think he is?"
"Chances are, very." Reno said seriously. "And it's also likely he has access to a Boosted Gear as well. This could be dangerous. We should approach with caution."
As the group got closer they could identify more details about the mysterious figure: it was clad in crimson armor themed after a dragon, the gauntlets identical to Boosted Gear save for the fingers, which were replaced by long, sharp talons. Over the breastplate it wore an elaborate coat with golden tips at the collar, the hem reaching down to the knees.
"Here you are." The figure spoke with a masculine voice, slowly standing up on his feet and crossing his arms over his chest. "I was tired of waiting."
"That's it." Hakase grinned, the device in her hands beeping loudly. "That's the Item General!"
Issei was a bit busy admiring the armor the figure wore. It looked incredibly badass, he hoped it was something he could also obtain if he trained with Boosted Gear hard enough. 'I'll have to remember to ask Ddraig about it.' "Uhm... Hello. Are you my sempai? One of the previous holders of Boosted Gear?"
"That's right." With a hiss the helmet opened and slid back, revealing the figure's face: he was a man of stern features, distinctly Caucasian, with slightly tanned skin and deep brown eyes. He had a short but well trimmed beard and thick mustaches, his deep black hair cut short in a vaguely military style. "Allow me to announce myself! I may be neither the first nor the most powerful Red Dragon Emperor, but today I have the honor of being the first to test the one to carry our legacy. Upon my birth I was bestowed with the name of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, but the world at large know me as El Cid!" He spread his arms, his coat flapping on an unseen wind. "El Campeador!"
"Never heard of you." Was the immediate response from Gig, delivered with a completely bored tone.
That seemed to take the wind out of the man's sails a little, which worsened when the faces of the rest of the group showed a similar lack of recognition. "Seriously? Kids those days..." He grumbled under his breath. "I'm a Spanish national hero. Does this ring any bell?"
"No, I'm sorry." Issei bowed in apology. "I know the names of some heroes from Europe, but none from Spain..."
"I'm mostly familiar with Japanese individuals." Reno said before he looked at El Cid, and then promptly gaped. "Oh dear..."
"What? What is it, Reno?"
"Um, Ise? You may wish to Boost. Like, right now!"
Recovering from his depression, El Cid smiled thinly. "I suppose my identity has no actual meaning. For now, why don't we see how strong you've become in this world?" The helmet folded back into place before he raised his hand to snap his fingers. On cue, several demons manifested behind him, all of whom were either Archers or Heavy Knights. "And for added measure-!"
A familiar announcement rang in their ears, but it didn't comefrom Issei's gauntlet. Rather, it came from El Cid's armor: the gemstones glowed green before a red aura encompassed his body, spreading among his soldiers. Spreading his arms out he relished the sight of unease and slight fear in the group's eyes as the demons writhed, groaning with discomfort before their eyes were swallowed by green, veins bulging.
"H-he raised their Levels by that much?!" Agnes cried.
Reno gritted his teeth. "More than that... He leveled them all up with a single Boost? Is-is that even possible?!"
Gig whistled. "They were practically scrubs, but now they're stronger than us. Gotta admit, this Boosted Gear thing is pretty game breaking."
"Well, at least his Level decreased." Asagi pointed out, pointing a finger at El Cid's own Status Screen, which Issei did his best to try and ignore.
[Name: El Cid
Title: Red Dragon Emperor
"Now then, Issei Hyoudou!" El Cid roared, his cape suddenly quivering before it moved, pulling away from his breast plate and spreading out across his back. It was not a cape at all: they were wings, previously folded around his body. Sleek, crimson red pinions akin to those of a bats, yet armored and scaled like a dragon. Rising a few feet in the air Eld Cid raised his hand, conjuring up a thin red spear with a barbed tip. "Let's see if you're worthy of our power!"
"I'm not very sure about our chances right now..." Shiro muttered. True they had plenty of healing items and a Mr. Gency's Exit in case things turned sour, but there is a solid difference between merely difficult and outright impossible.
"Archers! Take aim!" El Cid commanded. At once the bow-wielding demons took a step forward, raised their weapons and pulled back the string, energy gathering to form an iron-tipped arrow.
Kelly's eyes grew wide. "Uh oh."
