For those who don't know, Demon Lord Dante (or Mao Dante) is a 1971 manga by Go Nagai. It can be considered a sort of prototype for the more famous Devilman. For this story, I will take elements from the original manga, the 2002 anime adaptation and, to a lesser extent, the 2002 manga reboot. However, certain events, characters and lore will be altered to fit better within the cosmology of Evangelion, so you don't really need to know about Mao Dante to understand this fic (although it would help)
One of the reasons I'm doing this is to practice my English, which is not my first language. Feel free to point out any typos and grammar/vocabulary mistakes you find. I think I got all of them, but some may have slipped.
Hope you like it.
2000 A.D. – Antarctica
Below the frozen wastelands, five heads turned up. Mouths agape, the men stared at the thing they had just found.
"Someone should go back," said one. "I think Dr. Katsuragi will want to see this."
There were some murmurs of agreement, but none of the five turned around, nor offered to be the one to deliver the message. Their eyes, as well as their flashlights, were fixated on the creature trapped inside the enormous block of ice. They had discovered it by accident, during a standard exploration of the Antarctic underground around the main base. A wall had caved in due to a miscalculation with the explosives, revealing a vast chamber behind.
"Do you think it's alive?" asked one man.
"Of course not," huffed another. "This thing has probably been down here for centuries. No living being could survive after being frozen for so long."
The first man spoke again:
"What about the giant at the main base?"
The person who had huffed decided to retract his previous statement.
"Do you think they're related?" asked another.
"That's for Dr. Katsuragi to determine. Someone should really go back and tell him."
"We're seventeen kilometers away from the main base. Let's just use the phone."
"I don't know if he'll pick it up. The Contact Experiment is supposed to begin…" he checked his wristwatch, "five minutes ago."
"We'll leave a message, then."
One of the five men introduced a hand on his pocket, reaching for the phone. Alas, he never managed to type in the number, because at that very moment, merely seventeen kilometers away from that place, in the main base of the Katsuragi Expedition…
"It's spreading its wings!"
"It's breaking towards the surface!"
In an instant, the frozen wastelands of Antarctica became a boiling inferno. The first shockwave cracked the very ground, ripped mountains apart and shattered the glaciers. Scorching gale winds began to melt the ice at an unnatural speed, releasing columns of steam which soon covered the sky.
The second shockwave liquefied the whole continent, both ice and stone. All that remained was an escape capsule floating in the raging dead sea, far away from the epicenter of the explosion.
The coffin of steel opened its hatch. A young, wounded girl stood up, ignoring the pain and not bothered by the blood on the right side of her abdomen. There, in the distance, she could see the luminous giant, the abomination which had caused the disaster, stretching its wings of light over the waters.
Then, the surface of the sea broke. A dark giant emerged from the depths and lunged at the neck of the other titan, roaring like a rabid beast. The two colossi began to fight, and their struggle generated large waves which pushed the capsule further away, until the wounded girl could no longer see them.
2015 A.D. – Tokyo-3
Shinji Ikari woke up screaming. It was the fourth time that week.
The vividness of the nightmare faded, and the boy found himself back in the darkness of his small and windowless room. He could feel his heart pounding inside his ribcage. His pajamas were wet due to the sweat, yet his throat was dry. Unpleasant sensations he had grown used to. The boy sat on the bed, hugging his knees and taking deep, slow breaths in order to calm down. It was becoming a routine for him.
There was the sound of a door sliding. Shortly thereafter, a flying pillow hit his head.
"Dummkopf!" yelled a familiar voice.
The young man looked at the now opened door. Dim moonlight entered from the corridor, and he could see a feminine silhouette on the threshold.
'And here she comes,' he thought, not looking forward to it.
A German girl stomped into the room. Since it was quite tiny, it didn't take her long to reach the bed. Shinji grabbed her pillow and extended an arm, offering it back. She took it with not too much delicacy.
