Trish agreed because it sure beat waiting around for jobs and verbal sniping. Jobs had been thin on the ground because of certain bums that would remain unnamed. Or just those of Sparda’s bloodline.
Dante was so annoyingly super-powered that whenever he devil-triggered and left the inevitable wave of destruction in his wake, all minor demons that were not thralls booked out of the immediate area--or the immediate blast radius. Some would stay away for decades because they obviously would not stand a chance against the hunter.
And Vergil, not content to be second runner-up, was also bad news on the demonic grapevine. No-one wanted to tangle with the Disaster Twins--or Nero, who was doing a great job of mopping up any leftover minions that were too dumb to follow their leaders back to the demon world.
Which left them at loose ends, stuck twiddling their thumbs because they were letting the kid establish his reputation on the mainland.
They were getting much too domestic. Why just yesterday, they had even idly raised the idea of cleaning the office. Thankfully, that idea never took and they put bets on how much a cleaning company would charge if Dante ever called one in.
(Fumigation might have been in order, but Trish generally zapped any rodents in the vicinity.)
Their cavalier attitudes, from an outsider’s perspective, might have seemed a little cold, but Trish and Lady were canny gamblers. They also knew Dante and, to a lesser extent, Vergil. If they had to bet on the Disaster Twins versus the hordes of the Underworld, they would back the twits any day. Not that they would ever admit it.
They had not even bothered to correct Nero’s assumption that there was no way back out at first. Lady had to nudge the kid into that particular mind-set that one had to use when dealing with the Disaster Twins a bit later. After all, Nero had the basics down--one had to beat the stupid out of them just to get a word in about how stupid they were being.
No doubt Dante wanted to have a long talk with his brother about the whole opening the gates to the demon dimension business. Or beat the tar out of him because they had communication issues and a nice violence-laden stroll through the Underworld might give them time to sort stuff out.
Whatever it was, they still had the Yamato with them. Despite the twisty and unpredictable nature of dimensional travel, they would get out eventually. The walls between the worlds were unbelievably thin in some places too.
Which was why Morrison (similarly unconcerned about Dante’s second jaunt into another dimension despite holding the deed to his shop) had offered them another job. Demonic infestation, threatening to spill out of some ancient monastery in a rural backwater hallway up a mountain. Rain check on shopping.
It got them out of the shop and out in the open air.
Trish had been looking forward to a day of shopping and sangria with tapas for dinner. If there was shooting involved, it would only be the icing on the cake. These days, people were a lot less likely to try something--like attempting to grope women that were just shopping for shoes. Word of her and Lady got around. That, and all the broken insteps.
But zapping shambling hordes of reanimated corpses relieved the tedium just as neatly.
It had been religious scholars in the monastery library with a pentagram. Again. That was the problem with some humans--they took the existence of demons as a challenge and would try summoning them again despite the events two months ago that had threatened to end the world.
Morrison usually called them to handle more complicated jobs like this. Lady would drag the unconscious idiots away from the carnage while Trish deactivated the summoning circle or whatever that the humans used to seal the breach. With Dante and Vergil out of the picture, only Trish had enough knowledge of nine types of demonic runes and most of the dialects of Hell to shut down a summons without ripping yet another hole in the world. Outside of finding one of the witches of yore to decipher some crumbling scroll, the best bet was usually some scholar of old dead languages.
But the problem with the scholars of old dead stuff was that human curiosity always reared its head, resulting in the disembodied spectres summoned from another realm. Being disembodied, they needed to get bodied fast. And the monastery had a well-populated crypt.
The remains were crumbling to pieces though, which made it easier to blast them into bits. Lacking physical anchors, the haunts fled back to more welcoming climes. Within a quarter of an hour, Trish was shaking bone dust from her hair irritably as she emerged from the remains of the old library to confront the humans responsible.
