Author's Note:

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A big thank you to SplooshMeister, Dean, DamnedThrice, Daren, Kajun, Less, Colin James, Boondoggle, Tyler B., Falsic, Fyre, mikefoxtrot, GHETTOKINGKAI, Jarod, Adrien, Seamonbeazt, Michael F, Ymmu, PDXdude11, Krugz, Razgriz, Pardeep, Pmni, Gawain, Mark Yu, Nifrit Leviathan and Rhaias!

Chapter 28: The Fallen Star

Ichigo stared dispassionately as the sea below was dyed with angelic blood and the sky churned with thunder even as Susanoo threw back his head with a wild laugh. The ancient dragon beside him let out a long-suffering breath.

"Why Her Ladyship ever expected him to show any restraint is beyond me," Ryūjin muttered, shaking his great head.

Ichigo put one hand on his hip even as the other gripped Zangetsu tighter. He too wondered if Amaterasu was simply being overly optimistic. Then again, another part of him recognized that Japan's Holy Sun was just petty and vindictive enough to the point where not only had she expected this to happen but may have even secretly hoped for it.

He cast his eyes towards the host of angels and the remaining half that still lived. A quick scan with his senses let him know that the survivors were certainly the more powerful ones. The Six-Winged and higher Angels had all been left untouched by the mad Storm Lord. He supposed that, as maniacal and reckless as Susanoo could be, even he wouldn't provoke Heaven too much by killing several high ranking Angels.

In the grand scheme of things, foot soldiers weren't that great of a loss, though he was certain Takamagahara would soon be flooded with messages from Michael and the other Archangels. Nevertheless, it wasn't as if Susanoo acted out of turn. From an international perspective, Heaven was in the wrong by making such an obvious blunder of moving large number of troops in a foreign power. Though it did beg the question, why on Earth did Uriel believe he could get away with such obvious provocation? Ichigo was left wondering if there was more to this than just the retrieval of the Excalibur fragments.

A frown heavily marred his brow. Was something other than the Holy Sword's pieces stolen from the secure vaults of the church?

And, while it wasn't ultimately his problem what conflicts were going between Heaven and the Grigori, the apocalyptic possibility of Hueco Mundo and the Soul Society dimensionally collapsing into the living world and essentially killing everything on the planet was not something he could ignore. And even outside of that, there was the grating possibility of Yasaka someone getting dragged into all of it from being the supernatural monarch on the physical plane.

He let out a sigh.

Never in his life did Ichigo think that marriage would entail so much foreign policy.

Ichigo then set his gaze on the Archangel trembling with rage. The entirety of Uriel's eyes had become alight with golden fire and his twelve wings extended out far, each feather transforming into strands of pure holy light that reached out into the folds of reality.

The wind whipped hot in the wrath of the Archangel's holy light and ocean water for dozens of miles about began boiling in his searing aura. For a brief and ridiculous moment, Ichigo wondered how many fish had died under Uriel's anger.

Far above, Susanoo lips curved into a feral smile as he casually set his longsword resting against his shoulder.

"Little bird," the divine said with a mad glint in his eye, "your audacity shows no bounds. You dare to gaze upon me with anger?"

Ryūjin's coils shifted about as the great dragon moved himself higher towards the swarming clouds. "My Lord, I would advise you return to the Heavens immediately. You have used far too much divine power for it to have gone unnoticed."

Ichigo frowned as Susanoo ignored Ryūjin's words and those black eyes glinting with mad glee never left Uriel's trembling form. As his eyes then flicked back to the Archangel, he noted that Uriel was barely containing his tremendous holy power; his anger threatening to explode and vaporize everything for dozens of miles around in a catastrophic sweep.

"Uriel," Ichigo said firmly, magic fortifying his voice and carrying it across the storm in the sky and the searing boil of the ocean below. "You knew exactly what you were getting into when you led an army into someone else's territory. You're lucky it was only half."

"You are correct, Wrath." Uriel's voice was laced with cold fury. "I know my purpose all too well. And I know I must do all that is in my power to stop Kokabiel's madness."

