Disgaea: Gehenna's Holy Queen
Chapter 18: Invitation of a Crazed Mao
Mwaaahahahaha! This is your mad scientist Deuteragonist Mao speaking! Why am I narrating? Because SCIENCE, THAT'S WHY. (And by science, he means Sonic Adventure (2))
No seriously, I'm thinking it's about that time you have an update on the story so far.
An amusingly insignificant girl, as beautiful but generic as they come, was stabbinated three years ago, casting her away from the magical construct the mage humans refer to as the "Magical World" and sending her into the land in between life and death called "Gehenna". Those years passed, and she woke up a little less than a month ago.
Her name is Konoka Konoe, and she is the next great undertaking of my research!
It seems that during her career so far, she isn't used to the power of an overlord—struggling against Lunzard Torque's pitiful machine, battling minions of the sweet-maker Sir Sweet... it wasn't until she was reunited with forgotten classmate Satsuki Yotsuba that she put the subtle shrewdness that kept the late Setsuna wrapped around her finger to use and beat Sir Sweet at his own game. Even then, she was still unprepared for the remains of the Dark Assembly of Gehenna, known as Ars Goetia, to emerge, charging her with the crime of slaughtering their peers—but the real kicker was that she was responsible for her girlfriend's death in the process! Only some talking to from Satsuki managed to snap her out of it long enough to prevent her untimely demise as a sand-wich (and YES, I will feed upon the agony you suffer from that terrible pun).
In the meantime, while she decided to expand Ars Goetia as penance, I, the great genius of Evil Academy, was drawn to Mahora by one Satomi Hakase. How fortunate that my newest minion was quick on the draw enough to draw the attention of Negi Springfield and his pals in Ala Alba—to me, that is. You know what they say—even if you can beat them, join 'em anyway, which is what I did!
My old rival Beryl, who had since decided to join forces with the new girl on the block, reported to me that Konoka's not playing with a full deck, and could be in danger. So alongside Negi, I went to go investigate her Heart—a secret and perhaps illegal trip inside her mind—it was there that we learned that her dearest girlfriend had holed herself up there, and was partially responsible for her friend's mental issue—alongside my newest minion, and a sudden attack on the physical front due to a dangerous fallen angel.
We only learned about this Imamiah when we got back, thanks to a report from Beryl. Knowing that our time was limited, I've summoned Ala Alba to my humble stomping grounds—it's here that my latest experiment will judge if they're worthy enough to rescue the yuri girlie, who by the way, has actually hatched a scheme of supposed great evil on her own! But who knows if she'll be any good at it—and furthermore, who knows anything about these... Erinyes? Inquiring minds must know!
I can't wait to see the fireworks!
"Hey... Nami?" Iza's voice came up, disturbing the dark-skinned angel's rest.
"Yeah?" she answered, not minding a bit—they were close together after all.
"Don't you think Mia's changed?"
That got a pause. It had been a while since they had really reflected on their old friend and current leader—the former princess of Gehenna, Imamiah. Of those who worked with her, it was the two of them who had been with her the longest. And indeed, her latest actions had been a hair strange, even for the playful and often indirect master of karma. But she needed a bit of clarification. "What do you mean?"
"Well..." Iza tilted her head one way, then another, almost mechanically. "She's less straightforward than she used to be. I wonder if all of her time playing coy has made her... actually more like that?"
Nami mulled it over. Sure 'Mia had her issues, but really, she knew the heart of Iza's concern was the woman's recent crush on that overlord, considering said woman was the biggest roadblock for them having the kingdom back. But thinking about it...
The woman laughed. "Awww come on! The more things change, the more they stay the same. We know 'Mia's gonna use her as a throne puppet. Just because she's getting more roundabout in her approach doesn't mean she's not going laser beam on her goals as usual."
"I still worry, though..."
Alas, their private time was interrupted with a sharp knock at the door.
Nami's grunt of irritation was lost to the muffled but loud "Heeeey! I hope you're decent in there!" Apparently, that was Etna.
Fortunately, neither was naked, as a few moments later, Etna strode right on in. "I've got a question~"
The annoyed angels rose. "Spill it," Nami hissed.
"Geez! No need to get so hostile!" Etna said, her voice insincere. Not caring when their expressions didn't change, Etna smoothly continued. "You know, I was wondering why all of the small fry outside are panicking. Is the boss getting mad about one of her plans failing?"
"'Mia... is not that kind of boss," Iza stared coldly at Etna. "You can hold off such comparisons."
"You should remember then," Etna's smile became just as cold. "Your boss is not my boss." And thus the two of them stared at each other intently, daring the other to make a move. Iza towered over Etna, but the latter held no emotion over that fact.
Nami, on the other hand, blithely paid their staredown little attention and strolled right on by, opening the door and peeking outside. "Hmmm?" And moments later, she reared back and paled. "Oh boy."
"Eh?" Etna completely forgot about Iza, wondering if Nami had validated her.
"She's back." was Nami's only answer.
"Wait, you mean—" Iza stepped past Etna and peeked out the door on top of Nami. She also paled.
"Aww come on, don't leave me out of this!" Etna complained loudly before trying to open the door wider and failing, as one of the fallen angels had kept it squeezed partially shut out of fright. So to her annoyance, Etna was forced to peek even lower.
Out in the regal foyer, she saw... Mei. She remembered seeing her briefly during the mayhem of that Dark Assembly meeting a few days ago. She wasn't especially intimidating back then, but here? Despite her expression being as stoic as ever, her aura was far more intense, and it seemed that everything in her path was... getting cleaned.
