Just The Way You Are
Chapter One


It was a nice, quiet day in the meta world.

Six of the seven stakes were still fast asleep in their respective beds, dreaming lovely dreams about maiming and mutilation (Satan) or actually being respected for once (Lucifer and Leviathan) or eating Ronove's delicious cookies (Beelzebub). Mammon shifted constantly as she slept, flailing her arms like an octopus. Asmodeus, meanwhile, had her twiggy little arms wrapped tightly round her soft, pink polka-dot pillow, and she was making small 'nya~' noises under her breath as she dreamed of her prince carrying her away.

The one stake not accounted for in the above description, Belphegor, was curled up in a distant corner of the meta world far away from her sisters, a book in hand and glasses resting on the bridge of her nose, because she had rather poor eyesight. It was a hindrance that had developed over years upon years of reading under the dark of her blankets so her sisters didn't see her or tease her.

Virgilia and Beatrice were having tea in the main atrium of Beato's meta world. The white, octagonal room was where Battler and Beato held their epic chess matches tothedeath. Now, however, the heavy atmosphere of the room had been lifted as the two half-asleep witches (then again, Virgilia always looked half-asleep) reminisced nostalgically and sipped their tea. It was a homey image- a mother and estranged daughter having a long overdue conversation after almost a century.

It was obvious how much Beato trusted her teacher by the small smile on her face. She never looked that unguarded around anybody else. Her opponents only ever saw insane grins or manic leers twisting her otherwise pretty face.

Ronove, as always, was in the kitchen. His sleeves were folded up and he was slowly, methodically, washing all the dirty dishes and teacups in the sink by hand. Rainbow-refracting bubbles of soapy washing up liquid drifted lazily in the air.

Ronove could have used magic to complete the task, but he found it more relaxing to do it by hand. Plus, eliminating magic from mundane tasks also eliminated the chance of accidentally turning a stray teacup into a hedgehog, or something else equally bizarre.

It might have sounded laughable, crockery being transformed into animals, but it hadhappened a few times before; mainly when Beelzebub got too over-enthusiastic trying to help out in the kitchen ('if I clean these dishes will you bake me cookies?~')

Trying to catch Beato's favorite teapot after Beelzebub had somehow transformed it into a rabbit had been fun. It was a good job Beelzebub hadn't turned the teapot into a larger animal, like a tiger; thatwould have been tricky to deal with.

Fortunately, there were no teapots-to-rabbits Alice in Wonderland-esque incidents occurring in the kitchen that morning (using the term vaguely).

All was still.

All was silent.

All was calm.

Until…

"FUUUUUUUUUCK!"

Of course, with quiet openings like the one described above, there's always an 'until'.

You were probably expecting it.

If you weren't, you should have been, and shame on you.

The sound echoed throughout the meta world so profoundly all six sleeping stakes were aroused from their slumber, whilst Asmodeus' arms clenched round her pillow so tightly her dream Prince Charming was crushed into pancakes and blood dribbled out of his mouth.

Virgilia's eyes widened, the pupils constricting, so she no longer half-asleep and smiley; instead, she looked kind of terrifying.

Ronove (horror of horrors) very nearly dropped a plate he was holding.

And, somewhere in the courts of heaven, a lowly third class priest called Cornelia tripped over her own feet and crashed, head-first, into the fish tank. Whether her accident had anything to do with that loud shout or her own natural clumsiness remained to be seen.

Beatrice was the only one who seemed completely unfazed by this loud scream of horror. Grinning wolfishly, she reclined in her chair- pipe in hand- and said, "Ahhh~ It seems Battler has finally woken up."


"Beatrice, you bitch! What the hell have you done to me?"

"Yes," said Virgilia, looking between the demonically grinning Beatrice and the red-faced, significantly more adorable than usualBattler, "I am very curious about that as well. What did you do, Beato?"

