- In DMC4 Sanctus says Sparda started fighting other demons 2 thousand years ago. For purposes of this fiction just assume Sparda was born 2 thousand years ago and started his war 600-400 years ago.
- War between Witches and Sages. 500 years ago.
- Sparda's war.
- Dante and Vergil born. 35 years ago.
- Sparda and Eva killed. 27 years ago.
- Nero born. (Vergil is 18)
- Bayonetta 1.
Jeanne went through the glove compartments of the air plane she’d borrowed. The owner had an eclectic combination of power bars, flat sodapop, fuzzy apples, and skin magazines which she tossed out the window on principle. The fuel alert beeped at her again. She ignored it because witch magic would never run out and looked under the seats. She’d been so eager to leave she’d neglected to go shopping and now held out a vain hope to find an adequate present in the plane.
She was pulling trash out of the cushions when she received a radio hail. “Unidentified craft you are entering private airspace. Change course immediately.” She gave up her search and pressed buttons to return a message.
“This is witch Jeanne, I have clearance to land from Sanctus.” After a brief pause,
“Unidentified craft…” Jean sighed at the repeat message then called again.
“Witch Jeanne calling Order of the Sword. Requesting permission to land.” She made sure to speak clearly in case her Itallian was rusty. The radio silence lasted longer this time.
“This is the Order of the Sword specify your clearance.”
“Ask Sanctus or Mr. and Mrs. Napoli.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Napoli are dead. Hold altitude while we confirm with His Holinees.”
“Negative, I’m landing in the western courtyard.”
“Aircraft turn around or you will be shot down.”
“That’s new.” “You can try.”
She could see the plaza when an anti-aircraft gun shot at her. She leaned out the window to shoot the projectile out of the way. They must only have had one gun because she landed without further interruptions. A welcoming committee of armed soldiers surrounded the plane as she stepped out. She scanned the crowd and happily spotted familiars colors out of the corner of her eye.
“Mom?” he tilted his head to see through the crowd.
“Nero! My baby!” Jeanne ducked around and pushed past the faceless soldiers to catch her boy up in a hug.
“Mom! You’re alive? Where have you been?” He awkwardly tried to hug her back but wasn’t sure what to do with the sword in his hand and his right arm was in a sling.
“I’m so sorry sweetheart. I never meant to leave you alone. I came back as soon as I could.” She didn’t really want to answer. She could tell him about Balder when there wasn’t an audience. “You’ve gotten so big.” She messed up his hair fondly. “You might just catch up with me.” Being exposed to witch magic at a young age tended to encourage bone growth, especially in the legs. Although, how tall Nero would grow was anybody’s guess considering he’d been raised outside the Umbran order and was part demon. She’d of course taught her boy all the basics but he hadn’t been ready for real spells when she’d left. Hopefully he’d practiced while she was away and could learn now.
“Madam Jeanne.” A man approached calmly and waved the other soldiers away.
“Credo, is that you?” Jeanne grinned and let Nero twist out of her hold slightly without fully letting go of him. “I almost didn’t recognize you with that facial hair.” He was used to her nettling so he barely blinked.
“We weren’t aware you were coming.”
“Long story.” She shrugged him off and returned to fussing. “This yours?” She took the sword out of Nero’s grip.
“No, it’s standard gear.”
“Good, you can do so much better.” She pinched the decently made weapon between thumb and forefinger like a dead rat and tossed it to some nameless minion to return to the armory. “How’s your arm? Have you been taking care of it?” She’d purposefully waited to ask about the wrapped limb because he could be touchy about it.
“Really? Why are you in a sling, then? Did you hurt your shoulder?”
“Mom,” he whined.
“Madam Jeanne,” Credo interrupted. “May I show you to the house?”
“Oh yes, the radio man mentioned that your parents died. Is Kyrie alright?”
“Yeah,” Nero said.
She followed the boys through the city to the familiar large house.
“Miss Jeanne, you’re back!” Kyrie met them on the front stoop.
“Kyrie, I’m happy to see you, dear. You look well.” Jeanne gave her a hug. She didn’t think of the girl as a daughter but she was a sweet thing and had always been good to Nero. “Come inside and I’ll tell you all about what happened,” she promised. Nero hurried through the door. Jeanne smiled at him and decided to open with assurance that she was fine and that Balder was dead to keep him from breaking things.
Jeanne waited almost a week before inviting Cereza to come visit the city and meet Nero.
“Nero?” Cereza raised an eyebrow. “After the mad emperor or ‘black’?”
"Either. It's manly, short enough to call out in battle, dignified, and distinct. After being called John and Gene my whole life I wanted something memorable and multilingual." Jeanne defended her son’s name. Cereza shrugged to show that she didn’t really care.
“She’s the only other witch?” Nero asked.
“You told him about me?”
“I had to say something when he asked about the Umbran Order.”
“Ah, did you also tell him that you stabbed me and put me to sleep for 500 years.”
“Are you still sore about that?”
When Nero was out of earshot, Jean got Cereza’s attention. "Cereza, I was hoping I might ask you a favor."
"If you could help me find someone. A white haired half-demon named Dante. Last I heard he liked to go around killing anything that wasn't human. It might take a while to find him and I don't want to leave Nero so soon after such a long absence." It was the truth so she didn't feel bad for playing on her friend's own bad family life.
"Do you want him dead or alive?" She shrugged it off quickly.
"I have a few questions for him. Just be a dear and let me know if you hear anything."
"Well, I’d like to travel a bit anyway, get reacquainted with the remaining Umbran community. I'll keep an eye out."
"Thank you," Jeanne said seriously to indicated this was important to her dispute the teasing tones they used.
The most concerning thing about the dingy street was Nero's lack of reaction to it. Either he was confidant in his abilities to handle any trouble or he'd been a bad boy while she was away. She'd have to look into that later. He was far too young for bars and strip clubs nor would such activities endear him to his pure as snow crush.
Nero was walking half a step behind her, listening to his music so he was even more startled than she was when the nearby storefront had its door blown off. Jeanne could sense Cereza's magic and hear gunshots so she could guess what happened.
With a sigh Jeanne ducked into the ruined shop, which probably wasn't in the best shape to begin with. Predictably, Cereza was leaping around, trading blows and bullets with a white haired man in a red trench coat.
"Cereza!" Jeanne said loudly so she could be heard over the ruckus. "Can't I take you anywhere?" Cereza gave a huff, all for show, and shifted her weight to a casual stance.
"Really, Jeanne, you ask me to find him without saying why, I can only assume he's the deadbeat." Dante lowered his guns slightly and glanced between the two witches.
"As much as I appreciate the attempt to protect my honor that would be his twin brother."
"Ah," Cereza turned her back to Dante who was also now out of a fighting stance and looking interested. "An honest mistake then." She calmly strutted away.
"You're looking for Vergil?" Dante eyed Jeanne with curiosity.
"I am if you're Dante."
"That's me," he decided she wasn't a threat and holstered his weapons. "And who might you be?" His casual flirting was even worse than Cereza's. Jeanne didn't bother to hide her eye roll.
"My name's Jeanne. While I respected Vergil's decision to never introduce us, he's been missing for quite a while. I was wondering if you'd heard anything."
For the first time, Dante looked uneasy. "How'd you know him?"
"Intimately," Jeanne turned and waved to Nero. As expected, the teenage boy was leaning against the busted door frame, half-listening to his music and pretending not to be interested in the conversation. He was a good son though, and came when his mother beckoned. "Nero, this is your father's brother."
"Hi," Nero said without sounding particularly enthused.
Dante clearly wasn’t expecting this, if his expression was anything to go by. He stared at Nero for a second. Although he did get points for being more interested in Nero's face than his arm. Nero was horridly self-conscious when the glowing limb attracted stares.
"Well, sit down I guess. I think there's still a pizza somewhere." Dante righted a few chairs in a half-heated attempt at hospitality.
"Classy," Cereza said sarcastically. Dante took this as a challenge and added,
"Lady's old coffee machine's in the back if you want some."
Nero perked up at that so Jeanne said, "No."
"Mom, I'm 16."
"On missions is one thing, but caffeine is a drug. You'll become dependent and go through withdrawal." She didn't need to look to know that Nero rolled his eyes at her but also gave up on the idea.
"When'd you last see Vergil?" Dante asked. Jeanne considered reminding him that she'd specifically sought him out to ask that very question but decided that would be overly combative and opted for just a snotty tone of voice while answering.
"About twelve years ago. Ran off on his latest quest with a demon named Arkham." She accepted the chair he set by his desk.
"You knew about that?"
"He left a note. Told him not to go hunting without me but he didn't listen at the best of times. I'm guessing it didn't end well."
"Arkham opened a portal to hell and he jumped through it. I only saw him again years later. He'd been corrupted by Mundus. I had to defeat him and send him to back hell," Dante finally admitted.
"So he finally found Mundus," Jean wasn't surprised by this news but couldn't suppress a sigh. Vergil'd genuingly believed Nero would never be safe as long as Mundus lived and Vergil didn't have his father's power, so she hadn't tried to stop his missions.
"The guy who killed Grandma and Grandpa?" Nero asked.
"Indirectly, yes." Jean answered.
"Don't worry I killed Mundus."