"Would you stop making all that ruckus?" she demanded. "Need I remind you that we have school and training tomorrow? If my synch rate goes down because of you, I'll make you carry my bags for a month!"
"Sorry," the boy mumbled. He was grateful for the lack of illumination, because he was sure that Asuka was drilling into his soul with a stare.
"Seriously!" she huffed. "I don't know how Misato can sleep like this."
Asuka stood there, arms crossed and tapping on the floor with a foot, perhaps waiting for a different response from her housemate, classmate and workmate. When none came, when Shinji just hid his face in his knees, she groaned.
"Nightmares again?" the girl asked.
The boy nodded.
"Well, suck it up!" she hit him with the pillow. "You're not a kid anymore! We all have bad dreams every now and then, but we deal with them without waking up the only competent pilot in the house! Got it?"
Muttering some German words, probably not nice ones, Asuka turned around and walked towards her own room. However, when she reached the threshold, she sighed, rolled her eyes and went back next to Shinji's bed. The boy braced himself for another pillow attack, but none came.
He looked. Asuka was sitting in his chair.
"Tell me about them," she said. There was not as much hostility in her voice as before.
"Tell me about your nightmares, idiot."
Now she hit him with the pillow.
"I'm trying to help, dummkopf. Do it quickly, before I change my mind."
"Do you really think you can help me with this?"
"Why, of course!" Asuka put up a prideful smirk, not noticing that it was too dark for the boy to notice it. "I'll let you know that I took a small course on dream interpretation back in college!"
"That's a bit of a weird choice. I thought your degree was in computer science, or something like that."
"I thought it sounded cool."
Shinji was unsure. On one hand, while he didn't doubt the intelligence of his friend, he would rather receive counseling from a professional psychologist. One that was not a teenager, if possible. On the other hand, it was not every day that Asuka Langley Sohryu offered him help, and with no strings attached, to boot. Thus, he decided to take it.
"I dreamt that I was a giant," he began. "Almost as big as an Eva, I think. In the dream, I am in the middle of Tokyo-3 and… I'm also naked."
Shinji stopped for a moment, dreading that Asuka would call him a pervert and perhaps slap him, but no violence happened. She was listening, paying attention and apparently not judging. Such unusual occurrence convinced him that she was serious.
"I'm so big," he continued, "that the buildings around me tremble and crumble when I move. No matter how hard I try, my hands and my feet cause destruction. There are cars everywhere, and I step on them. People start running away from me and… I… step on them, too. I don't want to, but I can't avoid it! There are corpses everywhere… Then I wake up."
Shinji looked at Asuka, waiting for a reaction. She remained silent for a while, with a hand on her chin, going 'Mmmh…' a few times. Then, she snapped her fingers.
"I got it!" she exclaimed. "It's very simple, really. Your giant body represents change. You think that you have changed, or you fear that you are going to change soon, and that you will not be able to control it. Most importantly, you fear that the change will hurt those around you. That's what the crumbling buildings and the corpses represent. In short, some change is happening in your life, and you're terrified of it."
Asuka puffed her chest out. She put both hands on her waist and turned her nose up, as if she was inviting Shinji to bask in her glory, which she probably was.
"I see…" he said, considering her words. "It… actually makes sense. Yes, it does make sense! You're amazing, Asuka!"
"I know," she poked his forehead with her index. "Now, as payment for being your personal shrink, tomorrow you will carry my bags the whole day!"
'Aaaaaand there it is,' he thought.
"And you've had the same nightmare four times this week?"
"Actually…" Shinji rested his chin on his knees. "I've been having it for several weeks. It just wasn't very vivid before."
"When did it start, anyway?"
"Remember that incident Misato told you about? The one about the Jet Alone? I think it began shortly after that."
Asuka blinked in surprise.
"That was before I got here!" she exclaimed. "Why didn't you say anything to Misato or doctor Akagi?"
