37 Chapter Four : Missionaries - City Of Dogma (3)

As the fight continued between Zabaniyya and Kengo, Zabaniyya lost his balance slightly and Kengo's eyes narrowed as he ready his fist to attack him. "All right! Wide-open! You're mine now!"

Kengo's fists shoot out, dealing a powerful combination of strikes. Kengo's plan seems to rely on his opponent focusing so much on blocking that he's unable to dodge. He continues with a flurry of blows. However…

Zabaniyya takes every single strike head-on without even trying to dodge. It felt like he wasn't even trying to fight back against Kengo. Kengo must have been thinking this too because his expression got pretty pissed. "What the hell?! Even if you couldn't dodge, you could've at least blocked them!"

Kengo stops attacking Zabaniyya and just looks at him with an irritated expression. Zabaniyya dust himself off as he looked at Kengo with an unaffected look on his face. I wonder if he even felt anything from that fight?

"Are you satisfied?" Zabaniyya was treating Kengo like he was a child and just going along with what he wanted.

"Not particularly! I have no interest in hitting someone who won't fight back." Kengo looked like he was going to explode in anger at how uninterested Zabaniyya was acting. I don't know if Kengo should want Zabaniyya to fight him seriously, he may get his ass kicked if that happens.

"Then I yield to you for this sparring session," Zabaniyya speaks dispassionately, despite the force of Kengo's glare.

"What the hell's going on?! You should be a powerful fighter! I can tell by the way you move… I shouldn't even stand a chance against you. Based on what I saw earlier, you should be able to dodge my punches easily. Why not fight me seriously? Am I not even worth the effort?! Tell me. Please." Kengo ends his plea with a deep bow. I was surprised that Kengo would go that far for an answer...

"Nothing of the sort. I am not underestimating you at all. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I hold nothing but respect for you as a fellow martial artist." Zabaniyya looked at Kengo seriously as he said this.

"Huh? R-Respect?" Kengo looked caught off guard when Zabaniyya told him that.

"Your fists are… full of light, while my fists have been stained. They have no chance of reaching you. You do not raise your fists to hurt or destroy your opponents, but rather to grasp at the future that lies ahead of you. You remind me of Master Arsalan. Just like him, the sight of you is simply… too bright for my eyes." Zabaniyya looked down at the ground, his fists clenched tightly at his side.

"Arsalan? Who's that? Do you know who that is, Ryota?" Shiro asked Ryota this on the side as we continued to watch what was going on between Kengo and Zabaniyya.

"N-Nope… No clue." Ryota scratches at his cheek as he answers Shiro's question uncertainty.

"What on earth are you talking about? Whatever… Either way, I need to get stronger. No matter what. I need to keep fighting strong opponents so I can get stronger every day. Someday, I'll be the strongest!" Kengo hit his fists together as he told Zabaniyya this with a smirk on his face.

"Enough of this useless chatter. I just wanna know one thing. What would it take to make you fight me for real?" Kengo looked at Zabaniyya seriously as he asked this and I couldn't help but sigh a little to myself. I couldn't understand why he was still stuck on this.

"I wield my full strength against sinners who break the commandments, to make them atone for their wrongdoing." Zabaniyya bluntly told Kengo that with a serious expression.

"Uhh… What? Why does no one ever get right to the point?! You all talk like Shiro! Okay, hold on… So, in other words… If I break your commandments, you'll…" As Kengo was thinking deeply about what Zabaniyya said, Shiro walked behind Kengo holding his book in his hand with a cold smile on his face.

"Whoa! What's with the killer aura?!" As Kengo went to look behind him, Shiro quickly hit him on the head hard and I couldn't help but flinch at the sound of the impact.

"Ow! What the hell was that for?!" Kengo was holding his head in pain as he glare at Shito who was standing behind him with a glare on his face as well.

"You're one to talk! Stop causing trouble, you idiot! Don't do anything stupid. Nothing good will come from making more enemies!" Shiro was scolding Kengo and the glare on Kengo's face disappeared as he got a more defensive look on his face.

"If you're gonna smash me with a book, you could at least avoid hitting me with the corners! Besides, I didn't do nothin' yet!" I couldn't help but raised my eyebrow at Kengo, who looked like a child who was caught doing something he wasn't supposed to.

