Things Are Not As They Seem
This place was built to be in an anime, Furuichi thought. Why else would a school have such a large plot of unused land in the back of its former main building other than to allow students to fight or the occasional couple to smooch without being interrupted. If this was Ishiyama, Furuichi wouldn't be surprised if he saw a few bodies on the ground. Thankfully speaking this wasn't Ishiyama and instead of seeing bodies close to death, he would be the one in charge of making sure no one died.
All in all, Furuichi wasn't sure if he upgraded or not from his place in Ishiyama. Though, even as he said this, he had to give thanks to God. While the four fighters were getting ready to start their duel, Furuichi was standing in the background surrounded by several beauties. The Occult Research Club Vice President, Himejima-fukubuchou, was currently creating a barrier so that their fight didn't disturb the day-to-day lives of regular humans - I used to be a regular person, Furuichi thought despondently.
Meanwhile, as he was waiting, he made sure to take a peek at the red-haired and blonde-haired beauty standing next to him - and he had to admit, he practically drank in the sight of the raven-haired beauty raising her arms over her head to create the barrier. This was probably the first time where Furuichi may have a legitimate reason to stuff the tissues in his own nose - which he did.
"Eh? Lieutenant-san are you perhaps sick? I can use my Twilight Healing to heal you if you are," the former nun and current member of Rias Gremory's Peerage, Asia Argento, asked as she cupped her hands in front of her face. Furuichi blushed at the sudden proximity between him and her and stuttered out a response.
"No, it's alright, I'm just getting ready to summon a Pillar," Furuichi said, trying to dissuade her from coming closer - he wasn't sure if his heart could take it.
"Hmm, you are human, it would make sense if your body might suffer from adverse effects from summoning a Demon like how you seem to do," Rias Gremory commented as she looked on from the side. After a brief moment, the Gremory heir couldn't help but smile."I was surprised though," Gremory-san stated, "I had expected you to start throwing threats at them after they began to insult the 34th Pillar Squad. However, you kept silent and only interjected when the matter affected Underworld as a whole. Indeed, I see Sona was right to place her trust in you; it seems the reputation of the 34th really doesn't show all their strengths."
I'm pretty sure their reputation really does show all they are good at, Furuichi thought to himself. Though he did note how close the Gremory heir and the Sitri heir seemed to be - considering they were referring to each other in a given name basis.
The feeling of his Demon contract being fulfilled surged into Furuichi. It was like a cold sensation which wrapped around him, reminding him of the nature of the Demonic Energy that somehow filled him with power and also left him feeling as though he hadn't changed at all. Except, all of a sudden he felt the insatiable need to take a nap.
He turned to greet the Demon which would be giving him the necessary fighting power to actually referee the match - and promptly began sweating when he saw the face of Virtra, the blank-faced Pillar Baron, staring back at him. Her indifferent expression made him more nervous with each silent second that passed as he waited for something to happen.
He had very little experience in using the Pillar Baron, but when he had, she had displayed strength capable of destroying whole sections of Ishiyama alone. Though she was very lethargic, which she played off with her low blood pressure, she was no less deadly despite her apparent lack of energy. Furuichi hoped he hadn't woken her from her sleep - there would be hell to pay if he did.
Eventually, it was her that took the first step.
"Oh, it's you again. Calling me so soon? Right after Hecadoth? You are greedier than I expected," she commented with a smooth voice.
Wait, don't say things like that so casually! People will get the wrong impression, Furuichi thought in a panic. He turned to Gremory-san to try and dissuade any possible rumours or misunderstandings, but to his surprise, she merely turned away and stared at the scene where Yuuto-san and Hyoudou-san were preparing to do battle.
"I see that you have channelled your power already. Have you summoned someone to your side? The Demonic Energy is different but it does fit the nature of Makai," Gremory-san stated. Makai, or Demon World, was the name for Hell - which had been the side setting for the original cast and crew for the past year - but why did she say it as though Makai and Hell were two different places.
"You seem to have a misunderstanding," Virtra said, staring him with her weary eyes. Furuichi was wondering how she had the energy to even talk at all. "Makai and Underworld are two different territories in Hell, or rather, the plain of existence where demonic entities call home."
"Eh?" Furuichi asked as he walked away, heading towards the space behind the pair of Devils as they spoke with the Exorcists. "I don't understand, what are you trying to say? Aren't all Devils from the same place?"
