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"Let's go!" - Regular Speech

'Oppai!' - Thoughts

[BOOST!] - Sacred Gear/Ddraig Speech

Chapter 14: Asia, Tragic Exiled Nun

Later

Himejima Shrine, Outskirts of Kuō Town

Issei's little experiments with his [Dungeon Locator] had proven to rather interesting. The Sacred Gear add-on had projected a map in the air in front of him showing the area around him, in quite a bit of detail in fact, and displaying the locations of any dungeons within the detection radius of the device.

His own base was there, in the very centre and indicated with a green dot and name tag. The map extended over what had to be half of Kuō Town and there were three other dungeons in that part of it...in very familiar locations, to boot. He had taken out one of the maps he'd taken from the office of the Head of Project Rat King to double check his suspicions, but he was correct; the locations of those dungeons were the sites of suggested Purifier bases that hadn't been made it past the proposal stage for whatever reason...and with the Purifiers having been infiltrated by Armârôs the Lesser at the time, Issei was deeply suspicious about those sites, resolving to check them out later.

After that though, he had decided that the Devils had to be informed about Armârôs and the Purifier genocide base. Not to mention the [Dagger of the Draugr] that Armârôs had somehow gotten her hands on.

[Dagger of the Draugar]

Forged unwillingly by a captured Dwarven prisoner using inferior materials and methods, this half straight-edged, half wave-edged dagger is a fell, evil weapon full of malice and hatred. While providing no special bonuses to attack, defence or support, the effect of this blade takes place only if it is used to deliver a killing blow, reanimating those slain by it as undead revenants who desire the death of all things living.

LV20

Durability: 87/100

Dagger

Slash Damage: S+20

Pierce Damage: S

Bludgeoning Damage: S

Effect: Deathblow Reanimation: When used to end the life of a regular human or other non-supernatural entity, the fell magic of the [Dagger of the Draugar] will use the energy released upon death to reanimate them as an undead construct. These constructs will be feral and the wielder of this weapon will hold no control or command abilities over them.

To be completely honest this weapon fucking terrified him. The fact that it was specifically designed to be used as a weapon against ordinary humans and, if he was reading the intent behind the flavour text correctly, regular animals such as dogs, cats and birds as well, was disturbing enough, but add in the fact that the user had zero control of the zombies they created and that they were simply left to kill anything they could get their claws on scared him to hell and back.

This wasn't a weapon, it was a tool designed to cause wide-spread chaos, panic and death via initiating a mini Zombie Apocalypse!

'Nope. Not giving this to them. Nope, nope, nope.' he had decided immediately.

Granted, the Devils that he had met were all good people and he could hazard a guess that he'd find that all of them would be horrified and/or disgusted with the effect of the evil little dagger and would rather saw their arms off with a rusty butter knife rather than use it, but other Devils? For all he knew, there was a secret society that was conspiring to kill all of humanity inside the Devil's civilisation that would love a way to spread panic and terror amongst humanity by reverse-engineering the enchantments on this dagger and mass producing it.

...fuck, he'd just jinxed himself, hadn't he?

'Welp that decides it, I'm going to find some way to destroy this evil little abomination as soon as I can.' Issei decided with a huff as he leaned back against the wooden wall of the shrine, once more clad in his concealing armour and outfit. He still had plenty of time before his parents expected him home, so the twenty minutes or so that he had been waiting was an excuse to take in the scenery. He was actually quite taken with the peaceful serenity that the shrine seemed to emanate. It was really quite relaxing.

"Ara, well this is a surprise. I didn't expect to see you so soon." a familiar voice jerked him out of his thoughts. Looking around, he spotted on Himejima Akeno, dressed in the traditional white kimono top and red hakama of a miko.

'One of the 'Two Great Onee-sama of Kuō Academy' in 'Miko Mode'! Saved to long term memory!' Issei cheered in his mind. Outwardly, he was able to control himself. He'd become far better at controlling his perversion thanks in no small part to the [Gamer's Mind] constantly suppressing it the moment his overwhelming Lust came to the forefront.

"Himejima-san. You look rather fetching in that outfit." he said with a nod.

"Ufufufufu...why thank you." Akeno giggled. "Can I assume that you have a reason for being here?"

"I am, rather sadly, going to need to talk to Heiress Gremory and/or Heiress Sitri rather urgently." Issei replied with a sigh. "I came close to being killed after I parted ways with you yesterday."

Her purple eyes widened slightly, Akeno nodded, all traces of teasing leaving her face and voice. "Understood."

