One-Punch DxD: NEO
Long time no see, folks! Terribly sorry for the long wait, because the latest chapter had been quite difficult to write. Without further ado, enjoy!
The safe house did not match their mental image of a secret base.
When Rias and Sona heard the word, they imagined a very fortified bunker in the middle of nowhere. Instead, they were in front of a door found inside an alley. The shelter Issei told them looked like a bar of sorts.
"Is this the place?" Rias asked.
It was her first time seeing a genuine secret bunker.
"According to the directions and address on the door, yes." Sona took another look at the note Issei gave her. "Hmmm, the establishment looks well-maintained, looks inconspicuous enough not to attract attention. Appearance and function wise, yes."
"Alright." Rias then fished out her own note. "Let's see… what's the passwo-"
Her words fell to silence suddenly as her eyes were dead-panning at the note.
"What is it, Rias?" Sona asked.
"The password… well…" Rias's face wrinkled into a rare expression - one of cringe.
"Give me that." Sona snatched the note and looked at the contents… Then she turned to Rias with a deadpan expression, "...Really?"
"Assuming that it wasn't a typo or error…"
"Is it within the realm of chance that we can request a more proper password?" Sona asked.
"Unlikely, we're pressed for time." Rias shook her head.
Sona and Rias maintained their gazes before they glanced between the door and the note, until the former sighed, "...Let's just get this part done and over with."
The two then walked to the door and Rias knocked on the door three times. A few seconds later, a feminine voice was heard from beyond the door.
"Sorry, we're closed for today."
Rias and Sona could tell that it would be their default answer to repel normal passers-by.
"We are referred to this place by Issei Hyoudou, the Red Dragon Emperor, and Azazel, the Governor of Grigori."
The wait for the next reply was a tad shorter than before.
Rias and Sona shared an uncomfortable glance.
"...You say it." Sona whispered, earning a flabbergasted reaction from her childhood friend.
"What? Why me? You go say it."
"Because I'm the Student Council President, and my family outranks yours in the 72 Pillars. Now, go!"
Sona's answer did not prompt a happy face from Rias.
"Fine. Alright… don't you dare speak of this to anyone." The redhead pouted before she took in a quick breath to brace herself.
"Dragon, dragon, oppai dragon. Click, click, zoom-zoom, iyann."
Seriously, what in the hell is Oppai Dragon!?What does the second part mean?!
Not only did the line sound embarrassingly silly, Rias had no idea what the line was about.
Rias' flustered face whipped towards Sona who just finished schooling her features back to her professional self after holding down her laughter, when a reply came from the door.
"...Please wait for a moment. Kkk."
Rias' blush deepened when she noticed that the voice from beyond the door cracked, as if they nearly laughed at her expense.
One lock after another unlatched from the door before it creaked open.
"Welcome to one of Grigori's secret shelters. How may we help you?"
The person talking was a female Fallen Angel. She had raven-black hair cascading down her waist, her attire very succubus-like with the thong, leotard, and black thigh high boots on high heels.
"You are…. Yuuma Amano." Rias recalled her face from the picture she once had - the fallen angel that approached Issei Hyoudou.
"Still with that old alias? We corrected our misunderstanding long ago. And… well, Lord Azazel updated us on the situation with your town and the Son of the Strongest Man."
Rias and Sona raised their eyebrows at the nickname.
"I am starting to realize the sudden shift of appellation from Red Dragon Emperor to…" Rias noticed.
"Well, it is his more infamous title…. To those who know his old man, to be precise. Like I said, Lord Azazel updated us. I still can't believe it when he said that his stupid-looking dad punched through the Vatican and THE Right Hand of God in the face." Raynare gestured for them to come in.
"The same goes for us." Sona briefly entertained the fallen angel. "But I'm afraid we need to talk about the real matter here, don't we?"
"Fair enough, come this way, then." Raynare then jerked her head inside, beckoning the two devils to follow them.
The trek through the dimly lit hallway was short.
Rias and Sona found themselves sitting in what appeared to be a small dining room, enough tables around to serve ten customers at a time in the bar, various bottles of wines and exquisite glass cups lined at the shelves behind the wooden counter.
Three more fallen angels were there, the male cleaning the glass cup while the others were lounging at the table with the half-circle couch, both eating a simple dish of sausage with a side dish of broccoli.
"...Oh, you are here." The male on the bar noted, eliciting the others from the table looked up from their meal.
"The man on the bar is Dohnaseek, the tall woman is Kalawarner, the short one is Miltelt." Raynare briefly introduced the other fallen angels in the room, "These are the Gremory and Sitri heiress."
"'Sup, we're the backup." Mitelt waved at them, kicking her white-stocking-clad legs back and forth.
"Don't expect us to be much of a fight against a cadre. Everything else, though, we probably can do." Kalawarner was propping her elbow on the table with her hand holding her leaning chin.
"A pleasure to meet all of you." Rias donned on her polite smile as she nodded along with Sona, "I am Rias Gremory and this is Sona Sitri of 72 Pillars. We're looking forward to working with you."
"Likewise." Dohnaseek nodded as he walked away from the bar, "But I'm afraid that, with the current development, we have to skip the pleasantries and go straight to the point."
"I'm inclined to agree, Mr. Dohnaseek." Sona nodded.
To think that Issei would have to go to this accursed place again.
If this place was alive and housed an evil spirit created by God just to specifically spite him, Issei swore one day he would destroy this place and punch God in the face when he had the chance.
Anyways, it was time for him to face the final boss of this scenario. Standing before the cathedral that made itself the symbol of the Hyoudou Family's misfortune, Issei took a deep breath as he cracked his neck left and right and rolled his shoulders.
"KOKABIEL!" Issei shouted at the church building illuminated by the sun of dusk, his voice boomed and echoed in a gradual, momentous fade.
His Devil companions behind them blocked their ears, Akeno and Yuuto grimacing as Issei continued shouting at a volume a human should have not been able to reach.
"You came to my hometown and yet you didn't come to greet me!? If you want a tour, you should've just come to me! Besides, we have a lot to catch up on!"
