Chapter 1: Evil Illusion
The demon detective raised his head from behind the newspaper he had been reading, searching for word of interesting and profound mysteries for him to eat. Sunlight streamed through the large windows behind him; it was a beautiful day by human standards. The office was spotless, each tile pristine due to a recent cleaning by the slaves. The only other resident in the room right now was Katsuragi Yako.
Nougami Neuro raised his eyebrows. "Yes, Top Slug?"
Brushing off the condescending nickname with practiced ease, the high school detective answered. "I've been wondering…about when you eat a mystery." Her brown eyes narrowed in thought.
"Out with it Yako." said Neuro. "It would be a waste of valuable energy to have to deduce whatever matter is on your puny mind."
The high school detective went on. "I've been with you for a while now. I've seen countless mysteries be solved and eaten by you. It doesn't faze me in the least anymore." She kept her gaze on the man reclining in his chair behind the red desk. "But there's one thing I've never been able to figure out."
A pondering look crossed her face. "When do you eat your mystery? I mean, by now I've seen you feed," she quickly continued, "but other…other humans don't seem to notice anything different. Not when you use your hellish tools, not when your head turns into its true form. They all act like they saw nothing happen."
Neuro smiled a slightly too-large smile, green eyes glinting. The Slug looked back at him, getting more and more confused. He wasn't saying anything, just continuing to sit there holding his newspaper. Nothing had changed. Was that bad? Did she say something wrong? She should probably apologize before he made her lick his shoes-WAAAAAAAUGH!
"What's the matter, Louse?" Neuro said innocently. He had suddenly appeared standing on the ceiling, his head a few inches away from Yako's, startling her considerably. His happy-blank face was on, complete with sharp-toothed smile.
"How did you do that?" the girl demanded, sprawled out on the couch she had fallen onto in shock. "I didn't see you move at all!" Well, he is a demon. She reminded herself. Maybe he really can move that fast…
"Of course you didn't." came his smooth voice from the ceiling. The demon's face returned to normal. His long arms crossed lazily, as if the whole thing- appearing on the ceiling and all –was nothing special.
Yako took a deep breath while she tried to get her racing heart back to normal. "How many tools of the demon world are in my possession?" she heard as a gloved hand latched onto the young detective's head and harshly pulled upright. "Or is your brain too inadequate to even recall the many times I've announced it?"
"Aah! Umm…777." Yako struggled; the hand let go and she fell down heavily on the couch.
"Correct, worm." Neuro said as he sank into a crouching position, still on the ceiling. His face remained tilted up and looking at his slave, so he was effectively looking down on her and yet up at the same time. It was a truly disconcerting maneuver.
"I have tools for every conceivable use and purpose, including some very silly ones. What you just witnessed," his shark grin grew wider, "or failed to, was also one of those 777. You've seen this one before, many times." A thought seemed to occur to him. "Actually, it may be the most common one you've seen. I do have to use it a lot in the human world."
Yako blinked up at the blonde demon, trying to figure out which tool it was. She had seen so many of his tools…but certainly not all in his possession.
Suddenly the room seemed to be dyed varying shades of red. As she looked above, something appeared. An umbrella, colored a sickly green, began to unfold over her head from a white pole and purple attachment. It easily covered both her and the grinning demon on the roof. Once the device had reached its full span, numerous eyes with purple irises opened from slight folds, staring down at the young girl.
"777 Tools of the Demon World – Evil Illusion." Neuro's voice proclaimed. "It takes the form of what best can be described as a demonic umbrella. Don't worry about the eyes looking at you louse, it's just friendly. It creates a small rift so I can eat my meal uninterrupted. In this tiny space, who knows what the holder of the mystery will see?" He gave another of his frequent smiles. "I imagine they tell very interesting stories to the police."
"But it's most useful power affects those on the outside. You humans can be so very oblivious, but you might notice something if I suddenly reverted to my true form and attempted to eat. You said you often saw me standing still near the perpetrator, or that I didn't do anything? Simply the Evil Illusion doing its job. This tool makes it so anyone watching will see nothing out of the ordinary. Not my real self. Not me using other tools. I end up using it quite a lot in the human world."
Satisfied at the expression on Yako's face, Neuro dismissed the tool. Evil Illusion retracted back and disappeared into thin air, purple eyes closing shut. Last to fade was the unearthly red tint to everything within sight.
The demon chose that time to jump down from his gravity-defying perch. His long body twisted effortlessly, landing himself on his feet like a cat. "It's very useful," Neuro proclaimed, turning to address Yako. "It asks only minimal amounts of Demonic Energy to summon, meaning I can safely use it without the cost offsetting the nutrition I gain from a mystery." His voice became teasing, "However, that does mean I wasted some energy just now, calling it for no reason. So I'll be expecting you to fetch me a stellar meal to make up for it, Slave Number One." He pointed at her with his right hand, middle finger out as per normal.
Yako groaned, seeing that her "master" had managed to rope her into another future mess. It wasn't pleasant seeing so many dead bodies at her age! Neuro didn't care at all, of course, and walked back to his blood-red desk, Troy. Yako watched him from her seat on the couch. He really did have a lot of those tools. Ones for practical detective reasons, some for combat, a few for punishments, along with many that seemed ridiculous and would never be thought of to serve a logical use.
The high school detective dug out a pile of newspapers to get started on finding the next case as she entertained those thoughts. How did he even come to own those things? Did he make them all himself, or did his boss in the underworld give them too him? She chuckled at the thought of Neuro answering to a boss. Unlikely. If anything, he would be the one always in charge. Still, some of the tools she'd seen were dangerous, like the 7 Weapons of the Demon Emporer. Weren't other demons a bit concerned about how he might use them?
And 777 freaky gadgets was a lot. A lot to memorize, to learn how to use effectively and at the proper time, to become adept at each and every one. Well, this was Neuro she was thinking about, Yako reminded herself.
Still, how did he master the 777 Demon Tools of Hell?
The 344th day of the 16th month, Demon Year 666666
The rust-red ground was littered with midnight-black stones and the pale bones of unfortunate creatures. Small wisps of blood-colored fog floated along close to the ground, desperately clinging to the dirt. The sky gleamed dully with reflected hellfire from the Fields of Punishment. Not a single star was to be seen in the thick slurry of dark clouds above, as if the small light of hope was hidden far, far away behind them, where no resident of this land could ever know of it. Ribbons of strange light filled with illogical patterns dancing in them streaked though the perpetual curtain at odd times. It was said that those "scratches" in time and space led to others worlds, even the human one if a demon was lucky. But they were so far away, and very hard to reach.
It was lovely night in Hell. Executive Officer Asanteoh "King" Leonfang was in his office awaiting a very important arrival. A lion-esque demon, he sported the cat's signature golden-brown mane, which swept over his (rather cute and tiny actually) ears and spilled onto his strong shoulders. His nose was decidedly feline, and between his black lips impressive fangs showed. His head rested on broad clasped hand-paws, dark eyes staring intently at the door.
Bam! The door to the base of Hell's Disciplinary Action Committee: Order Branch was suddenly opened by a wolf demon with a poorly done half-human appearance. "Hey Boss!" it barked at Asanteoh, gaping mouth drooling stupidly with excitement, "Your new guy's almost here!"
...Well, this was not the arrival Leonfang was hoping for. "I know that, Lucard Throatbane." The Lion demon growled at his subordinate. "Now get over here and calm down." Demons weren't ones for kind words. "You almost broke the door again."
"Sorry, King." Said Lucard as he crossed the room over to his superior's side. "But this is exciting. Been a while since we got a new recruit." It was true. No one in Hell looked upon justice and a police force fondly, but for practicality there had to be limits. No killing each other off willy-nilly and the like.
The wolf demon tossed a few folders, which Asanteoh had already seen, onto the desk. "He's a special guy sir. Name of 'Braineater' Neuro Nougami. Form: Animalnoid like you and me boss, some bird, most likely a parrot. Intelligence: as yet unsurpassed, five stars." Lucard's eyes then narrowed. "Strength: two stars, three if he's clever."
"Well, we'll fix that right up, won't we?" murmured Asanteoh behind his folded paws.
"Indeed. Age: Barely over his 1000th year sir. That's young! Technically he's a young adult, but still." Lucard gave a soft whistle. "He's a prodigy. However, it makes sense that he would be a natural at solving crimes." He grinned and tapped at one section of the report. "He has to, you see. Food: Mysteries. Now that's unique. Never heard of a demon like that before, huh?" His wolfish grin continued, sharp teeth showing. "His diet makes him a natural asset for us." Throatbane shook his head bemusedly. "What a guy. I wonder what he's like, don't you Boss?"
Asanteoh Leonfang said nothing. But privately, he agreed. This Nougami Neuro's mind was a great thing, if the stories and papers were correct. In an honest fight his physical strength would be no big deal, but that soon wouldn't matter with the tools he would have. With this man's intellect, they would be even more formidable. But it didn't matter, The King told himself. This was often how demons came into employment. Any other way they'd be dangerous- it was better to have them safely on your side, under your employment. Especially if they were giving him those…
What of this demon's personality? All great detectives were eccentric in some ways, it seemed. Would he break the pattern, or be the quirkiest of them all? Their ace or their flop? A help or a hindrance? Obedient or Rebellious? Or something else entirely.
Either way, he really must be something special to even be considered worthy of the 777 Tools of the-
There was a knock on the door.
Chapter 2: Evil Pledge
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
There was a knock on the door.
Lucard Throatbane's wolf ears flicked at the sharp noise. The second-in-command straightened up, suddenly switching to a serious demeanor. The grin fled from his features. His eyes focused on the entrance to the office, narrowing as they would if faced with a piece of prey.
Or if meeting a predator more dangerous then himself.
Even the King's often goofy companion could sense the gravity of the moment, it seemed. However, Asanteoh Leonfang made no move or change of gesture, continuing in his strong posture and fuzzy interlaced fingers. He knew how important first impressions were. Whoever this new recruit may turn out to be, they must learn to obey their King. Leonfang was a strong, capable leader, not to be disobeyed. From the moment they met this leonoid they would be made fully aware of his authority. He would not be questioned; he was the ruler of his realm and all newcomers would gain respect for him through fear and awe. Rewards came to those who took them. The hunters reigned over the hunted. The strong overshadowed the weak. Law of the jungle. This was the way the demon world worked, and how the King ran his business. You had to be firm when dealing with his kind.
All that remained was to see how the new addition would present himself.
The pair watched as a five-fingered hand reached in to clutch the side of the door from behind. Layered, serrated claws decorated with peculiar purple patterns gripped the frame. It could be seen that the hand they were attached to was also purple. A line of orange traced down each finger and knuckle.
BAM! The door to the head office was forcefully opened for the second time that day. Unfortunately, the abuse proved one time too many, and the long-suffering barrier collapsed off its hinges onto the floor. It rested there in silence, dust settling around it in a sigh. That was how Asanteoh and Lucard got their first look at Nougami Neuro.
"…I came here as quickly as I could." A rich voice spoke, one clawed foot still raised in the air from its aggressing of the entryway. "This is where the DAC's Order Branch is based, yes?"
At first glance, he did indeed appear to be an avianoid, albeit a slightly strange one. The new addition to the room stood on two scaly legs, bipedal, with two arms to match. One plate each covered his kneecaps and a tail was to be seen from behind the new demon. Feathers covered his tall, skinny body, colored purple and a precise shade of electric blue. The way his plumage was arranged, Leonfang noticed, it almost seemed like he could be wearing a striking suit. Interestingly no wings were visible. Instead, a capelet of purple feathers grew from his shoulders, edged in white and meeting at his chest in a natural cravat. Those two long arms were generously feathered, blue until meeting his violet hands. They didn't seem like they would be much use for flying. But if this recruit was as smart as others said, perhaps he had a few tricks up his poofy "wings".