In rather creative and astonishing ways.
Her hands moved so fast that they were a blur. Floors, fragile vases, and even hapless minions were cleaned without thought or remorse. All this while she slowly paced towards the other side, getting closer to the room Iza and Nami shared.
With a squeak of horror, Nami pulled Etna and Iza back in and shut the door, but by then it was too late. Before she could even move to lock it, the door, blasted open. Mei's calm but unamused eyes locked on the lovebird duo immediately. "Still dirty, I see." She swept a look over at their room, mostly in disarray.
"W-what are you talking about?" Nami stuttered. "Just because we were—"
"N-no, we were not—" Iza also began at the same time.
Etna watched, completely stunned, as Mei lunged forward, and those devastatingly quick hands began to clean nearly everything in sight. Iza and Nami both shrieked, but those hands reduced them to nothing in less than seventeen seconds. Just a minute later, the entire room was completely clean—Etna quickly wondered what kind of demon actually cleaned things with such ruthless efficiency.
I have to get out of here! Etna complained mentally, looking at the sagging and completely defeated Iza and Nami. This woman is a monster!
The door swung open again. The white-haired Imamiah stepped in, her smile wide. "Ah, Mei! Nice to see you've returned!"
Once again, Mei's smile was slight, but visible, even with her heavy bow. "I'm glad to have returned to service, mistress. It seems those two still can't keep clean, as usual."
"Those two don't change too much through the years," Imamiah dismissed with a laugh. She calmed herself, however. "So, what is that adorable little overlord up to?"
Mei answered, "It seems that she yearns to commit the evilest act ever, in order to put a stop to her fate. She believes the Demon Research Institute is the best place to do so."
Imamiah chuckled lightly. "Ah, the young miss is so adorable... naturally though, we can't have her succeeding." the fallen heir's wings flapped lightly. "I imagine Ars Goetia put her up to the task, yes? Due to their mandate? That makes our goal awfully clear."
"Really?" Etna queried, catching Imamiah's attention. "What's that?"
It was quite noticeable that Imamiah held no regard for her until she spoke, and yet here she had Imamiah's full attention. It kinda felt like Baal had noticed her. "If the overlord can't launch evil on her own, and is merely moving on the suggestion of Ars Goetia, wouldn't it be good for us to prove as concerned fallen angels and demons that such a relationship is terribly flawed?"
"Sort of like an overlord being a puppet to their Dark Assembly?" Etna decided to clarify, to see where Imamiah was going.
Etna gave a sly grin. "But aren't you plotting to do the same thing?"
"Unlike those bureaucratic fools, I have her best interest at heart. Ars Goetia will as soon use her than toss her aside the moment she tries to defy them. Better my pet than their slave. I have a kingdom to save, playing a little cruel to save that mired young miss is part of it."
Etna shrugged. While she wondered about the fate of that overlord, it didn't concern her unless Imamiah got bolder once her plan succeeded. Still, it was a mental note and one worth passing to Laharl once she got the chance.
"We'll move to Demon Research Institute at once!" the leader crowed.
"Hmhmhmhmhm, I thought that might happen," Mei announced with a soft chuckle. "So I've managed to open a dimension gate."
By that time, it seemed Iza and Nami actually recovered, and the latter blinked as she murmured, "Oh 'Mia? You're already running off again?"
"Of course. I need to stretch my wings," Imamiah answered. "Why do you ask?"
"You know, with us actually making noise again after so long, I'm wondering if a certain overlord in Evil Academy might remember us," Nami hopped on her feet gracefully, not making even the softest of noises. It also meant she missed the slight reaction on Mei's face. "I'd love to swoop by and annoy him."
"WELCOME to Evil Academy!" Declared the white haired Mao, his glasses glistening ever-so-threateningly. That never got old.
Here, in the central foyer of the Academy's main tower, steps swathed the walls, leading every which way. What wasn't covered by stairs was a clear view into the moonlit sky. It was the perfect backdrop to the lone, giant chalkboard standing in the middle, perfectly illuminated. In that room, there were a gathering of humans and demons, with most of the important ones staring at Mao.
"You said that last time," Negi Springfield pointed out, tilting his head in confusion.
"Lest you forget, you were the only person here last time," a certain red-head countered, shooting Negi a look. Asuna Kagurazaka continued, "We're still surprised you told us this time."
"Only because you'd never let him get away with it." The tiny, cool but no less menacing Evangeline gave Asuna a casual glance.
There were many others of Ala Alba here but other than mutterings among each other, they didn't get a chance to add to that before the dean of evil continued. "As I've explained to you enough times to break your scouters, this place is a school—but unlike yours, wasting time on things like reading and 'rithmetic, we here at Evil Academy learn the finer points of rottenness. Things like skipping class, causing mayhem in the hallways and food fights are encouraged. It's the freedom of doing whatever you want, so long as it drives the evil in your heart," As the humans exchanged looks, Mao continued. "In this rough and tumble world, demons can not only learn the shenanigans of evil, but grow stronger in an environment where such mayhem is cultivated! It does wonders for experiments!"
Eventually though, someone's logic wouldn't let them bother with that. "Are you sure about that?" Came the voice of one Yue Ayase. The short young lady with a droll expression raised an eyebrow. "If they don't attend classes, then how do they learn how to be evil, or a demon?"
"Environmental osmosis!" Mao immediately supplied. "And who cares, so long as they manage to pay tuition."
