Fate/Bonds Beyond Humanity

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83- Let There Be Khaos II: Dangers of the Known

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Naud wasn't one for battle and certainly not a warrior like other devils. Powerwise he was always considered weak and so when the Civil War came he worked with information while staying as far from any battlefield as he could. He had a good focus on delivering messages and worked behind the scenes to help maintain the communication lines for his side.

While the work itself was important, as communication was fundamental in any war, the member of the Gamigin Clan couldn't necessarily claim he did anything special. All he did was talk well and deliver any message in the best manner possible to the right people. At least that proved he wasn't a spy of any sort as his skill in talking wasn't of much.

Not during a war and not when the message needed to pretty much always be delivered word for word to whoever it needed to reach. 'Say whatever you want but I never screwed up any assignment and I won't start today.' The man thought as he fixed his purple suit, two extra guards escorting him towards the commentor's box. 'Have no clue why the Satans positioned extra guards but I doubt this is just for me. Pardon the language but shit is probably going to hit the fan.'

The man scratched his beard and avoided laughing upon noticing he was basically narrating his own thoughts to himself. Either due to habit or professionalism Naud could say for certain he didn't mind since he liked his job. Vanity as it may be, Naud quite liked the sound of his own voice.

'This somehow feels even more tense than back in the war.' Funny enough he already caught a glimpse of some devils arriving in the stadium and quickly noticed there were fewer youngsters than usual. Also some of them were heavily armed which while not unusual for their race it was still an odd sight in days of peace. 'Well, if the bosses are doing their thing, none of this is my problem.'

Not being a fighter himself there was little that Naud could do in case of any emergencies or combat scenarios. The man had a deep and comprehensive knowledge of battle but lacked first hand experience and the power to make use of it. What he had was a silver tongue that had little use in war but thrived in peace.

Fortunately for him the New Satan Faction was victorious and his efforts were acknowledged, his career in Rating Games assured for not only being excellent with words but because he wasn't interested in involving himself in anything political.

The factions, the Pillars, even his own, and the Satans themselves were irrelevant to Naud. 'I just need to watch some good fights, have fans and a steady paycheck. Give me all those things and I am in Paradise.' The man thought as even as the stadium was filled with well armed men he just shrugged. 'Everything else? Let the politicians figure that out.'

Indeed if anything Naud knew his success was tied to the current regime but he was also self aware enough to know he had no influence in it. Whatever outcome happened it was in the hands of people far, far more powerful than he was. The man hadn't even inherited his Clan's power so fighting really wasn't in the cards.

Still he would enjoy things as they came as he took a sip of his very expensive coffee and arrived at his place of work just waiting to see who would be commenting on the match with him that day.

"Oh, you must be Gamigin-san." A beautiful blonde Japanese woman, if he went for what she was wearing with a blue haori and a black hakama, wasn't what he was expecting. "I'll be working with you today." She lowered her head with a polite smile. "My name is Okita Souji. You can call me whichever makes you more comfortable."

A second passed as the devil got stuck in his stupor before snapping itself back from it."... Forgive me for not remembering earlier but aren't you Lord Lucifer's Knight?"

"Hehe. The very same." Seeing he wanted to shake her hand, she stood up to do just that. "Don't worry about not recognizing me. That just means you are an upstanding citizen that doesn't have troubles with the police."

"Still it is an honor to meet someone from a Maou's peerage. It is a pleasure to become acquainted with you, lady Souji." Yet her presence there implied his previous assumptions were right. 'Either today is going to be an eventful day or someone stopped something really bad from happening.'

Blushing a little, the woman smiled. "I say the same but my family name is 'Okita'… but you can just call me Souji or Souji-san if you want to make me comfortable."

"Perhaps then, 'Okita-san'?" Naud offered and she beamed. "Then Okita-san it is." Looking around he tried to find anyone else in the box. His guards had already left but considering he was with Lucifer's Knight the professional commentator knew he was more than safe. "Do you have any idea of who else is going to join us, Okita-san? For the Devil Youth Tournament we have been using a team of three for every match."

"That would be me." Turning around, Naud could say for certain he was surprised when a man far younger than himself entered the room. Much more so considering he was one of the competitors in the tournament. "It is good to see you again, Okita-san. Sir Naud, your comments about our match helped my Bishop realize she needs to improve her control over ice. Despite always trying to compete with Lady Leviathan she never thought about giving life to her statues by herself. Honestly Coriana never considered it possible."

"Sairaorg, how have you been?" Okita greeted the Young Lion excitedly as Naud tried to make sense of why the Heir of Bael was there.

"Have been doing fine, Okita-san. Really the problem that I have is that most of my matches in this tournament were a bit disappointing." Besides throwing punches with Kozuki, Sona's Knight, the whole thing had been a breeze for his team. "Didn't get the chance to face the Phenex either so that was a bummer."

"Well, she officially joined Rias Peerage so-" Okita quickly slapped her mouth shut.

Which had Sairaorg laughing with excitement. "Hoho! That is pleasant news indeed." He chuckled at her abashed expression. "Hey, unless my cousin is trying to keep her new peerage member a secret I would learn it today anyway."

The Shinsengumi captain scratched the back of her head with some embarrassment. "Yeah but I should know better than to give up secrets like that. It is almost like I am losing my edge… Oh god, I'm losing my edge." She went to a corner of the room and began to hit her head against a wall repeatedly. "Stupid. Stupid. Stupid! What would the guys back then say about that?! … Well, Hijikata-san would offer me some pickles and Saito-san would be mocking me while saying that his sword would finally surpass me. As if!"

"Or maybe they all would just be happy that we are in more peaceful times." Even as he stated that Sairaorg's smile didn't reach his eyes. Clearly the young devil was troubled which more than confirmed Naud's suspicions.

Yet the professional announcer held a single doubt in his mind. "Lord Sairaorg-"

"Please, just call me 'Sairaorg' for today. We are colleagues, even if just for a moment."

"Very well. Sairaorg, may I ask what a competitor is doing on the commentator's box? Sure we always have two guests for every match of this tournament but this is… extremely unusual."

Sairaorg smiled at the other man. "Understandable but the commission just told me to come here since nobody else was available and I was going to watch the match anyway." He was avoiding saying too much.

But Naud understood the message. "Still it is quite unusual."

"Ah, if anything it is just something new." Okita commented with an excited look. "Now we have a competitor's input about his future opponent. And since he already defeated Diodora-sama, all focus can be on Rias." A small grow appeared in her face. "And isn't she the one everyone came to watch?"

"Hahahaha! A little cruel with Diodora but…" Sairaorg sat down at the left of the table with a hand supporting his face. "... You are right, Okita-san. Pretty much everyone believes Rias has this match on locked." A competitive expression revealed itself. "But if she lowers her guard it will be Astaroth taking the second place in this little tournament."

"Fufufu. So sure of victory already?" Souji asked in a challenge with an equally competitive expression. "Don't underestimate Rias or my disciple. I can guarantee they will torple you from your throne, 'Lion King'."

A grin remained in Sairaorg's face even as his fighting spirit grew more intense. "No, I am not the Lion King yet but also… I cannot wait to see them try."

'See? This is why we shouldn't have competitors from tournaments commenting on their own tournament!' Of course Naud said nothing. One was a noble and the other was the Knight of Lucifer, the wrong word could ruin his career. "Well, those things we will only know in the arena." Sitting down between the two, the man prepared a glass of water for later in the game. "Novel experiences aside, let's work together so things go along smoothly."

Sairaorg and Okita looked at each other before nodding in sync, the woman relaxing in her chair as she picked up some crackers to eat while the Heir of Bael engaged Naud in conversation about the tournament and his peerage performance on it.

The black haired man judged that the other devil had plenty of wisdom to share from the hundreds of hours commenting High Class matches and above, something that the professional commentator was willing partake without fuss as he began to tell the Young Lion of Bael about the several peerages he casted over the years.

It wasn't really a problem, at least arguably since it could be called favoritism to give a member of an ongoing competition any sort of advice even if the older devil avoided talking about Sairaorg's future opponent strategies in depth.

However Naud had decided to take advantage of having the future Lord Bael, or perhaps Lucifer if the younger man achieved his ambitions, attention for a bit. It would be prudent to be well remembered by someone with a position of such renown. Especially if he could play around the rules and avoid trouble.

It also helped that the older devil was confident that whatever problems would happen they had little chance of reaching him because of Sairaorg's presence. He was absolutely sure when things went down Okita would jump in both in her function as Lucifer's Knight and police force chief.

The same couldn't be said about a Heir like Sairaorg who shouldn't join the battle. 'Who I am kidding?' Naud began to think while the black haired man asked Okita something. 'The odds he is going to jump in whatever mess is going to explode today are really high. The Young Lion's blood is too hot to be left out of any good fights.'

Once again the member of the Gamigin reminded himself how strong the younger devil was. Far stronger than him without a doubt which meant that despite being a Heir, Sairaorg was expected to partake in whatever incident happened.

'Not my problem.' Naud reminded himself. 'Chances are that either of them will see to my safety first anyway. That is why I have two powerful devils 'guarding' my hide. Can't let a celebrity die, after all.' Indeed, the older devil of the trio was confident he would survive whatever happened. 'Only safer place would be in a VIP box with a Maou inside. Besides any of those, I am the most secure devil in the Underworld right now.'

…..

"I know telling you to not do anything dangerous today is-"

"Hypocritical?" Kiba asked out loud.

"Stupid?" Koneko was next.

"A waste of time?" Luvia followed up while polishing one of her gems.

Only for Rias to conclude with a smirk. "The funniest joke in the world?"

"Right…" Shirou took all criticism in stride. "Just going to say that you guys can take your time-"

"Finish our match as fast as possible~" Akeno pretty much sang her observation as she brushed a very relaxed Medusa's hair.

"... You guys won't have a way to know if an attack happened or not." Shirou calmly pointed out. "Which is why you should treat this as you would any Rating Game."

"Against Diodora." Ravel wore something similar from when she went against Rias, riding pants, now black and a red jacket with a pink ribbon. Her hair was in her usual style and looked more vibrant since trading tips and secrets with a magus and a goddess. "Please, if we go slower then people will be disappointed which will damage our King's reputation."

"There you go, Shiro." A very smug Rias commented with a grin. "We won't rush the fight… just end it in a timely manner."

Xenovia nodded her agreement. "You won't be getting anything better, Master."

In the end the redhead magus shrugged. "Nobody can blame me for trying."

"Are you going to try and stay still to protect Medusa?" Rin asked with a deadpan stare, Shirou's patented armor beneath a red jacket added to her usual get up.

"She will be safe." The Mage was confident of the fact and by the goddess' demeanor so was she. "But if something happens or not, there is no reason for you all to lose for stupid reasons."

"Heh. We got this." Ise punched his hand with a confident grin. "Going to clean the floor with Diodora in ten minutes flat. Fifteen tops."

"Oho, you sure you can do that." All of Luvia's focus went for the Pawn who flinched at her tone. "All of Diodora's peerage is made of women and your record in that front is not the best."

While Ise did his best to avoid everyone's eyes, Boosted Gear's gem began to shine brightly. [I hate the fact that my Partner's humiliation was recorded for future generations!]

A groan escaped the brown haired boy before he said. "It wasn't my fault! They were ready for me!"

[And that was just a dance! What are you going to do if some girl decides to take her clothes mid match? Stop and watch?!] The Pawn's silence was telling and it was Ddraig's turn to groan.

"In his defense," Ravel started amicably even if her smile told otherwise, "it was a very special dance done by a professional. I know few who could do the same thing Shuriya did."

"Maybe we should use a record of that for training?" If Medusa was referring to having Akeno practice it or helping Ise it was anyone's guess.

But Ddraig once again reported his frustration. [I can't believe everyone will forever know that the Red Dragon Emperor was defeated by a dance! Can't we destroy those tapes?]

Rias shrugged with sympathy. "Sorry but there are already so many copies that even the Gremory and my brother's influence could do little even if we tried." Again the dragon groaned with added resignation. "Can't be helped. Since recording through dimensions is still something new, everyone is super excited about it."

"What did you expect from this tournament?" Setsuna, who was dressed in her blue armor with a naginata on her shoulder and her father's scarf on her shoulder, commented. "This is all good publicity. Hell, I won't be surprised if the cameras keep rolling even as the attack starts."

"If there is an attack." Irina, wearing her Exorcist uniform much like Xenovia, pointed out optimistically. She was pretty much the only one still having faith nothing was going to happen.

"Something is coming." Shirou said with conviction. "Illya and Gilgamesh wouldn't have acted like they did if it wasn't."

"I noticed you are just calling him 'Gilgamesh' now." Setsuna pointed out and some present flinched. "Already gave up on him?"

The redhead scratched his neck before replying. "I am pretty sure he would have killed Ise that day." Asia touched the Pawn's shoulder as the young man nodded in agreement. "While I managed to stop him… I can't keep treating Angelo like a friend. Not when genocide is his only answer."

Rin nodded in agreement. "In a way he was always like that, hmm?"

"But now things are more real." Shirou pointed out. "Before I felt he could stop if we just talked but now I am sure no argument I can give will change his mind."

"And so you are getting ready for a collision." Akeno observed with pity in her eyes. She understood that Shirou considered Angelo a real friend even if the blond was obnoxious and terrifying to some.

Yet Emiya nodded with determined eyes and without hesitation. "Men like him… men like us, when we put something in our minds, it is hard for us to not go through with it."

"Yeah, no offense to your friendship to the guy but I still want to kick his ass." Ise committed with an irritated frown. "Him and that fuckign Saint of theirs. That woman crossed a line!"

While Asia placed a hand over the Pawn's, Shirou replied sadly. "I would say several considering how much you suffered because of her."

"To think someone with Joan of Arc's soul could inflict torture of any kind." The former Bishop sounded as disturbed as sad.

"She isn't Joan, she is Jeanne." Xenovia pointed out with a growl. "That bitch is no Saint, just abusing the System God left behind."

"A real piece of work." Suffice to say hatred blazed on Rias' tone but she knew very well neither she nor her peerage should face a Saint of any kind. Instead she focused on her lover to say, "You better make sure she doesn't escape next time." He nodded in agreement.

And then silence reigned as talking about the Hero Faction there was a topic nobody wanted to talk about, that no one wanted to mention. 'Illya, are you really going to do it? To go and commit genocide?' Shirou knew the answer which was why when he spoke about men, he did so to not include his sister in the middle despite knowing better. 'Are you so afraid of this 'extinction' that you are opening Pandora's Box first?'

Days after the attempted kidnapping Shirou tried to think about it, even calling his father to talk about the subject. "Your sister will do what she thinks is best." Was Kiritsugu's response, also accepting the possibility as real.

"That is why we have to stop her." His mother added but they all knew reality wasn't that kind and the damage Illya could inflict to the World before she stopped could be too much for it to be forgiven.

Everyone of course avoided mentioning Illya already planning to blame Gilgamesh and anyone else for whatever the Khaos Brigade would do even if just for his sake. It was all under the premise she was just a minor accomplice whose role could be dismissed but the Mage of Swords knew otherwise.