…Well, those colors certainly reminded someone of a parrot. In addition to that, his rounded and large beak also mimicked that particular bird. But could theirs grin like his did, revealing sharp triangular teeth in what passed for a smile? "Will this help me find the puzzles I search for? Bullseye!" He said, with surprisingly juvenile word choice. Asanteoh took a moment to take in his new underling's face. The beak was the dominant feature, obstructing nearly half of what was visible. Lightly feathered purple skin rose into a ridge around each of his two eyes and ended in twin points, in line with his horns. The horns themselves twisted subtly, also plenty ridged. Blonde hair reached down from the back of his head, brushing two stiff tufts of fur that might serve as ears.
But it was those eyes that made Leonfang's whiskers twitch. At first they looked round and beady like any avianoids. Yet the lion's golden stare could see a deep emerald fire within, glittering in the green depths. Multiple rings with varying widths circled a central pupil. Those were intelligent eyes, observant, scathing. They were windows to a highly critical soul, logical and precise. What did the world look like through them? The executive officer wouldn't be surprised if they could be used to see in ultraviolet or even heat-tracking modes. Whether that was true or not, this demon must be able to see things nobody else could, or else he wouldn't be here.
"I'm really excited!" The detective proclaimed as he walked up to the desk. His hands folded behind his back as he advanced until he stood a small ways away from the others. "I don't want to stop smiling!" From the way he acted, it was like breaking doors was a normal and honored part of introductions.
"…You are 'Braineater' Neuro then, yes?" Asanteoh rumbled. He could see Lucard on his left; the lupinoid obviously wasn't quite sure how to react to this brazen new personality. Someone had to maintain authority and show his employees how to act, and by someone he meant him.
"Indeed, I would think that obvious." came the answer, rolled off a smooth tongue.
"Respect your new commander." Lucard growled. In response, the blond avian gave an overreacted look of fear and a nod of apology, obviously orchestrated to aggravate their temper.
"Let's review." Leonfang said before his companion could fall into any more traps. "Nougami Neuro, avianoid. Age: 1025 human earth years. Deit: mysteries/puzzles." He narrowed his eyes as he looked over the information. "Recommended to become a crime detective, and reach the level of one of our top operatives within 3 years."
"As expected, our written test was no trouble for you at all. Both real life examples and complicated theorizing resulted in full marks. You also did extra; wrote a few comments about how a real experienced killer would never be so careless and other things. You even deduced what they had likely eaten for lunch." Neuro gave a small smirk. "Nothing else impeded you. You spotted a helpful clue in the case we let you in on as a test. When we intentionally mislead you and hid data, you reasoned it out. Quite a few records would have been set, if we kept them. A genius, as we were warned." The leonoid turned over one of the papers.
"You also passed the physical exam, though noted mostly by clever talking, wit, and proper timing. The other demons were all much stronger than you but you held on to be one of the last three left conscious. Impressive." Asanteoh clasped his hands on his desktop and peered at his subject. "For the most part you have only one big advantage, but it's strong enough to cover your faults. I suppose that warrants a shaky success."
"Now we're all demons Mr. Braineater, so we're full of little tricks. Apparently you're one of those who are gifted with the special ability of minor transformation. Mind telling us more?"
"You seem to have arms rather then wings." Lucard interjected. "Can you even fly?"
Nougami Neuro replied, "All of that is correct. Especially that bit about minor transformation." He spread his lengthy arms out in a shrug. "At most, I might be able to change these limbs into wings. But I mostly what I do is this…" He held up a hand. Pale green light encircled it for a few moments. When it dissipated, the purple hand was now changed. Instead of five fingers with claws, it branched into a multitude of hooks, talons, segmented digits, feelers, nails, pincers, and even…was that the head of a venomous snake? "Body modification, four-star power level. I can do that with both hands, and my arms to a certain extent." He covered the transformed hand with the other, and in a few seconds it returned to normal.
"…Very well," responded Leonfang. "Now, I think I know why you have a natural gift for solving mysteries, and also why it would benefit both of us for you to work at our office. Can you guess?"
Neuro shot Leonfang a look that clearly said I'm a prodigy detective, I don't have to guess. "It wouldn't have anything to do with that report you've got, would it?" Sarcasm lightly laced his words like fine poison.
"Indeed." The lion demon replied, noting that the detective was never told that the plain folders were indeed a report. "Every demon's tastes are different. Some eat solid food, others don't. Some drink blood. And some live by eating human flesh, usually preferring females or young. Those are the ones that make the most trouble for us," he sighed. "But even for a demon, eating 'the energy released by a solved mystery or puzzle generated by the host's feelings' is very unusual." Leonfang read word by word off the sheet. "You have virtually no choice but to enter the justice business."
"Indeed." Echoed Neuro. Despite being reminded of his challenging situation, the astute demon looked positively delighted. In fact he almost looked…hungry.
"The first account of you discovering your calling was 219 years ago, correct? It was a murder case, and a bear demon turned out to be the culprit…"
"Oh yes." Neuro replied, licking his beak. "I sensed something in the air near the scene of the crime. Was drawn to it, somehow. Like a snake demon to a mouse. The big fellow had done a very sloppy job, and already made his escape. Gawkers were trying to decide what had happened, but it was obvious they wouldn't find much with the culprit gone. I quickly deduced the trick and pursued the killer. He hadn't gone very far, sure he was safe. When I did find him, I unlocked my meal by devastating him with my logic; his feelings over-flowed, and like a brute he made an attempt on my life. But I already had my prize, ripe for the taking."
He ran a finger across his mouth, subduing any drool that threatened to accumulate. "It was wondrous. Think about it, I had been slowly starving to death my whole life! I had no idea what it was like to eat, to feel full, to gain strength from some other's failing." Then the puzzle-eater chuckled. "Of course, that mystery was actually very small and bland, a mere crumb compared to my usual morsels. But that was when I made the transition from hunted to hunter, and I never forgot it. I had to have more. And so I searched, and solved, and ate. Gained skill and knowledge. And now I find myself here."
He grinned at his employers-to-be. "Indeed, I can't not solve mysteries. They are food, essential to my well-being and survival. I will do whatever it takes to achieve my meal." The demon's eyes glinted. "How tough the case is, the methods I use, how I exhaust myself…it's all irrelevant. The ends justify the means. If becoming the underworld's top detective will find me more meals, I will do it. If wielding 777 fickle tools will net me sustenance, I shall learn them fully. I don't mind becoming an underling, a subordinate, a pawn for anyone," he pointed at Leonfang with the middle fingers of both hands, "…as long as I get to eat my mysteries."
A silence fell over the room following that monologue.
"Hm." Leonfang's lips curled up into a smile. Beside him, Lucard brought a long-nailed hand to his mouth to muffle a short chortle. "You'll do." The King grinned at Neuro's very slightly quizzical expression.
He stood up from behind his desk. "We best be going. You should get acquainted with your many new friends." The lion strode over to the door, Lucard following. "As for introductions, I am Executive Officer Asanteoh Leonfang or as you may call me, 'King'. Starting now I am your superior, and I expect you to obey my rules and forgo foolishness. This giggling idiot is Commander Lucard Throatbane, my right-hand demon and also your overseer." Asanteoh paused and focused on his new charge. "You have no choice in this matter. You are simply too dangerous if left alone. You will become a HDAC:OB crime-solving detective, and may even turn out to be our best." He continued on. "But then again, that is how most of us got our jobs." Lucard, still smiling, started after his boss into the hall. Neuro followed.
"And Lucard, get a hold of yourself, you look like an utter dolt."
"Welcome to the Sealed Sanctum." Leonfang's deep voice echoed in the room that had been revealed from a section of the wall covered in cryptic symbols. Placing one mighty paw against the door, Neuro's new boss had unlocked the HDAC's most secure chamber. "We will be able to commit the deed here, in complete security." he said.
From the corner of one feral eye Lucard could see Neuro looking around, observing the perfectly square space. The room was large and dark, with a multitude of magical glyphs engraved in precise patterns on the floor. A short flight of stairs led down from the doorway and walls to join the lower level. Leonfang strode over to the top point of a huge pentagram in the main clearing, and gestured for Neuro to stand in the center of the opposite triangle. The bird demon complied with a smirk. Lucard stood over to the side, out of the ritual's reach. Hopefully.
They began. Words were spoken, vows affirmed; the shadows got longer and symbols pulsed with supernatural power. "…And thus, the 777 Tools of the Demon World are pledged to Nougami Neuro by his Dark Liege's might!" Leonfang's roaring words were overpowered by a bigger roar, as something gigantic and powerful rose up from the center of the glyph. Most humans lived in fear of this dark god, trying to live their lives properly and with kindness to avoid falling into His grasp. Any mortal would die of terror at the sight that Neuro currently beheld. In a midst of a cloud of brimstone, ash, darkness and hellfire came the being necessary to oversee this dangerous gift…
The Devil Himself.
It was interesting seeing your boss's boss's boss. Especially interesting when that was the King of Hell, called out of His busy day to personally see that things went right. When He was the one to approve the bestowing of the tools upon a detective. Neuro smiled in triumph on the inside. Those tools must be really something.
The mystery eater did not always show proper respect to his superiors. Sometimes doing that was a wonderful way to learn about their character. But he never pushed it over the line. And when Satan was here to see you, to do anything slightly deviant was suicide. Neuro swept his long body into a deep bow, kneeling on the floor.
"Neuro Nougami, the Braineater," Words cannot describe hearing the Devil speak your name. "You do so swear on pain of eternity to pledge yourself to serve Hell's Disciplinary Action Committee: Order Branch as a crime detective using the 777 Tools of the Demon World, also known as the 777 Tools of Hell, to the best of your ability and considerable knowledge. This is not reversible."
"There are a few rules I must alert you to." Leonfang spoke, barely visible from behind the bottom of the hellish cloud that Lucifer's torso sprang out of. "One: You will become the owner and guardian of all 777 tools. You will use them to help you in your investigations and other matters such as combat. They will be yours to summon, wield, and command. You shall use them to further your accomplishments and reach your goals, in this case solving and consuming mysteries." he clarified.
"Second: You will work to master all of the 777, becoming familiar with their functions, roles, and properties. Also you may find that they can provide previously unknown services that you discover. Know each of them by name and when to use them. Wield them with skill and appropriately; overkill is unfavorable. In addition, if you find something that you think could serve you well as a Tool, you may request to add it to your collection following the correct procedure." Leonfang paused and took a breath.
"And finally, the last and most important rule. You will never use these weapons against the Dark Ruler or demonkind. They all have powerful potential when wielded by the right demon, and you seem to suit them quite well. Using them to detain or harm someone may be necessary in your line of work, but threats or infractions beyond certain standards will be dealt with by extreme force. Our expectation is that these tools will assist you in your endeavors." The stony and cruel face of the Devil stared down on Neuro's bowed head. "You hear and obey. Do you so swear by above and below?"
"I do," replied Neuro, mouth watering at the thought of meals to come. "so swear by all above and below."
"Then sign your contract." declared Satan.
In surprise, Neuro raised his head. "What contract?" There was none to be seen.