"But you were going to! How long do you think I've known you?! You were probably thinking about antagonizing them so he'd seriously take you on!" Shiro was hitting his book in the palm of his hand as he continued to glare at Kengo.

"W-What are you talking about?! I, uh, can't imagine why you'd think such a…" Kengo looked back in the corner as Shiro continued to speak.

"What a shame. I see you have no intention of repenting whatsoever." As Shiro spoke his D-Evils appeared behind him with dark smiles on their faces.

"H-Hey! Hang on… Why're you bringing your D-Evils out?!" Kengo started to back away from Shiro as his D-Evils moved towards him.

"Get him, D-Evils! Tickle him until he admits he's wrong!" Shiro D-Evils let out a scream as they attacked Kengo. As Kengo was being attacked by the D-Evils, Shiro put a curse on Kengo as well.

"Ahhhhhhhh! It's not fair if you curse me too!" Kengo's body grows heavy until he can no longer move. He can only stand still and endure the tickling.

"Aw, sucks to be him." I couldn't help but shake my head at Kengo's bad luck at the moment. Being tickled and unable to move at all.

"How nice…" Ryota looked at Shiro and Kengo's interaction with an envious look on his face and I couldn't help but nod my head in agreement with him.

"Well, they're childhood friends, after all." Even as I said that I was kind of envious of how close they were with each other. It would be nice if I knew if I had someone like that before I lost my memories.

"Yeah, I guess so, but still… Actually, it's Kengo that amazes me. Do you remember what Zabaniyya said? He said Kengo has a bright look in his eyes… I think I kinda get it. Kengo always does what he wants. He's never afraid of making enemies." Ryota had a slightly depressed look in his eyes and I thought of a way to cheer him up.

"But he causes lots of trouble that way! You can never let your guard down around him!" I crossed my arms together as I said this with a serious look and I let out a small smile when I heard Ryota chuckle.

"No kidding. I do wish he'd rein it in a bit more. He just does what he wants… Even watching from the sidelines, that much is obvious. When I watch him, half of me is exasperated, and the other half is amazed. It's incredible what he'll do to accomplish his goals, even if it means making enemies. Myself, I tend to just go with the flow. I hate to be the odd one out while everyone else is having fun. I'm scared of any kind of pain or hardship… but more than anything, I'm afraid of being hated by others. I worry about what I should and shouldn't do… Until I start joking around about it. It'd be so much easier if someone'd just tell me what to do…" Ryota looked depressed as he told me this and I didn't know what I could say to him at the moment to cheer him up.

"Sorry about that. I dunno why I got so serious all of a sudden. Something funny came over me. Ahaha… Forget I said anything!" Before I could say something, Ryota put a smile back on his face and waved off the serious moment we just had.

As I was frowning to myself, still thinking about what Ryota said, someone else came from inside of the church. As soon as I looked at the new arrival I was amazed at how attractive he was. He was wearing a priest outfit that showed off his chest. Even though he was a goat transient I couldn't help but be drawn to the mysterious aura surrounding him.

"Good work, Maria. It seems like much has happened." When he spoke I was even more drawn to his rather deep, smooth voice. He did suit the job as a priest. I want to tell him everything about myself…

"Father Azazel! Welcome back. I was about to show our guests what our usual activities entail." Maria greets the goat Transient, Azazel, with a respectful bow.

"Yes, I am aware. I have been watching." I couldn't help myself when the goat Transient looked over at my group and locked eyes with me for a few seconds.

"What a mysteriously sexy aura…! Is this me being seduced right now…?" As soon as I said that the goat Transient eyes widened for a second as he continued to look at me with a more serious look. I could feel my cheek grow warm at this.

"Oh my… Son of Man, are you also one prone to drowning in love?" I didn't know what to think when the goat Transient eyes narrowed and looked at me seriously for a few seconds. Did he not like what I said…?

"I haven't formally introduced myself. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Azazel." The serious look in Azazel's eyes disappeared and was replaced with a polite look. Even though he was giving me a displeased look before it just adds to his charm.

"Father Azazel here is a clergyman of the Academy Chapel. He is also the de facto director of our NPO." I tilted my head confused at what Maria said. What is an NPO?

"Your NPO?" I was trying to figure out what it could be. I mean they are a church so it must be a charity thing or something like that.