"Apparently, she is sure you can forge a Holy Grail." Georg had told him callously in a way giving him an important piece of the puzzle which was his sister's plan.

"She may be trying to recreate Heaven's Feel." The Mage had told his parents and while Iri had been rather dismissive, Kiritsugu quickly understood the size of the threat.

"In theory a Holy Grail can do more than just Heaven's Feel." Was the mercenary's response before telling his son some plans to find Illya as fast as possible. "Focus on the Underworld for now. The weaker the Khaos Brigade is, the more freedom of movement we have. We will save your sister."

'I can tell you are also worried, dad…' Shirou thought before clicking his tongue and focused on the present. "Let's forget about that. For now, you guys have a Rating Game to win."

"It's already in the bag." Was all Koneko had to say about the subject and most of them had to agree with her.

"From Ravel's report and all we know about Diodora's peerage, he is just a weakling." Luvia pointed out with little interest. "If anything we need to focus on defeating him quickly to then potentially face the real threat."

"Couldn't we just ask Diodora-san to postpone the match?" Asia asked tenderly, Rias and Akeno sharing a look as the former nun still cared about the Astaroth devil. They blamed themselves for that as they hid his true nature from her. "If we ask, I am sure he will agree to halt the match to check if there is an attack or not."

Ravel scoffed in disbelief. "Think he is going to just agree to, what, freeze everything, on our word alone?"

"Ravel-chan…" Rias smiled warmly at the girl, making her blush and freeze. There was danger in that beautiful expression. "Asia, Diodora doesn't have any reason to believe us. Maybe we could set something up if my brother had given him a warning but as things stand, he doesn't know there will be an attack."

"Or not!" Irina said quickly.

"Or not."

Akeno nodded before saying, "And if there isn't an attack people will revolt and call it cheating. Or panic because there should be an attack since we will have to mention it out loud so Astaroth believes us." She was rather proud from keeping the disgust for the pureblood blond from her voice. "In that case it may even be grounds for our disqualification. Remember that our King is still thin ice with the older nobles."

"Which means you must play by the rules." Medusa nodded in understanding before standing up, realizing her priestess needed to focus on the game and not her hair.

"Better safe than sorry." Rin commented. "If there is an attack you guys won't have any way of knowing about it in another dimension so better believe there isn't one and focus on the match."

"I agree." Setsuna seconded the Tohsaka Head. "Besides, if you are going to win easily there is no reason to negotiate. Especially if you can do it fast. Say, is Diodora someone you need to preserve a good relationship with?"

Rias glanced at Asia for a moment before replying. "It is an option."

The hanyou nodded in understanding. "Then bombarbing his position is also an option. Don't give him a chance to play and get it over with."

"Hehe. Between Buchou and Akeno-san we will have a Grand Canyon in that dimension in the blink of an eye." Kiba was only half joking and clearly the two women were pondering doing just that. "Then if we add Luvia and Ise-kun…"

"Hohohoho~ Truly it would be a worthy experiment of our peerage's combined might!" The Rook of Gremory was giddy with the idea.

And so was the Pawn. "I can Boost everybody before we start." Ise let out a malicious smile that reminded people of Kirei. "Bastard won't even know what hit him."

'Maybe those therapy sessions were a bad idea… Or we should have gone after another therapist.' At that point the Mage of Swords could only hope the Red Dragon Emperor wasn't too influenced by Kotomine. 'Who am I kidding? With my luck it won't take more than a month for him to start liking mapo tofu and screwing people over.'

Growing pleased when it only took Asia to say, "We don't need to hurt Diodora-san and his peerage too much, right?" For the brown haired boy to calm down even if he was still a little grumpy with the Bishop's concern over the other devil.

"So we should go fast or go slow?" Gasper asked with a raised hand. "'Cause I don't think Asia-chan likes the idea of beating him up too much."

"Well she did save his life in the past." Xenovia reminded them all. "Probably feels responsible."

"It is not that…" Asia began to blush and everyone could see Ise's chin hit the floor in disbelief. "It's that after I reject him," they also watched his mouth shut in a huge grin as the Pawn fought to not shout of joy at that reveal, "I don't want to hurt him anymore."

"Don't worry, Asia. We won't hurt him that much." The Red Dragon Emperor did a complete one eighty since he knew Diodora wasn't in Asia's heart. Some even rolled their eyes upon realization. "We can take it slow and give him a fighting chance. Right, Buchou?"

Like a mother who couldn't deny her children, Rias let out a deep sigh. "I suppose we could give him a dignified defeat and not attack everyone at once."

"Buchou…" Akeno wasn't liking where the conversation was going.

But her King felt their hands were tied. "It is more for Asia's sake than Diodora."

"Thank you, Buchou." The Bishop lowered her head in appreciation.

Koneko clicked her tongue. "If we do this, we can't help if there is an attack."

"'If'!" Irina emphasized but at that point everyone was ignoring the angel in their shoulder.

With a roll of her eyes Ravel commented, "But it will be better for our King if we don't get the Astaroth's enmity. Beating their Heir respectfully may be a good thing."

Another sigh escaped Rias while she massaged her temples in frustration. "So we are going to need a real strategy and actually take the fight seriously. Fantastic."

"Rias-oneesama, it will be better to start planning once we know the battlefield." Her new Knight commented eagerly.

For the old one to add. "It is a given but our peerage likes to go with a basic game plan before it and adapt on the fly."

"Ah, right. Sorry." Trying to avoid embarrassment, at least in her own mind, Ravel quickly tried to change the subject by turning to her friend. "By the way, Setsuna, are you sure you should be here?" The raven haired maiden blinked at suddenly being put under the spotlight but not many understood what the concern was. "As one of Kyoto's Princesses you are sort of a diplomat and I am sure your father must have received the news about a possible attack."

Setsuna nodded, unsurprised. "Considering your culture, is it really weird that I don't mind coming either way?" She slammed the butt of her naginata on the ground, her eyes shining with determination. "If, and the gods forbid, something happens to my sister, I may become a King of Kyoto and we don't hide if someone threatens our friends and our homes." Then she smirked. "Also the Daughters of Sesshomaru don't run. My father would be really disappointed if I did."

"So it is a nobility thingy…" Gasper commented with a wise nod which Koneko and the silent Liz replicated.

Not seeing anything wrong with the statement, Setsuna could only agree. "Yes, a 'nobility thing'." She looked at Rias. "I also don't like what the Khaos Brigade is doing anyway. Trying to break the peace your forebears worked so hard to build…"

The King of Gremory and her Phenex Knight looked at each other before the latter spoke. "Well, glad to have you here. Also glad we won't have any troubles with your family because of an obvious attack."

"...I give up." Irina declared as her optimism failed to convince a single person everything was going to be alright that day.

Xenovia slapped her friend's back so hard she jumped forward. "Hahaha! We are just preparing for the worst. You know how this works, our senpais always said it during training. 'Hope for the best…'"

"'But get ready for the worst'. I remember that. Griselda pounded that in my head that time I went to visit." Both former Exorcists' faces began to grow pale as they shared a memory it was best left forgotten.

Wisely everybody decided to ignore that interaction. "Speaking of getting ready for the worst." Shirou caught the room's attention as Liz moved towards Ravel with a briefcase made of metal. "A Knight can't fight without swords-"

"I am sure I can." Ravel almost sounded offended.

"Many Knights in Rating Games do that, Shirou-kun." Akeno sounded amused.

"That sounds short sighted." Luvia sounded interested.

"But not many fight with those blades." Rias sounded quite eager.

"It isn't the sword, it is the swordsman, or woman in this case." While Kiba sounded well humored and quickly the newer Knight of Gremory noted that everyone seemed to be sharing a joke of some sort.

Clearing his throat, Shirou amended his words a little. "It is still wise to be prepared and from what I heard from Rias, swordsmanship has been part of your education."

"Most nobles learn how to use a weapon, yes. And I practiced the sword and was planning to acquire one, that is correct. Doesn't mean I was going to you for it…" Ravel was obviously trying to make it sound like she didn't want anything from him.

"Didn't I tell you to use my Magician's services, Ravel-chan?" Rias asked with a cheeky grin that had the blond blushing before she shrugged.

As nonchalantly as possible which wasn't much. "I just thought I could get something better elsewhere, Onee-sama."

"Something better than a weapon from the Mage of Swords? Stupid Bird."

"Shove it, Cat!"

Shirou massaged the bridge of his nose. "Anyway!" Turning to Liz, he opened the briefcase and Ravel's eyes grew wide with its contents. "Maybe you should use these ones? Even if you don't know how to use them skillfully, anyone would be hard pressed to find blades better than them."

"Is this your definition of a joke?" Ravel couldn't help but ask as she stared at the weapons resting on a silk cloth. Looking around she once again noticed nobody was surprised. "Are you really-"

Rias was the one who spoke. "Technically it was the Phenex Clan who… generously donated Bakuya to us. There is nothing wrong with giving it to their daughter."

Indeed resting inside the briefcase were the Married Blades; Kanshou and Bakuya. Just by being together anyone could tell the weapons were stronger than individually. In fact the two were able to shine even with little light, an effect none of its Traced counterparts shared unless Bellerophon was involved.

Ravel looked at her King, then the Mage and finally the swords. She repeated the process three times before stopping to glare at Shirou in the fourth. "Why? Can't you use it for one of those Noble Gears?"

"Unfortunately Kanshou and Bakuya won't make good power sources." Shirou admitted a little sadly. "They don't produce energy of their own other than the normal amount for any Crystalized Legend and as we learned when fighting Gilgamesh, even those can be destroyed. You just need to apply a lot of pressure."

"Or swing Durandal really hard."

"I think that was the pressure he was talking about, Xenovia-chan."

"I know that, Akeno. Just reminding everyone my sword is awesome."

While the two older women discussed, Ravel stared at the swords with a frown. "And you won't use them for anything else? I thought you magicians were obsessed with research…"

A couple of chuckles filled the room. "Anyone will tell you that I am not the average magician. Some will say I am a third rate." Shirou's expression grew serious. "It also would be a waste to just leave them hanging on a wall or inside a tube doing nothing."

It wasn't like the Mage of Swords needed any equipment to study Kanshou and Bakuya, or the Originals even. Everything he needed was inside soul but the Married Blades in isolation were kind of lackluster compared with some Noble Phantasms he knew.

Sure they were superior to almost everything Gilgamesh threw at him in their fight but Caladbolg and Hrunting were far superior by default with just their abilities alone, with their Legends it wasn't even a fair competition.

"They are swords made without a concrete goal and never had accomplished any deed other than, eventually, staying together." Considering everything the redhead saw that as an impressive feat nonetheless. "In a way they are the perfect sword for a magician-"

"Or someone else who uses magic." The youngest Knight deduced but something wasn't clicking in her mind. "Doesn't explain why you are giving this to me."

"We thought it was appropriated since your Clan was the first to procure them." It was an honest response that Shirou felt confident in saying.

Just not the full truth. "And I am still the last person you would give these to. If just because you care about your other acquaintances more." Ravel realized that and wasn't willing to give the Mage any breaks.

Which got him wincing a little. "That makes me sound like-"

"A human being." Nobody knew if the Daughter of Phenex was praising or insulting him but whatever the case they all let it slide. "So I would prefer if you were completely honest in telling me why you are giving up Kanshou and Bakuya for any reason. And to me of all people, a former enemy."

"Well, you are part of Rias Peerage now and-"

"True but not the whole truth."

"You better give, Shirou. She has you pegged." Ise called out first and everyone could see it was indeed the case.

While Emiya could remain calm and collected in a combat situation, telling a lie was truly his kryptonite. The redhead magus was honest to a fault so it truly was easy for someone as politico savvy as Ravel to pick up his 'tells' after noticing something was amiss.

A sigh left Shirou as he scratched the back of his head. "Look, that isn't necessary, alright? You get two Noble Phantasms, now, two! What sort of devil would reject that?"

Taking a step back with the swords in her hands, the blond pureblood snarled. "I am not rejecting. But clearly a couple of devils did." Her eyes landed on the ever smiling Kiba. "Like for instance; a Knight you trust."

Every eye focused on the interaction and waited patiently to hear what Shirou would reply despite already knowing his reasons. Plenty could actually already predict how that 'confrontation' would end up but were just enjoying the show. Even those who had some sympathy for him would do nothing.

The Daughter of Phenex wanted answers, it was fair he gave them. "His case is a little peculiar." The Mage started with an honest tone, an argument prepared to leave no room for discussion. "While he could get used to a different set of swords-"

"More than me who used them just a few times in her life."

"-Kiba's abilities are actually enhanced when using his sacred gear's creations. His connection to Sword Birth grows stronger when using its weapons making the cost of mana substantially smaller."

"To both his normal creations or also his Balance Breaker?"

It was the man himself who replied. "For the two of them, Ravel-san."

"Understandable… and why not the others?"

Clearly the petite woman wasn't letting go of the subject so easily.

"..." Shirou gave the small blonde a deadpan stare. "Do you always look a given horse in the mouth?"

"Depends on who is giving it."

'She really wants to make things harder for him.' It was a chorus of thought everybody had in that same exact moment except for the two participants in the conversation.

No, if anything all that was in Shirou's mind at that moment was. 'What the hell did I do to you?'

While Ravel only thought, 'You are not good enough for Rias-oneesama you half baked magician with Hero Complex!'

"Okay, fine. Almost everyone else was considered-"

"Details, please."

"She is kidding, right?" Rin couldn't help but ask with an amused smile.

"No, I am not." Ravel's eyes never left Shirou's who was letting out another sigh. "Go ahead, Mage of Swords, explain to the class why you deemed me worthy of the Married Blades."

"That isn't fair." Finally the Knight's eyes left the Mage to land on Gasper who almost jumped back in a panic. "We just said no."

"Great." She turned back towards the magus. "Why?"

"Seriously… Fine, if you want the details so badly…" He first points towards Rias who giggled at the interaction. "She wants a gun sword." Ravel eyebrows jumped up. "Yeah. Her style, as you sure know by now, involves guns. If she is going to use a sword she wants it to be tied to a gun somehow."

"Ahh~ Don't say it like that." The redhead noble blushed slightly. "It is just the perfect blend of short and long range. You don't even have to make one that will last, just practical enough for my imagination to lock in."

"The weapon itself is impossible."

His first lover could only pout. "... Don't ruin my dreams with reality, please."

Shirou rolled his eyes, not willing to play games with Ravel already breathing on his neck. 'Does she look angrier? Yep.' He moved on before either of the Married Blades stabbed his neck. "Koneko isn't a fan of weapons." The nekomata nodded in agreement. "Liz insists on just using a halberd, Asia and Gasper are more or less pacifists. Although, to be fair, Gasper wants something like a spear, a light one that he can also use as a bat for defense." He pointed towards Setsuna. "Already working on it together with a new naginata for Setsuna who prefers those over swords."