All others in the room displayed truly frightening, sharp-fanged grins. "At the moment you agree to the terms, you are considered able to command the Tools." said Asanteoh. "Now you will receive your first test. You cannot sign your contract if you cannot summon it, can you?" Neuro's eyes narrowed at his commander. "Attempt to call your first tool, Evil Pledge. It may take a few tries, but I'm sure you'll manage." The feline's tight-lipped smile grew wider. "Eventually."
Asanteoh watched as Neuro grudgingly accepted his words as truth. No one was going to tell him how to summon a tool, or what the blond demon was supposed to do. He had to figure out his new ability now. With his intellect, he was sure to succeed. The leonoid observed as Neuro began to attempt the summon. Briefly, he thought to himself. The few demons had been trusted with the tools usually required a few tries to call Evil Pledge. Neuro looked like he was doing quite well actually, but there was still no—
With a yell, Neuro somehow redoubled his efforts. Asanteoh could only look on in shock as the pentagram began to glow a blinding red. It got brighter, and brighter, burning until it blocked out all sight for one single moment… And then there it was. A thick, decorated, serious-looking scroll floated in the air, summoned successfully.
...Well. Impressive. Not altogether unexpected, but impressive. Leonfang blinked the spots from his eyes as he beheld the detective's accomplishment. What most were able to do in a few false starts he had done in one. Nay, one and a half. When Neuro's initial burst of strength had begun to fail, he had managed to find a large amount of pure willpower from deep within. But it had still taken a gargantuan effort, as evidenced by the bird demon's loud breaths and braced posture.
"…Neuro Nougami." The Devil spoke his name. Neuro straightened up and collected himself. "You have been successful in summoning the first of many tools that now belong to you. Keeping in mind the rules explained prior, I give my approval for your new abilities. Where you go from here is limited only by your potential. Sign your contract and bind yourself."
A few more moments passed as Neuro finished regaining his composure. His beady green eyes stayed fixed on the tool he had managed to summon as he brushed off his feathered arms. Asanteoh thought he saw a slight green gleam in the avianoids eye.
"Fuhahahahaha…I swear and promise, Your Majesty." The symbols of the Sealed Sanctum flared again, and the letters of his name etched themselves onto the parchment.
And thus 777 feared gadgets were placed into the gleeful possession of a demon who would wreak havoc on two worlds, above and below, giving Nougami Neuro the chance to become either a savior or ruin.
But he hadn't mastered them all yet.
Neuro used around 30 or so Tools in canon. If there really ARE 777 of them, there is no way that he showed them all.
Therefore I may use a Tool that does not exist in canon, although not very often.
This is one of those times.
Chapter 3: Evil Full Face
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The Sealed Sanctum was calm around the three demons inside it. Lucard Throatbane sidled closer to Asanteoh Leonfang, jaws split wide in a fanged grin at their success. The Devil had dismissed himself. Evil Pledge had been signed and dispelled, never to appear again. The deal was done, for better or for worse. Neuro Nougami stood in the middle of the floor, flexing his clawed hands slowly as if he could close them around something invisible in the air. His green eyes focused on the movements, turning his hands over and over, examining them. He could feel it. The weighted sensation of having.
"Congratulations." Rumbled Asanteoh, furry hands clasped behind his back. "You fared much better than the few before you who have undergone the ritual. Although I admit, I did not expect much less." A pleased grin was on his face. Lucard nodded in agreement.
"How generous of you." Neuro replied, finally putting his hands to rest by his side and turning away, walking out of the now-normal pentagram. "Well, I'm truly honored, gentlemen." He said, moving toward where his new boss and second-in-command stood. "And I'm eager to begin testing out my new toys, so I would imagine that we three shall abscond from this chamber in favor of different surroundings…" the avianoid demon trailed off slowly as he observed that neither demon across from him was moving.
"And now," said Asanteoh, "our real business begins." Both leonoid and lupinoid bared twin large, sharp-toothed smiles. Neuro decided to rate the situation as "unsettling".
"You have just been granted the 777 Tools of the Demon World, and signed the Evil Pledge," Continued Leonfang. "But can you summon them at will? Choose just the right one at the right time in the right way? On such short notice?" Neuro regarded the King with contemplating, intelligent eyes. "Part of our job as your new commanders, Braineater, is to make sure that you undergo training and can do your job well. Part of your job as our new underling is to be a master of your tools, especially the ones that can be used for combat. Therefore, we will herefore issue…a test of your abilities!" Asanteoh's final words were accompanied by an excited roar. Lucard lept forward and landed on all fours and growled, silver-black fur bristling. Neuro deftly hopped a little ways back, sinking into a ready crouch. So, a fight was it? What a surprise.
Lucard transformed rapidly. He howled at the ceiling through jaws lined with bone-white fangs. His feral eyes glowed a pulsing, dull red. Four large paws with nightmarishly long claws as sharp as Death's scythe tore scars through the earth. As one would have expected, Throatbane stood as a giant, demonic wolf in front and to the right of Leonfang,. Ah, of course. He was a shifter. A demon that could shift back and form from its animalistic side to a less wild one at will. How he had looked before, a bipedal wolf in a terrible half-human form, must have been as close to humanoid as he could get. Perhaps Leonfang was a shifter as well?
"…And are you going to fight me as well?" Neuro smirked at the leonoid. The sudden threat of battle had come on fast, but the whole point, after all, had been to surprise him. He was vulnerable; just handed the reins on 777 strange tools he had no idea how to use, challenged by two people that he had no reason to distrust, during the calm after the storm.
"No." Asanteoh said in a smooth voice, completely unaffected by the air of battle that suddenly draped the room. "It wouldn't do for you to fight your boss, would it? Besides, there is another reason why I cannot participate in this battle." One black lip curled up into a smirk. "The weapon that I possess, 'Caesar's Crown', is far too powerful for me to use so causally."
Neuro blinked at Leonfang's words. He had never heard of this 'Caesar's Crown'. But before he could think much more upon the issue, his attention was quickly brought back to Lucard. An enormous BARK had erupted from his silver-furred throat, booming through the air in an almost rippling fashion. Something in the air seemed to gather around him, becoming thick, merging with his form. Neuro frowned and shifted his footing. The dog was getting bigger.
And he was. The Sealed Sanctum was a very large room, in both length and height. But the resulting canine easily reached about one third of the way to the ceiling. Neuro could tell that his power and strength had increased as well. The briefest sensation of shock came to the avianoid's brain along with a single thought—was he a Hellhound? A dog of the Devil, a rare and powerful demon with many strong abilities…
No. Neuro's brain reached a logical conclusion. Hellhounds were said to have command over fire. Throatbane hadn't displayed any pyrokinesis yet. If he could, he would have by now. But he did have powers, they just seemed to be over the air instead, or at least something in it.
"This is a mock-fight between Neuro Nougami and Lucard Throatbane." Asanteoh announced. "Its purpose is to judge the former's abilities as master of the 777 Tools of Hell, and also to serve as on-the-job combat training." A sweep of his hand declared the match officially started. "It may also serve as a fitting introduction to his superior, Lucard Throatbane." So the cat did have a sense of humor, Neuro thought.
"Draw your weapon." Lucard's voice boomed, magnified. How exactly demons can speak while in animal form, despite not having articulate tongues or vocal chords, is a perfect example of logic in Hell. They don't work the same way that humans do. Science and human knowledge are totally irrelevant in the Underworld. "You have 777 to potentially choose from." The giant wolf continued. "But I wonder, Braineater, whether you can call a suitable one in time!"
"What, did you say something boy?" Neuro taunted. "Lookit that, are you just the King's pet dog?" He had quite the extensive experience with pissing people off. They are always easier to manipulate when they are blinded by rage.
Lucard had been trained not to fall for most tricks like this, but a little bit of fury surely couldn't hurt. He let out another air-rending bellow, and leapt into battle. Neuro commenced another strategic retreat backwards. As he was off the ground, he felt a tugging in the air. It felt draining, like bits of his demonic power were being sucked out of him, through the air, and flowing towards… ah. So that was what the dog's power was.
Asanteoh watched as Neuro fended off the far-more-powerful Lucard's attacks. Neuro transformed his claws, making them bigger, sharper, and stronger. They were actually of credible use, turning into an inventive multitude of swords, spears, and shields, to slice the front legs and paws of the giant wolf. The parrot-esque demon notably aimed towards the softer undersides of Lucard's paw pads, where they were marginally more vulnerable then the armor-like fur covering his legs. But it wasn't enough. Leonfang frowned as he observed Throatbane swinging with his huge limbs, plowing into the dirt with great force as Neuro hopped onto his legs to avoid a deadly hit. This new recruit's strength was no big deal. But certainly, his great intellect could lead him to victory. In this real-life combat situation, would he fare as well as hoped?
Lucard inevitably got in a hit. Neuro's shield-like left arm deflected the claws, but could not stop the sheer force of the blow and he was tossed back into the opposite wall with a crunch. Gah! They weren't afraid to rough him up a little bit, it seemed. But he wasn't used to losing. He still had a few tricks up his blue-feathered arms that resembled sleeves. And his mind had already come up with a plan.
He made a show of dusting himself off, returning his fathers back to an orderly position after removing himself from the wall; a Neuro-sized dent was left in it. He returned his talons back to their normal purple 5-fingered shape and wiped some blood off one cheek as he eyed his opponent. This oversized puppy had powers over miasma, the source of most demonic strength. They used it as fuel for their powers. They exuded it naturally. They needed it to stay alive. It surrounded them, emanating from the rocky, sandy, harsh landscape and permeated the air. So of course, that was what he had felt stirring when the air tugged. What a power. With control over that, the dog could practically drain his opponent of energy and transfer it to whomever he pleased, like using it for himself to bulk up to Hellhound-like proportions.
Neuro jumped as Lucard swung a paw glinting with 3-foot jagged claws towards him. The blonde demon sprung over the wolf's head, twisting artfully in the air. He frowned as he felt the air buffet him, miasma swirling under the control of Throatbane. That dog was smarter than he gave him credit for. Since he was a bird demon, if he were to take flight, he could stay out of the other demon's reach successfully. That would be a great advantage. But it was impossible to do that now with so much…turbulence. He landed on clawed feet a short ways behind Lucard's tail. This whole room was filled with miasma, a potential weapon for his opponent's use. Escape was impossible from what was basically equivalent to oxygen for demons.
But that didn't mean Neuro was out of the fight.
A greenish glow encircled Lucard's front left paw. The enormous wolf looked at his limb and whined quizzically at this strange phenomenon. Suddenly the paw lifted off the ground, slowly but surely, as if moving under its own desire. Lucard shuffled his other three paws briefly, trying to achieve better balance. Suddenly, the green energy hurled the front paw towards the wolf's face with great speed. Lucard gave a sharp yip as his own leg hit him sternly upside the face. Now it was Neuro's turn to grin.
Sense manipulation? Thought Asanteoh safely from the sidelines. That wasn't mentioned in the reports…
"You know, I usually don't like fighting. It's brutish and to my disadvantage." said Neuro. "But the generous gift of these fine tools changes that. Now, I think I might actually get to enjoy myself." Lucard met the blond demon's verdant gaze for a moment. "Shall we see what I can do?" His voice was light and gleeful, that of a child at play with an arsenal of new toys.
And those toys were nuclear weapons.