"Huhhh? Even youcan't tell, Teacher? I thought it would've been obvious. These-" Beatrice stabbed her pipe in Battler's general direction, "-are called breasts, and they're typically found on women~ Don't tell me you didn't know that, Battttlerrrr? You really are dense; what do they teach you in school nowadays? I bet you were sleeping through biology class all this time~ It's lucky I'm here to educate you! Gyahahaha!"

Battler gritted his teeth together. A heavy blush spread across his cheeks, until it looked like his whole head was on fire.

He wouldn't simply stand there and let Beato insult him like that.

He wouldn't.

Despite his new appearance he was still UshiromiyaBattler and, fuck it, he was going to stand up for himself and his male pride regardless of how Beato tried to tear to pieces and trample it in the dirt- and fuck it, she'd done a pretty damn good job of it this time.

No matter.

He wouldn't give up in the face of evil (even if the 'face of evil' was a lot more adorable than it had any right to be).

He would succeed.

He had to.

That was why he stabbed a finger in her face and started to shout.

"I-I know what breasts are, you utter, utter complete idiot! What I want to know is why the hell do Ihave a pair of them? I sure as hell didn't look like that yesterday!"

True to his words, Battler certainly did look far different than usual- to the point where he, physically, couldn't even be described as 'male' at all. He had the body of a rather tall, curvy teenage girl. His hair was longer than usual, though still just as unruly, and the messy birds' nest bangs kept falling in front of his face. Maybe that was a good thing, though, because it hid the look of utter revulsion in his eyes.

He probably would have made quite an attractive girl if he hadn't appeared so murderous. The look on his face was dark and twisted enough to rival Satan's on a bad day (not the devil Satan with the pitchfork; the young girl with the pale hair, who was arguably even more terrifying).

It wasn't like a mere glare would faze the Great Golden Witch, though.

"Hn?" Beatrice smiled innocently, tilting her head to one side. "Didn't you always look like that, Battleeer?"

"Of course I didn't, you fucking bitch, and you know it!"

"Ahhh~ Oh my… It seems you're right," said Beatrice, correcting herself, as she began to giggle. "I'm a little old, you see, so I forget these things easily! I definitely recall you used to be a man now, though… Ufufufu… You weren't much of a man, even then… I actually think this is an improvement! Gyahahaha!"

"I don't give a damn about what you think! I want my own body back! You've had your joke; haha, let's screw around with Battler and turn him into a girl- now put me back to normal!"

Beatrice raised a brow. "What's wrong with a being a girl, even for a little while?"

"I-"

"You better watch your words, Battlerrrr~ You're surrounded by a lot of verydangerous women. If you say something that could be even slightly misunderstood as an insult against the fairer sex I'm sure the Seven Stakes of Purgatory would have noproblem trying to correct your disgusting frame of mind, gyahahahaha!"

Battler folded his hands defensively in front of his chest (just because he looked like a girl on the outside, that didn't mean he'd stopped being a guy inside his head. Beato would neverget inside his brain. The last time that had happened, he'd ended up naked being chomped on by goats like he was a fancy entrée at a restaurant).

"I don't have anything against women! I like women. I mean, in some cases, when they're not psychopaths. But just because I like them it doesn't mean I want to look like one! I like cake but that doesn't mean I want to fucking become edible and made of chocolate, does it?"

Battler knew he was swearing a lot more than usual. Natsuhi surely would've fainted if she'd heard. Then again, he felt like he had a right.

It wasn't every day you woke up to find you had breasts.

…Unless you actually were a woman, of course- in that case, you woke up to find you had breasts every day. And, actually, you went to sleep every day with boobs, too. But Battler wasn't a woman, so it was a little bit problematic.

"Oh, what a pity~" said Beatrice, her lip curling. "I thought I was doing you a favour."

"H-huh…?"

"I mean, you're always talking about boobs- I still haven't forgotten that 'cow tits' comment, you know. I thought maybe you were jealous, so I gave you a pair of them too!~ Gyahaha!~ And whole new body." Beatrice smirked. "Shouldn't you be grateful? Shouldn't you be thanking me on bended knee? Kyahahahaha!"

Face bright red, Battler's fingers fisted in his hair from irritation, as though trying to rip it from his scalp.

