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Those That Walk In Darkness

Chapter Text

The dream starts with a rumble. A terrible sort of tremor deep in the earth that builds and builds until the ground is shaking and splitting open, the shrieks of demons spilling out amongst the twitching branches shooting skyward.

It continues to the sounds of screams. More screams than one could hope to count as people are cut down in the streets, ripped out of their homes and their beds. Blood running in an endless river into the streets and being absorbed by the thick, pulsing roots. Ash and pollen heavy in the air, a pitiful reminder of the lives consumed.

It ends with a name.

Vergil

***

The sheets cling to his body from all the sweat as he jerks awake, a cry leaving his lips. He’s shaking in the darkness amidst the feeling of vertigo and nausea that rushes up to greet him.  

“Breathe Shakespeare.” Griffon says nearby and he struggles to drag in lungful’s of air. “You know the drill. Breathe.” It takes V a few times before his heart starts to slow down, the shaking cold in his limbs dying down and he flops onto his back, rubbing a hand over his face. “That looked like a doozy. Haven’t had one that bad in a long time.” The familiar states as he perches himself on his nightstand.

“What time is it?” V asks, his voice crackly and dry, no doubt from crying out in his sleep.

“3:59.” Griffon replies. “The end of the devil’s hour.”

“Great.” V mutters at the significance of that simple fact. There’s a soft rumbling purr next to him and he tilts his head to see Shadow resting her chin on the edge of the bed looking at him. He smiles softly and reaches out to pat her head a few times. “I’m fine, Shadow.” He assures her before he lets out a tired sigh and tugs the sheets off of him. The cool air of the room against his sweaty skin makes him shiver and he stands to go to the bathroom. He’ll get no more rest tonight, of that he’s certain.

The nightmare clings to him when he steps under the cool waters spray. Flashes of various horrors that dance behind his eyes each time he closes them. He sighs and steps out, drying off and wrapping the towel around his waist before heading back into his room. Shadow’s taken residence on the bed he’s abandoned for the night and Griffon just tilts his head to look at him as he goes over to the dressers and opens the top one, pulling out the dark blue candle and putting it up on the holder, lighting it and muttering a soft incantation. That’ll help a little bit. Or at least he hopes. He grabs the thick Grimoire out of the drawer and walks into the main area with it. Griffon follows him as he goes over to the table to put it down, making a quick cup of tea for himself before he sits down and opens it.

“So what’cha lookin for?” Griffon asks, hopping up onto the table to look at the pages that V has started flipping through.

“Answers.”

“No shit.” The bird throws back at him with an annoyed look. “Answers to what? What did you see?”

“I believe it was a portend.” V says, flipping a few more pages, his eyes scanning each one for any references to what he saw. A giant tree that fed off blood. Clearly the work of the underworld, only a demonic tree could cause that much suffering and grow from it. It would be uncommon though, for such a large, calamitous event to occur from the demon world into theirs.

Granted, this is the land where the Temen-ni-gru rose from the ashes of so long ago and almost collapsed the two worlds into each other once again. A lot of cracks between this world and the demons seemed to be happening more and more frequently, those events in Fortuna just a few years back being proof of that. V wasn’t certain if it was all too wise to move here with the barriers between the worlds so thin in this city. Granted, the barriers seemed to be weakening everywhere with each passing year, and this was where he felt he must come.

Maybe he’s about to learn why. Maybe it has something to do with all of this.

Vergil

“If I said the name ‘Vergil’ to you, would it have any meaning?” V asks his demonic familiar.

“Vergil?” The bird tilts his head a little. “Nah. Should it?”

“I’m unsure. Apart from Publius Vergilius Maro or the Divina Commedia itself, I’ve not really heard it in everyday passing.”

“Pfft. Publius.” Griffon snorts before cackling. V shoots him an amused look for a moment before flipping through a few more pages.

“What did you see?” Griffon asks again as he flips another page.

“Death.” He answers. “A demon hoard walking the streets during the day.” Another flip. “A tree and a name.”

“A tree?” Griffon asks. “Symbolic?”

“Seemed more literal than metaphorical.” V replies to that. “Although sometimes one can never really tell with visions.”

