On the way to the park, Matsuda teleported somewhere and went back with a roll of bandages. They stopped for a while to bandages the slash on Issei's leg. Kiba won't stop saying sorry all the way. Maybe it was his personality but Issei found it annoying. Handsome, and polite to boot. The enemy of all males, indeed.
They arrived at the park a little later than what was agreed between Issei and Yulia. Issei quickly found Yulia sitting on the same bench she did yesterday.
"Yulia-san," Issei called out. Yulia's face instantly brightened up when she saw Issei.
"Issei-san!" Yulia exclaimed in a happy tone. She then looked behind Issei to see Matsuda and Kiba approaching her. "Who is that behind you? I recognize Matsuda-san, but I don't know the other one," her tone became subdued for some reason.
Issei observed that Kiba's smile also dropped and his face sported a thin line.
"Is this the one you said, Hyoudou-san?"
He felt like he missed something important. Nevertheless, he answered Kiba with a short reply, "Yes."
"I only explain the basic of Sacred Gear for Issei's sake, Yulia-san. I reckon you want to explain everything else to Issei," Matsuda interjected, also sensing a hidden tension but not understanding where did it come from.
"I see..." There was an awkward silence as Yulia and Kiba did a stare-off with nobody brave enough to interrupt.
"Before I can explain what you are getting into, Issei-san, first I must explain the basic, and I think Matsuda-san will also be benefitted from this? I don't think Big Brother bothered to explain the basic to you."
Matsuda nodded in agreement. "As much as cool Boss is, he's like that. Dropped this camera on me and told me to fight. But that's what makes him cool in a jerk-ish way, I guess."
"So, Angels are real as you see with your own eyes. What about the rest, then?" Yulia asked the two of them.
Kiba paid attention to Yulia's explanation partly because he was interested and because he wanted to keep Issei and Matsuda from hearing the biased version. So far, her question led to a realization.
Issei and Matsuda looked at each other. "Other fantastical and mythical creatures are also real?!"
Yulia nodded. "That is correct. Now to delve on the history of Angels, please read the Bible from the start to the finish," she said seriously.
"Noo!" Matsuda shouted out loud. "If I read the Bible then I would believe in Christianity and then I will be cast out to Hell for all my sins in life! Hail Buddhism! Hail reincarnation!"
"That's not how religion works, you idiot. ...or is it?" Issei looked at Yulia, who only smiled.
"More or less."
More or less what?! Issei could hear Matsuda shouted in his mind. But Matsuda didn't voice that out loud.
"Anyway, I've read the basics. God created the world. God created Angels, Devils, and Humans. etcetera. I didn't remember anything else. Been a long time since I read it."
From the corner of his eyes, Issei saw Kiba approaching the vending machine and inserted money to buy drinks. Damn handsome, polite, and generous as well. Enemy of all male.
"You're a Christian, Issei-san?!" Yulia took his attention as she wrapped her hands around his in excitement. Issei earnestly wanted Yulia to stop what she was doing, but he was also kind of excited from it.
"Damn, why is my boss a male?! Why can't I have a female Angels holding my hand?!"
Issei pointedly ignored the rambling of a madman.
"N-No. Unfortunately no, Yulia-san. My childhood friend is, and his family was a devout one. Whenever I visit their house, I always took that chance to read it. It was interesting seeing how people think the world is created."
Yulia slumped down. Her eyes were downcast when Issei said that he wasn't a follower. Issei made a mental note of learning about Christianity once more after this meeting if only to make her stop feeling sad.
"Here," Kiba had already gone back to them and handed each of them a can of soda. When he was about to give the can to Yulia, the weird tension was coming out again. He definitely missed something there, Issei thought.
...wait a second. Other supernaturals and myth were real, the fact was given to them by Yulia, a part of the supernatural herself. And then Yulia had asked them if they knew the story of how God created the world and the history of Angels. God created Angels, and also Devils, and Humans. If Angels were real... there was also the hidden tension in the air, and the way Kiba dropped his pretty boy smile into a more stoic one. It sounded weird to Issei, but he knew that one slight shift in Kiba's expression because how much Kiba put up his pretty boy smile whenever Issei saw him in school. Stupid brain. Picking up little details on worthless things like that when there are far more important things like how Murayama's boobs jiggled.
