I, Xenovia, felt that it had become increasingly difficult to communicate with Ise as of late. No, it wasn’t because of any bad feelings between us, or subtle changes in our relationship as a man and a woman…nothing of that sort at all. It had simply become difficult to do things together.
We were together most of the time during class and after school, but it was another matter when it came to personal time. After all, Hyoudou Issei was a man whom various races relied upon, and he had also gotten involved in various incidents. In order to deal with such matters, it was not uncommon for days off to be completely cancelled. From an onlooker’s point of view, the way Ise’s charisma enchanted so many people was extraordinary. Thus, even as dense as I was, I was often able to understand what weighed on Ise’s mind. In other words, did he ever get a chance to mentally relax? —That worried me. Amidst my worries, that incident occurred.
One day after school, when I entered the clubroom with Asia and Irina, we noticed Rias-buchou with a rather distressed look as she clutched her forehead in one hand. The reason for that likely originated from the numerous communication magic circles that were spread across the table. Coincidentally, all of the projected figures made the exact same request to Rias-buchou.
[Rias, I want to have a mock battle with Hyoudou Issei next weekend. As such, I’d like to book…]
The first one was the heir to the Great King Bael Clan — Sairaorg Bael. Just like Ise — no, perhaps even more so, he was passionate about gritty fights. We were both power-types, and I aspired to be like him. If I could obtain the level of Touki that he possessed, I would be able to fight even harder on the front lines.
[If I wish to meet with Hyoudou Issei, I must first send a greeting to Rias Gremory. Well, that’s what Azazel said, so here I am…fufufu, does this mean there are other guys who want to spend a day off with him?]
The second person was the current Hakuryuukou, Vali Lucifer. He was a young man who had become known as Ise’s rival for life. He possessed power that could momentarily reach the realm of gods. In fact, ever since the formation of the anti-terrorist Team [DxD], he was primarily only a member in name, and he used that to challenge not only Ise, but also other powerful members. I had also received a challenge to a duel, but it was a pity that Rias-buchou rejected it even though I was interested….
[Umm, so you’re saying it’s not possible for me to spar with Ise-kun? Although that isn’t a problem, it’ll be difficult to deal with Sister Griselda if I don’t take a trip this weekend…say, can I go on a dessert tour with him then?]
The third one was a blonde-haired young man who appeared to grimace in the projection — Dulio Gesualdo. He was one of the reincarnated Angels’ [Brave Saints] and was also known as the Trump Card of Heaven. He was also the captain of Team [DxD]. As the possessor of [Zenith Tempest], which was regarded as the second-strongest top-tier Longinus, it’s said that he could rewrite the weather for an entire country. During my time with the Church, I had heard of his legendary tale numerous times. He was known by many names, such as [The Strongest Believer], [The Strongest Exorcist], and [God’s Beloved Warrior]. Such names were sufficient to explain the problem. He had carved his name into history as a perfect and powerful human who was then promoted to the highest position amongst reincarnated Angels — [Joker]. He was already considered a candidate for a new ‘Seraph’. If that actually happened, it would result in the highly unusual situation of a human having ascended to become a ‘Seraph’. Prior to the peace treaty of the Three Factions, that man’s existence was undoubtedly a great threat to the Devils. Well, ever since the birth of the [Brave Saints] and the formation of [DxD], his terrifying strength was no longer directed towards Devils…. If I hadn’t reincarnated as a Devil, would I have been able to become one of the [Brave Saints]? —I thought about that every once in a while. But, it was all in the past now and it didn’t help anyone to ponder such fantasies. My current self was the one who made that choice and was shaped by it. I was also plenty satisfied with where I currently was. …I still had a strong desire to see Asia as an Angel though.
[Rias, what’s going on? Wasn’t this weekend scheduled for the Sekiryuutei to introduce me to the department stores of the human world!? He’s not ditching, is he!?]
