Author's Note: And here it is! The Epilogue! This'll answer a few unresolved questions and set up some more! Although that more is really just things that would be incorporated in a sequel. This chapter really feels like the end of Book 2 of a Trilogy. Book 3 will have to wait and be separate, that way those that are exhausted and wish to move on, can, while those that wish to continue this journey can do so with me at a later date (if you still care when I get back around to picking this up again). In the mean time, thank you all! It was a long journey, but I'm glad to have walked it with all of you!
I released it early because, well, there wasn't really a reason to hold off a week any more.
It should have felt good to be home.
Between being out on mission and moving into Tatsumi's home to watch over Ymir, there hadn't been many opportunities to come back here. The few times she had, it was merely to train Tatsumi and Bennia in a safe, private environment that she could control. Even when she returned to Heaven, it was usually for Duty and little for rest and relaxation.
The young Angels that watched over the place with her were good to her. The brilliant white tiles that filled the courtyard were spotless, the walls washed and scrubbed, the beautiful pots of flowers and bushes that ringed the temple, tended with love and care. Nothing was out of place. Gabriel truly appreciated their efforts maintaining and repairing the courtyard after each of her sessions with Tatsumi.
There was a peace and tranquility about her temple that just couldn't be duplicated anywhere on Earth. Even the Vatican, the most holy of places on Earth, was only a pale imitation.
At least, that was how she remembered her Sanctuary.
It was still as beautiful as ever. The light shining down from the white ceiling high above was just as brilliant as before. Not a spec of dust could be seen anywhere and the flowers bloomed energetically at her arrival.
Yet something was off.
It wasn't something tangible that one could see or touch. The place simply felt off.
Like the hushed silence that follows an inappropriate joke at a formal event. A sense as if everyone and everything was holding their breath.
It made her skin itch uncomfortably.
"—clean out some of the arch bishops," Xenovia was speaking animatedly at her side. "I thought bishops were supposed to be above earthly desires. They spent more time looking at our—"
Xenovia didn't seem to notice the odd feeling laying about the place. Gabriel couldn't really expect her to. Even if she had the sensitivity to notice, she hadn't been here long enough, or often enough, to get a sense for how it should feel.
Her mind was on those old men in the Vatican. They were faithful, to an extent, but Xenovia was right that their ranks could use some cleaning. Gabriel had felt more than a few lustful stares linger upon her bosom.
Which brought Gabriel's mind to a niggling little worry that had plagued her ever since they'd completed their mission to the Vatican.
Michael hadn't lied to her. A member of the Hero Faction had most certainly been attacking the holy sites in and around the Vatican. No word of what he had spoken was false. That was part of the problem though.
He had left a lot out.
It had been a single member of the Hero Faction, and not even one that had awoken to their Balance Breaker. It did not require Gabriel's presence. It didn't even require Xenovia's. She could name half a dozen Exorcists stationed at the Vatican who were more than capable, and willing, to hunt down the arsonist.
In fact, they'd been doing just that when Gabriel and Xenovia had arrived on scene. The exorcists on hand had gladly accepted their help and with it they'd most certainly captured the culprit faster than they would have.
Would it have mattered though? The individual had been on the run, dodging the Exorcists. He hadn't been in a position to commit another crime.
Which left Gabriel with that niggling worry.
Why had Michael sent Xenovia and herself to deal with the issue?
There was a very simple and easy explanation. Perhaps Michael hadn't been aware of how minor an issue it was. Perhaps whoever had explained to him had over-exaggerated in their panic. It certainly wasn't an impossibility. Michael wasn't Him, he did make mistakes, had made mistakes in the past even.
Gabriel could remember several vividly.
So she held hope and faith that was simply all it had been. With that thought held on to firmly, the worry had been suppressed. It had all but disappeared.
Then she had stepped into her Sanctuary and that worry came back stronger than ever before. This feeling. It wasn't just here in her Sanctuary. It radiated throughout all of Heaven.
Something had happened.
She needed to get to the bottom of this.
Gabriel ascended the steps of her temple to the large double door entrance. The doors, carved with beautiful motifs of Angels playing amongst the clouds, swung silently open at her approach.
"Mirana-san!" Gabriel called out as she stepped inside with Xenovia close on her heels.
"Yes Gabriel-sama!" a voice called out from deeper inside. There was the quicker pattering of feet and a beautiful woman with gray-blue eyes hurried out from the back rooms. She wore a black and white nun outfit that hid well the curvaceous figure Gabriel knew she had. Gabriel was quite fond of Mirana, incredibly shy and devoted and someone who she could sympathize with.
Mirana knew all about the back pain associated with large breasts.
"Did you resolve the issue at the Vatican?" Mirana asked hopefully. Her eyes shone with devotion and joy at being able to serve her personally.
"Oh yes, it was no trouble at all," Gabriel said, giving Mirana a soft, gentle smile. "We punished the man responsible for such terrible things but..." she tilted her head and gave an almost innocent look about the place. "Did something happen while we were gone? Everything feels so different."
"Ah…" Mirana's eyes dropped to the floor.
That worry that had been niggling at the back of her mind became full blown alarm bells.
"Is it something I can help with?" Gabriel asked softly. Doing her best to keep her emotions suppressed. There was no reason to jump to a conclusion early. "We have just returned, but it was not particularly taxing."
"It's already over, Gabriel-sama," Mirana said softly, "I'm sorry."
Mirana quaked like a leaf on the wind. "Michael-sama told me not to tell you." Her voice was barely a whisper.
It was only for a single instant, but the soft smile on her face broke, and became something ugly and twisted. The soft smile returned before anyone could notice. So that was it. Something had happened and everyone was waiting for her reaction to it. That was why it felt as if all of Heaven was holding its breath.
"It is fine, Mirana-san," Gabriel said, gently patting her shoulder. It was not her fault. Gabriel would never blame her. While Gabriel was her King, Michael led Heaven. "He shouldn't have placed you in such a situation where you would have to choose. I do not blame you. I will go speak with my brother hence forth."
"I'm sorry, Gabriel-sama, next time—"
Gabriel stopped her with a finger to her lips. She gave the woman a genuine smile. "There's nothing to apologize for. You are not in the wrong here. I go now to speak with my brother to ensure that there is no next time. Just relax." She gave Xenovia a smile as well. "Why don't you serve Xenovia some tea while I speak with my brother. She can tell you all about our trip."
Mirana hesitated until Xenovia took her elbow and pulled her away. Xenovia was already talking animatedly about the trip.
Sometimes she envied Xenovia's naivety. Despite everything she had seen and been through, she had nothing but genuine, honest purity in her heart. Well, except for Tatsumi and her sexual desire on that end but if they ever got that chamber built that wouldn't be an issue either.
She watched them until the two of them disappeared into the back rooms. Then the smile disappeared. She turned on her heel and marched for a separate door. This one led deeper into Zebel, the Sixth Heaven. She grabbed the handle and pulled it open, revealing a long hallway made out of pure light so bright it would not only blind, but incinerate all but the most powerful of devils.
"Griselda," Gabriel called out as she stepped out into the hallway.
"It's worse than you fear," Griselda said, appearing at her side from seemingly thin air.
"Explain," Gabriel said as she started down the hallway with Griselda at her side. She wanted to trust Michael, her brother, but after seeing Mirana she wasn't so certain she should. Not with how much he had apparently declined to inform her about earlier.
"The Khaos Brigade attacked while you were gone."
Gabriel's heart skipped a beat. "Heaven?"