"The Missionaries were originally a welfare NPO. When we became the Aoyama Guild, we retained the same organizational structure as before." Even as Maria told me this I still couldn't figure out what an NPO was.

"What's an NPO?" I was pleased to know that Ryota didn't know what it was either. So I guess I wasn't alone in my confusion.

"It's short for a Non-Profit Organization. It refers to civilian organizations that conduct charity work. At the risk of oversimplifying, you could describe them as something like volunteer organizations. As I understand, most of them conduct welfare, education, and social activities." I could help but be amazed by Shiro. He did know a lot of things.

"Yes, the base organization of the Missionaries could be defined as such." Maria nodded her head in agreement with Shiro.

"Oh, I'm sorry. How rude of me not to introduce us first. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. We are-" Shiro went to introduce us to Azazel but was stopped by Azazel raising a hand slightly.

"Yes, I know who you are. Shiro, Kengo, Ryota… And Masato. I am honored to meet you." I could feel my ears get hot when Azazel smiled at me. He is so mysterious! Are all clergymen like this or is it just him?

"How do you know our names?" Shiro looked surprised that Azazel knew our names and I realize that is something I should be surprised about as well.

"I have been watching since you arrived. I observed all, from your conversation with Maria to your sparring session with Zabaniyya. From the beginning, I have watched all." I know I should feel a bit suspicious of Azazel just watching us but I guess I understand why he was doing it in the first place.

"So… You've been peeping in on us? Is that how your guild gathers information?" Shiro was looking at Azazel with suspicious eyes and I knew why he was acting like this but this wasn't our guild so we had to play it safe.

"Shiro, don't put it like that." I gave Shiro kind of a firm look, trying to tell him not to get like that with someone of a guild we are asking for help from.

"You're right, Masato. Forgive me, Azazel. I'm just as bad as Kengo… It seems I've become really sensitive to the idea of people spying on us since the last incident." Shiro looked guilty as he said this and I felt bad for telling him that. It is understandable why we have to be suspicious of people spying on us.

"I don't mind. After all, you are right. I was peeping, as you say, with the power of my Sacred Artifact. With its power, all territory belonging to the Aoyama Guild is under my surveillance. Maria, you should know exactly why I am here." Azazel's expression grew serious as he turned to look at Maria.

"I believe so, Father Azazel. Has something happened?" Maria looked at Azazel with a concerned look.

"A quarrel is brewing at the park where we distribute food to the needy. It is not an immediate concern, but I suggest heading over there sooner rather than later." Azazel told Maria this and she nodded her head seriously in response. "Understood. Then I will go at once-"

"Is there a problem? If we're in your way, we can come back another time…" Shiro was looking at both Azazel and Maria with curious eyes as they spoke about a problem that was happening.

"Not at all. I would like for you to see us as we are, particularly how we function at present without Arsalan. Do you understand, Maria?" Azazel gave Maria a look and she looked ready to refuse. Shiro was confused about what was going on and I was right there with him.

"But, Father Azazel, that's…" Maria wanted to say something but Azazel just cut her off with a smile.

"I'm glad you understand, Maria." I didn't know what to think at the moment as I watched Azazel stop Maria from saying something. It feels like something is going on with the guild but it would be rude of me if I tried to involve myself when I am not even a part of this guild.

"I am speaking of the proof of your love, Maria. Is your love to be found in covering up that which is ugly?" Azazel's eyes grew firm as he looked at Maria and she finally nodded her head in understanding.

"Of course. You are right, Father Azazel. Please first allow me to gain the understanding of our brethren, as well. It is as Father Azazel says. You may end up witnessing something unsightly… But I would ask you to come with us, if you are willing." Maria was looking at us with sincere eyes that I couldn't find it in me to refuse her at all. Shiro was going to say something but was cut off by Ryota.

"I'll go! I'm all in! What've we got to lose?" Ryota didn't hesitate to agree with Maria and Maria gave him a small bow in an apology. "Ryota… I am sorry to have troubled you so."

"It's no problem, really! But… Are you okay, Maria?" Ryota was looking at Maria carefully, trying to see if something would appear on her face.

"How do you mean?" Maria looked surprised at Ryota's question, not expecting he was going to ask her something like that.