"Yes, that I'd heard of." Jean turned back to her brother-in-law. "I don't suppose you know where in hell Vergil is?"
"If I knew that I'd be looking for him myself."
"Can't your demon tell you?" Nero asked his mom.
"Our demons live in Inferno, Queen Shiba's territory, not Hell which was Mundus'," Cereza spoke up. She'd made herself comfortable seated on an overturned pool table and was listening to their conversation while eating one of her lollipops.
"And without an idea where to look we'd never find him in time," Jeanne explained.
"Nero Dear, Hell is larger than Planet Earth it would take decades to search. And half-demon or not, his soul won't survive that long."
"So Dad's officially dead then?" Jean glanced to Dante to make sure he wasn't offended by the teenager's dismissive attitude but he seemed to understand.
"Afraid so, Kid, unless some other demon's pulled him out to be its minion."
"Dead or mind controlled?" Nero checked then shrugged to indicate he found that an acceptable excuse for his absence. "Not like I remember him much, anyway."
Once Nero turned his back, Dante chose to address Jeanne.
"I gotta ask, you human?" Jeanne understood what he was getting at and grinned.
"The most powerful magic using humans around. Our magic keeps us from aging and I still had to kick in his head twice before he would address me properly." Dante snorted at the mention of Vergil's prejudice. "Cereza and I are the last Umbra witches."
"Never heard of 'em."
"The rest of our order died 500 years ago, your father had barely made a name for himself."
"You knew my father?" Dante sounded more resigned than surprised by this.
"I knew of him. Couldn't work with Inferno or Paridisio back then and not. I knew Eva better." That made him twitch.
"How could you know my mother?" He was defensive on this.
"She was studying magic, sought me out as the only witch available for an interview. I taught her a few spells but rather than follow the Umbran Way she made a different type of pact with a demon." Cereza got the joke and snorted. Dante frowned at her, as if trying to decide if his mother's honor was being challenged or not. But he was distracted when Nero righted a table with a loud thunk. The boy was looking at the demon artifacts scattered around the space and simultaneously cleaning up. After being raised by Jeanne and soldiers tidying came habitually.
"I got that off a demon that looked like a lobster," he boasted when Nero picked up a red short sword from the floor. Nero gave it a few experimental swings.
"It's off balance," he determined and hung it on one of them many nails on the wall.
"Yeah, it was a lame demon."
Dante found a pizza box on the floor and slid it across the desk towards Jean as a peace offering. "What's a witch anyway?"
"Aside from using magic. I have a contract with the demon Madama Styx. She and the lesser demons she controls lend me power in exchange for the souls of any Paridisio demons I kill." Dante made a face, no doubt skeptical about making deals of any sort of nonhuman being. Given his history who could blame him?
"And you?" He looked to Cereza.
"My pact's with Madama Butterfly. Why? Does that offend you?"
"Sounds like a dumb idea to me. And I haven't heard of either of those demons."
"Good, they have no reason to be involved in human affairs," Jeanne said. She was still feeling melancholy so she chose a slice of cold pizza. In the absence of alcohol saturated fats would do the job. Cereza noticed this of course.
"Chin up, Jeanne. This is what happens to witches who fall in love with mortals. You do age, don't you, little boy?" She directed this last question at Dante.
"So far. And don't call me boy."
"Live a couple more centuries and then we'll see."
"Right, you're the old crones at 500."
"Crone? I stopped aging at 30,” Cereza said.
"Then I am older."
"By less than five years," Jeanne added.
"What?" Cereza did a small double take. "He's only 34? And you're son's 16? Why Jeanne, you naughty girl. You dated a teenager?"
"Married," Jeanne corrected her friend. This also caused Dante to look a bit surprised. "I got it in writing."
"I never expected Vergil to settle down," Dante joined her in the reminiscing mood.
"I didn't give him much choice," Jeanne joked fondly.
There was a moment of silence until Nero broke it by finding three pronged nunchaku in a pile of rubble. "That's a cool one." Dante left his desk join him. Jeanne smirked at their backs as they looked at the devil arm. With Vergil unavailable a new male role model in Nero's life who wasn't a cultist would be beneficial. Her baby was quickly becoming a young man and couldn't stay a mama's boy forever. She glanced to Cereza, wondering why she hadn't left yet. The way Cereza eyed Dante's silhouette answered that question. She noticed Jeanne's gaze and raised an eyebrow as if to say "What? You did an identical boy. Married him, in fact."
Jeanne heard someone approaching from the street. “Dante?” A blonde woman hurried into the building.
“Oh my,” Jeanne eyed the woman.
“What’s going on?” The newcomer glanced around.
“Hey, Trish,” Dante was completely unconcerned. “This is Vergil’s son.”
“Oh,” that completely derailed whatever the woman was going to say.
“Tsk.” Cereza made a sound of disappointment and got off her improvised seat, no reason to stay now that her interest’s girlfriend was in attendance. Jeanne also stood but for a different reason.
“My, my, with that face you must have been specially crafted.” She approached the devil woman for a better look.
“What do you know?” Trish glared back.
“Eva was an acquaintance of mine. Smart girl.” That made Trish bristle and Cereza pause from where she was about to leave.
“Mom, what are you talking about?” Nero asked.
“Mundus made Trish to look like my mom,” Dante explained.
“It’s not an exact likeness,” Jeanne circled the woman appraisingly. “Whoever built you enhanced two of your upper assets.” She said suggestively with a pointed look at her bust.
“Humph,” Trish crossed her arms defensibly. “Well, you’re flat as a board.”
“A side effect of being in peak athletic condition.” Nero glanced between Jeanne and Trish, wondering if this was going to get ugly. Cereza leaned against the wall, waiting to watch the catfight, and Dante remained oblivious to the feminine tension. “Please tell me you don’t have her memories. I don’t know if I want my boy around an uncle with an Oedipus complex.”
“Whoa.” Dante held up his hands. “It’s not like that.”
“Oh?” Cereza said suggestively, leaning away from the wall with a hip cocked. Dante flashed her a flirtatious grin in response.
Jeanne rolled her eyes at her friend only to notice that Trish was doing the same at hers. “I think we got off on the wrong foot. My name’s Jeanne.” She offered an olive branch.
“Trish. For the record I’m sorry about Vergil and Mundus.”
“I’ve found that the past is best left where it is. So what’s a girl to do for fun around here? I can’t imagine you spar with those big weapons in this small place.”
About a year later and Jeanne noticed that Cereza had cut her hair short and changed her outfit.
"What happened to your hair?"
"You don't like it?" Cereza played with the short ends. "I felt like a change." Jeanne could sense that was a loaded statement so she waited for her friend to continue. It took almost thirty seconds of silence for her to add, "I'm going to be a mother."
"Cereza," Jeanne hugged her because she clearly needed it. "Congratulations. Are you ready?"
"Of course. If you can do it I'm sure I'll manage."
"Well then," Jeanne fake acted offended at the teasing comment. "Will the father be involved?"
"With his mommy issues I doubt I could stop him." Cereza rolled her eyes. "Oh don't give me that look, you know who it is."
"I didn't want to assume." She said. "We've become a cliche. Rivals and best friends and now we're marrying twin brothers."
"Aside from stabbing me in the chest you mean. And speak for yourself on the matrimony front."
Nero lost track of time while patrolling the edge of Fortuna. Mom had disappeared that morning with just a note saying ‘Sorry, something came up, be back soon’. She hadn’t done that since coming back from being mind-controlled. She was probably just running errands but he ended up hanging out by the city wall waiting for her anyway. Now he had to hurry to kill the few puppet-like demons who had entered the city outskirts. Where were these bastards coming from? They seemed to be everywhere lately. Mom agreed there were far more than what she remembered before being kidnapped.
Nero usually kept his arm wrapped up while in the city to avoid stares and when Mom wasn’t around to lecture him on how he had nothing to be ashamed of. He was in a hurry so he pulled it out of the sling to destroy the scarecrow demons quickly. He even tried his witch-time in an effort to speed things up but still couldn’t get that stupid spell right.
Nero made it back to the citadel on time to hear Kyrie sing. He only stuck around afterwards for the speech on why Sparda was awesome to make sure Kyrie picked up her present. His mom was a witch so he'd never been particularly impressed and since meeting his uncle and learning that Sparda was his grandfather he really couldn't care less. When they started praying he lost his patience and got up.
“Nero? What’s wrong?” Kyrie asked as he stood.
“I’m otta here.”
“But it’s not finished yet.”
“I got more important things to do than pray to my dead grandfather.” He started to walk away but then felt his arm react. Even through the bindings it started to glow, a powerful demon was nearby. He and Kyrie looked up right as one of the skylights shattered. He only had time to process a human sized and shaped figure in red before the intruder landed on Sanctus’ podium and shot the priest in the face. There was stunned silence as the old man’s body hit the floor. Nero stood in front of Kyrie as the attacker stood and turned around. “Shit!”
“Nero?” Kyrie noticed his shock.
“Your holiness!” Credo shouted and the knights charged. That was the cue for the audience to start panicking and running about frantically.
“No!” Nero shouted to Credo. “Kyrie, run!” He pulled her to the exit as quickly as possible. Credo went to the priest’s body while the other knights took up offensive positions.
“Nero? Who is that?” Kyrie asked.