"Not directly, no," Griselda said. "It was a full-on assault on both Rias Gremory's and Sona Sitri's Rating Games. There were a lot of causalities on both sides. I don't think anything is ever going to be the same."
"I'll need to find out the details later," Gabriel said. She knew who to ask. Tatsumi wouldn't keep anything from her, not deliberately at least. Not like her brother apparently seems to have done. "I should have been here for that."
"About that, Gabriel-sama," Griselda said. There was a rather scary look on her face. "For whatever reason, despite having been given invitations to watch both games, Michael-sama wouldn't let any Angel go." She gave her a sidelong glance. "He knew this would happen. He knew Ophis would attack and said nothing."
That was impossible. Her brother would never do that. He's the type of individual that would gladly give valuable, divine treasures to devils if he thought it would help promote peace and prosperity between the factions. Keeping Angels back so they were not killed was one thing. They were just now starting to rebuild their numbers. But to not even warn the devils of the possibility of an attack?
That was not her brother.
"You must be mistaken. Perhaps he simply—"
"There's one last thing, Gabriel-sama," Griselda cut her off gently.
"An Angel by the name of Haniel met with Michael the evening before the games."
Gabriel froze on the spot. Her eyes wide. Haniel went by another name. A name people knew her by more commonly these days.
"Haniel was there at Sona Sitri's rating game." No, stop. Don't say any more! "She wasn't a Fallen Angel. She had pure white wings." Just like Natsume, Ariel. No, she couldn't possibly be doing His work. He couldn't possibly condone all the pain and suffering Esdeath had spread throughout the world. "She attacked both Sona Sitri and Tatsumi. What's more, when Ophis arrived… she helped the Infinite Dragon take Tatsumi somewhere. Serafall gave chase but you know how that will end."
"If even half of what you say is true, then my brother has much to explain," Gabriel said as she slowed and came to a stop in front of a large white door. "Thank you Griselda. You may leave. I need to speak with my brother about what has happened."
"Of course," Griselda said, bowing slightly. "I've spoken with your other Brave Saints after this incident. None of us like this situation very much. Whatever you decide, we will follow. We are your Brave Saints, not Michaels."
"Thank you." She meant it. It was heart warming to hear that from them.
Griselda gave her another bow before departing, heading back the way they'd come. Gabriel watched her for a moment before turning to face the door to Michael's Sanctuary. She'd heard one side, it was now time to hear the other. She would withhold judgement until she had all the information at her finger tips. Her love for her brother afforded him at least the chance to defend himself.
She pushed gently on the door. It opened without effort. There were no locks on this level of Heaven. There was no need for any. She walked through the door and found herself in a massive circular library. A large staircase spiralled up into infinity, connecting a thousand and more circular balconies together. The walls were lined with bookcases the whole way up, and it was full. It was as if someone had gathered every book, every story, every novel in existence and had placed them all here in this one room.
Then ground floor was covered in discarded books. They created mountainous piles that one was forced to navigate around. In the very center of the room was a simple couch with a pair of crystal side tables. There were a number of books on the side tables, the many half-finished stories Michael had started but yet to finish.
Michael was a voracious reader. As the core of the Great System he wasn't allowed to leave Heaven often, or for very long. That meant he often lost himself in stories as a means to explore the world outside.
There was something else there. A curious artifact that most would overlook, but Gabriel recognized. The Left Eye of God. The sacred gear that Ophis had stolen at the Peace Conference.
Gabriel found her brother sitting on that very couch. Strangely though, he didn't have a book in his hand like she was used to seeing. In fact, it looked as if he was waiting for her.
"For what it is worth, Gabriel, it pained me as much as it will pain you," Michael said softly.
No denial, but then that wasn't how Michael did things. He never lied, and he never shirked responsibility. He hadn't waited for her to ask. He knew why she was here. There was no side to hear from him. The words Griselda had spoken had been the truth.
"Why did you send me away?" Gabriel asked as she padded softly across the library. She came to a stop a few feet away from her brother. "If you knew Tatsumi would be targeted we could have organized a response. Ophis is powerful, yes, but she cannot defeat the combined might of Heaven and the Underworld. Odin was supposed to be there, was he not? And if Night Raid was as well that meant there were Gods and Goddesses from other Pantheons too."
Michael let out a heavy sigh as he rose to his feet. "Because this was the path that led to the fewest deaths. We could have possibly beaten Ophis, but at what cost? How many Angels, Devils and Fallen would have died? How many Gods from the other Pantheons would have fallen? What would the state of the World be in if such a titanic battle had taken place? Some died, yes, but far fewer than if we had resisted."
"So you threw them all away. The devils, the fallen, Night Raid, even… Tatsumi, to the whims of that creature!"
Gabriel couldn't believe she was hearing this. That kind, loving brother of hers that had been so willing to sacrifice himself for others, had instead sacrificed others for himself.
"How are we supposed to make peace with the other factions when we do this to them?!" Gabriel demanded. How could he do this? All their efforts. All of Tatsumi's efforts. If it gets out that Heaven deliberately withheld information that they knew the attack was pending… "How can we ever expect them to trust us!"
How can you ever expect me to trust you?
She stopped just short of saying that. But oh how she wanted to. That kind, benevolent brother of hers. A figure that had been a model for all other Angels to emulate. That she looked up to and adored. For him to do this.
"And what about Night Raid? What about Tatsumi? Are they still alive?"
"Night Raid lives," Michael assured him.
"And Tatsumi?" her brother was silent. Whether it was because he refused to say, or didn't know, she wasn't sure. It wasn't good enough for her. "Michael! Answer me!"
"I don't know," Michael said. "He hasn't been seen since Ophis took him away with Haniel."
"Excuse me?" Gabriel asked, her voice as cold as her heart. Ophis was one thing. She could see that thing leaving Tatsumi alive. It was like Ymir. It didn't think like them. Esdeath was something completely different.
It felt like a hand was squeezing her heart. Fear boiled in the pit of her stomach. Just the thought of an injured and broken Tatsumi, or whatever was left of him after Ophis was done, being left to the mercy of that woman. Images of his ruined body haunted her thoughts.
"You let Esdeath take Tatsumi away?"
"Serafall went with—"
"What is Serafall going to do against Ophis?"
Michael had no response.
"You let Tatsumi suffer how much at Esdeath's hand, for what?" Gabriel visibly reined her anger in. She knew why she'd been sent away. She wouldn't have stayed quietly here in Heaven while Tatsumi and Night Raid was attacked. She would have fought against Ophis just as fiercely as she knew Serafall had, no matter how hopeless it was. "Why did you send Xenovia and I away?"
"Because Haniel didn't want any harm to come to the two of you," Michael said softly. "And neither did I."
Michael's face snapped to the side. A shockwave of pure force whipped across the room, kicking the books off the table and sending others flying about the room. A large red handprint formed on his cheek. Gabriel held, hand extended in front of her.
It was the first time Gabriel had ever hit her brother.
"That's not for you to decide." She took a long, calming breath, her mind finally made. "I'm taking a break from Heaven." Gabriel told her brother in no uncertain terms.
Then she turned her back on her brother and walked out. On him, and on Heaven.
Diehauser Belial hastened down the lavish estate corridor, his foot steps silent against the plush red carpet that ran its length. The place was a symbol of his wealth and status. An arched ceiling with elaborate mosaics of devils in battle against the Fallen and their Angelic counter parts, beautiful paintings, delicately carved statues.
He normally didn't pay them much attention but today he did. He was in a good mood, and plenty of reason to be in one. So much so he even gave a courteous nod to the servants as they curtsied to him in his passage.
