Devil May Cry © Capcom

Like a Torch Flickering in the Wind

Jason M. Lee

Vergil often saw himself as a Son of Sparda, even if the label was shared with Dante. Sometimes, the demons he's encountered would tack on "Elder" or "First", though be it out of contempt or genuine respect, he didn't care. It was a part of his heritage, his father's legacy. Never again did he ever wanted to be weak in the face of his opponents alone, or with Dante by his side. The want for strength to protect himself was always there.

There shouldn't be any room for anything deemed "soft".

(The reasonable side of him whispered that he had been only a child back then, of course he wouldn't be as capable as he currently is.)


And yet...

"Hello, Nero." Calloused hands picked up the squirming baby boy who had been just trying to roll over in his playpen. Soft hair tickled his nose as he took in his son's scent, not minding small hands patting his face. "I hope you hadn't been bothering your grandfather while I was away."

A low chuckle escaped Sparda, pausing on going over the shop's ledger. After realizing that Dante was a bit loose with his money, the devil opted to be the shop's accountant. Doubling as the secretary was also a win-win: Dante didn't had to fuss too much about paperwork (other than the necessary ones that needed his signature), and Sparda was less likely to draw further attention to himself by not going out in the field. The bonus of Sparda staying behind to watch over Nero also meant that the twins could go out on separate jobs without worrying too much about the youngest's safety (Vergil only protested once before locking them away within him - less distractions). "As vocal as ever, much like when you were a nestling."

Vergil tilted his head at that, readjusting an arm around Nero as he sat down on the sofa while setting Yamato next to him. It had been three months since Temen-ni-gru, as well three months since taking Nero from Fortuna, although things were still a touch rocky between the three of them, four whenever Lady swung by. "Father, how..."

"Hmm?" Sparda turned back to the books, his other hand clacking the abacus's beads at a high rate of speed. Lady and Dante had tried to convince him to use a calculator, but every electronic calculator they've tried either couldn't keep up with the buffering or practically disintegrated under his fingers. Lady had contemplated a computer to handle the paperwork, but Dante surprisingly vetoed the idea, and thus they got the sturdiest typewriter they could find after visiting at least six antique shops.

"How did you dealt with Mother's..." He tried not to bite his bottom lip, the old pain clenching tight in his heart. Unconsciously, he held Nero closer to his chest, gently stroking the downy hair and letting Nero's baby babble wash over him.

The grandfather clock ticked between them, each swing of the pendulum sounding far heavier than it should.

"I never did properly tell you or Dante, did I..." Letting out a quiet sigh, Sparda put down the pen, took off his glasses that was part of his disguise and rubbed his eyes. "After the ambush, my first thoughts were the safety of you three, but I could not find either of you two, only Eva lying right outside the front door. The next instinct was to locate you two, and since I did not sense or smell either of you in the area, I had to believe that both of you were still alive."

Vergil waited patiently as Sparda studied the painted red and gold vines that curled around the black frame, the older devil having commissioned the design as a reminder, before putting them back on. It wasn't his monocle, but both Lady and Dante had said that he should keep with the times.

"After Temen-ni-gru, I would have been within my right to seek vengeance against the perpetrators, but having seen humans consumed by the desire for revenge over the centuries, it felt hollow. The pain of losing Eva may have lessened over the years, yet it will always remain. I will admit, there have been times where I was like a torch struggling against powerful winds. Thus, I use the memories of happier times in part as a motivator to not wallow in my own grief and to keep moving forward, to live for her sake. 'The living should carry on for the dead,' Eva once said, and I still agree with her."

Vergil solemnly gazed at his sire before dropping down to watch Nero blink sleepily and yawn, lips smacking. He rarely thought of his more softer memories, viewing them more as unnecessary as the trophies and trinkets Dante and Lady decorated their spaces with. Although Sparda's words was starting to make him reconsider it, given the time spent with Nero. "And the other part, Father?"

Quietness, before Sparda moved to sit next to Vergil on the sofa and gently tugged a startled half-devil close, sandwiching a nearly dozing Nero in-between them. "You, Dante, and Nero are the other part. Watching you three grow and live is what also gives me strength. I will not argue our devil side where 'might is right' is common for many of us. However, there has to be a reason behind wanting strength, my fledgling."

"Might controls everything. And without strength, you can't protect anything. Let alone yourself."

"What are you going to do with all that power, huh? No matter how hard you try, you're never gonna be like Father!"

"I wanted to be like you, Father," Vergil whispered, not fighting the sudden shame and grief welling up. Shame on realizing how close he could've lost his sire's approval and someone as precious as Nero, grief trickling out after being held back for so long. The sense of weakness of those two emotions would've been something he'd never allow to exist, but Dante had been right - no matter how much power he'd obtained, he could never be like Sparda, as well that unanswered question of "and then what". "You were so powerful. And yet when they came..."

"I know." Claws disguised as blunt nails soothingly stroked swept back hair that leaned into his touch, much like years ago when a young nestling would cuddle up on wanting reassurance. "I know far too well. I was once like you, thinking that power was everything, but it was not. No matter how much I gained, no matter how much I wanted more of it, no matter how many of my opponents I either killed or defeated, it was never enough. Strange as it may be, you, Dante, and Nero are truly my strength now."

Lips pursed in thought, lightly stroking a now sleeping Nero's cheek with a thumb. Changing the desire of power so as not to feel weak again to protecting Nero had been something he once asked himself after leaving Fortuna, yet re-examining it now, it felt right. "Even Lady?"

Sparda chuckled softly. Such a far contrast to her ancestor's more demure demeanor, but the priestess's fiery descendant certainly made things around the shop more lively. "Even Lady, if her and Dante's interactions are anything to go by from the looks of it. In a way, they are each other's strengths, despite them not quite knowing or acknowledging it yet."

"I see..." He'll have to put down his thoughts for Nero, especially if - when - the boy started asking about his mother.

"Strength is a choice, my son, fighting determinedly out of the desire to protect what is most important to one. The stubbornness of humanity to strive on regardless of hardships was what also caught my attention." The former Legendary Dark Knight sighed wistfully, looking at the back of the photo frame sitting on the desk. "Never forget - you and Dante are not just the Sons of Sparda, you two are also the Sons of Eva. And you should not be like me - you should be you, because there's only one unique Vergil in either worlds, just as there's only one unique Dante in either worlds."

A/N: Follows "Pluck the Vibrating Strings". For Dadgil Week 2019, "protection" and "comfort".

Title from the song "Ashes" as sung by Gemie and composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, from the anime film Promare.

That last sentence of "you should be you" was inspired by DMC1's director/creator Hideki Kamiya's responding tweet to a fan when they said they wanted to be like him when they grew up: "You gotta be you. Only one in the world."