“Ain’t that the truth?” The bird huffs. “It’s the catch 22. You see the future – you have no clue what you’re seeing. It’s like when you commune with the dead. Stop being so fucking cryptic!” The bird shakes a wing towards the sky. “Just say what you mean!” V can’t help the soft chuckle he gives at that.

“Are you still angry at that?” He asks, amusement clear in his tone and the bird makes a kind of huffing sound.

“It should have just said ‘it’s under the floorboards’. It would have saved us hours of searching.”

“All’s well that ends well.” V chuckles, flipping another page and taking a small sip. He puts down the cup when he finally finds one of the things he’s looking for. “This is it.” He says, moving the book slightly for Griffon to look at it.

Fuck V. A Qliphoth?” Griffon huffs, shaking out his feathers. “I take it back. I don’t want clarity from you. Be metaphorical. Be fucking metaphorical.” V looks down at the pages old and faded scrawl.

“The Qliphoth, a demonic plant species that feeds on human blood. It produces a single fruit made of supremely condensed and power enriched blood that is consumed by those seeking to push past the limits of their power.” V reads aloud.

“A Qliphoth is a big fucking deal. They’re not easy to grow.” Griffon looks at him. “You said you saw one in the human world?”

“Yes. In the city.”

“That is not a portend V. That’s a fucking neon sign saying ‘get the hell out of dodge’. I hear anywhere else in the world is great this time of year.” V shakes his head and ignores Griffon’s agitation as he reads over the section describing in detail the full reach and scope of what a Qliphoth does and means.

“What I saw was not some small sapling.” V says. “It was larger than the highest building.”

“Fuck.”

“So it would seem.” V replies to that. “But how could such a thing be accomplished?”

“There’d have to be a tear down into the demon world.” Griffon says. “You’d need a witch for that. A powerful one. Not many left that’d be able to manage such a thing.”

“How many?”

“Just you.” Griffon states. “Feel like opening up any gates to hell today?”

“No, not today.” V says with a small smirk. “So, a witch doing this is out of the question. What about a demon?”

“Not a chance. Crossing over for the small fries is one thing, despite the demon rodent infestation this place seems to have. But to pull over a Qliphoth? Not a chance.”

“What of those gates that cult of Sparda created in Fortuna? They were pretty effective while they were still in existence.”

“Nah. Child’s play.” Griffon says with a shake of his head. “They couldn’t maintain an open connection, which the Qliphoth would need in order to grow. Plus, the rumors were that the Yamato was present there for a time.”

“That’s right.” V remembers and he pauses for a moment, biting his lip. “What if the Yamato were used for this? Would it be possible?”

“Sparda’s power sealed off the demon world kid.” Griffon snorts. “Any Sparda infused object would be able to do serious damage to the barriers, but the Yamato excels at it.”

“So that’s a yes then?”

“Sure, it’s a yes. But isn’t that half-breed in charge of it these days?”

“I wouldn’t know.” V says. “Considering that I’ve never made his acquaintance.” V lets his fingers trace the image of the tree on the page.

“…V?” Griffon says with a small amount of growing alarm and concern in his voice. “No. Nope. Don’t even think about it. Not going to happen.”

“Perhaps a brief meeting would be in everyone’s best interests.”

“Everyone but yours.” The bird snaps. “Demons and witches don’t mix well genius. You know that.”

“He’s a hybrid.”

“That makes him worse.” The bird says with a shake of his head. “There’s no hope of overpowering him and forcing him into a contract if he decides to try to consume you.”

“I’ve heard about this ‘Dante’.” V says. “Rumor has it that he’s not interested in power like that.”

“Everyone’s interested in power V. Everyone.” The bird warns him. “You’re used to being at the top of the food chain, that won’t be true against the hybrid child of Sparda.”

“This vision was a warning Griffon.” V tells him. “And it’s happening soon. Burying our heads in the sand and waiting for something like this to occur before we intervene, would you really call that wise?”

“I don’t care about the squishy little humans that would undoubtedly die V.” Griffon reminds him. “I’m contracted by you to protect you. You already know I can’t do that against the son of Sparda. Not even the big guy can.”

“For all we know, it won’t come to that.”

“For all we know, it could.” Griffon throws back and V hums in agreement. Griffon seems to see the intention already decided in V’s face because he groans. “Seriously Shakespeare? Why don’t you ever make things easy?”