To his credit, Lucard Throatbane did not get scared. He did not let himself be intimidated. Neuro attempted to summon one of the 777 tools that were battle-worthy. It was a hard thing to do; he had summoned one not too long ago and that had been taxing enough. Plus, now he had to sort through a mess of gadgets for every conceivable use, and find one that would best suit the situation RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. But, Lucard thought as he braced himself to meet the mystery eater, that was exactly why he was testing this Neuro Nougami.
Of course, the prodigy pulled it off. His blonde hair swirled together like a cocoon, then unraveled into a grotesque mask. Two buggy eyes stared from above a mouth set in a perpetual gold grimace, tongue protruding. Two horns curled down to frame the spherical object, hanging from the ends of Neuro's hair. Lucard growled; he didn't know what that tool could do, but it looked like he was about to find out.
Grinning, Neuro took hold of the tool in one clawed hand. The two demons, bird and wolf, locked eyes- green and crimson. Then to Lucard's astonishment, Neuro charged right at him. He braced himself, sinking down into a ready stance. Whatever this weapon did, Neuro had obviously figured it out completely, and was ready to obliterate him. Look at him, charging straight at the Lucard with nothing else, no sneaky moves, and eyes glittering. It didn't look like he had any trick in mind. Not at all.
But Lucard knew better. He waited. Waited. More. Closer. He watched for Neuro to move suddenly either way, to jump, to use the mask. He waited for the bird to engage the elaborate plan that had certainly formed inside that feathered head. Neuro Nougami was known for elaborate tricks and perfect schemes. The wolf must be ready for anything. So why…why… why was Neuro still coming right at him and there was no trick yet but now he had nearly reached him and he was using the tool-thing right under his noseandheshouldmovenownownow-
Lucard swung both of his two front paws, bringing down his jaws to snap at the detective as well. Assaulted from either side and above, the bird would have nowhere to run or escape. He must be trapped…
And the bomb blew up in Lucard's face.
The weird mask erupted in a dense cloud of white smoke. Lucard reeled back, shocked and expecting to have received injuries from the explosion. He whined and hopped back, tentatively setting both front paws on the ground. No wounds. That clever little… the avian demon had done something so directly opposite his usual strategy that no one would ever have bothered to think he was serious. Perhaps that itself, had been a strategy of his.
Lucard punched and pounded his way through the still-thick mist, but he hit nothing. As expected. Strange. So what was all that for?
"Hello." Drawled a rich voice from the cavern ceiling. Both Lucard and Asanteoh looked up. There, upside down, stood Neuro Nougami, looking as comfortable as if he were the only one in the room right-side-up. "Oh." he said, beak split into a grin. "So that's what Evil Full Face does."
"A smoke bomb. I thought so. And of course, I'm always right." he continued as Lucard gave a howl of anger and snapped at the high ceiling. The giant wolf swatted at the figure of Neuro from below, growling in frustration. Even when sitting back on his hind legs and stretching up, he simply couldn't reach. Neuro just reclined back, at perfect ease, while Lucard tried to use his miasma manipulation to bend the air to his will. "What a lovely, gentle spring breeze."
"I don't think that ability was detailed in the reports either." Leonfang said, stepping forward. "You've been very careful about revealing your true skills. Lucard, cease your mindless flailing, you look like a domestic human cat batting at a light. Anyway, I hereby declare this friendly test-match over."
"Friendly?" spoke Neuro, sitting with legs crossed, defying gravity with practiced ease. Lucard ceased his mindless flailing.
"Braineater." Asanteoh said, looking up to the ceiling. "I must admit. That was one of the tools furthest from my mind. Yet you used a definite strategy, and commanded the tool creatively and effectively. Lucard cannot reach you, and you're safe. You have many options from your currant position. It's your victory. Besides," he said, to Lucard's brief protestation, "…if I don't stop you now, this stand-off could go on for an utterly ridiculous amount of time."
Asanteoh reflected on Neuro's battle style as his second-in-command grudgingly transformed back to his regular appearance. For most of the fight, Neuro had seemed to be on the defensive. However, his high intelligence went without saying, formulating strategies and staying ahead of his opponent almost automatically, Leonfang would bet. Add that to his composure, calm and collected even with a Hellhound bearing down on him, and it only furthered his intellectual might. Neuro could be trusted to always do the smart thing and not rush, not fall prey to instinct. If there was any weakness in his opponent, he would spot it. What a dangerous combination. In addition to that, he had displayed the ability of mild sense manipulation. Taking forceful control of a part of someone else, like Lucard's paw, and moving it according to his will. It wouldn't be very practical for close-range fighting, but it was certainly handy nevertheless.
He appeared to wait for the opponent to move first, reveal their strength and method of attack. It was a feasible idea, but unorthodox. Demons, especially, did not want to be seen as weak or passive. But he was able to dramatically turn the tables on his opponent, leading to a quick and decisive victory. When Neuro was allowed by his opponent to make a move, he took advantage of it with a vengeance. He had been planning and thinking ahead since even before the battle. Therefore, the moment that he was allowed to go on the attack, he had already won.
The 777 Tools of the Demon World would erase the shortcomings he had physically. Especially once he mastered them all, and with his intellect it wouldn't take long, he would be an absolute terror to face. It was daunting to imagine what would happen if he gained mastery over the 7 Weapons of the Demon Emperor as well…
"Well, did I pass your impromptu little 'test', 'King'?" came an unfazed voice from the ceiling.
Asanteoh smiled through the chill that he felt. "You most certainly did."
"…You're not going to attack me again on the way out, are you?"
"…No, my puzzling detective."
By the way, if you can't remember Evil Full Face, it's right here from the wiki (a picture can be seen in the "777 Tools of the Demon World" entry: http://nogamineuro.wikia.com/wiki/777_Tools_of_the_Demon_World
"Evil Full Face, Chapter 39. Neuro sends out a demon head from his hair that acts as a smoke screen bomb to allow for quick escapes. He used it at the docks in the Hayasaka arc to confuse the police officers who had surrounded them."
Chapter 4: Evil Script
You will want to use a Binary translator for this chapter. :D You might miss some funny jokes if you don't. Simply google search "binary translator", or use this one: http://home.paulschou.net/tools/xlate/ Copy/paste the code from the fic into the box marked "BINARY" and click "decode". Let me know if you have any problems, I'll try my best to help!
"Let's begin then, Mr. Nougami, shall we?"
Yes, indeed. Neuro silently agreed.
He was eager to demonstrate to his new superiors just how much he had already improved. In the few days that had passed, the new holder of the Tools of the Demon World had been practicing. Now the mystery-eater could successfully summon a tool routinely without any complications. The mechanisms and ways to call a tool had become familiar; the time it took for the desired one to appear was diminishing also. Very soon he would be able to summon a tool in almost no time, virtually instantaneously. Neuro had to admit it—he was looking forward to mastering the strange 777 Tools of Hell.
Now the blue-feathered demon was back in the HDC:OB to begin the first of a series of short training sessions. Lucard Throatbane had ignored Neuro's arrival for the most part, remaining near the far side of the room. The detective's previous opponent had growled at the door choicely when he had stepped through. Predictable. Although neither demon had received notable wounds during their fight, putting up a tough front and a few light threats afterwards were to be expected. But the lupinoid did not taunt Neuro further. Either he was loyally obeying instructions from his boss or he was smarter and more placid than the avianoid gave him credit for. Neuro smirked at the amusing observations.
His instruction would take place in a new room. This one was large and open, though would still have been dwarfed by the Sealed Sanctum. It seemed to be divided into several sections, each one prepared for a separate purpose. One part featured a rather high ceiling. In each part the walls and floor were made of varying materials, differing in texture and color. They must be water-resistant, fire-retardant, chemical-repellant, and many other deterrents, Neuro concluded. In addition, objects were stationed in every section of the spacious, rectangular room. Weapons rested on the ground of larger spaces, while pieces of technical equipment blinked silently on others, displays glowing dimly. Lucard must have been taking inventory.
Asanteoh Leonfang was the one who had spoken to Neuro, sitting in the light tan section that surrounded the door. He had been perusing a report from behind a desk as black as the plague. Two big, veined eyes with pupils as red as spilled blood gazed around the room from the morbid piece of furniture. It rested on four large paws. Unlike their human-world counterparts, its paws trembled with the exhaustion of holding up the desk's weight, digging exposed claws into the ground. Two tiny ebony wings as delicate as a bat's were attached to the shorter sides. Once in a while they would twitch uselessly, as if they had long ago given up trying to lift the body they belonged to. It was a tortured sight.
A top-notch desk in Hell. Entirely suitable for the Executive Officer of Hell's Disciplinary Committee: Order Branch. Neuro briefly wondered whether it had been a gift from a grateful client, or a personal acquisition of the Leonoid demon.
"Today marks the start of your official job training sessions." Asanteoh rumbled as he stood from behind the desk. "Our last meeting was like an initiation exam," he said as he casually moved a few steps to the side, "so let me assure you, there will be no supplementary sudden skirmishes." He smiled at Neuro, lips lifting just past the tips of sturdy canines. "Well, as long as Lucard can hold himself back." The desk's bloodshot eyes rolled, tracing its owner's movements.
The lupinoid commander came over from the other side of the room, almost on cue. He grinned at Neuro with teeth as sharp as broken glass. Asanteoh continued talking to the new detective, "Soon you will be permitted to start making your way through our ranks at what we predict will be quite an impressive rate. But before that, there are certain investigative skills that you must learn." His golden eyes gazed down at the avianoid, "Yes. It is only now that you may begin to learn the basics." He placed emphasis on the last word.
"And what will the challenge of the day be?" Neuro drawled, gesturing aimlessly around the room.
"Challenge indeed." The King looked almost amused. "I think we'll let you decide that in a way, my puzzling detective. Show us a tool that you have managed to summon already."
"Hmph." Neuro returned the Executive Officer's smugness. He briefly dusted off his hands, as if he were wearing a pair of classy gloves. Then he complied with the leonoid's orders. An ethereal green light encircled his right hand for about five seconds, then receded.
Asanteoh blinked at how comfortably Neuro had summoned the tool this time. It had been smooth and assured; no loud noise, no gargantuan effort, and no time spent in a battle of willpower with his new powers. Neruo didn't even look significantly tired. Lucard moved his head slightly in order to get a better view of the tool. The "Braineater" had chosen a rather small one.
But "small" did not mean "weak". Asanteoh observed the new tool; it seemed grafted to its summoner's hand. No…it had transformed his hand. The jagged talons were gone, replaced with five segmented digits. The whole appendage was sleek and mechanical, colored greenish-white. Neuro slowly flexed his hand and the segments bent smoothly at the usual joints and knuckles. Each of the fingers extended into broad tips, like the toe pads of a gecko. It was as if the hand of a wired robot had been grafted on to the bird demon's wrist, fully organic and alive. Neuro gladly held it out to show his companions.
"I believe this one is called Evil Script." He said smoothly. "I find it a bit easier to summon then the others."
"So it is." Asanteoh said, stoic as always. "Of course," he nodded thoughtfully, "your hands already have transformative qualities. It must function almost as an extension of your natural abilities. Due to that, it likely costs you less energy to summon. You should be able to master that one especially." He turned to a square, light green section of the room. "Evil Script is used in computer matters; a very helpful tool for a very important part of detective work. So, let's begin your first training exercise: Hacking."
Raising a non-existent eyebrow at his superior's choice of words, Neuro held his transformed hand close to his chest and followed. Lucard walked closely behind. Soon all three stood by a surprisingly normal computer on top of a desk. Neuro noticed multiple monitors and other equipment sitting behind it, probably to examine his progress.
