Back - back again, yeah, yeah.

Not much to say except... enjoy?

I've also been thinking a bit more about the DxD World and some of the larger, subtle and unfortunate implications that would exist in a world where all gods and myths are proven to be factual.

I seem to be getting more and more interested in world-building ever since I started writing my own original stories, and found time to play sessions of D&D. I think the fan fic I've written with the most world-building so far is A Precise Note... but that won't hold true for long.

Thank you, again, to all those who read and enjoy my fan fics, and those who bought and read also my personal works: Janus and Oblivion and Janus and the Prince.

Pleased to announce that the third book in the series: Janus and the Dreamer will be releasing 2021!

To avoid giving a false release date and angering people (Cough*CDProjektRed*Cough) the specific date the book will be out will be withheld until I'm absolutely certain I won't have to delay it. (Cough*Cyberpunk2077*cough).

That being said -

Enjoy!


Dead Man's Drink

Is this it?

Sera bounced up and forth on my cock. She made sounds no other man would hear. She arched her back, curled her toes, shook and shuddered, swore and cursed. She was a freshman in the school of pleasure, and I was her teacher.

Is this it?

I couldn't count the hours. Days? No, hours. Had it been more than a single day, we'd have been interrupted. Sera's tireless moans would have stopped residing in my eardrums. The enthusiasm she possessed like a roaring ember would have snuffed itself like a lit candle left to fester.

Is this all there is to it?

The air outside rumbled; I smelt ozone. My ears twitched. Battle.

"Stop."

"H-huh?"

I pushed her off me with a single hand. She gripped hard. On her fours, she looked eager. Too eager. Maybe she thought I was going to change positions; educate her further on things she had not seen.

"We're done."

"Done?"

"I'm bored."

I never believed those words would come from my mouth. Even after uttering them, a part of me didn't believe it. Sera likely felt the same. Her brows shot to her forehead; her jaw slackened and a strained sound came from her throat.

"I – I can change things up, um – make things more exciting!"

I examined her. My ears knew her heartbeat. Faster and faster it ran. Her uneven smile and clenched hands told me what her lips wouldn't. I had her wrapped around my finger and we both knew it.

"It's not your fault," I lied. "We've been going at it for hours. Too much of a good thing..."

It was her fault. Maybe. Possibly. A little bit. Definitely.

I couldn't fathom any other reason as to why I would feel as I did currently. The initial euphoria was dead. My cock still remaining hard was merely as a physiological response than it was any innate sexual appetite.

"I – um, let me, if I –"

She crawled on her knees forward to me, her hands, shaky, reaching up. "What are you doing?"

"This is how it's done… right? I mean, I – I've seen it done this way on videos and – and – I think, if I use my mouth like this…" her tongue did something.

She looked up to me, searching for some sort of reaction.

"You should get dressed."

She flinched. Her hands dropped from my cock, falling to her sides like wet spaghetti.

Something stirred in me. It bubbled in the pit of my stomach, like green sludge in a witch's cauldron. Up it went, from my stomach to my chest; I felt heartburn but sweeter. It found its way finally to my lips in the form of a leer.

You broke her.

Physically, I'd overwhelmed her body with more pleasure than she had ever felt in her lifetime. Mentally, I'd overwhelmed her mind with doubt as to her own ability to offer the same benefit.

"It's not your fault," I repeated my words. My right hand felt for her silken hair. I pet her head in soft pats. My cock twitched. "You never learned how to please a man."

She stared at the floor as though it were the most interesting thing in the world.

"Look at me."

She kept staring down.

"Sera, look at me."

She did. Moisture lay hidden at the corner of her eyes. My cocked twitched harder. My right hand gripped her cheeks and rose her gaze until it met mine.

"Later today, someone else will properly please me." I smiled. "When that time comes, you'll sit, and you'll watch, and you'll learn."

She grinded her thighs. Her breathing became hard.

"Repeat what I just said."

"I'll sit, and I'll watch, and I'll learn."

"And you won't touch yourself."

She squirmed. "And I…"

"Repeat."

"I won't… touch myself."

I let go of her cheeks. "Good girl."

Another rumble from outside. The bar shook. Liquids and potions kept on shelves rippled. Bits of dust fell from above.

"A storm," I laughed. "How quaint."

My cock twitched harder.

"Something new to toy with."


XXXXX


I didn't think this through. I so, so, so should have thought this through.

Aika didn't understand the freak storm. She was certain the weather report had called for clear skies. Now that it was raining boys and men outside, her plan of calling the cops on these yakuza thugs was out the window. She tried her best not to look out of place, sitting on the barstool. The bartender lady had very pale skin, looked to be in her late twenties, and glared so fiercely that Aika peed herself a little.

"I –"

"Shut up."

Aika's lips slammed close.

"Come now, you're being a little harsh on the girl."

Aika would have hugged the middle-aged man beside her, had she the courage to move her legs. The bartender lady took her glare in a new direction.

"Nakamura, is it?"

"Please, call me Ichijo."

"Right, Nakamura." The woman's arms crossed over her voluptuous chest. Aika tried to prevent her gaze snapping from the woman's bosom to her own.

"As I said, Seth-sama is currently occupied." The woman said the word as if it killed her dog. "And he did not tell me he was expecting any guests. Especially not someone like you."

"A middle-aged man?"

"A fucking exorcist."

"Retired," the man said.

"Bullshit," the bartender lady snorted. "You assholes don't retire. You either die on the job or turn it into a side activity you do every other Tuesday, like golf."

"I do have a rather wicked backswing."

"Keep up the jokes and you'll soon be telling people you had a rather wicked backswing."

Nakamura barked a loud laugh. "You're a feisty one! I see why Seth keeps you around. Far more entertaining than the previous woman, no doubt."

A wooden mug slammed itself unto the table. The bartender locked her glare.

"What previous woman?"

"Oh? Seth didn't tell you?" Nakamura's smile was greasy. So much so that Aika felt filthy just sitting next to the man. "When you get the chance, ask him how it is that he came to own this lovely building in the first place. It's quite the story."

"Riiiight," the bartender lady drawled. "I'm just going to take the words of a fucking exorcist."

Nakamura reached for the mug. "Not fond of exorcists?"

"I've met a lot of your kind and there's usually far less talking and far more screaming, melting and dying."

"Ah," Nakamura sipped from the mug. "Did they at least die with honor?"

"Humans shit themselves in their final moments. None of you die with honor."

The sound of descending footsteps brought a thankful pause to the conversation that Aika needed. My guardian angel!

"Aika-chan?"

"Asia-chan!"

"Hey, Aika-chan! I didn't know you were here!"

H...uh?

There was something notably different. Asia was different. There was a wide smile on her face. The kind of smile that only people with brash and bashful personalities cared to brandish openly. She skipped down the steps, two at a time, twirled to the background music, and drummed her fingers across the bar before inelegantly hopping unto a seat.

She was wearing blue tight-fitted jeans and a loose blouse. An arguably risqué blouse. A blouse that Aika would think twice about wearing out. Sleeveless, backless, and made of silken material, the girl's nipples could be seen pressing clearly against the fabric.

"A…sia-chan?"

"Aika-chan! I've missed you!"