“You’d get bored if I did.”

“…well I guess that’s true.” The bird replies. “Ugh, fuck.”

***

The bright red payphone is a relic that V is rather surprised still works. It’s the only concession that he’s made to Griffon – he won’t call this ‘Broker’ from his own phone and allow a trace to be made. He taps the bottom with his cane and catches the receiver in his hand before he slides in a few coins and types in the number he’s been assured will put him in contact with this Morrison fellow.

“Talk.” A man’s voice answers after the fifth ring.

“Morrison?”

“Depends on what you want.”

“I’m looking for an introduction.” V says, leaning slightly against one of the walls. “I hear you know where one can find a devil hunter by the name of Dante.”

“Why you lookin to be introduced?”

“There’s a…problem that might require his attention.”

“What kind of ‘problem’?”

“The kind where a lot of people die if not properly and quickly handled.” He says and there’s a pause.

“You lookin to hire?”

“If I must.” V says easily. Morrison rattles off a number. It’s modest for devil work, supremely modest. “Cash fine with you?”

“Is there anything else?”

“When and where?”

“…Devil May Cry.” Morrison says and V barely holds in the snort. Seriously? “Be there tomorrow night. 8pm on the dot. Bring the cash.”

“Very well.” V hangs up the phone and sighs. He guesses there are a few things he has to get in order before he meets this ‘son of Sparda’. “Devil May Cry.” V repeats to himself, testing the words on his tongue. “Someone thinks they’re funny.” He turns and walks down the street.

This should be interesting.

Chapter Text

The cab drops him off a few minutes till eight at the address that he’s located for the business registered in town to the name ‘Devil May Cry’ and V almost doesn’t get out of the vehicle at the image that presents itself to him. The dilapidated building in front of him has certainly seen better decades, and the sign over the door proclaiming its name to the world flickers in and out in a few places, desperately begging for a few new lightbulbs.

This is supposedly the place where the ‘Legendary Devil Hunter Dante, the Son of Sparda and Protector of Mankind’ hangs his hat? This ramshackle building? Has he never heard of curb appeal?

The Qliphoth’s not going to do much for the cities curb appeal if it gets planted. V can’t help but think to himself and he sighs as he hands the cash over to the cab driver and gets out, taking a moment to just take in the building in front of him as the vehicle pulls away and leaves him there.

There are no doubts that a demonic entity rests inside of that building, but the energy that V’s sensing is nowhere near the power levels that V would have assumed the child of the Dark Knight Sparda would have and that means one of two things: one, Dante is not present in the building right now and V might only be meeting with this Morrison fellow for now, or two Dante’s power levels are hidden from those who might try to feel it out and that answer puts V a little on edge. He knows that any upper level demon that can mask its power output and make it feel almost like it’s human is not a demon to take lightly. Not that V would have ever been led to believe that Dante’s power levels could ever actually be this low considering all of the history and past exploits attributed to Dante’s name.

This is the hybrid that took on Mundus after fighting his way through waves and waves of demons and still won. Griffon’s told him the story once or twice considering his familiars’ own history with it, and V’s not fooled in the slightest. There’s the tug and then the weight of Griffon on his shoulder.

“Still sure you wanna do this Shakespeare?” Griffon asks as they both look across the street at the building where they’re expected. “There’s still time to turn around. We could go to Canada. Didn’t you want to see the Niagara Falls once?”

“You know I’m not going to do that.” V says softly and Griffon huffs like he’s so put upon. Who knows, maybe to a point he is.

“You know, one of these days I’m going to tell you to do something and you’re going to do it and I’m going to die of shock.” Griffon says and V arches an eyebrow as he looks at him.

“What? I listen to you.” He argues and Griffon gives him a look.

“When have you ever listened to me V?” He asks. “I tell you not to do something and it’s like I’ve waved a red flag in front of the bull. I should start saying the opposite of what I want you to do and maybe you’ll actually do what I want.”

“You’re exaggerating.” V tells him. “I listen.”

“Name once.” Griffon challenges and V thinks about it.

“Summer camp.” V says, snapping his fingers with a nod. “I listened to you with that whole wraith fiasco.”

“…that was over ten years ago.” Griffon says.

“Still counts. You said ‘name once’, you didn’t say recent.” V pokes.