Asanteoh patted the top of the machine twice. "This computer will introduce you to the environment of the virtual world and serve as today's opponent." Outwit a computer? Neuro met his powerful gaze, dark gold against vibrant green. "Your practice mission is to retrieve an important piece of information from the system. Enter, extract, exit. But of course, it's never truly that simple."
"Enter?" Neuro questioned. He ignored Lucard's snarking, hearing a muttered "Go fetch." from close behind him.
"Activate the tool." Neuro did as requested.
"Now enter the system." Neuro did as instructed. He touched the screen with the bionic hand. His fingers slid easily through as if they had met water and not-
01001110 01000101 01010101 01010010 01001111 01001110 01001111 01010101 01000111 01000001 01001101 01001001 01001101 01011001 01010011 01010100 01000101 01010010 01011001 01010000 01010101 01011010 01011010 01001100 01000101 01000101 01010110 01001001 01001100 01010011 01000011 01010010 01001001 01010000 01010100 01000010 01010010 01000001 01001001 01001110 01000101 01000001 01010100 01000101 01010010 01001000 01000001 01001000 01000001 01010100 01001000 01000001 01001110 01001011 01010101 00110100 01000110 01001001 01001110 01000100 01001001 01001110 01000111 01010100 01001000 01001001 01010011 00111011 00101001
0100100e was01 1 0 1 01001100 01001111 01010011 01010100
"…collect yourself, you're still here with us, can you feel your physical body outside of the system, you are now in the program, change your presence to a recognizable form…"
01010110 01001111 01001001 01000011 01000101
nAviGaTIng the datadatadatasomuch was what hememyselfI was doing toomuchtoeatsohun gryhungryalwa ysbutheknew hekneweverythingevery thingalways he kne w whohe was...
Recovering from the initial shock of being launched into the virtual world, Neuro began to, quite literally, collect himself. The tool must have successfully connected him with the system. It was as if he, or at least his consciousness, had been shot directly into the inner workings of the computer. All around he could feel bits of himself here and there, swept along in the electronic current of constant DATADATADATAimpulses. Now that he had a hold on himself, Neuro was able to gather back together pieces of code that represented his consciousness in the virtual space.
Remembering what the voice had said, he connected the particles that were him together. Create a recognizable form. Neuro finished gathering and merging the binary into a program, noticing that his new shape appeared just like his physical body. Interested, he inspected one clawed hand. Well I suppose this is what my body is expecting to look like. These strings of coded data were himself in a way after all. He set the last bits of binary into place, impressed with how quickly his mind was adapting. Neuro felt a delightful satisfaction, understanding what he was in the virtual world—a simple code.
"…You're a virus? Haha, I suppose that's fitting." Neuro looked around as he heard the voice. There was no one in the blue-green space. Crowded and claustrophobic, yet at the same time vast and void, he could see for what seemed like miles. And still he knew it was only a few millimeters, and that he wasn't really "seeing" at all. He turned to the "sky" and smiled—a twitch of purple pixels. He knew that voice.
01000001 01010011 01000001 01001110 01010100 01000101 01001111 01001000
There was no sound in the virtual world, so Neuro assembled a message to show that he was alright and knew what he was doing. Asanteoh informed Neuro that they were able to monitor him clearly. He had done well in his first experience with the inner system.
"Your real body is still here by the way," A new voice spoke. "It's propped up nicely with the left arm braced against the desk. The tool-hand is thrust into the screen and hasn't moved a muscle. And your eyes are still open! I don't know if they've even blinked. You're just sort of balancing there; it's rather disconcerting actually… Oh sorry, King."
Neuro grinned, recognizing the scolded voice.
01010011 01010100 01010101 01010000 01001001 01000100 01000100 01001111 01000111
His amusement stopped when he "heard" a sound. The holder of the tools turned to look, shifting to an aggressive stance. A strange device was coming his way. It was round and smaller then him, with two searchlights for eyes. Its arms were short, curved like a crab's claws and barbed on the inner edges. A red-and-blue police light was flashing on its head. Its mouth was a megaphone. Neuro could see a few more coming a ways behind, those with different arms.
"First test: fend off some routine security sweeps." Asanteoh said, answering Neuro's unasked questions. "Every computer has some form of a protection program."
Neuro scowled as he tried to maneuver around. He would have to learn the rules of this strange place, and fast. As the enemy sweeps got closer, his sharp eyes noticed something. Not one of them had wheels or legs; they simply floated. Neuro looked "down". Indeed, there was not even a floor to begin with here! Why should he conform to the limits of reality when there were none? Letting out a short laugh, the demon jumped up high to avoid the arms of the sweeper. He stayed up high, freely dodging the arms of the three or so sweeps down below when they extended like bungee cords. Such a wonderful feeling! He could…he felt…he was flying.
Oh, control yourself. Overruling his emotions, Neuro began to focus on subduing the sweepers. Floating in close, he transformed his arms and punched strongly to both sides. Two of the sweeps went down, dissolving into streams of data until they were nothing. Neuro turned to the last one. His normal powers were not limited by the laws of reality here either. That was an interesting thought, he reflected as he wrenched the arms off of the last sweep. Pretending to have super-strength was fun, he decided as he raised his two new weapons. It was all in how you changed your code as a program.
"…but be silent." Asanteoh instructed. "Do not alert the system of your presence."
Oh really now? Neuro gazed coldly at the helpless sweep. He wondered if maybe he could just… The demon placed one hand over where the sweep's beeping "mouth". Grinning with a beak full of sharp teeth, he "shh"d the program with one middle finger before raising one of the edged arms up, bringing it down, and piercing it through.
Neuro turned away from the beaten program. He could see that his next test had already arrived. Shortly in front of him floated a huge warning message. On one side the yellow "CAUTION" symbol brought attention to the words on the right. "YOU DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO PROGRESS FURTHER" it read, with the only selectable answer being "OK". Neuro marveled. It looked exactly like a pop-up on a computer screen, only much larger. There was even a red X in the top corner.
"A barrier obstructs your path." said Asanteoh calmly. "What will you do?"
"Elementary my dear 'King'," Neuro said. He raised his right arm, the one with Evil Script, and reached out towards the wall. It grew bigger and bigger, until it was large enough to grasp the error message if its commander pleased. In real life this would not be possible, Neuro knew, but size was relative here. By changing his coding, he could issue his body instructions that would not normally be possible. The avianoid sneered, "Walls must be torn down." He formed a giant fist with the right hand and punched through the barrier. Neuro programmed his hand back to normal as flashing shards tumbled slowly down around him and faded away.
His reward for getting past the error message wall was a large amount of encrypted data. All Neuro had to do was unencrypt it. He was almost bored; this task was the easiest for him. The toughest part was determining the coding mechanism and finding a way to store the resulting data. Neuro objectified it as a letter, and stuffed it in a virtual pocket. For others it may have been their next challenge, but to Neuro it was almost a rewarding break.
Which turned out to have been needed.
Neuro beheld a truly awe-inspiring and daunting sight. In front of him raged a massive barrier of fire. It stretched to either side, as far as Neuro's emerald eyes could pierce. In addition, the momentous mountain of flame reached down and up until it vanished into the beyond. There was no creatively avoiding this obstacle.
"Congratulations. You have reached your final challenge." Asanteoh spoke.
"I see." Neuro muttered. "It's-"
"-the firewall." they both finished.
Impressive, Neuro conceded as he searched for a weak point, a hole, any weakness that he could find. He floated, blue arms crossed, and focused. He stared at the vertical screen of flames, the crimson inferno reflected in deep, ringed, forest-colored eyes. Program, flare, file, code, burn, sear, death, net, data, fly, virtual, through, transmit, bypass, look closer, closer, think, analyze, program transmit through SCREEN…
The bits of binary that were Neuro's thoughts finally collected themselves into a conclusion. He snapped his fingers in a universal "A-ha!" gesture. Of course. In the light of a million fires, Neuro Nougami smiled.
"What have you figured out, Braineater?"
Everything, he thought. "Pipe down will you?" the detective said cheerfully. "I am going to become a package."
Ignoring the startled reactions of his superiors, Neuro set to work. Briefly, he wondered if the roiling flames would hurt, simulated though they were. Nah, he discarded the thought. There were lakes of fire and similar things in Hell. This one was just vertical.
Neuro adjusted the program that was him. He couldn't go over this wall, nor could he go around it…so the only other option was through it. Madness, sheer madness, but Neuro's head was giddy with the thrill of it all. His mind had found its answer; he knew it was correct. The evidence and his own knowledge had combined to single out one option, and his deductions were always flawless. Now to follow what his mind had told him, regardless of what his body felt. His body was not what he relied on.
Neuro Nougami was a box. A parcel from the post office of Hell; stamped, addressed and ready for delivery. And his destination was the other side of the firewall. It was cramped, transforming so much. But he couldn't be suspicious. Only certain programs were allowed past the firewall, to the target information that he had been sent to acquire. Using Evil Script, Neuro surrounded himself with the system's own data in a curtain. This was a matter of disguise, of controlling what he was in the virtual world. For this, he would be a friendly program. Harmless—he laughed internally—until he was opened. He just had to make it through the filters.
Neuro moved closer to the wall of flame. Curtain scorched at the surface of the roaring, blazing barrier of vicious conflagration, he found what he had been looking for earlier. A hole. Feeling the friendly-data surrounding him tingle, he sent himself through the relentless inferno.
Usually, an anti-virus program would have been waiting on the other side to scan any arriving programs. But Neuro had already decimated the security sweeps. He was victorious. Having made it through the firewall, Neuro unpackaged himself. The detective allowed himself a contented smirk as he stretched and looked around casually for new anti-viruses to fight. He saw none.
Instead, he found an immense cache of data. An abundance of data that had been protected by the fierce firewall. It danced in the "air", floated about and transmitted back and forth between itself. He didn't need all of it—buried somewhere in this mountain of reward was what his target. Neuro's mouth watered as he imagined all of the information was a puzzle, one that he could eat. He had not yet solved a mystery quite on that level.
Neuro was pulled out of his fantasies by the disembodied voices of his commanders. Tossing an annoyed look at the "sky", he frowned. "I'll start on it! Honestly, something like this is no challenge for me."
He did. It wasn't.
"Mission successful, and one part of routine police training down." Asanteoh rumbled. "I suppose I must congratulate you."
"Think nothing of it." Neuro said, back in reality. He kept his eyes on Evil Script, flexing the hand thoughtfully.
"We'll have to replay and analyze your little trip." Said Lucard, messing with one of the monitors. "In the virtual space data—that's you—moves so fast it's hard to follow." He looked over and saw that Neuro remaining absorbed in studying the tool. Lucard's red eyes blinked. He leaned closer to the detective. "…Would you like to stay overtime and practice a little bit more?"
Asanteoh twitched his whiskers as Neuro gleefully agreed to "play" a few more rounds. He gave an authoritative nod to signal his agreement. The mystery-eater at once began working with Lucard to begin another exercise. The lupinoid made sure that Neuro's body was sitting down and comfortable this time.
After the detective was "gone", Lucard walked over to his commander. "King, was that the same firewall we use?"
"No Lucard." spoke Asanteoh, shaking his head. "If it had been, then we just taught him how to hack into all our information. But," he said, "I have no doubts that this tool will end up as one of his favorites."
Chapter 5: Evil Butterfly
A/N: I'm sorry for not updating last month. I have begun to lose interest in this fic, as I knew I would.
Ideally, I would like to eventually complete this fanfic by having one chapter one all of the tools that have been shown-manga AND anime.
