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It's Not Really Devil May Cry Until Dante Gets Stabbed!

Chapter Text

The sun had long since set by the time Clear started his job. His current client, an elderly man living in the east residential district of the city, had hired him to deal with some demons that had started appearing at night over the past week. He had mentioned that there hadn’t been any murders yet, so Clear’s job was to keep it that way by ridding the area of the hoard before it got any worse.

Hunting demons was a dangerous lifetime occupation to have, and yet he found it thrilling. His cellphone’s clock read 10:38 PM—the demons had been given more than enough time to come out and start raving in the streets. Although the sun had set around nine, anticipating that a couple other hunters would probably have been called in as well Clear didn’t waste any more time getting to the area. The night was still young, and they probably had the same idea: let the demons come out, then swoop in and take them out all at once.

Clear did want his money though, and no matter what he’d get it. But the amount of hunters that were just passing through recently was starting to get a bit annoying. It was compromising his second job.

He’d been running across rooftops for a little under half a mile. The shop he worked for, Arms Race, was just on the outskirts of town, to the south. The city it self was small and crowded, making it easy for him to get from there to his current job by foot. He only had one weapon with him tonight; his second job was to test-run the weapons his boss made, to make sure they were working fine and ready to be sold. Tonight, he had a semi-demonic AR-15 rifle, modified to have a special cartridge that would enhance bullets with demonic energy. The weapon was a bit on the heavy side for the style of gun it was, but it also had a few other mods added to it as per request so Clear wasn’t too surprised.

As he got closer to the residential area, the sound of gunfire caught his attention. He jumped from one roof to another, sliding to a stop when a large cloud of smoke rose up a couple buildings away from him. The explosion that accompanied it was almost deafening, and he could hear car alarms start to blare instantly. Below him, the startled murmur of families in their homes piped up. It was a good thing he was called in tonight since it seemed like the demons were blowing up cars now.

He took off again towards the explosion, moving one house away so he could jump down without diving through the smoke. As soon as he landed he had his rifle braced against his shoulder and aimed. There were bodies of at least a dozen demons scattered around, already disintegrating into ash. The road had been cratered by whatever created the explosion, cars nearby dented on the sides closest to the street, and their windows shattered to hell and back. A couple of garbage cans had been set on fire. Clear didn’t see what had caused the damage immediately even as the smoke cleared a bit.

He was barely given the chance to observe anymore after his initial sweep. A set of demons came up behind him; three that shambled along the ground, two small flying ones with stubby wings, and one that seemed to be a large, animated cloak floating with scissors for hands. Before the scissored one could sweep at him he’d already fired.

He knocked one hand away from him, the other bullet nailing it through the chest and blasting away part of it’s cloak. Each bullet swirled with bright red demonic energy, exploding a second time upon impact due to the enhancement. The rifle had a healthy amount of kick to it, Clear noted, meaning it was safe to fire by a normal human.

He backed up a little more as the other two demons suddenly dashed at him with speed he didn’t expect them to have on their mangled limbs. He shot one down with two well-aimed shots, but the other two managed to get closer to him than he liked. He cursed to himself, not having his usual knives was incredibly inconvenient.

Using the butt of the rifle as a blunt force weapon Clear smashed the demon’s face in. When it collapsed to the ground, he stepped on its back to hold it there and shot it in the head, splattering it across the pavement. The next demon went for the same attack but he was fast to duck under swinging arms. Clear shoved the barrel of the rifle into the demon’s stomach and fired. It flew back into a nearby wall with a shriek. Clear finished it off with one more shot to the head.

He turned his attention next to the two winged ones. The cloaked demon had recovered the scissors he’d blown away, and the two little demons were now holding what looked to be apples in their hands. One bit down on the fruit, then tossed it towards Clear’s feet; he got a good look at the grenade when it landed. Jumping back out of the way, he took a shot at the other demon, hitting the grenade just after it was thrown. The explosion decimated the demon that threw the bomb, and singed the other two nearby.

Before he could finish off the group on his own, an actual missile flew past his ear. It landed in the ground just below the two floating demons and drowned their screams with the sound of the explosion it made. Heat wafted across Clear’s face. His instant reaction was to use his collar to cover his mouth so he didn’t inhale any smoke while further backing out of range towards the first crater.

On his way back he bumped into the hunter that had caused all the destruction. Where his upper-arm hit her chest, he could tell that she wasn’t much taller than him. Still, when he turned to see her, he was surprised at the size of the rocket launcher she was using to fight with. It was almost as tall as her, blade on the end not counted.

“Watch it,” she muttered to him as they moved away from each other. She had short black hair and was wearing mostly white, but what stood out the most was the scar across the bridge of her nose and her two-colored eyes.

“Pardon me. Couldn’t see you around all the smoke you kicked up.”

She shrugged slightly and looked back towards the demons in front of them. Clear followed her eyes, but instantly turned when he heard more behind him. He didn’t even bother counting, just stood his ground with the woman behind him and started shooting them down.

Behind him, she’d switched to using a pair of semi-autos. He wasn’t sure how that was gonna get the job done, but that was the least of his concerns when the Scissorhands started getting frisky. One of the winged bastards threw a grenade which Clear shot out of the air again, but the Scissorhands ducked away from explosion and then spun towards him. He managed to shoot one of the hands to knock it off balance, following it with his gun across the other hunter’s shoulder as it ducked past them. Apparently her demon did the same thing, as she also threw a gun over his shoulder to match. The two fired in unison, then spun away from each other to stand back to back still facing opposite sides again. With a couple more well-placed shots he finished the Scissorhands on his side and whatever demons she’d left alive.

The alleyway went silent as he lowered his gun. He heard her holster her weapons behind him, and turned to face her. Now that he could get a better look at her, he noted that she was armed to the teeth with various guns and hunting knives. His tattoo pulsed at the prospect of of feasting on her blood, but he shut down the feeling before it got worse. He hadn't absorbed any demon blood yet, there was too much ash in the air and on the ground to get a good amount for his tattoo. He clicked his tongue.

"Well, thanks for the help, lady, but I'll handle clean up here."

She looked up from where she'd been staring at his weapon. Her brown eye caught the light of it, making her iris subtly glow red.

"Are you one of those out-of-town hunters?" She asked in response. Clear clicked his tongue again.

"Are you one of those out-of-town hunters?"

"Fair. That gun of your's is pretty interesting."

"It's a custom job. I can give you a business card."

She chuckled under her breath and shook her head. "No need. I've got everything I need right here."

She pat her rocket launcher appreciatively. Her expression was fond for a moment, but hardened when she looked at him again.

"Anyway, I'll handle clean-up, I was on site first and if you're not from around here the town can get pretty dangerous at night," she said.

He opened his mouth to respond, but quickly raised his gun instead. She flinched out of the way of his bullet whizzing past her ear; it exploded inside the chest of one of the shambling demon behind her, sending one of its arms flying before it screamed and collapsed.

"You should definitely leave this to me."

"Yeah, no. Hey, thanks for the almost-piercing, but head home–" She suddenly whipped a pistol out from the holster behind her back and shot at a demon behind Clear. He spun around to see a perfect shot through the center of the forehead. "-I'm quite fine with finishing the job."

He turned back to her with a half-hearted glare. These out-of-towners were getting more ballsy every time. But the way she spoke, she had to have been from around the city, or at least spent a lot of time here.

More noise caught his attention. The sound of cheering demons one... no, two alleys over. One more on the other side. He and the lady looked at each other, then both sighed.

"Fine, fine. You take this alley, I'll deal with the other one," she delegated as she holstered her pistol. Clear gave a nod of acknowledgement.

"Watch your back this time, lady. I won't be there to help you."

"Don't need it!"

He couldn't help but chuckle at her chipper tone, but she definitely was tense underneath it. To be fair, he was too, anticipating a better fight. His tattoo was positively yearning for it.


 

The mission went rather quickly after that. He checked his phone, the time was about 1 AM by the time he was done. He hadn't heard the lady's explosions in a little while, but she was probably fine. Still, he didn't see he when he climbed back up to the rooftops. With a shrug, he started heading back to the warehouse he and his boss called home. 

Chapter Text

Clear awoke slowly to the sound of his alarm. It was just gentle acoustics, but it helped ease him awake in the mornings, when he could take his time getting ready for the day. Letting the song play for a bit longer, he took his time stretching and pulling back the blankets to get up. His room’s floor was cold on his feet where there wasn’t a carpet. He shut off his alarm.

It didn’t take him long to get ready. Throwing on clean jeans and a T-shirt and brushing his hair back, he exited his room on the makeshift second floor. The living area was towards the back of the warehouse, separated from the ‘shop’ in front by a long row of shelving covered by unused sheets and tarps. The ‘second floor’ was a raised metal and wood loft area that supported both Dimitri and Clear’s rooms. Below that, they had their bathroom and a small kitchen area. They’d built it themselves pretty early on, but it cost a pretty penny that had Clear taking hunting jobs back to back—out of town, too. Still, it got them a fridge, and a sink, and some cabinets, and a stove, so they—well, he—could cook for them in his downtime.

The stairs to the rooms were metal and cold on Clear’s bare feet, making him quickly rush down to the bathroom to where he’d left his blood-soaked shoes the night before. He was used to using them repeatedly after hunts, but they were getting worn. Maybe it was time for a new set. And a second set for home while he was at it. Their cramped bathroom held their washer and dryer; he grabbed a pair of socks from the dryer, reminding himself to run a load today. After he had his shoes on he went about making breakfast.

Eggs, fried ham, some toast, nothing too fancy. Neither he nor his roommate were very big eaters at breakfast. Still, Clear did like to have fun with seasoning and plating, a hobby he’d picked up from his mother; he put the ham and scrambled eggs over the toast like an open-faced sandwich and sprinkled pepper and chives across the top to garnish.

The smell of food seemed to rouse Dimitri. Just barely before Clear was finished with the eggs, his boss and roommate stumbled down the stairs. Rubbing his eyes tiredly—he was still wearing his pajamas—he flopped down onto their dining room table. That was a generous thing to call it though, as it was only a picnic bench they’d daringly stolen from a park.

“G’morning,” Clear said. Dimitri mumbled something back. He looked like he was about to fall asleep again. Clear placed the plate in front of Dimitri.

“Up late?”

“Yeah. Reading.”

“More alchemy?”

“Mmhmm…”

Dimitri was the neater eater between the two. He ate with a fork and knife, separating out bites that were too large to fit in his mouth. Clear just picked up the whole piece of toast and ate it one large bite at a time. He let Dimitri swallow his current mouthful before piping up again.

“I thought you were already a master at your craft. Just studying up?”

“You can always learn more…” Dimitri stretched and put his utensils down to lean back on the bench. Clear could feel his knee bouncing under the table; he was starting to wake up.

“I guess. Anything interesting?”

“Some stuff.”

“Too tired to tell me, huh.”

“I’ll tell you when I wake up.”

Clear chuckled and shook his head. He went back to eating too, letting them munch in silence. As usual breakfast was a slow affair as Dimitri finally really woke up to start telling Clear all his findings and prototypes from the night before. When the drowsiness had worn off, his mind was always running a mile a minute. Clear was surprised he rarely stumbled when he spoke, especially with the speed of his speech.

“—and then I realized, oh, it makes sense that using a demonic language would work better to direct demonic energy. To think, I was really stumbling around this whole time using Latin and English! So that’s what I was reading up on last night.”

Clear nodded his head. It wasn’t that he wasn’t paying attention, he just wasn’t the brains of the operation so a lot of information went straight over his head. Still, he was happy to see Dimitri so excited about the new subject matter.

“I tried it out on your knives. Reworked the mods a bit and did some cleaning too, since you let the absorption system get jammed. I told you to clean it regularly!”

“Hey, I was! But you took them before I could clean that night!”

“It’ll cost you, yanno. Damaging my creation like that, the utter disrespect,” Dimitri tsk’d, waving his fork. Clear waved a hand dismissively at him.

“I make you breakfast and dinner, that’s payment enough.”

Dimitri just laughed. As they were finishing the last couple bites of their food the phone rang. They both looked at it. Clear, still chewing, looked towards his partner first.

“That’s the phone,” he said around his full mouth.

“Can’t you get it this time?” Dimitri asked. Clear slowed down the speed at which he was chewing, earning an annoyed look.

“‘M still eatin’,” Clear said. He motioned to the phone with his hand. “Better answer, could be important.”

Dimitri let out an exaggerated groan. “Fine. Time to clock in!”

The phone was at Dimitri’s work desk in the center of the warehouse. It was in an convenient enough location for either of them to get to, though more often than not Clear tripped on his way to it; Dimitri had significantly more finesse. He slapped on a chipper tone as soon as he picked up, immediately going into his customer service persona. The shift every time made Clear shudder in disturbed fear—no demon could invoke terror in him like the way Dimitri’s absolutely fake customer service voice did.

“This is Arms Race, how can we help you compete?”

There was a moment of silence while Dimitri waited for the caller to give the password. When he continued speaking, it mean’t they’d correctly answered, “superiority and accumulation.”

“Ah, I understand. Thank you for calling. Are you looking for a weapon or do you need to hire us for services?" Silence, then, “services? Ah, maintenance on a weapon? I see, I see! Sure, I can do that, can you come in to drop it off? I’ll have some questions.”

Clear tuned out the rest of the conversation to focus on cleaning up the table instead. Dishes were fast, but he had yesterday’s plates to clean too. Then, he’d have to make a grocery list since they were running low on dinner supplies and D’s cupped noodles. The call was maybe only five, ten minutes, so Dimitri was back at the table quickly.

“Seems like someone who knew you.”

“Huh?” Clear asked. “Who, the customer?”

“Yeah. She mentioned that you guys met last night and blamed you for her gun needing maintenance. What did you do yesterday?”

Clear furrowed his brow, trying to remember. “I mean, we both almost shot each other in opposite ears, Idunno about anything other than that.”

Dimitri shook his head, shaking his bangs into his face. “Really? This is why other hunters don’t wanna work with you. Imagine all the employees we could have if our hiring manager wasn’t so strict!”

“I’m pretty sure she was from out of town, as are ninety percent of the other potential hires I’ve ‘chased off.’ Come on, you like paying this place off don’t you?”

“Okay, okay, fair.”

Clear finished the dishes. He ten went to run a load of laundry while Dimitri went to the center of the workshop to start his work for the day. With the house chores mostly done, Clear also started heading towards the front of the shop.

“Gonna head out to get some groceries. Need anything while I’m gone?”

“If you’re offering! Can you bring me back a Hell Hopper, preferably one with the scooping chainsaw blade arms? If you can’t find one don’t worry about it.”

Clear raised an eyebrow. “You know those things are bigger than I am, right?”

“You’ll figure it out,” as Dimitri’s reply from the back of the warehouse. “I’ll finish your knives before the lady stops by to drop off her weapon.”

“Sounds good. Oh, hey, I’m gonna need some touch ups done when I get back!”

“Oh, maybe I can practice writing!”

“Ha! You know it won’t stay.”

“That’s the point!” Dimitri called with a laugh. Clear heard him shuffling around before he continued. “Well, give me some time to make up a new mix, I got what I could out of your knives but I’ll need to refine the blood a bit.”

“Take your time. See you when I get back!”

Clear left the shop, flipping on the sign above the door as he did. Arms Race lit up in bright white and green neon, alerting the world to the shop’s presence.


 

“D, I’m back,” Clear called into the workshop. It was a cluttered mess as usual, with absolutely no open table space and impossibly less open floor. They had an entire warehouse to themselves, albeit a small one, and somehow Dimitri still managed to take up all of it. Kicking scrap metal and broken tools—most of them not there that morning—out of the way, Clear made his way to Dimitri’s main workspace in the center of the warehouse. A set of four tables and two benches arranged with some shelves placed sporadically near them—all, also covered in junk. On an open corner of one of the desks Clear set the groceries down for a moment.

Dimitri was napping at one desk in the middle. His head was tucked neatly into his crossed arms, his back rising and falling steadily with his breath. His lights were still on around him making his pale hair seem almost white. Clear shook his head at his roommate but he honestly couldn’t help letting out a little chuckle. Taking Dimitri’s shoulder in his hand, Clear shook him awake.

“Hey, D. Wake up.”

“Mngnhh, five more minutes…” Dimitri mumbled back. Clear rolled his eyes.

“I’m back with groceries. Want some lunch?”

Dimitri shifted away from him, weakly pointing to an empty cup of instant ramen.

“Added spinach,” he mumbled.

“Good thing I got some more today. Come on, let’s get you to bed.”

It took Clear some maneuvering to pick Dimitri up. He wriggled through the junk on the floor, careful not to trip, towards the back of the warehouse to their rooms. Clear shrugged past the tarp-covered shelves and bee-lined for Dimitri’s room up the stairs. He nudged Dimitri’s door open with his toe when he got there and deposited his roommate on his bed. Even though he had a couple projects and computers strewn about, it was the one part of Dimitri’s domain that had a somewhat visible floor.

“There we go,” Clear said to himself with a shake of his head. “I’ll see ya at dinner.”

Dimitri mumbled something back and curled into his blankets. Clear slipped out quietly towards the front of the shop again to watch in case any customers came in. The main hanger doors were always closed so the only entryway was the small door to the right. It was also the only space in the front of the shop that had guest space, with a small couch by the door and a low coffee table. It was just meant to be pretty and presentable, although not many people looked passed D’s many shelves when they came in.

Maybe while Dimitri was asleep, Clear could do a little house cleaning. It would be back to messy the next time D woke up, but it would at least make it easier for Clear to move around until then.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t long until Dimitri woke up. Only about two hours, which didn’t give Clear time to clean as much as he wanted, but he was able to kick enough debris out of the way to make their main walkway presentable. While he was cleaning he noticed the lady’s gun from yesterday on the customer repair shelf to the left of the door; she must have stopped in while he was shopping.

After Dimitri was up, he did touchups to Clear’s tattoo. His primary weapons, dual knives called Tatzelwurm, were the first Devil Arms Clear had ever received. The weapons were modded by D to have a blood absorption system that allowed them to suck blood out of demons and store a bit in the blade, almost like a built in syringe. He could also release blood from the blades to feed his tattoo, allowing him to continue fighting in a pinch, and have a material gathering method for repairing his tattoo.

His tattoo was the only thing that permitted him to use the knives, as his former mentor had told him that humans couldn’t use demonic weapons. That tattoo… It was demonic in nature, so when he got a cut that interrupted the line when it scarred over, Dimitri needed to use a mix of demon blood and normal tattoo ink to recreate the lines. The ink bound to his skin and the tattoo to the demon energy, fixing the damage and keeping it ‘attached’ to him in a way.