As the Reincarnated Nephilim flicked a finger, brought up a communication magic circle and spoke into it, Issei pulled the reports and other files, memos and other assorted paperwork from Project Rat Poison out of his inventory. While it didn't seem to have a space, size or weight limit, having an overly-cluttered inventory didn't sit well with Issei. That kind of thing was a stupid accident waiting to happen, particularly during a fight. He could reach in and mean to grab a sword or potion and accidentally grab an expense report or something.

He could see it now: Behold my mighty...tax return summery?

Gods, that would be embarrassing! And possibly lethal!

Suppressing a scoff of dark amusement at the thought, he waited for Rias Gremory to show up, which didn't take long. She, and most of the rest of her Peerage, showed up via a red transportation circle less than a minute later.

"What's this about you almost being killed?" the Crimson-Haired Ruin Princess asked briskly as she walked over to him. Issei stood up as well out of politeness and walked down to meet her at the bottom of the shrine's wooden steps.

"I went to one of the last Purifier bases in Kuō that I was aware of, the site of Project Rat Poison." Issei stated bluntly. "It was a charnel house in there. Almost every member of the Purifiers in the base were dead, killed by Agent Flamberge...otherwise known as the Fallen Anger Armârôs the Lesser."

"You fought a FALLEN?!" all of the Gremory Peerage gaped at him in shock.

"And won...if only barely." the Gamer tacked on as he started removing his gathered evidence from his Inventory. "I fought her until I had only a single HP left, but I dealt her a fatal wound in exchange, so she's likely dead by now."

Rias shook her head slowly. "You...were very lucky." she said slowly. "And...this is the paperwork from the Purifier site?"

"All of it I could find." Issei admitted. "But that isn't the most disturbing part of yesterday...this dagger is."

He was nervous about even touching the disgusting thing, holding it by the hilt gingerly as if it were something foul, like a bag of dog shit.

"That weapon has quite the…nauseating aura about it." Kiba said immediately, leaning backwards slightly. Trust a Knight to sense a cursed sword.

Koneko shivered after glancing at it, before looking away and refusing to focus on it again. "Foul, evil." she muttered.

"This is called the [Dagger of the Draugar], and it was forged by the same dwarven smith who forged my [Rapscallion Waveblade]." the disguised Gamer explained. "It possesses the ability to reanimate any non-supernatural being killed by it as a zombie."

The sickened looks on the faces of the Devils confirmed Issei's opinion of them.

"That...why? Why would someone...?" Akeno asked, shaking her head in disgust.

"I suspect that it was the idea of Armârôs the Lesser to have this...thing...made." Issei very reluctantly replaced it in his inventory. "She was very much of the opinion that humans were a mistake of the God of the Bible. She really seemed to have something of a superiority complex. It was one reason why I won, despite her being twice my own level."

"She must have been one of Kokabiel's minions then." Akeno noted, eyes cold with anger. "The man is a fascist in the most extreme sense of the world and would happily slaughter every other race upon this world if given the opportunity."

"Correct. She was a member of Kokabiel's faction of the Grigori." the Gamer nodded. "I can't offer any proof of her presence other than that dagger, and even that isn't any kind of link to her though. Just about the only solid proof I have aside from the dagger is about five millilitres of her blood. My [Gamer's Gear] separated it from my sword after I put it into my inventory."

"The blood could be used for an identification spell, but I'm afraid it wouldn't do much good. Kokabiel has already covered his tracks and declared her rogue." the Gremory Heiress scowled. "He sent word to other supernatural and mythical factions that she has been rogue for quite some time in fact, and that he's only just found out about it."

"Political bullshit, in other words." Issei summarised. "Well, at least it explains some of the magical stuff that the Purifiers have access to; if a Cadre from the Grigori has been helping them out on the sly, to destabilise the other Biblical Factions..."

"And how better to cause a war than to have the younger sisters of two of the Four Maō mysteriously murdered...is that your thinking here?" Rias said faux-calmly.

"Essentially." Issei nodded.

"Kokabiel's aid would make sense for some of it, but if we take the timeframe that he sent out to be how long Armârôs the Lesser has been infiltrating the Purifiers, then it still doesn't add up; she was only 'rogue' for three months at best." the redhead said in frustration. "There must be another source of supernatural influence on them other than Kokabiel."

"Probably." the Sekiryūtei agreed. "That makes some sense. So either Kokabiel has been controlling the Purifiers from the start and Armârôs the Lesser was simply one of the agents involved, or another supernatural force helped form them and Kokabiel somehow managed to slip one of his minions in and direct them to aid his own goals. Either way at least we have at least removed one of the lynchpins controlling these insane purists."

