Disclaimer: I do not own Highschool DxD nor do I own anything from any other franchise that might pop up.
Chapter 2: Trouble on the horizon
The school day passed quickly for the perverted trio and as soon as the bell rang they made for an empty classroom to discuss the events of the previous night. Issei was surprised to see the destroyed sections of the school had been restored to its original condition but took it in stride, he'd seen stranger things after all.
"So… who wants to go first?" Issei looked around and with no answers forthcoming decided to be the one to break the ice. "Alright, me it is. Sentinel has forwarded the battle report to the both of you I believe, I don't particularly have much to add other than we might have a war on our hands."
Motohama frowned upon hearing Issei's words before voicing his own opinion. "We'll make sure it doesn't come to that. One thing eludes me though, according to Sentinel's report the entire conflict lasted twenty minutes from the initial explosion. Except I was dark for only twenty seconds, I didn't get your message until after my eyes were back online. The school was completely intact after that as well. I didn't catch any explosion or sudden bursts of energy either."
"On my end, I was paying attention to the satellite feed, there was no explosion though I did pick up the two exchange students rushing in and you leaving the school shortly after they entered."
Issei shrugged at Matsuda's input, "time dilation field perhaps? We don't know enough yet, but I'm meeting Kuroyuki-chan later for dinner, maybe I'll get my answers then." A silver gauntlet formed on Issei's left hand, a small crystal on his palm glowed gold and a hilt emerged from it. Swiftly pulling the sword free, Issei displayed his newly acquired Muramasa blade to his two buddies.
"Anyhow, this is the sword I retrieved from Shinn, it's a real piece of work lemme tell you that. This thing is capable of cutting through a solid slab of concrete like a hot knife through butter, and I did check, any wounds inflicted by this thing doesn't heal."
"Can I see that?" Motohama closely inspected the sword from top to bottom after Issei handed it over. Running a hand along the flat of the blade, he was mildly perturbed to see his fingers bleeding slightly after removing them.
"Well it does live up to the myths about Muramasa blades being bloodthirsty, I'll give it that." He paused and concentrated for a moment, a pale silver glow surrounded his hand for a brief moment before fading, taking the wound with it.
"Magic… I guess? I don't know the mechanics behind this weapon but so far it appears to be similar to my burial blade, the metal itself is imbued with energy, only my weapon deals damage to the soul, this thing is more interested in spilling as much blood as possible."
Huffing once, Motohama tossed it back to Issei. "If you didn't already notice, that weapon also works to incite bloodlust in its wielder. A soft voice in the back of the mind, pushing you to indulge in mass murder, insidious… reminds me of the great ones."
"Really now? I thought that was just me coming off a battle high, well it doesn't seem to affect me as long as I store it in the twice critical." The blade glowed once before shattering into tiny motes of light that were absorbed by the silver gauntlet.
"Was it wise leaving her behind though? As it stands we still don't know who she's working with or if Shinn was acting alone. I don't have any agents on the ground and you can only get so much from a spy sat, our intel is spotty and I don't like that, couldn't you have stuck around to watch if nothing else Issei?"
"I could, but my invisibility has already been seen through once, twice if you count your sat picking it up. Who's to say her 'friends' can't do so as well? I'm not about to run the risk and get dragged into an unnecessary fight. Besides, she's upheld her promise to contact me again."
Matsuda scoffed at Issei's nonchalance. "And you don't think it's a trap of some sort? If they do have the ability to dilate time, you're on your own in there. Neither of us will make it to you in time."
"True. But you of all people should know that I have more than enough firepower to shoot my way out of any ambush. In any case worrying about it is useless, we'll just have to wait and see, oh and I will be keeping your involvement a secret for now. No sense in showing our hand this early in the game, so… yes dumb pervert act will continue for now."
Issei cracked a smile as his buddies groaned and buried their faces in their hands. 'Best to take precautions in any case, Sentinel any sign of our dear Kuroyuki-chan?'