The plan was simple. Basically, most of the heavy hitters would join Issei in the confrontation against the Cadre while a second team, his pseudo-peerage led by Kuroka, infiltrate the chapel and rescue Griselda before Valper did anything weird to her.
And knowing Valper so far, he was the kind of asshole that would really use Griselda's life to make them do something stupid; and Issei really did not want to use the Monkey's Paw AGAIN on Valper, the cursed item stored in Boosted Gear as a safety measure.
Everyone waited in front of the church as the dwindling orange light of dusk drew near, the sun reaching the low with the night looming from the other horizon.
A golden sphere of light flashed before them, blinding most of them as Issei covered his face. When the light faded, Issei and the rest saw…
"...Oh, you piece of shit." Issei cursed at the sight of Griselda standing next to Valper with Malkuth standing in front of the two, the eight-winged blonde paladin glaring at Issei.
Griselda bore the same face as Irina had when she was under Valper's control. Dead eyes, a perpetual emotionless face, her very individuality robbed from her. For some reason, it felt even more serious than with Irina.
"We meet again, Son of the Strongest Man. I am afraid Kokabiel is very busy at the moment, so instead we must take his place for this tour." Valper greeted.
His smile was not like before. It was vile, like the true face behind the annoying mask he wore almost all the time, just like Diodora but much more disgusting.
"Wait, wait, just to cut this short, let me guess…" Issei raised a hand to stop Valper. "You got Griselda as a hostage. That guy wants to fight me for some goddamn reason… and you set a trap in the church just in case?"
"Close. Frankly, we are in the final phase of the plan. I do not see the need to hide anymore with what I now have," Valper answered.
Issei allowed a bitter smile on his face, "Well, guess we both will have our work cut out. Alright, this is like my second time dealing with this villain shit, so how are we gonna do this? You gonna make us back off using some cheap shit or throw that guy at me to soften me up?"
"Oh, while that is tempting, I am not here just to flaunt. You should be wary when someone as weak as me is this vulnerable."
Issei widened his eyes as several lights shone from the cluster of trees surrounding the church. Four cardinal points activated, connecting to each other in a square before they connected again to form a magical perimeter as the ground suddenly radiated with a somehow soothing light.
"What the shiiiiii-ohhhh, I can't feel my legs." Saji reacted to it a bit too late as he immediately collapsed on his knees.
Upon hearing cries and groans, Issei looked back, seeing the rest of his friends falling down one after another; the only ones resisting were Tsubasa, Koneko, Tsubaki and Akeno, although their legs were trembling like standing jelly as cold sweat trickled down their skins.
"...What the hell did you do?" Issei threw his head back to Valper.
"Oh, nothing much. Just a special holy field we exorcists call a Devil Snare. Very popular in the old days, but very expensive to pull off in such a wide area." Valper said as the circular perimeter of the area suddenly lit aflame as white fire ran around the lined circle, entrapping everyone in a wide circle of flames.
"Great for Devils of… hmm, the High Class? Whatever, besides, I am not the one fighting you." Valper chuckled as he gestured to Malkuth who drew his two holy swords from his waist, glaring at Issei.
"Are you fucking with me?" Issei uttered as Malkuth's holy aura exploded.
"Oh, no. He has been looking forward to this for a while. I believe Malkuth would like to meet you indubitably…. now."
Before Issei could answer, Malkuth blasted forth and crashed into him in an explosive burst of speed, carrying Issei with him as they flew over the weakened Devils.
Valper hummed in thought as he looked at the rest of the devils, giggling like a madman as his wicked smile dawned upon Xenovia while disregarding her weakened friends.
"Well, dear Xenovia. Shall we pick up where we left off?"
"Release Sister Griselda right now!" Xenovia glowered as she flashed her sword, one of the holy swords Yuuto pilfered from one of the Fallen Angels he slain before.
"Oh dear, why would I do that?" Valper placed his hand over his chest mockingly. "After all, I just got my hands on a perfect subject to test my greatest invention as of late. Griselda?"
The professional exorcist drew out her weapon. The holy presence of it drove chills down their spines, even Xenovia's, the devils feeling the concentrated power of the weapon in her hands.
"Meet the near-complete Excalibur, six-sevenths of the original." Valper gestured to the holy blade in her hands. "I will admit that the fusion is, mmm, more like fixing them together like glue at this moment, but given enough time the bonding will become more permanent. Anyways, test the sword for me. I want to see them dance at my whim."
Griselda did not say a word, as she opened and discarded her cloak, revealing the same combat suit that Xenovia and Irina wore hugging against her frame.
At that moment, the young exorcist realised that Griselda was in her combat mode - she was about to clash against one of the strongest warriors the Church could offer.
"Oh, crud." Xenovia could only mutter as Griselda then charged towards her.
However, Griselda's charge was halted, caught between the hands of someone they did not expect.
"I-Issei!" Xenovia shouted in surprise. Issei was standing before her, with the near-complete Excalibur caught between his hands in a buddha prayer.
"What?!" Valper with visible distress shouted at the sight of the boy. "How are you-what happened to Malkuth?!"
"You called me the 'Son of the Strongest Man', remember?" Issei quipped, throwing her blade aside as his knee lodged into her gut before transitioning to a launching kick.
Griselda flew over Valper and crashed into the church wall, surprising everyone here.
"HUMAAAN!" The voice of Malkuth roared in the distance.
"Crap, Xenovia!" Issei threw something to Xenovia.
She caught it on reflex, seeing the same holy sword that Griselda held before a shining blur crashing into Issei.
"I'm leaving this to you!" Issei's voice faded in the distance as he was dragged into the cluster of trees.
Xenovia and the others could not tear their eyes away from Issei's direction. Xenovia could not help but smile a little… She felt as if she was saved by a knight. To think he would use the same sword-disarming trick he used on her to give her a fighting chance.
"Tsk, Griselda! Protect me!" Valper shouted as Xenovia grinned at the sight of the panicking Valper making a face of fear.
With the near complete Excalibur, Xenovia, reaching superhuman speed, moved in to skewer the corrupt priest. But two crossing blades of light intersected her sword, holding Xenovia's blade at bay - the tip almost grazed Valper's skull, Griselda staring at Xenovia with her lifeless eyes.