The blonde girl grabbed her face. Aika stared in open mouthed silence as the girl kissed her on the left cheek, and kissed her on the right. W-w-w-wha?

"W-w-what I –" wait, wait, wait, I like boys! I like boys! "A-Asia, um, I'm flattered but – um – I –"

The girl's soft, airy laugh made Aika question her earlier orientation. "That's how Europeans greet! I've always wanted to greet someone like that!"

European? Aika's brain did some quick mental reconfiguration. That's right, she's Italian, isn't she? Her Japanese was so good that Aika forgot the blonde-haired girl wasn't Japanese.

Wait, wait, still, isn't she…?

"You're… um… a bit different?"

"I am?" Asia blinked with wide green eyes. "I don't feel different."

"Hey, little miss sob-story," the bartender lady called. "I thought Seth told you not to wear that necklace all the fucking time?"

Asia pouted. "I like wearing it."

"Because you don't have any balls without it?"

"Balls?" Asia tilted her head. "I don't understand. I don't have any balls with it either Viser-san."

"Of course you don't." the bartender lady, Viser, sighed under her breath. "I take it the glasses duckling here is your friend?"

Glasses duckling?

"She is!" Asia clapped. "She's my first friend in the world!"

Aika felt her stomach knot from that announcement. She snapped her gaze from the bartender lady back to the nun. Is she her handler? Mentor? Aika couldn't even begin to fathom the underlying dynamics between the two women.

A crash of thunder broke the conversation. Another followed, so loud that Aika yelped off her seat, clutching Asia on instinct.

"This storm…" Nakamura sighed. "Zenith Tempest."

"Zenith what now?"

A scream blared into Aika's ears. She landed butt-first on the ground. "Ouch!"

Aika was about ready to give her new friend a piece of her mind until she noticed Asia was shaking. The blonde girl tried to hide it, a smile which didn't reach her eyes lay plastered on her face. Her right and left legs were shaking, badly.

"Ah, s-sorry," the nun said. "I – um – I was s-startled."

Aika wasn't buying it. No one seemed to be buying it.

"Asia-chan are you… scared of thunderstorms?"

"W-what?"

"Are you sc–"

Another crash of thunder. Another scream.

Asia sprang up, straight. "Pater noster," she chanted. "Pater noster qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem –"

"Gah!" Viser cursed, clutching her head. "Fucking bitch that hurts!"

Another crash of thunder. The girl flinched as if she'd been struck across the head. "My faith is strong! My faith is strong! My faith is strong! My faith is strong! Yes, father, my faith is strong! My faith is –"

The girl collapsed, staring blankly into the air as she repeated the words over and over again: "My faith is strong!"

"Asia! Asia snap out of it!"

"Damn it glasses-girl what the fuck did you do?!"

"I – I didn't do anything!"

"Fuck fuck fuck! If anything happens to her Seth-sama is going to fucking kill me. Goddamnit!"

Aika found it harder to breathe with each second. She shook Asia as much as she could. "Asia-chan? Asia-chan? Asia-chan can you hear me?"

"Myfaithisstrong! Myfaithisstrong! Myfaithisstrong!"

"Cover her ears." Nakamura said. "If you have anything that cancels noise, bring it now."

"You – don't tell me you fucking did this?"

"I didn't. I can't exactly explain but – just do as I say and –"

Aika didn't hesitate. She dumped the full contents of her bag unto the floor. She cared little for her phone which cracked on impact or her numerous 'toys' which were now clear for everyone to see. She reached for her headphones, placing it over the girl's ears before grabbing her phone and fiddling with the broken screen.

The music that played was one from one of her favorite anime openings. Loud and impactful, the lyrics blared outward: Seid ihr das Essen? Nein, wir sind der Jäger!

Her chanting stopped. Her gaze settled, quietly, looking at everything and nothing at the same time. Her eyes drooped, ever so slowly, until they closed. Aika placed her head over the girl's chest.

"She's… sleeping?"

"Let her be for now. Don't let that music stop or else she'll have another panic attack."

"That was a fucking panic attack?" Viser swore. "From hearing fucking thunder?"

"Not the thunder." Nakamura shook his head. The middle-aged man exhaled heavily. "There is a reason the Eastern Exorcists chose not to associate ourselves with our Western counterparts. I'd heard about some of the practices the Church let's happen, but even I didn't expect them to be so…"

A blade of energy appeared in the woman's hand. Aika didn't believe her eyes. She didn't know how to believe it. There were no tricks, no special effects, or nothing of the sort that would have explained it. The blade rested on the man's neck, and a clear trickle of blood dripped down its length.

What's… going on?

"Start. Talking." The bartender lady said. "What the hell just happened?"

"…the girl, she has a Sacred Gear, does she not?"

"How the fuck did you know that?"

"Anyone who has a Sacred Gear and is affiliated with the Church is unfortunate enough to have been visited by him. They say he does it to test their faith – and see if they're worthy of God's gifts."

"Who?"

"Dulio Gesualdo," Nakamura said. "The World's Strongest… and Most Fanatical Exorcist."

A door slammed open. Pressure unlike anything in the world Aika had ever felt came crashing down on her shoulders. There were no footsteps. There were no sounds. No noises to announce his arrival.

He was not a man.

He towered over her, with jet-black hair and glowing blood-red eyes, clear and visible fangs protruded slightly above his lower lip. He was garbed in a cloak that almost seemed to ripple with a life of its own, and his pale visage and darting eyes made him akin to a demon.

Vampire, was the only thought that ran through Aika's mind. At the time, when Asia narrated her tale, she'd thought the girl naïve and being tricked. Now, Aika saw with her own two eyes, and she had become a believer.

"S-Seth-sama," the bartender lady froze up. "This – this isn't what it looks li –"

"Shh."

A single shushing sound and the brash bartender lady became as demure as a lamb.

The Vampire's gaze remained on Asia for several seconds. It flicked over to her, and Aika could have sworn she felt as though she'd be devoured whole. His gaze moved past her, and the creature took several steps forward, moving further and further until he reached the door.

He swung open the door and took a single step into the raging thunderstorm.

And then –

He spoke.

"LOK."

And the world listened.


XXXXX


There was evil in this city.

The air was rich with the scent of ozone. Lightning skated across the sky; thunder bellowed. There, he floated. Father, forgive them. There, he beseeched the almighty for their salvation. They were the shepherd's lost flock. They were the fools who'd welcomed evil into their midst with open arms like the prodigal father accepting a corrupted son.

There was evil in this city.

The evil of lust, of men and women desecrating the temples of their bodies with satanic spawn. The evil of pride, of corporate masters who had attained wealth at the cost of their soul. The evil of envy, of brother slaying brother over harlots dancing to the tune of heaven's traitors. The evil of gluttony, of twin-chinned men with unshaven beards in a pigsty of greasy cardboard boxes and emptied aluminum cans.

There was the evil of jealousy, of young women embittered by the success of those they considered friends. There was the evil of sloth, of malnourished young men glued to computer screens and devoid of societal contribution.

There was the evil of wrath, of a priest who's soul sung with an eternal rage to kill and destroy all that was foul.

Above the seven evils, Dulio sensed one greater. An evil he knew not. An evil so vile and wretched, the air was permanently stained with its taint. An evil that belonged to this world no more than a nun belonged to a whorehouse.