[That's a negative colonel, she's off the grid and aside from the message she sent earlier there has been no further sign of her in Kuoh. Shall I continue looking?]
'Please do so Sentinel, and one more thing…'
'Stop calling me that.'
"That is quite a lot to take in Kuroyuki-chan, virtually every myth is real then… this complicates things." Issei clasped his hands together and lapsed into silence, his thoughts a complete mess.
Contrary to what he was expecting, his little meet up had gone off without a hitch. No ambush party had jumped him as soon as he walked through the door and Sentinel detected a distinct lack of explosives in the area.
The restaurant itself was perfectly ordinary and as far as he could tell, the few people present were regular humans. The duo occupied a window seat affording a decent view of the streets below and it would have been a romantic date if they weren't there on business.
Kuroyuki herself had been most forthcoming with answers to his questions, which led to his current headache. Most people don't wake up to find out that gods from every pantheon were real and effectively in a state of cold war with everyone else.
And beyond that, there were countless factions operating behind the scenes, each with their own agendas. Kuroyuki herself was the daughter of a high-ranking member of one such faction, the Kyoto yokai. Shinn on the other hand was a mercenary in the employ of an anti-government group seeking to reignite the flames of war that had been simmering for a while.
She didn't have much information on what they sought to gain from a new war, Shinn himself was just in it for the excuse to kill. All she knew was that his employers had been stockpiling weapons, ostensibly in preparation of a future attack.
"Kuroyuki-chan, I can't help but wonder about something. I checked my watch after last night's events and I seem to have lived an extra half hour the rest of the world never experienced, why is that?"
"The school grounds were enshrouded in a very powerful barrier that sped up time within. It is a simple concept, but very difficult to exercise in reality due to its absurdly high energy and material costs."
"Meaning whoever was bankrolling that operation has some serious money to throw around, and I would hardly call the ability to mess around with one of the fundamental principles of reality a simple concept. Is the rest of the mundane world really so far behind the supernatural?"
"Well, we have had a long time to work on our skills, and Mr Hyoudou, I still find it hard to believe you were unware of the supernatural until yesterday. As a man of your talents, I figured someone would have recruited you by now."
"You mean like what you're trying to do now? Hmmm, I've had to deal with quite a few extraordinary events in the past, but this is all news to me. As for being recruited by someone…" Issei trailed off as the face of a world weary old man missing an arm flashed in his mind. "I don't believe it's happened yet."
"Fufufu, you can't blame me for trying Mr Hyoudou, it's not every day one gets to meet an anomaly like you. I can tell you're still holding back your strength, Yasaka-sama could use someone like you as an ally… won't you consider it?"
"Hmmph, that's what I'm afraid of. I refuse to be another disposable pawn in a war I know nothing about. As I understand, most governments are involved in some seriously shady business of some sort to either keep their power or appease dissenters… when they don't just disappear them."
Kuroyuki simply shrugged when faced with Issei's scepticism, a 'what can you do' expression on her face. "I'd tell you that Yasaka-sama is different but you won't believe me. That's fine, all I ask is that you keep an open mind and if you ever do visit Kyoto you can see the truth of the matter for yourself. If we can't be allies at the very least we don't have to be enemies."
Taking a moment to consider it, Issei acceded to that request. "Next question, you did mention that while Japan is under the jurisdiction of the Shinto gods, Kuoh itself is administrated by two devils and their peerages. Who are they?"
"Ara? I've already answered so many of your questions up till now but I still know next to nothing about you. Isn't it your turn to answer my questions now?"
"A quid pro quo huh… very well, fire away. As long as those questions do not put anyone I care for at risk or intrude upon the privacy of others, I will answer them to the best of my ability." Issei leaned against the chair and prepared for the oncoming storm.
"Oh don't worry about that, it's nothing much, I just want to know who you are. I need to include it in my report to Yasaka-sama after all. You're not a normal human by any means, the ability to go invisible and teleport short distances… you're also clearly experienced with fighting. So, do tell."