That sent Yue and the others to mull it over, and the logic still didn't click. However, Haruna Satome, her antenna-like hair twitching in excitement, reached a startling conclusion. "So nobody cares beyond tuition! It's a place that fosters nothing but mischief and laziness! Then that means—"
"The demons here are going to be much stronger, now that they're not beholden to the summoning laws of your silly human worlds!" Mao crowed, crushing any hope of Haruna's revelation seeing the light of day. "No doubt if you hope to face the challenges of this world and rescue that little yuri healer of yours, you're going to need to be strong enough to survive this school. After all, demons and humans will be seeing each other more often if what I think is happening actually does."
"You seriously think there's gonna be political unrest from this?" Evangeline raised her eyebrow.
"Mwahahahaha, I don't just think, I know. And there's gonna be loads of science to prove it!"
"Experiments?" Mao wasn't the only person with an arousal towards experimentation. While she had not been a heavy player in the core of Ala Alba, Satomi Hakase, Mahora's local mad scientist, had been more or less turned on by the recent developments of their adventure. Her glasses glistened almost threateningly, almost enough to give Mao a run for his money.
"But of course! And I'm gonna start with you people, with the perfect way to toughen you up in time! Now, if you want me to actually send you to Gehenna, where your healer is currently trapped, all you need to do is find me and defeat me... in any one challenge of my choosing!"
Ala Alba exchanged glances.
"I'd hate to ruin their optimism, but..." Mao's current dark-skinned assistant, Cygnus, stepped forward. "Doesn't that mean you could throw nearly anything at them?"
"Hyahyahya!" Hands on his hips and laughing boldly, Mao's more steadfast vassal Mr. Champloo interrupted him. "But the onus of coming up with the challenge is on Mao. The moment the human heroes learn the recipe, his advantage is gone! Boom!"
"Gaaauuughh, don't give it away like that!" Mao complained shortly. "As a matter of fact, you!" He pointed at his vassal. "And you! You! And you too!" He pointed to Negi, Eva, and Cygnus as well. "You're not allowed to help them except in dire emergencies. Like other overlord level demons. Anything lesser, up to and including demon-lord level foes, will now be handled by them." And he harrumphed and turned up his nose. "You can be like, optional bosses or living hint systems if you want," he quickly added as an aside.
Still grinning, Mr. Champloo shrugged. "Sure thing."
"H-hey!" Asagi Asagiri objected. "I'm strong, too!" The dark-haired gunner with the white coat did not look pleased, considering she had been hanging out with Mao not a year ago.
"Sure you are!" Mao countered, his grin returning. "But are you... main character material?!" That stunned Asagi into silence.
"That was cold," Haruna muttered.
"Mwahahahaha! I'm sure a little time with you guys will warm her up!" Mao crowed. The demons, those Mao decreed were Not Allowed To Help(tm), began to step back from the rest of the group. "I'm done here. I expect you people to still be alive by the time you come up with a good strategy to find me!"
With a salute, Champloo flipped away out of a window.
With a sinister grin, Cygnus burst away in the opposite direction.
Negi took a deep breath, sighed, and gave a weary smile. "It's not that bad, girls. Really," It sounded like he was partially trying to convince himself as well. "And I suppose that this snoozing little guy might be of help too," he dug in his shirt pocket, pulled out a certain white ermine. Chamo, who was snoozing away, paid no heed to being tossed to Asuna, who caught him in her hands (no way was she letting him get anywhere near her chest). "If you find me, I'll help you tour around. I'm not too familiar with this place, but please... stick together if you can." And he traveled down a flight of stairs to disappear as well.
Eva stayed put, but she was busy examining a strange dagger.
"Mwaaaaahahahaha! Enjoy your own Metroidvania!" Mao too, headed in the opposite direction of Negi, and disappeared upstairs, deeper into the tower where they were enshrined. With that, Ala Alba stood mostly alone.
For a while, she had been silent. Then, ever so slowly, her rage began to bubble upward. "No way... to think he left me here just because I wasn't the main character?! But those other demons weren't main characters either, aside from Negi!"
"Maybe you should consider that they're even stronger?" Nodoka Miyazaki answered with her soft voice. The purple-haired girl had just stopped sorting through her bunny-shaped backpack. Asagi merely stewed in her anger, not yet ready.
Asuna sighed, shaking her head with an exasperated smile. "Not even five minutes in, and we're already in a stupid divide and conquer game. At least it's not like the gateport where we got forcibly separated."
"So what's the first move?" Yue asked.
Asuna looked at most gathered around her. "Get our bearings straight. Don't we need to know our way around this place?"
That was met with murmurs and agreement.
However, something crossed the gathered heroines' minds. They looked over to see that Evangeline had not actually left.
"What are you staring at, Eva-chan?" Kazumi Asakura asked. Being ever so curious, the redhead had slipped closer to Evangeline. She would have surprised a lesser person.
Lifting the strange dagger she held, Eva answered simply. "I'm impressed. If what that nerd-for-brains said was true, I might actually get something out of this." Being Eva, she already noticed the others staring at her, but only now did she move to acknowledge this. "This is but an ordinary dagger for now, but what if I told you that there were foes in every item worth fighting?"
"Really?" the tall Kaede Nagase asked. "How does that work?"
Eva was still frowning. "Not quite sure. Something about an item world..."
Having stood still perfectly for a while, their was a mild reaction when Eva's stalwart servant Chachamaru finally moved. "I believe I can answer that, mistress," the green-haired android opened up a tiny cassette-tape-like device. "I took this from Mao after I was forced to use defensive maneuvers." The collection of blank and unsurprised stares told everyone all they needed to know about why she said 'defensive maneuvers'. "I believe it should explain the concept of an item world."