"You seemed to be struggling with something, Maria. But don't worry, I'm right here with you! Of course, I'd be worried if my friend's looking bummed out! C'mon, let's see a smile!" Ryota raises both his fingers to his face and motion for Maria to smile with him.

"Hehehe… Thank you, Ryota." Maria let out a small laugh as she smiled at the way Ryota was acting.

"Haha! Well then, let's go!" Ryota punched a fist in the arm, showing he was ready to go where Maria wanted to take us.

"Thank you for waiting, Father Azazel. I'm fine now." Maria looked toward Azazel with a serious look on her face and Azazel nodded his head satisfied with her. "Very good. I shall accompany you."

"I have other matters to tend to, so I shall excuse myself here," Zabaniyya spoke up as Azazel was getting ready to take us to the place he was talking about. I was disappointed he wouldn't be coming with us.

"Hold on! We haven't settled our score yet!" Kengo, who seemed to look better from getting tickled all over, pointed at Zabaniyya with a glare on his face. Zabaniyya didn't look affected as Kengo did this.

"I am terribly sorry, Kengo. I must see to my ordained duties. Farewell, all. May we meet again someday." Giving us a polite bow, Zabaniyya went off to do the things he was talking about.

Shibuya…

"Damn…" As Maria leads us away from Daikanyama Academy, Kengo vents his frustration to me. I tried to calm him down by patting him on his shoulder a bit. He needs to get his urge to fight all the time under control.

"Jeez, Kengo! Calm down. Maybe you need a stress ball." Ryota was looking at Kengo with a concerned frown.

"I am calm! I'm just… miffed. 'Sides, I feel awkward for punching someone who didn't want to fight me in the first place. Hey, Masato. What do you think about my fight with that dude?" Kengo was looking at me with a curious expression and I put a hand under my chin, thinking for a few seconds.

"He had you wrapped around his little finger." I held up my pinkie as I gave Kengo a huge smirk. It was kind of obvious that Zabaniyya wasn't putting his all into the fight between them.

"I knew it… He didn't even bring half his strength to the fight. Zabaniyya's power is for real. You must've felt it, too. He's super strong, right? He could've parried my attacks easily, but he took them all without blocking in the slightest. Why'd he do that? I just don't get it." Kengo's eyebrows were furrowed as he tried to understand why Zabaniyya wouldn't fight him seriously.

"You appear to be flustered to me, Kengo…" I flinched slightly when I heard Azazel's voice from behind me.

"Whoa! You scared me! Mister Azazel, you shouldn't sneak up on people like that!" Ryota had a hand on his chest as he looked at Azazel with a surprised face.

"Please, call me Azazel, Ryota. You seem to be troubled by Brother Zabaniyya. If it pleases you, I would like to tell you more about him." When Azazel said this, Kengo looked at Azazel suspiciously, but I could see he was interested in knowing more about Zabaniyya.

"Yes… You see, despite my appearance, I am still a clergyman. It is my purpose to guide lost lambs such as yourself." Azazel smiles gently at Kengo, as if seeing into his heart, and begins to explain.

"Zabaniyya was originally tasked with the role of torturer in his homeworld. Under divine law, he was responsible for administering pain to sinners as a means of lightening their burdens." At what Azazel said I tried to imagine how it felt to Zabaniyya to punish countless different people.

"A torturer… punishes those who break the law. No wonder he's so pedantic about rules… or commandments." Shiro mumbles that to himself as he listens to Azazel talk about Zabaniyya background.

"His expertise was in causing pain and suffering. His techniques were honed for torture, and nothing more. However, he struggled with his fate. The unfairness of a mere man inflicting hurt so one-sidedly made him question everything. He believes one who hurts another should experience that same pain. Thus, he placed on himself two restrictions. The first was strict accordance to the commandments and the will of his master. His strength is not to be subject to emotion. The second was to bear the same pain he inflicts upon others. Thus, he refuses to run from pain and suffering. He simply believed that the blows of your fists were to be taken." As Azazel said this I couldn't help but frown at how hard Zabaniyya was on himself.

"That sounds like…" I didn't want to finish what I wanted to say because it was too depressing to even acknowledge.