"Nothing much to say really, I am Hyoudou Issei, adopted child of the Hyoudous and slightly above average pervert. About two years ago, I was involved in an… accident… of sorts. My memories of it are fuzzy but I was evidently hit by a car while on a hike. I was supposed to die that night, but fate had other plans." Issei paused at this point and looked around the place, seeing no one paying attention, he summoned his sacred gear under the table before displaying it to Kuroyuki.
"That's when this thing appeared." The raven-haired Yuki-onna stared at the gauntlet, not particularly impressed by it. "That is the sacred gear twice critical is it not? I fail to see the significance of it."
"I was getting to that part. Like I said, I got hit, took a tumble down the hill and broke god knows how many bones on the way down. This thing appeared right when I was about to give up, it attracted something… else."
Kuroyuki leaned in closer to listen to Issei's story. To the best of her knowledge, the activation of a sacred gear might spur on a sudden increase in healing ability, but it was relatively minor and nowhere near enough to save his life if he really was as wounded as he claimed to be.
"I can't go into details since I don't remember much of it myself, but a parasite tried to make me its host. It didn't go so well for either of us. The twice critical for lack of a better term absorbed it and used it to repair my broken body. It ended with both of us fused into a gestalt consciousness and me certifiably insane."
Kuroyuki raised one eyebrow at that, she'd never heard of any sacred gear being able to absorb another entity and fuse it with its wielder. Sure, she'd heard of pacts between users and magical creatures to increase the power of the sacred gear but never something like this. "You appear to be quite sane though."
"Hmmph, I got better. Still, for a time I was out of control. I had zero means of controlling my new abilities and dealing with another presence in your mind trying to overwrite you isn't exactly easy. Believe or not, some old man found me in that state and managed to beat me down enough times that I stopped resisting. I spent the next two months in his care, learning to find myself again and how to deal with the… changes."
"An old man beat you down? Was he a member of one of the supernatural factions? He clearly isn't human if he was able to do that."
"No clue and I never said he was. Shishou was very guarded about his past. The only thing I know about him is that at the time he went by the name Nogiel, and even that is a relatively new alias. Once I was fully healed and in command of my faculties, he had me returned to my family while I was asleep before disappearing to god knows where. After that, well I've been training on my own, you saw the results of that."
"I see… I would like to meet this man one day. Well Mr Hyoudou, I won't press you for the rest of the story but I do hope you will trust me enough one day to share it."
"We'll just have to see. Now, who are the devils in charge of Kuoh."
"Worried about them, are we?"
Issei's expression hardened as a familiar rage rose up in him, only extensive practice allowed him to shove it down before he caused a scene. "I happen to have family and friends in Kuoh, I will never allow them to come to harm. If those devils leave them the hell alone, I will leave them be. If they are a threat to my precious people, I will terminate them, consequences be damned."
Kuroyuki found herself taken aback by Issei's vitriol, he'd been pretty laid back in the short time she'd known him. Even during the fight against Shinn, he'd treated it as more of a nuisance than something to get mad over. "You'd do that… even if it starts a war?"
"Yes, I would. The only reason I'm anti-war is so my people don't get dragged into it. But if they're going to die anyway, I will do everything in power to take as many of the bastards down as I can. If that means war so be it, I'm not nearly magnanimous enough to put the general public over the lives of those I care for. If it sounds selfish, that's because it is."
'He… he's actually serious. He's actually willing to go to war with the world if that's what it takes.' Stunned into silence by Issei's declaration, she tried and failed to come up with a response several times. Finally, she collected herself enough to speak.
"We-well I don't think that'll be a problem. As far as I know they've been here for quite a while now, you should know of them actually. Sona Sitri or Souna Shitori would be one, the other would be Rias Gremory. As far as I know, they are committed to keeping the peace."
