Applejack managed to calm down from her expressive expletive frustrations, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry 'bout that," she allowed. "Just...after the whole keys thing with Temen-ni-gru and Mallet Island...I'm getting a little tired of meaningless back trackin'."
"I suppose so," Kyrie allowed, having managed to cover her ears as she had recognized the beginnings of a tirade with the deep breath.
"Besides," Nevan pointed out, "holding it in his possession seems to be passing the animation capability into Nero's Devil Buster. As long as he's carrying it, he can use his demonic energy to activate various mechanisms."
Applejack blinked. "Ya mean...it's a power up? Not a key?"
Applejack glanced away, blushing. "Aw, horse apples," she muttered. "Now I look like a right ninny, don't I? Feel like a wallow hog in a beauty contest. Where can I put my face?"
"In a bowl of jambalaya?" Kyrie suggested eagerly.
Applejack smirked. "Sure, I'll make some more when we next get to a rest point."
Using the new power, Nero activated a Gyro Blade and made it smash into a sealed door, breaking open a new path. "Let's just keep going for now," he offered.
Gyro blades proved quite useful in further battles with minor demons, as once charged up through rapid weapon strikes, the shredding force released as it blasted forward tore most minor demons to ribbons.
"I wish you'd do that less, Nero," Nevan complained. "It's hard to know how to score it, especially as you aren't the only one charging the blades with weapon strikes!"
"I don't think you really need to worry about that," Alastor pointed out. "If you count Griffon's kills as Kyrie's - which you should since Applejack told him to obey her - she's already tied with Dante and Virgil."
"Still in last, big boy?" Trish asked Credo teasingly.
"I do not care about score," he growled. "I care about protecting those people who look to me for that. I could care less who destroys the demons as long as they don't threaten people anymore."
"It's his first incursion," Applejack explained.
"I'm catching up to you, Nero!" Kyrie called eagerly.
"And she's tryin' to hard ta impress him," Applejack added.
After making their way through the castle for a while and solving a puzzle involving positioning Gyro blades on switches - which Applejack was able to make go much faster by suggesting to Nero he use his Devil Buster to tear gates down instead of taking the roundabout route of figuring out how to open them - they wound up in an interior courtyard filled with snow, wind, and playful laughter.
In the center of the courtyard, two Ruskalas - resembling glowing demonic Yuki-onna - were...well, Applejack told herself they were dancing, although it didn't look like any dance she'd ever seen before.
"Something tells me this is...inappropriate for Kyrie and me ta be watchin," she muttered.
"I'd say so," Credo muttered, covering Kyrie's eyes before the ice maidens got too frisky.
"They aren't real," Nevan said quietly. "They're lures, for a giant demonic angler fish."
An angry snarl greeted that statement as the beast lunged out. It resembled a massive white bullfrog with teeth. The two Ruskala hung from antennae much like an angler fish's light.
"You're smarter than you look!" the frog snarled. "But not nearly smart enough! I am no fish!"
"We might as well be shooting you in a barrel, though," Dante said as he drew Agni and Rudra.
"You dare stand up against Bael?" the beast demanded.
Virgil equipped Ifirt as he worked the kinks out of his muscles to Bael's left. "Won't even be difficult."
Appljeack grinned widely as she swung Berial about to Bael's right. "Time ta really test you out, Berial! Fire beats ice, after all!"
"I shall sear the flesh from the bones of this spineless worm!" Berial proclaimed eagerly.
Nero stood in front, igniting Red Queen's edge with its flame. "I heard frog legs taste like chicken...let's see if that's true."
As Griffon expanded overhead with Kyrie and Trish on his back, Kyrie looked beseechingly to Trish. "Quip, please?" she whispered hopefully.
Trish rolled her eyes as she funneled her electricity into Griffon. "Do you know what happens when a demonic toad is struck by lightning?" she asked.
"Can't say I do," Kyrie replied. Then she grinned. "Shall we find out?"
Credo pouted in the corner, feeling left out.
Bael glanced around at the flame and lightning arsenal surrounding him. "This...this isn't fair!"
Credo's eyes lit up as he stepped up behind Nero and leveling his sword at the beast. "Sorry," he said softly. "We don't give a fuck."
"We did that joke already," Nevan told him.
Credo went back to the corner to pout.
The battle with Bael was quick, brutal, and hot. The flame energy release from all the fire element Devil Arms melted away the snow, while the lightning energy obliterated the gathered storm. While most of Bael's body was torn to shreds, one of the Ruskana was absorbed by Nero's Devil Buster, allowing it to manifest a stronger energy field.
While there were several other demonic frogs like Bael on the other side of the rift in the dimensional fabric at the opposite end of the courtyard from where they entered, they proceeded to run away rather than racing to avenge their brother. The rift sealed itself shut.
Applejack walked up to one of the pieces of the demon where it was still smoking and took a nibble. She licked her lips as she tasted the meat, savoring the flavor. "Hmm...safe for human consumption...tastes a little like chicken...need to use a few different seasonings, but I can do this." Turning to the circle of flame left in the center of the courtyard, she pulled out the massive cauldron from before. "Get comfy, everybody!" she said eagerly. "Demon frog jambalaya coming right up!"
"Demon...frog?" Kyrie asked nervously.
"Meat's meat," Applejack replied. "Once it's dead, what's the difference? It ain't like it's human meat, and I ain't about ta waste it all. I'm runnin' short on shrimp and sausage as is."
Trish chuckled. "Don't worry," she told Kyrie. "Applejack takes her cooking seriously. If she says it's safe for you to eat, then you can trust it will be delicious."
As Applejack cooked up a quick meal - speeding up the simmering of ingredients with gouts of Berial's flame - the others gathered around to warm up and await a scrumptious repast.