High justice would in no way be debased
if ardent love should cancel instantly
the debt these penitents must satisfy.
- Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Canto VI: 39
Vergil is tired.
His muscles ache and his lungs struggle to gulp for large inhales of air. Fervently, he resists the urge - it would reveal his weak state to Dante.
Eyes fixated on his brother, Vergil raises the Yamato in the sei tai position. He'd rather seek death than admitting the burn to his muscles that prevents him from performing the more effective stance of iai goshi.
The Sparda twins have fought lesser demons and each other for days of endless battle, clashing swords and grinding the gravel of the ground to dust. Before Vergil ventured into hell to sever the Qliphoth roots with Dante, he was bested in battle by Nero. Vergil has no plan of losing to his brother.
The faint flashes of lightning that emanate from the sky of the underworld hit the blade of the Yamato and sends a prism on the ground. Around them lay littered carcasses of dead Riots, Chaoses, and Furies. The stench of the exploded eyeballs of a sliced-apart Nobody stings Vergil’s nostrils.
His taunt has the effect he seeks. Inelegantly as always, Dante responds by sprinting towards him with a growl.
The clang of their colliding swords bounces against the withering stem of the Qliphoth roots. Vergil grits his teeth and parries the hit of Dante’s blade with enough force to send them both sliding on their behinds. Dust and demon blood fly around their limbs and stains their clothes.
Dante coughs. He makes a half-hearted attempt to stand but falls back on his behind with a chuckle. The sight sends a confusing spark of warmth through Vergil. Using the Yamato as leverage, he veils the sentiment through sending his brother a glare.
“You know,” Dante flicks a tress of hair from his eyes, “I’m starting to think this is never gonna end.”
In a wish not to expose the flash of disquiet that runs down his spine, Vergil doesn’t meet his brother’s eyes. It had to end, and there was only one way.
He raises his hand in a jaded gesture and musters whatever spite he has left.
“We've got plenty of time.”
Dante grins. Did he - roll his eyes? It was hard to tell because of the characteristic long tresses of hair that falls over Dante’s eyes. The gesture reminds Vergil of how his brother used to taunt him with similar expressions when they were children. The way Dante eye-rolled at him always signified an air of you are a dumbass.
The brief trip down memory lane stings like the cuts Vergil’s received from Dante’s devil sword.
Vergil frowns at a confusing realization. Although it’s clear Dante is likewise getting tired, he's never lost his air of absolute mirth despite their entrapment in the wastelands of hell.
Could Dante be happy about being - with him? Preposterous. What were these new emotions that crept upon Vergil like a web of sticky sugar? This ache in his chest? Had he accidentally inhaled Qliphoth spores?
V. That melodramatic, tattooed emo that insisted on merging and thus infested Vergil with his memories, his thoughts, his ridiculous feelings…
(Vergil resisted the idea of V as himself. It was easier to think of himself as Urizen, although that identification equally rang an unsound note.)
Dante lifts his hand in a friendly gesture.
“Hey. How about you cut us out of this shithole place and we go get pizza, huh? I’m hungry.”
Vergil is grateful he is on the ground. The surprise from Dante’s words is strong enough to floor him and he didn’t wish to give his brother that amusement.
“You are not getting away, brother.” Vergil infuses the word with dripping acid. “We have a score to settle.”
Dante sighs and gets onto his feet. Vergil follows suit, tensing his muscles for the next assault but Dante does no such thing. He makes a face.
“Yeah, yeah, how about we settle it later, huh? I’m getting bored. Plus, this place stinks, literally.”
Vergil’s mind stumbles. Bored? Bored of fighting him? This was the most important fight of their lives, the one clash that would teach Dante the error of his choices. Dante would see how Vergil's understanding of their heritage was superior to embracing human life…
This was the fight that would settle everything, and Dante was - bored?
Dante tweaks his fingers in an impatient gesture.
“C’mon. One slice with the Yamato, and we’re outta here. I need to make sure them crazy bitches back home hasn’t wrecked my place.”
A zing of something hot runs through Vergil at the mention of Dante’s “business partners”. He readjusts his grip of the Yamato.
“So, I have won.”
Funny how nothing about this situation feels like a victory. Dante sends Vergil a grin telling him there are no battles lost.
A slow rise of determination fills Vergil's chest. This is for the best - yes. By letting Dante go, Vergil will be free of the confusing web of candied sensations in his heart. Alone has always been strong. His body and soul healed, strength returned, he could quench his desire for revenge for being tortured until he forgot his name, his purpose...
Vergil has no desire to interpret the wave of panic rising in him. The thought of staying in the underworld again, alone, has his limbs go numb. Small stars dance in front of his eyes.
“I will let you go. Return, and know that I have bested you.”
Vergil cringes at how he gulps the last word.
“Oh, you’re coming with me. Did you think I’d leave you here alone? Uh-uh, buddy.”
Vergil’s heart skips a beat. Dante’s earlier promise to stay by his side - you’re going to need someone to keep an eye on you - he’s intent on keeping it.