He understood not what this evil was. Whatever encroached this city was the abyss, and Dulio dared not stare into its depths.

For it is written: if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

There was evil in this city.

Dulio saw many open the holy scriptures, the book upon which the almighty had granted to them as gospel truth, and they cherry-picked passages and verses. Believers unworthy of the name. Fakers! This city was filled with them.

He spat in the face of the arbitrary believer. He rose his blade to the necks of the ambivalent faithful. One did not eagerly enlist in war, only to shirk the battlefield.

There was evil in this city.

To be complacent in the battle against evil was to abandon the army of good. For all that was needed for evil to triumph was the indifference of the righteous.

There was evil in this city.

And Dulio Gesualdo would cleanse it.

"DEUS VULT!"

"[DIVIDE!]"

A flash of blue. He scarcely registered it. Blue and white, tore through his lightning like Moses parting the Red Sea. A fist connected. His brain rattled back and forth within his skull. His teeth chipped against each other, biting within his inner cheek and leaking copper unto his tongue.

The Newtonian third law of physics came to be. The world swam in his vision, a shockwave propelling him backwards. His back screeched as it and he broke through concrete and glass, penetrating skyscrapers and multi-story buildings like a toothpick through wet napkin.

Dulio coughed. Once and twice, his lungs demanded freedom. Copper romanced his lips and assaulted his nostrils. He spat, a stray tooth and phlegm-infested blood departed from his mouth.

He took a glance at his surroundings, an office building of some sort. The civilians stared with shock, wonder, each one stumbling across the next as they backed away. Some rose their phones, white flashes emerging from them.

Dulio examined the damage to his form. He wiped the dust from his robes, eyes never departing completely from the human-shaped hole that marked his entrance.

The flash of blue emerged once more. Dulio caught it. He spun, commanding the winds of the world to obey him, and crashed his right hand against the opposing force.

The impact was not equal.

Human screams echoed vaguely in his eardrums. The world spun and he spun along with it. Again, his body cleaved through concrete until none remained to cleave, and he emerging out in the open air, weightless, free-falling, and finally staring at his assaulter.

The Devil was coated in white armor.

It cannot be.

Pristine white, paling in purity from the wings of an angel, yet immensely and irrefutably radiant. There was none who had read the history of the church and the war that would be incapable of recognizing either the Red or White draconic beasts of legend. Albion, the White Dragon Emperor, flew above him, suspended in the air like an angel of judgement.

Dulio's conviction strengthened.

"Signum Crucis!"

His right hand extended, forming a cross in the air. The winds obeyed, blasting a cross shaped gale forward. The White one burst through, with the same ease and vengeance as he'd burst through everything else.

An axe kick connected. Dulio's chest emerged noises like biscuits in an altar boy's mouth. The Strongest Exorcist wheezed, air departing his lungs. His arms sprung forth, guided by instinct, latching onto the feet buried in his chest.

The second foot stomped. Dulio's chest cried like snapped wafers. His hands released his enemy and momentum descended him into black asphalt.

Instinct, grace, the lord's blessing, all of which combined to activate his Zenith Tempest and feather his fall. Landing atop a major road had not anticipated him for the blaring horn and approaching vehicle. He could not brace. Glass and metal met flesh and bone like left and right palms met in pursuit of a mosquito. His brain rattled against his skull once more, and for a brief moment, Dulio saw only blackness.

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?

He rolled across asphalt. Each breath fraternized with pain. Blood stained the white lines of blackened road. His arms swayed like deteriorated fishing nets and his legs were like frayed strings.

The White Dragon Emperor appeared once more, fist faster than sound.

"ENOUGH!"

The sky thundered. All encompassing lightning engulfed him, the full armor of God. The armored beast disengaged, taking to the sky, watching him like an overeager vulture hunting live prey.

So this, Dulio panted, this is the power of a Heavenly Dragon?

He understood now, how it was that two mere lizards forced the entire hosts of the heavens and legions of hell to a temporary armistice. At the time, reading the tales, he'd blasphemously thought the angels weak. He lacked the understanding he had now come to possess.

Another understanding he lacked involved the question of how the White Dragon Emperor appeared unaffected by the power of Zenith Tempest. Neither lightning nor wind seemed to stop or slow down the beast's assault.

Was his faith weak?

Was his conviction lacking?

No.

This is his test.

The lord is testing me.

"You've lost." The White Dragon Emperor's voice was distorted. "Once you let this drag on, you lost."

"I underestimated you, White One." Each word brought a wince and a scream from his lungs. "Yet, I cannot lose, for the Lord is with me."

"Your Lord," the White One spat, "Would let you massacre dozens of innocents?"

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership can righteousness have with wickedness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?"

"What are you talking about?"

"They who have let evil sit and fester amidst them – if they are truly innocent, Zenith Tempest shall ascend their souls to paradise. If they are not, then fire and brimstone is all that awaits them."

"That's murder."

"In the war against the enemies of the lord, the righteous are saved and the evil are rebuked."

The White One scoffed. "Saved?"

"Saved!" Dulio roared. "Yes, saved! Saved, for their souls shall rejoice in heaven as martyrs against darkness! Saved! A believer has no cause to fear death for they will live again in eternal paradise! They are saved, for they are spared everlasting torment by your brethren and ilk! Saved!"

He clutched his chest. Blood pooled within his lungs, yet Dulio did not stop speaking.

"You cannot understand. Darkness and light do not fellowship with each other, so you will never understand." He scoffed. "You, devil, are bathed in the air of wickedness. You have accepted the corruption of all that is good and right and have sold your soul to an evil beyond evil."

"You make it sound like it's a bad thing."

"That is the reason you can wade through the winds and lightning of Zenith Tempest? You are being aided by a power above yours."

"No."

"No?"

"I'm just that much stronger than you."

"Lies." Dulio cursed. "Deny it all you wish. I know the truth. I will cleanse you, and then, I will find the evil one behind you and cleanse the world of them as well."

The White One's head swayed from side to side like a parent watching their child's antics.

"Believe me when I say this: you can't beat him."

The sky rumbled. Lightning scattered across the heavens like insects escaping a destroyed nest. The power of Zenith Tempest called upon the storms and winds to which incited the Great Flood; the fire and brimstone that devastated Sodom.

"With God," his voice was barely audible amidst the rumbling sky. "All things are possible."

"I agree."

Dulio did not expect the admission.

"The problem is," The White One said. "You're not with him."

Dulio's lightning dispersed. The storm he'd summoned contorted as though a child had spun the blades of a toy windmill.

His ears, at that moment opened –

And Dulio heard.

"LOK."

The sky gasped.

Dulio Gesualdo's heart went still. He understood it not. The sky, gasping. Air and wind answered an ancient, eldritch command, with the same non-verbal expression a flabbergasted woman would give a morbid tale.

The wind around him became impotent, seedless and barren. The wielder of the Zenith Tempest felt the wretched manner in which all the winds of the earth and the clouds of the heaven surrendered to a single word like a cheap whore in the wretched pits of Gomorrah.

"VAH."

Heaven whimpered.

