Would you look at that, 2 chapters in a month. Let's hope I can keep the momentum.
For those who are interested, there is a short 'Author's note' at the end.
Disclaimer: Do not own Naruto or High school DxD; except for the story concepts.
Calm before the Storm
"This is," The frustration on Azazel's reflection was quite evident to Jiraiya, "I did not think they are this dangerous."
Hearing that, Jiraiya leaned forward, "You are aware of Khaos Brigade," A small smile formed on his lips as he made that statement to Azazel through the communication mirror.
"Please~" Azazel's smile matched his, "My spy network is not as good as yours, true; but it is still better than the rest."
Jiraiya nodded his head in acknowledgment but otherwise remained silent.
It was a cue, and Azazel caught it. Releasing another sigh, Azazel started, "Khaos Brigade, also known as the Army of Disaster. I became aware of its existence through the Old Satan," Jiraiya just send a pointed look which made Azazel to crack another smile, "While it may not look like it, I tried my best to keep a tab on the Old Satan. I personally know how tenacious and prideful they are. So, I know for sure, since they are not dead, they are planning something somewhere."
"To take back the Devil Faction."
"Obviously," Azazel snorted, "Their arrogance makes them quite predictable. Still, just because you know their end goal, does not mean there is a guarantee that you can stop them. Of course, it is also not easy to track them. They are arrogant, yes; but, they did survive two wars."
Jiraiya leaned back on his chair, "That is why they are more dangerous."
"Preciously!" Azazel smiled, "So when I learned that they joined a mysterious group, naturally, I tried to find out everything I can. It may look like this brigade is a misfit crowd full of strays, dangerous individuals," For a brief moment, Azazel's gaze flickered downward. Jiraiya knew why but did not mention it. A frustrated sigh later, "And traitors; but it is more than that. It has more than that. From wanted exorcists, runaway devils, banished fallens… to old magicians, powerful humans, and even some long-forgotten deities. And try as I might, I just cannot connect the dots. Their origins, it is so diverse. So, what common goals do they share? And most importantly, who can keep a leash on them?"
Jiraiya released a tired breath, "No different than an international criminal organization." A pause later, he met Azazel's gaze, "You have an idea who the supposed 'leader' is."
It was a statement, not a question; which made Azazel chuckle, "I believe we have the similar idea. Someone from the top ten is involved in this mess," Azazel paused as a mischievous look slowly formed on his face, "You know, a few years back, I actually thought that the youkai king was the ringleader."
Jiraiya felt his eyebrows hitting his hairline. As the initial shock disappeared, Jiraiya smiled, "Honestly, it makes sense. I would have thought the same."
For a moment, no one said anything. Then, Azazel sent him a questioning look, "You are not going to ask why I do not think so now?"
Jiraiya just gave him a knowing smile.
"Who am I kidding?" Azazel shook his head, "Well, with him out of the picture, there are only Indra and the Greek. And my bet is on the Greek."
"True, the King of Svarga and Devas does not have any valid reasons to lead or collaborate with the brigade. The Greeks, on the other hand, have plenty of reasons," Jiraiya could not help but frown, "They are becoming a real nuisance as of late," Then, once again, he looked at Azazel challengingly, "But they are not the leader."
Azazel opened his mouth, a moment later, he closed it. Even though Azazel was not showing any outer emotions and held his gaze, Jiraiya knew the governor of the fallen was in a dilemma. So, he kept his silence to give him time.
A minute later, Azazel closed his eyes and sighed, "During some of their gatherings, there were traces of another being," Another pause, "Keep in mind that I can be wrong here, but the power signature that I had discovered, there was a match."
This time the pause was longer.
It was the second time during their meeting that Jiraiya found himself speechless. When he finally gathered his thoughts, he leaned toward the mirror, "Ophis, the Ouroboros Dragon, the Infinite Dragon God. That Ophis?"
Azazel just gave a wry smile.