While certainly human in self-awareness, if there was any doubt that Chacharmaru was an android (after her fin ears), it was crushed when she loaded the tape into a device on her back, and let the display project onto the smooth chalkboard. The group circled in close as the screen flared to life, and they could recognize Mao as he stepped back from the front of the screen.
"Mwaaaaaahahahaha! I figured you might run into this! So I've decided to give you a little instructional video about the might of an item world." It was quintessential Mao—grandstanding, ranting about something, and looking as dubiously knowledgeable as possible. "So you are aware that there are a multitude of items to help you on this quest, but were you ever aware that you can actually make these items stronger? Indeed, every item useful in battle (and a few that aren't) can be explored. Just talk to your local item guide, and they'll open the gate to any item nobody's got equipped. Fight your way through strong enemies and strange looking areas in order to reach the hundredth floor, where the strongest demon in that item awaits. Often, they might even be strong enough to give that vampire a challenge!"
Eva huffed. This was what she was curious about.
"Happy item leveling! Oh, and watch out for those crazy geo panels. Better hope you figure them out before those opposing demons figure you out." And with one last laugh, the video shut off.
The band of ladies exchanged looks.
"Sounds like it's the best option we got to see how far we've come, right?" Haruna eventually said.
"Sure thing," Asuna wound her arms. "Can't hurt to also see what we're up against on average."
"Asagi-san, you've been to these item worlds before, haven't you?" Nodoka asked.
The gunner blinked before Nodoka's question registered. "B-but of course!" She immediately sprang to life. "I've been through this whole song and dance! I know what this place is like! I'll show that lunatic who's worthy of the main character title!"
"Try not to overdo it," Ku Fei, much like Asuna, was stretching muscles. "You'll mess up like pulling a tendon, and it will kill you when you least want it to." She turned to Chisame Hasegawa, who was still rubbing her temples over the terrible logic that swarmed this place. "There was a term for that, right? Murphy's Oil, they called it?"
"Murphy's Law," Chisame Hasegawa corrected sharply, adjusting her glasses. "And I just know it's gonna bite us all in the ass sooner or later." She paused. "Did that super creep even say how we were supposed to get in—or rather, who the hell is supposed to be the 'item guide'?" When nobody responded, she sighed. "Looks like it's up to me then."
As if remembering something, Yue pulled out her pactio card. "I can at least help. Adeat." The enchanted encyclopedia, Orbis Sensualium Pictus, flared to life at her fingertips. She let her lips upturn slightly—how long had it been since she was able to use her pactio? She had spent a lot of time training under the Ariadne school, she rarely had a use for looking for the more obscure or encompassing factoids her book represented. She began to seek information about the item world and much to her surprise, did find information on its unlock spell on MahoNet. "Hmm..." Yue perused the information her book said, and gave Chisame a cursory look. "Actually, I think your artifact can activate gates into items."
Chisame raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Yes." Yue didn't falter or change expression.
Chachamaru moved, giving a bow to the reluctant internet idol. "We are in your care, item guide."
Flustered by Chachamaru's almost usual by now gestures, Chisame bellowed, "Don't push me into this!" Admittedly, she let the light giggling from the other students slide.
Asagi, in an attempt to call attention to both herself and the task at hand, stamped her foot. "Alright, are we ready?"
This got raised eyebrows from a few people. "Who died and made you the leader?" Yue asked, staring at Asagi impassively.
"I don't see any blood trail from the fourth wall yet," Haruna added.
"Ummm..." The poor starlet was already in a corner.
"Well, if she knows the place, let her lead," Asuna, arms crossed, spoke up, gathering everyone's attention. "After all, of those of us here, she's the only one who's run around this place enough to figure it out. So let her do it."
The rest of Ala Alba exchanged looks. Asuna did tend to delegate responsibilities a lot, but then again Asuna had been scarily logical as of late—even aware of her own stupidity at times. In the end, they couldn't find any good reason to oppose it, and simply agreed.
Knowing that her spotlight had not been ruined, Asagi breathed a sigh of relief. "Phew." She looked at Evangeline. "You can't help, can you?"
Eva looked up coolly. "Wouldn't even if I could."
Asagi shrugged. "Welp! No stronger types stealing the spotlight!" With Chisame grumbling as she fiddled with her scepter and prepared the gate to the item world, Asagi continued her self-cheerleading. "Training montage of the Main Characters, here I come!"
In the tallest part of the tower, illuminated only faintly by the moonlight, Mao shoved the door open to his room. As he strode towards his computer, a summon circle flared to life on his right, and a tall, dead-skinned man appeared, his suit crisp and immaculate, his mustache curly, his head lowered in a perfect, butler like bow. "Welcome back, young master." croaked this man. "Your computer is ready."
"This job has really suited you over the years, hasn't it, Geoffrey?" Mao answered, taking a seat on his swivel chair and turning around momentarily to stare at his butler.
Mildly surprised that Mao had his eyes on him, Geoffrey raised an eyebrow. Before he shed this guise as Aurum, Mao would normally ignore him beyond his usual appreciation. Now he was studying him, much like his numerous experiments (nevermind the fact that he was and still IS one of those experiments). "You could say that, young master. My choice over the matter has waned."