What a day yesterday had been. So much excitement. So much change. Even he couldn't have hoped that things had gone as well as they had. It was as if God himself had decided to grant a tiny bit of mercy on him.
He stopped at a large, oak door with a gold handle. He pulled a small silver key from the pocket of his pants and unlocked the door. Turning the handle he opened it and stepped inside. It was dark inside, the room was lit by a few simple candles set in a small candelabra on the table. It was enough. Devils didn't need much light and he knew this room better than any other.
A large four-poster bed dominated the center of the far wall. On either side were long chest dressers. Taller wardrobes flanked those where he had his formal suits hung. The large bay windows would have dark red curtains drawn across them and there would be a number of books lining shelves on the wall to his left.
Diehauser Belial shucked off his overcoat and draped it over a chair at the table before tugging at his neck, pulling a button loose of his shirt.
It truly had been a satisfying day. "I might even offer up a prayer later." He was simply that happy.
"What would your peers think of that?"
Diehauser Belial simply smiled and closed the door behind him. He locked it before turning his gaze to the woman on the bed. Voluptuous, and with breasts that rivaled Gabriel Celeste. Her hair that was normally done up in a bun had been undone, letting the long, luscious locks to cascade down her back. She was also completely naked, legs wide, open, inviting him in.
Lord Phenex and Serafall had both wanted him to sire heirs. They never specified with whom he had to sire them with. Katerea had undergone some remarkable changes ever since Ophis had… worked her over. Still full of ambition and desire, but far more willing to follow those better than her.
Someone like 'The Emperor.'
"My peers are scrambling about trying to figure out who to blame for the catastrophe that has struck our society," Diehauser Belial said, letting out a soft chuckle. He padded softly across the room and settled onto the bed next to Katerea.
"Are you not afraid they will suspect you?"
He slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her close. A hand dipped between her legs causing the woman to let out a pleasant noise. "And why would they suspect me? I did nothing. I can lay the blame for everything on Loki. He's dead, so he's in no position to present a counter argument. I'll have to send a thank you gift to that human, Akame, for taking care of him for me."
The beautiful woman pressed her breasts against his side and guided his fingers inside her. "And so Diehauser Belial, the first amongst the Rating Game players, gets away without consequence." She arched a brow at him. "I could always tell on you."
Diehauser Belial chuckled. "And who would believe you over me?"
When Ophis had approached him with her plan, he had readily agreed to it. She knew, somehow, about Cleria. About his cousin and what the Bael family did to her. She gave him a way to get back at them. To get back at this corrupt, broken society that got her killed.
Zekrum Bael was beyond Diehauser's ability to touch at the moment. His descendent, Sairaorg Bael, was not. Someone with aspirations to become a Satan and would eventually become the next head of House Bael would need the people on his side. Without the power of destruction he would need strength, influence, power.
Diehauser had just ruthlessly crushed that. Tatsumi and Sona Sitri had been wonderful pawns in that regard. Played perfectly into his hands.
Sona had very nearly beaten Sairaorg Bael, and that was prior to everyone realizing that they had actually been against a God, against Loki, of all people. That she managed to perform that well. That she and Hikaru, had fought off Esdeath in that final bought and even killed Syura.
Sona Sitri's name was being spoken far and wide across the land. People were already talking like if she'd actually fought against Sairaorg Bael in a proper, fair setting, she'd win. She might too. That peerage of hers, especially Hikaru unleashed, was something to see. No one would ever accept Hikaru being sealed again. They wanted to see that level of destruction again.
Sairaorg, in contrast, was in a far worse position. It didn't matter how or to whom, he'd lost control of his peerage to outside influence and had required assistance from Tatsumi and Night Raid to get that control back. Even better, his peerage, under the guidance of a God and with the assistance of Esdeath and Syura, had still very nearly lost to Sona Sitri. A great many powerful families had despised Sairaorg even before this game. They'd only sided with him because they despised Sona's dream even more.
That'd all changed after yesterday. They were not holding back.
It didn't matter that it had been Diehauser that had tricked Sairaorg and his two bishops and had them imprisoned so Loki, Esdeath and Syura could slip in quietly. Only two other people alive knew that fact. One of them was Ophis, the other was the woman in his arms. Even if they knew the truth, most would still pin the blame on Sairaorg for being so easily tricked.
Sona Sitri's dream was closer to being achieved than ever before while everyone else has had theirs crushed. Zephyrdor was a broken husk of a man. Rias had her peerage crushed. That, Diehauser had to admit, was a shame. He had nothing against the Gremory's personally, but sacrifices were sometimes necessary and she ended up being that sacrifice this time. Aside from her, Diodora has been banned after his affiliation with the Khaos Brigade became known and Sairaorg's reputation is in tatters.
Seekvaira was the only person that'd escaped from this relatively unscathed. She may have even benefited. After it became known that Diodora had cheated by accepting Ophis power, people had been more understanding of her loss to him.
There'd probably be a game between her and Sona Sitri in the near future. People would want to see how two strategically minded individuals faired. Everyone would expect Sona Sitri to win after the performance she just put on, but it would be interesting to watch. It would also give Seekvaira a means of regaining some honor.
But regardless, through all that, his goal of humiliating the Bael family had been achieved. It wasn't enough to assuage his desire for vengeance, but it was a fine start. A fine start indeed. And with Asmodeus dead, there was room for Diehauser to position someone that was sympathetic towards his ideals and causes into place.
The Bael family held too much power. Too much influence. That power needed to be shifted into areas that Diehauser could influence. Being 'The Emperor' didn't amount for much in the grand scheme of things. Society didn't go where he led, he was simply allowed to live as he pleased.
The society he desired. A place where Cleria's love for that exorcist would have been accepted. Sirzechs, Ajuka and Falbium were too kind. Too unwilling to do what was necessary. There was too much power centered in the old families. That power needed to be broken, stripped away. Given to those that knew how to use it properly.
Serafall would understand. At least the Serafall of the past would have. He'd give her a few years to get over what Esdeath did Tatsumi and her little sister. Let a few children soften the edge. Then he'd approach her with some of his… other ideas.
And if not, well, the position of Leviathan could always be taken away from her. He had a little trump card nestled in his arms that was far more now than she once was. Ophis had left her a present before she left. And she had not been idle during those months after the ill-fated attack on the Peace Conference.
Serafall Leviathan would find Katerea Leviathan a far different foe if they were ever to come face to face again.
Until then, he should probably fulfill his duties.
He gave Katerea a little smirk.
"I'm not going to hold back this time. We both have a duty to do if we wish to preserve our species and the purity of its blood."
Her arms came up around his neck. "I'm looking forward to all this 'purity' you speak of," Katerea whispered huskily as she pulled him down to the bed.
The hospital was bustling with more activity as usual when Sona walked through the sliding glass doors. The large lobby was filled with the moans and grunts of the injured. So many had been brought to this hospital that there wasn't any room for those with minor injuries to be given a bed. Most of the seats were filled with devils nursing this or that injury. A broken bone here, a split skull there.
Things that even simple healing would have been enough to fix. Yet that healing was being reserved for the critically injured, as were all the beds.
Nurses were scurrying about everywhere, some carrying blankets, others packets of blood. Still more were walking amongst those gathered in the lobby, tending to their needs as best they could.
"This is worse than Agraes," Hikaru said, walking up to her side. Sona had a new Kuoh Academy uniform brought to the Underworld for her. Of everyone in her peerage, she was the only one out of the hospital. The others would all make a full recovery, but they needed time to make that recovery. Healing magic was in short supply at the moment, being reserved only for the most critical of injuries. "What happened?"