The fourth person was Riser Phoenix, Rias-buchou’s original fiancé and Ravel’s older brother. I didn’t participate in the battle against the Phoenix clan and only heard about it through others, though apparently his personality had improved a lot since then. He had undergone change — or perhaps growth, those were the words of Rias-buchou’s sister-in-law, Grayfia-san. Though for some reason, he started getting into contact with Ise more and more. Following Ravel’s departure, the topic of his new [Bishop] candidates was often discussed. It seemed that their conversations had deepened to the point that they even went out together. Beside me, Ravel heaved a sigh.
“…Onii-sama seems to have found the first friend whom he can have an honest conversation with, and that’s why he always tries to contact Ise-sama.”
I see. Riser Phoenix sought friendship in Ise. It was entirely understandable. If I was male, I would also be rather happy to become one of Ise’s friends. Surrounded by the four communication-type magic circles, Rias-buchou made a troubled expression as she seemed genuinely puzzled on how to respond. Kiba made a wry smile as he stepped forward and said,
“You see, Rias-buchou, in order to develop new skills, I also planned to have a mock battle with Ise-kun…”
Gasper also raised his hand and spoke up.
“…U-Umm, I also want to show Ise-senpai more examples of my power on the weekend…”
Just like that, there were six men who were all after Ise! All of them hoped to spend a day off with him. Ise attracted not only women, but even men as well. It actually made me feel somewhat proud. After all, the man that I liked was a man that attracted even other men. But, why was Ise absent on this occasion? Taking notice of my wandering gaze around the clubroom, Akeno-fukubuchou said to me,
“…If you’re looking for Ise-kun, he’s not here because Azazel-sensei called for him. He said it was for consultation on a new Artificial Sacred Gear.”
It seemed that Ise had already been snatched away by another man. …Hmm, as expected of Azazel-sensei, he had made a pre-emptive strike. To occupy Ise first — that was something worthy of learning. While Rias-buchou remained troubled by the situation, the men finally began to fight amongst each other.
[…Riser Phoenix-dono, I’m very sorry, but can you please give up your appointment with Hyoudou Issei? We have an urgent need to increase our strength.]
That was what Sairorg Bael had to say, but Riser Phoenix wouldn’t allow himself to be outdone.
[No, though I understand your situation, my reservation was made well in advance. My appointment with the Sekiryuutei has already been postponed many times. Can you not even allow me to have half a day’s worth of time?]
It was then that Kiba interjected.
“No, Ise-kun spending half a day of his time with us is something that the members of this peerage appreciate the value of. I hope that all of you can understand. Even despite how close we are, the current circumstances no longer permit us to conduct mock battles like we used to.”
Gasper also murmured in a soft voice,
“…It looks like I won’t be able to spend time with Ise-senpai this weekend.”
While the men all argued with each other, Vali Lucifer revealed a fearless smile.
“Hmph, then let us determine who the most suitable person to meet with Hyoudou Issei is — with our fists, that is.”
That sentence caused all the men to discharge an enormous wave of pressure — even through the communication-type magic circles. Through the magic circles, the terrifying pressure that they released created distortions in the space around them that was visible to the naked eye. None of them appeared to have any intention of conceding an inch. Veins began to pop out from Rias-buchou’s temples as she got fired up about it as well.
“Hold on! Can all of you not just start saying whatever you want in front of me!? To begin with, Ise has the right to make his own choice, and I’d also love to spend a pleasant weekend with him! Can’t we all just have some respect for each other!?”
Even despite the truthful words that Rias-buchou had spoken, none of the men seemed eager to give up. Hmm, I guess it wasn’t easy for them to back down once their fists had been raised. Every single one of them had a lot of self-pride. Beside me, Asia also felt rather troubled as well.