"Ah-ahaha! Your timing is impeccable!" Valper laughed as he watched Griselda push Xenovia's holy sword with mere lightsabers.
"Sister Griselda, please get a hold of yourself!" Xenovia implored as she pressed forward her step, yet Giselda's lightswords did not budge in her grimacing struggle. "This is not you! Can't you recognize me!?"
"Your voice can't reach her. The process I used is angel-made! Not even an Archangel can uplift this condition once it's deeply rooted!"
Griselda threw Excalibur up with such force, she knocked Xenovia's balance stumbling back before she ran past Valper and thrusted her light sword.
However, two demon blades intersected Griselda's light sword in response. Koneko and Tsubasa held two demon swords Yuuto lent them made from Sword Birth, but Griselda knocked them back with ease and jumped back before Tsubaki swung her halberd from the nun's side, landing behind Valper with spinning acrobatic grace.
"In the name of both the Church and the Underworld, lay down your arms and surrender yourself, Valper Galilei!" Tsubaki barked.
One by one, the Devils slowly fought and picked themselves up, heavy breaths leaving their lips and tired faces grimacing at the fat priest.
"Now why should I when I have such a mighty shield and sword? And you're nothing more than a bunch of pathetic-"
Valper stopped when Griselda held his shoulder.
Valper looked back to see a lightsaber held like a dagger raised up, eyes of the enslaved nun flaring to life for a moment before it dropped down.
"Stop!" Valper shouted with panic, the light sword stopping just before his eyes.
The near assassination left the Devils stunned, Xenovia the most. The exorcist tightly gripped on her near-complete Excalibur with newfound resolve.
Griselda paused on her track; her body visibly stiffened up, as she tightened her grip of her sword, her arms trembling as if she was fighting some sort of invisible force holding her body.
"Haaah… That wasn't very nice, Sister Griselda. I still need you to behave for a while longer." Valper grinned while sighed in relief. "I believe it is time for you to show these cretins why you are hailed as one of the most powerful."
Griselda twitched, arms and legs trembling, head creaking towards the others.
"Oh, and stop resisting." Valper added.
The twitching stopped as tears started to stream down her eyes, her mechanical absence of hesitation returned as she walked until she stood before Valper, her two light swords held in reverse grips.
Unable to bear the sight of her mentor's state, Xenovia gritted her teeth before shouting, "Sister Griselda! I know you are in there, and I know you can hear me! Get a hold of yourself!"
Valper slightly grimaced as he warily glanced at his new puppet - the brainwashing procedure had been done on a short notice, he had skipped too many steps that could ensure his complete control over her mind and body; meaning that the chances of Griselda being released from his grasp were too high to his liking.
"Save your tongue, Xenovia. Soon, I will complete her 'counseling' - after I have you join our sessions."
Lights flickered and pierced the air, radiant sparks flashing in intermittence without pattern or rhythm, eight wings beat the wind as the air was filled with the roar of the holy warrior swinging his twin holy bastard swords at the son of the strongest man.
The same man that jumped from bole to bole, the bark splintered under his weight before the holy blades severed the tree from its stump, a process that continued as Malkuth chased Issei like a ravenous wolf to a sprightly deer.
Grimace marked Issei's face every time Boosted Gear blocked and parried the angel's fusillading blade of light, the Son of the Strongest Man ducking under a wide vorpal sweep for his neck and punching Malkuth's chest and body away with his right.
Only for the angel to spring back like a rubber ball, restarting the cycle once more to Issei's chagrin.
Malkuth's magnitude was rare, even in this small town.
Strong, fast, powerful mastery of supernatural powers, and a mind and body forged with rich experience in battle.
Issei could not use the same trick on Malkuth again, and the angel kept aiming for his right side just because he kept blocking his blade strikes with boosted gear, thinking he was like an open clam ready for plucking without it.
[His persistence is irritating, yet admirable.]
Ddraig commented as the angel danced in the air, throwing three rapid centrifugal swings for Issei to block, forcing him to dash away at the third.
"He's a pain in the ass, and he keeps getting up no matter how many times I punch his face VERY HARD!"
[Perhaps it is time for you to fall on that resort.]
"Hell, no! I can only pull it off once per day, and pulling it out like this ain't the right time." Issei replied to Ddraig's telepathic message.
[That is not how you push your limits. Remember the baldy's words. Pushing your limits doesn't mean 'holding back.']
As if rebuking Ddraig's quoted words as Malkuth swung at his right side again, Issei grabbed Malkuth's wrist and smashed into his gut so hard, the force traveled through Malkuth's armor and bones and rippled a cone of dispersing power.
"UGH?!" Malkuth's cheeks inflated before spittle flew out his mouth with an ugly cry.
"YOU CALL THIS HOLDING BACK?!" Issei shouted at Ddraig with a furious grit as he socked Malkuth's jaw back in place, roaring as he launched Malkuth into the air with his version of Shoryuken.
Malkuth ascended into the air in somersaults, so high into the air he was the size of a pigeon from ground view.
[...Well, I guess this works as well.]
Ceasing his ascent, Malkuth recovered, the air pushed aside by his wings unfurled, his aura shining brighter and brighter in golden illumination.
Spears of light formed around the angel, many holy spears. So, so…
There were so many Spears that they were kind of blotting his view of the sky a little.
"Uhhh…" Actually, the amount was starting to become ridiculous. He didn't see Kokabiel or anyone else in Grigori throwing this many light spears before.
"Let the light of the Heavenly Father uplift your soul unto paradise!" The only positive was that he did not repeatedly scream for his death this time.
Too bad the light of heaven felt more like God giving him the middle finger as the pointy lights fell like rain.
Not wanting to be a bleeding porcupine, Issei quickly took out the urn of Wei Cheng and aimed it open at the sky in panic.
The cone of blue shot out towards the rain of sharp holy death. To Malkuth's and Issei's surprise, every light spear caught in the cone of blue was instantly sucked into the urn like light caught in a black hole.
Issei started tilting the urn left and right to test out its effectiveness.
"Oh, ho ho ho….!"
Even if it swiftly passed through the light spears, the urn still slurped every holy spear caught, it left the angel above completely dumbfounded.