All archers jumped upward, pointing their bows at the sky and shooting. The arrows flied upward, leaving behind a dazzling white trail like a comet: then a giant disk of light appeared in their paths, the arrows flying inside before coming out in another direction, now aimed at Issei's group.
"Scatter!" Reno shouted before dashing to the side, quickly followed by Shiro.
Issei, who had no desire to be skewered like a succulent piece of meat, immediately imitated Reno, Agnes and Rathina behind him.
"The great Gig doesn't ru-Ugh!" The scythe-wielding maniac began to say before Revya grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and dragged him away, Asagi and Kelly following after them.
Priere and Hakase, on the other hand, merely used the Prinnes as meat shields to defend themselves, much to the exploding penguin's dismay. Before they could even protest they were grabbed by the nape of the neck and held in front of the two women, resulting in the arrows plunging into their bodies.
Hakase marveled at how, in spite of the fact that all of them were skewered and turned into tiny pincushions, they were still somehow alive. "They have remarkably resilience." she said, sounding genuinely impressed. "So this is why Prinnies have managed to survive for so long, despite being the weaker species of demon."
"They make excellent meat shields." Priere agreed with a smile, though it didn't quite match her eyes. Instead, she was focused on El Cid, who had moved to engage Issei's own little group.
Compared to Issei, the power that emanated from that man was extraordinary. Such strength... Fuck, if this was what one of the more recent wearers of Boosted Gear was like, how would the others, older and more experienced, compare? Would they be as powerful as Ddraig? The thought made her tremble in anticipation.
Now all she had to do was just sit back and watch the fireworks fly.
El Cid caught up with Issei and his group in little time at all. Unfortunately for the human teen, the man brought twice the size of his group: seven demons, three Archers and four Heavy Knights, flanked his sides while the Spanish commander, clad in that crimson armor, stood at the head of the group with his spear in hand, helm utterly menacing.
"Tell me, is that all you're capable of? Just running?" El Cid challenged as he raised his spear. "Come boy! Test your might, and perhaps you may prove yourself worthy of that gauntlet!"
"Ise, be careful!" Reno advised as he took out his sword. "We may have gotten stronger, but he's still at a higher Level than us! Plus, his stats are insane!"
"Dammit, Reno! Quit saying something that will break my sanity!" Issei pleaded tearfully before he raised his gauntlet.
As if in resonance with one another, the two Boosted Gears began to react. The gemstones on El Cid's armor glowed in tandem with the one on the back of Issei's hand. Suddenly Issei felt as if his body was lit ablaze: it wasn't an uncomfortable feeling, but rather pleasant. Something was swelling in his chest. Power was flooding into his veins. It took him a moment to realize that a Boost was coursing through him.
However, his Boosted Gear has made no such announcement.
[Issei Hyoudou - Level 40 ~ 48]
"Eh? Wait, why did I...?"
"It is only fair that my opponent faces me at his strongest, is it not?" El Cid asked. "However, I'm afraid a single Boost, when compared to others before me and yourself, is all I am capable of. I simply make up for it by extending my power to my subordinates. A General is only as strong as his Army!" He then swiped the air with his spear and flapped his wings, flying higher before he suddenly went in for a dive bomb, intending to run Issei through. "Prepare yourself, boy!"
Issei gritted his teeth. "Bring it on, old timer! I'm gonna lay your ass flat and beat this floor!" he responded in an unexpected moment of hot blooded anticipation as Boosted Gear shined.
[Issei Hyoudou - Level 48 ~ 58]
Now there were only fourteen levels of difference between Issei and El Cid. The Spanish warrior was still stronger than him, but Issei didn't have the luxury to wait ten more seconds. So he dashed forward, planning to keep his opponent busy until they were on equal level.
"Fighting a spear user with your fists? Interesting!" El Cid shouted, aiming his spear at the approaching boy.
At the last moment Issei rolled to the side, avoiding the diving thrust, jumped back to his feet and shot towards El Cid, planning to hit him before he could fly away. The General flapped his wings again, turning around in time to parry Issei's punch with the shaft of his spear.