Despite it being a guise worn by the fallen Super Hero Aurum, Geoffrey's persona had been too useful for Mao to leave entirely. "So it should. You wanted to raise an overlord, you're going to live (and serve) long enough to see those results firsthand." Only now did he whirl back to his computer, his fingers dancing madly over the keys as he called up the command line to run his latest batch of programs. Geoffrey had hacked some security systems created by the Perfectly Trained Assassins; his goal was now to monitor them, as well as see what else was going on with the academy. "Mwahahahaha! I can now spy upon the entirety of the academy, and track the process of those interesting little humans!"
"May I suggest the figurative twirling of the mustache?" Geoffrey posited.
"Already way ahead of you," Mao breathed heavily; he could already feel the drool forming over his tongue. "I could totally pull this off like an oppressive government!"
"But that's not your aim, is it, young master?" Geoffrey asked.
Mao paused. Even when plotting and scheming, Geoffrey never questioned him like this. But what could he really do about it? Much of the reason for his paranoia with humanity had already been neutralized from this person. Even if it was a new scheme, he knew first hand that attempting to crush him even more than now would only make him stronger. So he kept it simple. "Still can't comprehend my genius, can you? Don't worry, I don't blame you. I have a lot more on my plate than to simply gloat. I've been studying the evil overlord list after all!" He looked across the numerous monitors. "No doubt there has to be some news or activity worth checking."
"Well understood, master."
Chisame almost felt it when she saw the warp panel open up, and her adventuring classmates returned. Leading the pack was Asagi, who looked mildly miffed, followed by the rest of Ala Alba, who were most notably tired and weirded out. "T-that was supposed to be my big break, and all of it happened off screen?! Who writes this crap?!" Asagi wailed.
"Do I even want to know what you're complaining about?" Chisame responded, her voice annoyed and flat. "What the hell even happened down there?" She did notice, as the last of them escaped, that the small dagger that she had felt notably stronger.
Some members had reached their limit far sooner than others—the blond Ayaka Yukihiro was one of them. Catching her breath, she nevertheless still sounded smooth. "Now Asagi-san, I very much doubt that anyone would want to witness what we saw with that horrible shotgun of yours, let alone read about it."
"But that was my cool new attack! People would want to rip it off for decades!" Asagi continued to protest, her eyes twinkling with the idea of stardom.
"I'd think they'd rather rip out their eyes, but so long as the bad guys are doing it..."
Asuna sighed and shook her head. "What the hell kind of weirdness do you deal with everyday? I still can't comprehend how that mage type managed to keep us all at bay with just some coins and a freaking shoestring!"
"But that was your fault for walking right into that trap," Asagi pointed out.
"That was an interesting trap, at least," Kaede said. "I may never look at bulldozers the same way ever again."
"You know what? Forget I asked," Chisame said, shaking her head. "I think I'll go see what the internet is like in the demon world and forget all about your crazy item-diving adventures." And Chisame went to go find a desk to pull out her laptop at.
"Hey, where's Eva-chan?" Asakura asked.
"She's still in another item. Likely terrorizing all the demons on the bottom floor."
"Is this the best you can do?" Evangeline crowed, one foot pressed against the masses of defeated item world residents piled at her feet. Arms crossed, she stared down her lone standing opponent—a girl in a dress with red hair, dressed much like Eva herself. "I expected better from the deepest floors of the item world."
"So says the youngling vampire acting like she owns the place," the fire mage crackled with power, probably dwarfing Eva's previous opponents. "As the item god, allow me to crush you completely!" And with a roar that would scare saiyans, she let her power rage.
Eva didn't even care. She cackled madly and let her ice power and numerous Chachazero dolls speak for her.
"Not even surprised," Asuna muttered. "I hope she's all right."
"I think about now we need to collect a little more intel," Haruna said. "I mean, I'm almost sure Mao's just at the top floor, but knowing him he probably sealed his door and it won't open unless we find the five magical upgrades of doom. But the whole point is to prove that we're ready to survive anything that Gehenna throws at us, right? What's the best way to prove that?"
"This is one of those times I wished Negi stuck around," Asuna murmured. "We might be better as a team since last time, but our only other strategist is somehow still snoozing on the job." She gave an annoyed poke to the sleeping Chamo. He rolled over, murmuring something about panties, before resuming his snoring.
"Why don't you smack him awake or throw him on a wall?" Yue asked.
"Already tried smacking him. He couldn't have been tired from just one trip to the item world, right?" she stared at him some more, but Chamo just kept snoring.
However, to her surprise, her cell phone rang. Granted, the more chirp-like ring meant that someone was calling her via a radio function, but a signal? Here, in a different dimension? Who was calling her? Just a touch confused, Asuna answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Asuna." A gentle voice answered. "What luck, you're actually here."
"Brigitte, is that you?" She failed to hide the incredulity in her voice. Apparently, Yue too noticed, at attention from hearing the name of a Cosmo Entelecheia associate.
"Yes." The voice on the other end sounded calm. Brigitte, better known as Shirabe, was someone who had fought Ala Alba three years ago; she and the rest of the new age members operated under the belief that they were fighting for rescuing Mundus Magicus from a terrible fate. "Shiori and I came down here to do some research. The mana of the demon worlds is especially thick, and it could be the key to solving one of our main problems."
"Luna's here, too?" Asuna asked. Granted, she had made peace with Cosmo Entelecheia, and there was no nervousness in her voice, but she still had the tiniest bit of wariness around Luna, better known as Shiori, a mind reader with the ability to steal the identity of someone with a kiss. Asuna had been her specially tailored victim.