"Yes, it sounds as though he lives only to suffer." Shiro managed to finish what I was going to say. I couldn't see why Zabaniyya had to live like that. But I feel like I couldn't judge him because I didn't experience what he did.

"That is precisely the case. For Zabaniyya, life is suffering. That is the Role he has placed on himself. He believes it will absolve him of his arrogance." I didn't understand what Azazel meant by Zabaniyya placing a Role on himself…

"What does that even mean? He imposed a Rule on himself?" Kengo was confused as well at what Azazel just said.

"All humanity does so, to an extent or another. Do you not? The world is a wasteland filled with chaos called freedom. Man must sin simply to simply live. The weak are confused by the freedom to which they are unaccustomed. They cannot bear the weight of their sins and live in fear. That is why humanity must be bound by law. You need chains to restrain yourselves, to bring peace and calm among you. Through the restriction of your freedom, you can feel at ease, knowing you are on the right path. Believing there is a fit punishment for every crime allows for a functional society. The more severe, the more unreasonable the punishment, the harder you strive to find rules for your existence. How you should live. Who you should despise. Who you should love. Thus, you seek an order from the Lord." I feel like Azazel was explaining something really important but at the same time, I couldn't fully get it. But I guess people need rules so that they can figure out things?

"Uh-huh, whatever you say. I don't get it… Nor do I want to. Sorry… I'm just not into that. I'll do what I want so I don't regret it later." Kengo brushes off what Azazel said and I could only let out a sigh at the way he was acting.

"Do you feel the same way, Masato?" Azazel looked at me with curious eyes and I thought about it for a well. I mean it better to jump in instead of letting it go by.

"I agree." When I nodded my head in agreement with Kengo, Azazel gave me a pleased smile and I couldn't tell if it was because he liked my choice or if it was something else.

"...I see." Azazel maintains a smile as he nods in response. "However, many lambs are not so strong. That is why our guild has become the largest of the 23 Wards."

Ryota didn't say anything when Azazel was talking and I noticed that he had an upset look on his face. I wonder if he felt sympathetic for Zabaniyya background.

"We will arrive soon. Please see for yourselves some of what we do here." After Azazel said that he walked ahead of us.

We followed behind him and Maria as they took us over to a park. "We're almost there, everyone. We supply food for the needy over in that park."

I was going to go to the park with everyone else but I was still worried about how Ryota was doing.

"Ryota?" I called his name but he still didn't look any better. I tap him on the shoulder a few times and call out his name once again.

"Huh? Oh! Yeah, I'm with you! Don't leave me behind, Masato!" Ryota quickly ran ahead of me and I couldn't help but frown a little at this. He quickly isn't doing okay but he won't talk about it…

I follow after Ryota, still looking at him with a concerned frown on my face as I tried to figure out how to cheer him up.

Back Of The Group….

"Humanity seeks a cage to restrict their freedom. They require ties to bind them down. Yet, among them are those who choose to destroy their cages. Defying the mercy of such a cage, bestowed by divine law at the will of the Lord, they thus set foot toward the wilderness. Even if the result should be that they shoulder heavy burdens of mortal sin and meet their ends in that wilderness… Ah, but that weight, that tragedy… That in itself expresses the magnitude of love. The heavier the punishment, the greater the proof of the weight of love." Azazel pats his chest, adorned in clerical garb, and an ecstatic smile appears on his face.

"My only desire is to bear witness to that moment. Nothing more… Nothing less." His words are no louder than a whisper. Then, he studies the backs of the group ahead, a sensual smile spreading across his lips.

With Masato Group...

Guided by Maria, our group arrives at the spot where people are lining up to receive food.

"So this is what you were talking about when you said your guild distributes food." Shiro looked at the line of people who were waiting to get food.

"Our guild was originally a social welfare organization that provided aid to Transients. Many Stray Transients have come to Tokyo from other worlds. They have no one to act as a guarantor for them, and they are often treated poorly. Few have any standing here in this world, and most lack even sufficient food and clothes. We simply provide a little aid for them until they are able to gain independence." As Maria spoke I could picture her getting surrounded by many lights as little angels sang around her. She is honestly such a good person.

"Maria… You're amazing. You really are an amazing person." Ryota's face is engraved with genuine respect, but at hearing those words, Maria's face…

"No… Not at all. I am…" Maria clasped both of her hands together as she looked away from Ryota with a troubled look on her face.