A fiery red aura wrapped around the brunette's hands as he activated the Skill, the result of the infernal training took under Champloo: El Cid blocked the first strike, but the unexpected force pushed him off-balance, causing the following two strikes to slam unopposed into his armor and throwing him back. He managed to regain control with his wings and looked back at Issei with a small measure of approval. "Better. Not yet enough, but better. This is how a battle should be! A man cannot do much alone, but by gathering like-minded individuals around himself he can achieve the impossible! I, El Cid, shall carve this lesson into your very soul!"
"Oh, will you just shut up and fight?!" Issei cried in annother unexpected moment of bloodlust, his eyes burning. He faltered moments later, looking positively befuddled. "Wait, what the hell am I saying?"
El Cid couldn't help but smirk at Issei's words. The boy hadn't realized it yet: being in this place was already doing wonders, slowly infusing his soul with the essence inside Boosted Gear. Dragons, as he once learned, were prideful creatures that wished to assert their power. They didn't always need to seek confrontation, but they could never refuse a challenge.
Perhaps this fight would prove interesting after all. It was time to test the boy's skills.
"Impaler Drop!" Unlike the bolts of thunder that encircled Agnes' spear when she executed the skill a dark crimson aura flared around El Cid's weapon as she dived at Issei, intent on running him through.
"Oh shit!" Was Issei's eloquent reaction to El Cid's move. He tried to dive out of the way, but the dark crimson aura gazed his leg: despite how weak the blow seemed it opened a large gash and bruised the flesh around it. Even then, he acknowledged it was a small price to pay to avoid being skewered like a chicken.
It became even more evident when Issei focused back on where El Cid landed, and saw he was hovering over a large, circular and very deep new hole in the ground. "You can use Demon Skills too?!"
"That's right. The knowledge came to me when I manifested into this area, together with the ability to summon and command Demons." Cid rested his spear on his shoulder. "Since I was designated as the Item General of this floor, then it seems only natural that I was provided with the abilities of one. But this, I am afraid, will be the last breather I shall concede you."
With only one hand he spun his spear so fast it resembled a fan before bringing the weapon to a sudden stop, spearhead pointed at Issei and the bottom resting against his side. "Do not begrudge me for being so ruthless. Believe me or not, this is for your own good."
"My own good? You have a strange way to demonstrate it old man!" Issei yelled before raising both fists in a classical boxing stance. "Also, you really shouldn't have given me that, as you said, last breather."
"Oh? And why is-"
[Issei Hyoudou - Level 58 ~ 71]
"What?!" It was only El Cid's vast experience on the battlefield that allowed him to bring his spear to a parrying position when Issei dashed forward the moment his gauntlet gave the mechanical announcement. Only for the boy to roll under the weapon and deliver a mule kick with both feet into the knight's guts. "Guh!"
"Triple Strike!" Issei activated the skill again. The first punch hit El Cid in the left arm and the second his right side. "Explosion!" The red aura around Issei's fist swelled to gargantuan proportions before he slammed it into the knight's stomach.
The power behind the blow threw El Cid back like a bullet fired by a rifle, leaving behind fragments of his broken armor before slamming through a building and comimg out of the other side.
"You..." The Campeador slowly stood back on his feet, refusing to use his spear to support himself. "You have increased the number of Boosts you can use." His eyes narrowed under his helmet. "I see. That's the result of training under that cook."
"That's right!" Issei proudly declared, grinning despite the feeling of exhaustion left behind by the spent boosted power. "Surviving Master Champloo's nightmarish training did more than just scarring me forever! It also increased my stamina! And guess what? Avoiding using it until now paid off!"
"Do not think you have win this battle yet, boy!" El Cid snarled as his eyes burned like fire, power surging through him again. "I am still far more experienced than a whelp such as yourself! I have fought battles that you could never hope to dream of! I have even crossed blows with the likes of Lucifer himself! Do you think you can measure yourself to that?!"
"I'll certainly try, you old bastard!" Issei retorted as he raised a fist. "Now come on!"
In the next moment the two returned to clawing at each other's throats. What was once a mere fight had devolved into a desperate bid of power, one dragon trying to dominate the other, using tooth, nail and claw to do it.