"Ah, yes," Shirabe sounded a little less certain. "Is it just you, or are your friends out here as well?"
"We're all out here," Asuna said. "Some particular demons have confirmed that Konoka's alive after all. We're gonna rescue her."
There was a pause, followed by a small noise of relief. "I'm glad of it. It seems to have improved your spirits as well."
"Yeah," there was a small smile on Asuna's face. "So, what did you want? I think I heard problems somewhere..."
"Ah, about that..." Shirabe began. It seemed she was about to speak some more before a piercing voice on a megaphone interrupted her.
"Attention, dean of Evil Academy!" It was loud, sharp, and carried a distinct accent. It was enough to make most of Ala Alba to jump in surprise, and Asuna, having also picked it up from the phone, actually flinched violently. The building they were in shuddered as the voice boomed, "If you have the gall to spend all day doing disgusting things, then surely you can take a few moments to discuss some matters with me!"
As Asuna tried to recover from her ear drums screaming in agony, she looked outside. A large ship, perhaps about the size of one of the magical world's numerous whale warships, was slowly sliding into view, coming to a stop near the tower. Still holding the phone, she managed to make out a cry from Shirabe. "Please! Help us before she turns Shiori into a masochist!"
"What?!" Safe to say, Asuna didn't understand a lick of that, and her idiocy had little to do with why.
"No slacking off!" came the voice, somehow still demanding and sharp without the microphone. And with that the phone clicked off.
With little expression, Asuna closed the phone. Alongside the others, she continued staring out at the massive ship, though she rose, seeing that there was a very high chance that Shirabe—and Shiori—were on that ship.
Mao twitched in irritation.
"Curse that vampire! They're not doing anything other than grinding along in item worlds!" Mao muttered. "And this school is still the same old boring as usual!"
A flash of a summon circle and Geoffrey appeared once more. "Perhaps you should... stir a little trouble, then?"
Mao looked thoughtful for a moment before sneering. "I really do think that you're terribly gifted in not playing fair. Mwahahahaha, perhaps I'll—"
His plotting, however, was cut short when a familiar sharp voice rang out from a microphone. "Attention, dean of Evil Academy!"
"I think you should go get that, young master."
"Dammit!" Mao cursed in frustration. "AGAIN with the interruptions! I should have figured she'd come back." He stopped his hissing to step outside of his room and cross the hallway to one of the larger windows outside. A single finger to its middle knocked it straight open, causing the panes to slam against the castle walls. In one smooth motion, he was outside along the castle walls, calmly walking on the back of an outstretched gargoyle statue without worry about balance.
Greeting him outside was the monolithic gunship, coming to a stop mere inches from the edge of the castle. He scowled for a moment before his eyes found the ship's captain, and orchestrator of his most recent interruption. Salvatore, locking eyes with him instantly marched closer to the front of the ship. "Long time, no see." Even with the roar of the ship, Mao could easily make out her crisp voice.
"Whaddya want?! I'm conducting powerful experiments here!" He snapped.
"Hn," Salvatore adjusted her cap. "You should have a little more concern about the outside world! Haven't you been paying attention to the news? Gehenna is active once more."
Mao adjusted his glasses, sneering. He knew that, but he wasn't sure why Salvatore cared. "What of Gehenna? What makes that place special?"
Salvatore crossed her arms. "Gehenna, much like the Netherworld where Overlord Laharl comes from, acts as a gateway between it and the human worlds. Yes, that is plural."
WHAT. Through some miracle, Mao managed to keep his surprise entirely sheathed.
"You didn't think the lovebirds from Veldime and that silly Earth Defense Force came from the same world, did you?"
Mao found that actually made sense, but he wasn't about to clue her in on his initial excitement. "Of course I knew that!" He upturned his nose, as if it would have some effect.
Salvatore gave him a clean look that said that she didn't believe a lick of that, but she kept going. "In any case, Gehenna is important now because it has recently changed overlord, and quite frankly, this upstart is already threatening the numerous worlds. It's given credence to a certain prophecy about that overlord."
"Since when did you care about any old prophecy?" Mao asked, still aware of what was going on, but otherwise wondering how knowledgeable Salvatore was. "Don't you remember that saying: 'If it ain't from Pram, it's obviously a sham'?!"
"I wouldn't be surprised if she had a hand in it," Salvatore answered coolly. "It's in our best interest to take the fight to this overlord before he or she really does obtain enough power to doom the Netherworld."
Mao paused. Salvatore didn't even know what gender the overlord was—but he now had a vague idea of what word on the street was. His grin returned, and it took all of his effort not to laugh. "What's that? I think it's you who's late to the party! I've already got a batch of interesting little humans who have someone at stake there!"
"Humans?" Salvatore blinked, before scoffing a moment later. "You're relying on mere humans to change the game?"
"Mwahahaha, you know what? Student Nominations are going on right now, why don't you play with them right down there and test out just how mere they are?" Hands open in a display of excitement, he huffed and puffed like his usual creepy science-y self. "Just don't break the pieces too much, because otherwise I and my pack of servants just might get angry."
"What?" Salvatore was confused by Mao's show of excitement, just as she noticed that in fact, there were a pack of humans visible from the HQ windows, and they had just noticed her ship.
"Safe to say that I know much more about the Gehenna situation than you might think," Mao boasted, "So go terrorize some new minions or something, I have experiments to run! Toodleloo!" And ignoring Salvatore's shouts, he waltzed right back into his room, shutting the window and his door.
