Once everyone had finished eating, the group made their way to Fortuna Castle, making a brief stop for Nero to pick up his preferred weapon, the motorized blade Red Queen. "Nice sword," Dante commented, slinging Rebellion over his shoulder.
"Bigger isn't necessarily better," Nero countered, hefting Red Queen.
"How did my son grow up to be my brother?" Virgil asked ruefully.
Applejack glanced around nervously. "Well..."
"What?" Virgil demanded.
"Well, based on what I've been getting from the sword..." She shifted nervously as the Eye of Sparda appeared in her demonic aura briefly. "Well...when he wasn't fighting or researching, Sparda was like that too."
Virgil's eyes went flat. "So the attitude is genetic and I'm the weird one?"
"Basically," Applejack admitted, causing both Dante and Nero to laugh.
"And this is the family Kyrie wants to join," Credo muttered under his breath.
"Get used to it," Nevan said in his ear. "Also, get moving."
Kyrie smiled at the interplay, her hand going fondly to the pendant Nero had gotten for her, which now hung around her neck.
As they returned to the city, they found the populace under attack by a swarm of minor demons, creatures of sackcloth stitched together with blades.
"Scarecrows," Virgil muttered, drawing his blade.
"Looks like we've arrived just in the nick of time," Dante joked. "Know what that makes us?"
"Big damn heroes," Nero finished, bracing his blade easily as he revved the motor, the blade glowing with heat.
Virgil and Credo pointedly remained silent.
Grinning, Applejack held up her hoof. Nevan flashed as she shifted to Weapon form, spinning in her hoof. "Let's rock!"
The people of the city could only stand and stare in amazement as the power of four Dark Knights tore through the Scarecrows like kindling. It was hard for anyone to tell which did more damage to the beasts: Dante switching between Rebellion, Alastor, and Agni and Rudra; Virgil wielding his shifting katana and Ifrit; the sweep of Nevan's blade in Applejack's hooves, alternating with shots from Artemis and hoof strikes with Beowulf; or Nero switching between slashing with Red Queen and smashing with his demonic buster arm. It was easy to see, however, that Credo was seriously outclassed by all of them. However, it did leave Kyrie feeling perfectly safe going around the battlefield, tending to the wounded, the panic stricken, and the lost.
"It's alright," she told everyone as she guided them into the safety of the forest. "The Children of Sparda have come to save us. All will be well soon. Go to safety."
While this did get the innocent civilians out of the way, it also resulted in several calls of "Praise to Sparda" and similar such prayers, much to Dante, Virgil, and Applejack's annoyance.
"All the civilians are safe," Kyrie said as the last of the first group of Scarecrows fell.
"The scores currently put Applejack in the lead, closely followed by Nero, with Dante and Virgil tied for third," Nevan said from the bats fluttering overhead. "Credo is far behind in last."
"You're keeping score in the middle of a crisis of this scale?" Credo demanded angrily.
"For you, this is a crisis of unimaginable proportions," Applejack explained. "This is our third."
"These crises are the only time enough demons show up that we can actually keep score," Dante pointed out.
Credo glowered, but then turned back to the matter at hand.
As they progressed through the city, the group took a stop inside a cathedral so Kyrie could rest. While there, Nero found a sphere resting in a skull filled with blue fire. It seemed to be powering something. However, when he picked it up with his Buster arm, he absorbed it, and the machine stopped. "Okay," he said, looking a bit freaked out. "I think I'm beginning to believe what you're saying about the demon research."
With the new power the Evil Legacy awoke inside him, Nero was able to use his Buster arm to drag himself around the city. This would prove useful, as he wasn't nearly as physically fit as the others, and couldn't jump as well.
After progressing through the city towards the Castle, the group reached the Ferrum Hills. Nero paused, as he could see that Kyrie was beginning to get out of breath from struggling to keep up. "Maybe you should wait with the civilians," he suggested in concern.
"No," Kyrie insisted. "I...I need to see the truth."
Applejack chuckled. "Well ain't she determined?" she joked. "Well, there's no need for ya ta walk. Griffon!"
Nero stepped back as the green magic circle appeared in the air before Applejack, expanding to reveal the thunderbird. "Mistress?' Griffon asked.