However the redhead had to admit both those projects stalled due to a lack of materials and his inferior skills with making those sorts of weapons. He could do it, they just wouldn't be as good as his swords which forced him to try and get outside help or adjust his methods to improve their creation.

Nevertheless that meant he needed more time to work on other weapons to his satisfaction nor was his problem in the present. "Anyone else?" His problem was Ravel who wanted a full report just to piss him off. "I noticed you didn't mention the Blue and Red Ogres."

"Oi!"

"How rude."

Both Rin and Luvia voiced their complaints but were completely ignored by the pureblood Knight who kept staring at the Mage of Swords. From his part the redhead could only frown before looking at Rias who could only smile and shrug, basically telling him to keep going.

"They refused." Was Shirou's short but polite reply.

"Explain some more." Which was obviously found insufficient.

'Oh that little minx…' Akeno thought with endearment and a smile in place as she saw the trap Ravel was trying to layer. 'Looks like our little Knight really doesn't like Shirou-kun and is trying to force him to say something wrong about us. Fufufufu. She is going to be disappointed for sure.'

Because the only person needed to be polite in that interaction was Ravel since everyone else had legitimate reasons to not wish to use Kanshou and Bakuya. In fact, because of how their group was structured several of them could use the Married Blades effectively. It just wasn't convenient.

"Rin is trying to learn the sword but since she still wants to be able to use her magecraft she will need a hand free to use her gems 99% of the time." Considering Kanshou and Bakuya peculiarities that made the blades useless to her. "Luvia has a better control of her gems at a distance thanks to her Reincarnation and Family's secrets," just hearing that had the Rook smiling brightly while throwing a smug look at her rival who was grinding her teeth, "but she prefers to use her own fists for almost everything, an habit Yoruichi is still trying to break."

"Onee-chan can be cruel, nya." Koneko commented with a cute face which had Ravel twitching in frustration.

But had no time to reply because Shirou wasn't done. "Irina didn't want it because they 'made me into an angel and it would be rude to use them' besides wishing to practice more with Light weapons."

"Wait, you consider the angel before me?"

Blinking twice, the magus replied with a playful grin. "She has been my friend for longer. Of course I asked her first." Her wide eyes gave him some satisfaction as he slowly flipped the tables. "Anyway I thought of giving them to Kuzuki-sensei as well-"

"From Sona Peerage?" He stopped to give her time to ask anything else. "She is our King's rival! That is tantamount to betrayal!"

"Rias wouldn't mind."

"If Sona decided to talk with me again…" The Heiress even sounded a little sad by that fact. "... Good grief, I think at this point that has been the longest that we went without talking with each other… Hell, it has been the longest without playing chess with her."

Everyone stayed silent for a moment before Akeno cleared her throat loudly. "Continue, Shirou-kun." A distraction was what Rias needed at that moment.

"Right." And Shirou could acknowledge the amusement of seeing someone cornered, be it either him or Ravel. And he was going to make sure it was Ravel. "Anyway since I only managed to talk with Tsubasa for her regular check up and she needs one of her hands for the shield I went back to the drawing board in our peerage."

After talking with a certain priest and even considering giving it to Caren but he personally didn't want to remember that conversation. Even if telling the pureblood devil that a nun had been in front of her for possession of the Married Blades would be the equivalent of a slap in the face, he really didn't want to think about Kirei.

"That only realistic left Ise to give the Noble Phantasms to… Him and you." Shirou made sure to speak slowly to make sure the blonde noticed how far down in the list of priorities she was. It wasn't him being mean, it was just the facts. "Now, to be fair, the Red Dragon Emperor with any Noble Phantasm, especially one that needs a skilled user… is actually a scary combination." He couldn't even remember how many times the idea of giving the Pawn a weapon of some sort crossed either his, Rias or Azazel's minds. Too many to tell. "Guy is strong, grew more than almost everyone here in the shortest time period. Hell, he has been a devil for just a few months."

Ise's chest swelled with pride as Kiba punched him on the shoulder and Asia held his arm. It was well earned, he worked for his power and was considered a powerhouse of his group. That wasn't even accounting for Ddraig's Boosts.

Calling him dragon was more than fair; he survived among them, ate with them, grew with them and surpassed several of them. Truly considering everything, if Shirou gave him a Noble Phantasm nobody would disagree with the decision.

Yet he wasn't the top contender for Kanshou and Bakuya for a very important reason, a reason so important and so fundamental to use the swords that just by existing it completely invalidated Hyoudou Issei as a swordsman.

"The only reason he isn't getting any swords, or any weapons in general," Shirou started with distant eyes, half traumatized. It was an expression that Kiba and Xenovia quickly imitated, "Is because he is the worst swordsman I have ever seen in my life. And I have thousands of weapons worthy of memories, thank you Gilgamesh, to compare."

Ravel was surprised, "Fair." Literally jumping to look at Ise when he was the one who admitted that statement was fair. "It's like I have two left hands or something."

"It is like you have two feet in your hands when it comes to using weapons." Kiba said it with absolute certainty and Ise just nodded in agreement.

"Is he that bad?" Irina asked Xenovia who shivered in place.

"The worst! The worst of the worst!"

"Fufufu." Medusa chuckled. "I saw them trying to teach him once. It was a disaster. If the swords were too weak they would break apart with a swing. If too strong, fufufufu. Oh boy, if too strong-"

"He would let go more often than not!" Shirou was close to tearing his hair apart. "He almost took out my neck, then Kiba's neck! Xenovia was behind him and the weapon almost got her arm."

Ise nodded at every word with the same confidence a man would when walking in to receive a prize. "I'm really bad with swords."

"Spears too." Liz reminded the Pawn with a blank stare. Everyone could tell she also had some traumatic memories.

"Spears too…" And once again the devil just accepted every word as fact. They were fact and even before therapy the Red Dragon Emperor could admit that truth. "It is just better to punch stuff."

A grinning Koneko jumped to her feet and offered the brown haired man a fistpump. "Senpai knows what it is about!" Her tail was dancing from one side to the other as the two shared a moment.

That ended when Shirou concluded his arguments. "So, yeah, you were the last one left."

Ravel felt a little down until she noticed something. "Wait a minute; you forgot about Akeno."

"Yeah, Shirou-kun. You completely forgot about me." The Queen was grinning playfully, already knowing what he was going to say.

He gave her a deadpan stare that could have stopped a criminal in his tracks and returned whatever they stole with how dry it was. "Because when I raised the idea you said 'using them could be fun, maybe I can explode the whole arena this time'." Everyone took a pause to look at the still grinning Queen. "Don't know when or how, but I am sure you are still planning to do that with just Serpent Eye and I want plausible deniability."

"No promises~"

"Rias, control your Queen."

"You control your girlfriend." Even the Heiress of Gremory knew there would be no stopping Akeno. "If she decides to try to completely destroy a Rating Game arena then she will do it. This is as inevitable as dawn back on Earth!"

"But what a feat it will be!" Medusa wholeheartedly approved of it.

Several in the room shivered. "Suddenly I am kinda glad to not partake in Rating Games." Setsuna commented.

"Agreed." Rin was next. "But if we ever are dragged on one of those…"

"We request for one of the best pocket dimensions." Irina concluded their train of thought.

"Pussies." Xenovia said with a grin. "I say let her try and when she fails, I get to do it."

"... How strong are those dimensions again?" Shirou asked, just to be sure.

"Really strong. Strong enough that you would need at least enough power to destroy a big country to damage the area." Rias replied with Ravel nodding in complete agreement.

The Daughter of Phenex then added, "And that is just for low tier games like our own. The highest tiers, where everybody is High Class or there is an Ultimate Class devil participating, are even tougher."

"Oh good." Many were relieved and Medusa pouted while Akeno just smiled. They all knew she wasn't going to give up. Shirou decided to move on from the topic, not wishing to think about the costs or the consequences if an arena like that was permanently compromised. "Anyway, if there is an attack or not, it is irrelevant to you all." He pointed towards the Married Blades. "What is relevant is the match and that Diodora is a weak opponent. A perfect opportunity for a test drive of your compatibility with the swords."

Ravel raised both Noble Phantasms, seeing her eyes reflected in both. "And you couldn't give me any time to practice because…"

"Because it took time to ask everyone and make a decision." Shirou admitted with some regret as she was right in asking that. It was also another slap in her face, reminding her she was really the last choice. "Sorry about that but if this fight is going to be easy then you have a chance to experiment against opponents who won't hold back."

Hesitating for a moment the Mage of Swords placed a hand on the Knight's shoulder who raised a brow and stared at him with an angry gaze. She truly disliked him but the redhead was willing to accept that so long as she remained polite.

Like or dislike, Shirou would still do his best for her success. "You watched me practicing with my Bakuya several times and a little of my training with Kanshou." Everyone had been invited for the latter and were curious about his True Ascension. But that wasn't all he practiced on those occasions. "Despite these being the Originals, channeling mana into them isn't that different anyway. I tested it, Akeno tested it and Rias tested it."

Again Ravel stared at the blades before returning her glare to him. "Doesn't mean anything. I have no clue how you did that."

Rias leaned forward with eagerness. "I can give you a rundown on how to make demonic energy work with them. What is going to be important is your Element."

"My Element- You are saying I can use Fire with Kanshou and Bakuya, Onee-sama?!"

"Fufufu. They are that versatile."

"Hmph, so said the girl who was fuming because Destruction didn't work with them." Shirou reminded his lover with a smirk which had her pouting which in turn got him another glare from Ravel. 'Yeah, yeah, you have a crush. I got it.' All present knew it at that point. "Either way, while they have their limits, Lightning worked."

"Are you sure I can't have them?" Akeno asked playfully.

""No!"" For she knew Rias and Shirou would deny her. "Even the Gremory can't pay for the number of arenas you plan to destroy!" Her King reminded the Queen without hesitation. "And testing that- Good grief, I don't even want to think where you are going to test that."

A chuckling Xenovia decided to say, "Can you imagine if she did that at the Vault and flooded part of Gremory Territory with lava?"

"Please don't give her ideas." Rias could already see the eagerness in Akeno's eyes. "If you want to do that, do it on your own! Away from civilization! In the middle of the Underworld's wildlands would be preferable!" She hoped that by the time the ravenhead was strong enough for such a feat she would have managed to catch up. 'If I just had my own Noble Gear…'

"We better get going." Irina commented while looking at a watch on the wall. "We still need to get back to the box."

"And prepare for the attack." Xenovia pointed out with a straight face and for the first time her ex partner didn't try to be optimistic.

There was nothing wrong in getting ready. "Right. In that case I should say a few words." Rias started pensively as she looked around to meet all in the eye at least once. "If there isn't an attack, our focus today is just winning a Rating Game. In comparison it may sound small but we are all still establishing our reputation and as usual there is a big chance the Elders stacked the deck against us." As they did against Sona and Ravel so they wouldn't be surprised if the battlefield was in Diodora's favor. "However, unlike before, the stakes are almost overwhelmingly favorable to our side." A magic circle dropped a list in her hand. "I had someone check just before and indeed Diodora Peerage hasn't changed their team nor entered in negotiations with other peerages."

"That is actually an annoying trick to pull." Ravel admitted without shame from having used it before. "Several forms need to be written in advance and you need to have someone on the inside."

"Right. My brother already asked Lord Beelzebub just in case and his cousin has nobody." The Heiress smiled at Ravel who blushed. "Apparently it wasn't good sportsmanship to try something like that. The Agares Clan especially lodged several complaints and so the Maous decided to place some people around to avoid sudden changes."

Luvia hummed at that information. "Let me guess; the reason why the rules aren't changing is because most nobles probably plan to use that loophole in some scenarios."

"Possibly… Probably." The redhead pureblood shrugged. "Not our problem. Gasper!"

The Bishop had raised a hand to ask, "Do we know what Astaroth-san's peerage can do?"

"Supporters and magic users. None of them showed any aptitude at combat in any sense. At least nothing exceptional." Rias bit her lip before mentioning. "Also, all of them were nuns at some point. Or at least all of them dress as nuns." Her eyes were focused on Asia who looked down in confusion and uncertainty. Some began to turn towards the former Holy Maiden with worry. "But I digress. If that is a tactic or their preferences, it doesn't matter. None of them is able to handle direct combat."

"But we sure they don't have any… nasty surprises?" Gasper asked apprehensively. "Some sort of trick?"

"Feh. If Diodora is holding his cards for this long then he is an idiot." Ravel declared without hesitation. "This is his last fight in the tournament. Revealing anything now, when he is pretty much established as the last in the pack won't help his reputation one bit."

Akeno nodded in agreement. "Don't worry, Gasper-kun. If his peerage had any sort of tricks he would have used them in the previous matches. Fufufu. While our Buchou is the boogeyman of the Elders…"

"What a cruel Queen I have."

Said Queen just smiled playfully before continuing. "... That doesn't mean his standing will improve that much if he beats us."

"It would have been better, in fact, if he actually won the tournament." Kiba pointed out. "But with how the points are distributed there are just two people competing for the crown."

"Buchou can win the whole thing!" Asia observed with happiness that infected some others.

Rias nodded with a small smile. "We can win the whole thing." She added decisively and her peerage smiled. "For all intents and purposes even losing this match doesn't matter so long as we defeat Sairaorg. With how points are tailed we will have advantage against him in case of victory despite him beating Diodora." Closing her fist tightly she wanted to make something clear, "Of course that isn't an option. I plan for us to leave our first tournament unbeatable. Are you all with me?!"

""Yes!"" ""Yeah!""

"At least they are in high spirits." Medusa joked as she approached Shirou with a conflicted look. "If there is an attack-"

"You are my priority. Everyone here is my priority." The Mage told her without measuring words. "But if you all are safe-"

"You will protect the rest." The purple haired goddess nodded in understanding. Turning around and seeing the celebration, she couldn't help but chuckle. "You know, in times like this, I really want to participate in a Rating Game."

Xenovia placed an elbow on her head getting a glare of annoyance which she accepted defiantly. "Hehe, maybe when you grow a little?"

"Is everything about growing up?"

A few minutes later the rest of the ORC departed the Gremory's locker room towards the VIP box. Some of them had pensive looks while others felt a tension in their shoulders. Even Irina shed away her optimist mask as she kept clenching her fist. Those were the moments she missed having a physical sword by her side.

Yet most of them stayed silent before Shirou spoke. "If anything happens, Xenovia, I want you to stay by Medusa's side."

"Sorry but-"

"That is an order. Same to you, Liz." Unlike the knight, the maid didn't even bother to try disagreeing with the Mage. But from the look on her face, she didn't like the order one bit. "Don't worry, I won't just jump out and go looking for a fight. My priority will be helping in the evacuation." He stopped to look at them with a smile, "You girls can follow me, if you want."

"Sounds great… If there is an attack." Irina pointed out with a giggle.

But Setsuna shook her head. "You can focus on that. Depending on how our hosts deal with the terrorist I will be on the front line." The hanyou's declaration caught a few of them off guard. Including Shirou who offered her a look of confusion. "The best way of dealing with a threat is eliminating it and these guys need to be eliminated."