Clouds, as one legion, bowed. Cirrus, cirrocumulus, cirrostratus, altocumulus, altostratus, nimbostratus, cumulus, stratocumulus, stratus, and cumulonimbus – all as one, kowtowed to a power Dulio knew not. Clouds present, clouds absent, clouds in the past, clouds in the future, clouds unborn and clouds dead, all as one, like the sheaves of grain in the dream of Joseph, genuflected to a force beyond forces.

Dulio extended his hands out and roared for the winds to obey, for the clouds to cease their blasphemy. They were creations of the Most High! Who were they, to refuse an agent of the Creator and obey the instructions of one from lands unknown? Who were they to refuse –

The clouds rejected him.

Zenith Tempest sputtered pitifully like an inexperienced man wasting seed unto cold earth.

"KOOR."

The firmament fled.

The world transition from darkness to light like a child erasing chalk drawings on a blackboard. The brilliance of the sun shone as rays of light streamed from the heavens unobstructed by ne'er a single cloud in the sky. There were no clouds in the sky, Dulio realized. For a million kilometers in every direction, there were no clouds in the sky.

There were no clouds in Japan, in China, in South Korea, India, Pakistan, Russia, Ghana, Uganda, Jerusalem, Paris, the Vatican –

The entire world was bereft of its clouds in a single instant. No, more than that, it was bereft of its storms, it's thunder and lightning, it's hurricanes, blizzards and tornadoes. Nature had been neutered. The weather of the world was the most tranquil it had ever been since the end of the great flood, and it was the most tranquil it would ever be.

"Im…possible."

Dulio Gesualdo tried once more to create a storm. A spark. A small breeze.

Nothing.

Zenith Tempest, the Sacred Gear which could create storms, was a storm in and of itself. It was not immune to the order for all storms to cease.

Dulio had no words. Bereft of his power, slapped in the face by an agent serving an unknown, his body began to shake. His body shook, and shook, until sounds familiar and foreign emerged from his throat, forcing its way out his aching lungs.

Is this the will of the almighty?

Surely, surely, it had to be!

It had to be!

There was no other explanation.

Who, but the almighty or his direct servants, could command the storms of the world to end with but mere words? Who else but the Divine Creator, the Alpha and Omega, could render him powerless like a servant boy placed in the hands of Pharaoh?

No one! None! None but him! None but hi –

His thoughts never finished. The White Dragon Emperor's fist appeared before him; the fist met his head like a mallet met a watermelon.

Dulio Gesualdo fellowshipped with darkness.


XXXX


Dead Man's Drink

The rumbling storm ended as I finished the [Clear Skies] shout. I craned my neck, hearing three satisfying pops and crackles from the action. Vali would handle the rest as I instructed him. Dulio was an annoyance and an opportunity in one package.

Returning indoors I let my gaze take stock of the situation. Asia was on the floor, sleeping. Aika sat on the floor, nervous. Viser stood against the bar, anxious. And…

Nakamura?

My brow rose a bit.

I hadn't seen Nakamura since he'd tasked me with eliminating the rogue exorcists and fallen angels at Raynare's old hideout. In all honesty, I had all but forgotten that the man existed. Clearly, he didn't forget me.

"That was impressive," Nakamura was the first to break the silence. "I certainly could have used you at my father's funeral. It rained pretty heavily that day."

He's using humor to hide his nervousness. My lips curled. Cute.

I paid him no heed for the moment. He wasn't the one my attention was on. I picked Asia up, as lightly as I could. She's the only one you'll never hurt. The thought amused me. Well, at least not on purpose.

"Aika," I said. "Follow."

I didn't give any further instructions. Up we went, from the bar floor to the rooms. I made my way to what had once been my bedroom, but was now technically Asia's. I didn't need to sleep, nor did Viser, which was why Asia had taken over the bed and room by default.

I placed her on the bed, tucking her in carefully. I made sure to not remove the fluffy girly headphones. Cute. Even when doing nothing, Asia was still cute.

"Um –"

"Shh."

I rose my left hand and cast [Muffle].

"You may speak."

Aika was, in all honesty, not significantly attractive. Compared to Sera who I'd spent several hours with, it was clear that Aika was still developing. Her legs and arms were skinny and gangly. Her glasses was oversized for her face; her freckles were random and her demeanor was unappealing.

She was a good girl, but she wasn't best girl. Not waifu material. At least, not yet.

Her heartbeat spiked in my ears. I could see the palpitation gathering in her palms and brows, the angling of her feet towards the door and all the raw clear signs on her body which was telling her to run.

"Y-you're… the one."

"I'm the one?"

"Who saved me." She breathed. "From… from the explosion, back at Kuoh Academy. You're the one… who saved my life."

"Yes."

"W… why?"

"Your imperfections intrigued me."

"My… imperfections?"

"You're not the prettiest," I said. "Nor the bustiest, nor the most athletic or intelligent. You are, in every sense of the word, plain."

She winced. "So… why?"

"I saw your future potential." My eyes flickered over to Asia sleeping. "She needs a friend. You have no friends. Supply met demand."

"You saved my life… for Asia?" her nose furrowed. "But – but there's no way you could have known we'd meet!"

"Girl," I let a bit of my guttural voice seep out. "You have no idea of things I do or do not know."

She was wise enough to know not to follow that line of inquiry. Good.

"Do note, I am not forcing you to be Asia's friend." I clarified. "It is your choice as to whether or not you feel her friendship is necessary. I do not want her first and only friend to be close to her out of a sense of obligation or compulsion."

I gestured at the door.

"If you wish to have no part of this, then the door is open. You may leave, return to your normal life, with your parents who hate what you are and a school which no longer exists. Transfer to another academy, graduate, attend college, find a boyfriend, live your regular life, get married, have children, grow old and die."

I gestured at Asia.

"Or, you may become her friend. Intertwine her life with yours, live and grow and attain powers you thought only possible in comic books and film. Choose to merely stop aging or attain true immortality. Live, laugh, be who you are and say what you feel, and choose to never let it end, or decide when you're ready for the next great adventure."

Her mouth hung agape. My lips twitched.

"The choice is yo–"

"Yes."

My lips twitched once more. "Are you su –"

"Yes." She nodded her head. "I've never been more sure of anything in my entire life."

"Very well," I extended my right hand forward. "Welcome to the family."

"Um –" she cleared her throat. "So do you need to…" she gestured to her neck. "You know?"

"No."

"I mean I want to –"

"Not yet," I mused. "Vampirism is rather permanent, and the age you become a vampire is the age you'll remain for all eternity. Do you want to remain a teenager forever?"

She immediately paled. "No, nope. Gods no!"

"Seven years," I said. "In seven years, ask me again, if you're still certain."

"That's sooo long! I'll be twenty-two!"

"And mature enough to know the consequences of eternal life."

And hopefully mature enough for some other things as well. I headed towards the door.

"If you require anything, you need but ask."

Aika bowed, the full, proper, Japanese bow-of-appreciation. "Thank you, Vampire-sama."

I licked my dry lips.

"Just be a good friend to Asia," I said. "She needs someone."

I closed the door.

"Someone better than me."


XXXXX


Nakamura Ichijo was a simple man.

A father of two teenage daughters and a simple wife that married him because her father was indebted to his father, and he felt that those debts could be paid off with a beautiful bride. He possessed just three concubines who rocked his world and fed his fantasies when he was not at home being the perfect father and husband. He even paid completely for two of those three lovers, ensuring their high school and middle-school tuition would be fully taken care of till they entered Tokyo University – one of the top institutions in the country.