"I told you, it wasn't very vivid, and it didn't happen every night," Shinji tightened the hug around his own legs, while averting his gaze from his fellow pilot. "Why do you think it began then?"
"How should I know?" she shrugged. "Wasn't that piece of junk powered by a nuclear reactor? Maybe the radiation fried part of your brain."
"But I was in my Eva the whole time!"
"Yes, you were. In the Test Type Model. I wouldn't be surprised if that purple dressing they call 'armor' could not stop radiation from passing through."
Asuka's mild disdain towards the other Units was no secret for Shinji, and he knew that she wouldn't change her mind on the subject, so he didn't even try to refute her argument. A better pilot would've defended his machine, but the boy didn't have a very good opinion of the Evangelions, including Unit-01. If Asuka wanted to badmouth his father's favourite giant, it was fine by him. He didn't care.
"But," he said, "if it's caused by brain damage, then the dream doesn't have anything to do with change."
For a fourth time, the German girl hit him with the pillow.
"That was a joke, Stupid-Shinji!"
The boy decided that it would be best to stop talking. There was a moment of silence. Then, the pillow made contact with his head for a fifth time. However, this attack was much less violent than the previous ones.
"Hey," Asuka said, with a softer tone of voice. "Misato also told me about how you stopped that robot long enough for her to shut it down. You did a good job there, Third."
Shinji looked at her, dumbfounded. Had Asuka Langley Sohryu, the Asuka Langley Sohryu, just complimented him? Was he still dreaming?
"And," she continued, "think of everything that happened after that. You helped me defeat the Seventh Angel, you jumped into an active volcano to give me hand, and last week you caught the falling Tenth Angel with your AT-Field. Maybe that's the change: you're finally growing some balls."
'Ah, there you go,' thought Shinji, trying to repress a chuckle. 'Asuka's trademark insults disguised as compliments. I'm not dreaming, then.'
"You shouldn't be scared of that, dummkopf," she said. "It's a good thing."
"I-I'll try," Shinji smiled at her, even though she probably couldn't see it. "Thanks for your help. I feel much better now."
"Just get some sleep," Asuka stood up. "You don't want to be tired for tomorrow. Gute Natch, Third."
And she returned to her own room, this time without stomping.
The door slid close and Shinji was surrounded by absolute darkness once more. He laid down on his bed, curled in a fetal position, but he didn't close his eyes. The boy didn't want to go back to sleep. While it was true that he felt a little better, and that Asuka's analysis of his nightmare seemed logical to him, there was something else gnawing at his mind.
He hadn't been sincere with her. That was not the only nightmare. There were other horrible dreams haunting his nights, others that made him scream; but he didn't want to talk about them.
In one of his nightmares, Shinji would see cavemen being hunted and killed by winged monsters. They had horns and fangs, and skin as black as coal, and sharp talons in their feet. They were demons; there was no other way to describe them. They would lunge at the defenseless primitive humans, ripping out their guts, biting their necks and spilling blood on the ground. Then, after feasting on the insides of a poor woman, one of those demons would stand up and transform… into Shinji.
In another one, the boy would find himself a giant once more, fighting against Angels he did not recognize. The eye blasts of the colossi would open holes in his body. Shinji could feel the pain, and the sensation usually lasted for several minutes after waking up.
He would shriek after returning from any of those dreams. However, there was one, a fourth one, that didn't make him scream.
That nightmare began with Shinji walking through a frozen wasteland. Like all other Japanese kids born after the Second Impact, he had only seen such places in pictures, so the whole experience was almost alien for him. In the dream, Shinji was naked, but the cold didn't cause him any harm. He would walk in a straight line for what seemed like an eternity, leaving a trail of footprints in the snow.
Then, all of a sudden, the ice would melt, leaving Shinji stranded in a barren land of mud and stone. After some minutes of silence, the ground under his feet would shake and shatter, and something would emerge from the depths. Something enormous, rising towards the sky like a mountain, enveloping the boy in its shadow.