"What heresy did you just pull!?" Malkuth demanded.
"Other than God asking me to give you this?" Issei replied with a crooked smile, flashing a middle finger with his gauntlet-covered hand at Malkuth while waving the awesome magic urn in his other hand.
It looked like Issei did not need to explain his actions to the angel judging by the fury written on his face.
And Malkuth exploded like a star going supernova on a much smaller scale as the angel swooped down like a hawk.
Issei grinned as he aimed the prismatic urn back at Malkuth and opened it. He figured out the other function in his spare time.
With a flick of his thumb on the switch, Issei fired back all the energy contained in the urn back at the angel. The infamous force gremlin from Star Wars spoke much truth when he said that anger clouds sound judgement or something like that since Malkuth could not stop himself until the laser beam of golden light struck him face on.
A clash of brilliant lights lit the dark sky, a white gleam forcing Issei to block his sight a little.
When the light show faded, Issei peeked through his fingers and saw Malkuth's body smoking, as red burns mottled his skin, his white wings losing more than half of his feathers.
Issei scowled a little.
Malkuth's breathing was ragged, the lights of his wings dimming in fading intervals. The fingers holding his light swords, both of which looked weakened and buzzing at the edge of extinguishing, were struggling to hold on.
Yet Malkuth still did not bear the face of a man that would admit defeat. Issei has a hunch that the angel overreached with the light spear play.
"Alright, time out for a moment. Before you start screaming at me like a maniac, you owe me some answers. What's your beef with me? I'm pretty sure that you're projecting at this point since I can tell you definitely fought my father."
A growl left Malkuth's lips. The angel closed his eyes and inhaled, exhaling himself to emotional stability as he gazed at Issei with a stern mien.
"Your assumption downplayed the extent of your patriarch's visit. We did not fight, nor was it a battle."
Issei raised a brow.
"You want me to say he owned your asses?"
"We were thrashed and thrown aside like toys!" Malkuth shouted back. "We were like weak, helpless men in the face of the Great Flood, without the Ark of Noah to repair the damage!"
"Your people barged into my home and shot me and my mom!" Issei shouted back in a reflexive outburst. "You think because you're so high and mighty, everyone should swallow the shit you sell every time you fuck up!? If you want someone to blame, blame your 'God'!"
"God is-!" Malkuth stopped, his expression of rage folded into horror for a moment.
Issei did not fail to see it. For a moment, Malkuth's wings flashed black - the sign of falling.
"...You nearly got me." Malkuth took another deep breath. "...But you misunderstand, human. I am not so arrogant as to turn a blind eye to the mistake of the exorcists."
Issei quirked a brow.
"You're not going to tell what's going on with your wings?"
Issei knew something was off when Malkuth did not fall after pulling a stunt like this.
"I swore an oath to Lord Michael when he divulged the answers to my question." Malkuth answered without hesitation. "I cannot break an oath lest I fall. I have gambled everything by taking the steps needed to stay in God's sanctum to descend here."
"To start a war and attempt to kill a minor?" Issei quipped.
"Your tongue is sharp to lash at my resolve like this. The fire started when your father defeated us. It grew out of control when I learned the forbidden truth."
"Are you saying you're starting a war because you don't have someone to blame?"
"The devils are not innocent." Malkuth growled. "I wish I could tell you, but all I can say is that the kind you're protecting houses a sin they buried under the foot march of time and lies. Kokabiel can tell you when you face him."
The light of his wings glowed brighter.
"If you can face him after me." Malkuth raised his blades at Issei, who only narrowed his eyes in return.
"So you're going for the 'shounen-battle-route,' huh?" Issei rolled his shoulders, taking a deep breath as he exhaled. "Let me warn you before we do this. Don't blame me for what happens next."
Malkuth watched his opponent's gaze hardened with an ethereal glow, and a red aura blazed to life around the human like a torch.
Back to the other side of the battlefield - Xenovia, and the devils who could more or less fight within Griselda's Bounded Field, were in the middle of recovering their footing.
Before them was the sight of Griselda Quarta, still standing in her splendor with a sword of light in each hand.
Most of the devils were on their hands and knees; standing within the Baptized Grounds was hard enough, and the cuts and injuries of those that could stand in their bout with Griselda dragged them further to their limit more than they liked.
Tsubasa, Tsubaki, and Koneko could barely act as Xenovia's support, even with the Demon Swords Yuuto managed to lend them, each meant to help them resist the holy element and recover their strength, a battle of attrition added to their fight.
Still, Griselda did not relent in smacking them aside like ragdolls. She sent Tsubasa flying with a roundhouse kick, pinned Koneko's left arm on the floor with her light sword and stole her demon sword, then quickly overwhelmed Tsubaki with her dual wielding barrage of grace and blades.
After Griselda cut off Tsubaki's wrists with a swing of her lightsword, blood flying out their stumps as the Queen cried in anguish, Xenovia interposed and parried Griselda's stolen demon sword, just as it touched Tsubaki's neck.
Sparks flew as Griselda's sword was repelled by the Fused Excalibur. It was simply thanks to the older woman's sheer skill that her sword did not shatter from the impact.
Griselda did not meet her head on.
She jumped back, landing on Koneko's back, yanking the lightsword nailing Koneko's arm out, and stomping Koneko's head to the baptized grass as she raised her weapon.
"No!" Xenovia yelled when Griselda threw down her lightsword, but stopped midway and spun around, blocking Yuuto's Muramasa, the Knight's eyes burning with struggle meeting Griselda's crying gaze.
"Sister Griselda, if you're in there, don't give in!" Yuuto shouted at Griselda, blood trickling down his lips from overexertion.
He barely made it in time after creating a sword that would give him a great burst of speed, albeit the sword shattered upon activation, a one-use blade on the fly. Too bad Yuuto left himself vulnerable in that desperate moment, his jelly muscles crumpling from the strain of making such an emergency weapon as Griselda kicked him away.
He flew far as he crashed through several trees, coughing in pain as he fell like a rag doll - all of his limbs breaking into unsightly angles.