Someday I shall finish it, but just to let you know that this story is not my passion, and neither is it my top priority. :) Thank you.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Day 2 of Routine Basic Training.
But they would not be using the room from the previous day.
Neuro Nougami was ready for his next training session to begin. The feathered demon stood to one side of a hallway, in front of two locked doors. The huge black doors were engraved with the glyph of the Order Branch of Hell's Disciplinary Action Committee, but were sparsely decorated besides. Neuro put one clawed hand on its firm surface and pushed; the barrier was very sturdy and thick. Only a considerable amount of power would be enough to force the doors open, should the need ever arise. No sight or sound escaped the impressive gaurdians. Whatever was beyond those doors was, in truth, a mystery.
Neuro's mouth began to water. How exciting.
He was not alone. Lucard and Asanteoh had taken their detective through the blue-carpeted halls to this currently unused office. He had already been told that today they would focus on the unremarkable skill of audio infiltration. But he would not be placing a wiretap on a phone line—there was a different tool they had in mind.
"…" Lucard silently stared as Neuro casually investigated the door. They hadn't told him to start yet…maybe it was just sleuthing instinct, gathering information and facts automatically. Lucard turned his head to left and gave his boss a questioning look. Despite his underling's unsettlement, Leonfang was unperturbed. The King simply watched as Neuro made his observations. Lucard looked straight ahead again, trying to copy the passive expression on Asanteoh's face.
"Today's task is more rudimentary than computer hacking." Asanteoh said. Neuro had just moved his head in closer to the door, curled horns almost touching the smooth ebony surface. "Again, one of the most basic tools in your arsenal will be used." Asanteoh's dark golden eyes narrowed, "However, these are also the most important tools—ones that you will use often in routine detective work. Remove your head from that door this instant, Nougami. You won't be able to hear anything just yet." Neuro complied.
"Lucard and I have set up a recording behind those doors." Asanteoh continued. "It plays on repeat, but it is impossible to hear from the outside. You will have to use one of the tools that can be used as a listening device. Use the device to overhear the recorded message and successfully repeat it back to me. The more of it you manage to hear and remember the better. We'll continue until you can remember all of the message flawlessly-" He broke off. "What's wrong, detective? You're frowning."
The mystery eater did indeed look saddened. "Oh, nothing." He sighed. "So what lies behind this door isn't a delicious mystery for me to solve…" His shoulders slumped slightly, disappointed. The challenge was not to deduce the contents of the room after all. There was no mystery, no glorious puzzle, and no possibility of even a miniscule meal.
Neuro was hungry. These 777 Tools of Hell were supposed to assist him in finding and solving mysteries, securing more food for him to eat. And yet his hopes of getting a quick lunch on the job had been dashed. He flexed his fingers and prepared to summon a tool, still annoyed. This training was a waste of his precious energy if it did not lead him closer to his goal.
A green aura swirled and danced around Neuro's cupped hands, the miasma in the air bending and collecting in the demon's folded talons. Lucard and Asanteoh watched, eerie light reflecting in the all three demons' eyes.
Practice makes perfect, Neuro reflected as the energy amassed in his purple hands. The process of summoning a tool had become much easier, despite requiring some effort the first time. It was especially elementary to call a small, simple tool like this…
Neuro frowned. But something didn't feel quite right. The detective opened his hands a crack, fingers uncurling like a thorn-flower. An object had appeared, yes, small and light. But it still glowed green, as if not quite finished crossing over. Neuro pushed a little more, only to feel the power hitch further. This was bothersome. Something was interfering with the procedure. He pushed harder to complete his summon but the power only resisted—stalling like a car with half its engine missing. Neuro fought down his mild frustration. Getting flustered only compromised one's deductive abilities. There must be some problem, a factor, which he hadn't anticipated.
That would not do for a brilliant detective of Hell.
Neuro closed his multi-ringed eyes and focused inward, ignoring all interfering data from the physical world. He could feel the tool's power, desperately tugging in an errant direction despite his persistent corrections. Neuro considered the possibilities. The called tool might not be a listening device, it required a ridiculous amount of demonic energy to summon, there had been a malfunction…or perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps everything was working as well as it could, and he was the malignant factor.
Neuro Nougami did not like being wrong, even for a second. He was determined to correct his error, and he trusted his deduction. Therefore, slowly, he relaxed control and lightened the mental tug-of-war. The energy surged in its natural direction happily. Having decided to cooperate, Neuro renewed his efforts—this time surrendering to the automatic flow of power.
Immediately, he could tell that it had worked. The power was no longer caught on an unforeseen hindrance; it smoothly obeyed his will. Neuro began to complete the summon. Suddenly, a tingling sensation made the demon look down at his hands. Astonished, he saw what appeared to be a second object appearing beside the first. But before he could think further the summon completed with a flash. Excess energy disappeared into the air with a sigh.
Oh, Neuro thought as he looked at the two devices. A toothy grin spread across his face. It had two parts. Of course. Each hand held a different item. His left grasped two circular wireless headphones; his right held a listening device as pink as human flesh. The mystery-eater instructed himself to remember this possibility in the future.
"777 Tools of the Demon World – Evil Butterfly" Neuro announced cheerily. He turned and smiled at Lucard and Asanteoh, hoping that the minor difficulty had not been obvious.
"Hm." Asanteoh grunted in recognition. "That one should work well for this exercise. Plant the bug."
"That would be this one, correct?" Neuro asked. He held up the small tool, examining its appearance. Two fleshy "wings" spread from its back, the color of skin. Furthermore, they looked like a very realistic pair of human ears. Perhaps they were. That would make a wonderful listening device, the demon detective mused. The creature stood on four twig-thin legs the color of green olives. A purple head stretched from its neck, twisted awkwardly backwards. Held in its mouth was a slowly spinning radar-device to broadcast back what it overheard.
Neuro gazed fondly at the little creature as its pale wings flapped pathetically. By demon standards it was quite cute, and did slightly look like the lovably grotesque butterflies that fluttered about Hell's gardens. The feathered demon flicked the tool off of his finger, smirking at its small sound of pain. Directed by its master, the creature flew high into the air. The antenna protruding from its mouth whirred.
Neuro watched his tool flutter up to the top of the big, black doors. It perched on the edge of the crack between door and ceiling before crawling onwards. Neuro grinned with satisfaction, feeling his tool's progress through their mental link. Evil Butterfly was in. The bug had been planted.
Lucard gave a short growl. "Hmph. This one." The commander leaned against the ash-gray wall, furred arms crossed. "Didn't you tell me about a tool like this, King?"
"Yes, Lucard. Under strict secrecy." reminded Asanteoh sternly. "Others have used this tool before you, so we have more intelligence on how it works," he explained to Neuro. "The part of it that you just sent is ideal for eavesdropping. If you are careful, no one inside will notice it. It can attach to walls, the ceiling, or even hover in one spot. However, that was the easy part." The leonoid pointed to the Neuro's left hand. "Once the bug is positioned correctly, adjust the frequency of those speakers. When you have everything adjusted impart to us the recorded message."
Neuro brought the headphones to his ears, one in each hand. The avianoid closed his eyes, wanting to concentrate all his senses on hearing. All he could hear was garbled words, blips of static, and a whole lot of silence besides. Frowning, he pressed the headphones closer—now he heard a brief rush of air. A second passed, and then again. Strange…it reminded him of the deep inhales someone took before sneezing. But there was no one in the locked room. Only his tool hanging in perfect position on a wall, broadcasting sounds back through each silver…
"Ah-CHOO!" Neuro wrenched away at the noise, narrowly avoiding the long spikes that shot out from the mouth of each headphone. The spikes were astonishingly long, nearly touching even when held apart by Neuro's long arms. The detective's emerald eyes watched warily as the tool sniffed, recovering from its deadly nasal explosion. Slowly, the twin needles retracted back. Neuro held the headphones as they returned to their original form. "…What the Devil was that?" he glared at his superiors.
Asanteoh answered him. "That, Neuro Nougami, was a sneeze." The Executive Officer smiled. Lucard giggled nervously, having jerked away from the wall in surprise.
"Yeah, that'll happen. It does that." The Lupinoid demon spoke. "You were right, King. Did anybody ever figure out to make it stop-" He was silenced by a withering look from his boss.
"…You never told me." Neuro said slowly. His eyes searched the others, calm and calculating.
"We didn't feel the need to." Asanteoh's golden eyes glimmered with amusement.
Neuro looked down at the traitorous headphones, mind already analyzing this new development. He held the two pieces in his hands, palm up. They were identical—green and circular, with antenna on the back to receive signals. Each side with the deadly speaker was tan and shaped like a face. Two bead-sized eyes stared, never blinking, from above a small nose. A symbol was inscribed on their cheeks, labeling them for the "left" or "right" ear.
Absently, Neuro noticed that he was holding the one for his "left" ear in his right hand, and vice versa. He dismissed the observation. Irrelevant data.
Ah, but there was the treacherous speaker. A round metal cone protruding from the face's "mouth", ready to be placed into someone's ear. The tool would then whisper to its user all that the Butterfly overheard. However, Neuro remembered, it hid a deadly secret. Tickling the headphones' noses, he watched them inhale and sneeze again. How annoying, he thought as the spikes retracted with a gurgle. It would be distracting to attempt to overhear a message while worrying about impalement. Not to mention having to take the listening devices completely out of his ears at the slightest sign of a sneeze. He risked missing important information.
Neuro turned the two headphones over and around in his hands. The other two officers watched him in silence. After a few moments, the detective smiled. "Well, I guess that's not so bad."
"You think you know how to disarm the spikes?" Lucard asked, furry eyebrows raised. The problem was simple, but posed a significant dilemma.
Neuro grinned widely, ignoring the wolf's question. "All you have to do is stop it from sneezing, right?"
The new crime detective began to solve the puzzle set before him. As Neuro had said, it was a simple solution in theory. However, the few who had commanded the tools before him had all used different ways to subdue the receivers. He may mimic one of their methods, or invent another.
Neuro calmly examined the headphones, rotating them around to every possible angle. He was always careful to keep the magenta lips pointed away from his face. With two slim fingers, the demon pinched both of the tiny noses shut. Perhaps the simplest solution was the best. With a bit of adjustment to his grip, both headphones' nostrils were plugged. Pleased, Neuro lifted them to his ears.
…Nope. Neuro quickly brought the receivers back down. With his fingers reaching over the faces, the speakers had been blocked from fully entering his earholes. Disappointing, but logical. He may have been able to plug the noses, but he couldn't shove his fingers into his ears as well. He would have to find a different solution.
The headphones sneezed in relief when Neuro removed his fingers. Flipping them over, the detective frowned. He had been hoping to find an air hole or two. Those he would have been able to plug up while still having the speakers inserted in his ears. Neuro engaged the problem-solving portions of his mind—how else could he stop the sneezes?
Lucard yawned boldly, bored with the proceedings. Asanteoh turned to lecture his foolish second-in-command, but was interrupted. Beak splitting into a delighted grin, Neuro suddenly reached an idea. He tossed both headphones into his left hand, and then gave an exaggerated "Aha!" gesture with his right.
Lucard and Asanteoh watched in surprise as the still-grinning detective set his thoughts into motion. Taking one receiver in each hand, he raised them to his head. Then, without fear, Neuro shoved the mutinous speakers into his ears. He pressed them in tighter. Lucard listened intensely for expected deep pre-sneeze inhales. After a few moments Neuro turned confidently to wave, headphones securely in. The wolf demon twitched his black-furred ears. The jostling had not activated any sneezing, nor had either spike pierced Neuro's brain. And after a few more minutes of waiting, it seemed that the detective had found a solution after all.