"This might be just a wrong guess, but please humor me. Kiba-san, are you perhaps a Devil? Or Fallen Angel?"
Matsuda looked at me before his mind also connected the dots and gaped at Kiba.
"Your mind is scarily sharp, Hyoudou-san. Yes, I am a Devil."
Yulia smiled at Issei, she was glad that Issei was not a bad partner. She definitely would not regret being with Issei.
"I thought you would be aggressive to me, Kiba-san."
"Oh," Kiba smiled at Yulia. "Believe me, I wanted to. What is an Angel doing in this territory without confirming their presence? I can cut you down here right now."
That statement made Issei and Matsuda summon their Sacred Gear. It occurred to them that they had just brought two archenemies to meet. Issei kind of regretted doing it.
"But no, I am not going to. I want to understand what is happening in this territory under our noses when everything should be reported to us as the ones who manage this territory first," Kiba said with an authoritative voice that made Issei shivered.
Yulia looked at Kiba and sighed. "I guess it is our fault to instigate that here. So it's like this, Kiba-san. Angels are having Sacred Gears fight. We create artificial Sacred Gear and bestow them to humans. They fight. The winner will have their wish granted."
Kiba wanted to interject but was cut by Yulia, "You might be thinking what was the point of this, am I right? Was it to prepare an army? Or maybe it was for something else? I can't tell you that because I am not that high in the hierarchy."
"I see..." Kiba's face held a contemplative look. "So Hyoudou-kun and Matsuda-kun here were chosen by Angels to fight for them? But then why aren't you two fighting?"
"I lost to Issei," was Matsuda's short reply. "Speaking of which, Yulia-san. Why did Boss tell me to keep my Sacred Gear? Haven't I lost already?"
"The one who already lost was not obligated to return their Sacred Gear. However, as a consequence, they have to be ready and accept that their normal life will be gone. Such is the price of having powers in this world. My brother isn't here but I have to ask you again, Matsuda-san. Do you want to keep that Sacred Gear?"
Issei and Kiba looked at Matsuda. Did he want to involve himself in the supernatural world? Or did he want to go back to his normal life? Keeping himself involved in the supernatural world meant that he had to say goodbye to his normal life even after the Sacred Gear tournament is finished.
Before Matsuda can answer the question, they were suddenly interrupted by the sound of footsteps.
"I... finally found you... Yulia..."
When Issei looked at the newcomers, it was to see a bloodied man who fell to the ground with a pleading look on his face.
"Disna?! What happened to you?!"
So Yulia knew him? Wait, didn't that mean this man was also an Angel?
"Fallen Angels... they got... my partner's Gear... in the abandoned church... please help..."
And then the Angel lost consciousness.
The situation on the park was tense. Everyone didn't move an inch when they saw the Angel fell unconscious. Their mind had not connected the fact that in front of them laid down an Angel with a body full of wounds. It wasn't until Yulia shouted that everyone began to realize the situation.
"Disna!" she ran towards the body, hoping that the friend she had in Heaven was alright.
It was not fair. It was not fair at all.
Disna was one of the Angels that dislike violence. He did not even want to participate in this tournament. And yet why was Disna the one that got violently beaten by their enemy?
"Yulia-san! Heal him! You can use one-time heal for me every battle ends, right?! Use it right now!" Issei shouted at her.
"But nothing! He's the one that needs it right now! Come on, Matsuda!"
"Right behind you, Issei!"
"Where are you going, Issei-san?!"
"Where else?" was Issei's short response as he and Matsuda left the park.
Yulia did as she was told, to heal Disna. She poured all of her holy energy to Disna's wounded body. It began to glow with a translucent white aura, and after ten seconds, the wounds were all closed. The healing process was finished.
Even though Yulia should feel grateful that her friend's condition had stabilized, she couldn't stop her tears.
"Why are you crying?" Kiba who didn't say anything since earlier spoke to her.