"I'd say that the latter is far more likely. Something like this simply does not fit Kokabiel's normal modus operandi." Akeno interjected thoughtfully. "It's too subtle and offers too little reward for not enough return for the Grigori to be involved. They're the smallest of the Three Biblical Factions and I doubt even the Grigori as a whole, let alone a single faction of it, would have the sheer manpower to manipulate an organization as large as these Purifiers seem to be without it being noticed. That, and these Purifiers were also planning to target the Fallen as well. Kokabiel might be a racist warmonger to the extreme, but he still has some loyalty to his own people if nothing else."

"You seem to know a great deal about the Fallen's faction?" Issei asked curiously.

"I…someone I knew was once extremely close with one of the Fallen." the miko responded evasively.

Rias winced, knowing that she was talking about her father, Baraqiel. Remembering him was painful for her.

"Very well, I will bow to your greater knowledge of the Grigori and the Angel of the Stars." Issei acknowledged. "Still, I doubt he'll just shrug and give up. He may attempt something again, and be more direct the next time."

"I'll see to improving the magical defences around our homes just in case that proves to be accurate." the Gremory Heiress said with a frown. Kokabiel was a Fallen Angel with ten wings; he would be an opponent far beyond what her Peerage could handle. Even the addition of Sona's Peerage wouldn't matter much in the end, and she would never ask her friend to sacrifice her servants wastefully like that.

"I'll also be keeping an eye out for things around town." Issei said. "Kokabiel has no friend in me, so you can count on me to at least report anything that smacks of his supporters or subordinates entering Kuō."

"How would you...oh, the titles people have." Kiba realised. "Unless they have a particularly puissant and skilful disguise, they can't hide that sort of thing from you can they?"

Issei was impressed and somewhat alarmed that the 'Prince' of Kuō Academy had put the pieces together that quickly. "Correct. Low to mid-level mundane and magical disguises don't hide someone's titles from my sight."

After seeing Armârôs genderbend out of her male disguise, Issei had double and triple checked about exactly how high a level of a skill or spell needed to be in order to spoof the [Gaming Gear].

"That...would be a help, I will admit." Rias said with a nod. Having someone who could see through most common disguises aiding her would be invaluable. Still... "I would have to exchange favours with you for this, as this goes beyond you passing information to us. You would be actively looking for enemies for Sona and I. And a Gremory does not take such a favour lightly."

Well, he wasn't going to say no to being paid, now was he? Only for work he managed to accomplish though.

"Only if I manage to bring you word of someone infiltrating your territory." Issei bargained. "You can set the price based on what I bring you."

"Generous. Not many would trust a Devil like this." the Western Beauty remarked.

"You have extended me trust by not demanding to know who I am beneath this mask and helmet. The least I can do is return the favour in this instance." the Sekiryūtei replied bluntly.

Rias Gremory looked at him for a moment before nodding. "Very well. I agree to your terms."

Issei twitched as a window popped up in front of him. After reading it for a moment, he tilted his head slightly. "Huh. The [Gamer's Gear] just generated a quest on your behalf."

The devils blinked at him. "It can do that?" Akeno asked curiously.

"Apparently so." Issei replied. "I wish it would work on its humour though...the Quest is called [Watching for Watchers of the Star Watcher]."

"Because another name for the Grigori is 'the Watchers', I suppose." Rias wrinkled her nose slightly at the very forced alliterative name for the quest. "Is it like that all the time?"

"More often than not." Issei admitted with a sigh.

After a moment or two more of conversation, Issei departed the Himejima Shrine, pressing the 'Y' button on the screen before him as he did so.

[Quest Alert!]

Watching for Watchers of the Star Watcher: You have seen off Armârôs the Lesser. Good for you! Now you have to keep alert and watch out for any member of his faction that you see within Kuō Town City Limits and report it to Rias Gremory. Proof beyond your word would be nice as well, but she'll accept your word as a bare minimum.

Quest Goal: Report to Rias Gremory regarding any members of Kokabiel's Faction of the Grigori that you spot inside the City Limits of Kuō Town.

Bonus Goal: Provide evidence and/or images of the people you identify to better aid Rias Gremory and the Devils in keeping track of the people in question.

Ongoing Quest

Quest Reward: +3000 EXP per person reported, random fiscal reward from [Rias Gremory].