He ran numerous businesses that catered to the whims and fancies of people, and the simple desires of human beings and nature. In his younger days, he even did his best to help people who were unfortunate to have been besieged by a ghoul or poltergeist, smiling politely as he expertly banished the nuisances who seemed to strangely be capable of identifying him, and then collecting his well-earned due.

He regularly enjoyed numerous calming, simple activities in his off-time, such as judo, boxing and wrestling. All of those activities, he enjoyed particularly with women. Although the reverse was not often the case, Nakamura was sure that they would eventually come to accept the sheer simplicity of his lifestyle, and enjoy it as much as he did.

Nakamura was a family man. He ensured that he was always aware of where his daughters went to, and what they were doing at all times. He scheduled out a nice, effective plan for them to fully manage the time that they had available to them in their youth, and ensured that they did not stray from these set routines that would set them up as the great individuals he knew they could be. Of course, he could not dare suggest such a thing for his loving wife because she was an adult, and she knew, already, that her time was best spent maintaining the beauty of the household, providing him with delicious meals, and teaching their daughters the importance of their chastity.

As a simple man, Nakamura was glad for his simple wife, who never stressed him, rose her voice, nor did she dream of refusing his sexual overtures whenever and however he requested it. She was also generous enough to not eat too much or too little, exercise as much as possible and maintain her appearance to absolute delicateness, so as to always make him be the symbol of envy when he went out with her on his arm in the required social gatherings of the rich and prominent. Her soft-spoken charm, permanent-smiles, and demure personality made her his favorite person in the world. Even better yet still, he appreciated that she was teaching her daughters to be as perfect as she was.

Indeed, Nakamura valued his wife so much, there was no limit on what he would be willing to spend on and for her. Of course, being generous, she understood that it was only necessary to collect the amount of money from him needed to live in high-luxury, but not excessively-distasteful luxury. Enough to do her hair, make-up, and cook quality meals, but not much higher.

So as a simple man, Nakamura had a simple goal. The spread of his family name, and the accruement of enough funds and acclaim to leave a legacy on this earth.

Heaven and hell weighed over him, but as a simple man, he knew that the gods were a capricious lot, and his entrance into a peaceful afterlife was almost guaranteed so long as his cards were played right.

Indeed, Nakamura Ichijo was a relatively simple man with a relatively simple life.

All of which had changed when an overwhelming surge of magical energy had shattered the magic detectors and he sensed death arrive with a convoy in tow. There was no doubting who'd been responsible for the Kuoh Academy 'bombings.' No doubting the obvious.

"Nakamura."

The last time Nakamura Ichijo had seen the vampire known as Seth, it had been four weeks ago. Within that time frame, there had been a morbid murder of a schoolboy by his own mother, the utter annihilation of the old church building, a massive spike of power that brought every person capable of sensing magic to their knees, a series of earthshattering tremors, a devastating bombing of a school that was described as a rain of fire, and, most recently, the threat of the restarting of the bloodiest, longest standing war in known history.

Whereas beforehand, there had stood a young, seemingly flippant individual with a cold callousness, like an infant who'd been given too much power and didn't know what to do with it, now, there was a significant difference in his appearance.

The boy – no, man – sat with his head held high, his back straight, his eyes, sharper and more predatory, but possessing the glint of intelligence and experience underneath them. His posture was that of a noble, a regal being, with all of the confidence of someone who had commanded legions or conquered empires. Gone, gone was the boy he knew, in his place, was a man with an aura that compelled Nakamura to sit up straight and listen, lest he be cut down like a stray dog foolishly charging at rogue samurai.

The room they were in was ridiculously large for an office. The fact that he'd somehow built all of it underground also made Nakamura wary. It seemed more like a lair straight out of an old timey Western movie than it did seem like anything else.

"Seth-san." Nakamura spoke, nodding his head. "You've certainly been rather… busy."

Nakamura realized he'd grossly underestimated the superiority of the being before him. No, more than underestimated, he'd utterly and completely misjudged just how much power and influence he would grow to have.

Nakamura was pleased.

So pleased, in fact, to have been lucky enough to have met Seth's acquaintance, all those weeks ago. So pleased, that he let himself indulge in the young clearly enthralled women the vampire offered up like lamb on an altar.

"It's been a while Nakamura," the man spoke. "I suppose you could say I had a lot of time on my hands."

Nakamura wondered if there was a joke somewhere in there. "You never came back for your passports, identification, documents, or cash."

"I didn't need them anymore."

"Well, clearly." Nakamura cleared his throat before composing himself. "I am going to be rather blunt, Seth-san," he began, "Every day since the day I met you, there has been one chaos or disaster after another. If I did not know any better, I would truly believe that you were truly the Egyptian God of Disasters in mortal form."

"Thank you." The tone was casual. "I assume that's the prelude to a question of some sort?"

"When I first complained to you about the possibility of another holy war sparking due to the presence of the Sitri and Gremory heiresses – I was under the impression that you would aid in preventing such an event." Nakamura said slowly. "Now, however, I would kindly ask that if you have other intentions for Kuoh, I be spared in lieu of the brief and short business we once had together."

"Other intentions?"

Nakamura smiled.

"Such as, for instance, waging a war against the entirety of every supernatural faction in existence."

"Conquering the world isn't on my to-do list for now."

"With your power and growing influence, I'm certain it'll happen whether you actively pursue it or not."

"You truly believe that?"

"I do," Nakamura said. "And I desire you know that I and the Ichijo Clan are fully ready to render our support. In particular, my services as a consultant and advisor are fully available to you at any moment."

"Oh?" The Vampire mused. "It takes a lot for a man to so openly grovel to another. Why?"

Why? He was asking why?

"Today alone, dozens were injured as collateral damage due to the rampage of the Strongest Exorcist. The videos will never hit the internet, because I'm certain that the Beelzebub's omnipotent virus will come into effect and erase all video evidence of the battle from existence. However, the damage remains the same."

Nakamura took in a deep breath.

"The Wars of Gods are not like the wars of men. There are no Geneva Conventions, no rules, no lengths or limits or restrictions. The goal is not to attain infrastructure or slay kings and topple kingdoms. It is total and absolute annihilation or subjugation. The decimation of every living being that belongs to a race or faction that opposes you. Absolute ethnic cleansing of your enemies, no matter the means or the methods."

"The point, Nakamura, I'd rather you get to it."

"In such wars, it is not an uncommon occurrence, for instance, to completely and utterly decimate an entire city in an attempt to smoke out the enemy, or to draw them in."

"I won't let anyone nuke the city to the ground if that's your concern."

"Assuring as that is," Nakamura said. "I prefer to have a little more than just assurances. All I want is a guarantee of safety, for myself and my family."

Nakamura pressed his palms against his eyes slowly. "To die as collateral damage in a battle between gods would be a tremendous waste indeed."

"You really want me to protect you, and your family. Like some sort of guardian deity?"

"In simple terms, yes."

"And what exactly are you offering me in exchange?"

Nakamura knew he had to play his hand here.

"For starters, knowledge."

The vampire laughed. A loud, unnerving bark of laughter that bounced across the walls of the room and sent ripples through liquids in vials and vessels.