"And leading an army into another seat of power is the answer?" Ichigo asked dryly. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were helping him restart the Great War."

Uriel's gave a single angry flap of his wings, Ascalon glowing a searing white in hand.

"Say what you will Satan, but I will not bend! I will see Kokabiel undone," and he threw a ferocious glare at Susanoo, "and I will see justice be done for my slain kin!"

As the Archangel continued to emit tidal waves of holy power, Ichigo grimaced as he brought his hand to his chest from a brief pang of discomfort.

"Tch." Ichigo let out an annoyed grunt as his demonic essence swirled from within the confines of his soul, the Sin of Wrath making its ancient presence known.

Uriel's holy rage had awakened the Evil within Ichigo. For a brief insidious moment, the eldritch malice whispered temptations of entrapment into his mind. The dark euphoria of prodding Uriel further and further into anger until it consumed him into a mad onslaught would be such a glorious conquest for him.

And it wouldn't even be all that difficult.

Uriel's anger over his slain brethren, his utter resentment and contempt for Susanoo; they crept over the Archangel's holy frame. Seeping through his aura and dipping in between those lines that marked the border between righteous vengeance and seething revenge. He could reach out, touch fury-laced emotions, and subtly stroke that resentment into a maddening hatred.

To make an Archangel fall.

It would so be so easy, so simple, so…so time consuming and utterly pointless. Not to mention the sheer headaches that would follow afterwards.

Ichigo shook his head, his long hair flying over his eyes, as he ruthlessly pressed down on the Sin and forced it back into the darkest corners of his soul.

"Stupid embodiment of evil," he muttered to himself as his gaze sharpened back into focus and the demonic haze lifted from his mind.

Rubbing his neck, in irritation, Ichigo saw that Ryūjin was looking down at him with a speculative look, even while maintaining his position between Susanoo and Uriel.

He must have sensed me.

Returning his attention to the Holy nova that was Uriel, Ichigo's entire body froze as he felt a sudden shift in the world.

And it wasn't just him, Ryūjin's great length had stilled, and a collective shiver ran through the ranks of the Heavenly Host.

The only one who seemed unaffected was Susanoo himself as he threw back his head and let out boisterous and loud laughter.

And in that moment, every cloud in the sky was instantly blown away in a tremendous sweep, and yet, Ichigo felt not even the slightest breeze across his face. His mouth parted slightly because Ichigo realized that the stars were moving. And not their usual slow creep across the celestial sphere of the night sky, but visibly moving at great speeds.

He could only stare transfixed as soft golden light poured down as those very stars seemed to sink down and approach the Earth, growing in brightness and a ferocious luminosity. And from those descended stars, titanic gilded threads, reaching and branching out across hundreds of miles in the sky, began converging in a dazzling show of radiance.

Thread by golden thread, they began weaving themselves into esoteric runes and grand arcane circles that undoubtedly spanned the lengths of continents. The entirety of the ocean reflected the golden runes far, far above the sky and the very world was dyed in a deep and rich golden hue.

The hair on the back of Ichigo's neck rose as the air hummed with divine power and his body shivered with a warm yet terrifying sensation.

"Heavenly Suppression," Ichigo murmured to himself, as it dawned on him what was happening. He had read about the legend many times during his tutelage under Grayfia, back during his first few months in the Underworld.

"Indeed," Ryūjin said solemnly with a deep sigh. "I had feared it would come to this, but alas, such are the consequences of overt and blatant abuse of divine power on the Earth in this day and age."

"So, it's true? The sundering of the divine realms was a conscious decision?" Ichigo asked, his eyes narrowed as he attempted to futilely read the divine script written in golden starlight.

The former Dragon King nodded from his place in the sky, his ocean blue eyes tracing the gargantuan magical circles rotating above. "Long ago, the true divinities made the decision to abandon this Earth to Humanity. Within the warp and weft of Fate we saw the turning of the Ages and knew our continued presence would only hinder the natural progression of what need be. Thus, we forged a great paling, one that would rend the divine planes from this physical reality."