"The student council president and the president of the occult research club?" Issei's face ran through a range of emotions upon hearing that before fading back into his original impassive one. 'Okay… so Souna-kaichou is a devil and so is Rias-sem…pai… OH SHIT! HARUNA!'
Letting none of his inner turmoil show on his face, Issei did his best to avoid jumping to conclusions too soon. "Alright… I need to clarify one thing. Both of them are leaders of their clubs, I need to know this, is everyone in them a member of their respective peerages?"
"I wouldn't be able to answer that, I didn't get the chance to meet all the members after all." Kuroyuki's honest answer failed to reassure Issei in the slightest "I see… thanks for answering."
'Sentinel. Increase surveillance on Kuoh academy, I want to know everything about these two and the company they keep, and I mean everything. Keep an eye on Haruna as well, I don't like intruding on her privacy like this but I'm not taking any chances.'
[Understood colonel. Shall I make preparations for the elimination of the devils as well?]
'…Please do so. Hopefully it won't come to that, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared.'
Unsure of what Issei was thinking about, Kuroyuki decided to broach the other topic on her mind. "One more thing Mr Hyoudou, the sword you retrieved from Shinn last night, may I have it back?"
Pushing aside his fears, Issei did his best to focus on the here and now. "The Muramasa sword huh… any particular reason why I should hand it over? I did claim it by right of conquest after all."
"Well, the blade is cursed, it has a storied past in that regard. Wielders eventually go mad from the bloodlust and rampage until they are cut down. Even if they try not to touch the blade, they will eventually give in to its whispers and become a puppet. Surely you don't want to hurt the people around you because of the curse, Yasaka-sama's government has already made preparations to have the sword sealed away where it can't cause anymore mayhem."
"Yes… well it's a good thing I can store it in a place where the curse won't affect me, as for while it's in use. Hahaha… I'm no stranger to having voices in my head."
"…I'm not going to be able to convince you otherwise, now am I? Very well, I won't force the issue. I do believe that concludes our business for the night. I am needed back in Kyoto to report on the situation, you don't mind if I report your actions as that of a potential ally now do you?"
"Do as you will, I bear your people no ill will. Perhaps there will come a day where we will be true allies. You don't need an escort back to Kyoto, do you? I cannot confirm if Shinn has any allies waiting for revenge."
"I'll be fine, but thanks for the offer anyways Mr Hyoudou." With that, both settled their bills and parted ways. Stepping out into the cool night air, Issei exhaled a breath he didn't even know he'd been holding. "Hmmph, the more I learn the less I really know. Please tell me you got all that Matsuda because I feel a headache coming on and I don't want to think about this anymore."
"Yeah I did. Holy shit, this is gonna give the spooks a massive work out. How the hell did no one pick up on this? This is big… I need to report in to high command about this. If we can reverse engineer their magic we could turn the tide of the war for good." Matsuda's excited voice came through a small, nigh invisible earpiece.
"Let's not get too excited yet, there's no guarantee it'll work. In any case, should we inform Motohama about this? I'm not very confident in my ability to stop him if he decides to go off on another crusade."
"Ah right… he's still violently opposed to the church, isn't he? Well shit, that just complicates things. I'll look into the records, if Kuroyuki's information is accurate, I should find some evidence in history. Even if they can manipulate memories, I don't believe they'll be able to erase all evidence so easily. I'll look up the church as well, if they're the same people as the ones from his past… I've already made arrangements for our funeral."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence buddy." Issei replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm. His brow began to twitch after receiving a cheerful 'no problem' in response. Hearing the distinctive click of Matsuda hanging up, he sighed for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.
His mind still a mess, Issei wasn't ready to return home and face the possibility that his beloved elder sister might no longer be human. Forcing down his fears once more, he decided to simply stroll around, allowing the night air to cool him down.
After mindlessly walking for an hour, Issei's feet led him to a small park tucked away in a small corner of the urban jungle. Taking a seat on one of the many benches, Issei stared at the deserted playground in silence, enjoying the solitude for however long he had left.