The way Vergil’s throat constrict is humiliating. He opens his fist, reminded of a cut to his brother’s palm. Surprised by his own impulse, as if he’s not in control of his actions, Vergil slices a cross in the air with the Yamato. A glistening tear appears, tinged by a purple lining. The portal emits a faint sucking sound.
Dante nods with a satisfied grin and cocks his head towards the opening.
“You first, brother.”
Vergil’s jaw aches from clenching it hard.
“Ok. Beauty before age.”
He snickers and takes the first step into the portal.
Vergil swallows. He is alone. Bereft, fear showers over him like a bucket of icy water.
This is absurd.
He takes two long strides into the portal. Before the human world appears to his senses, he turns and closes the tear with the Yamato.
A faint wind teases the hems of his coat. Vergil takes a large gulp of the clear overworld air, letting his lungs expand and the oxygen soar through his limbs. Blinking, he adjusts his eyes to the sun that sets over the rooftops of storage houses, illuminating the skeleton of the old harbour bridge. He was there when it fell. No - that was V, grasping the clawed talons of Griffon, soaring over the collapsed remnants of the structure in pursuit of - himself. He was fighting his way through the blood clotted jumble of the Qliphoth with Nero.
A lingering sensation of unbelievability always hits Vergil the seconds his mind slips to - his son.
Vergil pushes the thought of Nero away. Curse the soft swelling of pride mixed with pain (arm ripped off, screaming in agony, blood flushing from the wound) in his heart.
If the Dark Lord finds out -
The barnacle-shaped flower of the Qliphoth, attached to its meaty stem, no longer juts into the overworld sky. Instead, tall, yellow derricks loom over building sites and restoration sections. A large dumper filled with debris and broken concrete roars past the Sparda twins, causing the ground to tremble beneath their feet.
“The humans are reconstructing their city.”
Dante picks up a newspaper that sails pass on the ground.
“Yeah. They’re kinda tenacious that way. They go on with their lives the best they can.”
“Like ants,” Vergil murmurs, overcome by a confusing spark of tenderness. He pushes it back, neck prickling with irritation.
His brother snorts.
“I guess. Hey,” Dante holds the front page of the paper up. “Looks like we spent our birthday in hell.”
Vergil turns with a frown, the weight of the Yamato in his hand the only thing grounding him at this moment.
When was the last time they celebrated their birthday?
Dante tosses the paper to the winds and crosses his arms on his chest. A faint whistle escapes his lips as if he’s having a hard time believing they’re both on the other side of hell.
“So. Wanna head to the office?” Dante points with his thumb over his shoulder. “You look like you need a rest.”
A spike of panic surges through Vergil. She might be there…
He lifts his arm and thrusts the Yamato in the air towards his brother.
“This is not over.”
He strides towards the edge of the roof, triggers his devil form and flies off.
Dante unlocks his arms from his chest with a sigh.
“As long as I know you’re not in hell without me.”
Vergil has no idea where to go but staying in his brother’s company is fraying his nerves to the point of wishing to crawl out of his own skin. Something tugs him towards the old city park but he refuses the impulse. Soaring on a warm current of wind, he directs the icy flames of his body towards the place where everything started.
The mansion is in a derelict state - more so than Vergil remembers from his last visit. Positioned on top of a cliff, the remains of the building hover above the crater from the sprawling roots of the Qliphoth. The walls are blasted apart and most of the interior is missing.
The position near the epicentre of the Qliphoth was, of course, no accident. Inside, Vergil thrust the blade of the Yamato through his chest and became Urizen, wrecking the house further.
Vergil lands inside their former parlour and transforms back into his human form. Unable to take another step, he melts onto the dust of the parquet, shoulder blades hitting the floor in a flump sound. He closes his eyes and tumbles in a profound sleep. For the first time since after the Temen-Ni-Gru, he is untroubled by nightmares.
Three days later, he wakes with a groan, heart thudding in his chest and face flushing. His dream lingers like a soft fabric draped around the edges of his mind, reminding him of her. The softness of her kisses. The expanse of pale skin exposed from when he pushed the coarse overall down her shoulders, her waist, her hips. The way her nipple pebbled in his mouth, her moans in response. The glistening perfection of her sex, the scent of her - it sends a bolt of heat right to his groin, making him so hard it hurts.
With a growl, Vergil jumps onto his feet and summons his sword in a vain attempt at cutting his dream into splinters. His leather trews strain from the humiliating erection that has followed as a result of his dream. He has an impulse to stab himself with the Yamato again to grab his human side by the throat and beat the memories out of them both.
V. That lewd freak... Vergil clenches his hand so hard around the hilt of his sword his fingers hurt. He peers out of the crashed wall into the falling sunlight outside, unsure of how long he’s slept. A faint skittering below alerts him of a remaining red Empusa searching the rubble for blood clots. He jumps to the ground and sends it crashing into the wall with a single thrust to the sheathed Yamato, red crystals raining around him in brittle thuds.
Killing the demon does nothing to dampen his agitation. Unfolding his opalescent wings, he lifts towards the sky and soars in a wide circle.