"This was the brunt of Ophis' assault," Sona said as she started forward, her eyes scanning the crowd of injured for anyone she knew. When Ophis attacked, it hadn't been just Rias and her peerage, but the Satans, the guests and everyone watching the game. There'd been simultaneous attacks all across the Underworld designed with the express purpose of making it impossible for anyone to send reinforcements to Agraes where Ophis' primary target was. "We were lucky we had Tatsumi and Night Raid with us." And lucky Ophis hadn't brought the bulk of her forces against them like she had against Rias and her game.
"I hope he's alright," Hikaru said.
"We'll just have to trust my onee-sama," Sona said, deliberating pushing all thoughts of Tatsumi from her mind. She needed to stay strong and focused. Thinking about what happened to Tatsumi would break her.
It'd been almost two days and she still hadn't heard anything. Not from Tatsumi, or her onee-sama.
A nurse came up to them. Her face a mask of exhaustion and pain. Her eyes briefly dipped to Sona's left side. Sona hid her bandaged arm behind her back, a little self-conscious of the injury.
"Are you two looking for someone?" she asked slowly, her voice heavy with exhaustion.
"I am Sona Sitri, I'm looking for my friend, Rias Gremory," Sona said. "I heard she and her peerage were taken here."
The pained look in her eyes intensified, "yes. She and… what's left. She's on the second floor, third wing. Can't miss the room."
"Thank you," Sona said. The nurse was gone a moment later, far too busy tending to the other injured to give them any more time.
"What's left?" Hikaru whispered softly. "That's not good."
No, it wasn't. Sona steeled herself for the worst and started for the elevator. "Let's find Rias."
As they stepped off the elevator onto the second floor, they found more of the same as below. The hospital was filled to its limit with the injured. Groans of pain and cries for help came from everywhere. Sona blocked them out as best she could and headed for the third wing.
When they arrived it was easy to see why the nurse said she couldn't miss it. Sirzechs leaned against a wall next to one of the rooms. Arms crossed and head bowed. The man looked absolutely exhausted, drained both physically and emotionally. His face a mask of different emotions. Pain and regret. Anger and guilt.
He blamed himself for not being strong enough to protect his little sister and hated those that had brought so much pain and destruction to his people.
He looked up as they approached. A look of relief quickly spread across his face before his eyes dipped to her left arm. A pang of regret entered his eyes.
"This wasn't your fault," Sona said quietly, touching what was left of her left arm. There was nothing below the elbow, and the upper part of her arm would take months to heal completely, possibly longer. She'd already had it seen to by magic. They'd healed as much as they could. The rest of it would simply take time.
She'd need to get something artificial if she ever wanted the rest of the arm back.
"How bad was it over there?" Sirzechs asked.
"No one told you?"
"I just broke free from Dimension Lost," Sirzechs explained. He smiled sadly at the door to the room. "I'm a failure of a Satan and a brother."
"If you're going to whip yourself, whip yourself in a positive direction like helping people," Sona told him. The man should know better. This was Ophis they were dealing with. Ophis and her entire organization. There was no way Sirzechs alone could have handled it. "And not as bad as over here it seems. We didn't have to deal with as much and from what I was told, Tatsumi organized everyone quickly."
"Tatsumi-san, what was he doing there?"
"Officially? Chasing after Loki," Sona said. A small smile came to her lips. She could guess the real reason he'd been there. There was no way he could have known that Loki had slipped in. But the God had been a rather convenient excuse to explain his presence.
"How is he?"
The smile dropped. "No one knows. Ophis and Esdeath took him away. Onee-sama chased but…"
"Two days and nothing?" Sona nodded. "I know both of them well enough that I wouldn't count either dead until I see a body."
"And in Tatsumi's case, even that's not a guarantee," Sona added, thinking to the time when Tatsumi had been ripped from his body and sent hurtling across the dimensional gap.
"That's true," Sirzechs said, giving a smile that didn't reach his eyes. His eyes darted to the door once more as he changed the subject. "Do you think you could speak with her? I don't know what to say."
"Of course, Sirzechs-sama," Sona said.
Sona placed a hand on the door and gave Sirzechs one last encouraging smile before opening the door and stepping inside.
The room inside was like any other hospital room Sona had ever been in. There were a pair of beds side by side. A host of monitoring equipment hovered beside each. There were a pair of chairs next to each bed and a small, simple cushioned bench rested beneath the window on the far side of the room. The curtains, pale blue, were drawn open to let the artificial light in.
Both beds were occupied. Issei was laid out in the one closest to the door. He didn't appear to have any visible injuries, but he was unconscious none-the-less. He was hooked up to a number of monitoring devices that beeped softly every second or so. Rias sat in the chair next to him, her face buried into the side of the bed. His hand held tightly in hers.
Gasper was in the other. Awake and sitting up in bed. He picked at a plate of apples and melon on a small plate in his lap. Physically he appeared to be fine, but there were other, hidden injuries not so easily tended to. His eyes were filled with a dead, haunted look.
And the most unlikely of individuals was there to help him. Sona did not expect Ymir, of all people, to be sitting at his side. Lenneth wasn't anywhere to be and…
Wait, was that a female Ymir? It had to be! There was definitely a small rise to her chest that the male Ymir didn't have. Sona knew it would only give her a headache if she asked how so instead simply chalked it up to Ymir being Ymir. He, or she rather, was keeping a close eye on Gasper. Gently touching his hand here, creating a piece of fruit there. She always did something to keep him occupied on something other than the crushing loss.
The one that worried Sona the most however, sat on the small couch beneath the window. Koneko. Her legs curled to her chest, arms wrapped around them. Her feline ears drooped to her hair and her tail was limp and lifeless. Just like her eyes. There was no life to Koneko.
She needed Tatsumi.
Aside from the soft beeping of machines, the room was dead silent. It felt like she was walking into a mausoleum. Perhaps she was. That nurse had hinted at something terrible.
"Do you wish to talk about it?" Sona spoke up, shattering the silence.
The reaction was instant.
Rias jumped so high she almost smacked into the ceiling. Koneko jerked upright, her ears suddenly pricking up in interest and a tiny bit of life flooded back into her eyes. Life and hope. Gasper too, turned to regard them, the fruit momentarily forgotten on the plate. Ymir shifted in her seat to peer at her with that same, disinterested look that the male Ymir always had on his face. She simply wasn't worth his time.
"Sona!" There was obvious relief in her voice as she turned around to face her. "Your arm!"
She touched her arm briefly. "It's nothing I can't deal with. How are you? I've heard some rumors but…"
Rias looked away, eyes pained. Filled with grief. It said everything.
"I'm a failure of a King," she whispered softly. "I couldn't protect anyone. My precious servants, my precious family. Dead and taken." Tears rolled down her cheeks and her voice broke as she continued. "This is all that's left, and Issei won't wake up."
Sona clutched her chest. Her heart tightened. She felt for her friend. She truly did. If this was all she had left, then that meant Asia, Kiba and Akeno… She couldn't even begin to imagine what she was going through. If she thought about what it would feel like to lose Tsubaki, Tomoe and Momo.
She couldn't. It was as simple as that. She couldn't imagine. Didn't want to.
"I'm sorry, Rias."
Rias shook her head softly from side to side. She gave Issei a pained smile as she tightened her grip on his hand. "It's not your fault. You had troubles of your own I heard."
"Loki and his family attacked us," Sona said, "and Esdeath and Syura."
"No one got off easy," Rias whispered. "Damn… why am I so powerless?!"