"Get big enough so Kyrie can ride you," she said, gesturing to the heavily breathing girl. "Also, take orders on where ta shoot from her. That way she can contribute."
"As you command," Griffon agreed, expanding until he was six feet long from beak to tail, with a 12 foot wingspan. "Climb aboard," he instructed.
Smiling in relief, Kyrie clambered onto the bird's back.
Right at that moment, a massive beast of flame leapt out of a massive pillar, setting fire to a score of empty huts. It seemed to be a demonic centaur wreathed in flame, a flaming sword held in one hand, and wings of flame on his back.
"Berial!" Ifrit called out. "Long time no see!"
The beast paused, suddenly looking rather nervous. "Dad?" it demanded. "What're you doing here? I thought you set up shop on Mallet Island?"
"Dad?" Beowulf demanded in shock.
Ifrit laughed. "Mallet Island blew up when Mundus tried to use it to get out of hell again! Sparda's kids here sent him right back."
Berial snorted. "You helped, I see. What could they possibly offer you that is worth betraying the demon world?"
"Three things," Ifrit replied. "One, between the three - now four - of them, they wield more of Sparda's power than Sparda did originally." The nervousness was plain on Berial's face. "Two, these guys are fun! It never gets boring with them!"
"That reminds me!" Agni proclaimed. "We should serenade Miss Kyrie for Young Master's nephew!"
"A capital idea!" Rudra proclaimed.
"See what I mean?" Ifrit pointed out as Nero blanched and Applejack laughed.
Berial scratched the back of his head. "I suppose...but what's the third thing?"
"The best damn jambalaya in any realm, ever!" Ifrit said eagerly. "I've got an extra bowl here still warm. Try it!" Ifrit's flames released a bowl of jambalaya in Berial's hand.
Berial stared down at the bowl for a time, then took a taste. His eyes opened wide, and he began to devour the dish, bowl and all.
"See what I mean?" Ifrit asked.
"Well...I suppose..." Berial allowed. "But...to give up freedom for it-"
"Berial," Ifrit interrupted, "why do demons want to come to the human world?"
"What are the three things demons want from the human world that are hard to get in the demon world?"
Berial was silent for a time. "...the food is better...there's more room...and hell is boring."
Dante's eyes went flat. "Seriously?" he demanded.
"Well, the Children of Sparda go all over the place," Ifrit explained. "They are never boring. And do you really think you can find food better than that?"
Berial was silent, plainly conflicted.
"Tell ya what," Applejack piped up. "If'n ya want, I can fight ya first, prove my superiority, and then ya can become mah Devil Arm! I ain't got a fire element yet." She thought for a bit. "Lightning, light, ice...yeah, fire'll round that out nicely."
"Why would I want to be your Devil Arm?" Berial demanded.
"I'm the one who makes the jambalaya," Applejack replied.
"Have at you!" Berial proclaimed eagerly, lunging for her.
The rest of the group sat off to the side of the battle as Applejack and Berial dueled, watching in interest. "Is...is that really all demons want from Earth?" Credo asked.
"Demons strong enough to be Devil Arms, yes," Ifrit replied.
"For the rest, it's because it's easier to grow stronger on Earth than in hell for demons," Alastor added.
"Wait..." Virgil began cautiously. "Does that mean...the reason Sparda was seen as a traitor to demons...was because they thought he was trying to keep all the good Earth stuff for himself?"
The Devil Arms were conspicuously silent.
Before anyone else could say anything, there was an explosion from the battlefield. When the smoke cleared, Applejack stood victorious, Berial on her hip opposite Artemis, a flaming lash. "I got's me a lasso!" she called happily. "Yee-haw!"
A glowing sphere became visible near the gate as its energy faded. Curious, Dante approached it. As he seized it, the light flared, and became a rather frightening weapon strapped to his back.
Dante grinned widely as the arms flared, revealing energy blades. "Come on, let's go," he said.
Virgil stared at him. "You...aren't going to say something wildly inappropriate that I'm going to need to smack you upside the head for?"
"Not when young women and children are present," Dante replied.
Virgil grunted as the group made their way to Fortuna Castle. "Perhaps you're more mature than I-"
"I'm saving that for when I demonstrate this weapon for Lady!" Dante added proudly.