As a plus, the new lines would instantly heal over as well, thanks to any strong demonic blood that had been absorbed. And he had killed quite a few Hell Hoppers the last time he was out with his knives. But because the tattoo’s demonic nature was somewhat sentient, anything outside of the pre-ordained lines didn’t stay on his skin.

That didn’t stop Dimitri from practicing his new writing anyway.

By the time they were finished, two phone calls had come in back-to-back begging Clear to take care of some demons wreaking havoc in the center of town. The sun was starting to set and the sky was dark when Clear set out. With Tatzelwurm’s sheath strapped to his thigh, he was able to also take a new weapon with him: a gunblade D had made for a client earlier in the week. With the payment from that weapon and what Clear would bring in from this job and the one from the previous night, they’d be swimming in cash for a while.

When he arrived to the center of town, the fountain had been overrun with Pack Rats. Furry little bastards, with long prehensile tails and massive mouthes that took up their entire faces. They had strong legs too, making them fast at clearing distances. Clear’d been kicked in the ribs by one once, he was still impressed that he’d found a strong enough demon to heal all the damage done to him.

There were a couple of Hell Hoppers too. The massive, armored mantis shrimp had three different sets of arms, but only a grabber and a slicer showed up tonight. D had asked for one of the chainsaws so Clear would have to remember to save one for last. He saw a pair of Scissorhands as well, prowling the area for more humans to feast on.

From where he was on the roof, Clear could see that they’d already claimed a couple lives and were feasting on the remains. He clicked his tongue, forcing himself not to hold the blame that he couldn’t save them. Instead, he focused on aiming at the floating demons.

One shot found home in the back of one Scissorhands’ head. It exploded with a cut-off shriek, alerting the other demons to Clear’s location. His second shot was deflected by the other Scissorhands’ scissors, making him click his tongue. The gunblade he’d been given wasn’t the best for long range forcing him to jump down from the roof.

Clear used the Scissorhands as a springboard in mid-air when it charged at him. He shot at its back a few times while flipping off it, landing in a crouch on the cobblestone. The group of Pack Rats charged at him with one of the Hell Hoppers. Wielding the gunblade in one hand and one of his knives in the other, he sliced the pack down with little difficulty. He hooked one by its leg on his blade and threw it in front of the Hell Hopper so it grabbed the Pack Rat instead of Clear; the Pack Rat was ruthlessly crushed by both of the Hell Hopper's hands. Clear jumped back and resumed firing while holding his own blade between his teeth. Dimitri had added a second trigger that converted the bullets to demonic-infused spread shots; it handled the remaining crowd pretty well.

There was a moment where the demons seemed to be backing up from him, but then out of the corner of his eye he watched something red and misty appear behind the second Hell Hopper. At first he thought it was another Scissorhands, but upon closer inspection it was a much brighter red color. It still had a skull for a face, but this one looked more bird-like than ram-like. Before he could contemplate further, it suddenly dove into the back of the Hopper. Its face became a mask covering the massive beady eyes and mandibles of the Hopper. Then the Hopper’s usual green and blue body became bright red, and it reared back and shrieked; the noise made Clear cover his ears. When he glanced up again, most of the remaining demons were calling back in unison, their eyes and claws bright red not with blood, but with energy. He’d never seen this kind of thing happen before. Damn, and more demons were pouring out of the broken fountain too, they must have come from the sewers.

Reloading the gunblade, he met a few of the Pack Rats head on. They weren’t difficult to cut down after Tatzelwurm’s poison started setting in and rendered their legs mostly immobile. That allowed him to hit them each with a spread shot in the chest and take them down. He sheathed the weapon on his back and drew his second knife when he got closer to the Hell Hopper.

It seemed to be moving faster. He dodged under one hit with a spin and slashed at its front two legs, then ducked behind it when it swung again. He used his momentum to swing himself up on its back. He dug his knives into a kink in the armored body. Red smoke poured from the wound. It licked up his arms, sinking into his tattoo and making him feel somehow stronger and more exhausted at the same time. At first, the frustration blindsided him. But with another slash-stab-slash that ripped the piece of armor off to free more steam, anger overrode his senses. The more he attacked the more Clear felt himself losing control over himself. His sight almost physically narrowed to what was in front of him. 

The demon screeched in agony as he stabbed up higher just under the head. With the last shreds of its life and energy, it sent out a wave of pure malice, palpable enough to send Clear stumbling back. Blind rage suddenly overtook him and without even thinking about the next best course of action he was ripping into the remaining hoard of demons. He could barely hear their shrieking over the pounding blood in his ears.

He stood panting over a disintegrating pile of corpses a moment later. He was numbly aware of how in pain his body was, but between the power surging through his tattoo and the adrenaline running hot in his veins, he couldn’t really feel anything other than dull aches. He realized he was shaking, his tattoo bleeding pure red and practically smoking off him, but he was still itching for a fight.

As if to answer his desires, footsteps echoed behind him. They were heavy, clinking, as though the owner was wearing boots with too many buckles. Clear turned to examine who’d stepped into the carnage to challenge him next.

The man was quite tall, almost clearing six feet, with shaggy, snow white hair. He was wearing all red, the most prominent item he was wearing being his long leather coat. On his back was a massive claymore. Although he looked to be casually observing the scene—he hand his hands in his pockets, though Clear could tell they were balled—the sharpness in his bright blue eyes said he was doing more than just looking around appreciatively.

“And who’re you?” Clear grit out.

“I should be asking you that! You killed all of these?”

“Who else could’a done it?”

Somewhere in the back of his head, he felt out of control. The last shreds of rational, human thought allowing him to speak but the rage pounding in the forefront of his mind could only be contained for so long. He knew it was coming from whatever his tattoo had absorbed when he was hit with that demon's final attack. It was wrong. It wasn’t him. It felt terrible. And yet he couldn’t stop himself from stepping over the line.

“I was just checkin’,” the man answered. “Didn’t think another human would be able to pull off this level of carnage.”

It’s not an insult, Clear told himself, but despite every effort he made to hold himself back, the need to fight, to damage, to kill, was just too strong. He couldn’t stop himself from charging forward. He lashed out with his knife, aiming to stab the man straight in the chest, only finding himself stumbling forward. Whipping around Clear swing in an arc with his gunblade, but the man was already too far away.

“Feisty!” he teased with a shrug of his arms. That cocky smile was infuriating.

Clear growled an insult and charged forward again, feinting the same attack as before. This time however, when the man went to sidestep him, Clear dropped down into a crouch and swept his leg out. His kick connected and the man made a noise of almost intrigue as he went down. When he hit the ground he rolled back out of the range of another slash. Clear chased him but he didn’t hesitate, rolling again into a flip and standing up—this time he drew a pair of guns and Clear spun back on his knees, the blade of his test weapon flipping back to reveal it’s gun barrel.

The man didn’t fire. Clear waited to see what he would do; his head was still pounding but he could feel the aggression starting to ware off, maybe if the guy didn’t say anything…

He opened his mouth. Clear shot twice, then rushed forward to shut him up before he could goad him further.

It was a game of tag, really. Clear would attempt to land a strike, and the man would either dodge it or knock it away with his guns. He never once fired, and that served to piss Clear off even more. The man was skilled at hand-to-hand combat, so much so that Clear couldn’t even land a blow to him; at one point he’d even managed to knock Clear’s knife from his hand. Letting out a frustrated growl he shuffled forward and went for a quick kick, finding purchase against the man’s chest enough to push him back. Clear went for a backhand stab to his chest with the gunblade to follow through, only to have his forearm blocked. He retaliated by kneeing the guy in the stomach, winding him enough to let Clear go and make them both stumble back. Clear was firing before he could even register pulling the trigger.

The man fired back. The tiny clinks of the bullets meeting each other in midair were masqueraded by the gunshots. Part of Clear was impressed that the man was skilled enough to instantly be able to match is every shot, but the part of him that still wanted blood was absolutely seething. What worked on this guy? Could he just not die? He looked to be an older gent, so there was no way he could be this aggravatingly agile, especially not in a heavy trench coat or carrying a full-sized claymore. The man, taking advantage of Clear pausing to think, stood up to dust off his coat.

“Are you finished? I’m thinkin’ we could just have a nice little chat.”

“Chat with this,” Clear hissed back. He flipped the trigger back to single shots and fired again. This time his shots found their mark just above his knees. He stumbled back as Clear ripped his discarded knife from the ground and dove in for a slash to his face. The man ducked as best he could, staggering back on wounded legs and though he was able to get just out of range Clear still had his other blade. With a flick of his wrist the blade flipped out, earning a grunt when it severed enough in his shoulder joint to make his arm and hand go limp. With his other hand, the man grabbed Clear by the wrist and shoved him back, jerking the blade out at the same time.

The next thing Clear knew he was on his back on the ground, with a foot about to connect with his face. Brilliantly, he sat up so the man only kicked dust behind him, and swung the gunblade out, finding it lodged into the man’s shin. A quick jerk from him ripped it out of Clear’s hand and sent it skidding away. The force of it made him lurch forward, so Clear just followed through with a sloppy roll, stumbling to his feet. He shuffled back in again going for the same kick as before, unsurprised when the man dodged. They traded blows for a moment until Clear ducked under his arm and aimed a few quick stabs at his stomach. With the way he backed up he didn’t even seem winded. Clear followed but instead of allowing himself to be baited into another fruitless fistfight, he threw himself into a slide between the man’s legs. Quickly Clear pushed himself to his feet, reaching for the massive sword on the man’s back to finish him off with.

The man whipped around faster than Clear could react and slapped his hand away, then gripped his collar—with his once wounded arm, no less—and swept his feet from under him to shove him down to the floor. Clear could barely even reel from the hit before the cold bite of metal was crossed over his neck and he was struggling to breathe. The man’s weight above him kept him pinned, but even if he tried to fight it the lack of oxygen would kick his ass quicker than he could get free.

“Are we done?” He was asked. Clear snarled in answer. The man rolled his eyes.

“You’re pretty agile, for a human. But you’re not all you say you are, are you,” the man noted. His icy eyes traveled to Clear’s tattoo, or what he could see of it under the blood on his forearms.

“The hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Except for one gal I know, humans barely stay cognitive after getting cursed. But you…” The man began to pull away. Clear reared up but was quickly shoved back down, choking at the pressure on his neck. He clawed at the man’s wrists, using the last burst of strength in his tattoo to stab his wrist and drag his knife down, blood spraying. The man grunted above him, although Clear didn’t bother gauging his reaction when his tattoo started to writhe at the offering splashed over it.

Something demonic in the man’s blood hit Clear so quickly he stopped struggling. Raw power surged through his veins, so much that even a tiny grip on his wrist was enough for Clear to send him flying. The rush was gone as soon as it came, leaving Clear to cough for breath as he sat up.

“I’m not all human, huh?” Clear rasped out as he gingerly touched his neck.

“We’re both full of surprises, huh,” the man teased, reclining leisurely against the dented car hood he’d landed on. He coughed to himself, taking the moment of rest to examine his injuries.

“Shut your mouth,” Clear grumbled, finding himself calm now. Almost as if whatever was in the man’s blood had also perfectly cleared his head. He’d never seen a demon that took the form of a human before, let alone one that had enough of a conscience to speak to him. It would explain the superhuman agility and strength, why Tatzelwurm's poison didn’t seem to slow him in the slightest, but why would it be toying with him? Was it just looking for another meal—no. It hadn’t even struck him once until the end of the fight, and even then it wasn’t aiming to kill him, just to restrain him. And, it had mentioned knowing another human. Just what was with this demon?

“What kind of demon are you?”

“How about we exchange stories? You tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine.”

“Sure, why don’t we get some coffee and scones while we’re at it?” Clear shot back.

“Ooh, I could go for something to eat. But pizza’s more my speed.”

A demon that ate pizza? If it weren’t for the fading ache at his neck, Clear would be convinced he was dreaming. At his silence, the demon chuckled.

“The name’s Dante. What’s your’s?” At Clear’s glare he just laughed again. “The silent treatment, huh? I’m not gonna hurt you, kid.”

“I could tell. I just can’t figure out why.”

“Simple. I’m not in the business of killing humans.” Dante stood up from the car's hood, strolling to where he’d kicked Clear’s weapon away. As he stood, through his shredded clothing Clear could see that every injury he’d given the demon had healed completely. Not even a scar. Clear followed his movements—now that he knew he was vulnerable and the demon, Dante, could heal, he knew he’d lose their next fight. Clear pushed himself to his feet.

“So you… kill other demons?” He asked. Dante gave him a hum. “You’re a hunter?”

“Look, I’m all up for chatting, but it really feels unfair when you don’t answer my questions.”

“And if you’re lying about being a hunter, I’m just supposed to believe a demon I just met?”

“Kid, have I tried to kill you yet?” Clear motioned to his probably-purple neck. “Not in self defense,” Dante tacked on. He… Really hadn’t, but that was the confusing part. Until he could wrap his head around it, Clear had no intention of being forthcoming. Dante retrieved his weapon and started coming towards him, letting the gunblade hang by his side. Clear couldn’t see any aggression from his body language, but he could be a good actor—he still backed up just a bit.

“Interesting sword you’ve got here. Who made it for you?”

“A friend.”

“A friend who can make fake Devil Arms. They’re pretty talented.”

Dante stopped a bit away from him, flipping the weapon in his hand so the grip faced Clear. Looking between the weapon and those chilly eyes, he hesitantly reached out to take it. As his fingers brushed against his gun, Dante suddenly jerked away, barking “boo!” and making Clear jump practically out of his skin. The demon tossed his head back and laughed. 

“Ha ha, get your giggles out now,” Clear said, snatching the gun away when it was offered to him a second time.

“I just couldn’t help it, you’re so high-strung.” Dante rested his hands on his hips, looking down on Clear as he checked over the weapon to see if it was damaged. The mechanism to retract the blade was broken, presumably from when Dante kicked it away, but otherwise it was fine. Still, it was impressive that a little flick of his leg had messed the weapon up at all.

“Why do you care about it,” Clear finally sighed, backing up a little bit more. Dante didn’t chase him, and it seemed he could still get some information out of him—he didn’t seem to be too guarded.

“I just like to know who’s been running me out of business lately.” Dante shook his head and crossed his arms. “I haven’t been getting too many calls lately, making rent this month might be tough.”

He paid rent? What were his tax returns like, Clear wondered, since he sure didn’t file taxes on this kind of work. But… Maybe they were in the same boat, if they were in the same business. It didn’t make sense. Thinking about a demon killing other demons to pay his rent and taxes made his head spin, what the hell was going on?

“Start taking jobs out of town,” Clear offered as an answer. With the adrenaline fading, he was starting to feel the tiredness set in. He touched at his neck again, not feeling any pulsing pain from where he for sure was bruised. There had previously been an ache radiating from his left thigh earlier too, where he was pretty sure he’d been stabbed to bone by a Scissorhands but even that pain wasn’t there. It was definitely... strange, to say the least.

“What's that got to do with it anyway, who’s been taking your business? There’s plenty of hunters in this town.”

“That’s the problem, a lot of them aren’t even regulars. They’re out here testing weapons before they head home, that’s what I was looking into.”

“So what do you figure is the root?”

“If my intel’s right,” Dante smirked, and something amused flashed behind his eyes. “It’s this hotshot hunter and his arms dealer friend.”

As Dante motioned to him the hair on Clear’s arms stood up. With a busted weapon and his tattoo screaming for more food, he couldn’t fight Dante head on. He’d have to run, but he was sure he’d be caught up to. If Dante did want to erase the competition right now Clear was free game. He put on a brave face instead.

“Thinking about doing something to them?”

“If I file a cease and desist, do you think they’d accept that? I mean, I guess I can’t tell them to stop being competitors, but the market for demon hunting is ever-shrinking! I have bills to pay!”

Clear was getting tired of being shocked every time Dante opened his mouth. He wasn’t going to try to kill him?

“So do we,” he finally huffed. The laid-back attitude Dante held was probably to make Clear calm down, but he just felt more tense.

“Maybe we can come to an agreement of sorts," Dante said.

“Like what? I’m not about to stop doing my job just because you can’t keep up with yours.”

“Ouch! What did I say to deserve such scorn!”

Clear glared at Dante as he laughed. After he’d had his chuckle, he shook his head and looked at Clear again.

“We should split the town. I’ll take the half my shop is in, you stick to yours.”

“Nice sentiment, no,” Clear answered instead. He turned towards the broken fountain. Though he was tired, he still had to deal with the hive in the sewers, that was what he was hired to do. Although his blade was broken, he was breathing much easier, and his head wasn’t pounding anymore. Although the job probably should have been left to this other demon, Clear couldn’t just let it go. With a resigned sigh, Clear brushed passed him towards the break in the ground and piping that lead to the underground.

“Our shop’s all about superiority. You want more money? Start stealing jobs back from us.”

It might have been a bad idea to challenge the demon, but if he wasn’t going to kill Clear and his only gripe was not having enough work, he could afford to be a little rude to him. It wasn’t like Dante could take Clear’s jobs anyway; he wouldn’t let him. Throwing a wave over his shoulder, Clear dropped into the sewers to finish his work for the night.


 

The rest of the mission wasn’t hard. Clear had heard Dante follow after him, but they’d almost instantly split up and Clear hadn’t heard from him at all after that. The first thing he did when he got back to Arms Race was head for the bathroom. Flicking on the light, he leaned over the sink and into the mirror so he could examine his neck for damage. He’d been breathing so easily since that man’s blood was devoured, it couldn’t have been…

There barely seemed to be any trace of a wound. As Clear turned his head this way and that, the only marks on his neck that indicated anything had happened were a couple of fading yellow bruises and a little soreness when he touched them. Considering how much they’d hurt earlier, how hard it was to breathe, and how he bruised in general, he could have sworn that they’d be worse off—there weren’t even marks from where the guns had pressed into his skin. As far as he knew demons didn’t have blood types, so there was no way he’d have the same type. But Clear had only healed after he’d killed particularly strong demons so…

Just how strong was Dante then?

A shiver ran up his spine. He forced himself to move away from the mirror to complete his nightly routine and not think about the man in red.

Chapter Text

Breathing had been easy all night. When Clear awoke in the morning, he did a quick check with his phone’s camera to see if the bruises were still there. Sure enough, the yellow splotches still covered his neck, but they were nowhere near sore when he touched them. It still shocked him, that Dante’s blood was powerful enough to heal such extensive damage this much.

Throwing off the covers, he rose with a stretch. A few minutes later he was dressed in his usual attire, jeans and a T-shirt, and started to head for the door. He paused with his hand on the knob and looked back to his dresser; the flannel he usually tied around his waist was laying across it, maybe he should…

He took it and threw it on before exiting. It had been a while since he’d worn it as intended, but bruises on his neck was awkward enough to hide. Maybe D wouldn’t notice them around the shadows cast by the collar.