"I couldn't do much either when Esdeath started taking me apart," Sona said, touching her arm once more. "It was a battle way beyond either of us. Only my Hikaru was of any use." She gave Hikaru a warm, thankful smile. "I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for her."
"Just doing what anyone else would do," Hikaru was quick to assure her.
"Thank you for saving my friend," Rias said, giving her a warm smile as well.
"It was nothing, really."
"You truly were blessed with a wonderful peerage, Sona," Rias said. She turned back to Issei. "I've been thinking a lot since then."
"No, Rias," Sona told her. She already knew what her friend was thinking. "Don't give up."
"You still need a Rook. You're closer to Tatsumi-san than I and she... Koneko-chan would be better off with you. I'll become the next head of the Gremory household and take Issei-kun as my husband and live a quiet life. My oto-san and oka-san aren't active. I don't… I don't need to be…"
"So you're just going to spit on all their efforts up until now because of a little loss?" Sona demanded. This wasn't what she wanted from her friend. She wanted a strong rival she can compete with. Not someone who tucks their tail between their legs and run. "I don't want to see this Rias. I want the strong Rias I had a rivalry with back. And what about Gasper!"
"I'll take him," Ymir offered. Definitely a female Ymir. The voice held that feminine lit to it that the male side didn't have.
"You stay quiet," Sona told her.
"I can't be that Rias, Sona, not right now," she said as she gripped Issei's hand ever tighter. "Maybe some day. Please take care of Koneko-chan until then."
There was just no reasoning with her when she was like this. She needed Issei and perhaps a little time as well. Their deaths were still fresh. "I'm not taking Koneko-san. Think about it some more first." Koneko would certainly be a very strong and valuable addition to her peerage, but she wanted to make sure Rias was completely certain of this. Grief was talking right now and it was never a great idea to make decisions based solely on grief. "If this is what you truly wish, I'll accept her on loan. She's your Rook Rias, she belongs with you."
"Don't thank me. If I see you mopping about for too long, I will be there to give you the swift kick you need."
"Tatsumi-senpai, is Tatsumi-senpai alright?" Koneko suddenly spoke up. Her eyes pleaded for good news. Sona wished she could give her some. "Ophis… she said… nyan…"
"I don't know," Sona said softly. Koneko began to wilt once more. "My onee-sama chased after Ophis." She had better not mention Esdeath. Not with Koneko in this shape. "Those two wouldn't know how to die if you killed them. I'm sure wherever they are, they're fine."
"Could you, maybe call her?" Rias asked, her eyes pleading every bit as much as Koneko's. The young girl was sitting on the edge of the couch hoping. "For Koneko-chan's sake."
"I can try," Sona said. She'd called several times before but hadn't gotten a response. She didn't have much hope now. She casted the spell that connected her with her sister. "Onee-sama?" She held her own breath, hoping against hope that perhaps this time she'd connect. Yet as each second passed without a response that hope died in her even as it faded in their eyes. "Onee-sama, are you there?" she called out one last time without much hope of success.
"Mmm, what do you want, So-tan? It's too early to be calling."
It was her onee-sama!
"Who is it, Serafall?" Sona's legs gave out from under her and she collapsed to the floor. A wave of relief crashed into her, overwhelming her senses. She didn't even notice she was sitting on the tile floor. All that mattered was that her onee-sama was alive. That Tatsumi was alive. Somehow, against all odds, the both of them had survived against Ophis and Esdeath.
She didn't know how it happened. It didn't matter. They were alive.
Across the room Koneko's eyes were bright once more. Her ears had perked up and her tail waved excitedly behind her. Hearing Tatsumi's voice had come just as much of a relief to her as it had to Sona. Even Rias seemed to look more relaxed and relieved than before.
Still, it begged the question. Why hadn't they answered earlier? If her onee-sama was alive then she should have gotten her calls. Even if she'd been too busy to reply at the time, she would have been notified that Sona had called so she should have called back!
Relief quickly transformed into a raging surge of irritation and anger.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU CALL ME BACK?!" Sona screamed at her sister.
"Whoa! So-tan! Why are you so angry?"
"We sure that wasn't an imposter?" they heard Tatsumi ask. "I've never seen Sona yell like that."
"You two… you… I'm going to strangle you both when you get back here!" Sona raged at them.
"I think that's incentive to stay right where we are, Tatsumi-chan!"
"Right! Talk to you later Sona!"
"Those two… they… ARGH!" Sona screamed at the ceiling in frustration. She didn't care if she looked and sounded like a crazy person. With everything that happened to find out that all her worry and fear over the disappearance of her sister and love was simply because her onee-sama had refused to return her calls…
ARGH! She was going to strangle the BOTH of them when they returned!
And then promptly smother them with kisses.
At least it was good to know they were still alive.
"She sounded pretty upset," Tatsumi said when Serafall hung up on her sister.
"Oh she's always overreacting to things," Serafall said.
"This isn't really one of those times when overreacting is unwarranted," Tatsumi reminded her. The last thing anyone had been aware of related to them was that Ophis and Esdeath had spirited the two of them away, or something like that.
That was bound to make several people rather anxious over them.
They were in the underworld, but no one knew where. It wouldn't be hard to find them, provided someone had the time. They were just at the little hideout Tatsumi had set up in Phantasm in Lord Phenex's territory.
The only reason he hadn't gone back was because he couldn't, had no way to contact anyone, and Serafall refused to. She hadn't even wanted to respond to Sona just then until Tatsumi reminded her that she was probably worried sick about the both of them.
"I suppose," Serafall said. She stretched her arms above her head, showing off her naked body to Tatsumi. Her flawless breasts on display. Tatsumi's hands naturally gravitated to those soft globes. Serafall let out a soft, pleasant moan as his fingers caressed her sensitive flesh. "Still not satisfied?" she asked archly.
This was the primary reason why Serafall had refused to go back or contact anyone else. She was making good on the promise she'd made back in the arena and with everything that had happened, this might be the only time in a very long time that the two of them could be alone together.
"I should be asking you that," Tatsumi said, his eyes dropping to their waist. He was buried deep inside the beautiful devil. The results of their lovemaking the night before leaking out with each movement she made.
"I told you Tatsumi-chan," Serafall said, a warm soft look in her eyes. She lifted her hips and let them drop, slowly, gently, pumping up and down. Tatsumi simply leaned back and welcomed the pleasant feeling that rushed through his body and swelled in his loins. "When I said I was going to have your children. I meant it."
"You didn't even ask if I wanted you to have them."
There was an amused look on her face. "Oh Tatsumi-chan, you don't honestly believe I'm so oblivious as to not notice the looks you've been sending my way."
"And you could say no at any time."
There wasn't a straight man alive that'd say no to this.
Her hips slowly pumped faster and faster. Gently coaxing Tatsumi to yet another climax. He didn't resist. He never really had any desire to. Serafall had been correct. He had dreamed of this moment more than a few times. He simply let his body take over. Fingers gently caressing and massaging her warm breasts. Her breaths that came sharper and more intense with each flick of his fingers music to his ears.
His own breathing quickened as he felt the surge build. He grew harder, thicker. Her hips pounded faster than ever. Sensing, feeling, the build up inside her. Tatsumi just let nature take its course. His eyes closed and a soft sigh escape his lips. It surged from deep inside, through him, and deep into her.
Serafall arched backwards, her eyes wide, lips open. A sharp gasp ripped from her throat. She clamped down upon him, softly, firmly. Her entire body shook. Her own climax reached as he poured himself into her. Filling up the deepest nooks and crannies of her body.
They both held still like that. Joined together. Mixing together. All that matter was the warmth and pleasure the two shared.