Bonus Reward: +3000 EXP per person identified in an easily transmittable manner, +500 Reputation with [Rias Gremory] and [Sona Sitri], +500 Reputation with [?] and [?].

Quest Failure: Trouble on the Horizon...

Accept?

Y

Issei made it back to his base and settled in the six mat room that was the base proper before he examined the other screens that had popped up at the same time he had accepted the quest.

[Reputation System Unlocked]

Congratulations! You have successfully reached the proper point to allow the [Gaming Gear] to activate the Reputation System!

For here on out, your actions and words will have an effect of how people, groups, organisations and even nations see you once they are aware of your existence. Those who do not know of you will automatically have a [Neutral] Reputation with you, something that will change once they are aware of you.

There are various stages of Reputation. They are as follows:

At War - Whomsoever bears this level is against you without question. -60% to any Reputation gains to people in this group, +10 to all combat-related actions against them.

Hated - The bearer of this level despises you for whatever reason. -45% to any Reputation gains with people on this level, -30% to [Teamwork] if in the same party.

Disliked - People on this level do not like you. At all. -30% to all Reputation gains with people on this level, -15% to [Teamwork] if in the same party.

Unfriendly - While not against you, this level means that they don't exactly welcome you with open arms either. - 10% to all Reputation gains with people on this level, -5% to [Teamwork] if in the same party.

Neutral - Not for you, not against you. Hell, people on this level might not even know you. No Buffs or Debuffs at this level.

Friendly - People on this level like you. You're a friend. +10% to Reputation gains, + 5% to [Teamwork] if in the same party.

Well Liked - You're a buddy, you're a pal! +20% to Reputation gains, + 10% to [Teamwork] if in the same party.

Honoured - You are treated with great respect and friendliness. +25% to Reputation gains, +15% to [Teamwork] if in the same party.

Exalted - You've reached the top! Utmost love, respect and friendliness at this level. +30% to Reputation gains, +20% to [Teamwork] if in the same party, with an additional +10% if the Reputation bar is maxed out.

Of course, this is for people. There are differing tables for organisations, businesses and nations that you have or lack Reputation with, which you can look up later by saying 'Reputation' to open the [Reputation] page.

Just so you know, you are currently at a [Neutral] Relationship with Rias Gremory, mostly due to the runaround that you gave her at the Ratman Burrows and setting a pack of Giant Rats on her Peerage. You might want to do something about that, up to you whether you take the advice or not.

"Well...that's something." Issei remarked with a blink of surprise. It was something he'd seen in certain galge, eroge and other dating sim-type games, so it made sense that [The Gaming Gear] would have it to cover the social aspect of life. At a guess, he hadn't interacted with enough people who knew about the Sacred Gear enough times before now in order to activate it.

Dismissing that screen, he pulled up the second, which was basically a list of Reputation gains with both Rias Gremory and Sona Sitri due to him handing over all of that paperwork he'd taken from Project Rat Poison. It was, he calculated, just about half a point of reputation per page that he'd handed over.

The third page was the acquisition of a new skill.

As a result of a specific action, the skill [Dealmaking] has been created!

[Dealmaking] (Passive) [LV1, 0%]

Dealmaking is a skill as old as the first iteration of politics, whereby people bargained for food with tools and crude money. It got more political as tribes formed out of primitive man and positions within tribes became a source of greater respect (and a larger amount of food). Over the millennia, the ability to forge deals has been a key part of society and a vital tool for survival in any political arena. As you seem to be determined to involve yourself with Devils, it's a very good thing you created this skill, isn't it?

- Grants a +1% chance to the success of any deal being made between yourself and another party.

As a skill, it was...underwhelming, and the snark from whatever bedamned entity was inside his Sacred Gear didn't help much, but it did have a point; the saying 'making a deal with a Devil' had to have some reason for its existence, after all.

After dismissing the screen, Issei looked up something that had bugged him since it had appeared...the [Gaia's Blessing] upgrade that his base possessed. He hadn't purchased it, and Ddraig had nothing to do with Gaia as far as he knew, so it likely had something to do with the [Gaming Gear]. So he opened his Base Interface and pressed the button to bring up the information about the blessing.

[Gaia's Blessing] (Permanent, Passive)

A gift to one who bears the Sacred Gear representing her, this blessing of the Primordial Earth Goddess multiplies the amount of ambient MP drawn into the base by four times the stated amount per hour so long as the base is built underground. It also reduces the cost of any earth, rock, or stone monster summoned or created within the labyrinth by half of its cost.

