Dante's Little Apple Surprise

by Tatsurou

Early Hurdles

Passing through the new door, they found themselves in a temple like chamber. All doors sealed themselves with white mist. Applejack was the first to speak. "So Alastor," she asked, "what's this place about?"

Alastor was silent in response. Dante nudged the blade. "Hey, talk to AJ!" he ordered.

Nevan sighed. "It's because Applejack's my Master," she groaned. "We haven't...spoken to each other since we broke up. It...wasn't pleasant for either of us."

"How come ya broke up?" Applejack asked in concern.

"We...got into a heated argument," Nevan admitted. "We...both said some things that...I don't think either of us meant, but...well, we're both rather prideful."

"A lover's quarrel?" Agni asked.

"What about?" Rudra inquired.

"...kids," Nevan finally admitted.

"You wanted 'em, he didn't?" Applejack asked.

"...other way around," Nevan replied.

"What?" Dante asked in surprise. "But the moment you laid eyes on baby Applejack you were all over her! Bathing her and drying her and grooming her mane! And you were upset that you wouldn't get to participate in her playful bath times!"

"So it's just my kids you didn't want?" Alastor demanded angrily, his voice words without sound.

"I never said I didn't want children someday!" Nevan countered angrily. "I just said I wasn't ready for any of my own! I was only 900! I'd only just moved out of my parent's home! I needed to be my own demon for a while before I even thought about settling down!"

"But when I asked you-"

"I reacted badly because it felt like you were pushing for them!" Nevan interrupted. "You are a good deal older than me, after all. It was reasonable to assume you were eagerly seeking-"

"Do you know how many demonesses before you dumped me the moment they learned I wanted kids?" Alastor demanded. "How many just don't care about the future? I'd all but given up having children of my own before meeting you! But then you..."

Everyone was silent for a time.

"I'm sorry for making you feel pressured," Alastor said at last.

"Sorry for overreacting," Nevan replied.

"I'm sorry for the things I said."

"I'm sorry for what I called you."

"...is it too late?" Alastor asked at last.

"No," Nevan replied. "It's not. ...besides, you're bound to my Master's father. We're kind of stuck with each other."

Electricity sparked happily between them in a lovely dance.

"So...about this room?" Dante asked.

"Oh, right," Alastor replied. "This is the Trial of the Lion. You must take the Path of Trials to-"

"Rooms of puzzles and obstacles in order to get an item we'll use once to open a single path forward?" Dante interrupted.

"...how did you know?" Alastor asked in surprise.

"It ain't our first rodeo," Applejack replied.

"You were still in diapers at your first rodeo," Dante teased.

"Ah was not!" Applejack countered.

"Only because I didn't have any," Dante countered.

"You should have asked!" Agni proclaimed.

"We could have provided some!" Rudra added.

Applejack groaned, pulling her hat down over her face. Laughing, Dante led the way to the Path of Trials.

Crossing a bridge outside, they came to a lion plaque at the end. They read the description.

Go back the path and thou shalt return from the abyss with thy lionheart, and thou shalt receive the Pride of Lion.

"Wait...the trial is literal backtracking?" Dante demanded in frustration. "That's a bit much."

Halfway back across the bridge, a bolt of lightning shattered it, causing them to fall downward.

Landing in the water, Dante and Applejack held their breaths as they progressed forward. After shredding through an underwater cage of floating skulls, they used a teleporter to return to the bridge, back near the door. Stepping through, they found the lion etched carving no longer shielded by white light. Dante retrieved it. "I take it this is the Pride of Lion?" Dante asked.

"And we're supposed ta stick it in that lion carving we saw a while back?" Applejack added.

"...why do you need me to answer questions again?" Alastor asked.

"Because walkin' in silence is boring," Applejack pointed out. "Talking's much more fun!"

"Not as much as singing, though," Nevan pointed out.

"Oh! Does young master also seek to mate with the new female?" Agni spoke up.

"Should we serenade her as well?" Rudra added.

"...Master Dante, my blade would be far more effective at breaking through that wall than your skull," Alastor pointed out.

At that point, a giant spider made of magma and stone dropped through the ceiling.

"Bah!" it proclaimed as it saw them. "More small ones-"

Applejack let out a scream in surprise from having the creature drop in right behind her, nearly landing on her tail. Swinging her tail, Cerberus leapt free. "Ballballballballballballballballballballballballballball!" Cerberus proclaimed as he spun, striking the beast repeatedly in the face.

"Hey!" it complained. "I was talking!"

"Shut up, Phantom," Alastor said dryly as Dante leapt into the air and brought the blade point down into the beast's back. As Phantom reared, Dante yanked out Agni and Rudra to tear into his unarmored back for a time before leaping away with Alastor as the scorpion tail struck.

Phantom quickly fled, melting through the floor, the hole sealing itself up behind him.

"...did he just run away?" Dante asked in shock.

"The only one who ever did that was Beowulf," Applejack replied. "Think Uncle will take care of this guy, too?"

"Hope not," Dante replied. "I want to handle him myself."

Returning to the chamber Applejack had mentioned regarding the lion carving, Dante used the Pride of Lion to lower a barrier. At Alastor's instructions, he then struck the lion carving a few times. The carving dissolved, revealing a shadowy lion with sharp fangs. It lunged forward to attack them.

Dante and Applejack each leapt to either side, flanking the beast as they attacked with blades and gauntlets. The shadow beast struggled against their two pronged attack, but proved unable to fight back and eventually dissolved.

A new path opened up for them, through a door marked with the face of the lion.