[Colonel, shall we engage?]
'No. They haven't done anything yet and if they leave us be I am willing to ignore them. And stop calling me that.'
[Colonel, it is statistically impossible that they will leave in peace. They have been following us for the past 30 minutes now and they have the park surrounded. Recommendation, first strike.]
Issei sighed at Sentinel's analysis of the situation. 'A guy can dream, can't he? They haven't done anything yet though, maybe they just want to talk. If they do attack, at least I can use the excuse of self-defence.'
Issei didn't have to wait long for his stalkers to show themselves. The shrubbery in front of him rustled as a cold wind blew by and a single figure emerged from the shadows. Taking note of his appearance, the newcomer was fairly ordinary. A middle-aged man in a trench coat and fedora, a little strange for the weather perhaps but nothing too out of place.
"Hello stranger, nice night, isn't it?" Calling out a greeting to the man, Issei looked relaxed on the surface but was tense and ready to react at the drop of a hat. "Yes… it is a nice night. What's a good kid like you doing all the way out here? Don't you know it's dangerous to wander around alone late at night. Come on, I'll get you home, don't want anything bad to happen now do we."
*cough* "Bullshit" *cough*
"Excuse me?" Issei deadpanned at the stranger's reaction. "If you're going to feed me a steaming pile of bull crap at least try to make it smell like something other than shit. Just how dumb do you think I am? And you can call the rest of your buddies out as well, I've had a loooong day and I am not in the mood to deal with any bullshit from anyone."
"I don't know what you're-"
"Cut the crap asshole. I know you've been following me for the last half hour. And those buddies of yours are doing a piss poor job of staying hidden, I can see them you know." Issei made a show of pointing out the hiding spots of all twenty of his still hidden stalkers with one finger, a bored look on his face all the way.
With their cover blown, they emerged from the shadows. Twenty men dressed in a variant of priestly attire, all wielding strange looking pistols and a sword hilt without a blade.
"Heh, not bad boy, you actually spotted us. We have you outnumbered, will you come with us peacefully or do we have to use force?" Smacking his fist into his palm, the fedora man smiled sadistically, his manner promising great pain if Issei didn't comply. Possibly great pain even if he did. "Please… resist."
He was disturbed to see Issei completely failing to react to being surrounded and his intimidation. The boy didn't beg, didn't panic, didn't put forth a show of bravado. He didn't even try to bargain his way out of the mess, just sitting there with his hands folded, the bored look never leaving his face.
"Well? What's it gonna be boy?" Issei blinked once slowly after being addressed. "You're still talking? What part of cut the bullshit didn't you understand. I have had a long day and right now I just want to go home and sleep it all off. Hurry up and attack me already, shoot me, stab me I don't care. Just do something so when I kill your asses I get the self-defence excuse."
Seeing their target completely writing them off as a threat, the false priests bristled with anger and tightened their grips on their weapons, waiting for their boss's orders to teach the upstart a lesson.
"There is a fine line between courage and suicidal overconfidence boy, you're so far over it, it'd be funny if it wasn't so sad. The name's Dohnaseek boy, remember it when I carve it into your flesh." A spear of magenta light formed in his hand, Issei merely stared at it with mild curiosity.
Dohnaseek of course had no intention of killing the boy, his master would be most displeased if he did so. But being completely disregarded like that annoyed him more than he cared to admit. As an angel who fell for the sin of pride, he would not allow such an insult to stand.
Aiming for Issei's right leg, he tossed the spear at a slow enough speed for Issei to dodge but still packing enough force to scare the boy. It doubled as a signal for one of his men to approach Issei from the back while his attention was occupied by the spear.
His target once again defied all expectations. Issei simply took the spear head on without flinching, allowing the light weapon to bury itself in his leg, nearly severing the thing. Dohnaseek wasn't expecting that and clearly neither was the man creeping up on Issei as both stopped their actions to stare at the boy.