Every night it happened, that nightmare ended the same way: with Shinji facing a behemoth of monstrous visage.
Dark, leathery wings that the Devil would covet.
Two yellow eyes, shinning like supernovas in a dying cosmos.
A gaping maw filled with sharp teeth, ready to swallow the world.
Shinji could not scream at that vision, for the sheer terror paralyzed him. Then, he would wake up, still unable to yell, still frozen by fear. He would remain on his bed, immobile, eventually falling asleep again due to mental exhaustion.
The boy shuddered when he recalled that dream.
One would think that, after so many fights against the Angels, Shinji should not be afraid of another giant monster. However, the boy would've argued that, while the Angels were scary, they did not look scary. 'Surreal' would be more appropriate. Were not for their destructive behavior and their devastating powers, they could've passed for the mascots of a weird amusement park.
But the creature from his nightmares awakened true terror within Shinji. It activated a very specific fear, one that had been asleep in mankind's genetic subconscious for centuries, thanks to the comforts of civilization. It was the fear of fangs, of claws, of the predator hidden in the darkness.
'I wonder what Asuka would say about that one,' he thought as he reached for his SDAT player. He put the ear buds on and pressed the play button, hoping that the music would soothe his troubled soul.
It did, and he drifted back to sleep, eventually.
What had once been the proud capital of Japan was now a vast barren of mud, stone and some melted steel sprinkled here and there. Only a few buildings had survived the nuclear devastation, and they stood as tilted and broken monuments to mankind's ever-increasing potential for destruction. And yet, some… people had managed to find a refuge in such a desolate place.
Beneath the ruins of Old Tokyo, deep in the bowels of the earth, in a large chamber of stone lighted by candles and torches; six figures in black robes stood in circle around a pit. Hands clasped in prayer, and eyes shut in meditation, they hummed and mumbled in a language long forgotten.
Above them, standing in a ravine next to the entrance of a tunnel, another figure in black robes watched the scene. He was an old, bald man with an aquiline nose and a grey goatee. His eyes were focused on the pit. There was something at the bottom, something big and dark.
"Lord Beelzebub," called a voice from behind.
He turned around. A young man, also in black robes, was kneeling next to him.
"Rise and speak," said the elder.
"We have lost contact with the den of Asahikawa," explained the young messenger. "We believe that it has been attacked by the traitor Zenon and his army."
Beelzebub let out a worried sigh.
"So," he said, "we are the last loyalists in Asia. In the world, perhaps," he looked at the pit once again. "Still, we should count our blessings. The fact that we have managed to keep it hidden for fifteen years, and here of all places, is nothing short of a miracle."
The messenger got closer to the ravine. Standing next to his master, he also focused his attention on the pit, and on the dark form at the bottom. It moved, and in doing so, the entire chamber trembled. A few candles fell.
"The body is stirring, Lord Beelzebub."
"Yes. I don't know why, but it reactivated a couple of months ago, while the humans were playing with those robots of theirs. Its movements grow more frequent and violent with each passing day. Also, it has been sending out psychic waves every night. I believe it's trying to make contact with its soul."
The eyes of the messenger opened wide, and a hopeful smile appeared on his lips.
"Then he must be close!" he exclaimed. "We should go look for him!"
"I'd rather not. If we send too many agents out, they could find our hideout. We should wait for the reincarnated soul to come to us," Beelzebub stroked his goatee. "However, the body has been soulless and out of the ice for fifteen years now. I fear that, if we don't reunite them soon, it might decay and die. Then there will be no hope for us. We're between a rock and a hard place."
The chamber shook once more, as bestial growls echoed in the pit. The old man clenched his teeth.
"On top of that," he said, "I don't think our spells will be able to hold it much longer. This is a dire situation. Time is running short."