"Knowledge, he says." The vampire chuckled. "I was unaware you'd become a sage in your free-time."

"I'd prefer the term scribe," Nakamura jested. "Tell me, Seth, in the battle between man and supernatural, how do you think mere mortals fare?"

"Is that a serious question?"

"Sacred Gears were supposedly made by God in order to give humans a fighting chance. Yet, supernatural beings end up with them, or end up stealing them, and humans have no other defenses. Or at least, that's what we want the supernatural community to believe – that we're not a threat to them."

"Oh?" the Vampire leaned forward, fangs fully on display. "Are you saying that you think you are?"

"What I am about to tell you," Nakamura's voice went low, "is one of the most heavily kept secrets of the human supernatural community. A secret which has hidden in plain sight for so long, that to many, it's no secret at all."

The vampire leaned backwards, steepling his hands across the desk. "Go on."

"All beings have natural weaknesses and resistances. Devils are weak to holy water, divine relics, light magic, and generally weaker in the sunlight. Werewolves are weak to silver. Vampires share a few weaknesses with devils, and even dragons are weak to objects imbued with dragon-slaying properties. In layman terms, this is called a Mythos Defect."

"Even a child knows that you can hurt devils with a rosary Nakamura."

"But would a child know, that all creatures have a Mythos Defect?" Nakamura couldn't help the smile on his lips.

"Thor is fatally weak to poison and snakes, because in his mythos, he is destined to die slaying the World Serpent. Freyr is fatally weak to fire because in her mythos, she is fated to be killed by Surtr the fire giant. Likewise the goddess Izanami is also fatally weak to fire, for in her mythos, she was killed by the birth of the flame god Kagutsuchi."

The Vampire was smart. Quick, certainly, on the uptake.

"This applies to everything?"

"Everything." Nakamura said.

"And angels?" The Vampire said. "What are they weak to?"

Bingo.

"That information is rather, how we say, valuable."

"Nakamura, you surely understand that there is a vast difference in our power?"

"No doubt, you could attempt to enthrall me with some magic of sorts and compel me to tell you all it is I know, I'm afraid there is a kill-switch in my blood that would prevent such from happening."

"How rather convenient."

Nakamura leaned forward. "I made a living out of slaying monsters and creatures who found joyous delight in forcefully inhabiting bodies like addicts inhabit crack houses. I assure you that I have taken several precautions to prevent my mind and body from no longer being my own."

He took a deep, calming breath.

"However, as a forward show of good faith, I'll grant you that information, despite the knowledge that doing so may very well cost me my life."

Hard as it was to read the Vampire, Nakamura was certain that he saw just a tiny flash of something in the man's perpetually red eyes. The flash was brief, it came and went and, in its place, a simmering urge, as if saying, get on with it.

"Chains."

"Excuse me?"

"That's their weakness."

Nakamura could immediately see the skepticism on the being's face. He chuckled at it. "I take it you're not a fan of religious scriptures?"

"Why chains?"

"The Book of Jude, Chapter One and Verse Six," Nakamura quoted. "And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day."

"That's it?"

"The Second Book of Saint Peter, Chapter Two and Verse Four," Nakamura continued. "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment."

"Two verses and you expect me to believe that all angels have a weakness to chains."

"These two verses are references to an apocryphal text removed from the standard bible and not taught in your average Sunday school." Nakamura explained. "The Book of Enoch."

The Vampire tilted his head slowly. "I have heard of it."

"The Book of Enoch narrates how the Fallen came to be, and goes a little bit like the prelude of the great flood. It, in essence, is the 'Bible' of the Fallen Angel faction." Nakamura cleared his throat. "The fourth verse of the tenth chapter goes: And again the Lord said to Raphael: 'Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever, and cover his face that he may not see light."

Nakamura could see the Vampire mulling over the new information. "Of course," the ex-exorcist interrupted, "Regular, human-made chains will do no good against them. Chains forged with supernatural means or attributes however, will bind and restrict any and all angels. Chains imbued with the attributes of darkness will be doubly effective."

"And you've tested this out yourself?"

"I've never needed to," Nakamura said. "I rather prefer not to go about making enemies of angels, fallen or otherwise. However, I acquired this knowledge in the rare, unlikely event, that an angel or fallen may make an enemy of me."

"I see…"

Nakamura was pleased. Very, pleased. The vampire known as Seth may be powerful, certainly, but he wasn't all-knowing. There were weaknesses in his knowledge, weaknesses to which Nakamura would happily fill if it meant reaping the benefits of serving a significantly more benevolent god.

"Of course, the entire reason I brought this up was because women have a Mythos Defect."

"Human women?"

"All women," Nakamura said. "Devil, human, angel, yokai – it matters not. For human women however, it varies based on their religious beliefs, backgrounds and society. For the rest? They are stuck to the limitations of their respective supernatural background."

Nakamura couldn't help the feeling of smugness. Such an odd thing it was. Knowledge, truly, was a power of its own right.

"The Abrahamic Mythos has it as canon that woman was formed from the rib of man. I'm certain I don't need to quote any scriptures to tell you about Adam and Eve. Nor do I need go in depth as to how the Church has used that fact as canonical justification of female subjugation."

Nakamura pointed, straight towards the Vampire.

"Any female creature that subscribes to the Abrahamic Mythos has a natural weakness to men hard-coded into their genetic code. Not just any men, but men like you, men like me. Men born with power or men who've attained it."

Nakamura extended his hands open.

"For woman committed the crime of swaying man to eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, she was punished by making man rule over her eternally. Adam ruled over his wife Eve, Cain ruled over his wife Awan, Abel ruled over his wife Aclima, just as Seth would come to rule over his wife, Azura."

"…Where are you going with this, Nakamura?"

Nakamura dropped his hands down. "Seth, forgive me if I am wrong, but you desire women, do you not?"

"You're not wrong."

"Then take them," Nakamura said. "Simply take them as yours. Whatever initial struggle and defiance they have will dwindle overtime and they will be eternally loyal to you once they have sampled your seed. This is how it was intended to be."

The Vampire's nostrils flared. A pressure, heavier than anything Nakamura had felt in a long time came tumbling heavily down into the room. His red eyes gained a more distinct glow, his fangs seemed to almost whisper the desire to kill, and Nakamura shirked back, eyebrows rising.

"I would advise you to choose your next words very carefully."

"I don't understand," Nakamura truly didn't. "Did I say something wrong?"

"Do you think we're living in some sort of pornographic novel? That if I just go and take a woman, she'll come back on her knees, begging me for more?"

"If she is a creature of the Abrahamic Mythos –"

"I don't believe it."

"Seth –"

"I question if it's in my best interests to have someone with your mindset as my advisor."

Nakamura's jaw hung openly. His brain was wracking itself for answers. Had I read him wrongly? No, surely, he'd read him correctly. He'd seen the two teenage girls up in the bar, clearly brainwashed and being used for amusement. He'd seen the undead woman, the nun, and the teenage girl with glasses.

Surely, Seth was a man of men, a man with a strong sexual appetite and desire who cared little for the obstacles that stood in his path for his goals.

So, where had he miscalculated?

Modern Morals? Warped conscience? A code of ethics?

Was that it?