Virtra did not break eye contact, and Furuichi couldn't help but feel that she was shaking her head in her own mind. "Yes, all Devils come from the same place, but you seem to have a narrow mindset. The world where Demonic entities exist shares itself with many beliefs. Not only that of the Christian belief but also that of other religions and cultures. Those of Makai, while also Demons, are different to those of Underworld, of which is where the Christian Devils live. While Makai has since gained a diversity since our current Beelzebub-sama took over, most of our members are still local to Makai. Hence, the gills for ears," she said, pointing to her ears.
"Wait?! Lamia doesn't have gills! Nor does Hilda!" Furuichi hissed. Demonic energy was beginning to surge around them as the battle started to get underway. Vritra looked at him quietly, and Furuichi grew a tick mark when he realised she was belittling him in her head. "Stop that and answer the question!"
Vritra sighed and nodded her head tiredly. "Our second-in-command married a Christian Devil, which I would assume had to lead to her daughter not inheriting some of her features, though the resemblance is still there. Furthermore, the practice of wet nurses had only been influenced after the Civil War, and most wet nurses nowadays are European based Demons, which shares close ties to the Christian belief."
"I see, so the current Beelzebub practically has control of an entire country?" Well, he knew that already, but wouldn't that mean that the same could be said for the other three Maous?
Was that okay? Having four members of a single government control entire countries by themselves? He wondered. He forgot, however, that the summoned Pillars could effectively hear all of his thoughts.
Vritra, again, shook her head, "All four Maous own large parts of the Underworld, however, those parts are still under contest with the other faiths and beliefs. Makai had originally been conquered by the previous Beelzebub through war and had been integrated as part of the Christian Devil's territory, even though we did not originally come from them. It is the reason why most of our members are greatly influenced by Christian mythology, to better integrate ourselves into the Devil society, which we are still foreign to. Indeed, our Demonic Energy, while operating under the same terms as those of Underworld, is different to them much like those of the Norse and Chinese mythology."
Furuichi thought about that. Like the first time he had entered the Northern Stronghold, he understood that even the Demon World had its own history. This was all new information to him, and if it was right, then that means there were other Devils and demonic entities that came from different beliefs living down in Underworld.
For all he knew, the Supernatural world that he had labelled as bullshit could all be true. Then! Then! The beautiful Yuki-Onnas! They could exist! The beautiful snow women that would spirit men away in the high mountains. Or mermaids, these beautiful creatures that would sing beautiful songs and had the rocking upper body of sensual women! So many amazing thoughts were racing through Furuichi's head.
These feelings were only amplified when he finally glanced at the battle and saw erotic battle gear that the Exorcists were wearing! What is this!? Weren't they supposed to be hardcore believers of their religion?! Then why were they dressed like that! No, better yet, they had amazing bodies, seriously! Bishoujos! This school was full of them and Furuichi was in utter bliss.
Out of nowhere, Furuichi felt his right arm reach up and give him a slap across the face. He was reminded, quite violently, that he was currently sharing headspace with another person. "S-sorry," he muttered. Though even Vritra disapproving stare couldn't stop a little trickle of blood to soak up the tissues in his nose.
"Is Lieutenant-san alright? He's bleeding from the nose; should I go over and heal him with my Twilight Healing?" Asia-chan asked while looking towards Gremory-sama with a worried expression on her.
Suddenly I'm hit with a lot of guilt, Furuichi thought. The idea of somebody so adorably innocent like her filled Furuichi with a need - must protect at all costs.
"He is a Demon Contractor, while Furuichi-dono may be capable of signing a contract with Devils, he can still be vulnerable to the adverse effects of Demonic Energy. And with Kiba-kun unleashing his demonic swords left and right, the air has become quite saturated with it. Couple that with his summons, then he must be undergoing some difficulty," Himejima-san stated.
Yes! That is definitely it!
"Yet he is able to stand completely fine even with the influx of Demonic Energy. To be able to sign a contract and utilise the Pillars, even the Ultimate-Class Devil Behemoth, makes him an extraordinary human. I see why the Pillars have placed so much faith in him. Indeed, to be acknowledged to the rank of Lieutenant so quickly when other Demons can spend decades at the simple rank of Private shows that he is of comparable skill to the Pillar Generals and Barons themselves," Gremory-san stated confidently.