“Trust me, if he’s gone bad we’re in deep shit.” Nero left her at the side door and ran to help the knights who were getting predictably slaughtered. He kicked Dante away from the humans before he could kill or injure more of them. “Credo, get the knights out of here!”
“I’ll return with reinforcements, stall him until then.” Credo grabbed Kyrie’s arm and he and the knights carried Sanctus’ body away.
“Yeah, right,” Nero pointed Blue Rose, his revolver, at his uncle. Dante seemed disturbingly unconcerned as the bystanders fled. He didn’t say anything so Nero started shooting. He wished his arm could be a trump card but Dante’d already seen what he could do the few times they’d sparred together in the past year, he had to step it up a notch.
“Getting better. You were holding back last time we did this,” he finally said something.
“I thought the cat got your tongue.” Nero grabbed another knight sword to fight him with. It was far inferior to Rebellion, Dante’s sword, though and was soon knocked out of his hand. He fired at him with Blue Rose instead.
“Seven shots, neat trick.”
“Witches don’t have to reload.” Nero managed to catch him and hit his face repeatedly with his demon arm. Dante’s skin flashed red for a second. Nero hoped that was a sign he was winning and threw him and then his sword, impaling him with Rebellion to the statue of Sparda. He didn’t want to assume that would put him down so he jumped in to hit him again. Dante pulled out one of his guns and pointed it right at Nero’s face. He barely managed to get his arm up in time to block the bullets and the blast still sent him flying backwards.
Nero caught his breath while Dante hopped off the statue.
“What are you doing here?” Dante ignored him and pulled his sword out of his chest. “Where’s my mom?” He didn’t think it was likely that Dante had gone evil and done something to her but after her capture by Balder he couldn’t keep the concern out of his voice.
“Don’t know. Probably looking for more of them.” He nodded to one of the prone bodies on the floor.
“Huh?” Nero expected to see a human but the face of the fallen knight was black and red.
“You’ll figure it out soon enough.” Nero looked back only to find Dante on the edge of the broken skylight. “Until then, business beckons.”
“Hey!” Nero shouted after him but he left regardless.
Credo returned with more knights and Kyrie brought Nero the Red Queen sword. Nero assembled the weapon while Credo talked.
“He’s heading towards Fortuna Castle.”
“Fortuna Castle, huh?” Nero admired the put together sword.
“That’s what the witnesses described.”
“If he’s not enscrolled then he must be after some cash. Last I heard he was broke.”
“You jest so lightly in a time of crisis?” Credo shouted at him. Nero gave him a serious look. Credo sighed before continuing. “He must be captured.”
“Trust me, I’ll get it done.”
“Please be careful,” Kyrie said. Nero smiled when he saw she was wearing the necklace he’d selected for her.
“Can’t pass up on an emergency. Whatever’s strong enough to control him would have to be a piece of work.”
“I need to return to headquarters to give my report.” Credo walked past them only to pause when the whole building shook. The three of them hurried outside to find an army of Scarecrow demons attacking citizens. Credo and Kyrie led the bystanders to safety while Nero killed the demons and tracked the invasion to its source.
“What the hell?” Nero found a spiral machine creating/controlling the scarecrows. His witch training made it clear this assembled here and turned on purposefully. He removed the magic relic acting as its power source and watched it power down. Without meaning to, the relic absorbed into his demon arm and increased his power.
He followed the scarecrows and more powerful demons through the city outskirts. On the way he saw an attractive woman fighting demons. For a split second he thought she might be his mom, based on how she was fighting, but she definitely wasn’t. This woman used a knife and barely wore any clothes. How could she fight in that? Nero adverted his eyes as she introduced herself as Gloria of the Order of the Sword. He hadn’t seen her before and she claimed she was new. As if she could be any more suspicious. He quickly made his excuses and left, not telling her where he was going. Mother had taught him not to trust strange women, especially women who wanted something.
Nero shut down another machine, killed a toad demon, and went through several needlessly complicated rooms before finally finding another member of the order. A man who introduced himself as Agnus, wearing order colors stood on the other side of a glass wall.
“Funny, an order official out for a stroll in a hell-hole place like this.” This whole situation smelled fishy to Nero.
“Hell-hole? Watch your words!” Agnus shouted then muttered to himself and wrote on a clipboard. This was getting tiresome. He’d been at it for hours and still didn’t know what was going on. When the man threatened to kill him he snarked back.
“Don’t you think that’s a little harsh, killing me because of the way I tttalk?” Agnus growled and siked small flying demons on him. “Great, more demons.”
“This is all Credo’s doing. It was Credo who ordered you to follow Dante. It was Credo who brought you here.”
“Dante?” Nero ignored the demons circling him for a second. “How do you know about him? What the hell is going on here?”
“I don’t have to answer to you. For you are already as good as dddead.”
“I beg to differ.” Nero killed the small demons and busted through the glass wall.
The man shrieked as he fell down. Not so tough now. “That’s the power, how can it be?” Agnus pointed at Nero’s arm. Nero didn’t know what he was talking about but really didn’t care.
“Look who’s talking jackass now answer my question. What the hell is going on here?” He pointed Red Queen at the man. He looked intimidated for all of a second then went back to waxing poetic about Nero’s arm. “Hey did you even hear me?” Nero swung the blade at him again but the man caught it with a surprising show of strength.
“If you want answers. Then I shall give them to you. It’s only been a few years since we began this research. Could we isolate and bind demonic power? It could enable us to conquer the world. And that, that is the wish of His Holiness.”
“What a croc, you may as well diss the act because His Holiness is dead. Dante put a hole through his head.”
“Ah, but his Holiness will be reborn as an angel.”
“An angel? What the hell are you babbling about? Making contracts with Paridisio?”
“Oh no, no. Nothing so simple as that.” He smirked unexpectedly which was the only warning Nero had before an animated suit of armor attacked him.
For a moment Nero lost his bearings in a blur of pain as three suits of armor stabbed him and left him hanging on the fall wall.
“Behold, with only a bit of my research I’ve…” Agnus started to boast about his suits of armor but was cut off by a banging sound from the other side of the door into the lab. “Wwwhat is that now?” He was angry but Nero smirked.
“You’re dead.” Despite being too winded to move Nero had to grin. He could finally sense his mom’s familiar magic as a giant stiletto heel kicked in the metal door. “You’re late, Mom.”
“Nonsense,” Jeanne strutted into the dingy room. “You’re the teenage boy, always running off ahead of things.”
“Kkkill her!” The suits of armor and small flying demons charged at their creator’s command. Nero smirked and this upset the mad scientist. He grabbed one of the flying demons out of the air and used its blade body to stab Nero through the chest.
“Nero!” Mom was too focused on reaching him to pay attention to herself. One of the armors caught her and knocked her out of Nero’s range of sight.
“Mom,” he tired to call to her but only choked on his own blood.
“You two will be the next subjects of my experimentation.” Agnus withdrew the sword, making Nero gasp again. “And I will have that arm.” He raised the demon as if to take off Nero’s head.
For a second everything in Nero’s mind went black. He could hear Kyrie and Mom screaming. Something in his blood boiled he was filled with a strength he didn’t recognize. A new sword was in his hand, or more accurately, a part of his hand. He swung the blade, knocking back Agnus and every demon in the room.
Nero found himself on his feet, still unsteady but no longer injured or weak. Agnus appeared in an inhuman form. Mom stood on the far side of the chamber, thankfully alive, and whispered something that almost sounded like his father’s name.
“No! No! Not even I could succeed in restoring it!” The creature that was Agnus shouted.
“Shut up.” Mom shot him and would have continued if she hadn’t hurried towards Nero.
“What? What is this power? Give me more…”
“Nero,” Mom was running towards him but he barely noticed her.
“Power and if I become a demon, so be it. Anything to protect.” He slashed out with the new sword that was yet oddly familiar towards Agnus but missed.
“Nero!” His mother’s arms were around him, grounding him. “My son, you’re alright. Breathe.”
The power receded from his body. He sunk to the floor with Mom still holding him. He looked at the sword he held and then up at his mother. “I didn’t know I could do that.” Nero pressed a hand to his chest to make sure the wounds were gone. “What was that?”
“That’s the legacy of your father and grandfather.” Jeanne smiled. She ran a hand through his hair, clearly glad he was uninjured. “Their demon blood may be concentrated in your arm but it’s all though you as well. You tapped into its power for the first time.” Nero looked down again at the katana he still held before absorbing it into his arm.
“Am I a demon?”
“Never, ever, my beautiful boy. You’re human until you don’t want to be.”
“Hah.” He wiped his nose and decided what to do next. “We should go to headquarters. Credo has to know something.”
“I’m afraid so,” Jeanne stood gracefully and waited for Nero to get to his feet. She was a cool mom and didn’t baby him by offering a hand. “It seems The Order went a bit insane while I was with Balder.”
“Oh I always knew they were fanatics but they were so very pro-human.” Mom explained while they left the laboratory. “I never imagined they’d choose to open a hell mouth.”
“Great. What else are they up to?”
“I don’t know exactly, I was looking into it myself but then I heard Dante showed up.”
“Yeah, shot His Holiness.”
“Oh, is he dead?”
“A bullet to the brain will do that.”
“Not for an angel.” Jeanne shot a few weak demons as they walked.