"My, you two look as if you're having fun."
Tatsumi's eyes snapped open. He knew his eyes mirrored the surprise he felt as he looked to the door to find Gabriel of all people standing in the door frame. She wore a brilliant dress that looked as if it had been spun out of pure light.
"Gaby-tan!" Serafall cried out in shock. She was just as surprised as her presence as Tatsumi. "How did you find us?"
Gabriel lifted a finger. On the end of it was a soft, white glow and Tatsumi thought he could see a small rune hidden within it. "Ever since that issue with Father sending Tatsumi's soul spinning across the dimensions, I felt it was wise to place a little tracking spell on it."
"You placed a tracking spell on Tatsumi-chan's soul?" Serafall asked, amazed. "Why didn't I think of that!"
"Because shinobi are naturally more gifted in these things than magical girls."
"Oh I don't like the way you—"
"Oi, what about my say in this?" Tatsumi quickly cut Serafall off before it could devolve into a full-blown argument.
"When you stop getting kidnapped, I'll think about removing the tracking spell," Gabriel said dryly.
That… was actually a fair point. Not that he'd ever admit it.
"So, ah, you found us…" Tatsumi trailed off. "Does anyone else know?"
"They know you're alive, but not where," Gabriel said softly. "Bennia went on a rant afterwards about always being left out." Her eyes dipped to their waists where it was very evident of what they were doing. "I think she suspected this was happening."
"That sounds like her," Tatsumi said.
Gabriel made her way over to the bedside. "How are you, really?" she asked, kneeling beside the bed. "I heard Esdeath and Ophis took you."
"They did, and I'm not sure who was worse, Ophis or Esdeath," Tatsumi said softly. It truly was hard to quantify the both of them. Each made Tatsumi suffering using opposite extreme ends of the spectrum. "I'd rather not talk about it."
"When you're ready, I will be here," Gabriel said softly. Then she bent over and kissed him. A warm and unbelievably soft kiss. He leaned up into it, wanting more. The taste. The feel. It was amazing. Her arms wrapped around his head and she deepened the kiss. Her tongue darted through his lips. Danced across his mouth. He returned the favor. Exploring her mouth with his own. There was nothing domineering about it, only a pure curiosity and a desire to explore more of the other.
Above, Serafall gasped sharply in surprise. "Gaby-tan! What is this?!"
With a regretful sigh Gabriel broke the kiss. Slowly she rose to her feet, her hands reaching for the strings of her dress. "This, Levi-tan," Gabriel said softly as she slowly undid the strings of her dress and let the beautiful mass of living energy slide down her body. She stood before him in all her naked glory. Her enormous breasts, the large pink areolas, the perfectly manicured crown of golden hair topping her most sacred of places. "Is me taking a break from a place that has betrayed me."
"Gaby-tan… you can't be thinking of—"
"I have seen many humans do this before," she whispered. "but I am…" she trailed off, struggling to find the words she wanted to use to express her uncertainty without damaging her pride.
"Are you certain about this?" Tatsumi asked. "I mean, you'll fall, won't you?"
"I don't care at the moment. The question here, Tatsumi, is if there is room for another in your bed," Gabriel said softly. "For another in your life."
That was so unfair. What was he supposed to say to her when she stood before him naked and vulnerable like this? She was throwing everything away for his sake. To be with him. Perhaps she had already thrown it all away. There wasn't any other answer he could give. He wouldn't deny her. Didn't even want to. How many times had he dreamed of her? Almost as many times as Serafall.
Never had he dreamed of the both of them together though.
"You've always been in my life," Tatsumi said, sitting up. Serafall didn't utter a word as she slid off him to make room for the great Seraph. She was just as mystified by this turn of events as he was, and probably far more excited to see how it would end.
He reached up and took her hand. She came easily, willingly, as he pulled her down onto the bed. She straddled his legs and waited, letting him take the lead. His eyes devoured her body, taking in each and every single curve. His fingers followed his gaze, trailing up her sides. They circled her enormous breasts, dancing teasingly across her sensitive skin. Her body quivered beneath his touch, anticipating. He leaned forward and captured her breast with his lips. He sucked gently, nibbling softly.
A sharp gasp of unrestrained pleasure escaped Gabriel's throat.
With one last gentle tug, Tatsumi pulled away, much to the Seraph's obvious displeasure. That displeasure was wiped away as his hands moved. Caressing up the sides of her breasts, taking them full in his palms. He worked his hands, his fingers. Caressing and flicking, massaging her flesh. Words couldn't describe the feeling. It was like his hands were sinking into an unimaginably soft cloud of warmth.
"Gaby-tan seems to be enjoying this," Serafall said mischievous as she came up behind the great Seraph. Her chest was pressed against her back as she rested her head on Gabriel's shoulder. "Mind if I join?"
"Don't take this from me, Levi-tan," Gabriel told her.
"You couldn't pay me enough to take this away!" Serafall crowed happily. "To watch the Great Seraph Gabriel fall is worth more than any amount!" Her hands dipped around between Gabriel's legs and spread those lower lips wide. "Look Tatsumi-chan."
And look he did. That beautiful pink opening was moist with her arousal. Gabriel's purity visible within the depths of that sacred place. There was a soft blush upon Gabriel's cheeks but she did nothing to stop Serafall, allowing her to spread her wide for Tatsumi to see.
Unbidden, his hands left her incredibly soft breasts and dipped down low. The soft walls of that sacred place twitched with anticipation as his hands drew near. Closer. A trickle of nectar flowed forth. A finger caught that flow. Traced along the outermost edge of those soft, pink lips. Another sharp gasp of pleasure was pulled from her throat.
Tatsumi brought the finger to his lips and gently sucked upon it. The taste was divine. It was sweet and nourishing, yet not so sweet as to be overwhelming. It caused a soft glow, a warmth, to spread throughout his body. He felt rejuvenated just by drinking that tiny amount.
His lower half certainly stood a little taller than before.
"You never did any of this with me, I'm jealous," Serafall complained.
"Levi-tan, shut up," Gabriel hissed.
Serafall just let out a soft laugh. "Your hands should be doing this, Gaby-tan," the beautiful devil said as she took Gabriel's hands and placed them upon Tatsumi's member. "It's only courteous to give what you receive, right?"
"Of course," Gabriel said as her fingers gently caressed his sensitive skin. There was a cute, almost innocent feel to it. Clumsy, yet full of earnest feelings. Tatsumi gave Gabriel an encouraging smile and let her explore and experience. Her fingers caressed and massaged his length. The warmth from that sweet taste before shifted and moved down to his loins.
He wasn't finished with her. His hand went back between her legs. His fingers searching. Finding. A single finger traced the edge of her lips before it slowly slid between and deep inside. Gabriel let out a gasp. Her body quivered, arching back ever so slightly. Serafall pulled her hands away, letting Tatsumi do as he would. They instead rose to her breasts, replacing Tatsumi. Massaging them in his stead.
Gabriel said nothing. Her eyes closed as she enjoyed the new sensations that were coursing through her body. A pleasure that had been denied to her for countless millennia.
His finger swirled around inside her, searching for that perfect spot. Another finger slipped inside. Another gasp of pleasure. She was accommodating. Slick from her own nectar. He struck more intensely. One hand caressed the lips, the other searching inside her. Her fingers danced faster, more intensely in response to her own growing climax.
It came all at once. Gabriel let out a single, sharp scream of pleasure. Her body arched far back. Her breasts bounced wildly. The walls of her sacred place clamped down upon his fingers and a flood washed over them. Divine energy surged through her. Sparking this way and that. A tiny spark arced from her finger tips into Tatsumi.