“No, no, no.” Griffon says with a shake of his head. “No that doesn’t count. You didn’t even listen to me back then.”

“Of course I did.” V replies. “I did exactly what you told me to do. I distinctly remember that.”

“You need to get your head checked.” Griffon retorts. “I told you to leave it alone you crazy bleeding heart.”

“No. I’m a hundred percent positive that you told me to go poke it with a stick.”

“I said ‘don’t poke it with a stick’.” Griffon says. “I said don’t do that V.”

“Oh…you know, thinking about it now that makes a lot more sense all things considered.” V says, a small smile tugging at his lips. “Granted though, I’m not sure who looked more surprised, you or the wraith when I threw that branch at it’s face.”

“Definitely it.” Griffon says with a snort. “Twiggy little nothing screaming like a banshee waving a tree branch around before throwing it at it? Definitely it.” Griffon chuckles a little at the memory and V grins at him.

“See? If I listened all the time then we wouldn’t have these funny stories to look back on.” V points out and he’s not surprised at all when one of Griffon’s wings smack him upside the back of his head. He lets out a soft laugh at the action before the two of them seem to settle back into the moment at hand. Times up. “Well, no time like the present.” V says and he can tell that Griffon wants to argue some more, but the familiar just sighs and returns to him as V crosses the street, heading up the steps and stepping inside.

There are two men in the back, one behind a desk and the other sitting on the edge of it clearly having been discussing something or another and they both pause and look up at him when he enters. V doesn’t say anything, taking his book from under his arm and leaning back against the wall near the door, more than willing to wait if they’re not actually ready for him. He reads through a few poems before the two of them finish up whatever it is they were discussing before he entered.

“You must be the new client.” The man’s voice registers him as Morrison and he approaches where V’s at and V nods as he looks up from the pages. The man’s eyes glance over V, taking in the leather jacket ensemble that V’s chosen to wear and shaking his head as he holds out his hand. “Got the cash?”

“I was under the impression that I hadn’t hired him yet.” V says and Morrison smirks like what V’s just said is funny.

“You will.” He tells him with absolute certainty and V figures that he’s not wrong so he reaches to the back pages where the envelope rests and he slides it out before holding it out for him to take. Morrison takes the envelope and does a quick count of the cash before he nods and tips his hat to V. “Pleasure doing business with you. Dante, until next time.”

“Hey!” ‘Dante’ shouts. “I don’t get any of that? What kind of racket are you running here Morrison?” It’s clear that he’s not actually annoyed with the other man and Morrison just waves over his shoulder as he reaches for the door and tugs it open.

“Stop racking up a pizza debt and learn to pay your bills on time and maybe you’d see some of this.” Morrison replies before he leaves and V watches as Dante seems to nod in agreement to what the other man had just said, seeming to sigh in defeat before he looks up and does his own look over of V.

“So, what’s your name?” Dante asks him and V steps forward, glancing down at the pages. The poem in front of him catches his attention and he can feel the smirk tug at his lips.

’I have no name, I am but two days old’.” V reads from the page in front of him and there’s nothing but unsure silence from Dante and V chuckles to himself as he snaps the book closed. “Just kidding. You can call me V.”

“Okay ‘V’. Why don’t you tell me what brings you here?” Dante asks, leaning back in his chair and crossing his hands behind his neck. “Morrison didn’t have a lot of information on that. Just said you might have a job.” V thinks about how to move forward with this conversation and he tilts his head slightly.

“Do you know what I am?” He asks, figuring that they shouldn’t stand on ceremony and pretending that they don’t know the other’s true identity. Dante takes a moment, looking at him, his eyes traveling over the demonic tattoos on V’s skin before he nods.

“Witch, right?” He asks. “I mean, you’ve got a lot of demonic taint for a normal witch, but you’re clearly human.” He motions to the markings. “Curse?”

“Contracts.” V corrects and Dante arches in eyebrow in what is either surprise or he’s impressed. “Although some days they might agree with you on your definition.” V says and Dante’s lips quirk a bit at the joke. Griffon’s lamented that he’s cursed with V enough times over the years so it’s probably not too far of a stretch to imagine him agreeing with Dante’s description. “And you’re the son of Sparda.”