The Main Character(?) did as she was warned, evading a volley of arrows before she returned the favor with a hail of gunfire. The Heavy Knight tanked the whole attack, eyes staring straight at her while his veins bulged. With a primal roar he leaped up and initiated an Impaler Drop, only the thunder that laced the blade was far stronger than anything the gunner had previously seen. She quickly rolled out of the way and let the Heavy Knight hit the ground. Her jaw dropped when she saw the resulting attack rip apart the ground beneath his feet, even leaving behind scorch marks. "Okay, suddenly, I realize how dangerous that Gift Skill is." she said simply. "Kelly was right! That Boosted Gear really is hax!"
"Kelly is always right!" The pink-haired Mage shouted from behind Revya, using the redhead as a shield while flinging Fire Spells everywhere. "Because fire is always the right answer!"
"Hey now, that's discrimination!" Gig laughed like a madman as he exchanged blows with an axe-wielding Heavy Knight, scythe and axe producing sparks every time they met with bone-shaking force.
Suddenly, with a display of skills that contrasted with the sheer savagery Gig displayed until now, the Master of Death hooked the blade of his scythe behind the Heavy Knight's knee and pulled to the side, severing tendons and bones with a spray of blood. The Demon stumbled and fell on his injured knee, only for Gig's scythe to stab him through the face, breaking bones and pulping flesh through sheer strength. "Dismemberment is also a perfectly valid option! Ah ah ah!"
Revya rolled her eyes, clearly used to her partner's antics, and continued to swing her sword, every movement a lightning bolt of steel and momentum that deflected weapons and arrows in equal measure and delivered death without a hint of hesitation.
Of course the enemies hardly decreased, nor did it serve to lessen their morale. If anything they were unconcerned with one another and simply marched forward. A Heavy Knight approached, wielding nothing but its bare fists in hand. With glowing eyes it roared and leaped forward, going straight for Gig. "Heh, alright big guy! You wanna die?! Bring it!" he grinned and swung his scythe, intending to decapitate the Knight's head from its shoulders.
Only to feel his jaw touch the floor when the flowing green aura around the knight's body suddenly hardened, turning into what looked like scales and impeding the scythe's advance.
"Hey! What the shit!" Gig scowled as he dodged to avoid a punch, leaping back. "That's cheating, you bastards!"
Asagi clicked her tongue. "Since when could they do that? Are they getting smarter?"
"It's an Evility." Hakase informed them from the far back. "It seems that when El Cid used that bizarre Skill to increase their Levels he also gave them an Evility. [Dragon's Aegis] has a chance of deflecting an attack."
"Is that the only Evility they were given?" Kelly asked.
"Seems to be."
"Good!" Kelly's eyes suddenly gleamed as she raised her staff. "Hey hey! Death boy! Can you Magichange?!"
Gig scowled. "Oh, fuck THAT! The only person I'm Magichanging with is my Partner! Find someone else, you pyro midget!"
Kelly was about to reply with an equally childish insult, only for Revya's hand to land on her mouth. The red-haired woman shook her head, pointing her sword first at Asagi, to get her attention, and then in the distance, where Issei and El Cid could be seen exchanging blows. Despite the boy's skills having grown much since he started to train under Champloo it was clear that the armored knight was both more experienced and skilled.
"I should help Ise?" Asagi blinked. "I don't mind, but why? Don't tell me..." She pointed a finger at Revya. "You have a plan!"
Revya smiled, nodding, then raised four fingers of her free hands two times, followed by a shooting motion.
"...Brilliant!" Asagi's eyes glittered, having understood everything Revya said. She shot the enemy Knights a few times to slow down their advance before turning towards Priere. "Hey Priere, is there some Prinny left?"
The red-haired woman shrugged. "Knock yourself out." she said before she kicked four Prinnies forward. "Hey, bird brains. Go make yourselves useful."
"SIR YES SIR, DOOD!" they cried fearfully and immediately rushed over.
Things on Reno's side had not been pleasant. While they didn't have to deal with large numbers, they were being pushed back. The obsessed samurai himself was being put through the ringer, dodging and parrying heavy blows from a Valkyrie, whose veins were bulging and eyes glowing green. "Will you get off?!" he growled as he pushed her away, then leaped back to avoid having his head cut off. He landed back over to Agnes, who was tending to a dizzy Rathina. The poor girl had been sucker punched out of nowhere by a Brawler and was currently dazed. "You doin' okay, Agnes?"
