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Those That Walk In Darkness

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The dream starts with a rumble. A terrible sort of tremor deep in the earth that builds and builds until the ground is shaking and splitting open, the shrieks of demons spilling out amongst the twitching branches shooting skyward.

It continues to the sounds of screams. More screams than one could hope to count as people are cut down in the streets, ripped out of their homes and their beds. Blood running in an endless river into the streets and being absorbed by the thick, pulsing roots. Ash and pollen heavy in the air, a pitiful reminder of the lives consumed.

It ends with a name.

Vergil

***

The sheets cling to his body from all the sweat as he jerks awake, a cry leaving his lips. He’s shaking in the darkness amidst the feeling of vertigo and nausea that rushes up to greet him.  

“Breathe Shakespeare.” Griffon says nearby and he struggles to drag in lungful’s of air. “You know the drill. Breathe.” It takes V a few times before his heart starts to slow down, the shaking cold in his limbs dying down and he flops onto his back, rubbing a hand over his face. “That looked like a doozy. Haven’t had one that bad in a long time.” The familiar states as he perches himself on his nightstand.

“What time is it?” V asks, his voice crackly and dry, no doubt from crying out in his sleep.

“3:59.” Griffon replies. “The end of the devil’s hour.”

“Great.” V mutters at the significance of that simple fact. There’s a soft rumbling purr next to him and he tilts his head to see Shadow resting her chin on the edge of the bed looking at him. He smiles softly and reaches out to pat her head a few times. “I’m fine, Shadow.” He assures her before he lets out a tired sigh and tugs the sheets off of him. The cool air of the room against his sweaty skin makes him shiver and he stands to go to the bathroom. He’ll get no more rest tonight, of that he’s certain.

The nightmare clings to him when he steps under the cool waters spray. Flashes of various horrors that dance behind his eyes each time he closes them. He sighs and steps out, drying off and wrapping the towel around his waist before heading back into his room. Shadow’s taken residence on the bed he’s abandoned for the night and Griffon just tilts his head to look at him as he goes over to the dressers and opens the top one, pulling out the dark blue candle and putting it up on the holder, lighting it and muttering a soft incantation. That’ll help a little bit. Or at least he hopes. He grabs the thick Grimoire out of the drawer and walks into the main area with it. Griffon follows him as he goes over to the table to put it down, making a quick cup of tea for himself before he sits down and opens it.

“So what’cha lookin for?” Griffon asks, hopping up onto the table to look at the pages that V has started flipping through.

“Answers.”

“No shit.” The bird throws back at him with an annoyed look. “Answers to what? What did you see?”

“I believe it was a portend.” V says, flipping a few more pages, his eyes scanning each one for any references to what he saw. A giant tree that fed off blood. Clearly the work of the underworld, only a demonic tree could cause that much suffering and grow from it. It would be uncommon though, for such a large, calamitous event to occur from the demon world into theirs.

Granted, this is the land where the Temen-ni-gru rose from the ashes of so long ago and almost collapsed the two worlds into each other once again. A lot of cracks between this world and the demons seemed to be happening more and more frequently, those events in Fortuna just a few years back being proof of that. V wasn’t certain if it was all too wise to move here with the barriers between the worlds so thin in this city. Granted, the barriers seemed to be weakening everywhere with each passing year, and this was where he felt he must come.

Maybe he’s about to learn why. Maybe it has something to do with all of this.

Vergil

“If I said the name ‘Vergil’ to you, would it have any meaning?” V asks his demonic familiar.

“Vergil?” The bird tilts his head a little. “Nah. Should it?”

“I’m unsure. Apart from Publius Vergilius Maro or the Divina Commedia itself, I’ve not really heard it in everyday passing.”

“Pfft. Publius.” Griffon snorts before cackling. V shoots him an amused look for a moment before flipping through a few more pages.

“What did you see?” Griffon asks again as he flips another page.

“Death.” He answers. “A demon hoard walking the streets during the day.” Another flip. “A tree and a name.”

“A tree?” Griffon asks. “Symbolic?”

“Seemed more literal than metaphorical.” V replies to that. “Although sometimes one can never really tell with visions.”

“Ain’t that the truth?” The bird huffs. “It’s the catch 22. You see the future – you have no clue what you’re seeing. It’s like when you commune with the dead. Stop being so fucking cryptic!” The bird shakes a wing towards the sky. “Just say what you mean!” V can’t help the soft chuckle he gives at that.

“Are you still angry at that?” He asks, amusement clear in his tone and the bird makes a kind of huffing sound.

“It should have just said ‘it’s under the floorboards’. It would have saved us hours of searching.”

“All’s well that ends well.” V chuckles, flipping another page and taking a small sip. He puts down the cup when he finally finds one of the things he’s looking for. “This is it.” He says, moving the book slightly for Griffon to look at it.

Fuck V. A Qliphoth?” Griffon huffs, shaking out his feathers. “I take it back. I don’t want clarity from you. Be metaphorical. Be fucking metaphorical.” V looks down at the pages old and faded scrawl.