"All right, how'd you do it?" Lucard growled.
"What?" Neuro said cheerfully, removing one of the headphones. "It's difficult to hear you with these things in so tight. Oh really now, no need be surprised, it's quite a simple solution really. And I'll explain…"
"What causes someone to sneeze is irritation to the nose. Particles in the air or a certain burst of wind can activate the reflex. When demons sneeze, air and mucus is blown from the mouth at speeds up to one million miles per hour." Neuro shrugged. "The same thing happens here, just with a different effect. The pressure released from the sneeze forces the disastrously structured speaker to project outward, stretching into a point. This spike could pierce through my ears and into my brain if I were not careful. Luckily, I have found a way to avoid it."
"By doing the seemingly suicidal and pushing the earpieces in further, I have created a pocket of air pressure inside my ear canal. It functions as a vacuum; no air moves around inside due to the unique pressure, and no particles will be blown into the headphones' noses." Neuro grinned at the other two demons. "Just hope my ears are clean!"
"Hmm." Asanteoh kept a stern front, but Neuro could see consideration in his eyes, mulling over the proposed solution. Lucard, however, looked as if he still expected the spikes to impale Neuro at any moment. Lips tensed into a small scowl, the lupinoid's ears remained pricked and alert.
"Let's hope you're right," the King spoke, voice rolling like thunder. "…for your sake. Now, after puzzling all of that out, hopefully you still remember the next step." Neuro nodded, smirking inwardly as Lucard's red eyes followed the motion of his headphones. The next step was to adjust the frequency so that the Butterfly and earpieces had a clear connection. Hopefully he could do that without having to take them out.
Neuro's fingers searched the back of the headphones. He mentally reviewed their design: no buttons, no dials, and no wires. Well, he thought, there were always these… Lightly, his fingers brushed the small receiving antenna. Attached to a protruding portion of the rear, they both branched out from two different points. After a few centimeters they joined at a common connecting segment. At each end of the segment it forked into a "U". The Braineater smiled; these were the receiving antenna, to match the other part of the tool and its broadcasting antenna. They were linked. Gently now…
Cautiously, Neuro rotated the segment clockwise a few degrees. Feeling no "you're breaking me" resistance, he pushed it a little more. His brainpower focused on hearing now, he began to adjust the other earpiece as well. After tweaking, pulling, rotating, twisting, and even some minor bending, the sound in both ears aligned. Neuro turned with a smile and shot Asanteoh a smug thumbs-up.
He could hear the recorded message clearly now. Neuro laughed softly as he recognized the voice as Asanteoh's. Pressing the untrustworthy headphones tightly to his ears, the demon detective listened.
It was a lengthy recording and took some time to loop back around to the beginning. Eyes closed again, Neuro's large brain worked on transcribing sound to memory. Hm. These words sounded familiar. Where had he heard this before? …Ah, of course.
"I'll start relaying the message now, so listen close." He said with a smirk.
"Speak respectfully when still in Routine Basic Train-" growled Lucard.
"I, Neuro "Braineater" Nougami, do swear by all above and below my eternal loyalty to the Order Branch of Hell's Disciplinary Action Committee as a novice crime detective. My body and brain shall be my weapons and tools." He laughed. "I pledge my cooperation and allegiance to my superiors, namely Executive Officer Asanteoh "King" Leonfang and Commander Lucard Throatbane. I promise to serve to the best of my ability and knowledge under the blue banner of Enforcement. Enforce with power, Protect with deference. Above all…" Neuro remembered the words to the HDAC:OB's Pledge of Labor; after all, he had heard it once before. He flawlessly repeated the esteemed six-word creed from memory.
"Hey, Lucard!" Lucard turned his head in response to Neuro's excited voice. The oath had been sworn, and Asanteoh was busy recording their progress. The King would send the small report to his deluxe desk, Blud, when it was finished. "I have discovered a new use for this tool." Neuro said happily. "Observe…"
The blond demon sprinkled some dust gathered from the floor under the nose of each headphone. They began to sniff in protest, preparing to sneeze. Neuro quickly brought them up to his ears, but turned them backwards so that the faces were pointed out. "Ah-CHOO!" the spikes erupted outwards, flashing in the light. The two demons remained still, one smiling and the other blinking, until the two silver speakers retracted.
Neuro was positively gleeful. "See? If you wear them backwards then the spikes could almost function as a weapon!" he chirped. "Although as a result, it is impossible to hear anything."
Asanteoh pressed one last button, shaking his head and chuckling at the slightly perturbed expression on Lucard's face.
Evil Butterfly: A strange little butterfly with human ears for wings which function as a hidden microphone. This is paired with a set of earphones shaped like a human face where the speakers are on the mouth. While this tool seems normal at first, the user actually risks having their head pierced though by the speaker which extends out like a drill when the face sneezes.
Shown in: Chapter 53 / Episode 12
Now Neuro is bound to 2 contracts, one as an employee of the OB and another as the Holder of the Tools. I always wondered how the demons in Hell could be sure that Neuro wouldn't go rampant and use the tools as he pleased. I would imagine that Demon Contracts are powerful things, so maybe having two of them helped. :)
Chapter 6: Evil Friday
Woah, it's been a while. O-o; I'm sorry, I honestly didn't know that much time had passed. D:
Ahem. *clears throat* THIS FIC IS NOT ABANDONED! 8U Not yet, at least. I bet you're surprised to see this though. But here ya go, one more chapter~
So can anyone guess why the tool is called "Evil Friday"? :/ I'm sure that Neuro knows, but I don't…
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Neuro was as excited as could be. It felt like he had been stuck in Routine Basic Training for months, following boring "standard procedures" and practicing with his most simplistic tools. During that time Neuro had learned to manage his demonic energy more effectively and wisely. He felt that soon he might be able to use more than one tool at a time. Neuro had also conducted himself very well, obeying any direct commands and showing that he was indeed a demon worthy of the Hellish Tools.
His patience and good behavior had paid off in the form of a practice run. Although still technically a recruit-in-training, the mystery-eater was going to be allowed to "shadow" an investigation alongside Lucard. Asanteoh had told both of them yesterday. Neuro couldn't resist smiling to himself. Apparently there were a few demons with authority that were curious about their new crime detective.
Neuro had also been getting quite hungry. There hadn't been any chance for individual crime-solving (or snacking) since he enrolled in the Order Branch.
"We're almost there." Asanteoh's voice rolled through their cramped vehicle—a police hearse.
Lucard nodded and silently flicked a switch mounted on the inside of the door to his right. Thick black coverings slid all of the windows and clicked as they locked.
Neuro blinked as his eyes adjusted to the increased darkness. He understood. Now no body on the outside could see them talking. Those panels were probably sound-proof too. Anything that the three of them said or did would be kept private and secretive.
"Here's your mystery," Asanteoh began to explain. He leaned forward, resting both elbows on his knees, and clasped his fingers together. "The victim's name was Gastroslime, a slug-type demon. He was murdered inside of his permanent dwelling. No alarm was sounded, even though our victim had eyes over almost all of his body. It has been determined that he was the most recent victim of a sly and elusive killer."
"And there's the catch; the reason you're on this case," continued Asanteoh. "You are not here to solve how Gastroslime died, Braineater. Instead, we want you to find, apprehend, and catch whoever killed him. And we want you to do it today."
Silence. Neuro seemed to be processing the information. "…Why is my primary objective to catch the killer instead of solving the crime?" he finally asked.
"By apprehending the killer, you will solve the crime," answered Asanteoh. "Let me explain."
"We have been aware of this perpetrator for a few months. They seem to have the astonishing ability to always know what we've figured out and what we haven't. Every time that we see through their methods, they change strategies. This makes them very dangerous as well as annoying. Most disturbing, they also know our predictions for what they will do next."
"This is more advanced than simply predicting our movements. They have someone on the inside." The King's amber eyes flashed. "Perhaps they even are someone on the inside."
Then Lucard spoke. "Our special agents involved with this case are on the scene right now. Everybody's milling about inside the house, doing their assigned jobs. We're planning to gather for another in-depth discussion of how to handle this string of cases later. If the criminal was part of that select group they would get a free pass to all of our information. But only demons that work for the Order Branch are allowed into those discussions."
He looked at Neuro. "You know what this means, right?"
"We have a spy," grumbled Asanteoh.
"All of our agents think that they're here to wrap up a crime scene. Little do they know that they're actually here to be our suspects," Lucard snarled.
"Fuhahaha…how very interesting," Neuro said with a grin. The police-hearse jolted to a stop. They had arrived.
"I will not be present for this investigation," said Asanteoh. "My rank is too high. Lucard, however…" The wolf demon frowned at his commander's words. His pointed ears turned sideways.
"You've given Commander Throatbane orders to escort me, and he is not happy about it?" Neuro smirked.
Lucard's frown deepened into a scowl. He stood up and exited the hearse, one ear twitching with annoyance. "Move it, birdbrain. We've got a criminal to catch."
Neuro got up, nodded in thanks to Asanteoh, and followed Lucard out. He had one clawed foot on the ground when the Executive Officer called after him.
"Use the tools wisely. But Neuro…there is one tool that you will require more than any others. Perhaps even more than Evil Script. It is easy to wield, requires minimal energy to function, and will serve you well. Its name is Evil Friday."
The police hearse sped away, its demon-worm wheels squishing against the ground.
Neuro flexed his purple hand, wiggling the sharp claws as if imagining that mysterious tool appearing in his palm. He couldn't help hypothesizing what abilities it would lend. From the description Asanteoh had given him it sounded like a helpful little toy. But what could "Friday" signify? It didn't make much sense.
After the glow from the hearse's flaming inferno of a back engine had faded Lucard led Neuro up to the door. Gastroslime's house turned out to be a large, creaking, hollow log; now abandoned. One knock and a flash of identification from Commander Throatbane later and both of them were in.
Other demons skittered about inside, only stopping to salute when Lucard approached. After they checked that everything was proceeding smoothly, Neuro followed his superior officer to a room sufficiently distant from the hectic crime scene.
"Alright, let's get started," Lucard declared. He looked at Neuro and frowned. The detective looked lost in thought. He seemed to be observing his hand more carefully than the environment. That was unusual for someone with his natural curiosity. "Haven't you been examining this place? Knowledge of your surroundings is crucial-"
"Log made from blackthorn wood, very strong walls, divided into approximately six rooms of varying area, center hallway all the way through, victim killed in lounge." Neuro replied without looking up. "Forensics in the lounge, but none suspicious." he finished.
"…I see," Lucard managed. "So, what tool are you going to use?"
"Our friend 'the King' gave me a recommendation before we parted." Neuro said. He smiled as a quick burst of green flashed from his body.
Good, it wasn't in two parts like Evil Butterfly. Neuro boldly announced the summoning of a tool. "777 Tools of the Demon World – Evil Fr-"Blargh!
The sensation of a large, slimy sphere appearing in his mouth took Neuro by surprise. His speech was interrupted as he spat the tool out. A glutinous round mass fell to the floor and hit with a wet squelch.
As the oozing substance around the ball swiftly melted away it revealed a condensed mass of eyes. Within seconds they began to activate, poking out segmented mechanical limbs. Their corneas extended and then retracted like telescopes. They almost seemed joyful, as if happy to be summoned by their new master.