Could this being, this monster, with the power to change the weather with but a few words, have something so ridiculous? How did he choose his compass? Mass death and destruction were fine, but taking an unwilling woman was not?

Nakamura would have laughed if he was not absolutely certain that doing so would spell his end.

"My, mindset," Nakamura rolled the words off his tongue. "Tell me, Seth-san, what is it about my mindset that does not appeal to you?"

"Have you ever heard of the word misogyny?"

Nakamura frowned. "I have a loving wife and two daughters Seth-san. I assure you, I do not hate women. Why would I?"

"And what would you do, if another man stronger and more powerful, were to come and take your wife from you?"

"I would accept my fate and move on."

"Just like that?"

"Oh, certainly, some would fight tooth and nail for their women, but I'm a practical man Seth. Since the dawn of creation, humans have been playthings for the gods. A man who cannot protect his woman must either accept his fate or die; there is no in-between."

"And if I were to take your daughters as well?"

"They would find no better suitors than one as powerful as yourself anyway."

"And if I were to mistreat them?"

"You won't. Forgive me, but you're not the type."

"But if I were?"

Nakamura sighed. "What do you want me to say, Seth-san? That I would fight tooth and nail to protect them? You do not understand. You cannot understand. I am a human born in a world with the knowledge that there are creatures and beings beyond my comprehension; there are gods and deities, malevolent and evil, and there is neither justice nor fairness – only power and those who lack it."

He opened his palms.

"I lack power, Seth-san. You have it. I can do no more to stop you from killing me than an ant can do to prevent it from being stepped upon. But if the ant were to intrigue you, if it were to carry a tiny leaf and do a tiny dance, you may be amused just long enough to keep it alive – perhaps even keep it safe. It is why we humans worship gods, obey them, kill and die for them. We are ants, dancing and doing tricks in hopes of extending our fleeting existence."

"I'm no god."

Nakamura couldn't help the smile.

"Seth-san, the only person who might truly believe that after seeing you… is you."

Footsteps brought a pause to their conversation. There were two of them. One pair of steps were light, and had the distinct sound of feet impacting solid surface. The other was heavy, distinct, and rushed. Nakamura's gaze flickered over to the source, and he felt his heart stop in his chest.

"He's in a meeting –"

"Move aside Fake. I'm making a delivery."

Nakamura's breathing fell short, once he noticed the people who barged into the room. The first, still clad in his white armor, was no doubt unmistakable. The second, pouting and barefoot, even though he'd never met her, was equally unmistakable. Worse still, was the bruised and battered body that was on the shoulder of the first.

"Vali, you've returned."

"I tried to tell him you were busy –"

"It's fine Sera."

The White Dragon Emperor tossed a body across the floor, and spat. Battered and beaten, the robes and hair gave it away easily as to the identity of the man. The Strongest… Exorcist… The White Dragon Emperor… and… A Satan…

"He was weaker than I expected."

The Vampire chuckled. "Or, you're stronger than you thought."

"Hm." The White Dragon Emperor said. "You used your power on me."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"The fight. It shouldn't have been that easy. You made me stronger. Somehow."

"Perhaps being my comrade gave you a little extra [Courage]?"

"…I don't like it. I hate easy fights."

"You'll get to go all out, soon enough." Seth gestured to the door. "Now in the meantime, meet Viser. She should have a reward waiting for you."

"Reward?"

"It's a good one."

The White Dragon Emperor was a person of seemingly few words. He said nothing else, giving Nakamura a long stare to which the ex-exorcist found distinctly uncomfortable. His footsteps pattered off, along with the Leviathan's voice.

Nakamura kept his breathing calm.

"…The White Dragon Emperor, works for you."

"So, it seems."

"And Serafall Leviathan?"

"A clone of her, for now. A gift from Ajuka."

A gift from the Beelzebub, he said so casually. Nakamura couldn't help but wipe away the sweat gathering on his brow. I knew he was powerful, but this…

"Seth-san, it has occurred to me that I vastly underestimated you. And as such, to rectify that mistake, I will confess a truth to you."

"Your claims about the mythos effect was a lie?"

"No, that was entirely honest." Nakamura couldn't help his lips twitching. "If you are ever in doubt, do go seduce any woman you encounter and observe for yourself."

"And this truth…?"

"My grandfather almost fell in battle," Nakamura said. "He was younger and more reckless as an exorcist. He nearly lost his life to a yuki-onna. He survived, thankfully, because someone else was hunting the creature. A young woman by the name of Tamar. She slayed the creature, nursed my grandfather back to health, and, overtime, they came to be with one another. One day, however, she disappeared, leaving behind only the proof of her time spent with my grandfather, wrapped in warm linen, cold and crying."

"What does your family history have to do with me?"

"Neither my father nor grandfather were the type to be abandoned by women. My grandfather searched, and my father too, searched, travelling the world, honing his skills with my grandfather until, they eventually found my grandmother. Found her, as she was, a young beautiful woman who'd barely aged since."

With his right hand, Nakamura sparked a tiny ball of light.

"Tamar, my grandmother, was not human. Not completely. She was one of the innumerous bastard hybrids of the consummation of a human and a fallen angel. Though a hybrid, she'd still had jet black wings and aged incredibly slowly. Both traits she hated because they reminded her of her father, my great-grandfather – Azazel of the Grigori."

The Vampire's eyes flashed.

"You're a Fallen Angel?"

Nakamura barked a laugh.

"Oh, heavens no. You see, my grandmother was a hybrid. My father was the son of a hybrid and a human, which made him three-parts human, one part fallen. I'm the son of a hybrid of a hybrid – I'm significantly more human than fallen. I have no wings nor do I have any extended longevity, though I am rather spry for my age. All I inherited was some slightly above-average durability, and some subpar light magic ability."

"And that's why you're well versed on matters of the church."

"Admittedly, it's part of it. I can quote scriptures half-asleep and know the inner workings of both Eastern and Western exorcism. Of course, I'm still no more human than the next person. I can still die or be killed with just the same ease."

"I see."

"Having supernatural ancestry isn't all that uncommon. There are numerous others like me across the world, bastards of bastards of bastards. Rest assured, Azazel is no more family to me than a monkey is family to a human."

"Nakamura."

"Yes, Seth-san?"

"I've changed my judgment of you," The Vampire said. "An advisor," The Vampire chuckled. "Vali lacks wisdom, Viser is too loyal, Sera is too smitten, Asia and Aika are too naïve and Ajuka has his own motives. Yes… you may actually be the only person who could properly play that role."

Nakamura bowed his head. "Shall I draft the formal decrees and begin working upon your emblem and insignia?"

"Decrees? Emblem? Insignia?"

"Seth-san, you are a faction unto yourself. You are both king and lord of your faction, and it is pertinent to make it clear to all who reside in the heavens and all who crawl beneath the earth, that to oppose your faction is to entail death and destruction."

"And I need an emblem for that."

"You first require a name. Then a sigil or brand associated with that name will aid in making the world recognize your allies and know they are not to be trifled with."

"A name… a name for the faction," the Vampire mused. "I believe I may have just the name…"

"Very well," Nakamura rose and took a formal bow. "I believe, it will certainly be a pleasure working for you, Seth-san."

"As do I, Nakamura."