"Y-yes!" the girl nodded. "But Shiro...!"
The Nekomata bounced up into the air, avoiding the Brawler's punch that decimated the floor. Huffing she landed on a pillar and pounced, jumping off of it and leaping at her enemy. She primed her claws and swung, slashing across his back. Yet it hardly seemed to do anything, in fact only making him stumble. As she skidded to a stop she readied herself for another attack before stopping, eyes widening when the Brawler shot toward her in an unexpected burst of speed, fist prepped.
Hastily she moved right out of the line of fire and scrambled away. As a result the demon's fist struck the wall and shattered it to pieces.
"Yeesh..." the white-furred woman grimaced. "This Boosted Gear thing really is overpowered. And this was just one Boost?"
"We'll have to finish this up, and quickly." Reno gritted his teeth. "Issei isn't looking so good on his side either!"
Fist struck spear. Spear slammed against fist.
Each time their weapons met Issei found his body shaking beneath the pressure. Slowly but surely he felt his body starting to slow down. The adrenaline wasn't dying down, it was more like his body couldn't afford to keep up with someone of this caliber anymore.
"I admit, you exceeded my expectations." El Cid began with a conversational tone. Issei realized that, taking his early words into account, the spear-wielder considered the outcome of this battle already decided. "But alas, this is still not enough to defeat me."
The boy gritted his teeth and forced himself to keep going. "What are you even gaining from defeating me? If I die you'll die with me!"
"Foolish child. I'm already dead." With a powerful sweep of his weapon El Cid forced Issei back. "I'm nothing more than the copied memories and emotions of the person who was Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Campeador. But even if my existence is fleeting and ephemeral there is something than I can do."
He straightened up and pointed his spear at Issei. "And that is, preventing the new wielder of Boosted Gear from walking down a path of misfortune."
"You're not making any sense, old man." Issei said with a bland tone. Internally however he was grateful for the small break.
El Cid snorted. "It's too long of a story to explain it now. Just know that, without the necessary strength it's dangerous for you to unlock more of Boosted Gear's abilities. I know there is an item that allow you and your friends to immediately leave this world. This is your only and last chance to use it. Do not waste my generosity, boy."
Issei wanted to follow that advice. He was starting to realize that, even if he could push Boosted Gear to the max, this wasn't a fight he could win so easily. And he was fighting only by himself. There was little to no chance of winning, especially when he saw that his friends were also struggling hard.
Yet deep in his chest fury began to bubble forth. Retreat? When they had come so far? The idea was ludicrous to him. His hands shook in anger as he leveled a glare at the old war hero. Unbeknownst to him this surge was the result of Boosted Gear's influence. Slowly, but surely, the presence that rested deep inside of the gauntlet was affecting him. Being in the Item World, where the presence was all the more prominent, only increased such feelings.
"Sorry, but I won't back down!" Issei said as he raised his fists once again. "Not when everybody else is fighting hard!"
El Cid narrowed his eyes at his successor, then sighed in regret. "So be it... If you choose to walk this path, far be it from me to stop you. However!" He threw his spear aside, and his helm clicked back into place. The gemstones that adorned the armor suddenly began to glow as he extended his hands. Twin blades formed in his grasp, both ornate and with a thin edge. One blade was colored deep crimson red, while the other was a cool blue. "Know this! As of this moment, I shall hold back no longer! Prepare yourse-"
"Qué en el-?!"
A blur rammed into the old man at top speed, knocking him straight out of the air and into a wall. The object that struck him fell to the ground in a heap, stars dancing around their head. "Owwie..."
"R-Rathina?!" Issei gawked. Where in the blazing hell did she come from? No, scratch that! How'd she do that?! "How did you-"
"Hah!" Gig's laughter could be heard somewhere amid the battlefield. "Bullseye!"
"What the hell?! Why'd you throw her?!" Asagi demanded angrily before gunfire followed after her declaration.
Issei sweatdropped. And these were the people he had to entrust his life to... Seriously, what was wrong with his life? Shaking it off for now he rushed over to his friend and pulled the reptilian girl up to her feet. At the same time El Cid emerged from the wall, a tick mark somehow visible above his head. "Confound it girl! I was about to make an excellent declaration of war! It's rude to interrupt someone in the middle of a speech!"