It was too long, and it was pissing him off.

In his current state, everything was pissing him off. He wasn't calm enough to deal with Beato sensibly.

"It's bad enough that you're playing around with the lives of my family and friends and you expect me to be okay with it, but to do thison top of that? What the hell is wrong with you? How the fuck am I meant to fight you properly when I'm ever so slightly distracted by the fact you've changed my gender for absolutely no discernable reason other than your own amusement? I'm sure this crosses some kind of line of etiquette and manners somewhere!"

Battler's voice- already higher and softer than usual- rose to a hysterical pitch at the end of his rant.

Somewhere in the departments of heaven, Cornelia tripped over her own feet again, crashing into the fish tank (which had oh-so-thoughtfully been righted by Gertrude) again.

But Beatrice didn't find Battler's rant particularly shocking. Instead, she laughed.

"Don't take these things so seriously, Battlerrrr!~ It's just a joke."

"At my expense!"

"It was a very childish thing to do, Beato," Virgilia finally spoke up, turning to give her pupil a disapproving look. "You shouldn't use magic to interfere with people like that. Witches are meant to use their powers for good, remember?"

Beatrice pouted. "But that's boring."

"You really do have a lot to learn, Beato. You may be one thousand years old, but in my eyes, you're still a young child."

"Exactly- whatever Virgilia said! You think you can just mess around with my life like it's some big, hilarious joke- but you know what? It isn't!" Battler shouted, angrily brushing strands of hair out of his eyes. "How can I take you seriously as an opponent when you're always doing shit like this to me 'just for fun'? Think about other people a little more!"

This talk finally seemed to stir Beatrice out of her good humor. She winced as though she'd been slapped across the face; her hand even moving to cup her cheek.

Her eyes looked strangely downcast.

"Maybe you're the one who should think about other people a little more, Ushiromiya Battler."

"What are you talking about?"

"Beato…" Virgilia rested a comforting hand on Beatrice's shoulder, but the blonde witch shrugged it off.

When she next spoke, her voice was quiet, soft- but Battler caught every word.

"Maybe there's a reason why I want you to suffer…"

There was a pause.

Then Battler, horribly embarrassed, replied; voice filled with sour vitriol.

"Yeah, I know that reason. It's because you're a horrible person. And I don't really want to spend any time with you, if you're going to treat human life in such a disrespectful manner. I've had to put up with a lot of shit from you before, and the worst thing is, this isn't one of the worst things you've done- but it's obvious you're never going to learn to see me as a worthy opponent if you screw around with me like this, so why should I see you as one? You say I should earn your respect- but maybe you should try and earn mine, because you've done nothing so far except convince me you're a heartless bitch!"

And with that, Battler turned his back on Beatrice… and disappeared in a burst of golden butterflies.

Beatrice bit down on her lower lip, blue eyes misty.

Virgilia sighed softly once more and shook her head.

"What have you done this time, Beato?"

Beatrie sniffed. "Shut up, Teacher."


"I-it's stupid!" Beatrice said angrily, fingers clenched into fists. "I-I don't understand why he's so mad anyway! That spell will wear off in a few days anyway!"

"Far be it from me to disagree with you, Milady," said Ronove smoothly, "but I believe Battler has every right to be angry in this situation."

"But I've done way worse things to him in the past and he didn't react like that!"

"Ah… That's not a good attitude to have when dealing with other people. In my opinion, Battler has been very mature, trying to fight you fairly even though your actions must have upset him greatly. This small act might have been enough to finally make him snap."

"S-something that small… could upset somebody?" Beatrice pouted. "I think he's just being childish. I hate boring people who can't take a joke."

"Magic doesn't exist in the human world, Milady," said Ronove patiently. "What may seem like a joke to you would be incredibly distressing to a normal human."

"You're the one who's being childish, Beato. You won't earn Battler's respect by doing needlessly cruel things to him," Virgilia agreed.

Beatrice glared. "S-shut up, both of you! I don't need your advice!"

"Because your relationship with Battler has been going wonderfully without it."