"I couldn't heal him."
Kiba looked confused. "I think you did a perfect job healing the Angel, Yulia-san."
"I couldn't heal Issei-san after this. We were only given one chance to heal our partner after a battle," she explained between her sob. "What if his wounds are more severe? This is a normal human we're talking about! Disna who is an Angel has this much wounds. What do you think the Human Issei-san would get after his battle?"
Kiba was silent. He couldn't form an answer because he exactly knew what the answer was. If he said it out loud, it would only hurt the girl in front of him.
As much as he hated the church, he hated making a girl sad more.
"Please, Kiba-san, I know I have no rights to ask you this. I know you have no obligation to accept this, but, would listen to this request of mine?"
So he listened.
The duo of Hyoudou Issei and Matsuda was running towards the abandoned church. They had no obligation to do it, but they did it anyway. It was not because they had an ulterior motive to win Yulia's heart. It was not because they had an ulterior motive to dispose of another competitor for the prize. It was not because they had an ulterior motive to destroy the enemies of Angels.
They simply did not like that their playground was invaded.
Let us say that in a park, three kids were making sand castles. They were having fun making all sorts of thing to add to their growing sandcastles. Then suddenly, an older kid approached and started telling the three first kids what to do, and how to build it better. The end result might be better if the three kids followed the older kid's advice. But would they want to follow him at all?
Their situation was similar to the three kids. They were fighting each other for a prize. Suddenly, the Fallen Angels, the enemies of their benefactors, infiltrated the fights by getting the Sacred Gears. Would they be fine?
No, they would not.
But because this situation was uniquely tailored for the Artificial Sacred Gear user, a Natural Sacred Gear user like Kiba Yuuto was unreliable. The Naturals had not betted their lives to see their wish fulfilled as much as Matsuda did. They had not missed the context but thrust to fight their friends as Issei did.
So they could not rely on Kiba's help. They had to face this together.
"Speaking of which, Issei, why didn't we teleport to the church, instead of, you know, running and spending all our stamina like this?"
"Are you an idiot? What if we're immediately surrounded in all sides? You wanna teleport us back to this place? We have to read the situation first, and to do that we have to go there on our own."
"But I can teleport us to one hundred meters before the church. What? Do you think I meant to teleport us directly inside?"
Issei stopped his run, and Matsuda also did. "Why didn't you say so, Idiot!"
"I did say that I have captured every single place I deemed critical! You're the one that suddenly asked me to run!"
"But wait, I don't know you can take someone else with you as you teleport? Can you?"
Matsuda threw his face to the side.
"Why aren't you giving me a straight answer?! What's with that girly-like response?!"
"I have not tried it before, alright!" Matsuda replied as heated as Issei.
"Then there's no reason for you to start experimenting with it now!" Issei instantly continued his run towards the church.
"Sigh, then I'll meet you there, Issei. I'll scout ahead first," Matsuda said to the faraway form of Hyoudou Issei. He then summoned his trusty Sacred Gear, Port Shot (still a stupid name, damn his boss for giving it a stupid name) and picked a nice landscape view of the church.
He chose a big tree behind the bush. And in exactly one and a half second later, he found his surroundings changed into that of the picture.
"Right. Time to enter the enemy stronghold blindly, then," he muttered in sarcasm. The abandoned church had a back door, and as Matsuda moved to open it, he felt his instinct of survival fired up.
He ducked to avoid something coming to him, and his feeling was correct because he was almost hit by a bullet.
"Well well, what do you think you are doing?"
A figure holding a pistol was standing ten meters on his right. The figure was a white-haired man wearing a priest nd there was a sword hilt hanging on his belt.
Shit, this was bad.
He had no weapon, no information, no support. This was hell.
At least, he mused. His objective was not to win but to stall until Issei arrived. If he could win it was a bonus.
"Alright," Matsuda stretched his arm. "Come here," he made a 'come at me' gesture to the man in the priest robe.
He made his choice. He would keep his Sacred Gear.
The man just grinned crazily.
And then two opposing force clashed.