“What?” Nero asked while also getting out his gun.
“Sanctus is an angel banished from Paridisio and stripped of his powers.”
“I thought you hated angels.”
“Well, as I said, he was very pro-human and without his powers his soul isn’t worth any more than a normal man to Madana Styx.”
Nero considered this as they went outside. “So who called Dante here?”
“No idea, but from what I can tell The Order’s stepped up its timetable since my return. One of his contacts must have heard something.”
“Yeah, you probably scared them shitless.”
“Thank you dear. I doubt they were particularly fond of you knowing true extent of your heritage, either.”
They reached the secret waterfall entrance to the order headquarters and went through. “My, this is unexpected. Who hired a gardener?” Mom looked disapprovingly at the small jungle that had sprung up.
“Must be an effect of the hell gate.” Dante unexpectantly answered. When did he get here? “About time you joined the party, Jeanne. They’re your friends after all.” Nero watched his uncle pace the edge of a cliff.
“Maybe I should have kept a better eye on them.” Mom admitted. “Care to join us?”
“Nah.” Dante waved then jumped off the cliff. Nero ran to the edge to look down but Jeanne didn’t bother.
“Such a drama queen. I swear he and Cereza are prefect for each other.” She sighed then started down the path. Nero glanced once more after Dante then followed her.
They cleared out several plant themed demons and closed another gate before reaching HQ. At the entrance Credo stepped out the meet them.
“No hello?” Jeanne said when he didn’t greet them.
“Alright, let me ask you this. What’s the order really after?” Nero asked. Credo just drew his sword and swung at them. They knocked him back easily enough.
“Credo, you were such a good boy. What on Earth are you doing embroiled in this?” Jeanne scolded.
“You have no right to judge me. You’re a whore for the demon scum and you,” he glared at Nero’s arm. “you’ve accepted demon power.”
“I don’t want to hurt you. I wouldn’t do that to Kyrie,” Nero tried to talk him down.
“Hurt me? You don’t get it do you?” Credo growled then started to glow.
“You too?” Nero gaped at the winged creature he turned into.
“I am the chosen one. I have been selected to make the next step in evolution. I am an angel!”
“What’s Sanctus been filling your head with? Angels don’t care about humanity any more than demons.” Jeanne snapped.
“As captain of the holy knights I place you under arrest, at the wish of His Holiness.”
“Humph, go ahead, Son.” Mom stood to the side and let Nero beat the tar out of Credo. When Credo lost his angelic form she added. “And that’s the difference between a birthright and a boy playing with loaned power from a fallen angel. How many souls did Sanctus have to sacrifice to get you those wings? And were they all demons or some humans as well?” She asked while Nero stood over Credo.
They were interrupted by a gasp. “Kyrie,” Nero quickly turned around. “Kyrie, no wait, this isn’t what you think.”
“How could you do this?” She asked, glancing between Nero and her brother. Nero took a step towards her while Jeanne stayed by Credo.
Agnus ran to join them and leaned into Kyrie’s space. “It was our intention to protect you from the truth. Nero, is a demon.”
“Fourth,” Jeanne corrected but nobody paid her any mind.
“You son of a-“ Nero lunged at Agnus but he positioned Kyrie between them.
“Don’t worry, I have no intention of harming her. Yet.” He placed his sword at her throat.
“She has nothing to do with this. Let her go!” Nero shouted.
“Agnus!” Credo yelled over him. He got to his feet and shuffled forward.
“How dare you use my sister? This is my fight and I will finish it. Let her go.”
“His Holiness predicted your defeat and has decreed that your sister will be utilized.”
“What!” Credo charged. Nero reached for his weapons but felt a shiver of his mother’s magic. He couldn’t activate it himself but he could feel her use witch time. When time restarted Agnus was blasted back but still held Kyrie.
“Damn, couldn’t get her.” Mom spat then prepared to attack again.
“No! Kill the witch!” Suits of armor and demons swarmed down from the castle. Agnus flew away while they were distracted. Once the demons were cleared away Credo spoke.
“His Holiness use, Kyrie?”
“He shows his true colors,” Jeanne stepped closer to Credo. “Sanctus was a fallen angel when I first met him. He founded Fortuna under the pretense of empowering humans in the face of their adversaries from both Hell and Heaven. He initially welcomed me into the city as long as I agreed to kill any angels that entered the boarders.” She explained to both the young men. “It seems the power has gone to his head. Fortuna’s fortune has given him a chance to return to his former life. Gather the demonic energy required to reascend as an angel.” She patted Credo’s shoulder in a diminutive fashion. “No doubt he’s happy to take you along to be his minions. Every good Angel warlord needs foot soldiers after all.”
“No, we’re fighting demons.”
“Of course, the natural enemies of angels. You’re old enough to remember, Credo. When did the sermons change from protecting humanity from all threats to just killing demons?”
Nero watched Credo’s shoulders sag in defeat as Mom told him off. “I’ve been deceived. I’ve failed Kyrie.”
“We can still save her,” Nero said.
“That’s the spirit. Let’s go, boys.”
When they got inside the main part of the building they met up with Dante. “What took you so long?” Dante leaned against one pillar.
“We were delayed by a hostage negotiation. What’s your excuse?” Jeanne returned easily.
“Me? I was looking for Yamato. What do I know, someone got to it first?”
“Oh? You want it?” Mom asked, testing the waters.
“That sword was used to separate our world and the demon world. It’s a pretty powerful thing to leave in the hands of a kid.”
“That sword belonged to Vergil. It’s Nero’s birthright just as much as the demon blood.”
Nero willed the katana into his hand. “This was dad’s huh?” He held it up and eyed the edge.
“And Sparda’s before him.”
“Thought it looked familiar.”
“With that sword His Holiness plans to open the dormant hell mouth under the city.” Credo said.
“Who’s this guy?” Dante asked about Credo.
“Family friend.” Jeanne answered.
They found Sanctus standing on a giant statue that he then animated. Nero got sucked in so Dante and Jeanne stayed to help him out while Trish dragged Credo with her to evacuate the city. Credo wanted to stay of course but he was really out of his league.
Dante helped Jeanne break into the statue and she then pulled Nero out of the organic bonds he had been placed in.
“Nero, you alright?” she checked on him once he was awake.
“Yeah, Mom. Just fine.” He said while getting to his feet.
“That’s my boy. You want to take on Sanctus by yourself?”
"Unless you have a problem with that.”
“I think you’re old enough to kill your first arch angel. I’ll search this monstrosity for any other humans they’re using as fuel.” She smiled before walking deeper into the statue. “Scream if you need back up.”
Outside, Dante was keeping the behemoth statue distracted. He thrust Rebellion into the smooth stone to make a handhold. He could have activated his devil trigger to fly but didn’t bother, which left him leaping about and avoiding being smacked like an insect. He held onto his sword embedded in the statue’s wrist. So the statue stared waving its arm around to dislodge him.
Dante was taken for a roller coaster ride until time stopped. When time restarted Bayonetta hovered in the air, holding Dante by one arm. “Cereza?” He looked up at the woman carrying him. “What are you doing here?” Cereza had some of her hair forming butterfly wings to fly but was otherwise in her normal skintight outfit, which made her bulging abdomen particularly noticeable.
“What’s with that face? I could let you fall if you prefer.” She sniffed and landed them both on the shoulder of the statue. “Jeanne called and it looked like you could use some air support.” The statue tried to swat them and they both easily jumped out of the way.
“You sure you should be out here?” Dante completely forgot about the weaponized statue in favor of nagging his pregnant girlfriend.
“I’m pregnant not fat. I need a little exercise.” She ran straight down the statue’s back using her witch walk. Dante watched her go, admiring her butt.
With two of them their distraction task was even easier. They didn’t even have to keep it up very long. Soon the statue ground to a halt.
“Hah, it’s over.” Dante sheathed his sword while Cereza landed next to him.
“Aw, is that it? I was just getting warmed up.” She leaned on elbow on his shoulder and struck a casual pose, he didn’t mind.
Nero, carrying Kyrie, busted out of the android’s forehead gem.
“Not bad, Kid.” Dante congratulated him. A second later a gem lower on its body shattered and Jeanne emerged with an unconscious man draped over each arm.
They chatted for a second before Sanctus took over the giant statue again. The others allowed Nero to smash his face in unaided. Jeanne then confirmed her status as a cool mom by shooing Dante and Cereza away and getting them to focus on finishing off the straggler demons so Nero could kiss Kyrie without an audience.
Lady hadn’t been back to Dante’s shop since that Order of the Sword nonsense, so several months. Friend or not, she had her own business to worry about and Dante could take care of himself, even more so since Trish came along. She’d been initially concerned when she learned he’d brought home a devil woman like a lost puppy. Fortunately, Trish was awesome and reminded Dante to pay his bills. So, she didn’t expect anything new when she parked her motorcycle outside Devil May Cry in Slum alley.
The front door was closed but she didn’t bother knocking. She took half a step in then froze with her hand still on the handle. She’d never seen the place so clean. There were still skulls and weapons on the walls but the floor was clear of debris, there was more comfortable furniture, and throw rugs. It took her a second to process visual input and recognize the playpen and rocking chair against one wall. Her shock was completed when Dante emerged from the back room carrying an infant in each arm.