The power of numbers was worthless. Griselda was above them in every regard, and the holy field diminished their odds close to zero. As of now, it was no different than giving Griselda the role of a butcher, the Devils being the cattle waiting to be processed into meat.
Tsubaki was an example, on her back sweating from the loss of her hands, blood leaving the stumps, Tsubasa out of battle tending to her Queen's wounds.
On the sideline, Valper's smirk grew into a grin, victory near his grasp and another trophy to add to his growing collection, one in the name of Xenovia.
He had a devious thought of adding one or two more of the girls into his 'private security detail,' so he scanned the battlefield once again. Maybe he should take a Queen Devil… Wait.
He counted the number of Devils on the ground. He swore there should be one more amongst-
The sky rumbled and roared, and when the mad Archbishop looked up, he found the missing devil, the one with the fallen angel wing and one hand raised into the thunderous sky, anger twisting her beautiful face with new levels of rage.
Valper's eyes widened in fear and his mouth moved as fast as he intended to, "GRISELDA!"
"Divine Smite!" Thunder boomed after the dark sky flashed, the heavenly bolt striking down the wicked heretic below.
Yet the bolt of divine lightning was split in two before it incinerated the heretic, striking the ground around him instead.
Flames lingered around the charred earth, Griselda standing amidst the dispersing dust, one lightsword raised in the air, her gloves singed showing her marked skin.
"Holy shit, she just cut the lightning in two." Tsubasa commented with awe, her eyes away from the handless stumps of her vice-president.
"Tsubasa, less talk and more wrapping." Tsubaki reminded the Rook, her face brimming with sweat from the shock.
Valper smirked at the development so far, but he could not help but feel anxious himself. The lightning strike earlier had been a close-call; considering his brainwashing on Griselda had yet to be completed, who knew what would have happened if the ambush earlier were to succeed.
Without warning, a massive surge of energy drew everyone's attention, all heads perked and turned towards Issei's direction, the path where Malkuth dragged him to.
Explosions erupted in that direction, trees igniting in flames, obliterated as splinters and dirt splashed in the air in rapid succession, radiant lights swallowed by a tower of flame reaching heavenwards.
Something flew towards them.
It crashed like a meteor, drawing a long, wide line between Valper and Griselda.
Valper saw the charred, beaten form of Malkuth coughing blood, his disfigured face beaten black and blue, half of his front teeth missing and his mien smashed in, his forearms crushed in four segments under the skin, a spike of bone jutting out his right forearm. His left leg was bent in a reverse painful angle, blood trickling to the dirt from all over.
Dread began to creep on Valper's expression as he and everyone else turned to see where Malkuth just came from.
From the ruined landscape, a figure clad in red, draconic armor landed and walked towards their location.
"...Ise?" Tsubasa could tell that the armored figure was her boyfriend for some reason.
True to her words, the armored intruder turned to everyone and raised a hand in greeting, "'Sup, Tsu." He then scanned the situation, but the faceplate concealed the expression on his face.
"I know this is becoming a broken record but… Since when can you do that?!" Saji yelled, despite looking like his bones turned to jelly.
It was an immaculate armor, bulky, full plated, crimson metal breastplate down to the greaves, a green jewel at the center, red metal for the skeleton and green energy fields for the membrane of his mechanical wings.
Balance Breaker: Boosted Gear Scale Mail - Armor of The Red Dragon Emperor.
He looked as if he wore the armor of a heroic dragon knight.
"Do what?" Despite how heroic he looked, his casual voice ruined the impact a little.
"He means your new armor." Tsubasa called out as she finally finished tying Tsubaki's handless wrists, stopping the bleeding.
"Really? Then why didn't you bust that thing out against Diodora? Or during training camp?" Tsubasa asked a good question.
The Devils were under the assumption that Issei didn't unlock the transformation.
"He would've died in one hit." Issei answered. "And I only bust this out during emergencies. It isn't something I can always use on the fly like a limitless Super Saiyan transformation. Also, when I said 'always', well…. Not actually 'always', per se, more like… Probably a few years… ah, crap, all I can remember is the beatings in my training days... Moving on." Issei responded beneath his red sleek helmet, two green jewels carved into his visor acting as his eyes glowing.
Issei clenched his fist and raised it high, the signature word continuing to repeat from his right gauntlet, out the green jewel embedded.
All can hear the word 'Boost!'repeating ad infinitum, prompting curiosity from his friends, and dread from Valper.
"W-What are you doing?!" Valper shouted.
His raised fist flared with tangible red before he dramatically slammed the ground.
The earth shattered - the web-cracks spread throughout the stage, crusts of the earth uprooted and shifting as if an earthquake struck the battlefield.
The holy fires surrounding the grounds died, the aura of holy energy bleeding out the cracks.
Saji suddenly felt the energy lifting. His bones no longer felt like rubber as he picked himself up, flexing his fingers. The others were also filled with strength, the weakness that plagued them gone.
"You… you destroyed the bounded field, composed of the Church's greatest techniques, with brute force alone?" Valper uttered in complete disbelief.
"If it works, it works."
Although Issei did not know how it works, he rolled with it. He saw dad do it once, so why not break the magic field?
As he mused, Griselda already re-positioned herself between him and Valper. Mind-controlled or not, Issei could see Griselda's alertness on her face.
"Not one step forward!" Valper raised his hand.
The armored dragon knight remained, not taking his sight off Valper's devious smirk. Seeing the red flags triggering, Issei casually took out the urn.
"If you resume your streak of heroism, I shall have Griselda slit her own-"
Valper cut himself off at the sight of a cone of blue color engulfing him and Griselda. Valper watched in confusion at the sight of something black leaving Griselda's head as well as white wisps leaving her light swords and her cross, the same thing for his baptized accessories and items he kept under his clothes.
His gaze then followed the white elongating wisps until they went into the mouth of the wooden prism in the boy's hand. A minute later, the light show was over and Griselda suddenly collapsed to the ground like a puppet with its strings severed.
"Griselda?" Valper was now anxious, "Griselda, wake up! Get back to your feet!"
Much to his chagrin, the sister remained motionless on the ground.
"Huh, it worked. Didn't have to use that this time." Issei commented, surprised.
"You...! What did you do?!" Valper demanded.
