Dante's Little Apple Surprise

by Tatsurou

Love and Hate

As Dante continued onward into the tower, the first new obstacle they encountered was an enemy seemingly made of ether. It proved very vulnerable to weapons fire, however, so it didn't slow them down for long. As they progressed, Dante spoke up.

"Say, isn't this place a little...easy to navigate?" he asked Agni and Rudra.

"How do you mean?" Agni inquired.

"Why shouldn't it be?" Rudra added.

"Well, if it's some sort of lock on a gate to hell or something, shouldn't it be a little harder to unlock?" he pointed out.

"You are incorrect!" Agni proclaimed.

"The tower is not a lock!" Rudra informed him.

"The Tower was built by those who wanted the gate opened," Nevan purred. "The seal was added later by your father, and is not part of the tower's design. And while the seal is easy to get to, the keys to unlock it aren't so easy to come by."

"You don't say," Dante commented as he pushed a block into its proper receptacle to make a carved face in a fountain weep blood. "And what are the keys?"

"We do not know," Agni admitted.

"Sparda did not inform us," Rudra confirmed.

"He said it would make them too easy to find," Nevan added.

Applejack batted at Dante's cheek to get his attention, then pointed to his unadorned neck.

"What is it, AJ?" he asked. Looking down, he noticed what was missing. "Wait, Virgil took Mom's pendant?" Applejack suddenly bleated. "AJ, you think the pendant is one of the keys?" AJ nodded affirmation.

"Your mother did play a role in the sealing," Nevan admitted. "Though I'm afraid that's all I know. Still, it is a distinct possibility."

"Either way, I'm taking it back when I find Virgil," Dante growled. "It's mine."

Completing the puzzle, Dante and company then engaged in battle with shadowy, reaper-like enemies. AJ rocked out on Nevan to create a protective field of electrified bats around Dante, preventing the new monsters from approaching to attack him. Dante continued to lunge and strike, the field of bats parting to let his strikes through while also electrifying the enemies he tore into.

"You two are becoming an excellent team!" Agni proclaimed once the battle ended.

"Indeed!" Rudra agreed. "You are working together excellently!"

Dante merely shrugged. "Whatever." While he had to admit Applejack's contributions were effective, he was too used to handling things alone to completely like getting her assistance. He'd have rather gotten through the Tower on his strength alone. However, alongside that original mindset, a new impulse was growing. Every time Applejack showed her skills or took down enemies on her own, he felt the urge to praise her or applaud. The urge was still small...but it grew slightly every time she called him Pa. He wasn't ready to confront this change in his motivations, so he ignored it and continued onward.

Finding some sort of tram, he hopped on and rode deeper into the Tower.

Fighting their way down the track, the group eventually reached the end of the rail and continued onward, entering what was obviously a massive torture chamber. Seeing an artifact he'd obviously need, Dante approached to grab it when a voice interrupted.

"Sparda! Sparda!"

The voice shook the room, and chunks of masonry fell. A bestial creature with four feathered wings crashed through the ceiling, glaring down at Dante and company with a single functioning eye.

"Aww, you poor thing!" Dante taunted. "Didn't your mother ever teach you to use a door?"

The creature seemed to ignore the jibe. "That odor...I know it!"

As Dante sniffed himself to find the odor in question, the creature marched right up to him. "Gimme a break!" Dante complained. "Tell you what, next time I'll try and wear some cologne, okay?"

"It's the stench of betrayal!" the beast proclaimed. "The odor of that accursed Sparda!"

Applejack whinnied her confusion.

"I shall destroy every last blood relation of Sparda!" the beast proclaimed, lunging forward.

Dante fought the beast as best as he was able, dodging around the powerful strikes and the holy element energy attacks, as well as thrown chunks of masonry. However, it was plain that he was outmatched in sheer brute power, even with Applejack's assistance. It was plain it wouldn't be long before he was overwhelmed.

When one punch slammed him right in the gut, it threw him back with more force than expected, and he was unable to twist his body. In desperation, he cast Applejack aside as he slammed back first into the wall, keeping her from being crushed by his own body.

"PA!" Applejack cried out in fear.

"Sparda!" the beast roared. Pulling his fist back, he aimed straight for Applejack.

Dante's eyes flew open. The demon power erupted from his blood. Just before the beast's fist impacted against Applejack, he flew across the room Rebellion first, and in full demon form drove the blade full length into the beast's one glowing eye.

As the beast reared back, roaring in pain, Dante kicked it in the chin hard enough to send it flying back into the roof of the chamber.

The beast roared again. "You have stolen my sight...but I know your scent! I will continue my hunt until I have purged that scent from the Earth!" Turning, the beast withdrew.

Dante landed beside Applejack, turning back to normal before scooping her up, checking to make sure she was alright. For her part, Applejack nuzzled eagerly into his chest.

After a time, Dante spoke up. "What just happened?" he asked of no one in particular.

"Sparda was a powerful warrior," Agni spoke up. "A Devil Knight."

"But that is not why he is known and feared throughout the demon realms," Rudra pointed out.

"When he fought only for himself, his power was no greater than any other demon," Nevan explained.

"His greatest power - a power that shook the foundations of the realms - awoke when he fought for others," Agni explained.

"For his wife," Rudra clarified.

"For his sons," Nevan added.

Dante stared down at Applejack, lost in thought. He remained silent, not entirely ready for what events were forcing him to confront. At long last, after making sure Applejack was unharmed, he strapped her to his back before turning back to the artifact. Lost in his thoughts, he reached for the artifact.