"And we set upon it a great restriction for all deities to obey!" Susanoo's voice boomed with laughter. "That any of our kin who used too great their might upon this Earth and risk changing the course of Humanity would be suppressed and forcefully removed from the mortal theater! The collective might of over a thousand sparks of divinity!"

Ryūjin shook his said, "And in our absence, Humanity has flourished. A humbling thought for our kind. And in the same absence, the lesser supernatural was allowed to grow as well. Eventually they too made the decision to hide themselves, fashioning realms of pocket realities and smaller sub-dimensions adjacent to the Earth."

But even as Ryūjin finished his words, the weave of divinity above them became still, and then suddenly, a golden chain with a bladed edge shot through the runes and speared though Susanoo's chest in a violent burst.

Ichigo's eyes widened in surprise as the Storm Lord stood gored through the chest in the middle of the sky, ichor falling in heavy drops far below into the sea like molten rain.

"Ha! Alas! It would seem our drink will have to be delayed, old friend!" Susanoo laughed even as golden blood poured out of his mouth. "As for you, glowering little bird, heed my words: your father is long dead, your armies diminished. Take care to not make more enemies 'fore the Great Void makes itself known again. The Wheel is turning! And it will crush the ill-prepared!"

Four more bladed chains dropped from the Heavenly Suppression and pierced Susanoo in each shoulder and through both thighs. The sound of his flesh being ripped and torn echoed over the churning seas and Ichigo could feel Susanoo's presence was greatly diminished, his power swiftly fading and leaking out of the world.

The great chains tightened, and past the divine runes Ichigo could make out the turning of gears and machinery, leading him to wonder just how the Heavenly Suppression was fashioned by the various pantheons, and what went into their making. He made a mental note to ask Ajuka when he returned to the Underworld.

"Cumbersome," Susanoo briefly grimaced. "I had forgotten how alien the process feels. Alas, we are victims of our own wisdom. Such is the sad reality of certainty."

The chains began to be pulled into the great array, lifting Susanoo away into the golden light.

"As for you, dear nephew, I would offer my counsel." And even as the words left Susanoo's bloodied mouth, his body began to dissolve into golden orbs. "Heed not the ambitions of Dear Elder Sister! The Throne of the Dead is no meager burden to carry! That seat broke my Blessed Mother, as it did the Noble Spirit who endures it even now! You better than all should know Eternity is no gift when it is a torment to bear! Remain with the living!"

Ichigo gave no sign of emotion as the uncharacteristically somber Susanoo stared down at him, his mouth pressed thin and grim. Finally, the breathing storm dissolved into divine light, and the Heavenly Suppression remained strong and vigilant in the sky.

The corners of Ichigo's lips briefly turned down before he ran a tired hand through his hair. The conversation with Amaterasu from two years ago came flooding back. Honestly, he had pushed it to the back of his mind and never dwelled on it seriously, save for one small discussion he had had with Tiamat. One which ended rather abruptly when she told him she nothing to say on the matter and that he would have to make that decision on all his own.

Letting out a sigh of frustration, Ichigo banished his thoughts and set his mind to the task before. Uriel and the stronger half of his remaining army were of the immediate concern now.

"I'll give you one chance, Uriel," Ichigo said, his voice hard and the sheen in eye sharp like steel. "Turn back now, or else I'll release my true form and incinerate all of you."

"Foul wretch," Uriel said with a cold sneer. "You would unleash Hell itself and permanently damage this Earth?"

Ichigo narrowed his eyes in conviction. "As opposed to you marching against Kokabiel and his legion, tearing the divide between the Living and Dead? At least I can contain the damage I would do to a few hundred miles. You, on the other hand, would damn hundreds of millions of souls as soon as the barrier broke. And then some even more after that."

His eyes never left Uriel, and he carefully noted the angel's grip on Ascalon grew tight. "You know not what you are allowing by stalling me here, Satan."