He started on breakfast. At the smell of bacon cooking, Dimitri’s door opened and he came down the stairs, flopping tiredly into his seat at their table. He rested his head in his arms, one eye following Clear as he cooked.

“Mornin’.”

“G’mornin, Clear.”

“Sleep well last night?”

“Yup. I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Sorry. I was back late, got caught up in something.”

“Something wouldn’t have to do with why you’re wearing that shirt as a shirt, would it?”

Clear didn’t look up from his pan as he spoke, “not really. It’s just a little cold this morning.”

Dimitri didn’t press him. After he finished cooking, he served two plates and took them to the table. As he was sitting down Dimitri eyed him sharply.

“What?” Clear asked around a bite of avocado toast.

“Something, huh? Sure you didn’t get caught up with someone?” Dimitri said, pointing at Clear’s neck. Clear’s hand flew to touch his skin, which only made Dimitri’s smirk wider. Clear gently smacked his hand away and focused entirely on what he was eating.

“D, what the hell, no. They’re just some bruises I got from a fight yesterday. I got choked out, it’s not like it’s a big deal…”

“Yeah, and you never hide bruises. Some choking, huh.”

“Dimitri—!” The alchemist was laughing at Clear’s annoyed expression, eyes teasing. Clear gave a defeated sigh and looked back at his food.

“They just look really bad, okay? They’re not like on my arms or legs or somewhere that's less awkward.”

“No, it's fine to show them off. I’m happy for you, I really thought you’d be alone forever, what with how rude you are. When are you gonna let me meet ‘em?”

“I’m telling you, it was no-one. Just some other hunter I got in a scuffle with.”

“Oooh, was it the lady? I can slip your number to her when I return Kalina Ann—“

“Definitely not her! God, I take care of you and you repay me by blowing this out of proportion—“

They heard the door of the shop open. Since Dimitri had barely even touched his food, Clear started standing to go greet their customer. Before he could get too far, said customer called out to them.

“Hey-o, anybody home?”

Clear instantly straightened. Dimitri’s eyes blew wide in shock at Clear’s recognition of the voice, but before he could continue misunderstanding (or maybe furthering it), Clear stormed towards the front of the shop. Sure enough, waiting by the door was the white-haired demon, in a new tacky red getup with his claymore still strapped to his back. Dimitri followed him a moment later.

“How can we help you compete?” Clear asked quickly. He placed himself between Dimitri and Dante, scanning for a weapon nearby.

“Oh, yeah, the password. Uh, superiority and accumulation, was it?”

“You must be a friend of Clear’s,” Dimitri said, shrugging past his partner. He shot a sly little look over his shoulder as he did.

“What—D, he’s not a friend,” Clear hissed. He followed Dimitri to the front door, stumbling over freshly strewn-about spare parts until he tripped and had to catch himself on one of Dimitri’s shelves. Dante laughed—laughed, the audacity—at him, tipping his head back as he did.

“Come on, Clear, we bonded last night!”

“We absolutely did not,” Clear grumbled as he righted himself. He toed over the rest of the scraps while Dante and Dimitri conversed. Damn it, he just cleaned the walkway yesterday.

“What can I help you with?”

“A friend of mine left something here for maintenance, she asked me to pick it up.”

“Can I get her name?”

“Kalina Ann.”

“Oh, the lady! Right, let me get it for you.”

Dimitri made his way back over the scraps and materials on the floor to a maintenance shelf on the far left wall. Although he was still in clear view of the two hunters, he left his back turned to them. Clear shot a hard glare at the back of his head. Then, he turned back to Dante with a sigh.

“So. The lady’s a friend of yours, huh?” Clear asked.

“You know her?” Dante’s brows quirked up, so did the sides of his lips.

“We’ve crossed paths. Don’t lean on that.” He shooed the demon off the table by the door, where the broken gun-blade from the night before was sitting. Dante stood up and raised his hands, moving away to lean instead on the doorframe.

“You guys have a great place. Nice and spacious, do you do tours?”

Clear’s eyes narrowed a bit, and he crossed his arms. He glanced over at D, who was reclining leisurely near the gun Dante was supposed to pick up—motioning at him to talk more too, the betrayer. Clear turned back to Dante.

“Morning tours aren’t available.”

“Guess I gotta come visit later, don’t I!”

“You really don’t,” Clear said with a shake of his head. “I still don’t know if I can trust you, demon.”

“Well, I guess outside of our little scuffle last night, we really don’t know each other.” Dante shrugged his shoulders. He stood from the wall as he continued speaking, “but I’m starting to think we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other around.”

“So you took my advice!”

Dante chuckled at that. Clear still stood defensively; even though his lax attitude was probably meant to be soothing, Clear couldn’t help but be on edge. It was just… Unnerving. That it felt like Dante was actively trying to befriend him. Clear didn’t trust it at all.

“Well, it’s not entirely your fault. My broker started nagging me to ‘get off my lazy ass,’ in his words. ‘Sides, gotta take all the good jobs before those tourists run me out of business.”

So he and the lady were locals. She had thought Clear was from out of town when they first met, maybe that was why Dante had been looking for them. But most people had coming looking for Dimitri’s weapons, and then taken jobs in town to test them out as far as Clear knew, so…

“If you came here to wipe us off the map, I’m not gonna go down without a fight,” Clear hissed. He flicked Dante’s chest with two fingers, finding it a little hard to be intimidating when the demon was much taller and broader than him. Dante still put his hands up again, stepping away from Clear.

“I know from yesterday you don’t take to losing kindly. That’s not what I’m here for anyway, I wanted to ask—“

“Aaaand here she is! Kalina Ann, back to full functionality!” Dimitri interrupted, as if reading the sudden tension in the room. Clear crossed his arms again and leaned back on one of the shelves. His eyes were sharp as he watched their interaction.

“Wow, you work fast! You even made Lady a new blade, she’ll be touched!” Dante mused. Clear wasn’t sure if he was doing it on purpose, but he was demonstrating his inhuman strength. It was clear in the way that he lifted the gun and held it that it was light as a feather to him. Clear had watched Lady hoist it over her shoulder, he assumed it was quite heavy, and to see Dante practically hold it with one hand made Clear weary.

“Well, yanno, she did ask for a demonstration of services. So, shall we discuss payment?” Dimitri asked. His usual chipper tone did always shift to a little more sinister when he was talking about prices. Dante rubbed at his jaw with one hand.

“Do you take tabs?”

Dimitri and Clear shared a look with each other, then both looked back to Dante.

“I like my payment in full, but I’d consider it if you don’t mind interest,” Dimitri said. Clear’s brows shot up and he was next to him in a second, arm around his shoulders to pull him away.

“Hey, hey hey hey, woah, D, let’s talk about this,” Clear hissed as he leaned close so he could whisper while their backs were turned to Dante.

“That guy gave me these nasty little love-bites, you’re really gonna give him a weapon for free?”

“Well I mean, if you two are like that, I don’t see why not.”

“D, no, it’s not—don’t hold that over me, I told you it was a fight.”

“Kinky.”

“Stop!”

Clear let out a frustrated grumble, pinching the bridge of his nose with his free hand. Dimitri was chuckling at him, and if Clear didn’t love the guy so much he’d have probably thrown him to the floor.

“Anyway, he’s a demon,” Clear said. Dimitri’s eyes blew wide open. He looked over their shoulders then back to Clear.

“He’s… a full-fledged demon? Like the ones you kill?”

Clear nodded. Dimitri looked back again.

“But he said he’s friends Kalina Ann’s owner… He hasn’t even tried to attack us yet—he even told you he wasn’t gonna hurt us.”

“Thanks for listening in. I fought back in self-defense, D. Are you really gonna sell a weapon to a demon that tried to kill me?”

“You swung first!” Dante piped up. Dimitri gave Clear a partially surprised, partially scolding look, and tried to slip out from under his arm. Clear wouldn’t let him, keeping him in a loose headlock.

“D, I’m telling you, you don’t wanna trust this guy.”

“Oh, come on. The more we talk the worse your story gets! Besides, he’s friends with the lady, she’s human too.”

“I’m also on bad terms with her, you know that right?”

“You gotta start making friends and not enemies, Adr—Clear. I’ll worry about you if you’re a loner forever.”

“I don’t—D, this isn’t about me. It's about deciding if you're gonna trust something that hasn't really demonstrated trustworthiness.”

Dimitri sighed and started back to the door, pulling Clear with him for a couple steps. He gave his cheek a little pat and ducked out from under his arm.

“Clear seems to think that you’re untrustworthy. So I have a little proposition for you. How about you two do a job together? I’ve got a weapon to test, and you two can work out whatever happened yesterday. Depending on the results I’ll see what I can do about a discount.”

“What? You can’t just—You can’t sell my services like that!” Clear protested. Dimitri shushed him.

“You call me your boss, I can hire you when I want!”

“He’s got a point!” Dante interjected. He was leaning by the doorframe again but with arms crossed now, smirking at them both. He continued, “you drive a pretty hard bargain. But I’ll play along. If you hire me, your payment can be Kalina Ann’s repairs.”

“Like I said, we'll see when you get back. I'll just hold onto her here." Dimitri took the weapon back, which Dante easily handed over. He then disappeared again to his work bench; after a moment, he returned with Clear's knives and a morning star in his hand. He handed both over to Clear.

"The chain is extendable. Hold this trigger here, and when you let go it'll retract," Dimitri explained.

Clear grumbled under his breath as he slid his belt into place, strapping the sheath around his thigh. With the morning star in hand he shoved past Dante on the way out the door.

"Fine, if we're gonna work together on this, don't slow me down."

"Oh, come on—I'm sorry about him, he'll lighten up..." Dimitri said meekly. He tapped his fingers against his arm and chewed at his cheek. "He, uh... hopefully he won't take a stab at you."

"I can handle it." Dante shrugged dismissively and followed Clear out the door.


 

Clear was mildly surprised Dante wasn't immediately on his heels when he left. All the better for him, so he could get to the job and finish it before Dante even caught up to him. Maybe. They were supposed to go towards the outskirts of town to a 'party district' known for its clubs. Clear hadn't been to the area much, only showing up after dark when parties were in full swing and demons were running rampant. The streets were different in the daylight when there weren't incubi and succubi running amok.

Dimitri had texted Clear the information shortly after he'd left. It seemed that there was a bar who's basement had been overrun with some kind of weird bug demon that was tanking business; at first Clear assumed a Hell Hopper, but when he saw the place he knew the interior would be too small to fit one. The bar had a 'closed' sign on the door and the lights were dark, but it looked as though there were a couple apartments above it so the owner must have been around.

Before Clear could get too far looking, his tattoo started to pulse subtly. A demon was nearby... At the sound of footsteps behind him, Clear rolled his eyes. Damn, of course it wouldn't take too long for Dante to catch up. There went his plans.

“Alright then. D's not here, gonna rough me up a little where I can actually fight back?"

“That wasn’t what I was gonna—“

Clear didn’t even listen to what Dante had to say. In a flash he’d turned around, knife at the demon’s throat. Dante barely even backed up. He’d stopped in a way that put just enough space between the knife and his jugular to not cut him—Clear didn’t press forward either, not when Dante put his hands up in surrender.

“What more do you want from us, demon?"

“What, forgot my name already kid? And I thought I was supposed to be old,” Dante huffed. He glanced down slightly at the blade at his neck. “You know this won’t kill me.”

“What do you want?”

“I was lookin’ for a conversation, but I don’t mind giving you a fight either.”

There was that amused glint behind his icy eyes again. Clear weighed his options, and then, maybe against his better judgement, pulled the knife away from the demon’s throat. As Dante visibly relaxed and cracked some wise-ass comment, Clear kept the knife at his side.

“Say, Clear, was it? I’m not gonna try to kill you. Or your friend. I’m half-human, it isn’t in me to kill them.”

Clear rolled his eyes, although he couldn't help it if 'half-human' piqued his interest. He bit his tongue before he could ask more, instead saying, “Why would you offer a fight and then say that. Really puts me at ease.”

“A fight can be a spar, I can just incapacitate you again! How are those bruises doing, by the way?”

Clear huffed, but couldn’t stop himself from touching his neck anyway. Dante had probably overheard Dimitri teasing him back at the shop; great, now neither of them would let him live it down, would they. Before Dante could say anything else, Clear just got on with the conversation.

“Well, you've been at this for at least two days, so I’m never going to escape your interrogation, am I,” Clear sighed.

“I do know where you work.”

“Really not helping me feel at ease about this. Alright Mr. Detective, shine the light in my face and ask away!”

“First thing’s first. Your knives. How did you get a Devil Arm?” Dante immediately asked. Clear had been sheathing said knives as Dante asked, but the mention of them—naming them that—made him look up. Pinching his brows together, he gave Dante a confused look.

“You knew just from looking at it?”

“Devil Arms give off a certain energy. I’m a collector, of sorts, so I’d know it anywhere.”

“So are you gonna ‘collect’ these from me then?”

“No way. Those belong to you, and judging by what Lady told me about your conversation a couple days ago, I don’t think you’re misusing them.”

“They’re not made for hurting anything but demons. I think I’m the only one who doesn’t get sick from touching them anyway.”

Dante raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. Clear shifted his weight a little, resting one hand on one of his knives.

“Get sick, what do you mean?”

“They’re… Poisonous, I think. At least, a doctor said it was poison. Dimitri did some mods on them, but he touched them once without gloves, it nearly killed him.”

“Poison, huh? What’s the name of them, anyway?”

Clear looked at his knives. “Tatzelwurm.”

"I think I've read about that kind of demon. It's a kind of cat-snake right? Breathes poison?"

"Yeah, that's the one." Clear snapped. He glanced at his blades again.

"Makes sense the blades would poison then. You've got a lot to learn about them, kid."

They lapsed into silence for a moment while Dante considered his next question. Clear glanced around the street to occupy his time, finding a break between the bar and what he assumed was a cheap restaurant that looked like it could be stairs up to the apartments. In the back of his head, he was starting to find this whole week more and more absurd as the minutes went on; the fact that killing demons used to be the most strange part of his week was starting to become a novelty to him.

"Question two! How are you able to use Devil Arms, and can you use more than just Tatzelwurm?" Dante asked while throwing up two fingers. It made Clear raise his eyebrow. He was so... extra. 

"Why is it so weird I can use one, can’t everybody?”

Dante tilted his head back and barked a quick laugh. “No way! Only demons can use Devil Arms, why do you think Dimitri’s False Arms are so popular?”

“They’re good weapons, his reputation precedes him.”

“Yet how many hunters do you know that reliably do their job with just human weapons.”

It did make him think. He wasn’t there for a lot of transactions, but most of the ones he remembered involved some level of complaining about how useless guns were and how expensive bullets could be. Dimitri’s False Arms just made the job easier for people—but maybe, that wasn’t the only draw. He'd never really considered the exact reason why Dimitri's weapons were so effective anyway, he just knew that alchemy combining demon parts with human weapons made them significantly stronger.

"I guess you've got a point," Clear sighed. Then, "it's the only one I can use so far."

"So far?"

Before they could continue speaking, there was a rumble from under the ground beneath them, strong enough that it made the interior of the bar shake. They heard glasses clinking inside; if it weren't for the strange unnatural growling that came with it, they'd both have probably assumed it was an earthquake.

"Right, we do have a job to do," Dante said. Clear nodded. He looked towards the entryway behind Dante again. There was a woman coming out of it now, looking to be in her late twenties and undoubtedly shaken by the noise.

"Yeah. We'll focus on that... partner," Clear said. It was weird, but that's what they were for now.


 

Except for the fact that both of them ended up covered in demon snail guts and juices, their job went smoothly. Dante assured the woman who hired them that the bar was fine if not for a little damage to some stuff stored down there, and though she seemed annoyed with the smell she was more than anything grateful the snail was gone. Clear was glad to get out of there, he just wanted a shower ASAP.

He had to report his work with the morning star too, but that could wait. It had a little bit of a lag time on the release mechanism, and only seemed to work half the time, but Dimitri would probably quickly fix that. As for Dante... He had to discuss payment for Kalina Ann too.

Clear glanced up at the demon—well, half-demon as he now knew. Fighting along side Dante had been much different than fighting against him: where before he had seemed more restrained and focused, today his attacks were insanely flashy. Clear had found himself keeping his distance in case one of Dante's wide slashes got a little too wide. And he'd been laughing and whooping the whole time. Clear supposed that healing like Dante did had it's perks, but it definitely seemed to make him more reckless. They'd both received no wounds but Clear wouldn't have been surprised if Dante had walked off another few stabs to the gut.

"Yanno, I think we should do that more often. You're not so bad in a fight!"

"Hah. This is a one-time thing."

"You'd really rather be competing with each other?"

Clear paused to think about it. He fiddled with Tatzelwurm with his free hand, the morning star draped loosely around his shoulders. It would get tiring after a while, and it wasn't like Dante had ever really taken jobs from them before—if anything, this was his ploy to stay floating, more than something beneficial to Clear and Dimitri. But he had demonstrated his prowess in fighting multiple times, and both he and Lady seemed annoyed with the out-of-towners... Maybe it could work better than Clear had initially thought.

"Yanno, ask Dimitri about it, so I can be less annoyed when he says yes," Clear finally said. He didn't want to agree but in the long run it would probably help out more than it would harm. Or, if Dante turned on them and actually managed to kill them, at lease Clear's final words could be 'I told you so.'

"You're a tough one, aren't'cha," Dante sighed, hands on his hips. In a more understanding tone, he said, "Well, can't fault you for not trusting a demon. But it wouldn't hurt to give it a chance, would it?"

"You're just looking for an easy way to get more jobs," Clear snapped.

"Guilty as charged," Dante laughed under his breath.

"Here, how about this: I'll go back to pick up Lady's gun, and call tomorrow morning. It'll give you some time to think."

"If I don't answer?"

"Then I'll know you're not up for it."

"Sounds like a fair enough deal."

"Well it's not a 'no!'"

"Don't push it," Clear hissed. They were getting back towards a more illuminated road, where slightly farther would take them back towards the beginning of the warehouses where Arms Race was situated. It was gonna be a long trip back, and a long next morning.

Chapter Text

Clear had just finished breakfast when the phone rang. Taking his time placing his dishes into the sink, he considered what Dante had said yesterday. The half-demon hadn’t implied any threat if Clear didn’t answer, and though he didn’t want to agree with the feeling that Dante was being genuine about not planning on hurting them, he just couldn’t bring himself to trust him. He was a skilled fighter, sure, and was as annoyed with the out-of-town hunters as Clear was, and he’d seemed friendly enough when they’d talked before. He seemed to appreciate Dimitri’s modifications as well, and overall he’d systematically shot down every suspicion Clear initially had about him. It was hard to swallow his pride and admit Dante wasn’t a bad guy.