"Oh, shut it, old timer!" Rathina growled.
"Old timer?!" For some reason, Issei could hear something shattering. "Now, see here, you child! I may be getting on in the years, but calling me an old timer is-!"
"I don't wanna hear it!" Rathina interrupted him again. "Quit hurting Ise! Moreover, shut up and fight!" Issei sighed and face-palmed. While he did appreciate the gesture, did she have to try and piss the guy off? He just said he was about to get serious. The T-Rex demon then turned to him, face serious. "Hey, Ise! Let's do a Magichange!"
"Magichange? You mean, you want me to wield you?" Issei blinked in surprise, before his mind twisted the meaning of her words in a very perverse way. Thoughts of groping the Dino-girl's massive 'cannons' while she stroke his 'sword' filled his head, causing a creepy and dopey grin to blossom on his lips. Issei's eyes were staring a thousand yards away, and drool spilled out of the edge of his mouth.
Rathina, seeing that, immediately drew the wrong conclusion and smiled "I knew you would like my idea, Ise!"
El Cid, who was more knowledgeable and wise, instead recognized the expression on Issei's face, and it was enough to give him pause. "Is he seriously...? Honestly!" The aged warrior felt like slapping a palm over his face, but he would have to drop a sword to do it so he gave up. "A bold move, but know this: even if you fight as one, it will not be enough to-"
"Por la santa vi-!?"
A laser beam stabbed through the front of El Cid's chest armor, moving unimpeded through metal and flesh before piercing the ground behind him, holding the warrior in place like an arrow through a bird.
Everyone lifted their gazes, following the laser beam, and discovered the culprit was Asagi, who was holding in her hands a giant Prinny-shaped gun.
"Taw dis! Teh strongest explosion of teh weakest Demon!" The gunslinger roared, her Brooklyn accent strongest than ever, before a golden aura erupted around her, followed by the beam doubling in size and turning the same yellow gold. "PRINNICAL SHOOOOOOOOCK!"
In the next second blasts came hurling down on top of El Cid. The attack hit dead on, causing the ground to shake. It also brought Issei out of his perversions as he stumbled in the process. 'Okay, so Asagi has giant Prinny-shaped guns. Where in the hell did she get those?!' he thought before his mind raced back to an event from several months ago. The time he witnessed his first ever Magichange. Then he realized what Asagi was holding and what Rathina was asking him.
He felt his sanity break a little bit further.
"If we gotta, we gotta..." he whispered to himself, sucking in a deep breath before he turned to Rathina. "Okay, but I have absolutely no idea how the hell I'm supposed to do this!"
"It'll be fine! Trust me!" Rathina grinned. "Now! Let's Goooooo~!"
"Gooooo?!" Issei repeated in confusion. Rathina bent her knees and jumped upward: the boy, fighting against the instinct dedicated to preserving his sanity, quickly imitated her.
Immediately his body began to move by itself, curling up into a ball and spinning while a mysterious force kept pulling him upward. Meanwhile Rathina was also spinning while the same mysterious force moved her around the ascending body of Issei. When they both reached an invisible threshold Issei uncurled and thrust both fists forward. The still spinning Rathina slammed into them: a bright flash of light shielded Issei from another sanity-shattering sight, but he could feel something similar to hot slime flowing around the upper part of his arms and solidifying.
When Issei landed back on the ground he saw that his hands were now encased in yellow and green striped gauntlets, reminiscent of Rathina's scales, with the one on his left hand seamlessly fused upon and around Boosted Gear. The truly oddest part however was the area around the knuckles, which now spotted a plate stylized after a T-Rex's head, sharp fangs protruding outward like the spikes of a brass knuckle.
That's when Issei remembered something he once learned at school. Tyrannosaurus Rex were not dangerous because of their claws, which were tiny.
They were dangerous because of their immensely powerful bites.
Compared to Shiro's Magichange, he had to admit, this was far cooler.
"Well?" Rathina called to him excitedly. Somehow, it felt like her voice was echoing in his head. "What do you think?! Do I look cool?!"
"Hell yeah!" he said excitedly. "This feels like it came straight out of Soul Eater! I take back what I said a few chapters ago! Magichange is cool!" Then he blinked in confusion. "Wait, what the hell did I just say?"