Lady was already taking care of that. After beating off the walking skeletons that made it past Trish, she had turned her attentions onto the now awake knuckleheads that were just lightly bruised and a little scratched up. They were the sort of well-fed academic types that would hike up to some rustic village to find an old monastery with an antique library on a weekend. And bring the necessary supplies to create a summoning circle.
“--you got away with far less than what you deserved!” Lady lectured the trio with one hand on her hip and the other on her rocket-launcher. Humans that summoned demons carelessly were her pet peeve. For obvious reasons. “Wallets and identification, now!”
So cowed by the experience were the humans that they produced their billfolds without question.
Lady make a show of taking down their names and removed the largest denominations from the wallets before chucking them back. “That’s the fee for saving your asses. No extra charges for wear and tear on our weapons, so you’re getting off easy.”
“B-but Richard might have been bitten . . . is he gonna become a zombie?” the bravest of the trio asked. Richard, the most scratched up member of the wannabe demon summoners, looked pathetic and whined.
Trish sighed inwardly. Humans and their movies. The spectres that had risen in response to their haphazard summons had fled back to the Underworld, unable to find purchase in this one.
“Here,” she said, stepping forward with a glowing rune in one hand. She smacked Richard upside the head deftly before he could retreat. “That’ll hold it.”
“At no extra charge,” Lady chimed in. “So long as you don’t go near anything demonic, they won’t come back for you.”
Or so they hoped. Trish’s little “tag” was not a warding, just a low-level sensor charm that would ping if Richard decided to get creative again with his friends. Devils only target certain humans if they were most likely to bring them through to this world. Richard and company had very little innate occult ability, so they could be categorised as low risk.
“Scram--we haven’t swept the perimeter for strays yet.” A convenient half-lie that would give them a little more time to finish the job.
The trio legged it, leaving Trish and Lady alone in front of the old library. Now the real clean-up would take place. When Dante took jobs, the place tended to burn down or fall through a crack into the Underworld, taking care of any pesky scrolls or grimoires that contained information that humans were not supposed to meddle with. But there were small idyllic hamlets in the valley below that might not enjoy an avalanche coming down on their quaint roofs.
As they had settled the matter without the earth swallowing up the library, they had a just little more work to do.
These humans had three legit grimoires, a dozen hokey ones of dubious ancestry, one actual demonic relic as an anchor for the summons and the usual assortment of candles and bloodletting tools.
The real metal brazier came in handy when it was time to burn the relic--nasty things that served as bait for gullible humans and also explained how three mostly normal humans could perform a successful summoning. They would dump the unhygienic tools in the nearest river and nab the grimoires for future reference.
If they needed to sell the grimoires for funds, Trish normally edited the summons so that any future attempts would be fruitless. She discovered that changing a few rune or symbols in strategic places worked best. No devil in their right minds would respond to “Mundus, wanker extraordinaire” or “Argosax, wearer of ladies’ lingerie”--mostly out of fear.
Morrison met them back in the largest of the three quaint hamlets in the picturesque valley. They had taken a room at the guesthouse to be polite.
“Job done?” The broker looked dapper as ever despite it being ass o’clock.
“Done and dusted. Did those dummies pass through here?” Lady asked, stretching out the kinks while the silvery pre-dawn light crept over the wooden rooftops. It had been a long night.
“Didn’t stop running even when they got into their cars,” Morrison confirmed. “The mayor says thanks, by the way.”
“Hey, as long as the payment’s on time. Good on them for catching on before the night of the living dead actually happened.”
“Those guys might have talked a little too loudly--didn’t think that the folk hereabouts would understand what they were up to.” Morrison chuckled a little. “Not very smart for all their degrees.”
“If there was a degree for summoning demons, wouldn’t it only be given to survivors?” Trish asked rhetorically. She had her own feelings about humans trying to meddle where they were the least welcome.