Asuna's eyes locked with the ship hovering across from their location. As they were now, they didn't have much in the way of approaching the ship—that worked out considering the twin-tailed princess could make someone out on the top of the ship, apparently finishing a shouting match with... Mao?
"I knew he was up there!" Haruna commented. "No fair putting the final boss right on top of the starting point!"
"Why do I get the feeling that that's going to change too soon?" Nodoka asked meekly.
"I have half a mind to go complain to him right now, but..." Asuna began, but it seemed that after Mao blew off this woman, she turned her eye down to them. "Yeah, bigger problems."
"Oh. It's her again," Asagi muttered, arms crossed.
"Who?" Yue asked.
"She's Salvatore, one of the head honchos around here outside Mao. Pretty close to him in power, I'd say," she remarked casually. "She seems to be one of those militant types, perfect for masochists."
"Last time I checked, I'm not one of those," Yue pointed out.
"I'm... not sure she cares," Asagi looked up, but by that time Salvatore had landed, stepping in the open window and giving the group a thorough glance.
A palpable silence ensued before Salvatore spoke. "So I take it you are the humans Mao spoke of." In the span of two blinks, she was already in front of Asuna. Though frightening in her power, Asuna had hung around Evangeline and Mao for too long to get spooked by Salvatore's flash step. "Having been blown off, I am not in a good mood. I order you to give me one reason why I shouldn't just blast you to smithereens and train your Prinny'd souls up as a platoon."
Asuna crossed her arms, staring right back. "I only take orders from one demon, and it ain't you."
"Oohhhh, you're quite adamant for a human," Salvatore murmured, a predatory smile. However, she paused, and she examined Asuna a little more closely. "How about we put that to the test?" She stepped back, drawing up vast sums of mana. "Humans! We here at the Evil Institute welcome you!"
"We're almost done graduating here, so we'd rather not get sucked in, thanks," Chisame murmured.
Salvatore ignored her, however, her gathered power forming a massive golden gun. She took aim. "Class is in session. Try not to die."
Most of Ala Alba looked on in horror as the huge gun materialized. Asagi and Asuna, on the other hand, clenched their teeth and dropped into fighting stances. The heavy blast signified the gun's fire. Asuna had but a moment to draw up her sword and slash down, driven by pure desperate instinct.
Fortunately, despite the explosion, she saw the bullet practically melt between her sword, crashing (almost) harmlessly against the walls and evading her classmates (also protected by her magic canceling aura). She rose to a fighting stance again as Salvatore saw her attack had been blocked.
"As I thought. You're the princess they spoke of!" mild surprise was in her voice.
Asuna recognized her now—this woman had Brigitte and Luna captive?
"Step back!" the redhead heard Asagi shout, and she could hear her leap up. Asuna tilted her head slightly to dodge the green mace that sailed past her head and crashed into the ground, forcing Salvatore to flip backwards. Asagi landed, handguns drawn. "It's about to get cuh-rayzee, so everyone get out of here!"
"Just to let you know, you're not going to snatch main character status by looking cool," Haruna called out, even as she and several of the others heeded her advice and prepared to make a break for it.
"S-shut up!" Asagi complained. "It's not like I'm doing this because I only care about that!"
"Pay attention," Salvatore's voice was low and cold, heel raised high in the air to crash down on Asagi like a guillotine. By the time Asagi realized that the other had slipped in for a physical attack, she was too late.
Well, almost. Asuna charged through with a shoulder tackle, knocking Salvatore on her back for a brief enough moment that Asagi could escape her fate. "Go on! Everybody run!"
"Asuna!" Ayaka shouted sharply.
"We got this! We need to scope this place out and regroup somewhere safe!" Asuna bellowed, twirling to dodge a counterattack.
With reluctance, the others immediately began to turn tail and run downstairs. Glances were stolen at Asuna and Asagi, but for the most part eyes were out on the windows, keeping wary of surprise attacks and demons as they made for a back door exit.
Taking a sigh of relief, Asuna put her focus back to Salvatore, who was now in a standoff with Asagi. She had worked with Asagi to trump a stronger foe before, perhaps luck (and a little planning) might bless her again. "You know me, right?" Asuna said, bringing her sword back to her front. "Care to explain why you've got my associates under your grasp? That's an affront to royalty, you know!"
Mao's ears picked up the sound of an explosion downstairs, and his room rumbled ever so slightly. Twitching in irritation, he griped, "Why is she trying to blow them to smithereens downstairs?! I had those walls enforced sometime last year!" His annoyance grew, however, when he then heard the door burst open. Geoffrey wouldn't have such a disgraceful entrance, so he chalked that up to precisely one person.
"I figured you'd be back here. What do you want?" Mao hissed at Beryl as she skidded to a stop to catch her breath. "I'm busy experimenting. Go away (for now)!"
"Mao, listen! It's gonna be bad! Real bad!" She looked up at him, her face etched in urgency and worry. "It's not looking good for Gehenna! We need to get a move on! Like five hours ago!"
Mao wasn't impressed with her attitude, not knowing her to be someone who'd bug him for solutions like this. She would have put her own solution to work. Then again, it looked more like that she was going to try to drag him out to act as "muscle" instead. But opting to humor her, he looked on. "Really. How bad?"
"Mao, Konoka went crazy!" She stressed. "You got my letter about how Ars Goetia said Konoka had to be evil, right? But now she's going to commit the evilest act ever! She's gotta be stopped for her own good!"
Mao paused. It seemed that Beryl's revelation may have been why the ever antsy Salvatore was on the move again. He let that run through his head for a moment. Konoka. Going to do the evilest thing ever. Causing the demon world at large to panic.