"On that we agree." Xenovia said with a hard expression as Irina looked ready to disagree. "I am not saying we should kill anyone who surrenders. That would be wrong."

Her former partner only needed to say. "Executor's work." And everyone understood that while the Church did something similar in the past neither was comfortable with the possibility.

Especially the bluehead who still remembered the mistakes she made while part of the organization. "But those guys are going to be attacking the Underworld." She looked around to make sure there was nobody around but a shake from Setsuna's head assured her they were alone. "They are putting innocent people on the crossfire… just for power. We can't give them another chance." Her eyes focused on Shirou. "We can't afford mercy on this, Master."

The redhead took a deep breath before letting out a small chuckle. "You girls do what you think is best." After saying that he continued to walk, his goddess by his side. "If we split up and you find yourself in a situation of life or death, I expect you all to come back alive no matter how many bodies you need to trample on." Turning around, he added. "At the same time if you find yourself facing someone that you don't want to kill, capture them. So long as you are alive, make sure you won't regret anything."

As the Mage continued his march with Medusa by his side, the other girls looked at each other. "I see what you see in him." Irina commented after a giggle.

"Of course, he is our Master." Liz was right behind the two in two strides and the others were soon behind her.

"Didn't he regret letting Gilgamesh live?" Setsuna asked carefully but she knew Shirou heard her.

Durandal's Owner shook her head. "He regrets not catching him and fears what the man will do… Which is why next time the Hero Faction shows their face there will be no quarter." Her eyes grew cold as she knew what the Mage of Swords feared doing. "Depending on what they do… he won't give them any mercy. Neither to his sister nor his ex-friend."

Whatever friendship Shirou had with Angelo died when the man unleashed the Surge of Utnapishtim over Fuyuki. On Emiya's mind the next time they met, unless the blond surrendered, the magus wasn't going to give him a chance to unleash Enki's full power again.

However his mind was still split on what his sister could be planning. 'Illya…' Fortunately his discipline allowed him to move past those thoughts and focus on the present. 'Either I am fighting today or just supporting Rias, Akeno and the others in their match. I need to focus on that.' He chuckled softly. "Let's hope Sirzechs doesn't try to push any more souvenirs from Rias' Fanclub."

"Some of those trinkets are fun." Medusa acknowledged. "Most are cute. Are we still planning to sell the merchandise back at Kuoh?"

"Have no idea how we are going to justify it." Shirou smirked at the glint in the goddess' eye. "But yep. Supplies ready and on the roll officially today. Can't wait to see her face when some of the students show up with Chibi Rias t-shirts."

The purple haired girl giggled at the future prank. "When we get caught just remember 'it was my priestess' idea'."

"Yes, Akeno's idea." And it was the honest truth. Oh, Shirou knew admitting that much wasn't going to save his skin and his first lover was going to react explosively with the results but it was a chance he wasn't willing to pass up.

Didn't even take much work to send a message through his contacts in the Vault of Prosperity while Medusa mobilized a few Gremory servants she had who were willing to transport the equipment back to Fuyuki on the down low, neither would be surprised if the stuff was already there considering Sirzechs was involved.

The prank was sure a way to distract them all from the certainty of battle and the possibility of war. And there could be a war by the end of that day/ a new Underworld Civil War or the continuation of the previous one. Regardless of their intentions, the Hero Faction's warning helped midgate that possibility.

But it still existed and there was no escaping it, no as long as the Old Satan Faction kept coming back.

"Matters like that aside…" Setsuna began as they approached the door. "Any idea who is going to share the VIP with us? I heard it wasn't Lucifer-dono today."

Irina nodded in confirmation. "The Satans are spread in different positions of the stadium for something." As the area they were in had a few people, they had to start being careful with what was said. "So aren't we just with the Gremory today?"

"Azazel said he had a surprise guest today…" Shirou at least knew the fallen angel would be with them either way. "... I don't like them."

"What?" A curious Xenovia asked.

"Surprises. Don't like it." He shivered. "Sounds like an opportunity for someone to do something they shouldn't."

Medusa clicked her tongue. "My Champion, I am disappointed. It isn't really a surprise if you think about it." The girl clearly looked frustrated or at least exhausted for reasons none could comprehend. "Considering how protective Azazel is of us, few are the gods he would allow close to our presence. Either yours or mine."

When the doors opened and Shirou saw a tall woman with silver-white hair standing behind the seats close to the window he managed to connect the dots after whispering the woman's name.

"Rossweisse. Ah, Odin then." She turned and was about to greet them but someone beat her to the punch.

"In the flesh!" The man called out loud, scaring several of the lower class devils as he looked back from his seat to see the entrance. While his appearance wasn't that different from before, the Old Man of the North was using a boar's fur coat that day. "And look who it is. If it isn't my apprentice for a day. How have you been, Emiya Shirou? Did my knowledge help you create something wonderful?"

"Hahaha! You are going to see it today!" Azazel, who was beside the god and resting comfortably with a huge glass of wine in his hand, commented.

From the god's other side, Zeoticus smiled. "His creations are much of the talk in the Underworld. Unfortunately you didn't have the chance to see one of them because they were only completed after Sona's match."

"Oh yes, the mini-Leviathan. A wise girl, that one." Odin commented in appreciation before raising his cup towards the group. "Speaking of wise girls, Medusa! How have you been?"

"Odin…"

"'Odin'... So cold… Didn't we share a drink last time? Come on in!" He raised a leather jug. "I brought some more mead just for you."

Azazel couldn't believe how close Asgardian mead was to him and he hadn't had a single drop yet. "Oh, come on! Odin! Where have you been hiding that?!"

The fallen angel tried to grab it but the one eyed god moved out of the way smoothly. "No no no. You ain't getting any."

"May I request some?" Zeoticus tried to ask smoothly.

Odin placed a hand on his chin, pretending to think. "Hmm, let's see... If your daughter gives us a good show today." Looking back again he noticed his fellow Divinity hadn't moved an inch from the door and had an expression of disdain. "Come on, Goddess of Snakes," he shook the skin and everyone could hear the mead, "you know you want some."

"I remember vividly the effects. Also that I renounced alcohol."

"You still demand that I buy sake every Sunday." Shirou busted out several fake IDs because of that. "Not even mentioning-"

"Because of the taste! Not to actually get drunk!" Medusa protested with a small glare.

"What is the fun in that?" Odin asked with some horror that was obviously fake. Quickly several runes appeared behind the goddess, pulling her towards him. "Come on. Are you really going to deny yourself some Asgardian mead? These devils were just offering me a fortune for a sip."

Venelana suddenly arrived in the room with a couple of butlers carrying several boxes worthy of treasures. "Here, Lord Odin! A king's ransom as promised!" The brunette devil marched closer to the group as Rossweisse placed a hand on her forehead and shook her head. "Can I have a cup now?"

"I was just joking…" Odin grumbled so Venelana didn't hear him. "They never take the alternative…"

Medusa's ear twitched. "I am afraid to ask but what was the alternative that a king's ransom was better?"

"To let me rub my face in her breasts." Still the Old Man of the North shook his head and rose to his feet while magnanimously saying, "Venelana Gremory, I will gladly accept these gifts! Approach and receive the legendary Asgardian mead!"

"So can I-"

"Your husband is still unworthy." Zeoticus almost face planted on the ground with only his dignity as a noble stopping him.

Yet Rossweisse knew that her god was only speaking half of the truth. "When he says worthy he means 'being a pretty woman'."

"Ah, I figured." The valkyrie almost jumped in place upon noticing Shirou and the rest of the group by her side. The redhead chuckled before commenting. "I see old man Odin is still as spirited as always."

"You mean pervert?" Rossweisse whispered back with a giggle before turning to him for a handshake. "It is good to see you again, Shirou."

"You as well, Rossweisse. Still haven't properly thanked you for saving my life."

"You already thanked me-"

"Full course meal meal." Shirou was glad to cut her off. "As much food as you want from my kitchen." Rossweisse stared at him with clear confusion.

"... Lucky bitch." Liz whispered for no one to hear.

"That is Odin?" Rin asked out loud for anyone who could hear as Asgard's former Chief God tried to get Medusa to drink anything. "That is the All Father of the Aesier? The Wise Old Man? He Who Unveiled the Universe? The God of Runecraft!" If one paid close attention they could hear the disbelief in her voice. Disbelief and childhood hero worship cracking under the pressure of reality. "He can't be- He is just- Why is he…"

Rossweisse turned to the group and noticed two new faces which Shirou was happy to introduce. "I am sure you remember Xenovia, Liz and Setsuna from the last time but you never met the others." He gently closed Rin's dropped jaw, the woman still in shock trying to adjust her perception of Odin. "This is Tohsaka Rin, Head of the Tohsaka family and… an ally of Rias."

"An honor to meet you." The valkyrie moved to shake her hand but could see the black haired woman was still in shock.

"Sorry about that. She is a magus and one with deep knowledge of Formalcraft."

"Ah, I understand." As that art was particularly focused on runes it wasn't strange that the younger woman knew much about Odin's work. "If anything it makes sense. Lord Odin's real character is-"

"Tell you all what! If Medusa has a single cup of mead I will share it with everybody!" The Old Man of the North declared, Azazel and Zeoticus basically begging the goddess to consider at least taking a sip.

All for the Norse god's amusement. "He can be too much." Rossweisse began nursing a headache.

"... I am sorry." Liz said after a beat and placing a hand on the Valkyrie's shoulders. If the setting was more relaxed, the long haired woman would be crying already.

Feeling that moving things along was for the better, for his and the women's sanity, Shirou tapped Irina's back. "And this is-"

"It is so great to meet an angel from another culture!" The honey haired girl jumped in excitement as she grabbed Rossweisse's hand and began to shake it like she was the world's most frenetic rabbit. "Can I ask a couple of questions? Do you help name children in your country? What are the most common names? Is Heaven there really a golden hall where people party everyday?"

To say Rossweisse was surprised would be an understatement but it was her turn to surprise anyone watching by replying, "Sure. No, I never did something like that. Depends on the country since we have several under our umbrella. Yes, Valhalla has a golden hall for parties but also a separated training area, a battlefield, a long hall and several other facilities so the warriors always have something to do."

"Oh~ What sorts of foods do you guys have there?"

"Everyone's favorites. Sorry, there are too many times to name them all but you could say everything."

"Is Valhalla in a specific place or do you guys need a portal like us."

"Portal. I think every Realm of the Dead is in another dimension built to preserve the soul so it doesn't break apart or return to the World in some fashion."

"Do you also deal with exorcisms? You know, helping normal souls move on?"

"I did it in training but now it is just once in a while. Since I am Lord Odin's bodyguard I go where he goes and besides a few sights of old battles we don't really stop anywhere with many dead."

Before Irina could continue the questions, Xenovia grabbed her in a chokehold. "Okay, okay. Breath a little, girl. You are shooting those faster than a machine gun."

"Wait! I still have more questions! Waaaaaait!" The angel wailed as her friend dragged her towards the buffet as the others sweatdropped.

"Sorry about that." Shirou said with a nervous smile.

"It is fine. That was actually quite fun. Never had anyone asked me so many questions so fast. Felt like I was back in school… Except that I was the one answering the questions." Rossweisse's smile, on the other hand, was a happy one which calmed him down. Fixing her hair a little, she watched the former Exorcists poke at each other as the angel tried to escape. "But an angel? That was a new one."

"To be fair, you do have a similar aura. Yours is just more… sharp like a blade." The Mage told her with a grin.

Setsuna nodded her agreement. "Now that I have met a few, I can agree with the comparison, at least when it comes to pure angels."

"You never thought about that, did you?" Shirou asked with a chuckle. Rossweisse didn't even try to hide the confusion in her expression. "Valkyries are technically angels for the Norse. You protect their spirits and guide them to the afterlife so drawing parallels isn't that difficult."

"It is for me." The silver haired woman responded, holding her chin with a hand. "Sure, I can draw the comparison, but it has been far too long since Valkyries were born from our gods' power." She threw a look at Irina. "But neither was she, right? There is something… different compared to the other angels than I met. Even Azazel has more… of a presence? It isn't Divinity, or what you would call Holy, but something else. On the other hand she feels more…" Shirou and Setsuna saw how her fingers wanted to create a rune in Irina's direction to further satiate her curiosity. Then her eyes shifted to shock and she laughed weakly. "Sorry, it's not really my business. Shouldn't be prying like that."

"She's different." Liz pointed out, looking ahead.

Which made Shirou look in the same direction to receive a nod from Azazel. "Well, it isn't a big secret." He quickly focused on Rossweisse again, noticing her eyes shining with the idea of gaining new knowledge. "Creating angels is hard and so they started using methods similar to devils."

An eyebrow slowly raised to the woman's forehead. "That is quite ironic."

"Trust me, they know."

Finally Rin snapped herself from her stupor. "Oh, my apologies. I haven't properly introduced myself." She bowed enough to be polite. "My name is Tohsaka Rin, Head of-"

"Shirou already introduced you." Setsuna pointed out with a smile.

"He did? I mean, of course he did." Then she took a deep breath before releasing an equally deep sigh. "I am really sorry. It is just…" She threw a look at Odin who was laughing at Medusa's persistence of not having a cup of mead while Azazel was just short of really begging for it. "Is that really Lord Odin?"

In that moment Rossweisse could sympathize with Rin on a level few could comprehend. "I understand…" She said as her hand landed on the black haired girl's shoulder and their aqua eyes met each other. "The first week when I started working for him… Although my grandma tried to warn me again and again how much of a bad idea it was…" Not necessarily pain but there were several struggles in the older woman's eyes and every single one of them left their mark. "It doesn't matter that I may be up for a promotion when all this is over or that he taught me Primeval Runes… when he felt like it… and the lessons were always full of riddles or trials..."

Then Shirou understood, 'Odin is kind of a troll, isn't he?'

"Let's not even talk about the bars… or strip clubs… or shady establishments… or how my salary would be the same if I worked in a fast food diner…"

At that point several of the employees of the Gremory were glaring at the god making him laugh harder. 'Oh he is hearing all that alright…' The Mage knew it was true as he knew the sky in his world was blue. 'Good grief, I really need to get her something as a thanks for helping me that time… Maybe I should have a talk with Odin? One that involves me stabbing him if he doesn't treat Rossweisse right?... Did I just think about threatening a god? Am I insane?' Fortunately he knew the answer to that too and looking around it was clear he wasn't the only one feeling like that. And the god laughed harder at every angry gaze. 'Please Odin, don't start a fight today! The timing couldn't be the worst!'

"You poor thing." The idea of being stuck working for an old man full of bad habits just for his knowledge suddenly became her greatest fear. Worst part was that Rin totally could see herself doing the exact same thing. "There must be a bright side about all this."