Some demons didn’t actually want to be hauled into the human world. (A surprising fact for many.) And she knew that some of the legions were less than keen about being cannon fodder in yet another bloody campaign by their lords. But it wasn’t a democracy over there, so the average demon was basically a serf or thrall.
“A happy ending for all this time--no deaths and no collateral damage,” Morrison reminded them. “And I finally got your bonuses!”
“Wh--you had to keep that for last?” Lady demanded, temporarily forgetting her fatigue.
“Always save the best for last!”
“How did you manage that?” Trish was surprised because while they had technically saved the world, it was a long shot to expect to be paid for it. But Morrison had some contacts, people that knew people--he said that he would try to get them what they deserved for doing the work of the army and the police.
“It was a bit too big to hide this time,” the broker said, pulling out an expensive-smelling celebratory cigar--he would have taken his cut. “I just pointed out that things would have gone very differently if devil hunters did not exist.”
And he gave them a number. It had more zeroes in it than all their paycheques to date.
“Fuck,” Lady swore.
“Split between the four of you . . . assuming he’s coming back for it.” Morrison lit his cigar, puffing on it to get a healthy glow. “Would appreciate it if you could help me deliver Nero’s share on the way back. Banking in Fortuna is--”
“It’d take a month to get wired through.” Lady made a disparaging noise, clearly disgusted by outdated financial practices. “And that’s after they rebuilt most of the town.”
Fortuna had moved into the current century at least. Trish noticed the changes as they boarded the ferry the next day after accepting Morrison’s little job with an eye to extend their getaway. There were more vehicles on board this time. Their motorbikes were not so noticeable now that Fortuna was less insular than it had been. But the two women drew their fair share of looks from the locals.
Trish was used to it. On Fortuna though, people kept trying to sell her clothes the moment she got off the ferry. She did buy a linen shirt from an old lady that guaranteed that it was made of local fabric and handstitched. The woman’s smile faltered just a little when Trish put the shirt on and tied it at the waist, leaving it unbuttoned.
Being a created demon, Trish had no shame in her genetic make-up. She just found the humans’ reaction to her appearance amusing.
They left the main drag that was a lot more touristy than it had been eight years ago and sped into what might charitably called the suburbs. Lady led the way, having been by several times because she patronised Nicoletta Goldstein’s services and had a passing interest in Nero’s devil hunting business.
The homes that lined the road they were on looked less and less prosperous. But there were signs that the people living there took pride in their houses. The whitewashed wooden fences and neatly trimmed lawns were pleasant enough, Trish supposed.
Lady stopped in front of a single storey house with an attached garage and a lawn that looked like it had been used as the neighbourhood soccer pitch. Lines of laundry were strung up outside and all it was missing were the laughing children and a dog. There were sounds of children playing out back, so it wasn’t far off from the domestic idyll.
But the moment they ducked into the rather well-used garage, Trish realised that Lady might have ulterior motives.
But she did not do anything other than raise her eyebrows slightly as Nico stammered cutely while Lady batted her eyelashes coquettishly at her. Trish had graduated from don’t-kill-this-human-they-might-be-useful to “you should only tell your vitriolic close acquaintances that you can smell them when they are horny to rag on them” a long time ago after all.
Apparently the last time they had spent any significant amount of time alone, it involved overalls, shovels and the destruction of a lot of the city--Lady was trying to make up for lost time. Or squeeze a discount on whatever new explosive rounds Nico had come up with to go with the modifications on her rocket-launcher.
The eyelash batting must have had some effect because Nico had stopped whatever she had been working on to run to the backroom to fetch samples to show them. Leaving Lady and Trish to idly examine the somewhat familiar prosthesis on the workbench.
Familiar because they knew that Nico made them for Nero. Somewhat unfamiliar because they had not seen it used before.
“Is that silicone?” Lady gave the surface a poke. She liked mechanical things almost as much as Nico did. Though not to the point of actually building them.