"We could try a sacrifice," the messenger suggested. "The blood of a young human might be enough to calm it down, at least for a few mor-"
His words were interrupted by the sound of an explosion somewhere above their heads, beyond the ceiling of stone.
It was followed by the unmistakable sound of gunshots.
Beelzebub's eyes widened as an expression of horror appeared in his face.
"They found us," he muttered. "Those lapdogs of the Throne of Souls..."
He turned around and yelled at the six figures, who were still praying around the mouth of the pit:
"Keep chanting! Don't let the body break free! Without its soul, it will not distinguish friend from foe!"
Then, the old man stared at the messenger.
"Go," he said. "Join the defenses. They must not reach this chamber."
The young man ran. He met with many of his brothers and sisters on the way, who had heard the commotion and knew what they had to do. As they ascended through the tunnels, as the noises of the battle above became clearer, they began to shed their human disguises. Their hands became claws or pincers. Their feet turned into paws or hooves. Tentacles and wings sprouted from their backs. Their heads lost any semblance of humanity, being replaced by faces which would've been more suited for gargoyles. There were horns, fangs, beaks, antennae, pointy ears and muzzles like wolfs or bears.
The army of chimeras reached the upper chambers and faced the intruders: a small battalion of human soldiers. Barrages of bullets flew through the air, but the monsters were not stopped by that. The beasts clawed and tackled, they spat venom and shot spikes. If they managed to reach a human soldier, they tore it apart without mercy. Some monsters ran towards the guns and the rifles, allowing themselves to be shot to death. Then they exploded in bursts of acid, or ash, or even lightning; taking down many enemies in their suicidal attacks. However, the soldiers had come prepared, and quickly brought out the flamethrowers and the grenade launchers. Chaos soon filled the place.
New explosions opened more holes in the walls. Waves of humans entered in the hideout and began attacking the chimeras from all possible directions. Many were roasted, trapped between two or more flamethrowers. Those who proved to be resistant to fire were taken down by the grenade launchers and the heavy weapons.
In the chamber of the pit, Beelzebub waited, staring at the tunnel. The noises coming from it weren't reassuring. In preparation for the apparent inevitable fight, the old man transformed, as his comrades had done. His black robes were torn apart when he became a monstrous green insect, four-winged and taller than any human, with blades on the tips of his legs.
The soldiers arrived soon and attacked, but the bullets ricocheted in Beelzebub's exoskeleton. He lunged at the humans, easily slashing through their stab vests and combat helmets. The tunnel was painted red with their blood and guts. The monster's carnage was only stopped when a grenade exploded in his face, cracking one of his compound eyes. Beelzebub retreated back to the chamber and took off to and advantageous aerial position.
Not wanting the fight to drag on, and making use of the large space provided by the chamber, the soldiers took out a rocket launcher and attacked Beelzebub once again. He managed to avoid the missile, which was unguided, and spat a toxic cloud over the humans. They had gas masks, but that was not a normal poison and could not be stopped by mere trinkets. The soldiers fell down as their flesh began to melt beneath their clothes, which remained untouched.
The noise of more explosions filled the chamber. Beelzebub stared in horror as tides of humans made their way inside. They bombarded the six praying figures with a barrage of grenades, putting a sudden end to the chants.
'No!' thought Beelzebub, shortly before being hit by three rockets. He fell to the ground, his whole body burning. His four wings had been reduced to cinders and he had lost one arm. Green blood was pouring from the many cracks in his exoskeleton. Although his vision was blurry, he could distinguish some soldiers coming closer, all of them pointing at him with their weapons.
Then, everything began to shake. Caught by surprise, many of the humans tripped. The mouth of the pit widened, swallowing the soldiers that were closer. New fissures appeared on the floor, releasing clouds of boiling steam. The walls cracked, and large chunks of rock fell from the ceiling. The growls coming from below grew in intensity.
Beelzebub decided that, if he was to die, he would have the last laugh.