And then he laughed. "PffftAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
Beryl clinched her teeth. "Mao. I'm serious! And besides, that's not your trademark laugh."
"Oh. Whoops." A beat. "Wait, you're serious? Let me laugh even harder. MWAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
Beryl shook her head, burying her face in her palm. "And here I was hoping you'd have some secret delinquency weapon. Konoka's stronger than you think."
Mao stopped his laughter. "You're right, but probably not for the reason you're thinking. I know what she's like—from her friends, and from you. Tell me, do YOU think she's capable of the types of rotten evil you'd see from someone like Aurum?" When Beryl shook her head, he continued, "The fact that you don't trust that makes you pretty sad for a delinquent," he smirked. "Of course, she could be tempted by the power of the honor student. Maybe she should be MY understudy instead!"
Beryl crossed her arms. "Likely story, Mao. Still, as a delinquent, it's my job to keep her from going down that path, even if she's bad at it!" She stared up evenly at Mao. "In any case, she said she was going to—"
Mao's eye caught movement outside. His sudden look stopped Beryl in her tracks, and she followed where he was looking.
Outside, there was a comet soaring down to the earth. With a sudden and violent crash, it hit one of the distant, abandoned towers, and more crashes could be heard as, whatever that thing was, smashed all the way down to the tower's core.
Negi paused, listening to the sound of a crash nearby. Normally, he'd only take note of the noise and ignore it if nothing else unusual happened—violence was the norm around here. But somehow, the chilling silence afterward told him that he needed to pay a visit. He turned around and sprinted upwards to get a better look on what happened.
"Wah!" The crash had startled a young lady out of her worried reverie.
This navy-haired girl, dressed in a sailor's shirt and short shorts, quickly looked beyond the rooftops she was on. It seemed that something had slammed down on one of the many school towers. "This place is pretty violent..."
But something about it made her curious. Moving onward, she gave a quick scratch to one of her cat-like ears before walking towards the tower, ignoring any and all adages about curiosity killing the cat(girl).
The two of them stared, stunned, as dust spread from the holes and shattered windows.
"W-what was that?" Beryl ventured. "Shouldn't we check that out?"
Mao paused for a moment. "No."
"What?! Why not?!"
"Because it's not our job. Let's leave it to my newest team of subjects." He grabbed the nearby P.A microphone, smiling deviously. Regardless of where they were, they'd hear it. "My dearest human peons of Ala Alba! I think one of our buildings is under attack! I think it's high time you get enough upgrades to go check it out!"
From the Ozonne Files
Name: Geoffrey/Super Hero Aurum
Age: Unknown, but at least 1000
Class: Super Hero → Evil God → Atoning Butler
Notable Characteristics: As a butler, Geoffrey has this clean, impeccable head surrounded by gray hair, and a sharply kept suit (and glasses to boot). The super hero, on the other hand, has flowing hair and robes, built much like an ancient Roman hero. Both forms, however, have graying skin. Frightening, considering his history.
Affiliation: Evil Academy (Butler/Guinea Pig)
Background: A once young and powerful hero type who hailed from a rising kingdom called Estegloria. Yearning for "fights that move justice", he met Imamiah around a thousand years ago. During the great strife, Aurum was granted the abilities to absorb pieces of slain overlords, as a mark against their growing greed.
Aurum, however, was not immune to that greed, or at least greed itself.
His fame from protecting Estegloria and smashing the numerous Overlords reached him, especially as they (somehow) produced comic series and action figures that spread far and wide. It was enough to unsettle even Mei and Imamiah back then. Struck between his fame and his lust for power, Imamiah foretold that his lust for the former would be his undoing. And as he slowly found—death escaped him. The people's yearning for his fame and his own power rendered him a wight.
Imamiah abandoned him completely when he slew Mao's father, unimpressed. Left with that, and Mao under attack, he resolved to raise Mao as the perfect opponent—to return the fame he yearned for, or die trying.
However, Mao defied him. Alongside a young man named Almaz, he acted contrary to his manipulations, even rising above the hate stirred inside him. Upon his defeat, Aurum experienced remorse for the first time. Seeing that, perhaps that was why Mao refused to let him die. Even now, he is at conflict between this remorse and his previous nature.
Evility: Hero's Authority: Increased Magical Power the more enemies he faces.
Abilities: As a butler, Geoffrey has impeccable timing, able to predict the needs of Mao and his constituents and satisfy them, often before he can even ask the question. Of course, it was once part of his ruse to make Mao suspicious, but Mao merely rolled with it. The hero of injustice, on the other hand, bears frightening power, and the ability to absorb parts of high level demons and use their powers after purifying them. As he is both undead and of the non-rotting persuasion, Aurum is extremely hard to kill and won't be going anywhere without inner piece—and Mao's say so.
Those Curly Eyebrows Come From: his grandmother
Eldritch Form: His "Evil God" Class
Notes: He was unfortunately an idiot during his older days as a hero. He gained his grace, intelligence and smaller quirks as a butler from Mei.
(So! I'm back. I wish I could have a more exciting chapter for you, but setups are always necessary. I might backupdate chapters about Gehenna's settings, but I will let you know when or if I do that. And once again, character updates are done at random, but also by demand. Wanna see a bio of most people? Ask away in the reviews! Author's notes may show up within the next 24 hours or so.
I'm enjoying the Vita version of Disgaea 3, and hoping to reach the part with our new catgirl. So yeah, if I'm even slower, that's why.)