“It could be the one she made him for everyday use back then,” Trish suggested. Before she could make a second guess, Lady had attached the cables that led to a battery pack and turned it on--
The way the hand started vibrating was certainly new--but not all that unfamiliar for anyone that had ever owned a vibrator.
“Uh,” Lady said intelligently before looking at Trish.
“Well, it could just be--” Even Trish could not find a non-sexual excuse for that.
Lady toggled another switch at the forearm end of the prosthesis and they both watched as the hand started to move up and down rhythmically.
“Yeah, Kyrie is a lucky girl,” Lady concluded before uncoupling the battery. “Or Nero has more brain cells than the rest of his family put together.”
“Or just the brain cells to even maintain a functional relationship.”
“Dante and--” Lady’s brain appeared to stall at the very thought of Complete Asshole Twin in the same sentence as a functional relationship—quasi-romantic, familial or otherwise. “Those two never had any significant romantic relationships anyhow.”
“Dante was never actually trying,” Trish pointed out. Aside from the occasional whine about not having any luck, Dante’s forays into any sort of entanglement had always seemed performative. There was a woman on Dumary Island that Dante never talked about. Trish and Lady never investigated—they counted that as the one nice thing he got as a sort-of-friend from them.
Even if the hypothetical person that Dante might consider a relationship with existed, said hypothetical person would need infinite patience and no sense of smell, for eau de Dante came mainly in two variations—pizza grease or rotting ichor.
Lady and Trish had figured it out eventually in the early years after the events of Temen-ni-gru and Mallet Island. The guy had issues. Being a hybrid was just one of them. For all his flippant blowhard nature, Dante sure was good at walling himself off from people and putting the kibosh on any meaningful looks from anyone.
It did not require special intuition to figure out that constantly forgetting to pay the bills, doing laundry maybe once a month if he remembered and acting like a bum (or just a sleazy bum) were acts of deliberate self-sabotage. (Now the whole not shaving thing could be put down to him being an old bum.)
If Dante’s job had not necessitated skidding around in demon guts regularly and maybe stopping the end of the world as they knew it by leaving huge swaths of destruction in his wake, they were pretty sure he’d find other ways to cock-block himself. Lady and Trish were pretty sure of that because they were two of Dante’s tiny circle of close acquaintances.
“And Vergil--“ Trish begun.
“Is a complete asshole,” Lady finished. Knowing the guy for ten minutes around the same time she had met Dante had probably been ten minutes too many. It was safe to say that that guy had no friends. Which was pretty sad coming from them of all people.
“He was less abrasive as Nelo Angelo.” Trish had known Complete Asshole Twin briefly while he was Mundus’ puppet. His propensity for ending the world in the search for ultimate power had not been so obvious back then.
They were both mostly convinced that the demonic and human DNA inside Vergil had called a truce in the interest of self-preservation and made sure that the first and possibly only chance they had resulted in conception. (As worldly as they were, Trish and Lady still could not imagine that scenario.) The Disaster Twins weren’t exactly the paternal sort.
Any further ruminations were interrupted by Nico noisily hauling in an armload of schematics and ammunition shells. And Kyrie following behind her with a plate of cookies. Lady and Trish had to keep themselves from checking out her jegging-clad legs but damn, the curves on that girl should come with a hazard sign.
Nico blithely dumped everything on her workbench, completely obscuring the prosthesis. The mechanic wasn’t oblivious, thank goodness. Neither was Kyrie, they both suspected. Though it be interesting to have a chat with Kyrie about that . . . Maybe when Nero finally got the nerve to marry her and they could have that hen night eventually.
Trish and Lady praised the cookies and made small talk so that Nico could whisk the vibrator arm prosthesis under the workbench.
“You made these? Wow, I need to drop by more often,” Lady said, not entirely lying because there was nothing like homemade cookies to anyone that had not had any in over two decades. Humans set a store by such things.