"Maria? What's-" Before Ryota can finish his question, a loud shout rings out.

"My special curry is done! There's plenty to go around, so come and get some!" Looking in the direction in where the voice came from I saw a chubby boy where an apron holding a pot of what I assume was curry. His messy blonde hair was all over the place but that just added to his cuteness.

"Choji?! What're you doing here?!" Ryota looked shocked as he pointed to the boy in the cooking apron.

"Huh? Ryota? And Shiro and Kengo, too?!" The boy looked surprised to see the rest of the group and I decided to introduce myself to the person who knew my friends as well.

"Nice to meet you." I gave a polite greeting to the boy and he gave one back to me.

"Oh, I guess you haven't met him… Uh, he goes to our school… He's in our grade, too." Ryota gave a rather bad introduction to his friend.

"I'm Iimori Choji of the Cooking Club. Nice to meet you, Masato!" I felt an urge to squeeze the cheeks of Choji in front of me when he gave me such a bright smile.

"Hey, that curry looks nice! I was just getting hungry!" Kengo looked at the curry that Choji had, his stomach growling a bit. I could hear my stomach doing that as well and I realize that I am getting kind of hungry at the moment.

"Never mind that… Why are you here?" Shiro pushed Kengo aside and asked Choji this with a curious expression.

"Why? I always help with the food distribution here at the park." Choji said that like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"Choji, are you.... a member of the Missionaries?" Ryota asked Choji this with a tilt of his head.

"Yeah, I am. Huh? Didn't I tell you?" Choji told Ryota that casually and Ryota's expression grew shocked. "It's news to me!"

"I've been cooking in the soup kitchen for a long time now. I love seeing everyone enjoy my cooking so much!" Choji had a smile on his face as he told Ryota this happily.

"I see… I had no idea. I do know that your cooking is the best in the world, though! So if I came here, I'd be able to eat your cooking all the time?" Ryota looked at Choji with serious eyes and I could hear his stomach start to growl.

"Ahaha… You don't have to do that! I always make dinner at the dorm." When Choji said that, I realized where all the good food was coming from during dinner.

"Choji, thank you so much. I'm sorry I'm late." Maria gave a bow to Choji as she apologized for her lateness.

"Oh, hey Maria! Thanks for stopping by. Everything is going well." Choji gave Maria a thumb up, showing everything was going well for him at the moment.

"I'll help serve. Is this plate…?" Maria went to grab a plate but was stopped but Choji as he let out a sound as he remembered something. "Oh, there was something I wanted you to check on for me."

"Something to check on?" Maria tilted her head a bit in confusion at what he was talking about.

"Yes. There's been quarreling at the back of the line. At first, they were arguing about getting too much or too little food, but they're still at it. I wanted to go check it out, but I can't leave my post right now." Choji let out a troubled sigh as he told Maria this.

"Hm. It seems like it has broken out into a fistfight." Azazel spoke up from behind us as he looked seriously in a direction.

"You can see them?" I was trying to spot the people who were fighting but I couldn't see them anywhere.

"Yes, I can. Very well, I might add. Maria… It is only a matter of time until they arrive." As soon as Azazel said that Maria got a worried expression on her face and nodded her head seriously. "I understand. I'll go investigate."

"Hold on! I'm coming with you, Maria!" As Maria went to leave, Ryota quickly follows after her with a serious expression.

"Ryota? You mustn't. This is my duty." Maria tried to convince Ryota not to follow her but he wasn't having it.

"I won't let you! It's too dangerous for you to go by yourself. It's totally fine! Right, Masato?" Ryota looked at me and I couldn't just say no to him.

"We've got this, Ryota!" I gave Ryota a thumbs up as I agree with him about helping Maria out with the situation.

"I'm counting on you, Masato!" Ryota was smiling happily as he looked at me with a pleased look on his face.

"Thank you so much for your kind offer. Now… Will you come to help me break up this fight?" Maria looked a bit uncertain as she asked us this.

"You got it, Maria! Just say the word!" Ryota didn't seem bothered by her uncertainty and continued to show that he wanted to help her out.

"Thank you very much. Now… Let us go!" Maria turned around and started to walk in the direction where the situation was currently happening and we followed after her.

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