No! That is definitely not it!
Furuichi felt beads of sweat roll down his forehead. Vritra was staring at him with a blank poker face, and Furuichi felt like somebody had loaded a gun behind him.
"She is correct though," Vritra stated, causing Furuichi to look at her in shock at the sudden turn - he had been expecting another slap across the fact. "Your base potential has increased with the King's Crest, allowing us to surge more and more of our Demonic Energy through you, yet even without it, the amount you could contain was already beyond that of a regular human. While you lack physical strength, you are more than capable of calling yourself a Lieutenant of the 34th."
Furuichi couldn't help but blush in embarrassment, not used to praise after spending so long under the heel of almost everybody from Ishiyama.
"However," Vritra started with a frown, "You cannot stay in this level forever. You have already signed a formal contract with us, yet the tissues are still the only method for you to summon us."
Furuichi looked at her in surprise. "W-what do you mean?" He, sadly, did not get an answer to his question; instead, Vritra shook her head and turned to the mock battle that was soon to reach its climax. Furuichi himself was surprised to see Hyoudou crashing into the ground, while Yuuto-san was - whoa that is a big ass sword.
"Quite excessive - he doesn't have the strength required to even wield that sword half as effectively. Beyond that, as a Knight, his main strength comes with his speed, which he has sacrificed for no reason at all - ah, as you can see, he failed," Vritra commented, nodding her head when she saw how the Exorcist easily defeated the Gremory Knight.
"It seems we are needed to make sure that these Exorcist understand that Gremory-sama's peerage isn't the only protection in this part of Japan," Vritra stated and Furuichi suddenly felt his arms go rigid as Vritra took over most of his body functions - effectively, he was now possessed by the Pillar Baron. Like other times, he felt his personality start to be influenced by Vritra.
He quickly began to feel like it was a good time to...be sleeping? Yes, it was a rather nice windy day for a nap and he was tired too, so unbelievably tired. He should probably finish this fight as quickly as he could so that he could catch a few hours of sleep in the Occult Research Room.
Still, I probably shouldn't go all out for just a sparring session, he thought.
Nodding to himself, evidently pleased with his simple reasoning, Furuichi dashed forward with a surge of Demonic Power. He ducked into a roll and swooped up one of Yuuto-sans discarded demonic swords. He didn't know what properties this one had but all he needed was the ability to cut something - and the sword looked plenty sharp.
He landed on his feet after he finished his roll and leapt forward with his right leg, swinging with his left sword towards the Exorcist with a streak of green in her hair. Xenovia - was that her name? Too tired to remember - widened her eyes and quickly tried to block the sudden oncoming attack. But she was slow and Furuichi was able to analyse her movements with speed and precision he didn't usually have. He knew, after seeing the way she planted her feet, that her idea of a block was merely to attack her enemy first - there was nothing wrong with that, a good offence made a just as good defence, but that only applied when her enemy was of equal skill to her.
With Virtra in command - it stood without question that Furuichi was far above what she could usually contend with.
From the arc of her back to the positioning of her stance, and to the properties of the Excalibur itself, Furuichi could tell that she was an attack type of person - sheer brute force was at the forefront of her mind with any action she took. Born fighters like her were useless against technique types like Vritra - whose deadliness came from years of honing finely tuned battle experience - and Furuichi easily dodged the slow, but still powerful, attack.
Seeing an opening in her guard due to her overextension, Furuichi immediately moved to slash his sword upwards, completely avoiding the blade and striking the pommel, which caused Xenovia to let go of her weapon. The possessed Furuichi glanced at the still floating sword and wondered - would it be fine to use it?
He could finish off Irina faster with it, but it was heavy and required too much careful stance work to use effectively - not only that but it used Holy power which could negate the Demonic Energy surging through Furuichi. Blinking in weariness at the amount of work he was doing, Furuichi allowed himself to yawn leisurely as he rolled to the side. As quick as his feet touched the ground, he ate up the distance between him and the remaining Exorcist, his sword raised to his shoulder in a guard.
"E-eh?" The woman said in surprise, instinctively taking a step back when she saw the Lieutenant arcing towards her. Furuichi paused just in front of her, allowing the seconds to draw themselves out as he calmly watched her.