They put on their company manners because Kyrie was a nice girl. Out of Nero’s league, of course, but she apparently liked him. Trish took another cookie and reflected that they really should nudge the kid to propose. Or just drag him into corner and tell him straight to his face. Dropping hints might not work despite Nero having more sense than the Disaster Twins most of the time.
Kyrie offered to get them coffee and allowed them a brief respite. Though none of them could say with honesty that they had not checked her out for a second when she exited the garage.
Lady cocked an eyebrow at Nico, who looked a little flustered before she nodded and shrugged. Yeah, there was no harm in looking.
Trish waited patiently for Lady to finally come to the realisation that Nero was getting more action than she was. It wasn’t long before Lady was using the unfair advantage of her heterochromia and lip pout combo to either score a date or score a deal on munitions. Nico was deploying freckles and nerdy mechanic to the hilt. Trish had told Lady that showing Nico everything was a mistake--a lot of humans liked the flirting part.
“So about those mini-missiles--”
Shopping and scoring was interrupted yet again by a stampede of small sweaty human children. Well, it seemed like a stampede to Trish as their loud chatter filled the entire space.
Bringing up the rear, just as sweaty and covered in grass stains, was Nero with a football under one arm and a playful chokehold on a slightly older boy under his other arm.
“Oh hey,” Nero said over the din. “Any news? Or a job?”
“Okay you cretins--back off!” Nico hollered when the kids started to encroach upon her space. “Kyrie has cookies--so if you want them, you better go wash your hands now!”
The words were like a magic spell that left the adults standing in the garage with Nico’s hair swaying in the wind from the speed of their passage. Also, the blissful silence that followed.
“Not exactly here for business today,” Lady clarified. “Just some shopping and getting my discount from the time she loaned out Kalina Ann II.”
“I said you could claim it from Dante--”
“Dante isn’t here,” Lady shot back before looking over at Nero. “Sorry, but we’ve not heard a word from our contacts.”
“Or from my contacts,” Trish added helpfully. “And I did threaten to stick Lady’s bazooka up where the sun don’t shine if they tried to hide anything.”
“Yeah, she’s very free with other people’s weapons--”
The sniping might have resumed if not for Kyrie sticking her head in just then.
“Nero, you’re just in time. Let’s all sit down for coffee instead.”
“Okay, just let me get cleaned up,” Nero said, making for the old stained sink in the corner of the garage and giving the rest of them the stink-eye that plainly said Behave.
“Relax, kid,” Trish huffed and examined her nails after Kyrie had gone back to wrangling the children and the food. “We’re not going to embarrass you in front of your girlfriend.”
“Though she can’t be that easily shocked since she lives with you.” Lady grinned as Nero flipped her off with one soapy hand.
“And all those kids too.” Trisha shuddered inwardly at the very thought of facing all those loud mini-humans twenty-four seven. One or two might have been manageable, but they it looked like they had taken in a few more for day-care. Nero really was the responsible one of the family. Or at least he had the chance to be after the Disaster Twins kept him from following them.
“Kyrie feeds a lot of kids in this neighbourhood. I always say they’re addicted to her cookies,” Nero said with shrug as he finished washing his hands. “She will not confirm or deny it.”
“Well, you can tell her that I believe that those cookies can be classified as an addictive substance,” Lady chipped in. “Oh, and you won’t believe the news Morrison gave us!”
Nero grinned at them both. “So you weren’t just here to flirt with Nico and scrounge for freebies?”
Trish would have brought up the special prosthetic arm to tease the kid but a) it had only been a few weeks since Nero had grown a new arm and b) there would be more cookies if they could make it inside before the kids demolished everything.
Also c) Kyrie might get mad if they were late for coffee. It was too risky--she might not offer them dinner.
They could save up that little morsel for another day. Trish wanted to enjoy her vacation. And maybe the look on Nero’s face when he found out that he would have the funds to pay Nico to repair the RV and support his budding football team of orphans.