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Once More With Feeling

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The last thing Vergil recalled was standing at his brother's back preparing to make a final stand against the hordes of hell closing in around them. Each and every one of them hungry for Sparda blood. But at the metaphorical eleventh hour, the Perfect Amulet slipped from his pocket to activate some form of magic that spirited them away from the chaos. It was unmistakably Umbra in nature. He had come across hidden and cryptic notes regarding the ancient clan's knowledge of such things during his journey as a youth, but precious little in truth. Certainly nothing to give explanation as to how the amulet wound up in Vergil's possession, let alone performing such a feat.

In the maelstrom of magic, Vergil had clung to his brother for as long as he could - they had just made peace after years of long and bitter feuding and Vergil was not about to lose one of the last scraps of family he had left. But it seemed whatever intention was behind the power did not take his will into account. Being torn from Dante by the elements themselves sent electric spikes through Vergil's heart and mind. A feeling of despair neatly accented by the loss of Yamato.

It seemed to be the pattern with him. When Vergil gained a mere fraction of his desires, forces beyond his ken would reduce those hard-earned victories to ash in his mouth. The precious blade - the last true heirloom of Sparda - went pinwheeling into the vortex and disappeared into the ether.

Since then, Vergil's mind has been trapped in a haze. Like there was a layer of static disconnect between his mind and body. It brought forth memories of the numerous horrors he had endured during his time in Mundus' care when the Dark King had him in his clutches. Torturing his sanity and twisting his perception. Stripping away the memories that forged his identity and life one thread at a time. All of it in aid to reduce the proud elder son of Sparda into little more than a meat puppet to further the Hell King's own warped ambitions.

However this was not a sensation filled with jagged pain and horrific mutilation but something else. More like a bone deep fatigue. Like the toll of all the battles he and Dante had fought since coming to the Underworld - and perhaps before that atop the Qliphoth - compounded into inescapable exhaustion. His body felt as though it had been pushed beyond its limits for far too long and simply refused any commands from his mind to move, prioritising its own need for rest over his will.

Vergil would have cursed it had he the ability to do so but in this darkness, all he could do was lie in wait for whatever happened. His mind slipped in and out of a semi-aware state more times than he could count. Each time, his body would not respond to his commands - not even to the most basic thing like opening his eyes.

The fact that concerned him the most however was that he wasn't alone. There were impressions in this semi-aware state. Fleeting things like half-remembered dreams. The first thing he sensed in this coma-like state was something - or someone - had lifted him up, something strong and fierce carried him somewhere as if he weighed little more than a small child. The presence was fierce. A being of incomparable power. If asked to describe it, Vergil would say he was staring at the surface of a vast ocean, one that could unleash a raging tide at the right provocation.

The second presence he could perceive was gentle, calm and graceful. This one had power though it felt somehow underwhelming. As if the owner had allowed their natural gifts to go unused causing them to atrophy like an unused muscle.

The next thing he could perceive after their presence was that he had been laid down somewhere comfortable, warm as a summer morning and soft as a cloud. Wherever he was, he was filled with an overwhelming sense of respite... and he would even go so far as to claim a feeling of 'safety'. Such an elusive concept for him that he almost didn't recognise it.

The two presences remained in his perceptions. Every time Vergil was lucid enough to sense them, it seemed that they alternated. The two presences invoked words in him, labels that he thought he would never apply again to another in the living realm. It was strange to even put the thought forward, his logical mind rebelled at the very impossibility of something so surreal. How could it possible be so?

Mother. Father.

No sooner had the words formed in his mind that Vergil bolted upright with a gasp, feeling a thick heavy blanket pool at his waist. His eyes screwed shut and he cupped his head in his hand with a grimace of pain. His head throbbed like demons were tap-dancing on his skull. He groaned, rubbing the heels of his palms into his eyes in a vain attempt to halt the pain running up and down his crown. He was dressed in navy coloured button-up pajamas with white lining on the edges, certainly not the vest and pants he lost consciousness in for certain.

Vergil looked to his immediate right, knowing despite not seeing this room for nearly forty years that he would find his objective sleeping in the bed besides his. Separated by a long night stand that sat below the large arch window which illuminated their room in a bright white light was Dante. Dante, impossibly young Dante, slept there half tangled in the sheets. He was dressed in a similar style of pajamas as Vergil, though his were a rich maroon in colour.

Though Vergil had far too much pride to admit it out loud, his heart was in his throat when he rushed over to his younger brother. Ignoring the biting cold of the wooden floor, he stood at his brother's side rousing him to wakefulness with a hard shake of his shoulder. "Dante. Dante!"

"Mmm... wha - Verge, thank god!" Dante's bleary eyes opened and blinked once or twice before his brother's face came into complete focus. He leaped out of bed in an instant, Vergil was taken aback - both figuratively and literally as the sudden action took him completely off guard. Dante threw his arms around him and Vergil returned the embrace without hesitation.