Neuro coughed and spat, trying to get rid of the taste lingering on his tongue. Needless to say Evil Friday's appearance had been sudden, disgusting, and very unpleasant for him.
Once the shock subsided Neuro realized that Lucard was laughing. The wolf demon's laughter was loud and sharp like a bark, punctuated by some very amused howls.
"Oh, I've heard of that one," said Lucard once he settled down. "It was used a lot by former holders of the tools, I think. Did it catch you off-guard?" he sniggered.
"It must prefer to form in moist environments…" Neuro grumbled. He had already recovered from his momentary embarrassment but Lucard was still holding back giggles. "Due to their covering of, ah," he shivered. "…slime."
"I wonder if it will always appear from inside your beak," said Lucard. "It's just such a perfect fit. Maybe in the future you should hold off on announcing it until it's out," he smirked.
"So yeah, anyway, if you're not going to barf up anything else, it's like you said earlier. Eight agents. All of them are suspicious. They have been present for all the important briefings about this string of cases."
"I can investigate some of them while you take the rest," Lucard offered. "How many suspects do you think you can handle?"
Neuro observed his numerous new skittering servants for a moment. "All of them," he concluded.
"Oh no you don't. I'll take four. We'll split them up evenly." Lucard assigned Neuro four of the agents to target and described the ones that he would be watching in the meantime.
"Have fun with your new 'Friday' friends. Just find me when you've either found some really big clue, or that smart blond head of yours manages to deduce who the criminal is." Lucard called as he walked out of the nearest doorway. "That is, unless I find them first."
Neuro had forty-eight eyes.
Well, fifty, counting the two that were actually in his head.
He held about two dozen of the eyeballs in his cupped hands and studied them. How interesting. The small creatures scurried over his palms on slender, insectoid legs. Their limbs connected to a mechanical cap that was attached in place of an optic nerve. Wires extended outward from each cap like veins.
Neuro dumped all but three of the little things onto the ground. Forty-five eyeballs hit the ground and hopped back up onto their spidery legs with whirrs of complaint.
Neuro held the chosen three in his hands up closer to examine them. Obviously, they functioned primarily as biocameras. They would be his (literal) eyes allowing him to watch suspects from far away. In addition, Neuro could commune with them through a shared brain-link. Immediately Neuro began to explore their full potential.
He had one of the eyes do a little dance while another took a video of the nonsensical routine. Then Neuro watched the recording in his mind. Perfect. They were capable of recording what they saw, storing it, and then sending it to him later.
It took only the slightest mental push to activate their "zoom" function. The iris and lens of each eye smoothly extended outward. To zoom in again, the pupil protracted even farther. Neuro could easily see minute details in the wooden walls.
The eyes could even help him move things. Neuro watched as one of the eyeballs ran around over his hands while holding a pebble with two of its legs. That would be helpful if he ever needed to plant something, Neuro reflected, although it would have to be something quite small. Still, they would be useful servants.
One more observation came to the demon's mind and he chuckled. His servants' irises were colored green, just like his own eyes.
When Neuro was done playing, he picked out one more eyeball and sent the group of four after his assigned targets. While they crawled away in different directions, Neuro focused on the rest of the horde. He commanded them to spread out and examine the area for any clues. The eyeballs all ran off, clinging to walls and keeping to the shadows.
When the last one disappeared from sight Neuro connected to their mental link. All forty-eight of the biocameras switched on and began to broadcast back to their master at once.
Immediately Neuro's vision was flooded with a fractured myriad of viewpoints. The quality of each feed was impressive. He could flawlessly see almost every point of the house! This was perfect—just what he needed. It was a lot to take in, however.
Neuro had planned to walk around as his tool did its job. He would look less suspicious wandering around, doing obscure detective stuff. Besides, the others would expect him to be working on his own assignment. But walking soon proved to be a difficult task.
Neuro had to concentrate on his own viewpoint to go forward, sorting out what he was seeing from over forty other viewpoints. Luckily, the tool made this easy. It was like there were many screens playing before his eyes but his own perspective was center stage, large and clear. It only took a bit of mental effort to highlight and magnify the sight from his two personal eyes. Now Neuro could at last perform the arduous task of walking forward.
After a minute of walking aimlessly he received a mental signal. The targets had been found.
Excellent, Neuro thought. Now he just had to magnify those four viewpoints as well, and concentrate on watching each of them as well as his own…but what in Hell was he doing?
He had stopped walking. And not only had he come to a sudden, dead halt, Neuro realized that he had been staring off blankly at nothing. From his point of view he had been staring at four important suspects, but this would not do at all. Any demon strolling nearby could have noticed him acting strange and distracted. It would be alarmingly easy to take advantage of his lack of concentration.
Neuro sighed. He had wondered if this would happen. Focusing upon dozens of viewpoints at the same time lowered his observational potential by far too much. As amazing as he was, Neuro was spread too thin. The demon leaned his feathered back against the hallway wall and closed his all-seeing eyes. He had to lower the amount of input.
First, Neuro ordered the clue-hunters to alert him only if needed. He didn't need to see every knothole that they climbed into. A quick view of the inside would do, as well as a short broadcast summarizing any objects they found. At his command, most of the viewpoints inside his head dimmed or went black.
Neuro almost smiled. Thankfully the eyeballs were semi-sentient creatures. They ran off of the demonic energy used to summon them. Once summoned, they did not require any additional energy from him to function or perform tasks. Neuro predicted that would be quite handy if he was ever running low on power. Now for the suspects…
Neuro's first strategy was to switch between the biocameras at five-second intervals between the four viewpoints, like some variations of security footage. However, it proved quite distracting. It also resulted in some holes regarding his observations of a suspect's actions. He quickly discarded that method. The smallest detail could have the greatest significance in this case.
He had to see it. He had to see it all. And he had to see it all at the same time. With those thoughts in mind, Neuro concentrated on his command over the tool. He expanded the viewpoints of every single eyeball, including the ones not targeting a suspect. The range of Neuro's sight grew wider, wider, and expanded until all the viewpoints connected. It was a lot of ground to cover but soon the demon had a full-length, uninterrupted panorama of everything within his and the eyes' sight.
All four suspects were in full view, their every action on display. He had a detailed overview of their environments too. Oh yes, Neuro smiled victoriously. He could manage this.
With practice, Neuro speculated, he would develop the mental skill needed to multitask. He would be able to observe each suspect effectively via his servants, and also remain able to concentrate on his surroundings. Eventually the eyeballs would begin to feel like a natural extension of his own body.
Everything would come in time, Neuro predicted as he slowly walked away. However, for now it might be best to find a secluded place to enjoy his new amazing view of the suspects.
Meanwhile, Lucard was doing some investigating of his own.
In-between supervising, organizing, ordering, and commanding, the lupine demon had managed to create mental tabs about each suspect he was watching. Now the idiots on forensics had finally run out of reasons to bother him and Lucard finally had a break. He stepped out into the hall and rested his back against the corridor wall so he could think.
Two of the suspected agents had gotten into a small spat a short while ago. Zelmia Dreadsting, a scorpion demoness, had been one of them. She was humanoid and wore a black business dress for the occasion. Armored plates covered her inky purple body and her dark hair ended in nasty hooks. She had caused a commotion hissing at another of Lucard's suspects, demanding "more precision" as always. Always the intense one, that Dreadsting. Her emotions often seemed to get the better of her.
The object of Zelmia's fury had been Balanusk Huskeater, a squirrel demon. Unlike the timid squirrels from the human world, Balanusk had enormous front fangs that were filled with venom. He could also shoot heat-lasers from his eyes, but thankfully his and Zelmia's dispute had not resulted in their use.
Lucard would have not considered him at all suspicious, but he had noticed something: Balanusk took more thorough and complete notes from their meetings than any other demon. If the criminal was not him, then it was perhaps possible that they were simply in touch with the twitchy demon squirrel.
Lucard nodded tersely as a shark demon approached. It was his third suspect, Brutus Sharpback. He must have come to ensure that Zelmia and Balanusk's quarrel was over. No one would be stupid enough to fight if Brutus got involved.
Brutus bowed in response, revealing the axe blade in place of his dorsal fin. His other 'fins' were knives of varying shapes and styles. All of them were deadly.
As Brutus entered the room and disappeared from sight Lucard reviewed his mental list of suspicions against the bladed demon. Brutus would have been considered suspicious anyway due to his violent nature and brilliant combat skills. Furthermore, Brutus had proven to be intelligent in addition to being an impressive fighter. That made him even more dangerous. He had the highest rank of all the agents on this case, although he was still far below Lucard.
The last suspect Lucard had observed was a sawfish demon named Doloron the Gutter. Doloron was one of those demons that did not fit into either the "female" or "male" sex criteria. It (or 'they') was also a literal mix between a saw and a fish. A chainsaw jutted out hazardously from its oily face like a nose. Doloron was one of their newest recruits and a novice compared to all the agents assigned to this case. Well, except for Neuro, Lucard thought.
The biggest strike against Doloron was its ability to perform minor feats of teleportation. Assaulting Gastroslime (Haha, thought Lucard. As'salt'ing.) and then escaping would have been easy. The deed could have been done and over before any alarms were triggered. It was a possibility that could not be ignored.
So Lucard had examined Zelmia Dreadsting, Balanusk Huskeater, Brutus Sharpback, and Doloron the Gutter. There were viable reasons to suspect all of them. Lucard wondered how Neuro's observations of the other agents had gone. The birdbrain had probably sent the Evil Friday eyes after Lucard's four once he was done with his own. Scheming feathered mastermind.
Oh, and speak of the Devil… There was Neuro now, walking down the hall towards him. A single mechanical eyeball rode on the avianoid's shoulder.
"I've had my servants scan everywhere," the detective reported. "There are no listening devices. Whatever way the murderer gets his inside information, it's not through planted audio bugs."
"Then the criminal is most likely among us," Lucard practically growled.
"Yes," Neuro confirmed. "They are here."
"Excellent work, birdbrain. Tell me who it is and our job here will be done."
"Ah, I'm afraid that won't work, Commander."
Lucard growled for real this time. "And why the Devil not?" he asked with fangs bared.
"I will only be able to apprehend the murderer during our next informational meeting," came Neuro's smooth reply. "That way we use the criminal's modus operandi against them. The agents will gather to hear their next vital orders and information about this case. I will then flawlessly point out the murderer among them."
Neuro approached Lucard and imparted some instructions. The informational meeting was to be held before the hour was up, inside of the living room. Everyone was to be told that its purpose would be discussing their conclusions and forming their next plan of action. Lucard and Neuro would both attend, even though it would be unusual for such high-ranking officers to be present. It should be stressed that the meeting was "very important".
"The criminal will be sure to come!" Neuro declared. Then the demonic detective told Lucard the names of all the agents he wanted invited.
Lucard's silver-and-black fur bristled. "Braineater, those are all our best officers on this case!" He exclaimed. "Some of them have proved their loyalty a thousand times over! You're telling me that one of them is the culprit?"
Neuro smiled. "The criminal will come," he repeated.
So who do YOU guys think is the criminal? ;D Post your deduction in the comments, or just tell me how glad you are to see this fic updated again!
I want you all to know that Balanusk the squirrel demon's last name was "Nutmuncher" at first.
"Nutmuncher". XD Just think about that.
I changed it to "Seedmuncher". :/ Although that wasn't really any better… So, "Huskeater" was the best I could do that sounded okay and wasn't suggestive. Still, all innuendos aside, demon names are really fun to think up. :)