“So they tell me.” Dante responds to that with an almost careless air about him. “So what brings you to a devil’s doorstep? I thought witches didn’t really tend to work with outsiders.”

“You’re not mistaken.” V says. “But I’m a bit of an outlier. Besides, the problem that I’ve seen threatens the very fabric of this world. That seems a bit more important than the rivalries between our two kinds, wouldn’t you agree?”

“’Seen’?” Dante catches onto the word with an arched eyebrow. “You’re a seer?”

“Amongst other things.” V says with a nod. “But yes, I had a vision and it has led me here. Will that be a problem?”

“Nah.” Dante says with a shrug of his shoulders. “Don’t try to hex me or mine and we won’t have any problems.”

“Don’t try to consume me and I won’t need to hex anyone.”

“Don’t worry.” Dante grins at him. “I don’t bite without permission.” He winks at him and V sighs, barely holding back the eyeroll. “So what’s this problem that ‘threatens the fabric of the world’?”

“Have you ever heard of a Qliphoth?”

“Enlighten me anyways.” Dante says with a wave of his hand and V comes forward, putting his book down on the table and he waves his hand over it. It only takes a moment before the images and words shift and morph into the pages from the Grimoire and reveals the information about the demonic plant. Dante looks at the book with a glance like it’s a cool trick as his eyes take in the information.

“As you can see, the Qliphoth is a demonic tree that feasts on human blood. When it reaches maturity, it produces a single fruit that grants the consumer godlike power.” V waves his hand and the pages return to their usual existence. “I saw one in the heart of the city.”

“Not to doubt you or anything, but are you sure?” Dante asks. “Aren’t visions kinda known for being…you know,” Dante makes a motion like he’s reading a crystal ball. “Outlook hazy, try again later?”

“Are you asking if my visions are basically just a glorified magic 8 ball?” V asks with an arched eyebrow and Dante takes a second before he nods.

“Yeah.”

“I will admit that sometimes the task of seeing into the future is not as clear as one might like.” V says and Dante gives him a look like V’s agreeing with him. “But that is not always the case. I do not believe that’s the case with this one. If I thought there were even a slight chance for it – I wouldn’t be here.”

“Okay, so you believe this tree’s really going to get brought over. That still doesn’t explain why you’re here and not contacting one of your coven leaders.”

“I don’t have a coven.” V says and Dante cringes instantly. “Don’t concern yourself. I’ve never had one. Besides, I came to you for something specific that was unique to you and you alone.”

“Oh?”

“There aren’t a lot of ways to bring forth a Qliphoth. Honestly there’s only two that it might occur.” V looks at Dante. “Whoever wishes to do this will need to acquire one of two things to do so. You have one of them in your possession.”

“And let me guess, you have the other?”

“I am the other.” V corrects him. “But in essence, yes. I thought you might wish to know that someone might be after the Yamato, not that it’s probably an uncommon event.” There’s something that crosses Dante’s face and it makes V tense. “Please tell me you still possess the Yamato.”

“When did you say you had that vision?” Dante asks instead of answering, and as funny as it is it’s an answer in itself.

“Two nights ago.” V says with a frown. “Why?”

“To bad you didn’t show up then.” Dante says. “The Yamato was taken yesterday morning.”

“What?” V replies, surprised. “What time?”

“Early.”

“How early?”

“Why?” Dante asks and V gives him a look. “We’re not fully sure.”

“What do you mean?”

“He was alone when he was attacked. They found him afterwards. They don’t know how long he was…like that.” Dante’s jaw clenches.

“…is he going to be okay?” V feels the need to ask and Dante nods.

“He’s stubborn. He’ll pull through.” Dante levels a look on him. “Why does the time matter?”

“Normally there’s just more time between a vision and the incident that it’s showing.” V says carefully. “Do you know who took it?”

“If I did, I’d be kicking in their front teeth right now.” Dante replies with a deadly sort of promise.

“I see.” V says. “Regardless of the Yamato being taken, we know what this person wishes to accomplish with it. That will aid us in hopefully stopping him before he manages.”

“Him?” Dante says, leaning forward slightly. “Do you know the name?”

“I believe so.” V says slowly. “I cannot be sure, there was no information that I was able to find concerning a demon with the name I saw.”

“Well, it’s better than nothing. Lay it on me.”

“The name I saw, was Vergil.”