Irina was slightly afraid at the dull look in his eyes as though he found the idea of facing her an exercise in boredom rather than a possible fight. She had known him to be powerful, what with him being in one of the most infamous Devil groups the Church knew about, and yet, the look in his eyes clearly stated that he was far stronger than she had realised.
He looked utterly bored with the fight and seemed completely unimpressed with the fact that he had so quickly disarmed Xenovia, her partner, who had unparalleled destructive ability compared to her. But instead of ending the fight right then, he continued to just stare at her, a calculating glint in his eyes as though he was figuring out how to tear her apart, and Irina shivered in primal fear. She understood that Takayuki Furuichi was a dangerous man.
If she could read his thoughts though, she would say the same thing but in a different context. B87-W23-H89, he thought, those are her breast size. With his careful observation now completed, Furuichi allowed Demonic Energy to surge around him, blanketing the area with a thick disperse of wind, and sent the pommel of his sword sailing towards Irina. She instinctively blocked it, but the sheer force of the attack had caused her Excalibur Mimic to slip out of her fingers and fly over her head. It embedded itself into the ground behind her, making her stare at him with wide, uncomprehending eyes at how he had so easily taken her out of the fight.
"That is enough," Furuichi said. His voice was being slightly imbued with Demonic Energy at the influence of Vritra. His tone was quiet and dull, showing absolutely zero emotion and zero hints to the machinations in his head. It was utterly devoid of life. But to Furuichi, and likewise Vritra, he was just expressing how he just wanted to lie down and fall asleep. "The match is over. The victors are the Exorcists; Himejima-san, please put down the barrier."
The Occult Research Club fukubuchou nodded her head and soon after Furuichi felt Vritra slowly but surely leave his body. "The terms of the contract have been met. Lieutenant-dono, the level you are currently at is satisfactory, but unless you work harder, you may find it difficult to find satisfactory a good enough level. Eventually, it would be difficult for you to walk alongside Oga."
Furuichi looked at her in confusion, his eyes foggy after being released from the possession. But before he could ask any questions, she had already disappeared back to Makai. He shook his head to clear the confusion of the vague and cryptic information he had been receiving lately and stared at the two stunned Exorcists. He felt awkward just standing there out in the open but eventually, Xenovia-san shook her head and turned to address Yuuto-san, which was fine by Furuichi. Though he did tense up, his tissues already rolled and in his hands as he prepared to break up any fight that might break out between them.
"Senpai, I suggest you fight with coolness next time. I trust that our talk earlier has made its point, and as such I see no more reason to continue this." Then she turned to Hyoudou-san, who was shaking as he stared at her from his prone position. "I will tell you one thing, 'Vanishing Dragon' has already appeared."
More crypticness? Furuichi thought exasperatedly. Even if he didn't understand what that meant - or if he was even supposed to have listened in the first place - Furuichi still filed that information away as another mention of a Dragon. If he had time, he'd ask Hecadoth about it later and he might need to report to Jabberwock about what the Exorcist said.
Then she turned her eyes towards Furuichi and he immediately locked his shoulders, unsure as to how exactly she was going to react to him having disarmed her like he did. Vitra, after all, was called 'brutally effective' for a reason. "Lieutenant-san, I understand now how you were accepted into the ranks of the Pillars even though you are human. The levels of Demonic Energy I felt radiating off you was equal to some of the strongest Devils I had ever fought," Xenovia stated, and there was a hint of grudging respect in her eyes.
Furuichi didn't expect that - if it were Kanzaki in her place, he would be ready to tear his limbs apart - and he self-consciously scratched at his neck in an abased nervous tick. "Please, I'm not that special," Furuichi said as he stared at the ground, quietly blushing at the fact that a beautiful girl had decided to praise him.
Xenovia smirked at his reply and reached down to grab her Excalibur Destruction. "Modest as well; you are quite different from other Demon Contractors or the regular Magicians," Xenovia stated and sheathed her sword onto her person. She gave Furuichi one last look, this time the grudging respect had been replaced with something more...honest, would be an apt word.
After a while, she collected Irina from her shocked state and departed from the area. Furuichi stared at their backs, which were not covered by their coats, and ogled at their figures for a good half minute before turning away - he did not want to create a reputation for that in this school after all. He did, however, wonder if he should snap a pic for Dr Forcas but decided against it. Instead, he occupied his attention, and curiosity, to the dramatic scene which had apparently begun playing out with the Gremory group.