The target in question for his part merely looked down at the spear, turned to Dohnaseek stared him in the eye for a bit before returning his attention to the shaft of light buried in his body. Deadpanning, Issei regarded Dohnaseek with a look that spoke volumes of just how much he thought the fallen angel was an idiot.
"Are… you… serious… I gave you one free hit. You could have gone for a headshot, or centre mass if your aim is poor. Instead… you stab me through the foot. Are you that poor of a shot or just plain stupid, I can't really tell at this point. Whatever, it doesn't concern me, now ahem… oh noes! I've just been attacked by a bunch of thugs who want to kill me. My leg is injured and I can't escape. Whatever shall I do? I know, I'll just have to do my best to defend myself here. Blah blah blah, I think that should do it."
Neither the fallen angel nor his stray exorcists knew how to react to the boy who had delivered his lines in a complete monotone while completely ignoring the spear that had effective amputated his leg. Their earlier confidence at a quick takedown had evaporated in the face of this strange kid.
"No need to ask where your god is boys, cause he's right here. And he's fresh out of mercy." The nerve of the exorcist closest to Issei failed and he tried to make a break for it. He didn't get far.
Twenty silver spikes erupted from the ground, skewering all the rouges in one go. Impaled from the groin all the way to the head with the tip of the spikes running on for another metre, they didn't suffer very long.
Dohnaseek took a step back in shock. This was not part of the plan, their target was a simple kid, brother to the Sekiryuutei who was just reincarnated as devil recently. He wasn't supposed to be a bigger threat than the girl!
Those twenty exorcists may not have been the best but they were experienced, for them to be taken out so easily… suddenly, Dohnaseek wasn't very sure about his chances anymore.
"What the hell!? Jibril never mentioned anything about this."
"Am I supposed to know who that is or care? You know, if you'd just left me alone none of this would have happened and your men would still be alive. But you just couldn't let sleeping dogs lie, now could you?"
Panicking now, Dohnaseek hurled another light spear, this time impaling Issei through his left eye. Without bothering to check if his target was dead, he spread his wings and tried to escape.
Like his earlier minion, he failed to make it very far. A sharp burst of pain lanced through him as his back screamed in agony. Crashing to the ground and struggling to stay awake from the pain, he was dimly aware that one of his wings had been burned clean off at the joint, only a stump left behind.
Mustering whatever strength he had left, he attempted to crawl away, to put as much distance between him and the monster he unknowingly provoked.
His progress was once more halted by Issei teleporting in front of him in a shower of blue sparks. Looking up at him, the fallen could see that the wounds he inflicted were still there in all their goriness.
Right leg missing a significant chunk of flesh yet still somehow supporting weight, the edges of the wound had been charred black by prolonged exposure to the light spear. Issei's head wound on the other hand was far more terrifying. The spear had gone clean through, leaving a hole through which Dohnaseek could see the moon behind him.
This time the light spear hadn't been left in the wound long enough to cauterize it. Blood, brain fluid, pulverised pieces of bone and grey matter continuously leaked from it, pouring down Issei's face and painting half of it black in the dim light.
All in all, it was a scene straight out of a horror movie, and never in a million years would Dohnaseek expect to be the hunted instead of the hunter. Despite the urge to scream from the pain, his voice died in his throat as he stared at the nightmare before him in mute horror.
His terror increased tenfold as the nightmare continued speaking as though his wounds didn't bother him in the slightest, something that was a distinct possibility.
"How rude, I only gave you one freebie, was the spear to the eye really necessary? In any case you're coming with me, I have questions and you will answer if you know what's good for you. But… for now it's late and I want to sleep, guess I'll just have to deal with you tomorrow. For now sweet nightmares little crow."
The last thing Dohnaseek saw was the demented smile on his tormentor's face as he raised his damaged foot and brought it down on his face. After that, darkness claimed him and he knew no more.