Jiraiya felt a migraine coming. Supporting his head with one hand, Jiraiya closed his eyes and let out a groan, "If you are not wrong, then this changes the whole gameplay."
"Who knows, maybe I am."
Jiraiya shook his head, "Someone who could keep a leash on all these arrogant and dangerous beings; Ophis fits the role, no?"
With a tired sigh, Jiraiya leaned back on his chair, "Regardless, we move forward," He saw the surprised look on Azazel's face but he pressed on, "Yes, Ophis being the leader of Khaos Brigade, a group Rizevim is part of does complicate things. But we also need to consider other scenarios. I am quite certain that Rizevim is using Khaos Brigade to push his own agenda. This group is nothing but a shield, a front for him," Jiraiya then pointed at the documents on the table, "The information I have shared with you, if you can verify them, then we can safely say that this falls under the Biblical Faction and the Avalon Kingdom's jurisdiction. If so, then I do not think we will have to go against Khaos Brigade as a whole, just Rizevim and his allies."
Azazel slowly shook his head, "This… could work."
"In the meantime, I will inform this to Naruto. You should inform Michael and Sirzechs," Jiraiya added.
"Alright, I will inform them," Azazel looked to his side and smiled, "We should do a follow-up soon with everyone involved."
Jiraiya nodded in acknowledgment, "We should."
"How about having our next session in Heaven?"
A sound and reasonable suggestion but Jiraiya knew there was more to it. Regardless, he did not react to it, "I will bring it up."
"Then, until next time," With that Azazel's reflection disappeared.
The moment the magic of the mirror completely died, Jiraiya released a long audible breath.
Azazel was a good person, a good leader, and had a great outlook on life in general. That was why Jiraiya and Azazel hit it off rather well. Yes, he would consider the governor of the fallen a friend; but, in the grand scheme of things, their friendship mattered little.
The relationship between the Avalon Kingdom and the Biblical Faction, as of now, was something like a 'Business Partners'. They were not allies; and yet, this was the fourth invitation Naruto had received, asking him to visit the Heaven. First was through an official letter sent by Michael, right after the 'Top Ten' revelation. The second time, they had sent a high-ranking angel as the messenger. Third was during their meeting a few months back. And now.
Today, the invitation was subtle but it was cleverly executed. And, Jiraiya did not like this. Because it meant that the angels and the fallens were together on this, at least to a certain degree.
In the beginning, Jiraiya stopped Naruto from visiting the Heaven by pointing out that his visit would create some unrest in the Biblical faction. It was a valid reason but Jiraiya used this as an excuse to find out more about the Biblical God and the Heaven.
But he could not. Yes, infiltrating Vatican was not a problem, or any other similar sacred grounds; but the Heaven was entirely a different story. No matter how hard he tried, he just could not get inside the Heaven.
And then, there was this Biblical God. No one, other than the angels and some of the fallens, had seen or heard from him for centuries. Was he even alive? Was he an actual being or just a system? The easiest way to answer these questions was for the Biblical God to make an appearance. But he knew, it would not happen.
So, there was no way Jiraiya was allowing Naruto to go to a place that he knew nothing about, to meet a being that Jiraiya had not personally seen.
Michael would have to be upfront about the reason, and he would have to let Jiraiya personally scout the holy ground, or this visit to the Heaven was not happening.
Now, this was concerning.
The possibility of Ophis being the leader of the Khaos Brigade was low, yes, but it was still there. Ophis, the Infinite Dragon God, a being whose power could not be measured by their standards… a Beast.
And, right now, Naruto was probably playing board games with another Beast.
Jiraiya felt his lips twitching at that thought.
Azazel did not know about this development, not many did. Of course, Naruto did not want to keep this a secret but Jiraiya made sure he did. A youkai King who reached the top of the ranking ladder within a century, a feat considered impossible; and now, he befriended the Great Red… a Beast. This would clearly make him a target.
…Those who preferred the stagnant status of the Supernatural World.
…Those who followed the cynical and cruel ways of a bygone era.