“Lady,” he greeted her cheerfully. He bent over the playpen and gently set the children down.
“What the hell, Dante?” Lady finally closed the door behind her. “Why are there kids here?”
“Cause they’re mine.”
Lady walked closer to peer at the pair of kids in the pen. They were both pale and tiny with white hair.
“Wow, okay.” They were both staring up at her so she waved, which made them smile. “Who’s their mom?” She didn’t think he was banging Trish last time she saw them.
“Cereza, don’t know if she has a last name.”
“Where’s she from?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? Is she alive?”
“She was yesterday.”
“And you don’t know where she is now?”
“She can fly and teleport. What do you want from me?”
“She’s a devil?”
“Where does she live?”
“Oh, that’s specific.”
“Some city.” He shrugged. “She finds me.”
Lady gave a put upon sigh then turned her attention to the children rather than their clueless father. “So what are their names?”
“Rosa and Evan.”
“They’re fraternal?” Lady eyed the identical infants.
“Yeah, I thought they were like me and Vergil at first.”
“So which one’s the girl?”
“Uh,” Dante frowned at the crib, they’d moved since he’d set them down, effectively shuffling themselves. “Does it matter?”
“You’re going to confuse them.”
“How? They can’t understand words yet.”
Lady gave up and glanced around the store again. "Like what you've done with the place."
"Yeah, the girls took it over. Cereza even wanted me to move." Lady hummed in sympathy and set down a few of her weapons. It had been a long drive so she stretched her arms over her head.
Before Dante could answer a woman entered the shop. Lady stared a bit rudely, at the oddly dressed Amazon woman. "Client?" The newcomer asked.
"Nah, just Lady."
"Lady?" She scanned Lady from head to toe.
"That's what he calls me. And you are?"
"Bayonetta or Cereza."
"Bayonetta? That name I've heard of." Lady frowned up at the giant woman. "Word on the street is you're a devil."
"I'll take that as a compliment. Dante, any other buck-some associates I should know about?" Lady opened her mouth to retort but then realized she couldn't really blame her for being suspicious, Dante's only real friends where her and Trish.
“One of your friends is Rodin.”
“Rodin wears far more clothing than Trish or ‘Lady’.”
“Hey, I just don’t like fighting in long pants. And I sweat a lot, okay?”
“Preaching to the choir, dear. A woman should wear whatever she wants. It’s him, I’m concerned about.”
“Oh please, I’d shoot him in the dick.”
“In that case, I expect we’ll get along swimmingly.”
“Hey,” Dante half-heartedly complained.
Cereza hadn’t been on a proper shopping trip in ages. All the recent purchases of baby supplies didn’t count, that was closer to grocery shopping and either Jeanne or Dante usually insisted on tagging along. Today was a beautiful December day, the babes had finally gotten over their colic, the winter solstice (or Christmas as they called it these days) was in a few days, and she’d recruited Enzo as her baggage carrier. It was also nice to confirm that she could be out in the city in her Sunday best and turn just as many heads as always despite the stroller. Speaking of Enzo, he swore no less despite having his own kids and being around Cereza’s. Although, him having kids was a good thing, it meant Rosa and Evan would have their own loyal humans to drag around.
She and Jeanne were throwing a party. A classy get together for various earthbound demons and magic using humans they knew. Nero also needed more practice in manners and wearing fine suits. (Not to mention his girlfriend, Kyrie and her brother Credo really needed to have some fun.) Jeanne had neglected that part of his education in favor of magic and fighting. Cereza wouldn’t make the same mistake and planned to dress up the twins and get them initiated early. Of course, this event was far too stylish for Dante so he wasn’t invited but Trish and Lady were, as they were capable of cleaning up when they wanted.
Because life couldn’t be calm, angels hijacked a jet plane and came to play. She dropped the stroller off with Enzo before kicking the jet high into the sky. As she cleared away the third sphere minions Rodin showed up with an express delivery of her new guns. Confident he’d keep the kids safe, he was too smart to let anything happen to them, Cereza focused on killing angels. The angels had apparently gotten tired of laying low because they summoned a second sphere angel to fight the two witches. With Jeanne’s help it was barely a moment’s work to beat up the angel. She summoned Gomorrah to eat the angel. It was a text book summoning, she’d been able to do it since she was thirteen so she didn’t pay much attention. This turned out to be a mistake when she glanced over her shoulder to find the demon lunging for her.
“Cereza!” Jeanne knocked her aside. “Cereza.”
“Jeanne?” She stood up only to see Jeanne’s translucent soul being dragged into a hell portal.
“No! This isn’t how things end…” Jeanne struggled but it was futile. Cereza ran for her but didn’t make it in time.
“Jeanne!” With her friend gone Cereza turned back to Gomorrah. Now she was pissed. “I’m not one for pets who don’t listen to their masters!”
She ended the disobedient demon then took Jeanne’s body to The Gate’s of Hell, Rodin’s HQ, and put in an unfortunate call to Nero. Nero punched her, when he saw what Cereza let happen to his mom. And then hit Enzo too when he ran his mouth about ‘crazy bitches having secret kids’.
Of course, Nero was just as eager to save her soul as Cereza was and got his weapons together and called his girlfriend to give her a heads up while Cereza and Rodin put Jean on ice. Rosa and Evan could sense the unhappy atmosphere and were growing restless in their seats.
“Ready to go, young man?” Cereza checked with Nero. “Then one last thing. Dante!” She turned her hair into a summoning portal. She was able to call on any willing demon so it was no trouble to hone in on his familiar magic. As usual, he was slow responding to the summons and the portal hung open for a good thirty seconds before he finally jumped through.
“What’d I miss?” He glanced around The Gates of Hell.
“What the fuck? Dante?”
“Quiet Enzo. Nero and I have an errand to run, watch the kids while we’re gone.” Cereza wanted to pass him the twins and leave but he wasn’t completely stupid.
“Uh huh, where’re you going?” he glanced meaningfully between Jeanne’s body and Nero.
“Inferno,” Nero answered.
“You sure about that?” He said even while Cereza dropped the twins into his arms. “You just got your devil trigger, Hell might be out of your league.”
“She’s my mom.” Nero frowned indignantly.
“I’ll be with him the entire time.”
“How about I call Trish? She can watch the kids.”
“Then who would keep an eye on Jeanne? Rodin?” Cereza asked, purposefully playing on his mistrust of the fallen angel. As expected he gave Rodin a glare, not ready to leave him alone with his sister-in-law and friend. With that settled she walked to the door and grabbed a short Italian on the way. “Come along Enzo.”
“Wait!” Everyone ignored his shouts. Nero fell into line behind Cereza.
“Summon me if you need me,” Dante called after her.
The closest Hell mouth that lead directly to Queen Shiba’s territory of Inferno was at the mountain of Fimbulventer. Nero had been trained by Jeanne to be an excellent pilot and he could make any vehicle go faster than a normal human thanks to witch magic, so he flew the plane while Enzo bitched in the passenger seat and Cereza rode on the wing.
An angel flew over their heads but didn’t bother them. “Hm, looks like it’s time to disembark,” Cereza said. She waited for Nero to climb out of the pilot’s seat before jumping off herself. “Say hello to the wife and kids for me.” She blew Enzo a final spell good bye that would keep the plane flying as she fell. Of course she landed perfectly, even managed to avoid stepping on a squirrel. Nero knew how to control his fall but still didn’t have a handle on witch time. He landed ungracefully on his ass next to her. “Better luck next time.”
“Shut up.” He grumbled.
“Jeanne, we’re on our way. Just behave yourself for a bit longer,” Cereza said to the mountain. Nero reached over and grabbed Jeanne’s soul locket out of her hand so he could check how much time was left. That settled they then headed into the city positioned at the base of the rock formation.
They ran through the city streets disturbing a few civilians and fighting a few angels that appeared. As they neared the mountain they found a boy fighting angels.
“Shite, I’m never going to reach Fimbulventer at this rate.” The boy, maybe thirteen, raised his arms over his head in frustration. “Well, at least it won’t be a boring trip.”
Cereza got his attention by clapping for his performance. He turned and squinted at her for a second. “Huh? You can see me?” He said accusingly.
“You’re putting on quite the show little magician.”
“Oh you liked that, huh?” he crossed his arms. “Wait until you see the climax!” He raised another card to throw but Cereza shot it out of his hand. “Silly girl.” He complained but then noticed that she had shot down an angel that had been trying to sneak up on him.
“You’ll have to do better than that to earn a tip, my dear.”
“Who the hell are you?” He still didn’t appreciate the attention.
“We should be asking that question,” Nero spoke up. Cereza circled the boy while Nero stood still.
“We’re just out for a stroll, lost in wonder land and suffering at the hands of the queen’s trumped up troops.” Cereza joked.
“Humph, a cute one huh? You’re bird’s a piece of work, Mate,” he said to Nero then demanded. “Enough riddles, how can you see me?”
“Magic,” Nero answered.
“Are we on a shopping trip to Fimbulventer, little one?”
“Maybe. But stay out of my way or I’ll make sure you never get in it again.” He held up a card threateningly.
“Ooh, scary. Off with their head’s ey?” Cereza teased.
“Heh,” Nero made an amused sound at the boy and scratched his nose.