He’d talked it over with Dimitri the night before. He seemed more on-board with a business partnership, saying, “they can come in for weapons mods, and if we’re tight on mortgage then we can probably work out a deal!” Clear wasn’t sure if that’s how Dante and his associates worked since he had immediately asked for a tab, so maybe he planned to repay them in odd jobs instead of hard cash.

Clear didn’t like it. But he didn’t want to be pestered anymore, and Dimitri had expressed his disappointment if they didn’t agree. Disappointment wasn’t entirely the right word, it was partly that, but also… sadness? Clear knew him well enough that Dimitri would definitely be upset if such an interesting opportunity slipped through his fingers.

The phone was on it’s second to last ring. Against his better judgement, he shut off the water, and brought his mug with him to the phone to finish his tea while he took the call. With little hesitance he tucked the phone between his shoulder and his ear.

“This is Arms Race, how can we help you compete?”

“Devil May Cry, calling on business.”

“Ah, Dante. Password.”

“Do I have too?” Dante whined. Clear puffed out an annoyed breath.

“Business policy. Just get it over with.”

“Fine, fine. Superiority and Accumulation.”

“Wonderful. Thank you.”

Dante chuckled on his end, while Clear just tried to fight the nervous twist in his gut. He just kept telling himself, it’s not a bad idea. Dimitri likes it. This is for Dimitri. You can play nice for his sake.

“So what made you change your mind?”

The sudden question reminded Clear he was on a call. He swallowed his tea. Swirling the mug in his hand absently, he gave his answer.

“Dimitri likes the idea. I’m not really all for it, but he’s the boss. What he says, goes.”

Clear was going to let them lapse into silence, but needing to sate his curiosity, he instead rushed to ask, “why do you keep pestering us anyway? About being your allies.”

Dante hummed to himself. There was the subtle squeak of leather and wood, as though he was shifting on a heavy chair in a room who’s floors were much older than he was. Clear found himself wondering what Devil May Cry looked like, as he’d never even heard of the shop until the day before.

“I like what I’ve seen of you two so far. Your friend is talented enough to make and modify Devil Arms, and you can use those Arms even if you’re a human. Besides, the more the merrier, right? Been a while since I had any new hires around here.”

“It’s not like I work for you now. We’re just partners.”

“Right, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Never really done this kind of thing before, how should we go about making this official?”

“Hell if I know!” Clear said, putting his tea down nearby. “Let’s just sign a paper or something! It doesn’t have to be more than an agreement.”

“If you say so! I look forward to working with you!”

Clear mumbled the words back. Well, there was no going back on it now. A small, dark part of him said that if he really was displeased, he could just attempt to kill Dante—the guy couldn’t survive a beheading, right?

He shook his head, enough thinking that way. He sipped his drink again. In the moment of silence, there was a faint sound from Dante’s end of the call, like a door opening, and then shifting of the phone. A muffled voice came from the other side. Clear knew he probably should be eavesdropping, but he couldn’t help it when the usually relaxed Dante seemed to suddenly be annoyed.

“What do you mean electricity’s going out, I just paid.”

More muffled noises. The voice, speaking, but too far for Clear to hear over Dante's shifting in his chair again. 

“That was the month before’s? Lady said she paid that!”

Laughing? Dante tsk’d, interrupting the noise.

“Damn it, whatever. Give me a job then.”

Clear’s eyebrows raised. This must be who Dante had mentioned yesterday, his broker. He slowly finished his tea as he listened in on the back and forth; he couldn’t get all the details but he could vaguely make out a location and number of demons. Definitely less than when he first met Lady, but it sounded like it was a group of more powerful ones.

Dante sighed. Clear heard the bang of the door closing, how old was the building to have such a heavy door? He went back to small talking, “got a job, huh?”

“Yeah. Closer to your area though. Wanna come?”

It was such a casually thrown-out invitation it managed to surprise Clear.

“Don’t you need the money?”

“Eh, we’ll discuss payment and whatever later. It can be our first official mission as partners.”

The doubt crept up in the back of his head again. Clear hummed in thought for a moment, stalling for time. Well, he did promise he’d do it for Dimitri, and he had nothing better to do today.

“Sure, why not,” he finally conceded. “Where am I meeting you?”


 

After Dimitri had finished breakfast, he’d run off to take a shower and change. Clear had generously done laundry for them again—it was so nice to have someone taking care of him like Clear did.

Their water heater was still pretty new, so Dimitri let himself soak for a little over a half hour before finally turning it off. He preferred it when his clothes were fresh and warm, but he wouldn’t complain if he wasn’t the one who did the load. Throwing on a soft shirt and one of his jumpsuits, he tied the garment around his waist before heading to his work bench.

Tasks for the day included finally repairing the gunblade Dante had broken, and making adjustments to the morning star from the previous day. Clear had told him that the chain only worked sometimes, and wouldn’t retract at others, so he’d definitely have to iron that out before the customer came to pick it up.

He’d heard Clear talking on the phone a bit while he was in the shower, and then leaving quickly after. He must have gotten a job, leaving the entire warehouse to Dimitri. Once he started working, he usually got lost in his jobs and forgot to do basic things like eating food, or going to the bathroom, but since it was an early morning job Clear would at least be back for dinner. Smiling to himself, he threw on one of his work playlists and immersed himself into his work.

Time passed quickly. When he finished repairs to the gunblade and checked the time, about an hour and a half had passed. Maybe it was a good time to take a break and stand up, walk around, get something to drink.

As he was heading towards the kitchen, the phone rang. He turned mid-step and made his way back to where the phone was situated, by one of the far shelves where he kept customer returns and items to sell. Slapping on his customer service voice, he answered.

“Hi, this is Arms Race! How can we help you compete?”

Silence greeted him. There was a mild static noise, but he couldn’t tell if it really was to the tempo of someone breathing or just his imagination. He called a hello into the phone again.

“We’ll skip the formalities, shall we?” The rich voice from the other end cut him off before he could ask for the password again. It was definitely a man’s voice, not too deep, and with a slight accent Dimitri couldn’t place.

“I’m going to hire you to build a weapon.”

“I—I can’t do that without the password—“

“Oh, come now, you have no choice! Shall I give you something else instead?”

Dimitri opened his mouth but was cut off again.

“Dimitri Ulysses, age twenty-one, born December seventeenth to single mother Ingrid Diomed. Only child, put up for adoption at age two and taken in by the lovely Eileen and Michael Ulysses, in a seaside town about a four day’s drive from your current residence. I must say, you really upgraded didn’t you! Your mother garden is incredible. I adore her hyacinths. And your father's church looks wonderful since it's been rebuilt. How did the stained glass survive Grendel's attack two years ago?”

“How—How do you know all of that—“

“Oh, simple. I did some personal research, and had some of my men visit your home. Unfortunately your parents were out so we couldn’t talk to them. Maybe next time I’ll ask to stay for tea!”

Dimitri found himself paralyzed. Chills had overtaken him, so much of what this man had just told him was information he’d never even told Clear. And to mention specifically his mother’s garden, the demon Clear had killed by name, even that he’d been there personally or had sent men in his place… This man had seen where his family lived, and knew where Dimitri himself lived, and probably knew an equal amount of information about Clear then too.

“Like I said, you have no choice, my friend. So, shall we discuss what I want?”


 

Clear dug his knife out of a Hell Hopper’s shoulder. When it wouldn’t easily come free, he ended up just stepping on the Hopper’s arm and ripping the out the blade. The arm fell away from the body as a result, blood soaking his already-soaked shoes. Ah well, that’s just how it went.

He glanced over his shoulder to Dante, seeing him flick his blade—Rebellion as Dante had called it—free of blood and return it to his back. They’d ended up traveling through the sewers again at some point, although they ended outside but definitely not where they started. When Clear checked the time on his phone, a solid four hours had passed.

With the demons dead and the adrenaline fading, Clear could feel the tiredness set in. His feet ached, especially one ankle he’d twisted. He’d gotten a few cuts here and there, but most of his body was covered in bruises. There were so many random purple splotches on just his arms alone that he was sure his abdomen and legs would look like mosaics. Dante, meanwhile, didn’t have a scratch on him, although his coat and vest had been torn on one side where he’d been stabbed by a Scissorhands. The rip in the jacket gave Clear something to shoot the breeze about while they headed back towards Arms Race.

“I should apologize for the other day, for tearing up your gaudy jacket.”

“Ahhh, don’t be sorry, it saw worse days. It was about time I got a new one anyway. Whaddya think?” Dante made a wide motion with both hands, indicating his outfit. Clear followed, although his eyebrows raised when he hit Dante’s shoes.

“Are you seriously asking me how I feel about your cowboy boots?”

“Found ‘em at a discount. Pretty slick, right?”

“... No.”

Dante gasped in mock-offense while placing a hand on his chest. “The scorn! I don’t make fun of your, what do you call them, moto-jeans?”

“Wh—they’re cool!”

“About as cool as my cowboy boots!”

“At least I don’t dress in a tacky full-red getup!”

“You just don’t know how to have fun!”

Dante was laughing at him again. Clear wanted to bicker more and defend his absolutely cool and tasteful sense of fashion, however his phone starting to buzz in his back pocket made him pause. It had been a while since he’d seen Dimitri’s number on the caller ID. Dante shushed as Clear answered.

“Hey, D, what’s up?”

“H-hey, Adrian—“

Clear’s eyes narrowed. He came to a stop to focus entirely on the call.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay, did something happen?”

“No.” A swallow. “No. Nothing. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure…? You can tell me.”

“I—I’m just a little weirded out, I’ll tell you later. I, uh, need a favor done.”

When Dimitri was nervous, that was when he stuttered. And when his speech slowed down. Clear could practically hear him shaking through the phone. What the hell had happened? Clear felt so tense he was probably shaking too. He forced himself to keep an even tone.

“Yeah, sure. What do you need?”

Clear fished through his pockets for something to write on. In his jacket, he found the small notepad he usually kept on him, albeit in the wrong pocket, and two pens. One didn’t work so he chucked it over his shoulder into a trashcan he and Dante passed once they were outside.

“I need, uh, scissors. Three pairs. And Hell Hoppers, the chainsaw hands. And uh, a couple of small-fry, the Pack Rats will do. And uh, I don’t know where to find one, but it’s called a—a Bahamut. They like to hide in the sewers apparently.”

“Oh, kinda weird serpenty things with wings? We saw a couple. I’ve got Dante here, I’ll tell him and we’ll see what we can do.”

“Sounds good. Thanks. Hey, be safe. I’ll see you when you get home.”

“Yeah. You—You too, D. We’ll talk more over dinner.”

Clear hung up. He’d explain what the call was about later while they were gathering D’s supplies, but for now, they had another job. He showed Dante the notepad.

“My turn to drag you along. We get to be demon-parts Postmates.”

Chapter Text

Dante lunged forward, Rebellion poised for attack. Clear reacted quickly to parry but his reposte was also blocked. He pressed Dante as much as he could, although the other hunter was quick to throw him off off balance with a rough shove from his sword.

Clear stumbled back. The point of training with Dante was to get used to using more Devil Arms, especially heavier ones, but Clear still felt unsure of the longsword in his hands. Sure, it was lighter than Dante’s claymore, but it still felt unruly and off-balance. He was used to two tiny throwing knives as his primary weapons. A sword was something he hadn’t picked up since his old mentor had tried to make him a fencer.

Although using it backhanded had proved to be a little more familiar, the speed at which Clear struck was too slow for his liking. He’d spent a good chunk of the last few days just learning how to dodge and block again. And amidst all that, he hadn’t even gotten to learning how to harness the sword or Tatzelwurm’s latent powers.

It was frustrating to say the least. Dimitri had been clamming up and avoiding him more recently too. Probably a fair bit of what was slowing Clear down was the fact he was using these sparring sessions as an excuse to be out of the warehouse, and a way to take his anger out. Even if he accidentally cut Dante, the older hunter would almost instantly heal up. It felt kind of unfair to keep using him as a human stress ball but at least he put up more of a fight than any demon Clear had vanquished in the last week.

“Keep your head in the game!”

Dante brought Rebellion down for an attack from above. Clear dodged to the man’s left where he’d left an opening and slashed with his sword. Faster than Clear anticipated, Dante moved Rebellion in the way and blocked the strike. Clear disengaged instead, spinning away towards Dante’s back and slashing up. He found purchase under Dante’s arm with his blade and held himself there, chest heaving to catch a breath.

“One point to me. We’re even now.”

They disengaged. Clear looked to the sword in his hands—Grendel was its proper name—then stabbed it into the ground in front of him. He crouched down next to it. They were training outside of Devil May Cry so Dante moved to sit on the stairs with Rebellion leaning over his shoulder. Next to him laid his and Clear’s jackets, and two glasses of water. Clear’s was empty.

“Somethin’s bothering you, huh?” Dante asked. Clear grumbled, but that was all the answer he needed to give. Dante huffed softly under his breath, but it wasn’t annoyed or mocking.

“Yanno, we can always get to Devil Arms later, if you just wanna use sparring to relieve stress.”

“No! The point of all this is to learn how to use them. Otherwise I’m just wasting time.” Wasting time from what, sulking with D? Christ.

“But getting impatient isn’t gonna do anything for you.” Dante leaned back on the top step and lifted Rebellion up into the air. The sun caught the blade in just the right way to reflect light into Clear’s eyes, making him blink and look away.

“Cool down. We’ll get back to it when you have a level head.”

“I am cool,” Clear grumbled instead. He stood and went to Dante’s side, clacking Grendel against Rebellion to stop Dante from purposefully making the sun glint into his eyes, the brat.

“Let’s go again. If I win two of three we’ll start.”

“Sure.” Dante shrugged. “Just don’t expect me to let you get to two easily.”

“Don’t think I won’t work for it,” Clear said. And then he swung Grendel down. He stopped it just before it sliced Dante clean in half.

“I won’t count that one.”

Dante tipped his head back to laugh. He made to move, holding out a hand to Clear for help up. Clear took it—only realizing too late that he did just start them counting, and Dante had said he wouldn’t go easy. His wrist was grabbed and he was thrown clean into the air. He had a split second before he hit the ground to realign himself. He barely managed to plant his feet before Dante was in his face.

Every slice and strike was more precise than before. Clear was forced instantly on the defensive. Dante kept backing him up with more jabs of his sword until he’d backed him into a wall. Clear slammed into it, the breath flying from his lungs. Rebellion was embedded into the wall by head head a second later, blocking his escape.

“One-Oh. Guess you don’t wanna learn huh.”

Clear snarled at him. Faster than he himself even expected, he slugged Dante across the jaw. Planting one foot against Dante’s chest, Clear kicked him away. Dante managed to tug Rebellion with him, but he was off balance already so it didn’t really matter. Tossing Grendel to his left hand Clear drew one of his knives and used that to move in. This time he put Dante on the defensive, but it was much easier to deal with him when he had one hand to guard and one hand to strike with.

Dante knocked Grendel away with a heavy swing of his blade. Even if Clear lost his grip on it, he could care less when he was able to grab both knives and charge forward. In the brief second before Dante could recover and block, even if Clear had used his last burst of demonic strength he’d borrowed from Dante earlier, he swept in and crossed both blades under Dante’s jaw.

Clear instantly backed away, sheathing one knife to gather Grendel again. He wasn’t about to be thrown a second time.

“One-one,” he said. Dante hummed. And then he charged.

Clear dodged with a roll as Dante cleared space between them. He slashed with Grendel towards Dante’s legs but his attack was easily jumped over. Dante went for a wide swing that Clear easily backed out of range of. Once he was a few paces back, he threw his knife to intercept Dante from charging again—that damn stinger attack of his was too convenient.

Dante stopped to knock the blade high into the air. Clear dove in this time with Grendel raised. He went for a feint to Dante’s shoulder, then stabbed low to his side. Dante parried successfully, and then, even with the limited space between them, went for a jab as well. They skid past each other so they were back to back. Clear heard the woosh of his knife falling through the air. Turning around, it took him a second to see where it was—closer to him, good—and he reached out to catch it. He tossed it to himself to reorient it; Dante took advantage of the pause to move in again with Trickster Style’s teleport. Even though Clear’s face showed signs of confusion, he’d already committed to throwing the knife.

It would have punctured just under Dante’s lung if he hadn’t caught it. Clear’s shock made him hesitate, making it easy for Dante to return the gesture from earlier. Holding the knife against Clear’s neck—nowhere close to cutting him of course—he clicked his tongue.

“Two-one, ouch. Come on, kid, you’re making this too easy—“

Clear snatched the knife out of Dante’s hand and pressed it against his stomach, just under his lung. Again, no where close to cutting, but the pressure behind the motion, the shaking Dante could feel through Clear’s entire arm, was telling of how much restraint he was showing.

“Enough. Damn it, just teach me already,” Clear seethed.

The sun was starting to set. The shadows cast by Devil May Cry made Clear look more severe; and yet, they also showed how truly worn and stressed he was. Whatever was bothering him, just fighting it out wasn’t going to help. Dante sighed and pulled away. Clear made to follow, but paused when he returned Rebellion to his back.

“If you try to control a Devil Arm without a clear head, you’ll regret it,” Dante warned. Clear’s expression brightened just a bit, but he also seemed as though he was trying not to show that he was less than annoyed to finally be getting somewhere.

“What’s the worst one could do to me?”

“It might not react how you want. Devil Arms are the weaponized souls of devils, if you’re not strong enough to wield one…” Well, he hadn’t exactly encountered that issue before. But he knew that for a long time Rebellion wouldn’t even budge for him, but it hadn’t ever truly rejected him. All the arms he’d acquired reacted differently when he tried to best them; specifically, he remembered when Ifrit and Alastor had tried to kill him. If that happened, he was sure Clear could handle himself, but he still wanted to be cautious about it.

“I’ve been using Tatzelwurm just fine.”

“As knives, yeah. You told me it made Dimitri sick when he touched it, if it tests you and poisons you? If you’re not ready for that what are you gonna do?”

It was a hypothetical case, but it made Clear think just enough that Dante could get his point across. He wasn’t really sure the best way to explain it, but he tried.

“You have to make a Devil Arm work for you, not against you. Best it in battle and make it acknowledge your strength. That’s the fastest way to be able to use one. And since you’ve already bested Tatzelwurm and Grendel, you just need to make them respond.”

“Yeah and how do you do that.”

“You just… Think about it. And they do it. That's what I do. Actually,” Dante paused, his eyes traveling to Clear’s tattoo. He could see more of it up his arms now, the intricate designs vanishing under his sleeves. It was quite a large piece, symmetrical on both sides, with the most prominent designs being matching alchemic circles on his forearms. Dante wondered if Dimitri had done it for him.

“Only your tattoo is demonic?”

“Huh? Yeah, why, is that relevant?”