Rossweisse nodded, unable to deny there was. "Well, yes… I do get to travel to all sorts of exotic places… so long they have adult entertainment." Once again the Old Man of the North's laughter filled the room. "Also I can't deny that my runecraft got way better and that he really knows his stuff." Her grip on Rin's shoulder grew tighter. "So yeah, if any consolation, think about him as a super dictionary for runes. Nobody knows more than the former King of Asgard."

"I will remember him as such." Finding kinship in each other the two women found themselves feeling better about their disappointment with Odin.

Nevertheless, once the interaction was over, the Valkyrie started to notice something odd. 'Her clothes are heavy and she is using armor…' A quick scan in the room told her she wasn't the only one. 'Setsuna and Xenovia as well... Weren't they wearing normal clothes last time? The servants here are also all armed.'

They could be hiding it but Rossweisse could notice the bulge of small knives and staves on some of the butlers and maids' clothes. Not only that but none of them looked frail in the slightest, from what she could feel of their magical levels, everyone present was at least Middle Class.

A look of concern came to her face and Shirou quickly stepped besides her to whisper. "This isn't for Odin…" He told her bluntly, deducing her train of thought. "This is… just in case. Didn't he tell you anything? Because I am sure that if Azazel would warn someone-"

Another laugh from the god made Rossweisse's eye twitch. "He n'ver tells me a darned thing." She quickly slapped her mouth close with both hands, a blush taking over her whole face. "Sorry, I-"

"Stress, we get it." Shirou moved past it with a smile.

Still the bodyguard looked worried. "'Just in case' what? Should we be ready for a fight?" She glanced at Setsuna who was holding her weapon.

The hanyou shook her head before replying. "Like Shirou said 'just in case'. Try to relax a bit. Eat something."

"Probably nothing is going to happen." Rin added but the silver haired woman gave a glance at Shirou and doubt grew in her mind.

"If you need help just call me." Rossweisse said confidently. "I doubt Lord Odin will take kindly to anyone interrupting his fun. Or we could go… around orders again." Valkyrie and Mage chuckled.

Shirou nodded, appreciating the offer, but replied coldly. "If he doesn't find chaos fun by itself." That was a concern the valkyrie could understand.

And in the front of the room, Medusa shared the same feelings. "Didn't Azazel send you an encoded message?"

Odin looked annoyed at the change of topic before a smug smile came to his lips. "I will answer all your questions," the wine skin came closer again, "if you drink a full sip."

Fun fact was that nobody had drunk any of the mead at that point, Venelana gaining a glass that Odin conjured from nothing which was big enough to fill half a cup. That was, in the god's view, a king's ransom worthy of Asgardian mead and the former Bael was basically teasing her husband about drinking the whole thing later.

"Yeah, I sent him an encoded message alright." Azazel ruined the Old Man of the North's fun, bitter over not getting even a sip of the heavenly beverage. "He may not look like it, act like it, or even sound trustworthy… But he is one of the gods I trust the most. There is a reason why Sirzechs dropped him with his family before bailing with Grayfia."

Indeed it wouldn't have been proper for Lucifer to not greet the god at least and he did just that before hushing a few words of reassurance that the new regime wasn't going to fall and rushing to get into position.

"What is their strategy, by the way?" Odin asked while pouring two fingers of mead in a small glass and passing it to Medusa. If she would drink or not it didn't matter, the temptation was there and the one eyed god was amused. "If they are all planted around the stadium I doubt it is to help people evacuate. Are they planning to face their counterparts- I am sorry, the 'pretenders to the throne' who are actually the legitimate heirs? I swear, that sounds like something from a book. Or soap opera… Historical dramas too if you count the War of the Roses."

Medusa pushed the glass as far away as she could while being polite. "Probably because it happens once in a while, either in History or fiction."

Azazel moved to try and grab it but Odin slapped his hand away. "Ow. Yeah, the idea is for them to face the Originals' heirs."

"A show of dominance? I can respect that." Odin drank his mead with gusto. "But are you sure it is safe to reveal so much because I am 'trustworthy'?" His tone was mocking as he stared the Governor General right in the eyes. "Especially about this new angel? Some would say that I can deduce something I shouldn't know…"

The Cadre stared at the god for a while before smirking. "What are you talking about? Humans have so many stories about dying and becoming angels… Reincarnating can just be something to reward the most faithful." Implications aside, they both knew it was all lies. So Azazel decided to be honest. "The only way to keep a secret is to kill everyone who knows it but then the secret loses its value." Was his real response and the old man just watched the fallen angel with his lone eye. "And I have no doubt someone will learn something sooner or later. Showing a little of our hand to you makes little difference."

"You are counting with the status quo… a little too much." The Old Man of the North told the fallen angel with a heavy stare. Far too heavy to be coming from a single eye. "The only reason why the Khaos Brigade got this far is because there are those wishing to topple it and won't hesitate to use anything and everything to accomplish that goal." Neither man moved for a whole minute until the god asked. "It is them today, isn't it?"

"We got a warning from an unreliable source-"

"It is them." Medusa interrupted with conviction. "They are like a cornered animal; desperate. They want the glories of the past and conquer the future despite being inept to do so." Her eyes shone like gems. "And the sooner they can start the better because every second without their 'prize' is probably driving them mad. Especially when they are 'close' to 'victory'."

"And what makes you think they will attack now? Or better yet, why not earlier? This tournament has been going on for a couple of months by this point…" Odin questioned playfully but Azazel could see the man was paying extremely close attention to Medusa's reaction.

Clearly he expected the correct answer and fortunately the goddess delivered. "Because they finally got a traitor or more in our midst."

'Deducing that even when we didn't tell her anything? Not bad but…' The Governor General cleared his throat. "That is just a possibility, Medusa. One of thousands. Maybe they got more allies or resources. Maybe the Khaos Brigade has a time table." He shrugged. "Sure we are playing around with our numbers with a 'just in case' approach because of that possibility but… there are few people who would betray us for the Old Satan Faction."

Fact was that too many people, especially the devils under the New Satan Faction, benefited a lot from the change of regime. The new Maous were far less cruel and gave the Pillars more opportunities for people to improve their position. Not only that but the Evil Piece System and the peace they preached solved hundreds of problems.

"Don't underestimate the greed of idiots." Medusa pointed out making the Cadre chuckle.

"Believe me, we aren't. It would take a really good bribe, that they shouldn't have, or a really big idiot, to betray Sirzechs and the others."

Odin let out another laugh and slapped his knee. "Oh you fool of a Scapegoat, why do you think Sirzechs isn't here right now?" He laughed at the disbelief on the fallen angel's face. "They know the possibility of betrayal is high. That is why they positioned themselves around."

"But they said-"

"The best place to begin to trick your enemies is to trick your allies." The Old Man of the North pointed out and Azazel could only nod in agreement even if he didn't like the truth of the god's words. "This alliance of yours is still young and mostly independent between each of its parts. That is why the devils are going to try and clean their own mess… Supposing it happens. After all this can be a 'just in case' situation."

"We are just not counting on it." Medusa agreed with Odin's words completely. "There are always idiots who think themselves better. Who enters the lair of the monster despite hundreds not returning before. 'It is going to be different, I am smarter and stronger'." She scowled and even if it was beautiful in her face the expression didn't hide her disdain. "It isn't a matter of having an idiot or not around, there are always idiots."

"... The important question is 'how many?' And if they will be enough…" Azazel basically found himself agreeing with them, his hands quickly finding his artificial sacred gear. "Not gonna lie… I hate my job sometimes."

Because the warning from the Hero Faction didn't happen due to convenient timing but because they figured out the Old Satan Faction had found enough allies to make a real power play.

It wasn't like Azazel made a mistake either nor did his allies truly went behind his back to deal with that crisis. Several times they said he should let them handle it and if anything they were just considering the attack inevitable. Knowing there were traitors or not wasn't a problem because they wanted those traitors to exist.

So they could crush their opposition once and for all.

The real problem the Governor General had was that if felt like dealing with Kokabiel all over again with people he should trust going around his back for what they believed was the greater good instead of trusting him with their real concerns.

Because, funnily enough, he had been rather open since their alliance began. 'They wanted me to step aside for the Underworld's sake anyway so I can't complain.'

Finally Odin poured a cup for the Cadre. "That's why I am retired. But you can count on me for today." The fallen angel quickly drank the mead much to the god's joy. "Doesn't matter what those fools manage to muster, I will still throw my chips with your lot. You are more agreeable."

"Whoever the traitors are, whatever play they are going to make, it is getting late." Medusa commented pensively as her eyes moved to the crystal ball in the center of the arena.

"Ah, to be a young and naive god again. Huhuhuhu." The Father of the Aesir laugh hid in his throat and sounded much more sinister. "That, my dear, is the moment they will strike. Get ready." His single eye looked around as Huginn and Muninn were already flying around the stadium telling him many things. "If things are to go wrong, they will go wrong right about now…"

The crystal ball was activated, the announcers began to introduce themselves.

And things went wrong.

Something was off the moment the teleportation began and Rias could feel it. Not every devil could as there wasn't any sort of trap in the circle itself but the teleport felt strange. Usually the process was seamless and instantaneous as it could be, a practice to make it safer for everybody using which devils became masters over time.

That was why they were the only faction who could bolster the fact their magic circles could be used as anchors no matter how small so long they were properly made, which was how devils managed to attend dozens of contracts.

Despite being heavily monitored in the Underworld, the fact it was so in the first place spoke of their kind skill with that particular magic. Nobody went anywhere in the capitals or castles without the owner knowing beforehand or calling ahead.

Which was why the extra second the teleportation took was wrong by itself. Rating Games used the best of the best, especially for the Youth Gathering Tournament. Yet something went wrong and while Rias didn't feel herself being pulled apart by any means, she knew there was a problem.

Immediately she began to fight back but the instants were short and whatever was happening did it so quickly despite the King and Queen of Gremory both fighting back against whatever that was.

Meaning that whatever happened because of the magic circle itself, putting both of them in guard. "Shields!" Rias ordered but it wasn't necessary, Akeno, Ravel and Koneko all felt something was wrong.

Less than a second later and the four build a barrier around their whole group with several magic circles and Ki sustaining it. Hastily as the construction had been it was sufficient so they all withstood the explosions that followed their arrival. An instant later several blasts of magic emerged from a castle in front of them, bombarding their position.

Yet the shields held firmly without issue. Over a hundred hits connected and neither made the casters of Gremory budge. The ground gave in but none moved, none other than Ise. Truly he didn't abandon his position even a Ddraig screamed in his ear for him to attack. The Pawn already understood things were wrong.

But none of that was important, "Where is Asia?" not compared to their missing companion.

"She is gone!" Luvia had already moved to help support the shield, Gasper joining a second later.

"What?! Shit!" Rias gritted her teeth in fury. "So that was what happened! Diodora…" The name was said with absolute loathing.

Soon the bombardment passed and whoever had shot it retreated inside the fortress in front of Rias Peerage. It was a sort of old English castle made with six towers connecting to each other in a sort of spiral with the last one being as tall as a skyscraper. Gothic decorations and gargoyle statues could be seen in every level staring down with angry faces.

"Are we in the arena?" Kiba asked carefully as Holy Eraser rested in his hand. "Because we should be at our base-"

"Where is Asia?!" A furious Ise asked, still looking around. His red aura was pulsing hotly everywhere. "Buchou, Asia is missing!"

"We can all see that." Luvia replied as she pulled out a gem and it shone a light in the castle's direction. "She is in there-"

A loud clapping sound echoed in the area. *Excellent deduction, human. Tell me, was it the castle or the obvious lack of anything else?* Diodora's loud voice caught their attention and they rushed to the side where they found a gate of wood and steel. Carved on a wall beside it was a huge mirror where the blond's pureblood devil watched them from a throne of gold. *One would think that a building in an empty dimension would be enough of a lead for anyone but you can't be sure of anything with those humans. Isn't that right, Rias?*

"Diodora-"

"Where is Asia?!" Ise jumped towards the mirror but Koneko, Luvia and Kiba managed to tackle him down. "Let me go!"

The nekomata held his neck. "That isn't a widow!"

"He is calling from somewhere! That is like a television!" The magus tried to explain but they were all struggling as the Red Dragon Emperor grew ever stronger due to fury and his sacred gear.

It was getting to the point he would get free and Kiba realized that. "Great! Akeno-senpai-"

"Ow!" Lightning chains wrapped themselves around the Pawn's neck.

Controlling the flux of energy she made sure the boy wouldn't get much more than a few shocks. "My, my, Ise-kun. In this sort of situation, it is important to remain calm." The Queen tried to sound playful but failed to mask her concern fully.

At least from those who knew and Diodora wasn't one of them. *Hahaha! You should control your pet dragon better, Rias. He almost cut the transmission before we could finish negotiations.*

"You think cheating like this is going to be forgiven?" Ravel asked after a step forward, Kanshou and Bakuya resting on her back. She also doubted it was just something as simple as cheating and was preparing a bait. "You must have bribed plenty of the judges and architects to get your way."

*Huhuhu, dear Ravel, did swearing loyalty to the Gremory made you daft? No, you are fishing here.* Which Diodora noticed easily making the petite Knight grit her teeth. *Not that it really matters since I am here to explain everything anyway.*

"Where is Asia?" Was Rias' first demand and while she sounded calm her eyes revealed all the fury she was holding back in that moment.

*My dear Asia is right here.* The image moved to show the former nun floating in the air close to the pureblood devil like she had been crucified. A second later Diodora's hand caressed the Bishop's face. *Isn't she pretty? A sleeping beauty to be sure.*

When the man's finger touched her lips, Ise lost it again. "Get away from her you bastard!" Akeno fought to hold him back with just her strength alone but soon both Rooks had to jump in to hold his arms. "I'm gonna-"

*What? Kill me?* Diodora asked while his hand rested on Asia's neck. *Could you get here before I break her neck? Or…* A magic circle dropped a knife with a golden pommel and the carving of a furious barking dog on his hand. *... if I stab her? Could you even save her life?* Most of Rias Peerage paled, Ise dropping to his knees as Akeno let the chain go. *Thought so-*

"What do you want, Diodora?" While the fight may have left her peerage, Rias' spirit remained in flames as she gave her fellow noble the most venomous glare she ever gave anyone in her life. "Must be something important to betray your kin and join hands with the Khaos Brigade."

Diodora smiled while caressing Asia's face. *Good, looks like I don't need to explain everything then. Do you somehow already know about the attack happening on the stadium?* Nobody said anything for a few seconds and the blond chuckled while playing with the Bishop's lips. *Either you knew or deduced. I suppose it doesn't matter.*

"I am going to rip off your balls and shove them in your throat." Rias said coldly which actually made Diodora pause playing with his prisoner.

He stared at the redhead devil with a mix of amusement and surprise. *I don't think you realize who is in control here.*

A feral smile grew on Rias' lips. "Oh, I wonder about that." Her aura flickered to life for a moment before she held it back. "Even if you managed to alter the teleportation and the arena, you had it done quickly and covertly. Those explosions from before were your attempt to either deal with us or capture us. I am thinking more about the latter since you stopped attacking." She then motioned to the empty desert that looked more like a bare rock floating in the middle of nowhere with only the castle as a feature. "There is also the fact that nobody else is here. Couldn't bribe all the inspectors?"