The sky started to glow gold as more angels appeared. “They must have heard me.” The boy used his card to teleport and disappeared. A first sphere angel arrived looking for the kid. They defeated it easily enough but then the kid got stuck in the angel’s corpse and couldn’t get out.
“Well, well, they’re after you too. Been a bad boy?”
“Nothing comes to mind, Love, sorry. But since this is your bloody mess do you mind hurrying the fuck up and getting rid of this thing?!”
“Now, that’s no way to talk to a lady. No wonder your guardian angels are trying to give you a good spanking,” Cereza taunted. Nero ignored them while he collected halos and supplies scattered around the room.
“Whatever love, you’ve already been following me so let’s make a deal. You save me, I’ll show you around this joint. Heading to Fimbulventer, aren’t we? I can show you how to get there.”
“Do we need him?” Nero walked over.
“The angels want him for a reason. It’ll slow us down otherwise.” Cereza answered. She took one of his cards and tossed it at the angel corpse. It bounced off without doing anything. Nero looked at her like she was insane.
“About that trick, you need my power too.”
She settled for shooting the angel corpse to smithereens.
“Oi. That works too I suppose.” The kid landed on his behind.
“We don’t have time to give a shit about who you are and why you’re heading to the mountain. Show us the way and be quick about it. Stick with us and you have a better chance of ending up in one piece. Got it?”
“Wait! Before I show you the way, you got to agree to a condition.” Nero and Cereza both pointed their guns on him.
“Learn to negotiate from a position of strength, little one.”
“Who you calling ‘little’, Love? Your boy-toy doesn’t look much older than me.”
“Boy-toy?” Nero was offended by that.
“Nephew,” she corrected.
“Really?” He smirked at them before introducing himself. “My name’s Loki. And what do I call you two?”
“I’m Bayonetta or Cereza take your pick.”
“Hah? Cereza you don’t look like a Cereza to me.”
“Bayonetta it is then. And that’s Nero.”
“Hah. You too? Looks more like Rosso than Nero. Nice arm, Mate.” Nero used said arm to flip him off.
“Nice hoodie sweat-vest. Are you hot or are you cold?”
“Now, now, boys you’re both pretty.” Cereza stepped in before male egos could escalate. “If introductions are over can we get going?”
“Try to keep up.” Loki led them through the city streets until a giant flying angel blocked their path.
“Sovereign One, You must flee no more. Accompany me, The Prophetic one is waiting,” the angel said.
“What the hell’s a Sovereign One?” Nero repeated.
“Sure just because you asked, tall dark and ugly. That makes total sense.” Loki retorted to the angel.
“Why do you interfere Umbra Witch and Spawn of Sparda? This is not your battle but it may well be your end.”
“You’re in the human world, asshole that makes it our battle.” Nero said before opening fire.
They beat up the angel together then Cereza left Nero to finish it off while she grabbed Loki.
“What are you doing? Let go of me?”
“So little one, what’s all this Sovereign business about?”
“Not a clue, Love.”
“What a croc. If the angels are calling him ‘ruler’ than clearly he’s one of them. Maybe we should finish him off.” Nero suggested.
“Oi! That’s the truth! I don’t remember a thing.”
“Memory loss, is it?” Cereza dropped him. “Whatever. As long as your ‘Soverness’ stays out of our way. And if we’re going to meet more of your friends you better learn how to take care of yourself.”
“I’m quite fine on my own.” Loki turned into a flying squirrel but barely got a foot away before Nero snatched him out of the air.
“More tricks, little magician?” Cereza smirked and took the small mammal. “Maybe you have more to offer than expected. But for now, stay here and don’t get frisky.” She tucked him into her top.
“Can he still show us the way like that?” Nero asked. The squirrel squeaked indignantly and pointed.
They continued at a decent pace towards the mountain, fighting only a few weak demons. Cereza got distracted by the appearance of someone she knew. “Luka?” She stopped to talk to him.
“Don’t call me that! I’m not a pet or a ca- oh you said Luka not used that… How are you Bayonetta?”
“No matter where I am, you always know how to make an entrance. Nice glasses.”
“Oh these?” He adjusted the magical eyewear. Cereza picked up his hat and modeled it in a storefront window. “Rodin has a soft spot for Shinshu sake from Japan. It was an easy trade to get him to make these for me. And don’t get it twisted, Bayonetta, I’m not stalking you, this time, at least.” She tossed him his hat back and he scrambled to catch it. “Look I know you’ve got nothing but secrets. Hell, that goes for any woman, right?”
“Hey!” Nero jumped down to join them on the sidewalk from the building rooftop. “We’ve got a deadline to meet and you’re wasting time flirting?”
“I didn’t know you had a new friend, Bayonetta. Luka, investigative journalist.” He introduced himself. Nero didn’t look impressed.
“What are you doing here, Luka?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, you know the story better than anyone. The Lumen Sages and the Umbra Witches. Two clans that wielded incredible power just 500 years ago. Clans of the overseer, that watched over us with the eyes of the world. Well now I know there really was an Overseer, who created the eyes of the world for humanity. The same eyes that the clans held onto so hard. The Overseer was the true creator of the human world.”
“Bullshit,” Nero muttered.
“What? Don’t you think it’s weird that there are supernaturally powerful beings in the two worlds closest to ours, Heaven and Hell but none here?” Luka asked. “And from what my research has told me, that god of chaos used to live right here in Noartun. That’s why this place has so many gateways. Including one to Paridisio and one to Inferno.” He bowed then added. “Listen, I heard about Jeanne…”
“How the hell you hear about that? It’s been twelve hours.” Nero grabbed his shirt and shoved him against the nearest building threateningly.
“Whoa, easy there. Just offering my sympathies.”
“Sounds like you’re chummier with Rodin than you let on. Rodin might have a taste for sake but also for naïve, overly curious, white boys.”
“Wow.” Nero dropped him. “That’s more than I needed to know.”
“Heh.” Luka adjusted his messed up clothes. “Based on that reaction you must be Nero, Jeanne’s son. I know this isn’t the time to chat so I’ll just look around. See if I can find anything out to help you.”
“Just don’t go poking your nose where it doesn’t belong, Cheshire.”
“Don’t you worry about my nose. I can smell trouble when I see it. You two take care of yourselves.” He attempted a dramatic grappling hook exit but ended up falling.
“Smell it when I see it?” Nero repeated.
“Not the brightest of men, no.” Cereza admitted.
“If that was your other option I see why you went with Dante.”
“Don’t you worry about my options.”
They followed Loki around, whose memory problems also seemed to manifest as headaches and unusual displays of power that seemed time based. He held up his end of the bargain though by showing them to an ancient cathedral that housed an elevator to the top of the mountain. Before they could take it up though, a first sphere angel appeared and swallowed Loki.
“Damnit!” Nero shouted but didn’t have the magic capabilities to follow Cereza as she rode the whirlwind after the angel.
“Umbra Witch why do you peruse me?”
“That little made a deal. He’s my guide and he’s not done guiding yet.”
“Follow me if you must.”
“I think we’re going in entirely different directions.”
She chased down and slaughtered several flying angels but dropped the kid. By the time she landed and found Loki again he and Nero were fighting someone new. Well Loki was getting his ass kicked by someone new while Nero fended him off with Yamamoto. She jumped in with a side kick and a few bullets.
“There you are. Who the hell is this guy?” Nero said in greeting.
“What he didn’t introduce himself?”
“A mask? One of your assistants, little one?” She asked Loki.
“Nah, he was trying to kill him,” Nero answered instead.
“Anything you want to tell me, Love? I’m not a fan of being wrapped up in domestic disputes.”
“Trust me, Little One, he’s not my type,” she said. Nero gave an amused huff which she didn’t have time to be offended by because she had a fight to win.
After trading a few blows the masked man slowed time and grabbed her bullets out of the air. Stunned, she retreated a couple dozen feet away. “Oh my, you’re a Lumen Sage.”
“A sage?!” Nero shouted. “This doesn’t make any fucking sense!”
“You said it,” Cereza agreed. Over the past several hours she’d gotten the hang of dancing with Nero but fighting a sage was a whole different game. Nero was still useful though, he saved her time and energy by killing the angels he summoned so she didn’t have to summon reinforcements of her own.
The sage summoned a giant first sphere angel while they fought. Nero entered his devil trigger and was doing alright on his own but she went ahead and called Madama Butterfly to help finish the angel off. After the fight the three of them landed in the water. Loki shared some of his unique energy with Cereza, allowing her to turn into a sea serpent. With her new animal form she pulled both boys out the water. On land, Nero started coughing immediately but Loki stayed still. She was worried for a second but he was just playing dead, the brat.
“I don’t get it.” Nero stayed sitting down to shake water out of his mechanized long sword. “How is there a sage still alive? Wasn’t Balder the last of those bastards?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps Balder had a secret apprentice. Although that man was awfully powerful for a someone new.”
“Well for his sake he better hope he has nothing to do with him.” Nero sounded justifiably hostile towards the man who had kidnapped his mother.
“I said I didn’t want to be involved with domestic disputes.”
“Shut up, if the angels call you ‘Sovergn’ why the hell’s a sage trying to kill you?”
“You know as much as I do, Mate.”