“Maybe… I can kind of ‘hear’ a Devil Arm when I hold it. It’s not really a voice-voice but it’s more like a feeling that tells me what it can do. If you’re not hearing them, I guess I’d have to know what the abilities are to tell you—“

Clear handed over Grendel by the hilt. When Dante just looked at it, Clear nudged it at him again.

“Go on then. Show me what it can do.”

“Alright, alright, no need to be pushy.” Dante took the blade. It was so light compared to Rebellion, but somehow the balance seemed off. It was heavier towards the point of the blade, no wonder Clear was having such a hard time using it. He looked it over. The hilt was wrapped in a dark green leather that almost looked like it could be skin, with an orange-brown jewel at the end. Amber maybe. There were what looked to be the top jaws of two skulls biting the bottom of the blade and creating the guard. From there, there was a strange jagged pattern that went down the center of the blade.

Dante focused on the weapon in his hands. The feeling that came to him was mostly hunger, but once he was able to assert himself and look passed that, he figured out the way to use the weapon. Turning away from Clear, he swung the sword down in a short slice, commanding it to open about halfway through the motion.

Along the jagged design, the blade split in half and pulled open, revealing a row of serrated, yellowed teeth. Dante wasn’t sure if Clear had actually yelled in shock or if that was just Grendel bellowing. Or both. The sword gnashed at the air, snarling all the while, until Dante dug it into the ground next to him. It gouged up the cobblestone easily, sucking most of the debris it created into itself before reverting back to its former blade form. Even though the blade was more balanced towards the hilt now, Dante could understand what Grendel wanted. He thrust his arm forward, commanding it again. The sword opened its mouth upon command and spit out the wad of stones and cement at high velocity towards Devil May Cry’s wall.

The shot impacted the wall with enough force to make the building shake. He’d have to be sure everything was in its rightful place when he got back inside. Grendel reverted to its original shape. Dante couldn’t help guffawing at Clear’s baffled (and simultaneously terrified) expression as he handed the sword back.

“Now you know what it does.”

“I—y-yeah—I do,” Clear answered, looking down at the sword. He took it back cautiously, as if he was worried it would suddenly open in his hands without his consent. Dante could feel that it wanted to, and he willed it to calm down. Clear stared at it, then adjusted it to hold comfortably in one hand.

After a minute of silence, Dante prompted, “well? Gonna do anything?”

“I… I can’t…”

He sounded distant, but not entirely upset or disappointed. It was more like he was just accepting an outcome he’d already expected. He looked the sword over in his hands, holding it level with his eyes and squinting at it. Then, he dropped it with a little hiss and sheathed it.

“Stopping for today?” Dante asked, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah. It’s getting late, I better head back.”

Clear wrinkled his nose as he said it and turned away from Dante to gather his discarded jacket. He rested it over his shoulders and shoved his hands in his pockets, kicking at the dirt. The scowl hadn’t left his face.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. Same time, I guess.”

“Sure,” Dante said. As Clear was walking off, he called to him before he got too far away to hear.

“We’ll spar to warm up. Let’s focus on mostly Devil Arms after that.”

“Stick to your plans, Dante.” Clear waved a hand back to him over his shoulder.


 

Clear stewed in simultaneous regret and rage all the way back to Arms Race. He was so pissed off with himself for not being able to understand his own weapons. Part of him wanted to be mad that Dante was shit at explaining things, but at the same time, Clear just wanted to blame himself for not understanding. What did his tattoo have to do with it anyway, Dante never finished that thought. Maybe he’d ask tomorrow and get some conclusive answer.

He still had to go home to Dimitri avoiding him. They almost always ate at least breakfast together, but even that was starting to get scarce. Clear hadn’t really realized how much he enjoyed cooking for two people until he wasn’t doing it; the sappiness of it made him want to give himself a punch in the gut and a hug somehow at the same time. The fact that Dimitri suddenly started keeping secrets from him was also quite disconcerting—usually the guy wouldn’t ever hesitate to let Clear know that something was bothering him, but to suddenly be clamming up and avoiding him…

Clear shook his head. It had only been a week. He was basically in their parking lot now, he had to stop thinking about this. He had to put on a front and pretend he wasn’t bothered, because Dimitri would probably work through it and tell him eventually and they’d work this out—

A shadow in his peripheral caught his eye. Clear looked up to see two people exiting the shop; one man and one woman, both in suits with sun glasses. Definitely not the usual clientele. At first, they didn’t seem to notice him. But then he felt his tattoo pulse, and both of them in perfect synchrony looked directly at him.

He found himself stopping dead in his tracks. Chills raced up his spine. The interaction only lasted a few seconds and they were getting into their car and driving away before he could really process what it had all meant. Instead, before going directly inside, he stalled for time by doing a quick scan for demons around. It wouldn’t have been the first time he'd found some right outside their door, but he didn't find any so it must have been… He didn’t have an explanation for it. Just one more thing on his list of ‘Things Clear Doesn’t Have The Answers To.’

Inside, he could hear Dimitri smithing in the back of the workshop. He’d been doing that a lot more too recently; Clear had gotten a couple of glimpses but he couldn’t really tell much outside of the weapon having a rather large blade. He’d probably have to test it eventually so he’d deal with it when the time came. Making his way to the back of the warehouse, he wasn’t surprised when Dimitri didn’t even seem to notice him.

Clear snuck a little peak at what was very clearly a scythe. He wanted to ask. He wasn’t sure if he even could.

He ended up standing at the base of the stairs for a while until Dimitri paused and startled upon seeing him. He fiddled with his mask in his hands and looked anywhere but Clear.

“Hey… Didn’t hear you come in…”

“I was being quiet, yeah.” Ask about the suits. “Did you…" the suits! "Eat? Did you have dinner yet?”

Dimitri nodded his head yes. “Those leftovers from yesterday. They were good. Thanks.”

Clear nodded in response. Yet another day he’d be retreating to his room instead of eating with his roommate. Before he moved to go the top of the stairs, he said, “I’m gonna take a shower. I’ll be in my room if you need me.”

When he came back down a few minutes later, Dimitri hadn’t started his work again. Rather, he was nibbling at the leftovers he said he’d eaten, making Clear chuckle a little to himself. Oh, what would D do without him to remind him to finish his food.

“Hey, Adrian?”

“Huh?”

“I’m, uh… I’m sorry. For avoiding you.”

That wasn’t what he expected to hear. Anger was the first feeling that came to him, but he took a steadying breath to be sure literally any other emotion was what came through in his words. It ended up being bitterness, which was probably just as bad.

“If it’s something I did, you can just say it.”

“No! No, it’s definitely not you. It’s…” Dimitri trailed off. Clear let out a frustrated sigh.

“Look, do what you’re gonna do, finish this job or whatever, just don’t apologize to me unless you really mean it.”

Dimitri jumped up from his seat making Clear look at him. His expression was so pained; he looked like he was biting his cheek to bleeding.

“I do mean it! And I’m sorry that I can’t tell you more. I want to—“

“Then tell me! You’ve never had troubles with that before!”

“I know! Fuck, Adrian, look—If I tell you anything, they’ll—“

“Was it about those people in suits that just left?”

“You saw them? You weren’t supposed to.”

“Why? What’s even going on with you, D? Just tell me.”

“I—I can’t, okay? I really want to. I do. But I can’t—”

Clear let out a frustrated sigh and stormed to the bathroom, slamming the door behind him as he went.


 

It was keeping him up. Even though Clear had laid down to sleep around eleven PM, between the frustration and overthinking he’d been up for at least five hours. Partially because Dimitri was keeping him awake with his smithing until maybe one AM, and partially because his mind would not shut the hell up.

With an aggravated sigh, Clear sat up. He threw on his jacket and zipped it to keep the cold off the bare skin of his torso, his legs covered by sweats. After putting on his shoes and gathering Tatzelwurm, he used his phone’s flashlight to make it to the front of the shop without incident.

Once outside, he took to practicing forms and acrobatics. Most of the aches and pains of practicing with Dante hadn’t gone away. His body was screaming for a break by the time he finally paused to catch his breath.

Clear cursed to himself. Even if he was focusing all of his concentration on Tatzelwurm, he couldn’t ‘hear’ it like Dante had said. He could feel it, sure, the physical weight in his palm, but he couldn’t ‘feel’ its demonic properties.

Then, suddenly, as if clouds parting after a storm, he was reminded of that thought about his tattoo Dante hadn’t finished. Looking at the ink on his arms, Clear sheathed Tatzelwurm. Then, employing all the meditative techniques he knew, he focused on his tattoo like he’d been doing with his knives.

The tattoo pulsed against his skin. If he really focused on it, he could feel it in time to his heartbeat. That was new, but it wasn’t exactly finding a demonic ability. Maybe the tattoo didn’t have any powers to give him other than using Devil Arms. He was back to square one. The sky was starting to get bright too; if he’d figured out how to use at least one of the demonic weapons at his disposal, he could have gotten away with calling the day anything but a waste.

As he was heading back inside, his tattoo pulsed again. One hand flew to his knives, looking around from where he stood by the door. When he didn’t see anything, he tried to listen instead, but didn’t hear any further sounds. Still, his tattoo was pulsing more rapidly now—was that in time with his heart? Or just to alert him of a demon?—making him take another look.

Towards the end of their ‘block,’ parked outside a warehouse two or three doors down from them, a car he didn’t recognize was parked. If he squinted, he could see its window down. And inside…

A man in a suit, with sunglasses.

The window rolled up but the car didn’t move. Clear debated trying to fight the guy, maybe he’d get some actual information, but at the thought of it his tattoo seemed to scream against that. The shock of it made him yank his hands off anything he was touching. He’d never seen the tattoo color red all the way down to his palms before, not since he…

When he looked up again, the car had disappeared. He hesitated a moment longer, then quickly made his way inside to lock the door. What the hell had D gotten himself into…?

Chapter Text

“Hey, Clear?”

He grumbled and rolled over.

“Mrgh, what time is it…?”

“Past noon. You’re never asleep this long, you okay?” D asked through the door.

“Make yourself breakfast,” Clear mumbled back.

A second later the door opened. Clear was already curled into his blankets so the light barely penetrated his field of view. D closed the door before coming to sit against the side of his bed. It was the first time in weeks Dimitri had done this, and the first time in days he seemed interested in an extended conversation. Any annoyance Clear was holding instantly deflated.

“How late were you up last night?”

“Dunno. Couldn’t sleep.”

“Dante’s workin’ you hard, huh. How’s the training going?”

Clear rolled over to face him. He lazily let his arm flop over the side of the bed, letting Dimitri take his wrist and trace over the lines of his tattoo. Even though he couldn’t see them, he’d done enough upkeep on it to know where each line was placed.

“It’s alright. ‘M gettin’ the hang of it. There’s just this one thing…”

Clear did his best to explain what he’d been thinking about the night before, and what Dante said to him. About how he could ‘make the tattoo work for him’ and how it could probably be unlocked as a Devil Arm itself. He told Dimitri about feeling his heartbeat syncing up in time with the pulsing, and how after it seemed like if a demon even breathed in his direction he’d feel it. It wasn’t just the powerful ones anymore. He’d have to get used to it.

“Idunno, he made it sound so easy but it felt so complicated.”

“I wonder if by ‘working for you’ he meant like… when it takes blood and gives you a boost, you only have a limited time, right? Cuz it feeds off that energy you give it? Maybe it’s not a matter of stifling it’s cravings, but more like when it digests, instead of the tattoo alone using the energy you have to use the energy…”

Dimitri trailed off. His finger traced over the mark at the top of the star, a demonic symbol meaning blood. The directional arrow that surrounded part of the star, including that mark, denoted that every reaction would be applied as a force towards Clear. Clear sighed instead.

“I feel like it’s more complicated than that. The tattoo is skin-deep, it doesn’t even make me partially demon when I use its power. I probably can’t…”

“You’re making it seem too complicated. It’s like alchemy, you just tell the energy where to go and it goes. Sometimes things go wrong but as long as your array is correct there’s no way anything will get out of hand.” Dimitri traced the directional arrow.

“That line means that everything is applied to you. You just gotta apply it deeper than skin.”

Clear considered it for a moment. Dimitri made it sound so easy, but then again, so had Dante, and they were both more seasoned in things like this. Well, if he could figure out how to use Devil Arms, he could probably figure out how to truly harness his tattoo’s energy. Or, maybe it was the other way around…?

Dimitri’s stomach growled. His hands didn’t retreat from Clear’s arm, instead gripping him tighter to start pulling him out of bed.

“Well, you can figure out how to be the stomach once you feed me! I didn’t finish dinner last night I was so caught up in working!”

Clear allowed himself to be partially pulled out of the warmth of his covers, but stopped letting Dimitri drag him when he could set his feet on the floor. His arm was released so he could stretch and find a shirt to throw on before he was pushed towards their tiny kitchen.

“Jeez, you need to set some alarms or something. Alright, alright, what do you want to eat?”


 

“Knock knock~”

Lady’s voice echoed from the front of the shop. Clear and Dimitri glanced up from their separate tasks to where she’d come in. They glanced at each other, then Clear hopped off his stool and waved to Dimitri that he could keep working. He toed over to the much cleaner front of house where Lady was waiting with Dante and one other woman.

“Afternoon. Need any help?” Clear asked.

“We got a job. Three of us are more than enough to handle it, but Dante wanted to know if you’d wanna tag along,” Lady said, jabbing a thumb over her shoulder to the other hunter.

“Wanted me to come, huh? I’m flattered,” Clear said, shooting a look to the half-demon. “Yeah, sure. I could use a little practice ‘harnessing my tattoo’ and whatnot. Give me a minute to get ready.”

He turned away from them and hurried back towards his room to get his jacket. As he passed by Dimitri’s work desk, he seemed to be reabsorbed in his work again. As Clear got closer, he could see that some papers had been shifted under whatever weird staff he was working on; there were alchemic circles on the pages, ones he’d never seen before.

“Yo, D.”

Dimitri easily hid his jump and turned to face him.

“You’re going out?”

“Yeah. A little mission. Need anything?”

“I think I’ll be okay. I can call you if I change my mind.”

Dimitri had slapped an easy smile on his face. Against all better judgement, Clear forced himself to buy it. They were talking again. They’d eaten breakfast together. Things were getting better, whatever was bothering Dimitri was starting to fade. Or, he just kept telling himself that. Clear smiled back and ruffled his friend’s hair.

“Don’t blow anything up while I’m gone,” he said. Dimitri swatted his hands away.

“Never! I’ll… see you guys when you get back, okay?”

The tiny waver in his voice was almost impossible to catch to the untrained, but Clear knew D. Knew that he was trying to hide he was shaking with how he crossed his arms. He was tense. Too tense. But what he’d said before, “you can’t ask,” just made Clear bite back a click of his tongue. They were fine. Dimitri would tell him after the job was done.

“Yeah. Be safe, D. Call me if anything happens.”

Dimitri waved him off. Clear was ready a few minutes later, with Grendel sheathed at across his back and Tatzelwurm at his side. He brought a gun with him too, his carbine shotgun he’d given to Dimitri for some tune ups a couple weeks ago. They’d been done for a while, Clear had just been testing a bunch of other guns so he hadn’t had a need to use it. Well, he probably wouldn’t need it with Lady as backup, but he needed some practice so it couldn’t hurt to have.


 

Lady and the other woman, Trish, rode one motorcycle while Clear rode with Dante. The job was almost two hours out of town inland: a road by a lake there had been blocked by some kind of strange fog and multiple cars and even trucks that had driven through it had completely disappeared. The fog seemed to be coming from the lake. Assuming it was demons, a local gas station owner called them in.

Clear had been through the area before when he was taking jobs out of town earlier on in his career, but it had been a while. He didn’t remember the lake being so dark though; and it wasn’t the fog, not when they had been driving under clear blue mid-afternoon skies. The trees around seemed less lush as well, like they’d been dried out, but only near where the fog started. Strangely the air seemed hotter by the fog when they pulled to a stop a little ways away.

“We should go on by foot,” Trish said as Lady stopped and turned off the vehicle. The two women got off Lady’s bike and readjusted their weapons. Clear was almost jealous that neither seemed to sport messy helmet hair at all.

He and Dante followed suit. Clear retied his ponytail while Dante locked his motorcycle up. Then, the group turned towards the fog. Clear’s tattoo was pulsing in response to it, in time with the rippling of the water next to them.

“It’s a demon all right,” Dante said matter-of-factly.

“What kind are you thinking?” Clear asked.

“We’ll find out when we get there!” Lady said, shooting them both a grin. She and Trish were already advancing into the fog fearlessly.

“Come on, we’d better stick together,” Trish called to them with a wave. Not wanting to lose sight of them or get separated, Clear and Dante followed suit.

It was burning inside the fog. Clear took off his jacket up in some desperate attempt to chase the heat away, but even then he was still sweating bullets. Even Lady had taken off her jacket, though it already had barely covered her midriff. Maybe it was because they were demons—well, maybe just Trish, Dante had taken off his coat as well— it didn’t seem like they were affected by the heat at all. The two women walked ahead of he and Dante; their teasing of each other helped Clear keep them in his line of senses. Still, the sweltering heat made him quite drowsy. He felt like each step lagged more than the last, and breathing was so difficult he felt himself gasping for breath quite a few times. The longer they walked in the heat, the slower Trish and Lady’s talking got, until they weren’t saying anything at all.

“Hey, Trish. Why don’t we stop for a second,” Dante called. They’d come to a small clearing in the thick fog by a railing blocking the edge of the lake from the road. The air was a little cooler thanks to the moving water. Through the haze, they could see some of the stopped cars and trucks; one of the trucks was overturned near a car that looked like it had been rammed from behind. The drivers must have been forced to stop here, if they didn’t stop of their own accord.

“Sounds good. How are you two doing?” she asked, directed towards Clear and Lady. Clear forced himself to nod. Even his tattoo’s pulsing had slowed.

“I think the demon’s in the water. Something’s tugging me to go to it…” Lady explained vaguely.

“Me too…” Clear murmured. He willed himself not to look at the water; if it weren’t for Trish’s hand around Lady’s waist and Dante putting an arm in front of him when he tried to move, they both probably would have dove straight into it.

Before they could delegate tasks, the surface of the water broke violently. Water sprayed everywhere, scattering some of the fog and soaking most of them. It was a moment of cool reprieve, but then the little droplets heated up to boiling and Clear was scrambling to dry himself off. Lady and Trish were doing the same where the water hit their skin, but Dante, of course, was already healing from the damage.

When the fog cleared a bit, they were able to see what rose out of the water. The base of the demon’s body was very clearly an old ceramic bust of a woman, although her arms and head were missing. Instead, the limbs had been recreated by the dark lake water—inside the head where the brain would be was a swirling mass of black eels, some peaking out and hanging around the demon’s shoulders to form hair. The rest of the body was supported by water and more eels, though these were much larger in size and were definitely not normal. The four that rose from the water had ruby-red eyes to match a jewel inlaid in the center of the demon’s chest.