That was all he could take. His mind was assaulted by waves upon waves of pleasure. All the world went white for a moment, and when he came to. His lower half was twitching violently. Streams of his seed could be seen all across Gabriel's body and face.
A camera flash momentarily blinded Tatsumi. He quickly blinked the spots out of his eyes to find Serafall grinning from ear to ear with a camera in her hands. "That's one for the history books—" Gabriel's fist lashed out, smacking the camera out of Serafall's hand. It smashed into the wall, shattering into a thousand pieces. There was a small explosion of divine energy as all the data on the camera was consumed in a flash of destruction. "Nooo! My camera!"
"My time with Tatsumi is private, I will not let anyone sully it," Gabriel said. She wiped a bit of his semen off her face with a finger and stuck it in her mouth. "Salty." She sucked a little more before swallowing. "But not unpleasant." There was a look of intense desire in her eyes. "You're not satisfied, are you, Tatsumi?" she asked even as her fingers began to caress him once more.
Was it ironic that Serafall had said something similar not ten minutes ago? He probably shouldn't mention that.
His fingers inside her swirled and caressed, causing her body to shiver with pleasure once more. "I should be asking you that," he said, giving her the same response he'd given Serafall.
Serafall snickered lightly, understanding.
"I'm not," Gabriel said as she lifted her hips. Tatsumi pulled his fingers out as she took control, spreading herself wide as she positioned herself above him.
Serafall quickly jumped off the bed and ran around to get a better look. "I want to see this! The exact moment Gabriel becomes a woman!"
Gabriel ignored her entirely as she slowly lowered herself upon him. Her warm, pink flesh twitched and quivered. Begging to be filled. First the tip. It was like a shot of electricity ran through both their bodies. She continued. Taking the entire head inside. Tatsumi let out a soft groan as that warm, soft flesh engulfed him. Even just this much was incredible!
Not to say Serafall and everyone else weren't wonderful in their own right. But they were simply incomparable to this.
"Cheater," Serafall muttered, "using divine power."
"Because I wish to give as much as I receive," Gabriel murmured softly. She had paused with just the head, enjoying the feeling of having something inside her. "I do not just take such as yourself."
That seemed to rile Serafall up something fierce. He could all but feel the heat from her gaze upon the back of his head. "Next time, Tatsumi, I'll show you real pleasure."
"Hush, right now, it is us," Gabriel said softly. She took a long deep breath and took the rest of him inside with a single, smooth motion. There was a tiny bit of resistance, but he parted before him easily. Gabriel's purity. Taken. Given away.
The reaction from Gabriel was instant and intense. Her body trembled. Her back arched. A long, deep gasp was ripped from her throat. Filled with pleasure and desire finally realized. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head. Her walls clamped down upon him and once again she was thrown over the edge. Once again her divine power flared and caressed Tatsumi as much as she did.
That was all Tatsumi could take. Once more he was sent slamming back into that wonderful world of oblivion as waves of pure bliss and pleasure washed over him, fueled by Gabriel's divine power and her desire to make him feel as good as she did.
When he came to, he was on his back again, still buried deep inside. Twitching. Emptying everything he had left into the beautiful woman resting on his chest. She made no attempt to stop him. Her body eagerly accepted it all. Welcomed it and coaxed more from him.
When she raised her head, there was a beautiful smile on her lips just for him. "Tatsumi, thank you."
"There's nothing to thank me for," Tatsumi said. That had been as good for him as it had been for her.
"Mmm, not just this," Gabriel said softly. She leaned forward and gave him a gentle kiss on the lips. "For everything."
"Be here for me and I'll call us even," Tatsumi said. He didn't really know what else to say.
"That sounds nice," Gabriel said as she let her head drop to his chest.
"Definitely going to show you real pleasure next time," Serafall hissed in annoyance at the whole scene she was looking upon. The eagerness to see the Great Seraph, Gabriel, fall into lust replaced by sheer annoyance over how much more Tatsumi enjoyed being with Gabriel than her.
"A shinobi is just naturally better at pleasuring men than magical girls," Gabriel said, giving Serafall an amused look, "after all, the art of seduction is something they are trained in."
"I hate you so much right now," Serafall growled, glaring at Gabriel. "I'm going to find the magical girl manual and rewrite it! Then I'll show you! Tatsumi will be our judge!"
"You'll just lose again," Gabriel said in a sing-song voice.
"Oh, now it's on!"
Tatsumi swallowed hard. Why was he suddenly very afraid these two might very well kill him with pleasure in a desperate attempt to outdo each other?
Well, there were certainly worse ways to go.
It was a wet, soggy afternoon that found Tatsumi standing outside the front doors of his home, the estate that had become the headquarters for Night Raid. Dark, heavy clouds hung low in the sky above and a soft, misting rain fell upon the city. Every so often soft, peels of thunder could be heard off in the distance. Warning of worse to come.
It was a week after the events that would later be called 'The Khaos Siege.' The single, greatest terrorist attack in the history of the supernatural world, and a battle with ramifications nearly on par with the death of God and the original four Great Satans. Gods, mythical beasts, a satan, powerful devils, Fallen Angels and so many more had all perished in that battle.
Heaven had even lost one of its remaining Great Seraphs. Whether Gabriel Celeste had Fallen or not was something many speculated, but all agreed that, for the time being, she had turned her back on everything and walked away.
Her brave saints had seemingly walked away with her and her Sanctuary that had once existed in Zebel had gone missing.
Tatsumi was unaware of most of that as he stood outside in the light rain. Gabriel and Serafall hadn't let him go until today so he was woefully uninformed of what had been going on in the rest of the world. All three of them needed a break from everything and Tatsumi had to admit, he felt refreshed and ready to take on whatever the world could throw at him.
He had a feeling that right now it would be mollifying the feelings of several fairly concerned women in his life.
Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward. The door, as if waiting for him to ready himself, swung wide on its own. As he strode through the large portal into the main lobby beyond, he found all of Night Raid assembled before him, along with a few extras.
Ravel, Xenovia and Hikaru were close, standing just a little way into the lobby. The expectant looks on their faces turned into joy and relief as arrived. Further back from them, at the foot of the grand staircase were Akame and Najenda. The former leaning comfortably back against the banister. There was a faint look of relief in Akame's eyes, knowing that he was safe. Najenda simply looked confident, as if she had always known he'd be fine.
Mine was above them, sitting on the second floor banister looking down upon the lobby. Ten black wings extended behind her. As always in her bright pink dress, but her hair was down today. A good look on her that Tatsumi honestly preferred over the twin-tails.
Lenneth stood nearby, leaning back against one of the many large columns that held up the arched ceiling. She looked absolutely exhausted, and Tatsumi could easily tell why. There wasn't just one Ymir at her side. But two. Both the male and female side of the first giant stood beside her. Flanking her. Dealing with one Ymir was bad enough. Dealing with both must be a nightmare.
There were others as well. A woman he didn't recognize stood off from everyone else. She wore clothes like that of a holy woman or a nun, yet brilliant white wings extended from her back. His eyes flickered to the back of her hand were a symbol glowed with a soft pink light.
A Brave Saint.
The last two people there to greet him were Sona and Koneko. They both looked like they were doing well, despite Sona missing half an arm. That situation with Esdeath could have ended far worse than that.
They'd known he was returning home. Gabriel had informed them ahead of time.
There was one person missing though. Tatsumi glanced about the lobby, looking for a certain bite-sized, mischievous, nympho-maniac Grim Reaper and couldn't find her.