“Damnit, we’re wasting all our time saving you,” Nero complained.
“Don’t worry I can make it up to you. We’re right at the base of the cathedral, looks like you’ll have to get wet again, though.” He smirked at Nero drying off. Nero sighed and absorbed his weapons into his demon arm to keep them dry.
Cereza let the boys hang onto her as she swam through the flooded entrance to the cathedral. Loki used the building to build a bridge to the top of the mountain but then a portal to hell opened.
“An infernal?” Cereza eyed the demon that appeared.
“He doesn’t look like your usual attention. A friend of yours, Love?”
“I think my friends and I may have had a falling out. Why would an infernal be after me?”
“Maybe they don’t want you rescuing Mom.” Nero shrugged. She did a quick summoning of Madama Butterfly to make sure her contract was still in place.
“Good to know some of you are keeping your end of the contract.” She gave the demon a quick fist bump then went about killing an infernal.
On the way up the stairs of the cathedral Cereza shared her recent experience with memory loss to make Loki feel better. She believed him that he didn’t remember anything about his past or why he needed to get to the mountain. He showed them to a water sphere that he could fly to the top of the mountain for them. Cereza and Nero hopped on to enjoy the ride. Before they could Luka showed up to tell them about the mythos that a powerful creature named Aesir created the eyes of the world and gave one to each clan to balance their power. But if the last Sage died their right eye would cease to exist.
“But the sages aren’t dead. There’s that masked guy. Can we stop wasting our time with this?” Nero moved things along.
“Yeah let’s go. Buckle up.” Loki levitated the sphere up the tower. A few angels attacked so they had to fight their way to the top. Everything looked all clear for a run up the mountain but then a new model of first sphere angel attacked and knocked them all back down the tower shaft. Cereza was the only one with wings so she fought the ugly giant. To Nero’s credit he was waiting for them at the bottom. When the angel reached the pool at the base of the tower it was carved up by strikes from his katana.
“Nicely done. I’ll just feed this brute to one of my friends, shall I?” Cereza summoned a demon to eat their opponent but the angel only laughed.
“My demise will not alter fate. An offering to you, witch.” It then lashed out with its giant sword and slashed a hole in the floor that sucked them in. They fell through a vortex and landed in what looked like an old stone sewer. Of course she stuck the landing, this time Nero did as well, (getting better) and Loki landed on his butt.
“Damnit why am I the only one in the drink? Where the hell are we?”
“Further from the mountain than we started, that’s for sure.” Cereza scolded Loki but Nero didn’t have time for that. He checked Jeanne’s soul to see how much time they had left. Dissatisfied with what he saw, he angrily punched the wall with a curse. As if one distressed boy wasn’t enough Loki had a vision that knocked him over.
“Little one, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, Love. Now I’m sure I’ve seen this room before. If you two still want to go to hell, I may know a shortcut.” That’ got Nero’s attention. “I’m starting to remember what I really am.” He pondered his own problems for a second longer then waved to Nero. “Come on, I’ll get you to your mom, trust me.”
“Yeah right.” Nero snarked back but climbed onto Loki’s stone submarine regardless.
Loki, again drove their vehicle, this time down instead of up. In less than a minute a giant demon came to greet them.
“Looks like he was right about the shortcut, and they’ve sent a welcoming party,” Cereza nodded to Nero. They worked together to blind the skull faced demon. Just when they killed that one another, larger one jumped them from behind. It inhaled the three of them, including their stone ship.
Cereza woke up inside the demon. She called for the boys but didn’t see them nearby. Hopefully they were alright. She ran through the bowls of the creature until she spotted Nero fighting several smaller demons, probably parasites on the host.
“So fucking tired of being eaten!” The angry boy cut the demons in half.
“Oh right, this isn’t new for you.” Cereza joined him. “On the bright side this demon is probably giving us a lift to our destination.”
“Loki with you?”
“As annoying as he is Mom would have my head if I left a kid in a situation like this.”
“That’s the spirit. He has to be around here somewhere.”
Sure enough they found Loki in the next chamber but the Lumen sage was also there.
“If I didn’t know better I’d say you’re the most persistent stalker I’d met.” He didn’t say anything so she pointed her gun at him.
“Step away, Umbra Witch and demon witch apprentice.”
“Hey, asshole, I’m three fourths human.”
“Be gone, this isn’t your fight.”
“Actually it is.”
Their combat quickly turned into a bloody mess as the walls around them became collateral damage. The fight with the sage continued until they were interrupted by the demon exploding, guess the build of internal bleeding was just too much for it. Fortunately it had brought them closer to the gates. This time all three of them landed on their feet in front of the gates to Inferno. Loki helped them reach the doors, only for them to be jumped by the sage again. And this time, he brought a friend. This man was translucent blue all over as if he were a projection not an actual being. He also wore the most garish outfit but he wielded considerable power so she couldn’t mock him for his fashion choices.
Loki opened the gates. The prophet teleported away but the rest of them fell through the gates into hell.
For the second time in as many hours Cereza woke up alone. She navigated through a pest infested tornado to find Nero. Kid was riding a two headed dog-like demon that was trying to buck him off.
They headed towards Jeanne only to bump into Rodin.
“Rodin, don’t tell me you came to rescue me like some kind of knight in shining armor.”
“Rescue? I look like the rescuing type?”
Nero glared at Rodin. “If you’re here, who’s with Mom?”
“What you think she’s going to get up and walk away? Awfully hard to do without a soul.” Rodin quipped only to have to dodge a sucker punch from Nero’s demon arm. Nero might have gone for him again, but Rodin gave them a lift on a flying demon. They flew to the top of a bramble tower. “We’re here. And so’s my target by the look of it.”
“Jeanne, there she is.” Cereza grabbed Nero’s hand to fly him the rest of the way.
“Hold up. You’re not seriously thinkin’ of getting between a man and his next payday?” Rodin complained. Cereza gave him a wink and Nero flipped him off.
They busted in through a wall and landed in an open space. Immediately a demonic voice greeted them. “What? A human? No, two humans? What brings mortals to this place?”
“We came to pick up a friend. It’s almost her curfew.”
“A friend? Ah, the witch. Alas she has been devoured. Such an exquisite soul. And so fresh. A delicacy.”
“Lying bitch. We know she’s still here,” Nero shouted into the darkness.
“Be gone both of you and your trespass, mainly damaging my palace shall be overlooked. Too bad there’s no escape from the inferno.”
Cereza summoned Madama Butterfly to punch in a few walls. Nero shot something that looked important out of spite.
“Are you still going to forgive our trespasses now?”
“You are an Umbra Witch as well? And your pact is with Madama Butterfly. At last we meet Madama Butterfly! Not even the passing of millennia have quenched my hatred for you!” A humanoid demon dropped from the ceiling. She looked mostly human with plant and insect based clothes. “Madama Butterfly, oh how I’ve longed for the day to see you suffer at my hands. This shall be the final day of your existence?”
"Alraune?” Nero interrupted. “Where's Madama Styx? I thought she held Mom's contract," Nero glanced around as if expecting a second demon to appear.
“Hah, Madama Styx has abandoned your alliance, Madama Butterfly. She gifts me the witch soul.”
“Must have known we’d come after her.” Nero glared up at Madama Butterfly.
“One thing at a time, Dear.” Cereza said to keep him from threatening the demon on their side.
Alraune turned into her larger, more insect-like form. “Mom!” Nero spotted Jeanne before Cereza did. Alraune held her in her transparent abdomen.
“I can feel myself growing stronger, the nutrition from this soul is simply excellent. I feel I could become queen of this realm!” the demon laughed.
Cereza did her warm up dance and Nero unsheathed his father’s sword. “Well it’s going to be a bloody coronation. Now release my Umbran sister!”
Cereza used Madama Butterfly’s arm to pull Jeanne’s soul out of the demon’s body. “Jeanne?” She held her friend while Nero charged in to deal the final blow to the reeling Alraune. From behind him, Rodin appeared and grabbed Nero’s raised arm.
“Damn boy, I thought I told you to chill. You got more important things to do than deal with this monstrosity.” Nero threw a half-hearted punch at Rodin but took his advice and ran over to kneel by Cereza.
Cereza placed the witch soul locket over where her heart would be. “Jeanne? Get up. You’re going to be late. Jeanne!” She tried shaking her shoulders. Nero shoved her away when she started getting frantic.
“Mom? Mom! Wake up!” A flash of magic came from her soul and Jeanne finally moaned.
“Nero?” She looked around.
“Hah, you never were a morning person, were you?” Cereza stood up while Nero helped his mom to a sitting position. “This? But this is…Nero, what are you doing here?”
“You can scold me later, Mom.”
“Cereza you came to rescue me? Are you insane?”
“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Cereza smiled down at her friend then helped her stand.
“What’s happening?” Jeanne asked when she started to glow.
“You need to get back to your body and get some rest too.”
“Cereza, be careful. I need you to bring Nero back to me.” Jeanne said as she started to float away.
“I can take care of myself, you know.”
“I know, make sure Cereza survives the trip home, she’s quite mad.”
With Jeanne safe they glanced back at Rodin who was beating the shit out of Alraune and then absorbed her into the hilt of a weapon.
“So that’s how that works.”
They heard a commotion and spotted the sage and Loki sparing in the distance.