Issei's jaw was dangling somewhere around his ankles as he read the short paragraph. It quadrupled his base's hourly MP gathering?! That was 400 MP per hour! That was insane! And the discount to the three types of monsters he could make in the labyrinth above the base was also pretty damn good!

Snapping his fingers in realisation, Issei pulled out the book that contained [Golem Magic] that he'd gotten ahold of a while back. Summoning and commanding minions wasn't something he could see as meshing well with his fighting style, so he'd wondered if he should just sell it to the store...but now that he had this base, he was considering something...

Standing up, he reached out and tapped the floating core of the base with the book, which made a screen pop up, as he'd hoped.

Do you wish to offer the [Golem Magic] Skill Book to the Base Core to use in the Dungeon?

Y/N

"Hehehehe...let's see what this does!" Issei cackled and hit the 'Y' key. The book dissolved into motes of blue light and entered the Base Core. After a moment, another window popped up.

Golem Magic absorbed! You can now create golems as monsters inside the labyrinth!

As Golem Magic is only at Level 1, only four types of golems can be unlocked at this time. Do you wish to select which golems are unlocked, randomise, or merely select what element the unlocked golems should be before randomising?

- Select

- Randomise

- Designate Element and Randomise

Considering the endless number of golems there had to be, Issei figured that simply selecting what element was enough. Granted, selecting the golems he could use would likely be beneficial, but he really, really didn't want to drag this out too long. Selecting 'earth' and then randomise, he waited patiently.

Randomising amongst [Earth Golems]...done!

Blueprint: [Dogū Golem] acquired!

Blueprint: [Golem Dragon] acquired!

Blueprint: [Brick Golem] acquired!

Blueprint: [Eternal Mud Golem] acquired!

"That was quick..." Issei blinked before the screen changed, bringing up the stats and descriptions of the monsters.

[Dogū Golem] (25 MP to Create)

LV1-LV10

An earth golem made in the image of a Dogū, a prehistoric piece of Japanese statuary. To be precise, this particular blueprint resembles the type of Dogū made in the Jōmon period and the most well-known type of Dogū. While a Dogū Golem has no moving legs or arms, it is able to levitate in order to move and attacks by firing beams of focused mana from its eyes. While not a very strong adversary, it is cheap and easy to mass produce to use in human wave tactics.

HP: 100-600

MP: N/A

STR: 1-3

STA: 10-25

DEX: 1-5

INT: 0

WIS: 0

Skills: [Levitation], [Mana Beams], [Golem Core]

[Golem Dragon] (75 MP to Create)

LV5-LV15

A rock golem made in the image of the type of dragon known as a Land Dragon, a breed of dragon that has only atrophied, vestigial wings remaining by some quirk of evolution. Slow and bulky, about the size of a carthorse, the main use for these golems is to shield weaker and more fragile golems from attack. If needs must, the Golem Dragon can attack with its large and heavy front limbs.

HP: 300-625

MP: N/A

STR: 15-25

STA: 20-25

DEX: 5-10

INT: 0

WIS: 0

Skills: [Rock Solid], [Slow and Purposeful], [Golem Core]

[Brick Golem] (50 MP to Create)

LV10-LV20

A golem made of numerous fired mud bricks assembled around a central core. First used in Egypt by wizard-priests, it was spread to Europe and Asia by the magic users accompanying invading armies during the Bronze Age. Being made up of many separate individual pieces, a Brick Golem is able to change its shape and appearance based on the situation it finds itself in. The main disadvantage that this golem possesses is that it is easily scattered if struck with great physical force, exposing the Golem Core that empowers it.

HP: 50-400

MP: N/A

STR: 5-20

STA: 10-20

DEX: 10-20

INT: 0

WIS: 0

Skills: [Body Disassembly], [Body Reassembly], [Dispersion Defence], [Golem Core]

[Eternal Mud Golem] (150 MP to Create)

LV20

A very unusual type of golem created as a result of advanced alchemic processes gone awry. Its body is made of mud infused with a special type of liquid core, bypassing the usual golem weakness of having a single vulnerable point that can disable it if destroyed. Unless at least 95% of the body is destroyed at once, the golem will regenerate any damage dealt to it. On the other hand, it is expensive to make and requires some careful positioning, as it rarely leaves the place where it is created. To attack, it can spew mud for ranged attacks and elongate its limbs to use as weapons.