Her long golden hair covering her face like a curtain, Griselda slowly pressed her hands on the dirt, pushing herself up with arms trembling.
"Griselda!" Valper shouted with relief at her standing on her feet. "Whatever you did, it didn't work, fool! Griselda, place your sword at your throat in case-aidnbrh?!"
Griselda responded with a fist lodged deep into Valper's fat gullet.
Valper was thrown back, his body rolled on the ground behind him for a good few meters, while Griselda immediately collapsed back on her fours as soon as she had launched the Archbishop away.
Relief washed over Xenovia as she immediately ran towards Griselda, tears of elation streaming down her cheeks as she helped her mentor up, shoulder to shoulder.
"X-Xenovia…" Griselda greeted her ward with a tired smile, and her eyes landed on the holy sword in Xenovia's other hand, "It seems that I've missed many important things. How… long have I been decommissioned?"
"Please, don't strain yourself." Xenovia managed to smile, "We reclaimed the target during the battle, Sister Griselda. Our mission is complete."
Griselda sighed in return before asking again, "It seems I have much to apologize for. However, more importantly, what is Irina's current status? Is she still…"
"She is safe." Xenovia assured. "You should rest and recover. The rest of us can-"
The sound of a cough interrupted Xenovia.
Griselda and Xenovia turned to see Malkuth in a spiteful struggle against his broken body to rise to his feet.
It was a sight, to see someone, an angel indefinitely, fighting for purchase despite his arms broken like abused snapped twigs, his knee broken in a painful opposite angle, trickling blood caking him from head to toe.
"Dude, I seriously can't believe that you still want to fight in that state. I caved in your ribs, arms, leg and face, what will it take for you to stay down?" Issei uttered, slightly amazed by Malkuth's tenacity.
It was probably the first he saw something like this from someone other than those of his inner circle.
"Only the cold hands of death can steal me from my crusade!" He growled with his caved-in face as he dipped his gnarled, twisted fingers into his armor and took out a silver vial.
Issei squinted his eyes behind the helmet at the vial - it did not look like Phoenix Tears, the color and shape of the container was different, but whatever stored inside the silver vial felt so…. Pure.
There was something about it that resonated with him, but Issei could not put his finger on it.
Before anyone could ask, Malkuth uncorked the cap with his thumb and downed the contents.
Normally, it was common sense to stop someone from taking something that looked important, but Issei's curiosity got the best of him. Turned out, his hunch was correct when a soft, starlit light enveloped him as his blood stopped flowing and his limbs and face started melting back into proper shape, as if time was reversing the damage he received.
Soon, Malkuth's pretty blonde face returned to peak condition, his arms and legs no longer mangled, looking as if he was renewed, a bit more rejuvenated than when they first met if Issei was honest.
Issei blinked at the sight of a fully-recovered Malkuth slowly ascending back to the sky, "I'm… guessing that's not a Phoenix Tears, right?"
"You are correct." Malkuth admitted. "The Devils are not the only ones with miraculous substances in their possession."
The others were stupefied at the sight of the recovered angel that could stand a fight with the strongest human they knew.
"The… The fabled Water of Life…"
Issei turned and scowled at the sight of Valper waking up with his face still contorted in pain.
"The water from the river in The Garden of Eden, the same water that The Lord has promised mankind upon The Judgement Day…" His face then slowly broke into a grin, "Yes… We can still win this! With Malkuth rejuvenated, and Lord Kokabiel remaining on our side, our crusade-!"
Everyone reeled in shock and gasped when Valper's tirade was cut by a spear of light piercing through his stomach.
Valper stared at the blood gushing out from the hole on his belly as he slowly collapsed to the ground.
The devils were stunned into silence. Xenovia and Griselda could not take their eyes off blood leaving the fallen priest.
Issei looked up to see Malkuth pointing his palm at the downed Valper.
"What the hell?! Isn't he your ally?!"
Malkuth's baleful eyes rolled to Issei.
"That heretic was nothing more than a tool. I am still a soldier of Heaven, and it is my creed to weed out the filth of mortals. Kokabiel and I agreed to send his soul to Purgatory once he is of no use." Malkuth hissed back at Issei.
Issei gritted his teeth in disdain as he took another glance at Valper… Who was twitching in pain on the ground, futilely trying to cover the bleeding with his hands.
"Still an angel to the core, I see." Issei said with a cynical grin, "I did wonder how you can stand working with him for this long. Usually, your kind would murder the shit out of heretics… can't say that he didn't deserve this."
"He had his talents, but he has outlived his use…" Malkuth's face froze as his eyes widened.
"'Oh' what…?" Issei realized that his eyes were no longer focused on him. Trailing his line of sight, the angel was looking over his shoulder. "There's someone behind me, isn't there?"
An eerie silence filled the air for barely a second, and Issei did not bother to second-guess as he immediately spun and swung at whoever was behind him.
His strike initially deflected, fists and swings of his arms exchanged with those of the other person's, fierce blows traded back to back shaking the air with each cracking clash.
Ducking under a right swing, Issei ascended with a flip kick.
However, two black feathery wings caught his armored foot before it struck the chin, holding him in the air.
Those were his last words before he was thrown unceremoniously, landing belly-first on his face with a outcrying grunt.
"A true battle dictates the use of all their limbs, wings included." The new voice lectured as five pairs of wings unfurled behind him.
Kokabiel - The Star of God, the Fourth Cadre of 200 Watchers in The Book of Enoch, grinned down at the indignant armored hero.
"Took you long enough to move your lazy ass." Issei grumbled as he looked up.
"Hahahahaha! I wish I could move sooner, but I am very aware of my place. I cannot take on the thing you call a dog nor that strange life-form yet; and then there is you, the son of the man I do not want to face at this pivotal moment. So I used the one thing you and your father can not beat."
"Money?" Issei guessed, knowing Saitama's one big weakness.
"Hah! No. Cunning. Speaking of a race famous for that…"
Kokabiel gave the devils behind him a casual glance.
Sharp eyes of blood red sclera, a menacing pale face, his chin sharp as an arrow, long combed angular locks falling down astride his head. Metal shoulder pads rest above his black robe, the fallen angel grinning at the Devils that took in his features.