"That..." El Cid emerged from the plume of smoke, armor slightly covered in soot. "Was a good shot. However, must you continuously interrupt me when I'm in the middle of a speech?!"
Asagi frowned. "Tch! Barely any damage! What good are you Prinnies?!" she scowled at the giant gun in her hands. Issei saw the gun practically sweat bullets. He couldn't help but pity the poor exploding penguins for being butt monkeys, but right now they had bigger fish to fry.
"Asagi, back me up!" Issei asked as he pounded his new gauntlets together. Boosted Gear flashed, and suddenly Issei experienced another great surge of power rushing through him. It felt far more primal. His pupils devolved into slits, and his teeth sharpened. "I'm gonna rip this bastard a new one!"
[Issei Hyoudou - Lv. 71 ~ 81]
EL Cid's eyes widened. "What's this?" he breathed. "He shouldn't be able to boost his power any further!" He then took notice of Issei's features and frowned beneath his helm. "Could this be an effect of the wielder being in this bizarre land? Or the Magicharge? Regardless...!" He swiped his swords through the air and re-assumed his battle stance. "Simply because you've gained new power doesn't mean I will-"
"SHUT UP!" Once again, El Cid found his words cut off as Issei, with an impressive burst of speed, lunged forward and managed to deliver a straight forward punch. The old man was irritated at being cut off, but the annoyance vanished when the force behind the strike was enough to actually force him back. "Triple Strike!"
"Que es esto?!" El Cid exclaimed in shock: not only were Issei's punches coming at him faster than before, the boy's movements were completely different. More... feral, like a martial artist imitating the movements of a fierce beast. Caught flat-footed the old knight was too slow to muster a proper defense, and ended up being hit two times out of three. Even more shocking, each punch left behind a visible dent in his armor. "Raaaahh!" Yelling loudly he swung both swords, their precise and deadly movements forcing Issei back. "So be it! No more words are needed! Now behold my true power! My most loyal companions: Tizona and Colada!"
"You named your own weapons? Wooow, someone is lacking frieeeeeeends~" Asagi sing-songed with a fox-like grin, making Eld Cid splutter in indignation at the (in his mind) uncalled-for mocking, before following it with a few quick shots to keep him on the back foot.
Issei wasted no time taking care of the opening. "Ise! Let's punch the living daylights out of this old timer! Go go go!" Rathina cheered, instinctual knowledge flowing from her to the boy. Clenching his hands he slammed both gauntlets together before spreading his arms up and down, a deep green and yellow aura with flecks of red spreading around them.
El Cid's eyes widened as the phantasmal image of a giant T-Rex's head superimposed itself over Issei's figure, the jaws filled with razor-sharp segmented teeth as big as his forearm. He didn't need his vast combat experience to predict what it was going to happen, though it told him that he couldn't let the incoming attack hit him: he would certainly survive, but the power he felt was enough to deliver a debilitating blow. A quick side-glance revealed Asagi has once again shot at him, the beams from the giant Prinny-gun aimed straight at him, and a decision was made.
Issei pushed his fists together, the T-Rex's head imitating his movements to bite down on El Cid. Before that could happen however the aged warrior flapped his wings with all his might, pushing himself backward just enough to be out of the attack's range. The wings, having taken his place, were severed by the bite as the same time as Asagi's shots hit his armored form, pushing him to the side and further cracking his armor.
"Khrg... Barely even brought out my companions, and my armor is cracked... Is age catching up to me?" El Cid wondered. "Even so...!" The green gems on the armor began to glow, and El Cid's eyes turned dark green. "Andalucía!"
"Wait, what's tha-"
In the next second Issei found himself being forced into a corner. Faster than what should have been possible, even by demon standards, the Conquistador struck and stabbed several times in an instant. It was like a red wall of bee stingers the size of wrecking balls bombarding him, all coming at him at incredible speeds. He barely managed to put up his guard in time before finding himself thrown across the town square, his back colliding with the side of a building. The wall gave way and crumbled underneath his weight, letting him spill into what looked like a bedroom.
"...ow." Issei quietly moaned. "What the heck was that..." Issei pulled himself up, only to stumble and cradle his temples. "T-that must have hit me harder than I thought... G-guys I... I don't feel so good..."