Neither were sure how long they remained in the hug, but Dante was the first to break it and finally took in their surroundings. And more importantly his clothing and size. The room appeared to be a perfect recreation of their childhood bedroom. Everything was mirrored and an imaginary line right down the centre to identify which 'half' belonged to which brother. Two desks sat across their beds in various states of cleanliness. Vergil's half of the room was all piled books, notes and even some loose musical sheets for the violin. Everything had a sense of order and a correct place. Even as a boy, Vergil had an obsession with keeping things tidy and ordered. Whereas Dante's half was the utter opposite, a picture of pure calamity. Toys and books chucked haphazardly on the floor or scattered across his desk. A pair of two wooden swords rested against his desk.

When they had finished examining the room around them, the twins turned their gaze to themselves. They were as identical as the day they were born, neither bearing the marks of adulthood nor their entire lives that had etched hard differences into their features.

"Okay, what in the hell is this?" Dante demanded, gesturing around them.

"It appears to be our childhood bedroom," Vergil pointedly looked around to the perfect replication of their childhood room, down to the books and toys they had kept.

Vergil returned to his bed and ran his fingers over the open covers, feeling the soft mink blanket that had been thrown over him. "Though how or why we ended up here is entirely a mystery."

He turned and pulled himself onto the bed, his feet dangling over the edge. Dante nearly laughed at the irritated face he pulled when he realized his feet wouldn't touch the ground. Instead, the elder Sparda son simply rested his heels against the mattress frame.

"So, got any theories? Speculations? Spit-balled ideas?" Dante questioned, walking over and joining his brother on the bed. Unlike Vergil, he leaned back on his palms and let his legs kick out in front of him. His fingers brushed over the blanket cover and he pouted. "Damn, your blankets were always softer than mine."

Vergil cocked an eyebrow. "Its because unlike someone, I didn't sneak food into my bed at night to munch on while mother and father weren't looking."

Dante laughed, elbowing him playfully with a grin apparently not at all concerned that they were reduced to preteens. "I remember you used to partake in my bounty more often than not."

"I was smart enough to stay on your bed while we ate, brother." Vergil replied, that childhood memory filled his mind, one of many so easily accessible now that the last of Mundus' corruption had been expelled from his being. It was a pleasant memory, pitching Dante's blanket like a tent while they ate more sweets than mother would have allowed, enjoying the delicious forbidden fruit of Dante's mischief.

His expression turned serious, "I know it was Umbra magic."

"Those witches with the freaky time powers? Make pacts with demons and all that?" Dante asked,

"Not how I would have phrased it, but that is the essence of what they are. Extraordinarily powerful women with the power to summon demons into our realm for service and control the ebb and flow of time," Vergil explained, giving a sidelong look to Dante. "You would appreciate their martial prowess, they fought primarily with gun-play."

Dante hummed appreciatively, "Sounds like a bunch of badass ladies. But how do you think Umbra magic ended up with mother's locket?"

Vergil shrugged. "There's two answers that most readily come to mind."

"And those are?"

The elder brother counted off the options on his fingers, "First, father knew of a survivor of the Witch Hunts in the fifteen hundreds and had the amulet enchanted with Umbran magic with some form of fail safe to prevent it falling into the wrong hands."

"And two?"

Vergil seemed more hesitant to offer the second opinion but gave it regardless, "Second, as the locket is - was mother's then mother herself was an Umbra Witch, and the magic was hers."

A shadowed look passed over Dante's face, closing his eyes against the intrusive memories of his mother's frantic calls for his brother and her death screams. "That's not possible. If mother was... if she was one of those Witches..."

The rest of the sentence was left unsaid, hanging in the air over the pair of them. Then she wouldn't have died.

"So what do you want to do?" Dante piped up after a long silence, trying to force a lighthearted tone into the conversation.

Vergil glanced away towards the door. "Its best we gather as much information about this situation as possible. I wouldn't put it past Mundus to set up such an extravagant scenario just to break us. After all, I am... intimately familiar with the tricks he enjoys playing with one's mind."

Dante scrunched his nose and shook his head, "Nah - I doubt it. The barrier was keepin' all the demons out. And Mundus was cussing up a storm about mum always stealing his stuff."

"Perhaps." Vergil pushed himself off his bed, wincing as the cold floor sent a jolt up his nerves. He quickly investigated around near his bed, if this was a true recreation of his childhood bedroom then he should be able to - ah, there they were.

He slipped on a pair of black slippers that matched his navy blue pajamas. "Regardless, I still say we should keep our guard up. I cannot summon any of my demonic energies, and if I can't then you definitely won't be able to."

Dante held his hand out and watched it expectantly, waiting for his new Devil Sword to appear but alas nothing happened. He simply huffed and pushed himself off the bed too. "That bites. We haven't got a thing between us to defend ourselves."

Vergil was about to make a suggestion on that matter but his face etched a frown as the sound of sharp clacking grew steadily closer. "Someone's coming."

Dante glanced around quickly, looking for something he could use as an improvised weapon but stopped cold when the knob turned and the door opened on a creaking hing.

"Oh, my sweet boys - you're finally awake." A relieved smile greeted the twins and their hearts leaped to their throats, frozen in place by the appearance of their beloved matriarch.