Someone slammed into him from behind, knocking him off his feet. He smacked face first into the long carpet that ran the length of the room.
"Ow!" Tatsumi complained as he rolled over onto his back. There was Bennia straddling him, an angry look on her face. "What was that for?"
She'd completely ruined his entrance.
((That's what you get for making us worry!)) Bennia cried out before she suddenly buried her face into his chest and started to weep. Her little fists pounded weakly against his chest. ((When Ophis had taken you I… I… why didn't you run!))
"Where would I run to? You know I can't get out of the Underworld without help," Tatsumi pointed out.
((Oh, I'd completely forgotten that,)) Bennia said. She lifted her head, her eyes were turning red from crying. ((You still should have tried!))
"Esdeath got in the way?"
((Grrr! Stop giving me logical explanations! I want to vent my frustration and anger on you!))
Tatsumi let out a little chuckle as he sat up and embraced her tightly. She melted into him, wrapping her arms around him as well. He kissed her softly on the forehead. "Sorry about that, I'll try to get kidnapped less often in the future."
((You better keep that promise!))
"Don't worry about Esdeath, I'll hunt her down and kill her," Mine promised. She touched the teigu on her wrist. "I have plenty of reasons to see that bitch dead."
"How is everyone?" Tatsumi asked as he turned around to regard the others. He continued to hold Bennia. Rubbing her back comfortingly. For once the others didn't crowd and jump him. "I haven't been in the loop."
"I can see that," Sona said, sounding rather annoyed. "My onee-sama refused to speak of what transpired, but I can guess what she was doing."
"Her and Gabriel both, made a competition out of it," Tatsumi said. He shook his head from side to side. That had been absolutely amazing, and at the same time a little scary. There had been once or twice he thought his heart might stop from pleasure.
"I hope you will not betray my King as easily as her brother appears to have," the Brave Saint spoke up.
"You are?" Tatsumi asked.
"Quarta?" He turned to Xenovia. They shared the same last name. For some reason Xenovia looked very stiff and nervous. Sweat poured down her face in rivulets. "Relation?"
"By adoption," Griselda said. "I'll make sure Xenovia is on par with what Night Raid needs. Just don't bring any undo heartache to Gabriel-sama."
"No worries there, she's done too much for me, for all of Night Raid."
Griselda gave him a warm smile, "good, I hope you keep your word. I look forward to seeing how Night Raid operates in the future."
"I don't understand," Tatsumi said, looking around for help.
((Gabriel made the move official,)) Bennia said, lifting her face from his chest again. She appeared to be finished crying. ((Her Brave Saints are living here now, or some are. She took her Sanctuary from Heaven as well. We've got a new floor beneath the training area.))
"Wouldn't that be showing favoritism?"
"Not if we're no longer part of Heaven," Griselda said. "While we remain faithful to Him and His teachings. That doesn't mean we have to remain faithful to Michael and Heaven. An interesting little loophole Gabriel-sama found." The Brave Saint smiled lightly as she touched her wings. That she was still considered an Angel meant that loyalty to Michael and Heaven was not required to be one. That was going to shake the foundation of the world. "We're in for an interesting future."
"There's more, Tatsumi," Sona added. "I suppose now is as good a time as any. I've introduced her already to my peerage but you and everyone here should know as well." She touched Koneko's shoulder.
"…hello everyone, I'm Koneko Toujou, a Rook in the service of Sona Sitri, nyan."
Formality unbefitting of Koneko aside, the statement she made had massive ramifications. "What happened to Rias?" He didn't like the girl, but neither did he want her dead anymore.
"Issei-san has been in a coma ever since her game against Diodora Astaroth. She's taking time away from Rating Games and the spotlight to take care of her back at the Gremory estate in the Underworld," Sona said. "Koneko-san is on loan until she recovers her spine and decides to come back."
"Gasper is with us," the two Ymirs said simultaneously. "Visits Rias Gremory too. Helps her a bit." That double voice was going to be weird.
"And the rest?" The look on Sona's face told the rest of the story. "I see." That was unfortunate. Rias was the only one he had really disliked. The rest he'd been fine with. The thought of them being gone.
"There's one thing you should know," Griselda said. "It seems Ophis was successful in defeating Great Red."
"There are rumors flying about of people spotting a massive, European style dragon with scales of crimson sleeping and flying about the Himalayan mountains."
So by defeat, she meant chased him to our world so she could have her silence undisturbed. Would this cause more or fewer problems for them in the future? Tatsumi didn't know and wasn't sure there was anything they could do even if he did.
That was something to think of another time though. Not today.
Tatsumi slowly rose to his feet, bringing Bennia up with him. She took his hand in his and stood beside him. Head held high. It had just been the two of them in the beginning. Now it was all this. So much had changed in the past year.
And so much more will change in the next.
But that was what Night Raid was all about. It was what he was about. Evolving and adapting to ever-changing situations to come out on top.
"Everyone." They all turned their undivided attention on him. "A lot has changed over the course of the past year. A lot is changing even now. The future is going to be even crazier than the past we've left behind. I can feel it in my bones, in my very essence. Whether this change will be for good or for ill, only time will tell. But we need to be ready for it. We have taken down Gods and Mythical beasts. Devils and the Fallen. We've helped broker peace between factions and bring vengeance down upon those that deserved it. We've fought so many battles and while we have suffered and we have lost, we have come through better and stronger than ever before." He gave each one of them a warm, thankful smile. He truly was blessed to have all these people willing to stand at his side and fight for the sake of others. "There will be more battles in the future. More trials for us to overcome. These battles, they will never end, only change, and we will change with them." He held a hand out towards all of them. "Thank you all for standing beside me."
"And thank you, for giving me the strength to keep going on."
There would be more battles. There would be more adventures. More gain. More loss.
But all that would come at a later time. For now, he would enjoy the brief peace they'd earned through bloodshed and loss with the people closest to his heart.
Author's Note: That's it! Over! Done! I know it's not the best ending. I covered this already, but I think it'll do. There's room for more, but I think that, for the most part, all the major pressing issues have been neatly tied up. There are still a lot of other little things, but the primary core story elements are wrapped up while the main villains are either dead, or their roles finished.
Leave a review and let me know what you think of the story over all! And thank you all to everyone that stuck with me on this journey! This story was definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, but I hope it was entertaining for all of you that have made it this far.
Note on Future Plans: If people wonder where I'm going from here? Well I definitely need a break from this universe. I've spent two years buried in this story and I'm as tired of writing it as I know some people are of reading it. (They've sent PMs expressing as much)
I want to work on my original trilogy (already got 2 of the 3 books written and am half-way through the third although none are published yet), and perhaps even finish the Fan Fiction I started prior to this one but never finished.
I've got like 7 chapters of A Certain Scientific Accelerator crossover with Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works. The basic premise is that Accelerator, Last Order and Misaka WORST are forced to hold up in Fuyuki City just prior to the start of the war and come across a dying Bazett Fraga McRemitz. They save her life but in her attempt to become a player in the Holy Grail War once more causes Last Order to end up branded with Command Seals when Ruler appears. This forces Accelerator to get involved.
The Holy Grail War becomes a lot different with Accelerator there. Magic and Espers don't go well together so those command seals are killing Last Order and Accelerator is not going to play around.
It's very difficult to write because both universes have very strict laws that have to be followed otherwise you can't be taken seriously.
If I do go ahead with it, don't expect it before the end of Season 3 of Toaru Majutsu no Index which is airing now. There are spoilers for it in the story.
Anyway, I'm not sure when, or in what form, but I will be back eventually. I love writing. Thank you all and see you in the future.