Vergil contemplates finding Nero. His guts burn in humiliation at the thought of being bested; a vain wish to challenge his son and prove to him that he is stronger pulses through his brain. The memory of Nero’s demon form still has him pausing in awe. Such strength - it could be enough to serve his purposes. Was Nero strong enough? There was only one way to find out.
Something stops Vergil from heading towards Fortuna. Instead, he soars back to Red Grave, avoiding populated areas. He’s driven by the lingering spark from his dream.
That night, he finds her on the other side of the in the mile-long crater where the Qliphoth erupted. Straddling her motorcycle, Lady fiddles with a black gadget in her hand, her rocket launcher resting on her shoulder. The rays of the falling sun fade the contours of her frame into a silhouette and send a glitter on the tresses of her hair.
Crouching behind a fallen block of concrete, Vergil has a sensation of his insides tensing like scraps of metal cutting into his joints. Underneath the collar of her biker jacket, her clavicle protrudes underneath her skin. She has lost weight, and she didn’t have much to lose from the beginning. Purple strands rest underneath her eyes.
His tight insides melt at the sight. She’s still hurting but she continues her life, her demon hunting.
Lady fastens a white cord to the gadget in her hand - a screen? And inserts small cases to the hollows of her ear. Vergil frowns. The device in her hand must be a modern sound apparatus. Is she going to fight the demons below while listening to music? Insane. The loss of hearing will make her vulnerable to flanking attacks -
Smiling, Lady demounts her bike, readjusts the Kalina Ann on her shoulder with a small hop, and jumps into the crater. Vergil holds his breath. Without preamble, she grabs two guns from the holsters hanging from her hips and shoots the attacking Empusas in a deafening cacophony of bangs and screeches. A green Empusa dodges her bullets and jumps at her, serrated limbs lifted in a heaving motion. Effortlessly, Lady twists (how can she do it with such flexibility despite wearing the heavy rocket launcher?) and reloads her gun in the flight. She lands, blasting the demon to falling red crystals.
Vergil scoffs. Never will he respect the vulgar use of firearms preferred by his brother and his associates. A battle won without honour is meaningless - but he supposes her lack of demonic power warrants the use of pistols and k-pists. Tensing, he narrows his eyes at the sight of a frenzied Antenora rushing her from behind. Crackling spectral swords form a halo over Vergil’s head, ready to strike.
With a jerk to her head, Lady crouches and jumps to grasp a metal beam above her, leaving the demon slashing its cleave in empty air. From her hanging position, she equips her goggles and grabs her rocket launcher from her shoulder. She blasts the Antenora into a bursting cloud of limbs, blood and mucus with a satisfied grin.
Disintegrating his spectral swords into thin air, a wave of warmth flushes through Vergil’s chest.
Mine. My strong, beautiful, brave -
He flinches at his own treacherous thoughts. It’s like V momentarily occupied his mind, speaking to her over Vergil’s feeble attempt at self-control.
She is not his - anything.
She was, a thought slips into his mind, she gave herself to you like you wanted her to.
When Nero and Nico came carrying Lady from the grasp of Artemis into the van, V held back a gasp. A pang of something he had hidden for long wracked his chest at the sight of her unconscious form. The resolved girl who chased her father up the Temen-Ni-Gru had grown into a veritable beauty.
Her struggle with the memories of being imprisoned inside Artemis awakened his compassion. He wished to give her relief. A part him of craved the sense of power in seducing her but also to give in to another desire; to assure her she was untaintable, unbroken. As V, the parts of him wanting to explore what it could mean to be physically close to another, to give and take pleasure without fear, were given free reins.
The strength of her response surprised him. It filled him with a sensation he could hardly name. Pride, affection. He attained power in ways he'd never experienced before and without force.
Down in the crater, Lady releases her grip of the metal beam and falls, crouching, onto her feet. Slowly rising to her feet, she pulls her goggles below her clavicle and directs a squinted eye cast at where he stands.
Vergil curses and presses his back against the block. His heart pounds like a wild animal in his chest. He doesn’t leave his hiding place until the roar of her motorcycle rattles further away with a dwindling crunch of broken concrete under the wheels.
The next morning, Vergil wakes from another dream, pulse soaring in his ears and his pants painfully tight. This night, his brain conjured up ideas of them entangled naked. She pressed the short nails of her fingers, painted black, into the skin of his back while crying out his name. This never happened; it was no memory but something worse, a wish brewed by that insidious human part of him. Teeth gritting, Vergil feverishly tries to resist the urge to reach down but it’s too strong. He opens his pants. Gripping his shaft, he pumps it until he spills his seed in hot, humiliating surges. His head spins from the release.
It’s not enough. It will never be enough.
Vergil stays in the remains of his father’s mansion for weeks in an attempt to kill the visions inside him. Every night, he dreams of her, of them, until he’s had enough. Frock flapping around his calves, he strides out into the city, determined to find where she lives.
He’s leaving to fight her. As Urizen, he triumphed over her once, made her submit. He’ll do it again. Anything to be free.
A wave of warmth flushes Vergil as if a being inside beamed in treacherous affection for his naive attempts at veiling his desire with his wrath.