"Oh, wow. Damn, his eyes, seriously. How the hell are his eyes that red?" Saji commented with his finger rudely pointing at the fallen.
The fallen angel's smirk started to drop.
"An unholy fusion of vampire and fallen angel… you really do match Issei's description to the letter." Akeno followed with mocking surprise in her voice.
"He is more vampire than Gasper." Koneko followed with a slight grimace, holding the shoulder Griselda stabbed.
"...And I see that you shared gossip about my appearance." Kokabiel added, a bit annoyed in his voice.
"It's not my fault you look like Count Dracula with raven wings." Issei impishly retorted.
If he couldn't damage him with his fists, at least he could do some with words.
"That aspect of your father definitely survived the trip to your birth. Shame that you didn't inherit his lack of hair… or maybe it has yet to show."
[Ooohh, he got you there.]
That last remark garnered a frown from Issei. The others could not see it, but they could feel it from his lack of silence.
"You are not the only one that can use words as a weapon, or nitpick insecurities."
Kokabiel formed a sword of light and swung.
A surge of power, golden light that reached the heavens blinded the Devils and Issei, the ground rumbling as if explosive quakes struck the town.
When the light faded, the Devils could not understand what happened for a brief moment. Issei stared at the devastation in a slight stupor.
A charred trench, no, a valley violently came into existence, the park and large chunks of street burned from existence.
"...And I am armed in more ways than one."
"...There is still room for your terms of surrender?" Issei simply responded; everyone could somehow tell that he was having a cheeky, yet nervous grin under his helmet.
"Kukuku, I'm afraid we're in the final part of this play. And there's no turning back." Kokabiel lightly chuckled.
"Impossible…!" Griselda uttered with more vocal shock than the rest.
"Sister?" Xenovia could see the shock written on her face.
"I understand that your mightiest warrior has defeated me in the Great War once upon a time. Ironic that I learned to cast aside my foolish self because of another human. The old ways no longer bind my soul."
Issei's fist crashed into Kokabiel's instantly raised palm. The force dispersed, the air shook from the thunderous impact while his hand gripped the red gauntlet of the son of the strongest man with ease
"Yet you're pulling this shit off because of a grudge?!" Issei shouted behind his helmet.
"Not petty vengeance. Destiny!"
The jewels on his armor shone, and Ddraig's voice repeated the mantra ad infinitum.
[Boost! Boost! Boost! Boost! Boost! Boo-]
However, Kokabiel's knee smashed into Issei's gullet, cracks from chestplate to back, ending the cyclic chain of Boosts.
"You always leave yourself open in that state." Kokabiel advised, a spear of light sheathed in glowing rings formed over his shoulder and flew.
The devils watched as the spear smashed into Issei and carried him into the distance, leaving a trail of dust exploded like a string of geysers. There was no sign of him slowing down as the explosions of dust and dirt continued shrinking with Issei's fading into the distance.
"Malkuth, I shall handle the human male. The rest you can take." Kokabiel spoke out to the silent Malkuth, the pure angel's eyes following Issei's flight.
"...I have unsettled matters with the human." Malkuth responded.
"As you are now, you will fail. It is time you put your goals before your debts. Remember our pact, Malkuth."
Malkuth's eyes switched to the recovering devils. His gaze remained on them before he clicked his tongue.
"I will not tolerate another intervention."
"Likewise." Kokabiel disappeared in a flash of light, leaving Malkuth alone with the Devils.
The devils, Xenovia and Griselda then found themselves facing an eight-winged angel floating in his splendor above them.
Saji could only utter two words in response.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the town during the commotion, Rias and Sona were sitting on the same table with the fallen angels that were assigned by Azazel as his secret agents in Kuoh - Raynare, Dohnaseek, Kalawarner and Miltelt.
"So, according to what you heard from Lor- I mean, Kokabiel's broadcast…. He implanted an arcane bomb with enough yield to erase an entire town, holding us hostage in the process?" Kalawarner asked.
"That is correct." Rias replied, "If there is anything you can do to aid us, we would like to hear your input."
Rias saw the fallen exchanging glances with each other.
"To put it bluntly…. That sounds super far-fetched, even for a cadre." Mittelt opened her mouth.
Sona pushed up her glasses, "Care to elaborate?"
Raynare answered next.
"It is within possibility that he can forge a bomb, or nuke as the modern mortals call nowadays, but… it is not easy to hide something of that power. Think about it, unless Kokabiel is using a human-made nuke, there is little chance that he can conceal it. An arcane nuke is better in this case as we are immune to radiation, and the force is easy to weather off, but one needs more than ten times the power and resources to conceal the magic signature, which is more troublesome than it sounds in application."
"You speak as if you're familiar with the subject." Rias noted.
"We are older than you. We have been more involved with Lord Azazel's experiments and theories. We saw Azazel attempting to create one, only so he could see how to counter any future supernatural terrorism." Kalawarner explained.
"And the result of this experiment is that it costs way too much resources to make, the energy needed being beyond what most supernatural entities could perform." Miltelt added.
"But Kokabiel shouldn't even need something like a thaumic nuke in the first place." Dohnaseek interjected. "His power alone should be enough for the level of destruction he desires."
Rias and Sona shared a glance.
"How powerful is Kokabiel in the first place?" Sona inquired.
They do not know the exact strength of a Grigori Cadre. Scaling the power of veterans wasn't easy for newcomers like them.
"Truthfully… we're not exactly sure." Raynare sheepishly admitted.
Sona and Rias stared at the brunette.
"Hey, give us a break. We're grunts, we're not exactly intimate with the upper class." Miltelt uttered in their defense.
"Then how do you know how strong Kokabiel is?" Rias asked.
"Lord Azazel gave us an estimate. However, even he is not completely certain as there are eyewitness testimonies of Kokabiel performing training ever since he met the Strongest Man. But Azazel is certain that he can destroy a town during the war." Dohnaseek explained.
"Then it is safe to assume that he is stronger?" Rias surmised.
"Most likely." Raynare confirmed.
However, before the discussion could have gone further, the entrance door blasted open, smoke, fire and wooden shrapnel invading the room.