HP: 700-1050

MP: N/A

STR: 20-30

STA: 35

DEX: 25-30

INT: 0

WIS: 0

Skills: [High-Speed Body Regeneration], [Amorphous Body], [Core and Body as One], [Mud Shot], [High-Speed HP Regeneration]

Issei had to whistle at the four golems that had been selected. All but the last had variable levels, and the first had a variety of uses from simple ZERG Rush tactics, to ranged support, to flanking manoeuvres. The dragon one was a Tank, plain and simple, designed to absorb damage and attract the attention of an attacker. The Brick Golem was a more generalist design intended to act as the mainstay of the golem forces as it had the most balanced stats out of the four of them.

As for the [Eternal Mud Golem], its description was a very obvious hint to use it as a Floor Boss. He could see why though; the sheer amount of skills and the sheer strength that the damn monster were practically shouting at him to 'USE ME AS A BOSS!'

Checking the time, Issei resolved to build up his base's first floor after a few days passed, but right now he needed to head home for dinner. A few days' of MP absorption should give him plenty to play with.

Four Days Later

After School, Shopping District, Kuō Town

Stepping lightly down the street, Issei smiled rather cheerily as he did some window shopping. The last few days, he hadn't gone near his base at all to allow the MP to accumulate. By the time he went back five days after the base had been created, there should be somewhere along the region of 48000 MP in the Core, which would be more than enough to plant a few monsters on the first floor, as well as unlock traps and possibly create a second floor as well.

'If [Gaia's Blessing] hadn't been there, I would only be able to count on about 12000 MP by tomorrow.' the Sekiryūtei mused with a smirk. 'I could have still worked with that much, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth on this one. I need a secure base to fall back on for my family if someone manages to stumble onto the fact that the 'Red Armoured Man' and 'Hyōdō Issei' are the same person. And a six-mat room ain't doing it!'

He had, instead of going to his base, spent the past few days scouting out the rest of Kuō in order to use the [Dungeon Locator] App to locate as many of the dungeons as he could. In addition to the three (plus his own base) that he'd discovered with his first use, there were two more on the other side of town. He'd gotten close enough to discover each of their names and minimum level requirements.

The Dungeon of Six Realms (LV30), the Dwelling of Mages (LV15), the Castle of Yōkai (LV17), the Ruin of Golems (LV18), the Hall of Puppets (LV18) and the Lair of Beasts (LV17).

None of them exactly sounded inviting. Out of all of them, the first one sounded like it might have to do with the Six Worlds of Buddhism (he only knew about that thanks to Naruto) and that didn't endear him to that one even more.

Issei was brought out of his thoughts by a child running past and almost knocking him over. Blinking, he looked around as the change in scenery registered. Issei rolled his eyes at himself as he realised he'd gotten so lost in thought that he'd wandered into the damned park.

"Eeep!" A cute sounding voice cried out and Issei turned around just in time to see a girl trip over and expose her pure white panties as her dress flew up.

'Ooooohhhh! Pure white for the win!' he enthused to himself. '10/10, would see again!'

Snapping himself out of his staring, he moved over to see if the girl needed any help. She had just taken a tumble, after all.

"Are you alright, miss?" he asked her as she managed to sit up, and he almost froze at the sight of her. The girl was simply adorable. She had long blond hair half-covered by a wimple, pretty emerald-green eyes and she had a kind of aura around her that was stirring up all of Issei's protective urges. Her outfit, now that he was actually looking at it properly, was a more elaborate, teal version of a Christian nun's habit. He blinked as he saw her name and title.

Asia Argento LV19

[Excommunicated Holy Priestess]

'A holy maiden? Exiled? What on earth?' Issei thought in confusion.

The blond girl looked at him and spoke in a language that Issei only vaguely recognised as being Italian. Seeing his confused expression, she muttered something under her breath before trying again.

"Hello? I'm fine, thank you." she said. Her voice was kind and sweet as a bell. He made a mental note about her sudden fluency in Japanese.

"Here." Issei offered her a hand, which she gratefully took. As he helped her to her feet, Issei rejoiced in the feeling of a girl's hand. It was softer than he'd expected.

"I'm sorry for the trouble." Asia said with a quick bow as she made it to her feet and released his hand. "I'm Asia Argento...or would that be 'Argento Asia' considering the country?"

"Western names stay as they are." Issei clarified for her. "It's nice to meet you Asia-san. I'm Hyōdō Issei, but you can just call me Issei."

"Issei-san." Asia smiled. "It's very nice to meet you as well. Please, just call me Asia."

Seeing the suitcase at her feet, the Sekiryūtei asked, "So have you only just arrived in Kuō, Asia?"