"Please," Nakamura smiled. "Call me Ichijo."


XXXXX


Underworld

Beelzebub Private Research Facility

"…Fascinating."

Ajuka's calculations were correct. Down to the final decimal, accurate. His current predictions and the information he'd gathered amused him more so than anything else. The possibility of someone as prideful as Seth searching out an individual to advise him was absolutely abysmal, yet, although he would not search for an advisor, he was not opposed to having one.

"Nakamura Ichijo…"

Forty-one years old, son of Nakamura Gojo, grandson of Nakamura Tanjiro. A once-upon-a-generation exorcist revered in both Eastern and Western circles who'd kept aside his sword and pursued the path of profit and pleasure. All after an ill-fated meeting with his great-grandfather.

Azazel was always fond of clipping eagles' wings.

Nakamura had experience, to be certain. Ambition, equally. Personal motives were obvious: accruement of power and immortality, both things which Seth could grant him effortlessly.

"…he does not seem to be aware…?"

Power was like gravity, the stronger it was, the more it attracted and the more things began to revolve around its central point. Just as an advisor had come, others, too, would fall underneath the boy's wings as his influence grew.

"I suppose, I, too, have been swayed."

Here he was, the Satan Beelzebub, obsessively watching every facet of the boy's life like an enamored teen stalker. Seth still rather too naïve, as he'd failed to even prevent anti-scrying methods from observing his life. He was still too childlike… too trusting.

"It's merely a matter of time."

Ajuka turned his attention towards a large screen, the information of the genetic makeup of the being in question present before him. He sipped a mug of coffee as he glanced through the data he'd acquired courtesy of his 'gift.'

"Ajuka."

The Beelzebub refused to stifle his sigh.

"Sirzechs, you know I dislike it when you interrupt my work." He sipped his coffee again, blowing lightly on the steam. "Seeing as you're here, I take it you've come to your senses and understand that challenging the Red Dragon Emperor to a fight is pointless?"

"Rias," Sirzechs said.

"Your sister convinced you to stand down?"

"She's missing."

Ajuka blinked. This had not been in his calculations.

"And you came to me… because?"

"Ajuka." Sirzech's voice was coarse.

"I had nothing to do with your sister's disappearance, Sirzechs."

"I never said you..." He breathed. "Just help me find her."

Ajuka closed his eyes.

"She doesn't want to be found."

"Ajuka…"

Rook defected, Knight and Bishop dead, peerage broken, friend hurt, threat of war, threat of marriage…

"She ran away, Sirzechs."

"She ran away?"

"I didn't stutter."

Sirzechs shook his head. "It doesn't make any sense. Why – why would she?"

"I wonder."

"Where?"

"The human realm," Ajuka said. "It's the only place she thinks she knows and believes she can't be found in." His lips curled. "She's rather dramatic you know. It seems she's convinced she needs to go on, and I quote, 'a training arc' in order to 'find herself.' Is this what they call the eat-pray-love syndrome? I hear quite a lot of human women have such a stage."

"My sister is missing and you're making jokes?"

Ajuka gestured to his cup. "Would you rather I make tea?"

Sirzechs glared at him. Ajuka was amused. It had been so long since he'd seen a glare of any sort from the Lucifer. It almost made him feel melancholic.

"I don't understand you recently, Ajuka."

"Did you ever, truly, understand me?"

Sirzechs faltered at the question. "I believed we were friends."

"If I ever made it seem that way, I assure you it was not my intention."

"So that's it?" Sirzechs snarled. "Over five hundred years of history together, of battle, bloodshed, wars – and you're going to just throw it all away?"

Ajuka sighed and set aside his cup.

"Sirzechs, please understand. What we had was a mutually beneficial, complementary relationship. Super-Devils, they called us, because our existence is a thing so far above the rest of our species. For that reason, I associated myself with you. For a while, I did believe you were like me, in your own way. In the days when your power would flicker and reduce lesser beings to dust for the slightest of errors, I felt, then, we may have been kindred spirits."

"So what changed?"

"You, Sirzechs." Ajuka said. "You changed. I am as I have always been."

"You of all people should know that I can't go back to the way things were. I'm a leader now. A brother – a father."

"I doubt fatherhood is responsible for your changes Sirzechs."

The Lucifer ran his hands through his hair. "You wouldn't understand. Not without experiencing it yourself."

"I would rather not."

"I know." Sirzechs said. "That's what saddens me."

The silence in the room was not so much awkward as it was familiar. Nostalgic. In what was a lifetime ago, they would have moments, just like these. Conversations, amidst a battlefield of nothingness, in the absolute silence of the aftermath of creation and destruction, both devils would float in a space-that-was-not-space, with nothing more than each other's presence to comfort them.

If there was, ever, any being in the universe that Ajuka Astaroth would have held sentiment for, any being that he may have seen himself in some sort of eternal partnership, it would have been this being – it would have been Sirzechs Gremory.

Everything changed the moment their titles were given: Beelzebub and Lucifer.

And it changed even further, the day Venelana Gremory birthed the one who would be known as Rias.

"Ajuka, tell me, honestly." Sirzechs breathed. "Is this it? Am I destined to lose all that I have come to cherish as punishment for everything I was born to destroy?"

Ajuka closed his eyes.

Ajuka saw the numbers. He said nothing. And as always, Sirzechs understood.

"I see."

"You can lose just one thing, and save all else."

"And what is that?"

"Pride," the Beelzebub said. "Lose your pride."

The seconds ticked by. Sirzechs remained motionless. Ajuka waited.

"There is no other way?"

"None that doesn't end in mutual destruction."

The seconds, ticked further by.

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"…I trust you, Ajuka. I know it doesn't mean much to you, but I have always trusted you. And I will always trust you – no matter what."

"…An unwise decision, honestly." Ajuka met his gaze. "Honestly, Sirzechs. I at times feel that you being born a devil is one of the saddest errors in the universe."

"If I do this, if I listen to whatever plans you have, you have to promise me something. You have to promise me to try it, at least once."

"Try?"

"Fatherhood."

Ajuka laughed.

"Surely you're joking."

"I don't care if you treat it as a grand experiment or do it as a chore, but just do it. Once." Sirzechs lifted his finger. "Hold a child in your arms that is your own flesh and blood, with your genes and looks… and just as long as you do that, I'll be satisfied."

That was it? Ajuka curled his lips. Just merely hold an infantilized genetic copy of himself?

"The child also has to have a mother's genes."

"Now you're just making things difficult."

"I know you, Ajuka. I wouldn't put it past you to clone yourself and call it a day. It has to be birthed. Not made."

Did Sirzechs truly buy into the spiel of the 'miracle of childbirth' and other such nonsense? No, that was pointless question. He clearly did. The question now was whether or not he truly believed that Ajuka would have some sort of profound world-altering experience once he experienced the same.

"I can accept your terms."

If Sirzechs believed that suddenly holding a child in his arms would change Ajuka, he was sorely, sorely mistaken.

"Now, on to the first order of business… permanently ensnaring the Ineffable One known as Seth with your wife and mother as bait."

"…"

"I believe they are stereotypically termed as 'MILFs' by adolescent boys and seeing as how Seth has roughly the same interests and behavioral characteristics of that demographic –"

"Not one more word Ajuka. Not one more word."