Asagi's eyes widened. "Shit, you got poisoned?!"
"Tizona, my right sword, commands fire, wind, ice and even the stars." El Cid stated with a low growl. "And Colada wields every blight in the Netherworld."
"The heck does that mean?!"
"Ah, I think I understand." Hakase called out to the side. Since the numbers had started to thin out and the mooks were focusing on their own targets, she and Priere had once again took to lounging about and observing how the battle progressed. "One sword can inflict random elemental damage, whereas the other can inflict a random ailment. This is very interesting. This person hails from another world entirely, but he's already acclimated to the Netherworld. I wonder, could this be because Issei Hyoudou and Boosted Gear were transported to this world? Or, perhaps, he's had this potential all along?"
Asagi exploded. "Is now really the time-?!"
"You dare turn your back to your opponent?!" El Cid appeared behind her, swords hanging over his head. Asagi cursed and twirled her oversized Prinny gun behind her back, forming a makeshift shield. The swords ground against it: she could faintly hear the Prinnies squealing out in pain, but pretended she didn't hear it and pushed El Cid back before whipping out her mace, going in for a sidelong blow. El Cid deflected it, letting it glide over the flat of his sword before knocking it away, then primed his other sword for a stab. Narrowing her eyes the Main Character(?) raised her leg, then brought her foot down just as he thrust, pushing the sword into the ground before following up with a point-blank shot.
"Do you think me left-handed?!" El Cid roared. "Andalucía!"
A blitz of thunder pushed against a wall of red piercing stabs. In seconds it was overwhelmed and Asagi bombarded by the numerous fierce thrusts. Crying out in pain the human girl found herself hitting the ground like a rag doll. She grit her teeth and flipped back up to her feet, only to stumble. "Gah, shit..." she grimaced. "This is... Crap, I...can't move..."
"Asagi!" Issei cried out. "H-hang on, I'm coming!"
"Issei, look out!" Rathina warned him. Once more El Cid was upon him, this time with his swords wreathed in a red glow.
"X-Slasher!" He swung both swords at once, creating an X-shaped arc of power that came rushing his way. Issei grimaced: his body was growing weaker. 'I don't think I can dodge in time.' he thought. 'In that case-!'
Boosted Gear glowed, the letters "EX" appearing on its jewel.
An explosion of green erupted from his palm. The arc of power could not withstand the intense beam attack. Even El Cid didn't have time to dodge and was caught in the blast. His armor proceeded to crack even further, helm breaking apart and revealing the left side of his aging face. As the explosion of power subsided Issei fell to his knee, panting and gasping while sucking in deep gulps of air. His insides felt like they were burning.
[Issei Hyoudou - Lv. 81 ~ 40]
"This is bad..." Rathina murmured. "Your body... It can't take much more! Someone! Anyone?! Ise needs healing! Like bad!"
El Cid rolled his neck. He was still standing, though it required more effort that he liked to admit. "An impressive display of power, fledgling!" he complimented his junior. "But... You've wasted all of your boosts. And with each passing second your life force is waning due to the poison in your body. What will kill you first, I wonder? My blades, or your body?"
"Urgh..." 'I can barely keep my eyes open...' Issei thought. 'My body's becoming so heavy. Every part of me hurts worse than when Reno forced to grind like crazy that one time. And now, I feel... weak. Like I'll give out any second.'
"It seems we've reached the ending of our duel." El Cid's voice was cold, readying his swords for a final blow. "A shame. For a moment you had me intrigued. Now, Issei Hyoudou, my foolish successor... Fall! And may you never again awaken to the crimson madness!"
Guest: We haven't updated until now because both me and Starlight's Poet have been very busy with Real Life. A lot happened to both of us.
VulpineSnow: I see your point. I admit my version of Priere came from a personal interpretation of both La Pucelle's story (which I followed through a LP) and her appearances through the various other games.
A comparison between the SMT and Disgaea verses? I'm sorry, I fear that if I try to answer that question it will start a flame war like none other. Sorry, OCs subscriptions are closed.
Chronocidal: Your first answer has been answered here. The second will be answered during future chapters.
undertake2: He will gain new skills, yes.
TenRyuGa: I wouldn't say the Yuki Rito syndrome, more like a variant…?