"Y-Yes. I've only been in the country for a few says and the town for a few hours, but...I'm..." the nun (she had to be with the outfit she was wearing) blushed slightly. "...I'm...sort of...lost. I was assigned to a church in this town and I can't read kanji very well."

Issei was going to die from a cuteness overload, he was certain. How could one girl be so damned cute?!

"Ahem. Do you have the address written down?" he asked her once he brought himself under control. "I've lived here all my life, so I should be able to tell you where it is."

The blond girl brightened up at his offer before reaching into the leather bag she had on her hip. After rummaging around inside it for a moment, she produced a slip of paper that she passed to him.

'This is the old abandoned church near the edge of the hills. It's been left unattended since I was a kid.' Issei frowned as he read the address. 'There are at least two other churches just outside of Kuō that are newer, and are more easily accessible to worshippers, so why send someone to try and restart this one? I smell something fishy going on...'

Asia seemed way too innocent to try and deceive him, so it was possible that she was legitimately being sent to this church by whatever denomination of Christianity she had taken vows with, but it didn't add up. The other churches had at least one priest and at least four nuns apiece.

"Are you being sent ahead to set things up, Asia?" he asked as he put on a face of pondering.

"No, I'm being sent to help the priest that's already stationed there, Father Freed Sellzen." the nun replied.

And that was another incongruity. Asia was Italian, while this Freed character (the man's name gave Issei a sense of unease for some reason) sounded Italian as well. Why was a Japanese church supposedly being run by a foreigner when the other two churches nearby were run by native Japanese? Add in her [Excommunicated Holy Priestess] title and it was clear that something was afoot.

Due to your clearly out-of-character good reasoning, insight and paranoia, you gain +5 WIS and INT!

'Damned Sacred Gear!' Issei thought crossly before returning his attention to Asia.

"I'm sorry, but is it possible you have the wrong address, Asia?" he asked. "This belongs to an abandoned church that's been unused since I was a child."

"I-I'm sure it's the right address, Issei-san." Asia seemed to droop unhappily.

For whatever reason, he really, really didn't want Asia to go to this church. It was however not possible to just say, 'Oh, I have a really bad feeling about this church, Asia, so don't go there.' As nice as Asia was, it was always possible she'd take offence at him saying that for no reason.

"OK then, I'll lead you there." Issei said with a sigh. "But I want you to be careful, Asia. I'm getting a bad feeling about that church. There have been a lot of strange things going on around here recently, and an abandoned church all of a sudden getting staffed is another one."

"I'll be careful, Issei-san." the sweet girl promised.

"OK..." Issei was reluctant, but he had promised.

Leading her through the part and streets of Kuō Town, he watched Asia looking around in childish wonder at what was to him just his hometown. He got the impression of quite a bit of naïveté regarding regular, everyday life from the girl. That wasn't the most astonishing thing about her though; before they had left the park, she had healed a young boy using what he could tell was a Sacred Gear of some sort!

'Sacred Gears were created by the Christian God of the Bible, and Asia has one that is possibly very useful, so why excommunicate her?' Issei wondered, hiding his agitation from the blissfully unaware Asia. 'They obviously once valued her highly if the 'Holy Priestess' part of her title is accurate. What on earth could an innocent and sweet girl like Asia possibly have done to justify excommunication?'

He felt very indignant on Asia's behalf.

Eventually, they came to a halt in front of the abandoned church. It sat atop a hill, with steps leading up to its large double doors. Back when he had been a kid, he'd had a Christian friend whose father, a priest, had occasionally invited the Hyōdō family to attend church. Shortly after another one of the priests, Yaegaki Masaomi, had died in mysterious circumstances, his friend and their family had moved to England.

He missed Rin.

Anyway, the bad feeling he had about the church redoubled as a pop-up appeared in front of him.

[Dungeon Discovered!]

You have discovered the dungeon [Nest of the Fallen] (LV35)!

You gain 400 EXP!

Do you wish to enter this Dungeon?

Warning: Entering this dungeon whilst being three or more levels beneath the minimum level displayed is dangerous to your life!

Y|N

Well now, that was just the icing on the cake, wasn't it? Well, at least he knew where the Fallen in town were hiding out. Now the question was whether they were of Kokabiel's Faction of the Grigori or not. Also, it explained why Asia was here; being excommunicated by the Church meant that she had nowhere to go and, rather than join the devils, the Grigori would seem to be a more reasonable group. He just really, really hoped that whoever was in charge here wouldn't be cruel to Asia.