Astaroth's Heir nodded with a chuckle before playing with Asia's hair with a finger. *No, I couldn't bribe them all. Even making them disappear was a little too risky.*

"Would you callously kill another devil like that?" Rias asked rhetorically expecting a half baked reply.

Certainly she didn't expect the laugh that came, a laugh so sinister and full of malice that was actually revolting. *Why do I care about the lives of the weaklings and the useless? If they can't benefit me, or are in my way, getting rid of them is way easier than going around.* He chuckled again while taking a sniff of Asia's hair. *Doesn't matter if they had the privilege of being devils, trash is trash. Especially people like Lefio.*

Ravel felt a shiver run through her spine. "The former Heir of Glasya-Labolas?" An accusation almost jumped from her lips but she needed to be sure because, "Weren't you two friends?"

*Me? Friends with that weakling? Fuh, that is hilarious!* Opening his eyes fully, the man laughed again before saying. *Despite being born of the right stock, he was an idiot. But hey, if people thought we were friends, no problem. When the Khaos Brigade asked me to show some proof of loyalty…*

"You didn't-"

*My dear Ravel, what happened with that fire from before?* Diodora sounded honestly disappointed. *You were going to burn Rias and all of the Gremory with her and it would have been beautiful. What a shame.*

"Oh, the fire is still here." Flames covered the Knight's body as she glared at the other pureblood. "I am doing something good with it, like not joining a terrorist organization or killing my peers! And for what?!" To anyone watching it was clear the noble lady was furious. "To show loyalty to said terrorist organization?! You shame the name of the Pillars!"

Standing from his seat, Diodora roared with fury. *By Goetia's name it is you all who shame the Pillars! Forgetting our place as the superior race who should rule over all! Hmph. Truly you are lost and so will die with the rest of the Gremory… Or the majority of you, at least.*

"What do you want, Diodora?" Rias asked again, her patience practically spent.

*What I really want is a couple of hours of peace to play with my new toy.* The man wasn't even hiding his intentions anymore, his fingers traveling from Asia's neck towards her belly which infuriated anyone watching. *But what I need… is you, Rias Gremory.*

"Not interested."

*Neither am I. As beautiful as you are, you aren't my type.*

"What? Do you prefer naive and weak?" It was supposed to be an insult.

*Why yes, I do.* Only for the evil smile on Diodora's face to reveal it was anything but. *I like them easy to mold, pure, gentle…* His smile grew more evil as his eyes shone with malice. *Holy maidens… So fun to corrupt and play with…*

"Are you saying-"

*But what I need right now, is you to surrender, Rias.* With eyes almost closed once again, Diodora tried to sound gentle. No one believed in his fake tone and every single one of them wanted his life. *If you come along quietly I promise to spare your peerage. They can wait here until… Everything ends, I suppose.* The offer was so off hand that it was obvious he only thought about it then and there. *Everyone knows your brother's love and you as a hostage must hold him back for a bit.*

"So all this just because of my brother?" Rias already decided to kill Diodora but he was making sure she was going to enjoy it. "Looks like the so-called 'True Inheritors', are really a bunch of cowards who can't fight their own battles."

Diodora glared at the redhead before the knife returned to Asia's neck. *Care there, it would be too bad if I damaged my toy before even playing with it.*

Aura poured from Rias in waves and she wasn't the only one as Akeno, Ise, Luvia and Ravel were all ready to attack. "You will be dead before it ever gets to that."

*And take down the castle with her in it?*

"Asia is the only reason why you are still breathing."

*Is that so? Hahaha.* His hand moved around her body but not touching it. Despite that he could feel the power practically exploding outside of the castle. *Then the odds of you surrendering are basically none since I won't give up my prize. Fufufu. Good! Then let us do as devils should and fight! Better yet! Our Rating Game will decide who is right and who is wrong!* They all felt Diodora's aura emerge from the castle. *Here are the rules, with the entrance, you have six levels to reach me on the seventh! If you fail to do it before Asia awakes,* he licked the side of her face with eyes full of malice, *I will play with her until you do.*

"Bastard!" Ise was bleeding from his hands as all he wanted was to jump in there and kill Diodora.

Only that his knife never left Asia's neck. *Also before going in, a couple of rules-*

"What is stopping us from just blowing up a wall and going inside?" Luvia asked without hesitation, earning herself a look of disdain.

*Careful of how you speak, human. Since the question is valid, I will let that slide…* A smirk grew in his face as some blood dripped from Asia's neck. *What you get is that the knife won't go deeper than this even as I have my fun with her. Don't worry, I have a lot of practice managing pleasure and pain with my toys. None of them died so far.* He paused for dramatic effect which was just more glares in his direction. *Also, on each floor there is a mirror so we can communicate and you all can watch me being honest. Or having-*

"Anything else?" Rias demanded, no longer able to stomach what Diodora had to say.

Still she was correct in asking. *Right, right. This is a Rating Game and I should give you all the rules.* Diodora spoke no longer even bothering to try and hide his true nature much like that day when confronted in the ORC building. *The King of Gremory can only play a Piece once until they all have fought, for starters. Whoever fights on the first floor, if you win, can't fight from the second until seventh until everybody else… has passed~ Hahaha.* With a hand on his face, Diodora needed a few seconds to control his laughter. *Sorry, sorry. Just having too much fun with this. Anyway, Rias you can only fight when all your other Pieces are dead and, to make sure you won't destroy my castle and hurt my dear Asia, Red Dragon Emperor… reset your Boosts, if you please. You will only be getting them in combat!*

In that moment Ise bit the side of his lips so hard he started bleeding but did as demanded. It didn't matter how much energy he was losing by letting the power go like that, Asia was in danger. As long as Diodora had her in his hands, the Pawn would pretty much do everything to see her safe.

All felt his energy grow smaller until it was on his normal levels if not a little less before the young man made the Boosted Gear vanished. "Is this enough?!" He asked with a raised arm to prove he wasn't hiding his sacred gear.

But of course the greedy devil wasn't done. *And Priestess of Medusa… Or should I just call you Priestess of the Lightning and Thunder? It is more fitting for a devil even if a fake like you.* Once again there was disdain in his voice. *That thing in your neck is really dangerous. Get rid of it. Also, of these clothes. They aren't proper for a priestess.*

Feeling offended on several levels, Akeno still did as Diodora demanded by taking the Noble Gear off her neck and throwing it inside a magic circle. She already felt naked without it but wouldn't give the monster who had her friend the satisfaction of seeing anything else. With a simple spell her school uniform appeared beneath her miko outfit before the latter vanished.

*Better. * A magic circle appeared in his hand and all watched as the castle door opened. *What are you waiting for, come in. Or not, either way Asia and I will have fun later.*

On the limits of his patience those words made Ise charge forward. "ASIA!" And that time nobody managed to stop him as he charged inside the castle.

"Damn it, Ise! Calm down! Gasper!"

"I am trying Buchou but Senpai won't stop!" The remaining Bishop replied as the whole group charged inside the obvious trap. Swiftly they went in and just as swiftly they felt several fields and barriers slamming on their shoulders.

Diodora had the place made with the intent of giving himself all necessary advantages for victory. "I can feel myself grow slower…" Kiba said with a frown.

"My mana is getting disrupted." Luvia reported with worry as they caught up to Ise who was looking around with anger before the blond Rook hit the back of his head. "You idiot! You dragged us into a trap!"

"But Asia-"

"You won't help her if you die, you simpleton!"

"Calm down, Luvia. We would have come inside anyway." Rias stated calmly as she too looked around which prompted everyone to do the same.

The whole ground floor was bigger than the castle itself, magically expanded for sure which explained some of the Boundary Fields around them. It was also empty of almost anything with just the stone floors and a roof that offered little space for flying. But just as their enemy promised there was a floating mirror in the middle of the room.

"Anyone seeing any stairs?" Akeno asked immediately as she moved her fingers and took stock on how the area was affecting her. Or at least trying too.

"Nowhere in sight." Koneko closed her eyes and pointed up. "But there is a disturbance there. More mana but more intangible."

"Illusion or just a closed exit?" Her fellow Rook asked to which the nekomata nodded.

Ise summoned Boosted Gear again. "Then I will-"

"Do nothing!" Rias' harsh tone silenced the Pawn who let go of his sacred gear. "Sorry Ise, I know you are worried but we need to be careful here. The fact that Diodora hadn't showed up yet means he is confident."

Suddenly Astaroth's Heir image appeared on the mirror. *I am more than confident. Also certain most of you are going to die~*

"Talk about not being subtle." Luvia commented with a frown.

*Do I need subtlety when I am already winning?* Diodora asked with amusement while playing with Asia's hair. *Now we shall begin the match from the ground floor! Rias, choose your combatant! Fair warning, you better spend most of your Pieces here and hope some walk away alive!*

Rias held herself back just short of shooting the mirror down. "Do you understand what you are doing, Diodora?! Your Pieces can die as well!" The other pureblood just shrugged with a careless smile. "Is that your goal?!"

*Well, my goal is to capture you. How I get to do that is up to me. But I will certainly do better as your Pieces die and make my job easier.* He chuckled while caressing Asia's face with his knife. *Now pick your first sacrifice. I doubt they will get away unharmed so maybe you should also say goodbye.*

"My, my, he leaves us with so much to play and still underestimate us this much." The ravenhead beauty stepped forward.

"Akeno-senpai?" Gasper called for her but the Queen just kept marching until she was in front of the mirror.

"Well, I am the first contestant. Send your peerage in, Diodora-san." The Priestess of Medusa sounded playful and excited.

Which threw Diodora for a loop before he recovered his bearings. *Rias, are you sure you are using only one Piece for the first match?*

Crossing her arms with a smirk, she replied. "If it is Piece for Piece, I trust Akeno to deal with all your peerage by herself." Besides, it wasn't like Akeno was wrong and Diodora was leaving them with enough to fight back despite being able to push for more due to having Asia as a hostage. 'Either he has some trump cards or he is just that confident. The first fight will get us some answers.'

With a frown, Diodora stopped touching Asia to create a magic circle with a different pattern and everyone felt a shift in the place. *Hmm, you really aren't using that fake goddess' power or anything of the sort.*

"My, my. A girl likes to keep her tricks, you know. Not that you are letting me, fufufu." Her violet eyes glared at the man in the mirror with disdain. "And even if I was, do you have any right to complain considering the situation?"

*I still have a hostage.*

"She dies, you die. Don't pretend otherwise." Akeno went for a risky tactic of keeping her opponent's ego in check both to distract him and also to measure how confident he was.

Which was too confident. *Hahahahahaha! You think so?! Fine! Try to not die too fast!* The magic circle in his hand shifted and the ceiling opened enough for a tunnel leading to the next floor. Several in Rias Peerage got ready to dash but the King stopped them, suspecting a trap. *Let the games begin and what match is better than Queen versus Queen?*

A pale blond woman with emerald eyes dressed with a mockery of a nun's uniform began to descend from the entrance, her eyes cold and barely showing any sign of life even as a powerful aura surrounded her body.

And she wasn't alone as eight more girls with similar revealing clothes and equally dead eyes almost like robots but weaker presences also descended from the upper floor. They were all pretty, they all lacked a soul, a spark that would make them beautiful.

Even statues had more life than the one presented by those eyes.

"Diodora…" There was so much venom in Rias' tone that it was unmistakable.

And Diodora loved it. *That is a nice expression you have on your face, hahahaha! Now, let's start the match! Queen versus QUEENS!*

Suddenly all the eight women exploded with power as Promotion was activated for all of them. "How the- You changed the battlefield-"

*Not at all, Rias! Did you forget who my cousin is? I spent more time around Ajuka's labs than I did my castle while growing up!* Just by closing his eyes, Diodora could see himself there again when younger.

He remembered seeing the older devil work on perfecting his Evil Pieces, improving the system and streamlining Reincarnation. While not even close to as talented as the Maou, the younger devil still was fascinated by many aspects of the System and its potential.

Or to what use it could be to him. *I can't do much with it but thanks to a King Piece and time I can make perfectly obedient servants who won't go against anything I want. No, even if they left me, their hearts will always be mine!* He added with flair. *My cousin is really an idiot for ignoring the King Piece's power! A fake devil! With it, the Astaroth Clan wouldn't even need the other Satans!*

"So you used the King Piece to brainwash them all?" The venom continued to bubble on Rias' tone.

*Do you really think so little of me?* Diodora licked his lips. *I took my time playing with them. The King Piece was just to keep their mouths shut until I was done.* Nausea hit several from the ORC and Gasper almost threw up. *It has been quite some time since I had the chance to play without the girl being in my peerage. I probably should thank you for that, Rias. Allow me to do so with the blood of your Queen! Girls, kill Akeno Himejima!*

As one the nine women created magic circles and unleashed waves of spells towards Akeno who swiftly created a barrier to block the attacks. "Everyone, move!" She called and her peerage answered by getting out of the way, giving her a chance to open her bat-like wings and doing the same.

"Diodora! Akeno was the only one in the match!" Rias complained as the nine Queens moved in sync, redirecting their spells towards her friend.

The ravenhead beauty dodged a few blasts before throwing Lightning back at them which was intercepted by a huge magic circle made by the power of nine. *Well it isn't like that place has any barriers.* He chuckled as his main Queen unleashed a fireball in her direction. Quickly the priestess' circuits flared as she prepared to counter but the build up was slower than usual. *You guys will just have to keep dodging until she is dead~*

Fire exploded, spreading around the area. "Akeno-san!" "Senpai!"

"You all stay back, focus on dodging!"

Kiba hated the feeling of powerlessness that spread on his chest, the same from when he was a child. "But Buchou-"

"Are you daring to call Akeno weak?" The Crimson-Haired Princess of Ruin asked calmly. "I stand by what I said, she can deal with these fake nuns by herself even in a pitch. No matter how many dirty tricks you threw her way, Diodora, Akeno will trample them!"

The Queen of Gremory emerged from the flames flying straight as an arrow towards the other Queens, kicking the main one away before throwing Lightning to five on her right. Those on the left threw a counter attack of their own made of several basic blasts of mana in sequence.

Basic as in there was just power behind the hits even if it was quite a bit, more than the average devil but just barely out of Middle Class. On a normal day Akeno could easily ignore those, her Rook defense and nature too strong to be bothered by something like that. A normal day where several barriers weren't messing with her mana and weakening her body.

Frowning because of discomfort as she needed to push more mana than usual to get a magic circle going, Akeno still raised her left arm before shouting defiantly. "Lightning Shield!" The construct blocked most of the blast as she kept moving.

Soon the other Promoted Pawns stood up again to join the attack as the original Queen created magic circles to empower a blast of flames. Turning around, Medusa's priestess took all hits, her feet pushing the rocks beneath her feet as she stood her ground.