"...I was able to run away from there thanks to my comrades. That's why I have to put their regrets into my demonic-swords...," Yuuto-san said and Furuichi could recognise a man on a vendetta relatively easily - that had been Oga too when they went on their trip to America.
The young man stalked away, his shoulders heavy and lumbering as he passed Hyoudou-san being healed by Asia. Gremory-sama stepped forward, her arm reaching out to Yuuto-san, but Furuichi stopped her from going after him.
"Gremory-san," Furuichi said, gaining her attention. He may be overstepping his boundaries, but indeed, there was nobody there at that moment that could understand the situation any more than he did. He came from a school rife with cases less mild than Yuuto-san's case after all, and he'd been through the slog of trying to figure out these kinds of mentalities. "Let him be. When he needs to come back to you, he will." Oga had done this plenty of times, and there was never a moment when he would not return back beside Misaki or him in their younger years.
To Furuichi's surprise, the Gremory heir decided followed his direction, even with a little bit of reluctance. She watched her Knight leave the clearing for a few more seconds longer before turning to the only other male in the clearing. "Issei, are you ok?" She asked while tending to her sole pawn.
Furuichi watched with slight jealousy as this kid had four beauties hovering over his shoulder. He bit the cloth of his collar in embarrassed jealousy and turned away from the sight - slight tears stinging the edges of his eyes. He quickly made his way to the school gate without disturbing them - in his eyes, his job here was effectively done.
But he couldn't help but think back to his conversation with Vritra as he moved. He wondered what she had meant by the last comment and tried to push it to the back of his thoughts. But for the life of him, he couldn't help but keep replaying the conversation - and for some reason, he couldn't help but feel like he agreed with her. For the first time since coming to the school, Furuichi was starting to grow afraid of what exactly he had involved himself with.
"If this situation goes on, I might get used to being a Pillar," Furuichi murmured. It was scary in a way, how he seemed completely at ease with the situations that had been thrown his way. Who knew that being in a delinquent school was enough life experience needed to get around politics - maybe he should get into politics.
The sun was starting to fall in the distance and Furuichi knew that darkness was soon to arrive. He already felt the fatigue catch up to him throughout the day - putting aside the brief fight between him and the Exorcists, the sheer amount of information that he was given was already mentally taxing enough. Being too lazy to even want to walk back home, Furuichi decided to call Alaindelon.
"Oh? Takayuki-dono! My, what a surprise, you usually never call for me!" Of course, the old man just had to make it weird. He was staring at Furuichi with a light blush, shyly glancing away as though he had just been noticed by his beloved Senpai. Furuichi felt like throwing up on him just for shits and giggles - but then, he might actually like it.
"Not now," Furuichi said tiredly, feeling the mental exhaustion of his thoughts taking over his mind, "Take me home, I have a feeling I have a long day tomorrow."
"I see, I see," Alaindelon had the decency to sound empathetic and quickly transported Furuichi away dropping him off just outside the apartment complex which the Pillars had built and rented out to him. Furuichi said his goodbyes to Alaindelon and quickly made his way into his new house - but for some reason, he felt the hairs on his neck stand on end as he passed the door, and he swore he heard the sound of wings flapping overhead.
I must be more tired than I thought, he rationalised and entered his home.
0o0o I Came Back to Tea? O0o0
Furuichi expected to come into a room that was covered in boxes and looked like it still needed a few days of construction - after all, Hecadoth had told him how the Devils had only started making the building two days ago. Instead, he found that he was in a fully furnished luxury apartment room with western style couches, tables, chairs and decorations. It was very postmodern style.
He also didn't expect to smell tea wafting from the kitchen area or the sight of a discarded lab coat on his couch - which looked very expensive by the way. Lamia came walking out of the kitchen humming a tune under her breath, a teacup held daintily in her fingertips as she sipped at it.
Furuichi blinked - no special reason, he just didn't know how to react at seeing someone walking around what was supposed to be his apartment as though he owned it - and stared at her as she passed from the kitchen to the living room. After taking a seat at the couch, Lamia took another sip of her tea, before glancing up at Furuichi.