“Little one!” This time one of her demons was nearby so Cereza summoned them a ride.
“Got em all lined up waiting to be saved, huh? Don’t be forgetting about your new toy.” Rodin tossed the new weapon to Cereza. She and Nero rode the horse-like demon down to where the other two were fighting.
Cereza snatched Loki away from the sage then spurred her mount into running towards the gate. The sage leapt aboard and sparred with Nero while on horseback. Cereza had to keep a hold of Loki, who’d fainted of exhaustion so could only fight using her legs. Nero, while good, didn’t have the speed of the sage and was almost knocked off the demon’s back. While he righted himself the sage went after Cereza. She kicked him away but had nowhere to go. “Nero!” she tossed him Loki right before she and the sage fell. She only rolled once before regaining her bearings on the inferno soil.
“Wait!” Nero pulled on the mane of the demon to slow it down.
“No! Nero, keep going! The two of you get out of here!”
“Go! I’ll be fine, promise!” Nero looked uncertain but when the sage started to run after him, he spurred the demon into a gallop. Cereza also took her animal form and chased after the sage.
“Why must you keep interfering?” The sage complained.
“He still owes me some answers.” They ran closer to the charging demon. Nero kept glancing over each shoulder as they approached. Then Loki stirred from where he lay on the demon’s back.
“Where am I?”
“Stay there,” Nero warned him.
“What?” Loki’s forehead started to glow. “Get away from me!” He warned before he sent out a blue explosion of light.
Cereza found herself in the familiar fight between witches and sages 500 years ago. Fortunately it looked like Nero hadn’t joined her trip this time. She spent several fun minutes fighting along side her mother. Things were as she remembered until Loki’s evil twin approached her.
“Who are you?”
“Never mind that. Something more important to talk about, my dear. The witch and the sage are still alive, trifling creatures both of them, I must be rid of them as soon as possible. I want what they have. I want back what is mine, the eyes of the world.”
“The other me escaped to the future and I can’t let him have them. Which is why I must see you eliminated my dear.”
The evil being beat her back long enough for him to fly away and beat her to the bell tower where he killed Rosa in front of Balder, the sage she’d been fighting all this time. Now it made sense why he was after Loki. Fortunately, she was there to point out that the boys had different symbols on their foreheads and were different people. She then ran up to the skylight to open a time portal.
“Balder! The dimensional portal is opening! We need to get back to my time! There’s no time!” He wouldn’t leave Rosa’s side.
“Balder!” Finally he jumped up to grab her hand. She couldn’t help but spare a final glance to her mother. “Mummy…”
Cereza hadn’t expected the sage to really be Balder. She took a second to ponder this as the spell brought them back through time. She’d given up on her father as being anyone worthy of admiration. When she’d last seen him he’d been a crazed cultist. She doubted if he’d ever really loved her or Rosa. This younger man was entirely different. Dedicated, calm, and painfully in love with Rosa. What on Earth happened to change this badass warrior into the man she’d met? She needed to get a hold of herself before she got the urge to take him home and introduce the babies to their grandfather.
“What is this place?” Balder asked when they arrived.
“We’re in my time. There’s no time to explain we need to get to the mountain.”
“What is upon the mountain?”
“I don’t know but it’s where the being who created the Eyes of the World once lived, and now someone is after that power.”
“The eyes? But how can we reach that place? We’re in Vigrid.” The floor started to shake.
“That wasn’t a request.”
“Have you lost your sanity?”
“Sanity isn’t a requirement for our kind.” They ran out of the crumbing building right as Jeanne, with her prefect timing flew by with a jet.
Like the badasses they were she and Balder landed perfectly on the wings and went for a ride. “And your kind are?”
“The kind of witches you don’t fuck with. I have to admit, I like you much better this way, Balder. You actually shut up and follow directions.”
“I do what I choose. Tell me, how do you know my name.”
“Um, it’s uh just the name I heard that witch, the one you called Rosa, call out to you.” She quickly tried to cover her ass then changed the topic. “Anyway. This should get us to Fimblventer at mach speed.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that, witch,” Balder pointed out the flying welcoming party waiting for them.
“Cereza, where’s my son?” Jeanne asked over the radio while they were fighting.
“He’s fine, Jeanne.” As they came close to the rocks she caught a glimpse of familiar power in her peripheral vision. “Speaking of which.”
Nero was in the sky, fighting angels and demons. He had a new pair of wings, animated with the same blue power as the rest of his attacks. When he spotted them he summoned a larger spectral hand form his arm to grab the plane and then pull himself aboard. He looked into the cockpit to smile at Jeanne.
“Hello, again, Nero.” Cereza smiled at the boy who joined them standing on the plane. “It looks like someone finally learned to fly.”
“I got tired of falling. Ripped them off a demon on my way out of Inferno.” He said then looked past her to glare at Balder. “Are we friends with the sage now?”
“Temporary allies,” he answered.
“Loki and Luka are going to the temple. I had to fend off these angels swarming us.”
“We’ll be there momentarily.” Cereza said then shot a few more demons.
In a minute they got close enough to the mountain to jump. “This is where we get off. Stay with your mother, Nero.” Cereza instructed before leaping. Balder followed her as they landed in front of the temple doors.
Loki and his evil twin Loptr were two halves of Aesir and the evil half wanted the eyes back. They were loosing the fight when Loki activated his last power to destroy the eyes entirely, leaving Loptr largely powerless. Just when things were wrapping up nicely Loptr tried to open a time portal and escape. Balder trapped the malevolent spirit in his body, preventing it from being reborn.
Cereza stared at this man. She barely had time to realize that this final sacrifice was what turned her father evil, not any fault of his own, and then she had to say goodbye. “Daddy!” she reached for him as he fell through the portal. She wished she knew him better.
It was a day late but Cereza and Jeanne hosted their party.
“You’ve really got to invite us on your next adventure.”
“No thanks, even thinking about time travel makes my head hurt.” Trish’s dress really looked like it belonged on a prostitute, but a high class prostitute so Cereza didn’t comment. Lady wore a nice pantsuit and blazer but didn’t bother to hide her gun holsters. Poor human couldn’t store them anywhere else.
“Yeah, I still don’t’ understand everything that happened. But I’m used to that.” Luka was attempting to chat up the unimpressed women. Luka was a last minute invite on Cereza’s part. He wore a suit that she suspected had come from Rodin, man was a secret chef and fashion designer when he got bored with weapons.
Nero cut a fine figure in the suit Jeanne had forced him to wear. He’d be thanking his mother later if his girlfriend’s starry eyes were anything to go by. Almost the opposite of Trish, Kyrie all buttoned up, prim and proper in her formal attire. She was having fun though, and dragged Nero to dance with her while her sour faced brother watched. Someone needed to find him a nice girl.
Speaking of nice girl, little Rosa started to fuss. Cereza bent down to give her a rattle and fix her dress. Evan had a shirt and vest with fo-buttons in colors that matched his sister’s frilly skirts. She’d done what she could with their hair which wasn’t much it was so fine and short. Who knew how long they were going to look identical so she wanted to do something distinctive with their hair when she could. Jeanne said Nero’s arm had always been extra bony but it hadn’t become obvious until he lost his baby fat and the glow didn’t start until he was three.
Cereza looked up from the kids only to see their father enter the room. Someone must have told Dante about the event but let him dress himself. Cereza took a mental second to bemoan the fact that despite his fondness for cowboy boots and red leather he remained hot enough that she’d chosen to sleep with him. She then left the babies in their chairs and hurried over to intercept him.
“What on Earth are you wearing?”
“What?” He was far too amused by the whole thing. Cereza groaned and shoved him into the side room before he could gather attention. “Whoa, I didn’t think it was that kind of party,” Dante chucked as she pulled off his jacket which was made of some peeled animal.
“The amount of care one puts into one’s appearance shows how much pride one has in oneself.” She quoted her mother while quickly checking the closet for a spare vest or accessories she could put on him.
“Eh, you just don’t want me looking like a slob in front of your friends.”
“Here.” She fortunately found a vest Jeanne had bought for Nero but had been to big.
Dante thought the whole thing was funny and allowed her to fuss. “Why all the weapons, are you going to poach my company for work?”
“That was the plan. They have money right? Trish has been on my ass.”
“Where’s your necklace?” Cereza reached into his pants pocket, nothing she hadn’t felt before, to retrieve the red pendant. “There.” She hung it around his neck to complete the look.
Whether it was her holding his mother’s heirloom or something else, she didn’t know but he gave her a fond smile before kissing her. Even after having babies with this man she still found him damn attractive and kissed him back. “You sure we can’t take this party upstairs?”
“Boor.” She shoved him off. “Besides the kids are waiting. Which reminds me, Evan’s second name is now Balder.”
“What? Hold up.” He was confused for a second but, one thing she liked about him, he recovered quickly. “In that case Rosa’s Eva.”
“Eva and Evan, absolutely not.”
“Hey, they’re my kids too.”
“When you spend six months fat with swollen ankles you can have a say.”
“Rosa Eva Rose and Evan Balder?” She considered that.
“Now that that’s settled, I’m getting something to eat. You have food right?” Dante said before she could change her mind.
“Of course we have food but I’m not sure it’s anything your unrefined palette can stomach.”