Then it hit him. And the realization made his blood freeze.
…Those… who had a beef with Great Red.
Jiraiya took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"Nagato, Yahiko, Konan, Nawaki."
Recalling the names and the faces of his children would always calm him, would help him to focus. And he needed to focus right now.
Seconds turned to minutes as nothing but silence reigned in that dim-lit room of his. Finally, Jiraiya let himself smile as all the dots of his plan were connected.
First and foremost, he needed to find out the connection between Ophis and Khaos Brigade. The history, the secrets, and the current status of the group were of no concern to him; at least, right now. What he needed to know was how active Ophis truly was. Second, Azazel had to verify his findings and spot the rats in his faction.
If the outcome of these two situations was positive, only then, they would proceed with their initial plan.
It meant Jiraiya would have to reshuffle his resources again.
The core difference between Azazel's spy network and his was that Azazel himself was not a spy. The governor understood the concept very well, true, but the finer details of spying eluded him.
After all, how did Jiraiya find out about Khaos Brigade so fast?
While Jiraiya was here, working with the taskforce that was designed to assassinate Rizevim, some of his 'Astral Clones' had already improved his existing spy network in this region. Then they personally started mingling with both the human and the supernatural side of China to track their target. They had found some traces of Rizevim. And, as his clones were following up on those traces, they came across Khaos Brigade.
That was not all.
At the same time, a few of his 'Astral Clones' were leading the team that was tasked to find out the location of the Greek faction's home base. They already narrowed down the 'City'. And right now, they were just looking for the 'Gate'.
Unfortunately, he would have to pull out these resources and focus on the current urgent task of finding out more about Ophis.
Of course, many would say why not just create more 'Astral Clones' and put them to work. He could, but then the telepathic link that he had set up between his astral clones would weaken. And if the telepathic link was weak, the speed by which the information was passed around between Jiraiya and his astral clones would decrease significantly. And, in this line of work, it could be fatal.
Jiraiya hummed. Regarding the task of finding the location of the Greek's base, he could pass the baton to Sesshomaru. If he could push the investigation forward, it would be great. If not, it was still acceptable as long as Sesshomaru did not lose the leads he had found.
"But, what to do over here?"
A noise downstairs broke his concentration. With a sigh, he stood up, "Time to check what the brats are up to now."
He bit his thumb, made some quick hand signs, and then placed his palm on top of the table. A small magical circle appeared beneath his palm, but it disappeared just as fast.
Satisfied, he started heading toward the commotion.
Currently, they were in Shanghai, temporarily residing at a world-renowned hotel as a wealthy group who wanted to create an indie film. The idea was to blend in with the human crowd, but also to stay in a position from where they could observe the supernatural world. Easier said than done considering Jiraiya's current team.
Yes, this taskforce was created to takedown Rizevim. But, it was not an easy mission considering who they were up against.
It was not Rizevim's power they were wary about, it was his shrewdness. Their target would not come out in the open unless he was sure of his victory. Even then, there was a high probability that he would just flee rather than confront the situation. And, Rizevim was really good at disappearing without a trace.
That was why the taskforce was divided into two groups. The first group would be assaulting using the front door. The group should be powerful enough to handle whoever or whatever Rizevim would throw at them. This group consisted of Kuroka, Xenovia Quarta, Irina Shidou, Roygun Belphegor; and would be led by none other than Baraqiel.
But their task was not to confront Rizevim, it was the job of the second group. While Rizevim was distracted, the second team would come in and take him out. The assassination had to be swift and precise. That was why the second team had Jiraiya, Tobio Ikuse, Diehauser Belial, and Dulio Gesualdo; with Jiraiya being the leader.
Only after their primary threat was neutralized, they would focus on their other objectives… mainly, finding the shards of Excalibur.
Well, that was the idea. In pen and paper, it sounded feasible. They had the power, the experience, and uniqueness in terms of abilities; but, they were missing the core component.