Three of four eels dove at them. Trish pulled Lady out of range, sending a blast of electricity along the demon’s skin. Clear, still panicked from the boiling water, managed to jump away from them to a better vantage point. Dante dove out of the way as well, and the group all drew their guns in almost perfect unison to defend themselves.

“How kind of you to bring Biscione sacrifices!” the demon warbled. Her voice was hard to understand, like she was speaking from underwater up to them.

“Biscione? That’s your name, huh?” Dante asked.

“You’d be wise to remember it, son of Sparda!”

The eels whipped at them again. Dante fired at one, taking out one of it’s eyes to make it retreat, but another quickly came at him. Trish blasted another with her electricity again as it came towards her and Lady, although that didn’t seem to slow it. She picked the other woman up and hopped back out of the way, landing on top of the overturned truck to get Lady a better vantage point to fire from.

Clear provided support with his carbine as best he could. Dimitri’s mods to the magazine made it possible for him to not have to reload, as long as he gave each shot ample time to charge up with demonic energy in between. The eels were large enough that their hides were easy to hit, but aiming for the eyes seemed to be more of a challenge. One dove at him, maw wide open. He rolled away so it skid along the ground and got its teeth lodged around a car wheel. Before it could pull itself free, he yanked one of his knives out and stabbed it into the eye.

At that same time, Lady blasted one straight in the mouth, while Trish shocked it internally. Biscione shrieked and recalled all of her eels to her, and for a moment it looked like she was going to retreat into the water. Instead, she raised up her watery hands and summoned what looked to be an eel of water around her. This one, like her hair, was filled with a large amount of squirming, wriggling eels where its eyes would be, giving them something very clear to aim for.

“Trish, this one’s all you!” Dante yelled as he was backpedaling out of the way. Trish gave a yell of affirmation and charged up another intense bolt of lightning. Her aim was precise, landing exactly in the eel’s mouth when it opened it.

At first it seemed like the hit was solid enough. But over the sound of the cracking electricity Clear could barely hear Biscione laughing. The eel exploded not into water vapor, and not before the electricity even touched Biscione or the lake. Instead, the remains of the single large eel became an impossible amount of little tiny ones. The demon pointed her hands towards the group and commanded the electric-charged water towards them directly. Dante was the first one hit by a wave of little eels, a short yelp tearing from his throat at the shock. Trish was hit next, although her own electricity couldn’t hurt her; she still static shocked Lady while pulling her down behind the truck. Clear leapt behind the car he was near as well, cursing to himself. The sweltering heat was closing in on him again, and his rough breathing was starting to interfere with his shooting. At this rate, he’d shoot Dante in the back before he managed to do any real damage.

Peaking out from behind the car, Clear surveyed their enemy. Dante had recovered and was fighting off two eels while Biscione laughed at him. It seemed if they did enough damage to them, they’d be able to push the eels back enough for an opening. It seemed like an easy enough plan, but how would they deal about the main body… Well, they hadn’t hit the gem in the center of her chest yet, so that seemed like a good enough place to try aiming.

There was a boom somewhere off to Dante’s left. Clearly Lady had made it back into the fray and was doing her part. Damn it, he couldn’t be this useless with them. Swinging his carbine back onto his back, he made to grab Tatzelwurm, but paused. He considered what the other hunter and Dimitri had said to him for a moment, his hand inching towards Grendel instead.

‘It’s just like Alchemy, you tell the energy where to go and it goes there.’

‘You have to make a Devil Arm work for you, not against you. Best it in battle and make it acknowledge your strength.’

It still seemed complicated. But he’d done something with his tattoo last night, and that just put him one step closer to figuring out other Devil Arms. Well, if he was useless, at least he’d have an excuse of ‘I was trying something, sorry.’

Clear launched himself back over the roof of the car with a shout to draw attention to himself. Biscione flicked her hand towards him without looking away from Dante, and one of her eels charged directly to him. Drawing Grendel, he lunged towards the eel with the sword in front of him. Just like the night before, he focused on his tattoo to draw its power to him. But then, instead of using it for himself like Dante had suggested, he pushed it towards Grendel’s energy in his palm instead. The sword responded to him easily. Its mouth opened and encompassed the head of the entire eel, biting it clean in half.

Biscione screeched in mixed shock and pain. All of her eels returned to her side, where she summoned the big one made of water again. Exerting his own demon over Grendel was easy when Clear did as Dimitri said and told the energy where to go. Without even having to say it, Grendel opened its mouth and spit out the head of the eel directly at Biscione.

“Aim for the gem on her chest!” Clear yelled when the watery eel exploded back towards its master. Although he dropped to his knees at the sudden fatigue that hit him, at least he relayed the information to the group. There was a solid minute of gunshots and watery screaming that made his ears ring. Biscione was splashing up boiling water every which way and commanding it to hit them. Luckily she missed most of the time, but the one time she didn’t she managed to slash some over Clear’s knuckles and make him let go of Grendel. She didn’t go down without a fight—it took a well-timed, well-aimed shot from Dante and Lady together to finally shatter the gem and destroy her.

Her body splashed back into the lake with a final shout. The four larger eels floated up to the surface while all of the little tiny ones seemed to swim away. The surface of the water was no longer black by the time the fog cleared. Clear’s skin was so clammy he realized that it might have actually been steam surrounding them, which would explain the ridiculous heat. Biscione’s bust was floating at the top of the water too, crumbling to sand along with the eels around her, but not before a bright reddish glowing orb emerged from her chest to float above her body.

Clear hadn’t seen a Devil Arm form since he’d received Grendel. The orb floated towards Dante’s outstretched hand; then, in a flash, materialized into a dark colored whip with red material wrapped around the handle and fall hitch. Without even hesitating, Dante whooped and whipped at the ground. The pop! of the whip was masqueraded by the explosion it made.

Clear had to cover his face from the heat that wafted off of it. His hand was shaking where he’d been burned. And with the steam no longer surrounding them he found himself able to breathe easily again. He was so tired, it felt like he’d exerted more energy than he even had to control Grendel. He didn’t even register knocking the blade over as he collapsed to the ground. Sleeping seemed like a great idea right then.


 

Dimitri gave a little clap for himself once he’d completed the pair of circles. If he’d constructed them right, then it should go over smoothly; but, maybe he should have had more apprehension about the whole process. What if he died? What if the circle took more than he wanted to give? He’d already drained so much of his blood over the past couple days, and even that was barely enough to finish the smaller of the two circles he needed. He couldn’t let the weapon take any more than half of his soul in addition to that amount of blood. 

Steeling himself, he placed his palms on the ground next to him and began focusing his energy into the circle. He felt it as it flowed around the circles and the intricate chalk-and-blood markings he’d made, directing energy and elements into the scythe to complete it’s binding.

When it started drawing from him personally it almost knocked him out of his line of thought, but his palms on the cold ground kept him tethered. He just needed to allow his own energy to be swept away, and make sure that only as much as he wanted to give flew out of him.

Cracking his eyes open, he watched the scythe begin to shake. As the demonic parts bound to the inorganic, he heard it start to ask for more. They always did this, but he never let himself give in. This time, however…

He looked at the circle he was sitting in, hoping that his own blood as a medium was enough to encourage what the scythe wanted to leave his body. He was prepared for it to hurt. He had come to terms with losing that part of himself. As his chest constricted and he felt part of his soul being dragged out of him, swept along the circle and ingrained into the scythe, he just kept repeating that it would be okay.

Chapter Text

“Hey, kid. You awake?”

Clear slowly awoke to the sound of Dante’s voice. He struggled to open his eyes, his body still felt so sluggish. Where was he even, if not back at Arms Race…

Right. They were by a lake for a job. And he’d used Grendel and then passed out. And now…

All three hunters we kneeling by him. Lady looked like she was trying not to smirk, but it was clear how badly she wanted to tease him by the look in her eyes. He tried to wave a hand at her but could barely manage to lift his arm.

“Kinda,” Clear grumbled. His voice came out raspy. Dante chuckled at him.

“I saw you use Grendel. What happened there?”

Dante helped him sit up while he tried his best to speak. “Figured out what you were talkin’ about yesterday. My tat’s a Devil Arm too, might as well use it like one.”

“I thought you said it was what gave you power. Never heard of a Devil Arm using a Devil Arm.”

“Well, you never heard of a human usin’ a Devil Arm either, so we’re all about firsts here.”

“I guess we are,” Dante said with a little chuckle. After a few minutes more of struggling to stand, he was helped towards the motorcycle.

“Are you going to be alright riding back like that?” Trish asked. She was already on the back of Lady’s bike, the other woman with her helmet on and sitting in front of her. She started the engine to let it warm up.

“I’ll manage,” Clear mumbled. He was still so tired and his body felt so heavy. He’d never been this out of energy before. Damn, he had some serious work to do with Dante when they got back.

“I’ll keep an eye on ‘im. If we lag back don’t wait up for us,” Dante called to them instead. Lady just gave a nod in response. Trish wrapped her hands tight around the other woman’s waist and a moment later they were off towards the city.

“Hold on tight,” Dante said. Clear was leaning heavily against his back with his eyes closed, about to sleep again, but he did his best to lock his hands around Dante’s waist so he didn’t fall off. Rebellion was digging into his chest and shoulder uncomfortably but he couldn’t care less when Dante’s shoulder was just the most soft, comfy pillow.

“I’ll try…” he yawned.

The ride back was probably twice as long as it needed to be, but Clear was so in and out of sleep he didn’t even notice.


 

Clear woke up on Arms Race’s couch the next morning to something burning. Even though Dimitri might have actually started a fire and they were about to lose their business, the soreness in his body kept him from really caring. With a mighty stretch of his back, Clear stood up and headed towards their kitchen.

Sure enough, Dimitri had failed to scramble eggs. The remains were so charred onto the pan that it would probably be easier to just throw away than to clean. Clear sniffed the air; ah, so it was melted cheese that did it. At least the stove was turned off. Dimitri wasn’t so abysmal in the kitchen to forget to do that.

Determining that they weren’t in life-threatening danger, Clear took the chance to go back to his room and gather fresh clothes for a shower. Now that he’d slept in his sweaty clothing from yesterday, he was looking forward to fresh pajamas and his own soft, warm bed. Perfecting his use of Devil Arms could come after he’d properly slept off all the soreness.

He knew it was time to get out of the shower when he almost fell asleep again in it. And though he wanted to go back upstairs and crash immediately, his stomach was arguing with him that eating was more important. Well, hopefully he didn’t burn something—namely himself—if he fell asleep at the stove.

“You’re up!” Dimitri greeted as Clear exited the bathroom with another yawn. He gave D a tired wave.

“Yeah, gonna eat. Do we have another pan?”

“We’re, uh, gonna have to buy a new one. Sorry…”

“Figures. Don’t worry about it. Anything you want?”

Dimitri chuckled at him. He seemed tired too, with bags under his eyes and his skin somehow paler than usual. Maybe a brush with death over fried eggs could do that to a person; Clear couldn’t relate.

“You still seem tired. Anything simple is fine.”

“Mom’s pasta it is.”

His mother’s spaghetti with meat sauce recipe was so simple to Clear it was almost like breathing. She had tricks for doing it from scratch, noodles and all, and also a much simpler version she used to make when she was home late from work and just really wanted to eat something quick. Tomato paste, seasonings, meat, water, and balsamic vinegar in one pan, with a little bit of water and tossed with the noodles. It was maybe a fifteen minute recipe at most, and perfect for Clear to eat before finally getting some rest.

Dimitri set the table for them. Clear gave them their food and the two sat down to eat. They were both silent and slow. If Clear really paid attention, he could see Dimitri fidgeting like he wanted to say something. Clear thought about ask, but in light of the other day and how tired he was, he couldn’t really bring himself to. If he couldn’t focus on a conversation it wouldn’t do to try and weasel information, or another fight, out of Dimitri.

After breakfast? Lunch? What time even was it? Clear put the dishes into the sink to do later and retreated to his room. Dimitri hadn’t moved from the table and was still fidgeting, making Clear pause at the base of the stairs. Their eyes met. Oddly, Dimitri looked away first without so much as opening his mouth. Clear took that to mean he wasn’t ready to talk either, and went immediately to his room to keep sleeping.


 

“Alright! Enough slacking!” Clear said while stretching. He was gathering his weapons from the racks to the left of the entrance. It was a little closed-off space where Dimitri kept his projects and customer returns, which doubled as weapons storage for Clear. Strapping Tatzelwurm to his side and Grendel to his back, he adjusted his jacket and headed towards the door of the shop.

“D! I’m goin’ to Dante’s, call me if you need anything!”

“Wait, I do need something!”

Clear’s hand stopped on the door. He turned and headed back to the center of the warehouse where Dimitri had been doing the final tune-ups on the scythe he created. Clear had only seen the completed weapon that morning, he wondered why it hadn’t dawned on him earlier that the blade he’d seen Dimitri making the week before was a scythe’s blade. Still, it was so… Weird.

Even though it was undeniably Dimitri’s work, the demon parts stretched over the neck of the blade and the top of the staff seemed to overtake that aesthetic. Where as usually Dimitri’s work was a mesh of his own welding and other demon parts, or he’d simply alchemied the demons into submission, the scythe looked as though it was doing the exact opposite. The blade was recreated and new polished from a Scissorhands’ weapon, so it was still dark metal but it now gleamed in the light. However, the staff and blade seemed to be held together by a mass of orange hands, a large vacant green eye resting in the center. The bone and metal counter-weights were definitely Dimitri’s work but it looked like they were being absorbed by the orange muscles. The beaded tassel Dimitri usually tied to his weapons was present towards the end of the staff, but seeing it in orange felt like some strange mockery. Sure he colored it to match the rest of the weapon, but it made it feel like he’d done a collaboration with someone who just wanted his name on it to sell for a high price.

“I… You were given permission by the… buyer? To test it out…” Dimitri explained while trying to lift it. He was clearly straining, grunts interrupting his speaking, but he managed to get it off the table and hand it off to Clear. The exchange was fumbled by Clear not expecting the weight of it, and Dimitri jumped back to avoid getting his toe crushed when Clear barely managed to catch it.

“What the hell, is it supposed to be this heavy?” he asked immediately.

“It’s, uh… Honestly no, but I was struggling to make it lighter, so…”

Clear strained to lift it. If he got some momentum behind his swings, the scythe could be an absolutely lethal blunt-force weapon; he could home-run bat some demon’s head right off it’s shoulders, assuming he could lift the scythe that high. He didn’t recognize any of the demonic parts used either—except for the scissors he’d collected and maybe some Hell Hopper bones, there wasn’t anything he’d grabbed from the other day. He wondered to himself what the abilities of the weapon were, since nothing spoke to him immediately. It was strange though, how he didn’t feel his tattoo pulsing at all.

“So, does it have a name?”

“Oh. Yeah. It’s, uh…” D chewed at his cheek, a nervous habit Clear had watched him do one too many times. Clear inclined his head, about to ask why D seemed to be so shaky—

“Mundus.”

“Huh?”

“Mundus. Cereris. The full name of it. That’s what the client wanted it called. Gate to the underworld.

Clear looked down at the scythe by his side. It was clearly demonic, so why wasn’t his tattoo pulsing as it had gotten so used to doing around demons? Maybe it finally decided to calm down, or maybe it was because the demonic parts were dead. As he was thinking that, he also couldn’t help but feel like the eye was staring at him. Sizing him up.

“Creepy name,” Clear finally said with a click of his tongue. He looked up at his business partner.

“I’ll do what I can with it, but unless this thing is made for Dante I’m pretty sure you’ve gotta make it lighter.”

“It’s— Yeah, it’s made for Dante,” D laughed a little. Nervous. Clear clicked his tongue again.

“Did he even pay you back for Lady’s gun? D, the fuck, you better charge him double, this thing must cost more than everything you’ve made in the last year combined.”

“I’m getting paid for it.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. It’ll keep us floating. It’ll pay the rest of our mortgage in full too.”

Clear wanted to press him on his weird choice of words. He managed to lift the scythe over his shoulder, the soreness he thought he’d slept off coming back tenfold. His body was already aching from the strain of even holding it. He tried to focus on it and reach out to it’s demonic half to see what it would do, but it somehow seemed to get heavier. What kind of powers did this thing have to make it do that when he tapped into it? Then again, Dante had mentioned that some demon weapons might fight him until he established he was their master, so maybe Mundus Cereris was just testing him.

“You know those ruins out of town, to the west? There’s a hoard there that needs to be taken care of,” Dimitri told him. He was giving Clear a worried look, or maybe it was more directed towards the scythe itself.

“You can take the van.”

“Gonna need it to transport this thing. Finish up the leftovers for dinner, I might be back late.”


 

What the city called ‘ruins’ was an old abandoned military base of some sorts that had fallen into disrepair with disuse and age. Many of the buildings were tilted due to rotting bases and one to many storms. Others had been caved in by repeated battles: other hunters and mercenaries often used the site to test weapons or simply kill prey. Due to the seclusion and general lack of security it was quite a popular spot. And oddly it was completely quiet when Clear got there.

He struggled to remove the scythe from the van. Even though he could walk with it, he was trudging along at a snail’s pace. There was no way he could fight well with this thing. In the silence it was easy to pick out one building where quite a few demons had gathered. But it was strange that he’d had to use his other senses to discern where they were, his tattoo still wasn’t responding to him at all.

As soon as he stepped within a few meters of the warehouse, one of the walls suddenly caved outward. A boiling red Hell Hopper, slashing arms raised, shrieked over the noise of a large group of other demons rushing out behind it. It had the same bird mask as that other weird wispy demon Clear had seen before. And it wasn’t the only one. Some of the Pack Rats, a couple Bahamuts, even a pair of Scissorhands had been possessed. He distinctly remembered that whatever the demon’s possession did made them faster and stronger, and had made him lose himself to aggression that had almost got him killed. He was at a severe disadvantage.

He wasn’t given any time to think. Demons were charging at him this way and that, and he was cutting them down as fast as he could. A Pack Rat managed to get a lucky hit to his back that damn near toppled him, and he responded by smashing it in the side with his scythe. The attack sent the rat bowling into a Bahamut, smashing them both into a wall where they instantly became dust.

It was weird. The demons seemed weaker when they got hit, especially the ones that weren’t controlled by… he’d call them Strickens, that worked. So for most of them seemed to be avoiding his weapon as well. Something about the scythe was definitely dangerous to them. Even if Clear couldn't understand it, that much was clear. The longer Clear used it, the less he noticed any of his own tattoo’s demonic energy as well.

A Stricken Scissorhands charged at him. He raised the scythe and swung at it, only for it to dodge out of the way with a spin. He barely managed to avoid getting clipped in the shoulder, but the motion made him lose his balance and drop the scythe, blade forward. Clear tugged at the blade but found it completely lodged in the ground. One of the Hell Hoppers advanced on him with a punching arm raised. Well, he did promise he’d compensate for damages.