"Yeah, I do."

Ichigo raised Zangetsu and pointed it towards Uriel. And, as opposed to the angel, Ichigo did not allow any of his tremendous demonic power to surge forward. He stood calm and stalwart against the furious Uriel.

Above them, the golden arrays of the Heavenly Suppression slowly began fade back into dormancy, their purpose fulfilled for the time being.

And then Ichigo gave Uriel an inquisitive glance. "You're an angel, so be honest with me, Uriel. You're not stupid enough to bring an army for something as simple as Excalibur. And, at first, I thought it was about capturing Kokabiel, using him as a political hostage against the Grigori. But the more that I think on it, the less it makes sense. Tell me, seriously: what else did Kokabiel steal? What really prompted this ridiculous decision of yours?"

The Archangel's ageless and beautiful face hardened.

"Well then," Ichigo gave a triumphant smirk, "so there is something else."

However, before Ichigo could press on further, a familiar thrum of power hummed through the ocean, passing over him like a soft wave of cool air. He turned around with a frown, looking far off over the ocean into what would be the direction of Japan.

Yet the entirety of the horizon was covered in black clouds that reached miles high into the sky, completely osbscuring the landmass of the country.

"Mother," Ryūjin said gravely, the dragon's great body winding through the air to come float beside him.

Ichigo's eyes swept over the colossal cyclone his lover had summoned, his eyes were set grim and small part of him grew concerned for her. She had said she would do what she deemed necessary, and apparently that included summoning forth a storm so powerful that it was tearing through the entirety of the country.

Ichigo turned back towards the glowering Uriel. "Alright, listen up asshole, here's how this is going to play out. My girlfriend is currently cleaning up the mess your side allowed to happen. You and the rest of the glow in the dark parade are going to wait her patiently while she turns Kokabiel into a pile of charred ash. After that, you – and I mean only you, Uriel – can go and collect the Excalibur fragments and whatever else he managed to take that's gotten you all riled up."

Uriel bristled. "That is wholl-"

"Not up for discussion," Ichigo growled, cutting off Uriel's tirade. "You either go along with what I say, or I wipe out all of you from the face of the planet while Humanity deals with a sudden massive spike in Global Warming."

"For the record," Ryūjin said in his deep, guttural voice from beside him, "I would prefer he not destroy the delicate balance of life on Earth. Hot oceans are most uncomfortable, after all. And you've already made plenty of a mess, thank you."

Ichigo twirled Zangetsu playfully in his hands. "What's it going to be Uriel? Want to make a deal with the Devil? Or would you rather be thrown into Hell?"

Things weren't exactly going as planned for Rias Gremory. Then again, in hindsight, she really didn't have a genuine plan when all this had come about and fallen onto her lap. Two Holy Sword exorcists had barged into her and Sona's territory and made a hidden alliance with her Pawn, Rook and one of Sona's Pawns.

Rias liked to consider herself a kind and considerate master, as opposed to the majority of her kin in the Underworld. Nevertheless, servants making secret agreements with foreign agents who were often tasked with the murder of her species was stretching the limits of what she could turn a blind eye to. Even worse, it was revealed a splinter faction of the Church had stolen fragments of the mythical Excalibur. That legendary blade which was shattered in the chaos of the Great War.

She and Sona had discussed the matter at great length. Between their respective peerages, they were confident they could readily handle the zealots of the Church, have the Excalibur fragments back in the hands of the two exorcists, and swiftly sending the two off without ceremony: summarily ridding their territory of any further holy presence.

They were wrong. So horribly wrong.

Again, in hindsight, she should have planned things. She should have thoroughly considered all factors before making the decision to agree to any sort of cooperation with members of the church. After all, why in Lucifer's name had the pieces of the holy sword been brought to her territory when they could have been taken anywhere else in the world?

The answer was relatively simple.

Her. Her and Sona. Two pure-blooded Devils, each descending from a direct line of two of the surviving Seventy-Two Pillars and poised to inherit their respective lordships. And, on top of that, they were the younger siblings of two of the ruling Satans of the Underworld.