To be fair to them, Jiraiya could understand where they were coming from. One day, they were wary of each other and the next, they were told to work together on a critical mission. So, this was why Jiraiya was putting the blame on the leaders. Naruto made it crystal clear that for this taskforce to work, each and every member would have to be strong, experienced, and professional. And most importantly, they should not have any qualms about working with members from other factions.
"Was it too much to ask?"
Jiraiya relaxed his shoulders and put on a smile as he entered the living room.
A smile that was hard to maintain when he realized what was the commotion about. Once again, it was the exorcists Xenovia and Irina butting heads with the devil Roygun. Without even asking, he knew what the problem was. Xenovia or Irina, or both of them probably were walking around without concealing their cross pendant. Or they were saying a short prayer. Jiraiya had no problem with their actions but it was with where they would do it.
In the common space where there would be other team members.
The ones who were most affected by their actions were Diehauser, Roygun, and Kuroka to some extent since she was still technically a reincarnated devil. Diehauser and Kuroka would excuse themselves when the exorcists were praying in the common rooms, but Roygun would not back down.
She was not wrong to do so, but she would unnecessarily rile them up.
So, why did the Heaven send two wet behind the ears exorcists? Their other option was Griselda who refused to work alongside Jiraiya. And they could not send any angels since Rizevim would sense their powers from miles away.
"You sure talk big for a freeloader."
"Take that back," Xenovia's hand was inching closer to her shoulder, "We contributed just as much!"
"Please," The strain on Roygun's face was becoming more apparent, caused by the pendants Xenovia and Irina were wearing, "You would not have been able to enter the premise with that meager contribution of yours."
Xenovia was seething now. Her hand touched the handle of the sealed sword on her back. On her side, Irina also took a step forward. But, before Roygun could even take a fighting stance, Dulio stepped in.
This made Roygun to unwillingly back off.
Dulio Gesualdo, Jiraiya could see why the Heaven had sent him. He was believed to be 'The Strongest Exorcist'. He did not earn this title just because of his Longinus: Zenith Tempest, it was how well he used its power.
Dulio had the raw power, the fighting experience, and the cooperative mindset but what he lacked was the experience in leadership. Yes, he was not like Xenovia and Irina. He respected his other team members. But he did not know how to control the other two. He would only step in if it seemed that an actual fight would break out.
"Sorry to disturb your jovial team bonding moment," Jiraiya came closer, "But I would like to make an announcement, and I want everyone to come here."
He knew everyone heard the echo and would be here soon. He also did not miss the subtle glance Roygun sent at the exorcists, more specifically, at the pendants they were wearing.
Jiraiya let out a fake cough and gave Xenovia and Irina a pointed look. But, both of them decided to ignore his silent message. Unfortunately for them, today, Jiraiya was in no mood for their tantrums.
With a flick of a finger, the cross pendants broke their chains and shot toward him. And the moment Jiraiya caught them, threads from his clothes completely wrapped those necklaces and sealed their light energy.
All of these happened within a fraction of a second.
"I said this before," Jiraiya spoke as he locked gazes with Dulio, who was the first one to recover from his shocked state, "I do not care what you wear or what you do in your own rooms, but when you are with your team members, you will keep your 'Light' artifacts sealed. Last time, it was an advice. This time, it is an order."
Xenovia and Irina glared at him. Both of them were going for their swords but Dulio was faster. He released just a tiny bit of his power and incapacitated the two girls behind him, without even looking away from Jiraiya, "You two will stand down," Then he stood straighter and addressed Jiraiya, "What will happen if we do not follow that order."
Jiraiya let out a real smile. It seemed Dulio was more levelheaded than he thought, "I will send you packing," Then he faced the other two, "Before you throw another tantrum, ask your superiors, I do have the authority to do so."
Then he faced Roygun, "And yes, I can do the same for you."
It was easy to see that none of them liked what they heard, but he had enough. If it was his old world, this would be an 'S' rank mission. But instead of experienced jonin, he was stuck with incompetent chunin.