The demon struck at him. Clear heard its arm smash into the ground as he spun out of the way and drew Grendel from his back, allowing its mouth to open and gnash freely at the rubble around him. It chewed up a felled corpse and some rock which Clear quickly shot back at the mantis. His shot found its face and staggered it, making it blindly swing at him. He jumped over one arm and used Grendel to bite off the other; the sword empowered with the offering and Clear was able to cleave the mantis in two on his next hit.

Grendel reverted to its normal off-balance weight. He did a quick visual sweep for the scythe, not finding it. Well shit, if it got completely destroyed by one hit… but having the scythe away from him made his tattoo suddenly jump in response to being used. Two more Pack Rats came up to attack him, but he slashed one with one of his knives and kicked it away, allowing Grendel to simply eat the other one. As he spit it out towards another trio of Bahamuts advancing, he noticed a group of demons moving slower out of the corner of his eye. Sure enough, the scythe had simply been thrown a bit across the room, embedded by the blade into the ground through a Scissorhands’ chest. He sheathed Tatzelwurm and dashed over, slashing through the mob as he went; they weren’t moving quickly enough to put up a fight anyway, so it was easy enough for him to get to the weapon. Running up the staff, he held his balance and swung down with the sword in his hand. He beheaded two demons but found the weapon embedded in the shoulder of third. Grendel merely opened up and chomped down on it. He shot at the ground by the scythe’s blade, feeling it loosen a little bit.

He sheathed Grendel before jumping off the scythe. Clear threw his weight into pulling it down when he landed, crouching on the floor to brace himself on one knee. Careful not to let it become lodged in the ground again, he gripped just below the blade with one hand and balanced the rest of the staff over his shoulders. Fuck if that didn’t hurt his neck when he stood up, he almost collapsed to the ground at the pressure of it.

A quick spin around his body dealt with the last of the hoard. Unfortunately the weight finally got to him and he drove it into the ground, grunting as he tried to pull it back out again.

He heard the noise of two more Hell Hoppers. More of the hoard must have come with them, the ruins were suddenly so alive with noise it was deafening. Where were they all coming from? He let out a frustrated huff and drew Grendel then, forget using the scythe when it was this heavy.

What felt like a hours passed. The sun was setting, and there was still no end of the demons. At some point he assumed he’d been Stricken as well, even though he was numbly aware of taking damage and bleeding out he couldn’t stop fighting. Every step with his left leg made the muscles scream in agony. He hand’t stopped tasting blood at least since the sky turned pink, and his palms and arms were numb, probably from Tatzelwurm’s poison.

Clear did always take care to protect his tattoo, especially the alchemy circles. It was the only thing keeping him from being poisoned by his own weapons. D had patched it up over and over again from the little nicks and cuts it had gotten over the years, and that was more than enough to keep it at it’s full power.

This time, he knew whatever Dimitri did wouldn’t be enough.

His left forearm was flayed, deep gouges cutting to the bone. Even after loosely wrapping it the blood quickly stained his flannel red—it hurt so much that even resting it by his side it made him want to writhe in agony. Tatzelwurm stung in his hands, making him realize he should probably put them away. Paralysis had already set deep into his fingers, and as it creeped up his arms he noted that at least the pain in his forearm was numbing. His vision was blurry but he couldn’t tell if that was poison, delirious pain, or something else. But the warehouse he was in was still full of demons, and still collapsing, and he had to get out with the scythe without dying. The odds were so stacked against him he was almost considering praying.


 

“Hello~o!” Dante sing-songed into the warehouse. Although the sign above the door was on, the lights inside were turned off, making him squint in the darkness. It took him a moment to get adjusted to the lack of light, but once his demonic nature kicked in he was easily able to see.

Nothing seemed out of place. Although, a quick sniff confirmed that only Dimitri was inside, probably asleep at his desk. It would explain the darkness. Taking his time to toe through the messy floors, Dante made his way back to the open area in the middle of the warehouse.

“Hey, Mr. Maker, are you home?”

A weak squeak answered him. Dante’s ears perked, his eyes instantly scanning for where Dimitri had called from.

He was back towards the kitchen, collapsed on the floor and curled into the fetal position on his side. His body was shaking, like he was needed to vomit but was holding it back. Dante swooped over next to him, watching the boy writhe. He’d barely touched his shoulder but it still made Dimitri jump.

His wide, brown eyes were wet. He’d been crying. He seemed to register Dante, but the shaking came back immediately and he curled up again. He was so light and easy to scoop up; Dante moved him to their couch by the front door.

“Hey, kid. Talk to me. What’s wrong? Stomach ache?”

“It’s—Adrian is—the scythe—It hurts, I’m scared…!”

Dante couldn’t really sit around and get information out of him, not when the kid had curled up and went back to stifling his sobs. Physically he looked fine. But what was he saying about some scythe? He must have been talking about Clear when he said Adrian, but—

“Is Clear in trouble?”

“Y-yeah. Ruins. Help!” Dimitri suddenly grabbed Dante’s collar, weakly shaking him as best he could.

“Please…! Save him!”

Dante eased his hand away and stood up. He’d figure out what happened later, but first, finding and helping Clear took priority.


 

It took him a little under twenty minutes to get to the ruins while speeding. However, pinpointing exactly where Clear was in the area was a little harder. In the end, he just depended on his demon half to lead him to the warehouse with the most demon remains—and, once closer, the faint, tiny scent of his own father’s blood. It was a convenient way to find Clear when his human smell was drowned out by the sheer amount of other demons.

Although, when he finally found the warehouse, he worried he’d made it too late. Half of it had collapsed, and he couldn’t sense a single living demon or human in the area. Then again, he’d always been better at spotting demons, but he figured he knew Clear well enough to remember what kind of scent he had.

Quickly swinging himself off his motorcycle, he started advancing towards the warehouse. He kept his hands on Ebony and Ivory just in case. As he got closer, he could hear heavy but ragged breathing; following the sound of it, he turned to the side of the warehouse opposite to where it collapsed. There was a hole in the wall, and leaning half out of it was Clear. He was a mess: his clothes were torn and bloody, he was cradling one messily wrapped arm, and his skin was clammy, caught somewhere between too pale and too green. There was a scythe near by, inside of the building, the blade gouged into the ground. It had such a vile presence to it that it made the hair on Dante's neck rise. He'd never be able to forget the former Demon King's energy. But why was it here, in one of Dimitri's weapons...? 

He didn't have time to think on it. Dante pulled Clear out of the rubble. Once he was able to rest the other hunter on the ground and support him, he could check over the damages. Other than the wound on his arm, one of Clear’s legs had also been impaled, twice in the thigh and once just below the knee. There was a shallow gash at his side amongst a myriad of other tiny knicks and scratches. He’d lost a lot of blood, probably explaining why he was so pale. But he was breathing, and very clearly fighting to stay alive.

“What the hell happened…” Dante muttered under his breath. The question made Clear open his eyes. Dante didn’t remember them being bright red, but then again, the color seemed to be fading as he spoke.

“I fucked up,” Clear rasped out, slow. “Like that first time…”

“What first time?”

“Wh-when we fought… I got stricken, again…”

“Jeez, again? You got a penchant or something?” Dante tried for a joke, but he couldn’t betray the seriousness in his voice. After determining that the kid was definitely too weak to support himself, he lifted him to carry him back to his motorcycle. Figuring out how to actually carry him back was a problem for five-minutes-from-now-Dante.

“Don’t think… I’m gonna make it…” Clear mumbled. “When my tattoo lost power, I was holding Tatz… I think I got poisoned…”

“Your tattoo lost power? How?” Dante was stunned to hear it. Then again, from what little he’d read of alchemy, if a circle was broken it ceased to function. And the gash on Clear’s arm… Damn it, there was no way…

“What did you say could heal you, same blood type? Or a stronger demon?”

“We don’t have time.. To get to Lady…”

“What about me?”

Impossibly, Clear managed to laugh at him. “You’re… only half-demon… what could you possibly do….”

“Well, I guess we’re about to find out.”

His father’s demonic blood could heal a stabbing. Dante had seen his own blood heal Clear before, when they first met, and when they sparred. It was never anything like this, but if it didn’t work at least he could say he tried. Adjusting himself and Clear on his motorcycle to support both of them, Clear in front of him, he reached back to Rebellion and used the blade to cut his own hand. It started to heal instantly but not before he was able to smear some of his blood across Clear’s good arm.

His tattoo burned red where Dante offered it food. At first it didn’t seem like anything was happening. But after a few more passes, Clear jerked and his body tensed. He was caught between writhing and freezing up, strangled startled noises managing to make their way from his throat. But it looked like the wounds on his legs were starting to mend and heal over.

Dante gave more and more blood, so much that he started to get woozy too. But the kid was still gasping for breath and his skin was starting to turn back to its usual brown, with lighter patches where his wounds were scaring over. Maybe he’d given too much. He hadn’t needed more than a splash to heal the bruises from when they first met. A drop had made a skimmed knee from one of their sparring sessions heal right over. He would have thought on it more if Clear didn’t suddenly throw himself forward and a pained yell and—

An entire wing shredded through the back of Clear’s jacket from his left shoulder blade with a splash of blood. It was black, very visibly tattooed in red, covered in a material that seemed to be a cross between scales and feathers. Dante recognized the shape as being vaguely similar to his own Devil Trigger although of smaller size, but before he could discern more of the specifics the wing had furled up into Clear’s back. Under his torn clothing, Dante could see the tattoo pulsing. But more importantly, it looked as though it was drawing something entirely new across Clear’s skin. The fact that it was moving around and growing on its own made Dante really wonder how demonic in nature it was; clearly it was more than the little party trick he’d come to think it was.

Damn it. He’d figure it out later. Clear was passed out across the handlebars of his bike. Dante had to get him back and still explain all this to Dimitri. When Clear woke up, he’d make sure they’d drop his tab so he could pay for the gas expenses cumulated over the last two days.

Chapter Text

“Is he gonna be okay…?”

Dimitri’s voice was quiet. Shaky. A child scared for his best friend. Dante looked to him from his seat at the picnic table. He couldn’t really answer that.

Clear hadn’t struggled the entire way home. If anything, he seemed almost lifeless. Dante had rushed him back to Arms Race and brought him directly up to his room at Dimitri’s orders. Then, he scurried back to the ruins to retrieve the scythe. By the time he’d gotten back to Arms Race with it, he’d felt something was very wrong with his own demonic energy. Oh, and Clear was awake and screaming.

He probably wouldn’t have even noticed it if Dimitri hadn’t said something. The scythe was dropped off by the work bench and Dante went to Clear’s room on the second floor to check on him.

His shrieking had crescendoed to the point he was losing his voice. Dante couldn’t really get a good visual on why the kid was yelling so much, but the single wing—bigger this time, it was shaking the walls with each beat; oh, there was a second, much smaller one too!—was out and flailing around as much as he was. That was probably the reason. Dante wasn’t too sure about what was going on, god did he have questions, but Clear’s yelling was starting to give him a headache. So, he did what any good friend would do: used Trickster Style to teleport over and then knocked Clear out with a swift chop to the back of the neck.

The wings were sluggish to return to his back, but Dante could get a good look at them now. The larger of the two wasn’t muscle and flesh like he’d first assumed it was. Rather, the base of it was comprised of bone covered by tattooed leathery hide. The feathery scales were indeed just that: scales, shaped to look like feathers. The smaller one looked more like Dante’s own wings when he was in Devil Trigger, but it was the same black and red of Clear’s larger one. They definitely weren’t made of anything in Clear’s body, but they were attached to his shoulder blade like any good set of wings should be albeit only on one side. Spontaneously growing a new pair of limbs was probably what was making him scream so much.

The tattoo was still drawing itself. Dante didn’t really stick around to see what they became, instead more concerned with getting Clear into bed so his body could recover. In the back of his mind, Dante thought that maybe giving him so much blood was a worse conclusion.

Dante sighed and brought himself back to the present. He shook his head and looked Dimitri in the eyes. Would Clear be okay?

“I don’t know,” he said. There was no way to tell right now.

“Oh…”

They went silent. Dante wished he had a drink. Dimitri was fidgeting, his cheek sucked in like he was biting at it. He kept looking around the shop at anywhere but Clear’s room and the scythe next to him. The scythe… Dante had him here, he could ask some questions.

“So. You made that weapon, did you?”

“Huh? Y-yeah…”

“Anything you can tell me about it?”

Dimitri flinched at the question. His fidgeting increased and he looked like he’d start sweating if Dante pressed him anymore.

“I—I can’t. The customer paid extra for confidentiality, so…”

“But they’re not here right now, are they?”

Dimitri bit into his cheek again. “I guess…”

“We’ll keep it hush-hush. Besides, I need to know how you ended up with Mundus’ remains.”

“Who’s?” the confusion on Dimitri’s face was not what Dante was expecting. Shock, maybe fear, but if he hadn’t been told anything… well, it wasn’t like he was at Mallet Island or anything when Mundus had tried to conquer the world a couple years ago.

“You weren’t told anything about what you were working with?”

Dimitri shook his head slowly. “I was just told to make it, and threatened that if I didn’t…”

He abruptly stood up and started pacing. Dante was surprised that after all the silence and all the contract-bound confidentiality, Dimitri was suddenly rambling about his work.

“He didn’t even offer the password! He was just rambling information about my family! And then he sent his men and swore he’d hurt Adrian if I didn’t do anything! I was forced into it. I had no choice! And now you’ve got the know-how and I’m the only one left out of the loop, while Adrian’s probably dying and—“

“Hey, hey, calm down there, Mister Maker. I’ll tell you what I know, okay?” Dante stood with his hands raised, trying to placate Dimitri. Although the alchemist stopped rambling he didn’t stop pacing, taking particular care not to step on any of his drawn circles on the floor.

Dante went about explaining who Mundus was. It wasn’t painful, per say, to bring up the murder of his family, but it still left him melancholy. But he powered through to tell Dimitri about meeting Trish and what happened on Mallet Island when he killed the Demon Prince of Darkness with his father’s power.

“Some vacation!” Dante joked. It didn’t seem to put Dimitri at ease.

“Prince of Darkness, huh… How’d he end up in that guy’s hands, I wonder… You sealed him away last time?”

“He must have gotten out again. Or was dragged out by your client. Unless I meet the guy myself I’ll never know.”

Dimitri hummed to himself. He paused pacing for a moment, standing on the one clear spot on the floor. Dante couldn’t help but inspect it more thoroughly, when not only was it the only visible area but definitely had what looked to be a smudged bloodstain. He didn’t realize Dimitri butchered demons too.

“What’s with this smudge there?”

Dimitri glanced down at his feet where Dante pointed. At first he jumped away from it, but then with a wave of his hands, tripped over himself trying to kick fallen papers and tools over it. After regaining his balance, he clenched his hands by his sides and let a resigned sigh leave his lips.

“It’s, uh, you can’t tell Adri—Clear, okay? You can’t tell him.”

Dante crossed his arms and nodded. “Cross my heart.”

“I scrubbed it down while he was out. It’s my blood. I drew a circle with it. That big one over there, well it’s covered a bit now but, it connected to this one. It’s how I finished Mundus Cereris.”

Dante looked to where Dimitri was pointing. There were a couple of other circles drawn over it now, but he could definitely see the remains of a much larger circle. It was intricate, with words in another language he couldn’t easily discern but had definitely seen before. A demonic language he’d only seen used for seals and on certain gates… There was a pair of lines drawn from the circle towards the smudge under Dimitri’s feet, half washed away presumably from when he’d cleaned the floor.

“It’s a conduit node. The function is to convert matter from outside of the circle to energy inside the circle and…”

“So what were you doing, converting human matter? That’s kind of…”

“I just—I know that Devil Arms are the personified weapons of demon souls, so I— well, you know how it is, you need a soul for a soul, so I—well, my soul—“

“Are you trying to tell me that you made a Devil Arm with part of your soul and part of Mundus’.”

“Yeah! Yup! That’s it! I fucked up didn’t I!”

Dante had never heard Dimitri curse before. He was mildly amazed, that the kid had managed to use his knowledge of engineering and alchemy to actually hand-make a real Devil Arm. Then again, it was probably only a matter of time until some figured it out; he was just glad he knew Dimitri, and knew he was on his side. Dante looked at the scythe, then back at him.

“Well, I’m impressed, honestly. Congrats, kid, you’re gonna go down in history for creating a Devil Arm in a garage!”

Dimitri somehow managed to groan and laugh at the same time. He’d gone back to pacing and didn’t seem like he was going to slow down any time soon.

“Well that’s great, isn’t that. If it serves it’s other purpose, I’ll probably go down in history for something else entirely. Wouldn’t that be just amazing—“

“That other thing would be…?” Dante interrupted his rant. Dimitri paused his pacing. He’d gone from a flurry of movement to completely still, it was almost unnerving.

“I—I can’t disclose that.”

The door to the shop swung open. Dante peeked over his shoulder towards it but wasn’t in visible range. He turned back to Dimitri. He was all movement again, grabbing at the scythe and trying to move it. Dante stepped over to help him and the kid shoved it into his hands.

“I need to hire you. Right now. To test this,” then, he yelled to the front of the shop, “current play tester’s on vacation right now!!”

There was a grunt. The hair on the back of his neck rose, Dante knew a demon when he heard one. It was damn good at hiding it’s smell though. What the hell had D gotten into…?

“Payment up front? Or after the job’s complete?” He asked. Mundus Cereris was heavy in his hands, heavier than even Rebellion. Now that he was less panicked and could focus on it, it felt like it was sapping his energy and making him weaker by just holding it.

“After you bring it back. I need the money. It’ll keep us alive, rent’s tight and all that you know.”

It was a weird choice of words. The demon from the door was still a good ways away, but it had moved into visible range of them both now. A woman in a suit, with sunglasses on. Dimitri wasn’t looking at her at all, but Dante kept his eyes on her.

“Right, got it. Any deadline?”

“Tonight, preferably. So I can fine-tune anything that needs adjustments! But don’t let it cut you, okay? What happened to Clear. I don’t want that to happen to you, too.”

D’s voice dropped to a shaky whisper, his eyes darting towards where Clear was asleep in his room at the back of the warehouse.

“He might not heal.”

Dante’s brows shot up. In the second he took his eyes of the demon, he heard the sound of the shop door closing. He hadn’t realized how much pressure Dimitri was putting into pressing the scythe into his hands, until he released the staff of it and backed off. Dante surprised himself by almost dropping the weapon. Clear had used this thing? No wonder Dante had found him in such bad shape, he must have gotten overwhelmed when he wasn’t able to swing it well. The alchemist flopped back onto his stool.