'This again… It is happening again…' Akeno remembered facing a man with eyes similar to the former nuns', emotionless to the core but hiding a deep sadness. 'When this is done I am going to give Ajuka a piece of my mind! He should have destroyed-'

Her train of thought was cut off when the eight Promoted Pawns came together to empower the real Queen, her attack growing strong enough to surpass High Class level. Weakened as she was and with her senses disturbed by dozens of boundary fields, the ravenhead was caught off guard and thrown around the ground.

Burns aside Akeno was fine and managed to recover fast enough to avoid the follow up as the main Queen advanced while the others kept powering her up. 'They all are really better at giving support. Diodora undoubtedly didn't recruit them because of their talents with magic.'

All they did was basic, mechanical, artificial in a sense. With the exception of the blond and green eyed Queen, all the others were moving almost automatically. It sickened those watching the ravenhead's struggle as they also realized that.

Realized the sort of monster they were facing. "You have gone too far, Diodora!"

*Why, Ravel? Because I corrupted some nuns? Don't make me laugh, it isn't like I am the first devil who has done it! I am just the best!*

Rias' heart blazed with fury. "We changed! We outgrew those origins!" She watched as her best friend struggled to block an attack that shouldn't have done any damage had it not been for the boundary fields in the castle. "What you are doing is inhumane!"

*Good thing I was never human in the first place!* Diodora proudly stated while watching the fight with excitement. *A pity but it seems your Queen can't even play with my dolls.*

"Why is Senpai holding back?" Koneko asked which everyone found odd.

Luvia shook her head while focusing on her rings, trying to break the boundary fields. "Koneko-chan, maybe this place isn't affecting Ki but-"

The nekomata interrupted. "I know but Akeno-senpai is still stronger than that. Stronger than them."

"... Because they are like Asia." Ise realized, fist shaking with fury. "This motherfucker tricked them the same way he tricked her! Didn't you, you bastard?!"

The blonde pureblood on a throne laughed. *Who would think the stupid lizard would figure it out first! That is right! Every single member of my peerage was either a nun or Holy Maiden who wanted to help a 'poor devil who wandered the wrong place'.* He finished with a fake meek voice before showing his true nature once more. *Good natured fools are so… easy to toy with.*

Akeno raised several magic circles to push a flamethrower back as the other Queen advanced with slow steps against the younger woman's shields. She didn't change patterns or tried to do anything more than cook the ravenhead alive. The ones behind her just kept supporting the main Queen.

Only when the former Holy Maiden was close enough did Akeno act by pushing back with her shield to repel the flames towards the other woman's face for a moment before undoing her magic circles in favor of a shoulder tackle.

Reinforcement assured that the hit was strong enough to break through the other Queen's Rook defense but Akeno wasn't done. "Lightning Spear!" She called forth before stabbing the downed woman's tight and unleashing a huge amount of energy. Electricity ran freely and the robotic woman lost her concentration leaving herself open. "Lightning-"

However the priestess stopped her aria short upon remembering the last time she fought someone like that, someone completely lost because of the whims of their 'King'. Back in Lakmia's manor when she fought to rescue Shirou there was little she could do but give the victim at the time, a man who was a warrior once, a dignified death.

Fearing if it would be the same again, she hesitated. "-Bolt!"

The hit which would have destroyed the woman's heart connected with a shoulder, burning it almost to a crisp. Immediately the Promoted Pawns began patching up their fighter, not a single one of them taking the initiative to fight the Priestess of Medusa.

She took that opening and charged towards the eight without hesitation as her circuits flared with more mana being pumped into the palms of her hands. With her speed the women had no time to react because despite being Promoted they didn't know how to use the extra powers of a Queen.

Which was just perfect for Akeno to get in the middle of them all with her hands together and golden mana shining between her fingers. "Thunder Sphere!" Instead of unleashing the attack the Priestess of Lightning and Thunder allowed it to blow up without hurting anybody.

Except by the massive shockwave that blew everyone to all sides with the exception of Akeno who controlled the attack perfectly while taking advantage of her potential as a Queen Piece.

In fact that sort of attack was easy to counter if one had the disposition and saw that coming. The Promoted Pawns should have been able to fulfill the latter criteria thanks to Promotion but none did. They all had no real fighting instincts or knowledge and even minimal experience when it came to combat.

'I am going to cook Diodora alive!' Akeno thought while rushing towards the closest former nun and holding her in a choke hold. 'I am going to fry his insides, rip off his eyes and feed them before Buchou shoves his balls on his throat!'

The Priestess of Medusa felt her anger break the block made by the castle's boundary fields and fill her with extra strength. Didn't take more than a few seconds for her to overpower and knock out the first Promoted Pawn without killing the woman.

However the ravenhead refused to allow relief to take hold, focusing on the rest of the challenge ahead. Already the other seven Pawns were getting up with the original Queen flying in her direction while throwing a huge fireball.

Already starting to have a disdain for that particular Element because of her last match, its presence made Akeno even more furious because the blond Queen had launched her attack without regard to the Pawn in the former's arms.

Once again she raised magic circles for defense which was successful because the older woman was lacking the other's support. With that the Queen of Gremory threw the Pawn aside and charged forward to meet the Queen of Astaroth mid-air, planning to leverage her greater skill in combat.

First Akeno dealt with another fireball which she did by using her defensive magic circle to shoot Lightning. Again her superior skill was proven when the opposition's magic circle fell apart together with the attack it created, forcing the older woman to make a new magic circle.

Before it was even half formed Akeno had already connected a knee to the other woman's stomach with so much force that the blond couldn't help but vomit blood all the while the ravenhead's body was covered with Lightning to punish her further.

The pain was supposed to be paralyzing considering her strengths but Diodora's Queen proved herself resilient. Akeno couldn't even call her stubborn by how the blond managed to fight back against Lightning coursing through her veins and commit enough mana to throw a blast to her chest.

Unfortunately nor pain or pressure changed the Queen's green eyes. They were as cold as always, just staring at the ravenhead without any desire. 'Can't I even call this a fight? I am fighting no one.' Akeno felt even more pity for the women Diodora tricked.

Not that it stopped the priestess from keeping going, committing even more mana as she kept her footing steady and punched the place she had just kneeled with all her might. The older woman grabbed her shoulder and refused to let go but the ravenhead just powered her aura with more Lightning.

Yet the former Holy Maiden didn't submit. 'What is wrong in this picture? Is her mind so gone she can just shrug off pain?' Those emerald eyes presented no answer other than the coldness of a machine. 'If that is the case I need to-'

Her senses flared in warning and she was reminded of the seven remaining Promoted Pawns. Which were eight once again as the one she defeated had been woken up and despite the lack of color on her face she was already moving. The Queens worked in sync, having repositioned themselves while preparing several magic circles.

Only that they weren't aiming to empower Diodora's Queen but to shoot Akeno in the back. 'I can dodge-' Immediately she realized she couldn't not because of her friends' warnings or Diodora's deranged laughter but the reason for the latter.

The blond Queen was focusing all her power on containing her Gremory counterpart, grabbing her arms and focusing all her aura defensively while willingly ignoring the attack that was about to hit both of them.

Akeno saw no other choice but pull with all the strength her bat-like wings could muster to save them both only for her eyes to grow wide. "Why I can't-" Looking down she saw how the blond's legs were stuck in half melted rock. Horrible burns spread over her destroyed dress, melted flesh visible yet not a sound leaving the woman. "You-"

*Well played but it is GAME OVER!* Eight blasts of mana followed his declaration, all hitting Akeno and unleashing an explosion that destroyed part of the area.

""Akeno!"""

The ORC shouted in fear and panic, Rias biting her thumb's nail in frustration even as she kept her arm up to hold them back. 'This can't be happening. It can't…'

*Hahahaha! What an idiot!* Diodora barely controlled his laughter. *I noticed she had enough power to break free if she just-*

"Fufufu. Thank you for noticing, Diodora-san." Relieved smiles filled as the smoke went down and all saw Akeno flying above the floor with the Astaroth Queen in her arms. Sure the older woman's legs were extremely wounded but she was clearly alive and no longer stuck. "My, I never thought you would callously risk your Queen like that."

Despite the smile on her face it was clear to everyone that Akeno had taken the brunt of the previous attack completely. Her back was bleeding and burned while blood dripped from her forehead. Yet her wings were intact and confidence poured from her being as she stuck her tongue out and liked some of the vital liquid.

She chuckled eagerly while sending a discharge of violet Lightning at the Queen in her arms, the woman finally showing something similar to emotion as her mouth opened in a scream of pain before going silent as the devil passed out.

But nobody cared much about that, their eyes stuck on the floating True Hybrid. "Hmmhmm, so that is how much you girls need for a good night's rest." Akeno commented as her purple wings shone brightly, a beacon of light in an otherwise dark world. Only Rias and Gasper understood their existence enough to not be surprised by them. "But I shall deliver it as an angel of my goddess. Fufufu, I always wanted to say that."

Silence reigned in the room for a second before several blasts of mana flew in Akeno's direction. She easily blocked them all with her angel wings, some of the attacks even bouncing from them much to people's shock.

Diodora was stuck between unfathomable rage, bafflement and confusion. *Why do you… have those?*

"Why? Can't you recognize a Holy Maiden from a goddess?" She rested her head on her hand with a small smile. "And here I thought you were a connoisseur of finer things. Seems I was mistaken."

*You are not- You can't be-* Finally an emotion won and the unfathomable rage consumed everything else. *Shut your mouth! A whore like you can't be a Holy Maiden!*

"Oh my. Did I break your tiny little world?" She asked playfully as the Promoted Pawns answered their King's rage with spells. Dodging left and right, pretty much dancing in the air, the ravenhead kept smiling playfully. "Or you are the one setting up the standards. Oh dear me, that won't do?"

Spinning on the air the hybrid dropped low before throwing the blond Queen as far away as she could in the opposite direction to her opponents. That way they wouldn't have a chance to get her back in the fight and also gave her an opening when one or more of them moved to get the Astaroth Queen back.

Which they did, despite not being the best strategy nor ordered to do so, two of them rushed to try getting around Akeno and get their only real fighter back into the fray while the others distracted the ravenhead.

However they weren't dealing with the Queen of Gremory anymore.

Their new opponent was none other than the Daughter of Baraqiel, a perfect hybrid born from a fallen angel and a human woman. Boundary fields made to disrupt the Gremory team flux of energy stopped being relevant as she showed her nature as a being without weaknesses.

A smile grew on Akeno's lips. "Raijin!" Two violet chains formed in her hands which she quickly sent flying towards the duo.

The rest of the Pawns moved automatically to strengthen the two flying towards the Queen but they underestimated Akeno's cunning. The stakes on the tip of the chains changed course and hit two of the supporters while the ravenhead dove towards one the flyers. She kicked the former nun's back, using it as a springboard to get to the other one.

If it was a competition then the priestess would be running laps around them all thanks to her angelic wings. Less than a moment after her jump, the hybrid had already reached the other former nun and delivered a spinning kick on her midsection. The woman was sent flying as the ravenhead did a pirouette while manipulating Raijin.

Once more Diodora's Pieces failed to make the correct decisions, trying to heal their downed companions instead of pressing or raising more defenses. Before Reincarnating they had no battle experience and after that they pretty much became glorified batteries for their King so all they knew was how to support.

They were so good at healing in fact that their mana use and speed was considerably faster than most but as that was the only thing the group could do then there was always a pull towards acting into that 'default setting'.

In other words, bad habits were hard to break when one didn't know better and as they were essentially dolls for Diodora's plans the women had no urgency to do anything other than they already knew.

Which was capitalized by Medusa's High Priestess when she sent the two stabbed Pawns towards the fallen ones, making the crash hard on the ground. "Raiden!"

Akeno swiftly transitioned stakes into spheres of Thunder as the ravenhead isolated and weakened the Holy Element enough to not kill the girls. Much like in the past her real Lightning obeyed her seamlessly. Its power was still great but much more contained, exactly to reproduce the damage output that knocked out the Queen of Astaroth.

That done, her attacks roared and four Pawns fell unconscious at the same time. "Fufufu. Holy Lightning is really good against devils." The four remaining Pawns began throwing blasts in her direction, all of which were blocked by a single purple wing. "My, my. A change of pattern? Is that what we are doing, Diodora-san?"

No longer willing to entertain the True Hybrid even as his rage quelled, the Heir of Astaroth remained silent while messing with a magic circle. He was trying to have the boundary fields affect the priestess and interfere with her powers but all his efforts were in vain.

As a True Hybrid, Akeno was arguably a superior being that couldn't be affected by simple devil magic.

"Get them, Akeno-senpai!" Gasper cheered at seeing once again his friend was with their wings.

"Can someone explain what that is?" Luvia asked directly, turning between the Bishop and her King. "Since when Akeno has angel wings?"

"Long story, ask her later when our enemy can't hear." Rias turned to the mirror only to receive a glare from Diodora as he dismissed his magic circle. She chuckled before pointing out, "What else could you expect from the High Priestess of Medusa… Although that is the first time I am really seeing them in action."

Ravel shook her head in disbelief. "How much was she holding back during our match?" Then she shook her head again. "Never mind, I don't want to know. Also, I don't think the Honorable Ancestors will like that a Reincarnated devil can use Holy of any kind."

"Good thing the transmission was interrupted, right, Diodora?" It made complete sense to Rias since after so much blatant cheating if nobody was interfering that meant they were all isolated.

"They are weak…" Koneko pointed out, observing how the former nuns kept attacking and wasting power. "Will run out of power soon."

With a sobering tone, Ise asked. "Does that mean they'll stop?" He felt his fury still bubbling, barely holding back from either joining the fight or charging straight to the top floor to kill Diodora. "Is that what he wanted to do with Asia?"

It was a question in all their minds, including Akeno who observed the attack pattern carefully before letting out a sigh of frustration. Despite managing to not take any lives for the present, the whole situation didn't sit well with her. She could easily knock everyone down in that moment and finish everything.

'If Raynare hadn't reached Asia-chan, if Ise-kun hadn't gone to save her, she would have ended up just like them.' Those emotionless faces were truly disturbing for the priestess who allowed the warmth from her wings to spread in her body. 'If I could just break them from his control… Wait, that is it.'

Looking at her pure purple wings before focusing on the Promoted Pawns whose attacks weren't ceasing despite how exhausted they looked, Akeno made a decision to try and break them free from Diodora's control.

Violet mana slowly formed an aura around her that pushed back the blasts before the hybrid pulled it back. 'No, not to fight. I don't wish to fight…' She tried to make it warmer, to push through the feeling of security while carrying a touch of sorrow. 'I know you all suffered… Please, allow me to reach you…'

That aura slowly focused on her wings which Akeno opened to their full length before taking flight one more time before stopping herself and deliberately approaching the women as slowly as she could.

But just because she stopped defending herself didn't mean the attacks stopped coming. "What is she doing?!" Kiba asked with concern as new wounds appeared on the ravenhead's arms, midriff and a small cut in her cheek. "Her energy…"

"Is barely protecting her." Even Rias sounded concerned.

