Devil May Cry © Capcom
Burnt Ashes Faded to Gray
Jason M. Lee
It was supposedly a simple job, namely that of investigating strange sightings of possible leftover demons near an abandoned home, but the fact that the call came from the City of Red Grave had both Nero and Nico exchanging looks. The two months spent on mopping up any leftovers had them interacting with a variety of people, be it the military force, government officials, local first responders, and the few citizens that dared to return. While there were still many people skeptical of demons, most eagerly jotted down the phone number plastered on the side of the mobile home. Yet neither Nero or Nico ever got a call from the destroyed city after they returned to Fortuna since then.
Until they arrived at the outskirts of the city, a good distance away from a gutted home - mansion, really - that was somehow still standing amidst the changed landscape.
He couldn't quite sense anything stronger than a Empusa or a Hell Pride, but that wasn't to say about weaker demons or stronger ones possibly hiding their aura. He remembered V - Vergil - pointing out the bare tree and the playground.
For whatever reason, he could feel something calling from the house.
"Want me to come along?" A rare serious look crossed her face, an unlit cigarette dangling from her lips. Something about the area seemed to had her reconsidering her usual attitude.
Normally, he would've said no, being used to working alone. "...just make sure you got extra ammo and anti-demon stuff."
Both had been to graveyards before, but here, it felt far more somber. Nero couldn't put his finger on it, but that something that had been gently tugging within him seemed to give a sense of nostalgia, strange as it felt. "This doesn't make sense..."
"What?" Nico readjusted her hair tie, having put her curls into a ponytail, before fiddling with her shotgun's strap. "That this doesn't give off the same heebie-jeebies like other abandoned homes we've been to?"
"Not that." He shook his head, left hand twitching for Blue Rose while right hand flexed Overture's fingers, sparks briefly dancing. "It's... I don't know why, but it feels like I've been here before, in that house."
Nico furrowed her eyebrows, accepting his hand as they climbed up the exposed rocks. "Which would technically be impossible because the Qliphoth showing up was our first time in Red Grave."
"That's the thing." Nero gestured at what had once been a foyer, still cautiously walking forward, testing the floorboards. "You know that and I know that, but something in me says otherwise."
"Demonic bullshit magic?" She kept glancing back, trusting her partner to watch their front. Vergil and V had been sharing what demonic research they could remember, and while the tomes that she had been able to get her hands on still frustrated her (because there's only so many ways of reading how physics got violated she could take in one sitting), research covering the physiology and biology had been far more useful.
"Pretty much. Kinda reminds me of when I first got Yamato, now that I think about it..." Nero trailed off, stopping.
It was Nico's boot bumping into the heel of his that prevented her from cutting herself on Red Queen. "Hey, what's with the hoooo-ly shit."
Nero nodded, swallowing thickly.
The quietness from him was so small. Small in front of the large damaged portrait that hung above the fireplace, even though the angle it was dangling at made it look as if it was ready to fall off. Soot and burn marks obscured the seated man's face, but there was no mistaking the white hair that was also on the twins, nor the blonde in black dress and red shawl standing behind the boys.
"...I think we just found your old man's old home," Nico whispered in hushed tones. 'That explains why this place felt different...'
"Ya think?" Even his sarcasm was weak. "Guess it'd explain why I've been getting that funky vibe of déjà vu - Yamato used to be here."
Staring at the portrait for several more moments (if it wasn't for the seriousness, she'd be laughing at Sparda's poofy Beethoven-hair), Nico tugged on his jacket. "C'mon, demon boy. Let's... get about fulfilling the client's request. Might as well make sure, eh?"
Out of the many abandoned houses, apartments, and mansions they've been to on calls of possible demonic activity, this one still had that touch of what could amount to "home", untouched by anything supernatural. The first floor yielded empty rooms save flora growing through the cracks and small fauna skittering away, but here and there, they saw remnants of what used to be a loving domicile - a white grand piano with its lid missing in what had to be a music room, a large kitchen with scattered pots and pans, a parlor with a shattered table and tipped over chairs.