Subtly hitting the 'N' button, he turned to Asia. "Well, here we are Asia."

"Thank you so much for guiding me, Issei-san." Asia bowed to him, which made him blush slightly, as she was bowing a bit too deeply for what he felt he deserved.

"I-It was nothing, Asia." he scratched the back of his head bashfully before pulling himself together. "Listen Asia, I don't know what's going on here, but this whole situation is worrying me. I'll be in the park where we met two days from now at around about the same time. If you want to speak to me, go there then and we'll talk, OK?"

The nun looked at him shyly. "O-OK, Issei-san. I'll...see you then?"

Why did she sound so hopeful? Was she lonely? Gah, she was just too damned cute!

"See you there." Issei smiled warmly at her. As she turned away, he muttered, "[Observe]" and then noticed another screen popping up.

You have encountered [Asia Argento]! You are [Well-Liked] by her!

Ohhhh...what a nice girl!

Shaking his head as he walked away, sneaking glances at Asia as she walked up the steps to the church as he did so, Issei really felt torn at this point. He had a really bad feeling that something bad was going to happen there, and he didn't want a sweet girl like Asia near it at all. On the other hand, without revealing that he too had a Sacred Gear, he couldn't help her without compromising his own safety.

He tried to distract himself by looking at Asia's stats, some of which really surprised him.

Name: Asia Argento

Title: Excommunicated Holy Priestess

Level: 19

HP: 440

MP: 513

STR: 20

STA: 22

DEX: 17

INT: 27

WIS: 19 (-5 due to [Naïve])

LUK: 30

CHA: 50 (-5 due to [Depressed])

Special Status: [Aura of Purity], [Naïve], [Slight Dojikko], [Draconic Affinity], [Depressed], [Excommunicated]

Sacred Gear: [Twilight Healing]

Asia Argento was given over to the custody of the Catholic Church as a baby by her mother. Raised as a foundling, she took vows as a nun as soon as she was able. At some point during her childhood, she discovered that she possessed the rare Sacred Gear known as the [Twilight Healing], which is able to heal almost any wound. As such, she was treated as a holy woman by the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, she healed a wounded Devil recently, and was excommunicated as a result.

A vein beat a pulse on his head as Issei found himself glaring at the screen in front of him in anger. Excommunicated just because she healed a Devil?! What the hell?!

[Gamer's Mind] activated!

Forcibly calmed down by his Sacred Gear, Issei took a deep breath, let it out slowly and started walking again, this time focusing his mind on the puzzle that was Asia's situation. Something about the way she was excommunicated rang false with him.

Then it hit him: if Asia had been a Holy Priestess, then how could she have just stumbled upon a wounded Devil? Presumably she had been guarded around the clock, and wherever she went would have been on church grounds. Did holy ground affect Devils?

A quick check using the [Gamer's Gear] said that yes, properly consecrated ground did indeed affect Devils, striking fear into them if the consecration was powerful enough, feeling mildly uncomfortable on a barely consecrated site. One of the last places Devils would go if wounded, in Issei's opinion. To him that spoke of one thing about this situation.

It was a set-up. Asia had been tricked, deceived and betrayed.

In all likelihood, the Devil had deliberately wounded himself before placing himself/herself in Asia's path in order to get her kicked out of the Church. Issei doubted that just getting Asia excommunicated was the Devil's endgame though. Perhaps the Devil in question wanted to make her one of their Peerage? [Twilight Healing] would be an amazingly good addition to any Peerage if it worked on Devils.

'Something else to ask Gremory-sempai about the next time I speak to her.' he thought icily. He'd examine Asia's Special Status at another time; right now, he had a lot of aggression to work out. Bringing up the [Dungeon Locator], he set the course for the [Dwelling of Mages] Dungeon.

Unbeknownst to him, a pair of figures were watching him from atop some nearby buildings. One had long crimson hair reminiscent of Rias Gremory's and was dressed in a black and white suit. The other was a girl with her hair tied up in twintails and dressed pink and white outfit you'd expect a Mahō Shōjo to wear.

"This is becoming intriguing, wouldn't you say, Sera?" the man said to his companion.

"Yup! Thanks for inviting me to look in on him, 'Zechs-chan." the girl replied cheerfully. "If he hurts So-tan, though...!"

"Then you can introduce him to his own personal Ice Age." the man agreed placidly. "He seems to be going out of his way to keep our little sisters alive though, which we owe him for. Things are going to become pretty interesting over the next few weeks..."

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Next Chapter: Attack of the Purifiers

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