"Disgusting," she said, grimacing at the sight of Furuichi. Naturally, he felt a tick mark form on his forehead at being thrown insults the moment he got back home. He pulled off his 34th Pillar Jacket and tossed it onto the jacket rack - and what a novel idea that he had one, to begin with.
"What's the meaning of this? I get home and suddenly I'm assaulted with a vehement insult," Furuichi snapped back, crossing his arms while making his way across the room. The young pinkette glanced up at him as he approached and was quick to narrow her eyes.
"Were you looking at girls throughout the day?" Though it was framed as a question, Furuichi had the distinct feeling that it was said as an accusation. The tick mark grew in size - first of all, who threw out accusations before even asking? Innocent until proven guilty! Innocent until proven guilty!
Furuichi threw the lab coat aside and sank into his new sofa - and marvelled at how he practically dissolved into it. This was definitely more than my entire family could afford, he thought idly. "No, I did not. I had an actual business to attend to after school."
"Disgusting," Lamia reiterated, somehow putting even more vehemence in her tone. Furuichi would have gotten angry, but a part of him just felt like he'd been stabbed in the heart at how the pinkette just immediately assumed he was doing some naughty - and honestly, she had a point.
"I was doing something for Sitri-sama," Furuichi elaborated, sinking into the chair in his exhaustion. "There was a meeting between Gremory-sama and a pair of Exorcists from the Church - there seems to be a situation with a stolen Excalibur and the Exorcists wants us, the Devil side, to practice non-interference to their operations."
"What?!" Lamia exclaimed in surprise, the tea in her cup swirling in her sudden outburst. "The gall - how could they think they can just waltz into Devil territory and start making demands like that. It's times like this that makes me think the Old Maous weren't wrong with wanting to continue the war."
Furuichi glanced at the tiny pinkette, feeling a sudden bout of nostalgia at seeing her throwing a tantrum at something other than him - how long had it been since that had happened? Too long in Furuichi's opinion, and he had the wounds on his gut to prove it. "Well, I kind of get it. They wouldn't want other people to interfere in their own internal affaire, especially people they can't trust - but considering it's happening in Gremory's territory, I won't be surprised if she denied them the request."
"As she should! The Church has no authority here, not unless they want to start a war to claim it! What kind of idiotic...gah!" Lamia slammed her cup of tea on the table, spilling its contents over the wood. Furuichi glanced at it, mildly irritated at the fact that he would have to clean that up, and also a bit worried about the sudden bout of emotion - it wouldn't be that hard for her to redirect it towards him after all.
Furuichi's finely honed battle instincts were screaming at him to 'disengage and perform a tactical retreat' but for some reason, he was just too tired to even listen to his most base primal instincts and instead chose to do something he usually never did. He asked Lamia a question that might make her angrier - "What even is between the Devils and the Church? I mean, besides the stuff in the Bible, it seems like you guys have a deeper hatred for them than just ordained will."
"It's not just that - Devils, Angels, and Fallen-Angels are mutually repulsive to each other. We can't help it simply because all of our unique energies and makeup were designed to hurt each other!" Lamia said matter-of-factly. Though, after a moment, she crossed her arms and grimaced. "Beyond that...well, we've probably both lost a lot of people from the war," she said quietly - if not a bit morosely.
Furuichi wasn't stupid - his finely attuned senses were capable of picking up the fact that he had touched on a sensitive topic. How sensitive it was he didn't know and he wasn't willing to test boundaries by asking - nor would he want to upset Lamia over something as trivial as a curiosity. He wasn't heartless or that emotionally defunct, and without knowing it he had placed his hand on Lamia's head and began ruffling it.
"Gah! What are you doing! Stop!" Lamia cried out slapping his hand away. Furuichi just laughed, but Lamia didn't take too kindly at being made a fool of. She flicked Furuichi on the head and considering the amount of strength that was hidden inside that frame of hers, Furuichi felt like his neck was about to snap when he slammed back into the head of the couch.
"Ow! You know I came here to sleep right?" Furuichi whined as he rubbed the spot between his eyebrows. "How am I supposed to sleep after getting snapped like that?" As soon as the words left his mouth, Furuichi regretted them. Because the next thing that he saw was Lamia pulling the pistol slide back for Furuichi to see, in all his anxiousness, the weapon of his nightmares get primed and ready. "Now wait, let's not get has-"
The rest after that, well, it should be self-explanatory.