“…If this is how it is, it’ll be difficult for me and Ise-san to make that vegetable garden we’ve been planning. Ophis-san was also looking forward to it…”
Indeed, we were planning to set up a vegetable garden in a corner of the Hyoudou Residence’s yard on Sunday. Rias-buchou had already built a small-scale greenhouse in the yard — no, it would be called a plastic tunnel in Japan. We had collectively decided on it so that we could continue planting and gardening even in winter. In saying that it was a small plastic tunnel, it was only possible in the Hyoudou Residence due to the size of its yard. There was no one who looked forward to it as much as Asia. Asia really liked working with the land. Regardless of whether she planted flowers or vegetables, it always made her happy. She even said that it was one of her dreams to do agricultural work in the Underworld with Ise sometime in the future. Ise was also delighted whenever he worked on the soil with Asia. Seeing the two of them read gardening books at home always put a smile on everyone’s faces. I didn’t mind the family garden either. Farming was also a form of faith, and ripe vegetables were like a gift from the heavens. The picked vegetables tasted better than anything after being prepared by Rias-buchou and Akeno-fukubuchou, which reflected the value of putting in that effort. If this went on, it would mean that the family garden would have to be built without Ise. Even without Ise, we could get started in the plastic tunnel. The other members would also lend a hand, but Asia would be rather pitiful in that case. To prepare for that day, she had been happily reading various books on vegetables. Even if Ise’s schedule left no time for it, Asia would accept it without a single word of complaint — that was the gentle soul that she was. However, the lonesome expression that occasionally appeared on her face was unbearable to watch. …I wanted to find a way to do something about it. During weekdays, Ise and Asia insisted on training and doing their Devils’ Jobs. They never slacked off. And because of that, even if they spent a day on the vegetable garden on their weekend, they had earnt it and deserved it. With my mind made up, I raised my hand and said,
“Rias-buchou, I also had plans to train with Ise.”
Naturally, this was a lie. I intended to use this lie as a way to help Ise and Asia enjoy a peaceful weekend. That had been my only intention from the beginning. As for the sin of lying, it was something that I was willing to endure. Because Ise had verbal agreements with a large yet indefinite number of people, Rias-buchou simply said ‘You too?’ out of surprise, but she did not seem to doubt me. It seemed like I had made it past the first hurdle. Listening on from the sidelines, Ravel’s dissatisfaction seemed to hit its peak as she made a deep frown.
“Geez, Ise-sama! If you were going to make this many verbal agreements, you should’ve at least consulted me as your manager! If this goes on, I won’t be able to schedule anything properly!”
As the Sekiryuutei and Oppai Dragon, Ise had become so busy that many people forgot he was still just a high school student. His routine included daily Devils’ Jobs, Oppai Dragon activities, [DxD] training and various other things. To be honest, I was in admiration every time I considered how well he handled all of it. No, that was precisely why he was Hyoudou Issei. —At that moment, two people entered the clubroom.
“Hello, how is everyone? Is Hyoudou here? We’re planning to train together this weekend.”
“…I’d also like to participate.”
It was Saji and Rugal of the Sitri peerage. Judging by their words, it seemed that both of them also had an appointment with Ise and they had come over to discuss it with him…in other words, two more opponents had joined. …Hmm, just how many men did Ise agree to spend time with? Upon seeing this, Rias-buchou simply sighed and held her forehead as she responded with,
“…I know. In this case, we’ll use that method to determine Ise’s opponent.”
As soon as that sentence escaped her mouth, all of Ise’s pursuers focused their attention on Rias-buchou. Rias-buchou slowly took out a notebook that was on her desk, flipped to the back, drew a few lines on it with a pen and then mumbled,
This suggestion surprised all of the people who had plans with Ise, and it also raised many questions. Truth be told, I was surprised as well. I hadn’t expected that this method would be used to make a decision…it was only after I came to Japan that I found out a lot of things in the country were like this. It was often used in school activities. The Devils who weren’t born in Japan and the Angel Dulio Gesualdo didn’t seem to know what Amidakuji was. Akeno-fukubuchou gave all of them an explanation.
After understanding what it was, they had the same reaction as the previous group that I was part of, and the men immediately displayed signs of displeasure…well, it was honestly just a method to force a conclusion. —However, it meant that everyone was on equal footing. In other words, someone could spend the weekend with Ise if they were lucky. Sairaorg Bael asked Rias-buchou,
“As I understand it, one person will be able to pair up with Hyoudou Issei, while those not chosen will be randomly paired together. Is that truly acceptable?”