"Akeno-senpai! Use your wings again!" Gasper tried but could only watch as the True Hybrid slowly floated towards the Pawns.

Diodora laughed at their reactions. *Not so confident now, are you?* His knife was already on Asia's neck again. *You better not be thinking about interfering.*

Before Ise could retort angrily, Koneko said. "What is this?"

"Is that bastard doing something again, Koneko-chan?"

"No, the barriers are the same but…" The nekomata's eyes grew wide as she began watching Akeno with wonder.

"Speak plain, Dumb Cat! If Akeno dies-"

"She won't die." Rias couldn't understand what was happening but something inside her denied the possibility wholeheartedly.

Luvia was the one who put those feelings into words, "Her presence… is in flux…" Her mind ran through dozens of scenarios as she tried to discern what the hybrid was doing. 'A form of Divinity- No, she is an angel, right? Which means it is Holy-'

Then Akeno beated her wings and a wave of energy was unleashed in a wave towards every direction. All in the room felt it and for a second they were hit with feelings of protection, comfort and a warmth typical from being embraced by a mother or older sister.

It was enough to stop the former nuns from attacking. Enough to freeze everything as the whole floor felt the wing's presence. Their glow pierced the darkness even more than before, a purple light that promised salvation.

On the top floor, protected by several barriers and with a heart distant from any kindness, Diodora was unable to recognize Akeno's wings and their beauty. The events in the mirror were as distant as a movie or even a painting with how everything seemed to be frozen in time.

However it all quickly began to infuriate him again since he never retracted the order and his Pawns should be attacking. *What sort of sorcery is this? Some sort of angelic spell?*

Ignoring the pureblood devil, Akeno kept watching the former nun. "Fight it!" She suddenly ordered, gaining the room's attention. "Fight him! You can do it! Don't let a creep and an Evil Piece control you!" Increasing the presence emanating from her wings, the priestess focused her aura in her words much like she did when singing spells. "Don't be afraid! Don't be controlled! If you need, I will protect you! Fight!"

Her words seemed to have any effect on the audience. Or at least not the intended effect.

*Hahahahaha! Is that the 'holy maiden's' lask trick? Pathetic! Hahahahahaha! You really think that is going to work?!* Diodora stood from his throne, the mirror moving to adjust to his new position. *It won't! Even without the King Piece, I made sure my toys knew who they served!*

It was his greatest pleasure, to find followers dedicated to God and shatter their Faith before corrupting it completely. To turn their beliefs against those women and distort them in the best way to suit his purposes both as a challenge and because the action gave him an unmatched ecstasy.

Anyone could safely call Diodora a cruel man of the worst ilk and nobody would be wrong.

Which was why he was laughing at Akeno's attempt to find any spark of freedom from those women; it was like the ravenhead was challenging him directly. Challenging his corruption directly against their will and telling him that those former nuns and Holy Maidens could somehow escape him.

As far as he was concerned that was the most hilarious thing that could happen that day. *Hahahahahahahahaha! Asia! Asia! Wake up! You have to see this!* His tone was mocking even as Akeno's eyes remained fixed in his Pieces and everyone else stood there silently. *She probably thinks that will save you when you are mine! Hahahahahahaha! Hahahahahahahaha!*

"They are crying…" Koneko's soft voice cut through the room.

Silencing Diodora who only felt disbelief. *Crying? Impossible, I ordered them to not not drop a single tear in my presence.*

"You robbed them even from their tears?!" Luvia's disgust went to new heights.

Rias remained calm, all her anger giving place to sadness as she watched the events unfolding before her. "Maybe your order worked with normal tears," the redhead refused to avert her eyes, "but in their minds they must have found a distinction between those and blood tears."

Indeed that was the truth for the four remaining Astaroth Pieces weren't crying like a normal person would and instead what was pouring from their eyes were pure red blood tears that reached their chins before dropping to the ground.

Their eyes remained stuck in a cold distant expression and no spark came to life because of Akeno's words. Yet tears of blood were pouring from their faces freely, an ultimate expression of sadness that went beyond everything that crushed emotions.

The girls said no words, couldn't say any words, Diodora's torture saw to that with the King Piece cementing his control over them. A physical and emotional prison without bars where they couldn't even find relief of companionship despite knowing everyone else around was in the same situation.

No, all those women could do from the point they learned of the trickery which landed them with the worst sort of man possible was drag more and more girls towards the abyss, unable to offer a single word of comfort or scream for help.

Or warn those of the trap.

They were so stuck in their situation that when finally offered a way to show relief, to express emotion from a being that could be easily compared to an angel of the God they loved so much in the past, all they could do was cry blood.

"You truly are… despicable, Diodora." Rias said without any bile. Her heart was with the girls who suffered because of him. "The worst of the worst that the Underworld has to offer."

*I am just a true devil-*

"Being a devil doesn't mean that!" The Crimson-Haired Princess of Ruin cut him off, her rage returning full force as she glared at the man in the mirror. "It means to pursue our ambitions! To reach our dreams with our own might! To enjoy our time in this world! All you did was to rob other people of that!"

*... Very human of you, Rias Gremory.* Was Diodora's reply as he sat back in his throne with a smirk. *If you weren't an important hostage, I would kill you myself. You give us a bad name.*

"Right back at you, you bastard!" Ise roared as his red aura flooded the room and the Boosted Gear tried to manifest in his arm. He held the sacred gear in, for Asia's sake. "Buchou 's a better devil than you! So 's Kaichou! Everyone in the Gremory and that Saira guy! And everyone else! YOU'RE JUST TRASH!"

Barely containing his emotions, Diodora replied harshly. *The thrash here is you!*

"You're a piece of shit who couldn't get a single girl and had to trick them! Kidnap them! You're the trash!" Everyone could see how much the Pawn wanted to kill the Astaroth Heir.

"That is right, Ise-san. He is trash." Luvia commented. "His behavior is truly unbecoming of a real noble. Only the weak go so far for such crass methods for entertainment."

*Why you-*

"And give the Pillars a bad name." Ravel added with gusto. "Plenty manage harems easily without having to resort to, what was it? King Piece? It isn't for nothing Lord Beelzebub forbade that piece. Cowards would abuse it the whole time."

Kiba gladly joined his fellow blondes. "His only mistake was letting one pass but we will fix it today. If he needs those sorts of methods to get his way, he must be quite weak."

"Weakling." Koneko added with a sage-like nod.

"Weakling!" Even Gasper gave his full agreement with a punch in the air.

Enough was enough and while Diodora didn't dare to threaten Asia again, he snapped. *Kill them! Kill all of them! I will show Asia your corpses before having my way with her!*

As the orders changed the Promoted Pawns turned to focus not on the powerful hybrid but seeking whoever they judged weakest. Didn't matter who the judgment settled on but that there was a need to have one in the first place, the women just moved as their King usually ordered.

But none in Rias Peerage even reacted as the magic circles surged in their direction, ready to blast them all away due to Diodora's order.

Not when Akeno was already behind the Pawns during that lapse of judgment faster than Diodora could change the order. He saw the hybrid coming too but could only grit his teeth when she touched the other women's necks with sparks of Holy Lightning at her fingertips.

"Tenjin." Akeno whispered softly while connecting with the former nuns, the Holy crushing their defenses as Lightning overloaded their senses.

Like puppets whose strings were cut, all the former nuns fell to the floor next to each other as the blood in their faces ran dry. *Tsk. Was that your strategy, Rias?*

"Not at all. They just wanted to rightfully insult you." Was the Heiress reply as her team moved quickly to help place the girls somewhere comfortable. "I hope you aren't expecting us to kill them."

*Would you?*

"Without hesitation." The Crimson-Haired Princess of Ruin reply was cold as expected and even some of her Pieces stopped working even as Luvia and Ravel healed Akeno with an EM. "So long as you have Asia, I can't play nice." Born To Be Wild manifested as a pistol in her hand that she aimed to the ceiling. "Are you going to open the tunnel now or should I start blasting since there is nobody here to stop me?"

*You must think things are going pretty great after defeating my Queens.*

"Just focusing on my priorities. Wasn't you who wanted to make this a game?"

*Personally I wanted to throw you all except Asia in the Dimensional Gap and be done with it.* By his tone of voice it was clear that wasn't an option no matter how much he wished otherwise. *But we shall play.* Just like that the tunnel from where the Pawns and Queen had gone down opened again. *I can't wait for you all to die on the road to salvation, to show Asia your corpses. Don't make me wait long, I get bored easily.*

With that said the mirror on the first floor cracked before falling apart in millions of pieces. "Ise, don't!" Kiba grabbed the Pawn just as he was about to fly up.

"He has Asia-"

"Didn't you learn anything from a few minutes ago?" Luvia asked sarcastically as she finished patching Akeno up. "Seriously, that hybrid biology is excellent. Mana flows in you like water in a river. Can I study you?"

"Fufufu. Maybe after this mess." Akeno stood up before using a spell to replace her uniform for a new one. "But Ise-kun is right, we can't waste time. Especially since Diodora isn't going to play fair."

"We are technically hostages already. What sort of fair play can be involved in that?" Ravel asked before it clicked in her mind. "You can't mean-"

"Throwing all his Pawns when they can be Promoted on the first floor, with five remaining before we get to him. Obviously he doesn't plan to just use his Pieces." Rias observed before turning to the nine women knocked out on the floor and shaking her head. "Unfortunately we can't stay to watch over them nor take them with us. If it was just Diodora Peerage I would consider it but this won't be the case. Our opponent will have more dirty tricks on his sleeve so be prepared."

""Yes!"" They all said in a single voice before opening their wings, Akeno opening hers bat-like ones.

'Hold on, Asia. We're coming.' Ise thought as they began to fly towards the next floor.

None had time to wonder what was happening outside but the fact Diodora was moving so callously meant they were isolated.

They could only count on themselves to escape that situation while carrying the hope their friends outside were safe.

…..

It began like most things usually did: small.

Weaknesses would always be present in any strategy since the current Satans couldn't stop the public from watching Rating Games. Doubly so when it was the Youth Devil Tournament which was a point of pride for the new government. Their relationship was so symbiotic that it was fair to say that as long as one succeeded, the other was safe from scrutiny.

'Bread and circus', some would correctly say.

However, that itself left the new government with a really open weak spot that could be exploited since most of the population would want to know the progress of the game one way or another.

Cameras and screens, all too new to the Underworld, were used in Rating Games even if the capability to record was very recent. In either case that meant such a big tournament involving the Pillars would be certainly televised everywhere.

Every capital, especially the ones in Gremory and Astaroth Territory, were watching the show waiting for the game to begin.

So it started small with the transmission being cut and turning into static.

Immediately the team in the stadium realized there was a problem, not noticing one of them holding a knife and moving to stab the coordinator of communications in the neck pretty much assuring he would be the first victim of the day.

The traitor's arm was stopped by a man two meters tall with spiky orange hair wearing a fur coat while taking a sip from a huge bottle of sake. 'Where did he come from?' He tried to pull his arm free but the man's bare arm had huge muscles and those were not for show. "What-"

What made things even more bizarre was that the man was actually emanating so much power that it was basically breaking his arm by itself without the orange haired devil actually moving a muscle.

That power was also as hot as a fire burning down a house. 'How did- When did this monster get in?!'

Everyone suddenly noticed that one of their co-workers was actually wielding a knife and about to stab their superior. "That isn't very nice." The huge man commented while letting out a sigh. "Boss told me to keep an eye out, but I expected someone to attack from outside. Well," in a shift move he broke the other devil's arm before throwing him to the wall, "time to get to work, people. We're probably under attack."

"What do you mean, Lord Surtur?" One of the weaker devils asked the man, that one knowing exactly who he was.

He was Surtur, or a clone of the Original fire giant destined to fight during Ragnarok and the Rook of Lucifer. Also known as the Ultimate Rook, there was no devil in the Underworld who was capable of competing with him in a contest of pure strength.

And fortunately for those present, he was also the designated guard for the communication room and moved inside it the second his ears caught the sound of a discontent public around the time when the Rating Game should begin.

Shifting his footing, Surtur easily pushed several pieces of equipment off the wall to show dozens of capables recently cut. "Does that answer your question?"

Meanwhile one operative worked to cut communications; others were moving towards different points of the stadium and even the Underworld itself. The Old Satan Faction had sent everybody to that fight, thousands of loyal devils who began to drop by several points of the Underworld's capital, Lilith.

Several hundreds had already infiltrated the stadium in civilian clothing with the intent of acting the moment a signal was given. Plenty of those had jobs to take over strategic positions from their enemies while the rest had to spread around and deal with whatever security was around.

When their leaders faced the enemy leaders, the battle would go uninterrupted even if that was the last thing they did. And for many of them it would be because when the powerful clashed the bodies would drop quickly.

A few devils would do their to accomplish several side missions to increase their odds of victory while the rest lied in wait for the signal. The clock ticked ever closer and soon Naud began to hype up the crowd for the match. The crystal ball in the center of the stadium began to shine but in that same instant the spells around it flickered and vanished.

Static grew louder around the stadium as a single instant of confusion consumed the audience giving the Old Satan Faction's men the chance to draw their weapons before starting killing everyone around.

Despite the people in the stadium being devils, for the Old Satan Faction loyalists they were all traitors whose deaths would benefit the Underworld or hostages to be used against their enemies.

However as several of them drew swords and daggers from their clothes, many in the crowd were already on guard and drawing weapons of their own. Those were the ones that came without family or just with their peerages. Veterans of many battles and survivors of the Underworld Civil War who received several warnings the day could get bloody.

"There!" One of them shouted before throwing a punch, his arm surrounded by four magic circles empowering the blow, before it connected with one of the disguised terrorists.

With that all hell broke loose. "For Lord Gremory!" Was the salute from the civil war when that was the title that mattered.

"For Lord Lucifer! For the New Maous!"

"For the true rulers! Kill those traitors!"

Skirmishes began everywhere as people drew weapons and magic of all kinds before trying to blast each other. Peerages quickly found themselves at each other's backs as some of the infiltrators pretended to be bystanders with several degrees of success.

A child cried in panic at his mother's disappearance as not all the audience had been primed to fight. A cry that was suffocated by explosions, blood and the clash of steel as warriors sought to kill each other.

Soon an army of ghosts emerged from the Flag of Sincerity as Okita jumped from the announcer box window to join the fray. Her presence quickly balanced the scales towards the defender's side before several of her Shinsengumi were struck down by a silver haired man teleporting in the area.

He was Euclid, right hand man of Rizevim who was ordered to neutralize any enemy generals who could interfere with his lord's plans. Okita certainly qualified as their eyes met and he quickly opened a new magic circle for teleportation. Still he made his exit obvious, practically taunting the woman.

The Knight of Lucifer gave chase in order to neutralize the man and caught a glimpse of the troops outside Lilith arriving at the stadium only to find their flight path barred by a smaller force that joined together to create twenty magic circles, all of which began to bombard the army.

As the dead and dying began to pile up, chaos was crowned sole ruler of the Underworld.

…..

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