"When I said shut up I meant it, Teacher! I don't care what Battler thinks of me- I really don't. If I wanted him to like me I wouldn't be playing this game with him in the first place. I'm his enemy, not his friend- or anything else!"

"I would like to believe you," said Ronove, "but it is quite difficult to do so when you're acting so… upset."

"It's complicated."

"I understand that, and appreciate the situation you're in- but I feel you're making it rather more complicated than it has to be. Forgive me for saying, Milady, but you're not the most rational of people, pu ku ku~"

Beatrice gritted her teeth together, pinching the bridge of her nose with her fingertips.

It looked like she going to shout, scream; prove to Virgilia and Ronove she really was the stubborn, obstinate child they claimed she was.

But she didn't.

When she next spoke her voice was soft, quiet.

Defeated.

Miserable.

It was the voice of somebody who had stayed up all night running thousands of possibilities over in their mind, and still did not know what to do.

"There's no point in trying to make him like me. I did that once before… and look what happened. It's much better if he hates me. Really. That's… what I want."

Ronove and Virgilia smiled sadly, exchanging looks over the top of Beato's head. Despite her airs and graces, she really was quite the pitiful young child.

"So you've decided to get Battler's attention by upsetting him and making him feel uncomfortable?" Ronove asked lightly, delicately.

"I think, perhaps, it's similar to when young children get crushes and they don't know how to express it. It results in name calling and hair pulling," Virgilia said, giggling softly. "In this situation, though… it's a little different."

"It's a lotdifferent," said Beatrice tiredly. "Don't try and act the proud parent, Teacher; your little girl isn't 'growing up' or having her 'first love' or any other nonsense. If you say something to that effect again I'll do something worse to you than merely changing your gender. Do you remember the pain you felt when you got impaled by my towers, huhh, do you?"

Virgilia winced slightly.

"Perhaps you shouldn't be so cruel to Miss Virgilia, Milady. She isonly trying to cheer you up."

"Well, I don't want to be cheered. I was trying to have a little fun, and then Battler went and ruined everything. I didn't think he'd react that way! B-but… I don't care even if he is miserable, because I want him to be unhappy. I-I… don't want to change him back; I don't have to- and he deserves a little pain and embarrassment! He deserves to suffer, after everything hedid- and he can't even remember… T-that's why men are so horrible."

"I am also male, Milady."

Beatrice pouted. "Whatever. I am now officially uncheerable."

"Pu ku ku… I'm not sure if that's even a word."

"Well, whatever. It doesn't matter. I just… I…"

Beatrice broke off with a sigh. Absently, eyes vacant, she began to coil a strand of blonde hair round one finger. She looked deep in thought.

A thoughtful Beatrice never heralded good news.

"Milady…?"

"Hey, Ronove." Contrary to her forceful tone, Beatrice was looking up under her lashes shyly. Her fingers fisted round her skirts, creasing the heavy material. "I… Go and talk to Battler for me, would you? Try to make amends. Or something. I don't know." She shrugged. "You're good at that diplomatic stuff."

Ronove bowed his head, smiling softly. "Certainly, Milady. I will apologize on your behalf."

Beatrice's face flushed.

"H-hey, wait- t-that's not what I wanted you to do, I-"

But her stuttered reply fell on deaf ears.

Ronove had already left.


a/n: Um, yeah, /another/ multichap Ronove/Battler fic, but there is quite a bit of Beato/Battler in here too because obviously it's a pairing you can't get away from or ignore XD~ And I love Beato too ufufu 3

Um, and the concept of genderbending is kind of interesting. Mostly it doesn't appeal to me at all, because it seems to me a lot of people, when changing a character's gender, completely overhaul their personality as well, thus turning them into a whole new person. I'll try not to do that. And I'm not gonna start calling Battler a 'she' in narration because, technically, he's still a guy. Gender identification is also a problem with some of these stories, I think, and it wouldn't suddenly change like that, would it? ._.ll

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it ^_^; This is just the start, it should get more interesting later~

~renahhchenxoxo