She really should have paid her brother more mind when he said she should start looking at the big picture more often.

Rias let out a tired huff, her gaze falling on her once manicured hands that were now stained with dirt and blood, as she kneeled on the ruined grounds of Kuoh Academy. She deeply inhaled before pushing herself off the dirt, the action forcing her to wince as a sharp pain jolted up her left arm.

Possibly broken.

As she stood straight and whipped her long red hair out of her eyes, she pumped demonic energy through her arm, attempting to sooth and fix whatever damage had been done`.

She grimaced as she beheld herself. Her clothes were in tatters, and she could taste her own blood in her mouth.

Rias then set her gaze around her. The main school building had been demolished and the grounds were littered with deep scars and craters. She looked to her right, to where Sona stood in an equally disheveled state. Her oldest friend's glasses had been cracked in two and discarded sometime midway through the battle. Sona had a cut above her left eye that was lightly oozing blood, and her left arm and shoulder were as the cloth had been burned off when she had been hit with a breath of fire from one of their many enemies.

Rias cast her gaze wider. All around the school grounds the corpses of dozens upon dozens of Cerberi were strewn about. And amidst the dead demonic hounds, her and Sona's respective peerages sat licking their wounds as the reality of their mortality set in. Asia kneeled over a prone and heavily breathing Issei. The blonde girl was using her Twilight Remedy to heal the poor boy's mangled left leg. The innocent and far too compassionate girl was so out of place in this war-torn place. And though her face was set in grim focus, Rias could see the fright and concern that shone so naked in her eyes. Rias chewed the inside of her cheek, her heart panging for the young girl who had already tasted a painful death not but little over two months ago.

Her eyes then flitted over to Yuuto who was seated next to Koneko on top of a dead Cerberus. Her Knight was breathing heavily, one hand resting on conjured sword that was buried deep into the back of the beast he was resting on, the other reassuringly resting on Koneko's thin shoulder. All the while he glared balefully up at the sky.

As for Koneko, her eyes were hidden behind overcast white bangs as her head hung low. Her small, diminutive hands curled into fists as she clutched at Yuuto's blazer. Both were tousled and covered in small wounds and had cuts all over their bodies.

From behind her Rias heard the crunch of gravel and turned, as did Sona. Akeno limped towards the two of them, followed by Tsubaki. Her best friend and closest confidant, usually so collected and immaculate in appearance: her long black hair was untied and messily fell in all directions from the crown of her head. At the sight of the deep gash on Akeno's forehead, Rias' heart lurched. Luckily her Queen was gifted enough in magic to have stopped the bleeding on her own, and the wound had already begun to scab and start the process of healing.

But nonetheless, this was her Peerage. Her family. Her children. To see them so hurt and battle weary, it tore her heart to sunders.

I have failed.

And the realization rang hollow in her soul. She had failed so utterly that it had led to the demise of her cherished Peerage.

"We managed to get through a message to the Underworld." Akeno's voice was leaden with exhaustion, shaking Rias out of the gloom cast over her thoughts.

"And?" Sona asked as she gripped her own arm and bit her lip in worry.

"Lord Gremory knows of the situation," Tsubaki said before letting out a defeated sigh. "But…"

And all four of them turned and looked Heavenward. Towards the clear and beautiful sky framed by the verdant, green mountains of the Valley of Kuoh and the moon which shone so full and bright through the darkness of the night.

And the thousands, and thousands, of Fallen which flew in rigid ranks.

"It will be too late by the time he or anyone manages to reach us," Rias finished grimly in conclusion.

Sona let out a tired sigh, her eyes never leaving the assembled legions of the Fallen. "I can't believe I'm dying before graduating High School. Couldn't even get that far, how humiliating."

Akeno snorted from behind. "I can't believe I'm dying a virgin. I knew I should have dragged Yuuto into bed over the summer. The look on his face alone would have been worth it."