In response to that question, Rias-buchou replied,
“Isn’t it just fine? It’s a rare opportunity to use Amidakuji to arrange things for someone other than Ise. By pairing up with someone whom you wouldn’t normally train with for a day, things might unexpectedly be rather exciting and interesting.”
All of the men looked at each other. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea if Sairaorg Bael trained with Kiba. His holy-demonic swords — or perhaps even the powerful Demonic Emperor Sword Gram could act as a refreshing substitute for the successor to the Great King Clan who liked to engage in fistfights. The men silently agreed to Rias-buchou’s suggestion. I didn’t have any objections either. Training with someone other than Ise would be a valuable experience. All of the battle-hardened men believed that luck also formed a part of strength, and they accepted the proposal even despite their reluctance. To my surprise, they didn’t raise any complaints at all. Rias-buchou then wrote various things down so that the preparations for Amidakuji were complete. She then made a final confirmation.
“The ‘winner’ gets to spend a day off with Ise. The others will be paired together based on the sequence of numbers. If your number is ‘1’, then you’ll spend the day with number ‘2’ and so on — it’s simple to understand, right?”
Everyone nodded as they prepared for the showdown. Although somewhat discontent, Rias-buchou decided to act as a moderator. Even though she did want to participate, she was busy with her own priorities. This weekend did not seem convenient to her schedule, so she abstained from joining the draw. The other girls also seemed interested in participating, but upon witnessing the overt passion that the men displayed, they decided to concede on this occasion.
In the end, the participating members were Kiba, Gasper, Sairaorg Bael, Riser Phoenix, Dulio Gesualdo, Vali Lucifer, Saji, Rugal and me. —A total of nine. One person would get to spend the weekend with Ise, while the even number of people that remained would be paired together. And thus, the Amidakuji swiftly began. Rias-buchou drew the corresponding endings sequentially according to the lines that everyone had chosen. The first combination to be determined was—
“…Hmm. It’s me.”
—A peculiar combination with Rugal. It happened to be a pairing between a Vampire and a Werewolf who were natural enemies of each other. I later heard that both of them felt that inter-species communication was more important than training, so they had a tea gathering instead. Both of them were such peaceful exemplars of their race.
The second confirmed pairing was—
[Hmph, well this is interesting.]
It turned out to be Joker Dulio Gesualdo and Vali Lucifer, a pairing of two Longinus wielders. I also heard about this later — when Dulio Gesualdo reported this incident to Heaven, the reply that he received was ‘Please get along with the Hakuryuukou first, and then show him your ability’. It seemed that Heaven’s intention was to dissuade the Hakuryuukou Vali Lucifer from underestimating the Joker’s strength. After all, although they were both members of Team [DxD] on the surface, wasn’t it best to observe an opponent first before demonstrating one’s true strength? —This was supposedly the opinion of Heaven’s cautious faction. Well, the Joker ended up having a restrained match with Vali Lucifer in which both of them pulled their punches. Perhaps it was a warrior’s mindset that two people couldn’t understand each other unless they fought against each other. Afterwards, the two of them went on a dessert tour together…I heard rumours that many women were entranced when they saw two young men with blonde and silver hair appear on a busy street.
The third combination was—
“Well, this might not be too bad.”
It was Saji and Kiba. The two of them had engaged in numerous mock battles, and they shared a mutual understanding of raising each other’s combat prowess, so they had no objections to the pairing. I later heard that when the two of them were spotted having a hushed discussion (about techniques) at school, some of the girls became rather excited about ‘Saji and Kiba’, though it was something that I didn’t quite understand.
In this way, the remaining participants were — Sairaorg Bael, Riser Phoenix and me. Indeed, the possibility of a reversal had gradually increased. —However, faced with this situation, I realised…it was possible that the flow would not continue to favour me. I had probably exhausted my luck in remaining to this point, so I felt that I was bound to encounter either one of those two. Well, both Sairaorg Bael and Riser Phoenix seemed like suitable training opponents to me, so I wouldn’t have any regrets even if this diverged from my original objective. …However, I wouldn’t really be able to explain it to Asia. I didn’t tell her the truth about why I raised my hand, so if I lost, I had to somehow find a way to apologise to her.