“The Qliphoth, a demonic plant species that feeds on human blood. It produces a single fruit made of supremely condensed and power enriched blood that is consumed by those seeking to push past the limits of their power.” V reads aloud.

“A Qliphoth is a big fucking deal. They’re not easy to grow.” Griffon looks at him. “You said you saw one in the human world?”

“Yes. In the city.”

“That is not a portend V. That’s a fucking neon sign saying ‘get the hell out of dodge’. I hear anywhere else in the world is great this time of year.” V shakes his head and ignores Griffon’s agitation as he reads over the section describing in detail the full reach and scope of what a Qliphoth does and means.

“What I saw was not some small sapling.” V says. “It was larger than the highest building.”

“Fuck.”

“So it would seem.” V replies to that. “But how could such a thing be accomplished?”

“There’d have to be a tear down into the demon world.” Griffon says. “You’d need a witch for that. A powerful one. Not many left that’d be able to manage such a thing.”

“How many?”

“Just you.” Griffon states. “Feel like opening up any gates to hell today?”

“No, not today.” V says with a small smirk. “So, a witch doing this is out of the question. What about a demon?”

“Not a chance. Crossing over for the small fries is one thing, despite the demon rodent infestation this place seems to have. But to pull over a Qliphoth? Not a chance.”

“What of those gates that cult of Sparda created in Fortuna? They were pretty effective while they were still in existence.”

“Nah. Child’s play.” Griffon says with a shake of his head. “They couldn’t maintain an open connection, which the Qliphoth would need in order to grow. Plus, the rumors were that the Yamato was present there for a time.”

“That’s right.” V remembers and he pauses for a moment, biting his lip. “What if the Yamato were used for this? Would it be possible?”

“Sparda’s power sealed off the demon world kid.” Griffon snorts. “Any Sparda infused object would be able to do serious damage to the barriers, but the Yamato excels at it.”

“So that’s a yes then?”

“Sure, it’s a yes. But isn’t that half-breed in charge of it these days?”

“I wouldn’t know.” V says. “Considering that I’ve never made his acquaintance.” V lets his fingers trace the image of the tree on the page.

“…V?” Griffon says with a small amount of growing alarm and concern in his voice. “No. Nope. Don’t even think about it. Not going to happen.”

“Perhaps a brief meeting would be in everyone’s best interests.”

“Everyone but yours.” The bird snaps. “Demons and witches don’t mix well genius. You know that.”

“He’s a hybrid.”

“That makes him worse.” The bird says with a shake of his head. “There’s no hope of overpowering him and forcing him into a contract if he decides to try to consume you.”

“I’ve heard about this ‘Dante’.” V says. “Rumor has it that he’s not interested in power like that.”

“Everyone’s interested in power V. Everyone.” The bird warns him. “You’re used to being at the top of the food chain, that won’t be true against the hybrid child of Sparda.”

“This vision was a warning Griffon.” V tells him. “And it’s happening soon. Burying our heads in the sand and waiting for something like this to occur before we intervene, would you really call that wise?”

“I don’t care about the squishy little humans that would undoubtedly die V.” Griffon reminds him. “I’m contracted by you to protect you. You already know I can’t do that against the son of Sparda. Not even the big guy can.”

“For all we know, it won’t come to that.”

“For all we know, it could.” Griffon throws back and V hums in agreement. Griffon seems to see the intention already decided in V’s face because he groans. “Seriously Shakespeare? Why don’t you ever make things easy?”

“You’d get bored if I did.”

“…well I guess that’s true.” The bird replies. “Ugh, fuck.”

***

The bright red payphone is a relic that V is rather surprised still works. It’s the only concession that he’s made to Griffon – he won’t call this ‘Broker’ from his own phone and allow a trace to be made. He taps the bottom with his cane and catches the receiver in his hand before he slides in a few coins and types in the number he’s been assured will put him in contact with this Morrison fellow.

“Talk.” A man’s voice answers after the fifth ring.

“Morrison?”

“Depends on what you want.”

“I’m looking for an introduction.” V says, leaning slightly against one of the walls. “I hear you know where one can find a devil hunter by the name of Dante.”

“Why you lookin to be introduced?”

“There’s a…problem that might require his attention.”

“What kind of ‘problem’?”

“The kind where a lot of people die if not properly and quickly handled.” He says and there’s a pause.

“You lookin to hire?”

“If I must.” V says easily. Morrison rattles off a number. It’s modest for devil work, supremely modest. “Cash fine with you?”

“Is there anything else?”

“When and where?”

“…Devil May Cry.” Morrison says and V barely holds in the snort. Seriously? “Be there tomorrow night. 8pm on the dot. Bring the cash.”

“Very well.” V hangs up the phone and sighs. He guesses there are a few things he has to get in order before he meets this ‘son of Sparda’. “Devil May Cry.” V repeats to himself, testing the words on his tongue. “Someone thinks they’re funny.” He turns and walks down the street.

This should be interesting.