Rias sighed while Sona turned towards Akeno with a questioning look. Tsubaki, meanwhile, gasped as a hand went to her mouth and she began stuttering. "Y-y-you and Yuuto-kun are-are like that?"

Akeno rolled her eyes. "Don't be ridiculous, Tsubaki. Yuuto is totally not my type. He just happens to be the best choice amongst the options I have. Which isn't saying much, honestly, considering the only other men in our group happen to be a crossdressing vampire, who infuriatingly enough, looks better in dresses than I do, and a recently reincarnated teenage horndog with a Longinus-class sacred gear who identifies me not from my face, but from my breasts."

Sona turned towards her with an inquisitive glance. "He can really do that?"

Rias shrugged. "It's actually somewhat impressive. He claims he can read a woman's mood and general thoughts just by observing her breasts. Given that I can count on one hand the number of times Issei has made eye contact with me and how he has managed to walk away fully comprehending what I've tried to convey with facial expressions and cues, I'm inclined to believe him."

Sona pursed her lips. "I would like to assert that that is not impressive. Disconcerting, yes. But impressive? No."

"Wait, so there's really nothing between you and Yuuto-kun?"

Rias crossed her arms with a sigh while Akeno rolled her eyes again and said, "Lucifer, you have a one-track mind, Tsubaki. If you're so worried about it, and given current circumstances, why don't you go walk over to him now, throw him to the ground and ride him until you're both obliterated by Fallen spears?"

"A-Akeno!" Tsubaki gave a light shriek.

Rias gave her Queen a chiding look. "Akeno, play nice."

Akeno sighed. "It was a joke. Since we're going to die, I'd much rather you spend your last efforts taking as many of our foes with you, rather than give Yuuto one last happy."

"What about me being happy?"

There was collective flinch of surprise amongst the four of them, with Tsubaki actually having jumped an inch off the ground.

Rias turned towards her Knight as he approached them with a frown, Koneko trailing just behind him.

"Nothing," she shook her head with a smile. "We were merely debating how we would like to spend our last moments."

"Ah," Kiba said, frown still in place. "In that case, I would very much like for the last thing I see to be as many of my blades as possible stabbed through the hearts of the Fallen."

"Hear, hear," Akeno said as she patted him on the shoulder.

"Ice cream," Koneko plainly said, her eyes stuck on the sky.

Akeno gave the girl an amused look. "I wouldn't say no to tub of caramel vanilla. Sadly, I do not see that being a prospect in our immediate future."

Koneko's nose twitched. "Tragic."

The corners of Rias's lips twitched, but then Kiba stepped directly in front of her, his blue-grey eyes steeled in resolve.

"Yuuto?" Her head titled slightly in question.

A moment passed, then another, as Kiba continued to look her directly in the eye. Finally, he said softly, "Thank you."

She blinked at him. "For what?"

"For everything." And though his voice remained soft, there was no questioning the unwavering dedication in his words. "For giving me a new life. A name. A family."

Rias found her throat constricting.

"Yuuto…" She reached out with hand and cupped his cheek, tears welling in her eyes. Kiba closed his eyes and grabbed her wrist, bringing her hand to his lips as he gingerly pressed a kiss to the tips of her fingers.

Kiba then dropped to one knee and put the back of her hand to his brow and Rias did her best to choke the well of emotions bubbling within her. Memories of that emaciated and half dead boy lying in the frozen waste with nothing, but a single torn bedsheet wrapped around him came raced through her mind. "Yuuto…please…."

"I will never be able to repay you for what you have done for me. For what you have been to me."

Rias' fingers tightened around his hand and Kiba responded by squeezing back. She whispered, "You silly boy. You know I've never expected any sort of payment from you."

Kiba looked up at her, his eyes shining with fervent worship.

"But payment you shall have," his voice dipped low, colored with emotion. "My life and my very soul. Forever and ever, I shall be the Knight of Rias Gremory."

Her hand began to shake, though she did her best to hold back her tears and keep her dignity for the sake of her Knight and his vow.