The large dark spot near the former front door took on a different meaning.
Upstairs had both of them questioning the stability of the second floor, given that neither were architects and Nico's engineering knowledge fell more in machines than buildings. Which fell to Nero using his wings to test out the walking paths ahead of him, having no mass but still able to physically affect objects - more than once they've had to walk around spots that creaked ominously when his wings pushed against the floors.
The first room looked like an office, the large desk covered in dust, grime, and leaves. The books on the shelves didn't hold anything interesting, other than history of the area, city ordinances, tax codes, and more than enough legalese to leave their heads spinning. There was a safe sitting tucked away in the corner, covered by a fallen curtain, so Nico marked it down on a map she had been drawing. The next three rooms weren't interesting either, that of either plain bedrooms or bathrooms with ornate fixtures that reminded Nero of some of the more extravagant Order officers' living quarters back on Fortuna.
The next bedroom had them staring.
There was no mistaking it was a bedroom for two children that lived together. Despite the disarray of items and dust, one side was still orderly, with a chair tucked under the desk, sheets and pillow properly made, slim books lined up neatly in the small bookshelf, and even several yellowing music sheets on a stand. The other side was as if another tornado had come through, toy swords and props scattered about, chair askew in front of the messy desk covered with comics and papers, and rumpled sheets and haphazardly placed pillows.
One side was blue, the other was red.
Sucking in a deep breath, Nero let it out slowly, releasing his grip on the door frame upon feeling his healing pushing out the splinters. Carefully testing for any weak spots, he walked into the room, boots creaking the floorboards.
"...sure this is a good idea, Nero?" In spite of her own hesitancy, Nico also followed in.
He could only smile back sadly, lightly grazing fingers across the book spines. Some of the titles were that of famous literature writers, others were that of science, history, and math. Curiosity had him pulling out a slightly damaged copy that had Shakespeare's name on the side and upon cracking open the cover, he had to bite back an amused snort. Pulling out several more books and checking the insides showed the same thing, now prompting a soft chuckle. "Seriously, old man..."
"What?" Nico dropped some of the comics that she's only seen at used bookstores back on the desk, walking over. Seeing Vergil's name scrawled in shaky childish hands on the inside pages of the various books had her biting a knuckle to keep from laughing out loud, going for snickering instead. "Guess he didn't want to share some things with Dante."
"From what Yamato told me, demons don't share things easily sometimes." Flipping through several more books, including one on chess, Nero sighed, putting them back on the desk. "C'mon, let's mo-"
The familiar tiny bit of a cool touch and that hint of a biting edge briefly touching his senses.
"What?" Slim fingers edged towards the shotgun's safety, seeing him go still.
Instead, he held a finger to his lips for silence and jerked his head back to the hallway. As light as they tried, each creak and groan of the damaged floor sounded far louder than they would've liked. Eventually, they arrived at what appeared to be a library of sorts, and blue light shimmering from carefully arranged Summoned Swords revealed the newcomer.
"Do come in, Nero, Nicoletta. Apologies if I startled the both of you." Vergil didn't even look up from the pile of books he was sorting through. "On a job?"
Both relaxed and joined the older man at the desk. "Call on suspicious activity, they wanted the place checked out." Nero shrugged, scanning around with the corner of his eyes. "I took you for a bookworm, but this seems kind of a bit... much."
Vergil smiled wryly, ignoring Nico's barely restrained squee when she spotted some of the titles that mentioned mechanics and not reacting when she started flipping through one of the books (albeit carefully). "Apparently, one of Lady's contacts has ties with an academy that taught courses on demonology, and had requested further study materials. As Dante's collection was rather lacking, I decided to see if anything... had survived." A barely heard wistful sigh, glacial eyes looking about the room. There was that musty smell, but he had to marvel at the preservation spells that were still present, now that he could properly detect them. "Father and Mother gave each other a run for their money on who could obtain the most books in one sitting. The most Mother spent had Father - what was the phrase, ah - having kittens when he found out while checking through our expenses."