“I’m sorry, I can’t say anymore. It’s a classified project. Maybe I said too much. Keep an eye on your back, okay?”


 

It was all well and good that he was hired by Dimitri, but without a job of his own he didn’t have anything to test the weapon on. Maybe it was a cry for help? To just get the weapon away from them and be done with it. No, that couldn’t be right, if there were demons involved—weather Dimitri knew or not—he probably knew it was dangerous for the scythe to leave his hands for more than a few hours.

While he was deliberating what to do with the damn weapon, he was taking his time heading back to Devil May Cry. He wasn’t more than a few blocks away when Trish rolled up on Lady’s motorcycle next to him.

“Get on loser, we’re going shopping,” she said immediately, jabbing her thumb over her shoulder. She had the Devil Sword Sparda strapped to her back, and Biscione at her hip. Dante laughed at her as he climbed on.

“Morrison found us a job?”

“Small one, clean up for a politician. His autumn home is infested.”

“All these houses and they can’t afford to pay us more than pocket change,” Dante lamented with a shake of his head. “What am I gonna tell Lady?”

Once they reached the house, the job was a fast one. The infestation was spearheaded by a hoard of tiny demon cockroaches controlled by a couple much larger ones. With Trish’s control of electricity, taking down the small fry was easy. After that, the big ones weren’t much of a problem either. They were slow-moving and didn’t seem to really attack, they were just slowly eating through the life force of the unfortunate maids and butlers sent to take care of the house that had found them.

Using the scythe had been the tricky part. While Dante had mostly resorted to using Biscione’s explosions to deal with the little bugs, he’d actually attempted to use Mundus Cereris on the big ones. It was heavy for even him, and something about it made him feel so… human. He tried to Devil Trigger while holding it but was surprised to find that he reverted back in the middle of a slash without even commanding himself too.

Trish watched it happened. At first she looked like she was going to crack some wise comment, but then she glanced at the scythe and pursed her lips instead. He met her eyes and they exchanged a silent conversation. Exerting his will over it, he was surprised to find the weapon get heavier in his hands. If he remembered right, Mundus’ world-rending powers gave him control over things like space-time, and gravity. The weapon must have had the same abilities then, explaining why it would be able to make itself heavier to fight back. It must have done this to Clear too.

What Dimitri had said, he won’t heal, rang in his head again. Out of curiosity, Dante reached up to press his palm against the blade. As he slid his hand along it and let it cut into him, he hissed loudly enough to get Trish’s attention.

“How did you knick yourself on the blade after all that? I know you can be careless, but this is—“

“I did it on purpose. Look.” He held his hand out to her. She looked at his palm, at the cut not healing, and her eyes flicked up to him.

“Mister Maker said something to me. ‘He might not heal.’ He probably wasn’t talking about Clear, the kid physically recovered fine with all the blood I gave him.”

“You think he was actually talking about you then?”

They looked at his palm again. It barely had started closing, hell, the bleeding hadn’t even stopped yet. Dante’s trusty healing had never been compromised, not even when he’d been stabbed by his own sword, the Devil Sword Sparda, and Yamato. Tatzelwurm’s paralytic poison couldn’t even put a dampener on his wounds closing up. If this thing could slow that healing to this degree, if someone managed to stab him with it…

“Shit…” Trush mumbled under her breath. She reached into one of her back pockets, pulling out a handkerchief Patty had given her. It was a quick job but she wrapped his hand to help slow the bleeding down.

“So what’s your plan? Are you gonna take it back? Or just destroy it?” She said as she tied off the cloth.

“Dunno. You felt it too right, just before we left that there were demons following us? I think if this thing doesn’t go where it needs to they could be in danger. Especially with Clear out of commission right now.”

“No one to protect Dimitri…” Trish clicked her tongue. “I could do some babysitting.”

“I’ll pay you extra.”

“Oh, with what, your debt to Lady? You’ll owe me!”

Dante put his hands up in surrender. Mundus Cereris had returned to its lighter state although the decreased weight didn’t make much of a difference when Dante was effectively depending on his human strength. It sucked demon energy; even Trish, who’s shoulders were slumped—and they were never slumped after a hunt—looked more tired around it.

“Alright, alright! You two drive such hard bargains!” He laughed at her and shook his head. They met each other’s eyes.

“But thank you. I’ll look into his current contractor, in the mean time.”

“Good plan. I’ll see if I can worm anything out of him too, maybe we can pull the weed up by the roots.”

Chapter Text

Clear knew he’d been through hell when even his eyelids were sore upon waking up. Everything in his body hurt. The last thing he remembered was fighting in the ruins, losing power over his tattoo, getting stricken again and then passing out. When he recognized he was back in his room at Arms Race, he was able to confirm that Dante showing up wasn’t just some delirious dream.

It would kind of explain the nightmares then. Visions of demons running through his head. Reminders of his past. A strange man with a pair of swords that distinctly looked like Dante, but he'd never seen before. He remembered trying to fight back against a vision of his father, the night he’d run away after taking one too many beatings. But in the dream he had his tattoo. And when he’d summoned some strange wing-like scythe weapon and mercilessly cut his father down, a phantom version of Dante was standing behind him and cheering him on.

He wasn’t wearing red in the dream, instead in full black with shadows mostly covering his face. His voice had been different too; deeper, and yet more feminine, and then Clear’s own voice, all overlaid on each other and making some strange cacophonous noise that vaguely resembled words.

“Just give into me,” the voice had said, “don’t just use my powers, become my power. Become my host. I’ll give you so much strength, you can’t even handle it.”

That was how Clear knew it wasn’t Dante, but his tattoo speaking. Why it had taken Dante’s form was beyond him; maybe it was just trying to make him trust it more. It had never directly spoken to him before.

“I’ve already bested you, parasite,” Clear had answered instead. Without even hesitating, he sliced the phantom Dante in half too.

Where he’d slashed it, pain erupted from his back. So much pain, tearing and crushing and burning, making him crumple and scream. And scream he did, until his voice was raw and he was crying. The nightmares got worse after that. Sometimes his tattoo would eat him alive. Sometimes he wold simply be floating through nothingness, with every hateful thought he’d ever had running through his head. In one dream, he relived slaying Grendel, but instead of coming out victorious he watched Dimitri and then himself be swallowed alive and spat back out as half-digested corpses. In another, he fought his old teacher, but this time she wouldn’t go down until he’d butchered her, ripped her apart limb from limb, tore out her heart with his bare hands, gouged out her throat with his teeth. She was laughing all the while—it was his tattoo’s voice. Between every nightmare, his tattoo would appear to him, cackling and asking him, “have you had enough yet?”

Clear checked for his phone under the pillow. He didn’t find it, so he forced his body to move to get up. A nice shower would be able to wash away all the soreness, hopefully, and the…

Holy shit. There was so much blood on his bed and floor, was that all his? Feathers—or were they scales?—were strewn about. Things had been knocked off the dresser and small set of shelves he had. He looked to the window he had by the door. The shades that usually covered it had been thrown outside, glass shattered messily from the center to the edge of the frame. What the fuck had happened…? As he surveyed the damage (thank god they weren’t renting) his tattoo seemed to be chuckling against his skin. He looked at his hand. Again, he asked himself, what the fuck?

He’d ask Dante after a shower and some cleanup. Some of the drawers had been thrown open, the top couple shirts splattered with blood. He found and old, oversized T-shirt that wasn’t stained and a pair of black ripped jeans he hadn’t worn in a while. They’d do for now so he could wash his clothes—damn, he had some serious cleaning to do. He’d probably have to toss the bedding.

When he got downstairs, the lights in the warehouse were off. Dimitri must have been asleep or out, but Clear couldn’t tell what time it was without his phone. He found his jacket left on the picnic table, a massive rip in the back of it. He must have gotten it while fighting, but he didn’t remember being sliced there. Fishing his phone out of his pocket, he found it dead. The screen was miraculously un-broken despite the beating the case looked like it had taken. He’d done good getting a Bahamut Box. He plugged the phone in to charge while he went to take a shower.

Passing the bathroom mirror shirtless, he did a double-take at the new ink on his back. He was surprised he could see it, as there was so much blood smeared across his left side. Despite the blood, he twisted as much as he could to see the new sprawl across his shoulder blades and down his spine: two wings, crossed at the base and surrounding the knives and eye at the nape of his neck. Those had been there, but the wings were entirely new. There was a second smaller pair beneath them, leading to what looked to be a tail down the entire line of his spine. He hadn’t seen his tattoo grow like this in a long long time, not since he’d…

The nightmare of ripping his former mentor apart made his gut twist. He looked away from the mirror and threw himself into the shower, nevermind the icy chill of it. As it warmed up, he did his best to scrub all the blood from his body; by the time he was clean, he’d rubbed his skin raw over the areas his tattoo stained.


 

After his shower, he returned to the kitchen to find his phone and tell the time. More than two days had passed since the mission with the scythe. It was almost five in the morning, no wonder the lights were off. Well, at least when Dimitri slept, he was a heavy sleeper, so Clear was free to start cleaning up. All the glass had already been swept up, probably by Dimitri shortly after Clear had broken it, but he could now see the ends of his curtains were shredded. What the hell had even happened, did he fight a damn demon in his sleep?

Against his better judgement, Clear put off cleaning to call Dante. When he didn’t pick up after the first four calls, Clear figured it was too early in the morning for this. So he busied himself with cleaning his clothing and the rest of the room. The bedding and curtains were tossed out and he managed to reorganize everything on his shelves. By the time he had decided to flip the mattress over, the sun had come up enough to make the light from the door cast shadows across the tarp-covered shelving by the front.

Clear went to the front of the shop and flicked the lights on, then came back to start cooking breakfast. Dimitri would probably be up soon if he wasn’t nearly as sore as Clear was. And maybe Dante would be up for Clear to call too. Or, maybe not, their training had always started late in the day. Damn it, Clear was too on edge for him to not answer the phone—

His hand slipped off the onion he was cutting and into line of his knife. He wasn’t fast enough to stop himself but jerked back before he could cut his fingers clean off. Still, it was a deep cut, and he instantly rushed to find a towel to press to his fingers and stop the…

Bleeding… Or a lack thereof, in this case.

His eyes widened as he watched his tattoo shift to stitch his skin together. When the lines retreated to their normal placement, the only thing left of the injury at all was a pale line across his knuckles under the green ink and small bit of blood. It had never done that for him before. Questions made his mind race. Dropping the bloodied knife in the sink, he called Dante again.

After another six calls and the man not answering, Clear considered going to Devil May Cry in person. He washed his quaking hands as he thought over what he’d even begin with. Why did my tattoo heal me? What happened to my room while I was out? Why did my ink grow across my skin again? What the hell is happening to it—to me?

Dimitri barreling into him knocked him out of his thoughts. His arms wrapped around Clear in a fierce hug. His voice was wavering as he spoke.

“You’re up! I was so worried about you! I don’t even know what was happening, when did you grow wings? I thought you were gonna beat down the wall, and after you broke the window—“

“I’m sorry, D, hold the fuck up. Wings?!”

Dimitri didn’t seem intent on letting go of him any time soon. Even though Clear wanted to jump back, he was held in place by his roommate. He had grown wings?!

“I was surprised too! I thought it was a Devil Arm at first but the way it retracted into you, it…”

Well, it would explain the soreness, and the new designs. Clear took as deep a breath as he could to calm down. And then another, and another. Dimitri didn’t entirely let him go, but loosened his hold enough that Clear could lean against the sink. Wings… He’d grown fucking wings in his sleep, and broken a window with them. Part of him wished he could bring his old mentor back to life just so he could beat some answers out of her.

“Adrian…?”

“It’s just… So much to take in,” Clear breathed. His knuckles were going white from where he was gripping the sink. Now a new question he could ask Dante: am I turning into a demon?

As he was thinking, his eyes absently traveled down to the still-bloodied knife in the sink. Dimitri followed him. He stifled a gasp, looking at the red on the blade.

“You really are out of it, you never cut yourself while you’re cooking…”

“It was an accident, but…” Clear glanced to his healed hand again. He forced himself to stand up and took the knife again.

“Adrian? What are you doing? H-hey!!”

Clear sucked in a breath, the pressed the knife down and drew it across his skin of his forearm. It made a deep gash a few inches long, blood bubbling to the surface from the clean line Clear drew. Dimitri barely hesitated to pull the knife from his hand and drop it back in the sink.

“What the fuck Adrian, are you crazy?! If you’re stressed out then go back to bed! Don’t just do this kind of th—“

Whatever Dimitri was trying to say was cut off. He looked up from where he was grabbing a towel just in time to see the tattoo doing as it had done before. Morphing to stitch over the cut, and healing him up. Again, all that was left was a pale scar under the black ink, with no indication that it was a fresh wound at all. When Dimitri started poking at it it didn’t even ache.

“What…”

“That’s what I wanna know. I’m gonna head over to Devil May Cry and figure this out. Dante’s gotta know something.”

Dimitri looked up at Clear, honey eyes wide. “I wanna go with you.”


 

Trish greeted them when they knocked on Devil May Cry’s door. She looked almost surprised to see them, and stood aside so they could come in.

“I guess you were the ones who called that early. Dante’s not even up yet.”

“Figured,” Clear said with a sigh.

“Sorry to bother you,” Dimitri said, but he seemed more distracted looking around the shop. It was his first time here after all.

“You’re no bother. Should I get him up?” Trish asked.

“I’d appreciate that. Lady’s out?”

“She’ll be here later to collect some money, probably.”

“Sounds good…” Clear let the conversation drop. Trish nodded to him and went up the stairs to the second floor. Her heels clicked all the way up to one of the doors on the upper level. Clear expected her to simply bang on the door and yell to open it. Instead, he watched her raise her leg and kick the damn door in.

“Dante! Get up, you’ve got customers!”

Trish went into the room. A few minutes, a loud thud, and a yell later, she pulled a very ruffled, very tired, pajama-clad Dante out of the room. He yawned and stretched, Trish grumbling something about ‘why can’t you at least sleep in shorts’ as she shoved him towards the stairs. Rubbing his face as he shambled down the stairs, he cast tired blue eyes over Clear and Dimitri.

“What time is it? Nine? You’re way too early for training,” Dante yawned.

“I’m not here for training,” Clear snapped. His fists were clenched tightly. He’d already braced himself to hear something he didn’t want to.

“What happened after you found me in the ruins?”

Dante took a heavy seat in his desk chair and kicked his bare feet up on the old wooden desk. With a deep sigh he leaned all the way back.

“The ruins, huh… Other than the wing, nothing.”

Clear stomped forward and slammed his hands on the desk hard enough to make Dante jump.

“Don’t take this lightly! Something’s wrong with me, and I need to figure out what it is! People don’t just grow wings, Dante, my tattoo doesn’t just do that. Its got some new sprawl on my back and now it’s healing damage without me having to feed it. What happened to me?! Am I—am I turning into a demon…?”

He ran out of steam at Dante not even looking surprised. When the older hunter didn’t immediately answer, Clear’s heart sank. Already he was jumping to the worst conclusions. But, as he was turning to look for comfort from Dimitri, Dante suddenly laughed. The shock of it made him jump damn near out of his skin. He was too tense for this, wound tight as a spring.

“What?! Where’d you get that idea! You’re human! Humans can’t just become demons! Jeez, what kind of pulp fiction have you been reading…”

Although he wanted to be mad, Clear just felt relieved when he asked, “I’m really not?”

“Not as far as I can tell. Look, Clear. I don’t entirely know what happened either. I gave you my blood since I knew it would heal you. The wing, the new design… Everything about that, I have no clue. Honestly I was hoping you would have some answers for me.”

“I guess we’re both in the dark on this…”

“I might have an idea,” Trish suddenly piped up.

“I heard you mention before your tattoo is a Devil Arm? Maybe you’re just discovering a new form of power it has.”

“But I… watched the wings curl back into Clear’s back… what kind of Devil Arm does that…?” Dimitri mumbled, coming up to stand closer to Clear now. Trish hummed in thought. She was sitting down on the small landing of the stairs with her legs crossed. She let her cheek rest in the palms of her hands. 

“Some Devil Arms have transformative properties. Or maybe…” She pursed her lips.

Dante narrowed his eyes at the ink on Clear’s wrists. Clear recognized the look from a few days ago, when he’d started asking a question and then instantly dropped it. He perked up a little, more curious than ever at what Dante was about to ask.

“I don’t know how to explain it. You’re completely human, I’ve used Arms that change my Devil Trigger, but I’ve never heard of an Arm giving someone a Devil Trigger." Dante gave the best shrug he could with his hands behind his head.

“A Devil… Trigger? What’s that?”

“I’ll show you next time we’re sparring, I’m too tired right now. Basically it lets me become a full demon so I can use all of the powers my human body can’t handle.”

“Are you saying I—“

“Clear’s tattoo is demonic, right? I always thought it was just a conduit for power because it uses an alchemy circle to convert demon blood but… I realize maybe I was wrong about that?” Dimitri interrupted. He stepped forward, absently taking Clear’s wrist to trace over the lines.

“I don’t know how best to say it… I think maybe you’ve been a little more demon all along—since you got it, I mean—otherwise you wouldn’t be able to use Devil Arms, right? That was what your teacher told you? I know you never talk about her ramblings but help me out here, what more did she say about it?”

Clear clicked his tongue, his face scrunching up in disgust. Still, he offered, “dunno, she was always talking about turning people into angels and shit, but people kept losing their minds or whatever. Her old lab partner? I guess he was too gung-ho about the whole thing and kept jumping ahead which was causing the problem. Slow integration was her wording—“

“That’s it! Your tattoo was probably already gaining power at a steady rate—the spreading of the ink must have been an indication of that. So the wing was probably inevitable! The introduction of Dante’s blood probably sped up the process which is why your body wasn’t ready to handle it! That’s so—“

“Okay, I get it, you’re excited, but if you call it cool I will slap you.”

“It’s so… half cool,” Dimitri settled for sheepishly, earning a resigned sigh. Clear turned back to Dante.

“So we’ve got some answers, I guess, does it sound right to you?”

“Like I said, I’ve never heard of this kind of thing happening before. But if that’s what Dimitri’s come up with I’ll buy it. ‘Sides, you’ve got a pseudo-Devil Trigger now, might as well make the most of it.”

“I don’t even know how to use it. If it drains me of that much blood on the regular it might kill me.”

“That’s what you have Dante for,” Trish said with a snicker. As she was standing up, the door to the shop swung open, and Lady peaked her head in.

“Wow, you’re all up early! And here I thought I’d have to kick Dante’s door in!”

“Already got it covered.” Trish winked and tossed her hair over her shoulder as she motioned to the door. Lady gave a whistle at the splintered wood where the doorjamb used to be. 

“Damn, next time! Anyway, grab your guns, boys! I have a job for you!”