The corners of Kiba's lips curled just so slightly. "If there is a next life, if Fate allows it, I would call you my master there too. So long as you allow it."

Rias' lips quivered into a smile through unshed tears. Slowly, her knees bent, and she brought both arms around Kiba's neck and pulled him towards her until his blonde head was tucked underneath her chin. "You stupid, stupid boy. Of course, I would allow it. You will always have a place by my side."

And while Kiba did not return her embrace, she could feel his head shift in her arms and his came to her, so low that only her ears would be able to hear his whispered words. "I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. Forgive me."

Rias' arms tightened around him. She should be the one asking for forgiveness. She was the one who couldn't protect him. She was the one who couldn't protect all of them.

She felt a sudden tugging on her sleeve, and looking up through her tears, she saw Koneko pinching the fabric of her jacket. With her mien set as neutral as ever, her young Rook's eyes were steadfast and set.

"Me too," Koneko murmured softly.

Rias smiled at her and picked one arm off of Kiba and pulled Koneko into their shared embrace. As Koneko kneeled into her arms, Rias placed a soft kiss on the girl's brow.

"Thank you so much. You mean the world to me, all of you."

"That vice goes versa," Akeno said from behind her, and firm hands fell on her shoulders and Rias could smell her Queen's cinnamon shampoo as Akeno's fair cheek pressed against hers. "You're our King. And none of us would have had the life we've enjoyed without you. Like Yuuto said, if there's a next life, we all want to be a part of yours."

"Me too!" Issei's boisterous voice tore through the somber setting. "I also want to be reincarnated into Buchou's next life!"

"Issei-san, slow down! Your leg isn't fully healed!" Asia said urgently, before continuing on in a much more demure voice. "Ah, but I also want to spend time with Buchou and everyone in the afterlife!"

And at this point she couldn't hold the tears back, they fell freely as she sobbed surrounded by the family that she had built, the family she had chosen. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't keep you all safe and out of this. I wish I could have protected you better."

"Hush now," Akeno said. "No one could have predicted this; this is hardly your fault."

Kiba was the first to break away from her, and together they all stood as one. Akeno had conjured a handkerchief and began dabbing away at her eyes. "There now, no more tears. We go and we go with pride and fury."

Kiba gave one last squeeze of her hands, before letting go and turning his eyes back towards the silent army motionless in the sky.

Rias gave a soft smile towards her Peerage. And as she used Akeno's handkerchief to wipe away the remaining moisture in her eyes, she turned to stare look at Sona, who was standing arm in arm with Tsubaki. Both wearing tender smiles as they looked, and behind them, Sona's Peerage all assembled.

Her oldest friend regarded her with a profound look, one measured in both pride and sorrow.

"We go together," Sona said. "Just as how we started together in Kuoh, we'll leave together."

"I don't think I've ever said it, and I'm sad I'm only saying it now, but you really have been a phenomenal friend, Sona." Rias said.

Sona crossed her arms, though the corners of her lips curved as she said dryly, "While the sentiment in mutual, don't expect an outburst of affectionate display like you just had with your kids."

"Wouldn't dream of it." Rias shot back with a smile.

An understanding passed between the two of them, and both took a step forward, their respective peerages falling in line behind them.

Eyes on the sky and the thousands of Fallen, Sona said curtly, "A next life?"

They were both scions of two of the noblest families of the Underworld. They both knew all too well what awaited them after death.


"Not even remotely," Sona replied immediately. "I suppose it's some form of an instinctual acceptance inherent for our kind."

Rias hummed. "Till the end of time after tonight then."

The Fallen began to move, the thousands floating in columns and rows shifting and moving in formation.

"Try not to cross over to the other side too quickly. There are some battle tactics I was never able to use in Rating Games, so it'd be nice to actualize them with the aid of you and your Peerage."

Rias sighed. "Always with your beloved chess, Sona. I fear the next life will be a dreadful bore for you."


At Issei's call, Rias twisted her waist and looked behind her. "Hmm?"