Even if he was never one for reading, other than indulging the boys or manuals, Nero still skimmed over the covers. Half looked like spell books that the Order used to describe, some looked like the textbooks in the few libraries he's been in, and others had appearances that made his brain hurt if he looked too long. "Guess you were the one who had set off the phone call."
The slight chagrined look on Vergil's face was a bit of a shock to the younger hunter. "Much to my... displeasure, I have yet to properly master the pocket ability that Dante has on carrying his own arsenal - he's found a good amount of amusement on trying to teach me, in that I'm of 'too many mind', as he quoted a movie." A delicate shrug, one leg shifting to show a partially filled olive rucksack on the floor. "Hence, multiple trips. It seems I haven't been as discrete as I had hoped."
"Eh, no worries, Papa V." Nico had to keep herself from drooling when she found a tome that seemed to be focusing on Machiavelli, the demon gunsmith that even human weaponsmiths like her had heard tales about. She wondered if Vergil would be willing to let her borrow the book for a while. "We can tell our client that it was just some animal making a temporary pit stop."
"Ah." Vergil tilted his head at his son, ponytail shifting. "I... would not mind some assistance for books that cover culinary topics."
Nero wrinkled his nose, stifling a sneeze as he grabbed the first one that had a pot on its cover. "Cooking? Really?"
A soft laugh as Vergil moved to arrange the books in the rucksack for more efficient carrying. "Lady had been pestering Dante to change his diet, and V had made an off-hand comment on some of the recipes Mother kept. Lady became interested." He paused, lingering on a leather cover decorated with various herbs and grains. "Mother loved to experiment - she said that cooking was a form of science, and that one of her teachers spoke of alchemy having its origin in the kitchen."
"Huh." If only Nero could see Agnus's face upon hearing his beloved research and work compared to cooking, of all activities. "Don't tell me you or Dante used to burn the kitchen when you were kids."
Vergil snorted indignantly. "No matter what Dante claims, do not believe his tale of my having mixed salt with sugar when Mother tried to teach us on baking cookies one time."
Looks were exchanged between Nero and Nico, and both shared snickering grins. They could easily imagine the hit to young Vergil's pride on making such a rookie mistake.
By the time they were done, the sun was setting. Nico had been finally able to badger Vergil into lending her several tomes on demon weaponsmiths, promising to return them once she was done taking down whatever notes she wanted. As she happily bounced ahead, Nero hung back, watching Vergil sketch some sort of sigil and runes on the exposed wooden floor with chalk, words murmured before the chalk lines glowed white and then disappeared. He could feel some sort of thrum surround the area before it faded away. "What was that?"
"Wards to keep any demons out, to 'persuade' human loiterers to leave, as well to... preserve it a little longer." Vergil stared at the family portrait, as if feeling the judging gazes of two precious people long gone to ashes. "I am... unsure of what to do with it at the moment, other than moving the research back to Devil May Cry." A soft breeze blew, carrying a cold hint of winter. "If anything, I'd like to have Dante and V's input as well."
Nero made a noncommittal grunt. He couldn't say he understood the sentiment, Kyrie and Credo's old home having been sold, and then he and Kyrie had moved into their new larger place to foster the boys. (They had been extremely lucky that the realtor had been grateful for being rescued by Nero, and had slashed half of the house's original cost, even if the building required some fixing.) "Do... Do you have any favorite recipes?" He shuffled his boots, ears burning a bit while scuffing at the grass. "Kyrie's been looking for new recipes to try."
Vergil blinked for several moments, before he let out another soft laugh. "There is one, that Mother helped me with on creating and something that even Dante agreed on..."
A/N: Follows "Pattern Welding and Annealing".
For Dadgil Week 2019, "books", "pride", and "favorite".
This was inspired by Sevi007's Tumblr post about Nero possibly stumbling on to the twins' old home in Red Grave.
Title from the song "Ashes" as sung by Gemie and composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, from the anime film Promare.