Immediately, Dohnaseek yelled and ducked under the bar counter while the other three flipped the table and ducked behind it.
From the smoke and a second too late for the Devils, twin abstract needles jumped from the smoke and stabbed Sona's right thigh and Rias' left forearm.
Crouching behind the table, Rias and Sona winced as they looked at the damage. The projectiles were darts, the metal tip coated in silver judging by the familiar burning reaction to their skin.
They pulled out the needles, but the second they did, a sudden disorientation struck their bearing.
"Hey, you two alright?!" Miltelt shouted as gunfire suddenly erupted, bullets of light spraying inside, pelting pellets of wood and breaking the shelves bottles of alcohol.
"I… We're fine." Rias replied after she and Sona blinked and shook their heads a few times. It was like something rushed through their heads like a tidal wave.
Shaking her head into clarity, Rias poked her head over the table and threw her hand forward. However, tiny sparks spurted instead of the surge of demonic power. Rias turned to Sona, whose expression mirrored hers.
Sona took a peek from the table for a second, but a light bullet chipped the table's edge, forcing her back down behind cover, but not without confirming the attackers, all in cleric's cloth and armed with blades and guns - Exorcists.
"Didn't you check if you're followed?!" Raynare remarked heatedly as she fired a spear of light before ducking behind the table again, as bullets and possibly other different projectiles were littering the floor and walls around them.
Sona and Rias stared at Raynare beside them while the fallen returned a dumbfounded gaze.
"We did! Or… at least we thought we were not followed." Rias replied.
"We also thought the majority of their forces had been thinned out and had to focus on guarding their base." Sona added.
"Can you two move?" Dohnaseek looked over the distressed heiresses.
"Yes, but…" Rias grunted as more fizzling sparks jumped off her palms. "We can't use our powers!" Rias replied as she tried to conjure her Power of Destruction, only to produce tiny flares on her hands. Sona herself did not bother to test it out as it was not her first time to be robbed of her demonic power.
"Could it be...? Raynare, throw me one of the darts." Dohnaseek shouted behind the bar counter.
Raynare picked up a discarded dart and threw it to Dohnaseek through the barrage of bullets.
The fallen caught it between his fingers before he ducked again, just in time as a bolt flew where his head used to be.
"As I suspected." Dohnaseek said as he inspected the projectile, sniffing the metal tip. "The smell belongs to a special concoction of silver nitrate commonly used by exorcists to hunt devils by suppressing their demonic powers. However, I am not sure if the formula was tampered. For now, continue exerting your power, it can shorten the duration. But for now, we must get you two out. Your lives are imperative at this moment."
None need to say how important they were nor what their deaths would bring.
Rias and Sona scowled, disliking the situation. They were outnumbered, and staying inside the place was no longer an option lest the enemy will box them in.
A round silver orb arced across the air, catching the eyes of the Devils and Fallen.
"Grenade!" Miltelt shouted.
The round metallic object dropped and clattered on the floor not far from their position. Out of sheer reflex, Dohnaseek vaulted over the counter and dived to the bomb, sliding it and grabbing it, then threw it back towards the invaders.
The fallen angels and the devils ducked behind their cover, and they noticed several cries and groans from the enemy's side.
No destruction was birthed, yet the human exorcists covered their eyes in disorientated pain.
"Now's our chance! This way!"
Miltelt took charge guiding the now-powerless Rias and Sona towards another door at the far back of the room, with the other three fallen angels throwing light spears like javelins at them, piercing a few while the rest hid behind cover in return.
It took a few minutes for the group to make their way through the storage room and get out from behind the establishment. Now they were not much further away from the main street.
"This is the address of our spare safe-house." Raynare handed a piece of note over to Rias. "We will lure those guys' attention, and meet you there. Until then, survive. If you die, we'll die."
"How are you going to lure them? Those people are likely after us." Sona replied.
Raynare smirked before she nodded to Kalawarner, before those two procured what appeared to be a mask in their hands and proceeded to put them over their faces.
Then, Rias and Son saw a brief flash of light come from the mask, enveloping the two fallen angels, whose appearance had become like their own - faces, hair, clothes and all; it was like Rias and Sona were looking at a mirror.
"What on earth…?" Rias could not help but feel a tad perplexed.
"I know right?" Raynare, who was disguising as Sona, replied, "An invention by Lord Azazel that disguises our appearances. However, these are just prototypes, so it can't cover our entire appearance... On certain aspects."
Sona could tell what Raynare was implying as she stared at her chest - despite wearing her face, the Sitri heiress' copycat was still taller and possessed larger breasts than her own. She lightly scowled at her own petite frame as a result.
"Hey, we don't have time for dick measuring contest, we gotta move!" Millet then urged them, as she could sense several footsteps going after them.
"If you don't see us at the destination, lock yourselves in and trust no one. We'll use the same password you had earlier." Dohnaseek instructed, "We have to split up for now, go hide behind those crates and wait for our signal."
Sona and Rias nodded and did as they were instructed, taking the place beyond the stacks of crates a few metres away from the fallen angels, who then began running towards the main street - Raynare and Kalawarner who disguised themselves as two devil heiresses on their feet, while Miltelt and Dohnaseek took to the air.
Soon, a squadron of armed exorcists came out from the door. Now that Sona and Rias took a better look, despite the cross hanging around their necks, their immaculate clothes, and their blessed weapons, they were clad in normal clothes that could pass them as civilians, presumably to blend in with the crowd.
Just as they planned, the exorcists then ran towards the main street, going after the fallen angels. Once they saw the last exorcist disappearing at the opposite corner, Rias and Sona nodded, and took a look at the note Dohnaseek gave them.
"Do you recognize the address?" Sona asked her old friend.
"I do, just like Mr. Dohnaseek said, it's only a couple of blocks from here. Come on, we cannot fight them if they find us in our current state." Rias replied as she tore the note to shreds, committing the address to the memory, before she and Sona took off.
There you have it. In case some of you are wondering; what Valper had pulled on Griselda was nothing more than an incomplete brainwashing, so nothing drastic had been done to her.
The next chapter can be read in the P - atreon site. Cheers. ;)