The mission was bound to fail if they did not get their acts straight. He had given them enough time for it. But now, he was going to put his foot down. Any more mistakes, any more disturbance from any team members, and he would be asking for a replacement.
The stakes were higher now, and he had no time to babysit them anymore.
It was times like these that he missed his old teams.
He thought that the Dimensional Gap was the most unique plane that he had visited. He lived two lives in two different universes, and that was saying something. The Dimensional Gap, it was as if a splatter of colors were mixed together to create this abstract space. Not only visually, but also conceptually the Dimensional Gap was different.
But the Void… it made him uneasy.
Nothing existed inside that empty black space. No light, no sound, no color… no life, no souls. It was devoid of anything and everything.
Truly, a fitting name.
"Unsettling, is it not?"
Naruto let out a hollow smile, "How many worlds were there?"
There was a pause before he received his answer.
Naruto closed his eyes and let out a shaky breath.
Even though Great Red had assured him that there was no danger in the Void, Naruto did not want to take any risks. Especially not when Yasaka was close to becoming pregnant. So, he and Shiva had gone in first to do initial scouting. But that few hours inside the Void was enough to tell them that they would not be finding anything. Shiva was sure of it. But Naruto still wanted to try again.
So, next time, all of them had gone in.
It was a disturbing and depressing journey.
There was nothing. Even concepts such as time, life, and death did not exist there. So, no matter how much Naruto tried to use 'Reality Manipulation', he was unable to see anything through that emptiness. Even, Amun-Ra with his vast knowledge and experience with magic could not uncover anything.
It was then that he understood.
This was what Great Red wanted him to see.
The terrifying power of Trihexa.
"So many lives," Naruto took a deep breath, "It destroyed everything."
"Devour… would be the correct term."
Shocked, Naruto looked at Great Red. At that moment, many questions formed in his mind. What did he mean by that statement? Did Great Red know Trihexa personally? Was there anything hidden in the Void that they did see? Could not see? But in the end, he just asked one simple question. Even though he had a hunch what the answer would be.
"Is Trihexa truly dead?"
What Naruto received was silence. But, it was enough.
"Do you know where it is?"
Again, the silence was the only answer he received. Releasing a deep breath, Naruto looked at the entrance of the Void, far ahead of him. If Trihexa was not dead, then the only other possible scenario was that it was sealed. But where? If it was somewhere in the Dimensional Gap, then Great Red would have known. Was it sealed inside the ExE universe? That would explain the seal on the entrance. And then, it hit him.
Trihexa was defeated inside the DxD universe.
"It is sealed inside the DxD universe."
The realization made his blood freeze. Trihexa, the first Beast, the Beast of Apocalypse was sealed somewhere in his universe.
Naruto turned around, ready to take flight to find Shiva and Amun-Ra. He had a feeling that they did not know about this either. But, since they fought Trihexa, they should be able to shed light on this revelation. He needed to ask them about it.
"Search the Heaven."
Naruto paused and faced Great Red again. He opened his mouth to ask what Great Red meant by that statement but closed it when he saw the giant dragon had his eyes closed. A clear indication that Great Red wanted to be left alone.
Shaking his head, Naruto made his way toward Shiva and Amun-Ra. He needed to ask them about Trihexa and the Biblical God.
"It seems like I will have to visit the Heaven soon."
I was supposed to write another section, about the tournament, but I will add it to the next chapter. Or, I may write one or two extra chapters focusing the tournament. I mentioned this already, but I would like to point out one more time: I want to write and upload more consistently rather than uploading a huge chapter once in a while.
There are few reviews that I so badly want to reply but then I will be spoiling the story. But one thing I would like to mention that the ExE universe will be different than the canon.
Until next time~
If you want to show some support, search me 'AlphaDreamer' on the 'site-that-shall-not-be-named' (thank you 'Saif Omar' for pointing out that I was missing the hyphens. I really did not think anyone read that part properly.)