"It's over!" he yelled, in Japanese, at his enemies. "We have lost, but so have you! Dante, the last of the Demon Lords, will destroy your civilization and mine! He will destroy everything!"
The ground beneath them disappeared in a burst of blinding light. Beelzebub and the surviving chimeras were torn to atoms by a violent wave of energy, but so were the soldiers, and their weapons, and their vehicles above, and the ruins of Old Tokyo, and the VTOLs hovering over the tilted and broken buildings. Once the light died, a couple of minutes later, all that remained was an immense, deep crater. At the bottom, a large creature stood on its two feet, unharmed.
It stretched its leathery wings and flew off into the night.
Shinji Ikari woke up screaming. Again.
"Oh, come on!" he groaned.
In the darkness, he turned his head towards the door of his room, dreading that it would open at any moment to reveal a much less friendly Asuka. When nothing happened, he sighed in relief. Somehow, his shrieks had not woken her up this time.
Shinji took a deep breath as he stood up. The images of the cavemen being eaten alive by the demons were still fresh in his mind. 'Well, that's new,' he thought, while scratching the back of his head. 'Usually it's just one nightmare per night.'
The boy wiped the sweat off his forehead. He felt dehydrated, so he went to the kitchen, without making a sound, and served himself a glass of water.
Then another. Then a third one.
Shinji was used to hot nights, much like any other children growing in Japan after the Second Impact, but at that moment he wanted nothing more than to open the door of the fridge and bathe in the coldness until dawn. Of course, even in his exhausted and sleep-deprived state, he knew that it would be a stupid thing to do; so he settled for the fresh night air.
He thought about going to the veranda, but he decided that it wouldn't be enough. He needed to be further away from the apartment and its heat. Shinji put the shoes on, opened the main door and took the stairs to the rooftop.
Once there, he was welcomed by a pleasant breeze. He smiled when he felt his hair moving in the wind. Shinji allowed himself some seconds to be at peace, alone with his thoughts, as the freshness of the night washed away the unpleasant memories of his nightmares.
The boy looked around, at the rooftops of the closest buildings, and wondered if some agents of Section-2 would be looking at him through binoculars. They were supposed to, but their vigilance had become somewhat lax in the last weeks. At least, that was Shinji's impression. Maybe nobody was watching him at that very moment. Maybe the agents had gone to sleep. Perhaps they had decided to give themselves a couple of free hours every night, counting on the pilots to be dreaming in bed. But there he was, awake and outside of the apartment, throwing a wrench in their plans to scrape as many spare time as they could from their demanding job.
Shinji shrugged. Better that way. He wouldn't be able to enjoy that moment of peace if he could see someone staring at him from the next house. He took a deep breath, trying to relax, and focused his gaze on the far horizon, beyond the lights of the city.
He saw the shadow. At first it was a tiny point in the distance, but its shape became clearer as it got closer. Shinji stared at it, not blinking even when his eyes began to itch. His face turned pale when he managed to distinguish two enormous wings and a long tail.
When it reached the city, the creature started to fly low. Its gigantic body barely missed the tallest buildings by a few meters. Its mere passing generated powerful gusts of wind. Parked cars were sent flying, crashing against each other. Windows shattered. Tiles, satellite dishes and lightning rods were blown away.
As it got closer, Shinji recognized that dark shape. The wings, the yellow eyes, the gaping maw. He had seen it all, in his worst nightmare. And, just like in that dream, he was paralyzed by fear. He couldn't move, he couldn't run away, he couldn't duck, he couldn't scream. His muscles didn't answer, not even when it became clear that the creature was flying right at him.
Not even when those white fangs were in front of him.
The monster's mouth closed around Shinji. All that remained was some of his blood, splattered on the rooftop.
With a flap of its mighty wings, the behemoth ascended in the air, and then turned around. It flew back to the middle of Tokyo-3, where it landed, causing a small earthquake. It swallowed something that it had been chewing.
It stood there, and it did nothing.