Despite the gravity and impending doom of the situation, her single Pawn crossed his arms with a look of determination, and he said with loud defiance. "I couldn't do it, but all this talk of crossing over and reincarnation makes me want to reinforce that in the next life, Buchou! I will be sure to take your virginity!"

A silence fell across the assorted Devils as Issei's voice echoed across the school grounds. As the moment passed into the next, Akeno stifled a laugh behind her hand and Kiba gave a defeated sigh.

"Issei-san!" Asia exclaimed in protest as she blushed furiously.

Koneko huffed in annoyance. "Pervert till the bitter end."

Rias opened her mouth to respond, however the sheer ridiculousness of the boy's statement disarmed her to the point where she merely closed it again.

"M-me too!"

And as a cohesive unit, they all turned towards Sona's side as her Pawn stood straight and raised his hand proudly in the air.

"Saji, no, don't you da-" But Tsubaki was too slow to stop him.

"I will be sure to take your virginity in the next life, Kaichou!"

Sona closed her eyes in frustration and pinched the bridge of her nose. "It has to be because of the dragons. There must be a glitch in the Sacred Gear system where all dragon-type gears infect their host with this asinine insanity."

Rias sent her gaze back towards the assorted army of Fallen Angels, and they had all neatly moved their ranks in two halves. Each side containing thousands of columns and between the two halves of the gathered force, the moon shone in brilliance, it size almost unnatural in the night sky.

Slowly, a sickly green halo of light began encircling the moon, and from it's center a black dot appeared on its grey-white surface. Second by second the dot grew bigger, and Rias realized that it wasn't actually growing in size but getting closer.

She felt her skin crawl. A sensation of complete wrongness anathema to her whole being invaded her senses. And it wasn't just her. From the corner of her eyes she saw Sona shiver momentarily and from their bond she could feel the pervasiveness that had set into her Peerage.

Rias hands curled tightly into fists, and the sweat in her palms began to pool and make her hands uncomfortably warm.

And soon the black the dot took the form of a lone Fallen who descended down on them, and with it came the crushing weight of the immense might of its corrupted light and the weight it bore against the world. The Earth cracked beneath their feet and Rias had to flair her demonic power to stay standing.

Asia let out a cry as she was forced to all fours. Kiba also fell to one knee with a grunt. Though Issei, Koneko and Akeno all remained standing. Akeno's greater demonic power gave her a better resistance while Koneko's inherent advantages of being Rook gave her the physical fortitude to remain standing. As for Issei, while he had little experienced control over it, the might of the Welsh Emperor still clad him unconsciously. For good reason, the Boosted Gear counted amongst the Longinus-class Sacred Gears.

Assured her Peerage was still alive and relatively well, Rias returned attention to the single Fallen standing low in the sky and looking down upon them.

He had long black hair that fell heavy onto his back. Skin so pale and white it seemed to blend in with the moon and its light behind him. From his back spread ten great feathered wings of such a deep, midnight black that they drained the surrounding color into a lifeless grey. Behind his head floating parallel to his great dark mane, was a great halo of a dark green color and written upon it were angelic runes that whispered secret blasphemies that could laws and precepts. And it's very sight brought pain to Rias' eyes and caused a dull ache to spread through her skull.

Children of Fell Lucifer

And his voice grated upon her ears, like metal crushing metal, making her flinch.

I am Lord amongst the Fallen, Cadre of the Grigori

He spread his arms, his black wings arching as they spread like ink across the parchment of the night sky, and the thousands of Fallen let out a thunderous cry that forced her and the others to cover their ears from the sheer power of the sonic wave.

I am Kokabiel

I am the Fallen Star who taught nascent man to seek wisdom amidst constellations instead of His Word

He looked down at them, his eyes purely black like the endless void of a starless sky.

And I have come to herald Apocalypse

Author's Note: Sorry for not posting in the last month. Just time and schedule issues. Hope you're all having a lovely summer. Am now back to my weekly update schedule.

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