“Okay, let’s see.”
Rias-buchou connected the lines with her pen. Soon after, the final combination was revealed, and it was—
[Why did it end up like this!?]
Sairarog Bael simply nodded while Riser Phoenix clutched his head whilst making a loud exclamation. Indeed, those two formed the final pairing. Sairaorg Bael smiled slightly as he said to Riser Phoenix,
[This will be a good experience. Riser-dono, let us allow our fists to do the talking. Naturally, I will also go shopping with you in the department stores.]
[…Kuh. It’s hard to imagine a shopping trip after training with the hot-headed fighting king…!]
Riser Phoenix covered his face with both hands, unable to hide the shock that he had suffered. Ravel chastised her brother as she said,
“This is a good learning opportunity. Sometimes you should train with your juniors. Every bit of similar training is helpful to you for the sake of your future Rating Games. Everyone in the next generation is aiming for the top.”
Ravel was correct. All of the young Devils who had been training until now such as Rias-buchou, President Sona and Sairaorg Bael all planned to participate in the Rating Games of the future. Those out of touch with the era would probably be caught up to or overtaken when the time came, and the significance of training would then be reflected. Those with too much confidence in their bloodline or talents would probably find that difficult to cope with. And so, the pairing of Sairaorg Bael and Riser Phoenix had been determined. I later heard that Riser Phoenix became traumatised by lions as a result of his intensive training with Sairaorg Bael. In addition, I also heard that they were seen getting lost in a department store. For guys who had grown up and only lived in the Underworld, a Japanese department store was probably like a maze. It seemed it would’ve indeed been best if they had gone with Ise.
—In that manner, the final outcome meant that I was the last person remaining. In other words—
“Xenovia can spend a weekend with Ise.”
Rias-buchou announced to us. My spontaneous participation left me as the winner in the end. I had somewhat mixed feelings that I had used a false motive though…. I glanced at Asia who stood beside me.
“That’s such good news, Xenovia-san!”
She was a friend who was happy for me as if that victory belonged to herself. I — felt as though it would be fine to carry this sin to my grave because of the glowing expression on her face. In addition, as a result of these chaotic verbal agreements, Ravel immediately followed up on it with Ise. His schedule was extensively redone, and ample blocks of time were kept free to ensure that such chaos would never again occur. All of that was thanks to Ravel’s outstanding aptitude.
At last, the weekend arrived. I called Ise over to the Hyoudou Residence’s yard. Ise then asked,
“—So, is it really okay for me to just work on the garden with everyone for the rest of today?”
“Yeah, that’s how it is. Since it’s a day off, let’s go to the family garden together.”
I answered with a smile. I had already trained with Ise for an hour. After that, everyone gathered to work on cultivating the soil. Most of the girls who lived in the house assembled in the plastic tunnel, and we sowed various vegetable seeds into the soil.
“Ufufu. Ise-san, which one should we plant — cabbage or spinach?”
Asia displayed a radiant smile. Watching her from the sidelines, I truly felt glad.
“Cabbage, spinach, leafy greens, vegetables, vegetables.”
Ophis imitated everyone by scattering vegetable seeds into the soil. Although she still bore no emotion as usual, she appeared to be enjoying herself. Only after spending a day in the family vegetable garden did I realise that, together with Asia and Irina, we had received a gift from Ophis — the Dragon God. We had been blessed with a little bit of luck. Indeed, when I thought back to how I was able to win the Amidakuji, it was probably thanks to Ophis’ blessing. It was a strange feeling to know that the three of us who believed in the Lord had unconsciously received the protection of a Dragon God…. But it wasn’t a bad thing either. In order to secure this peaceful daily life, we were often thrust into fierce battles. So, if she had granted us luck, then I hoped that she could bestow it upon us a few more times. Oh, Dragon God—.
 Amidakuji is a lottery method which is designed to create random pairings between an even number of things. It is represented with a series of vertical lines with intersecting horizontal lines. Wikipedia link.
(Part 1 of 1) (20/04/2020)