"Devil May Cry ..."
"Hello, um, hi... I'd like to speak to Dante?"
"You got him. You got the password too?"
"Yes! Uh, I mean, I need to talk to the 'handyman that will take any dirty job.' That's it, right?"
"More or less. What's the problem, and how much money you got?"
Dante glanced at his partner Lady, a pretty brunette with mismatched eyes in a white bell-bottomed catsuit perched on the edge of his desk, which she had just kicked. She was fixing him with a "be nice!" glare around a mouthful of pizza. He waved her off, leaned his chair back dangerously far, and picked his free ear with a pinky.
"It's my wife, and my daughter," the caller explained, "They've vanished ..."
"I don't do missing persons, pal," Dante cut him off as he examined the tip of his finger before wiping it on his red leather jeans. Lady made a face.
"... into a place called Silent Hill. Wait, let me finish." The caller took a shaky breath, "I'm in the next town over, place named Braham, and everyone here says that that place is, uh, you know ..."
Dante dropped his feet from the desk and waved Lady over. Grabbing a slip of paper and a pencil stub, he scrawled something down.
"No, actually, I don't know," Dante spun the slip of paper around and pushed it over to his partner. 'SILENT HILL?' it read. "Why don't you spell it out for me?"
She broke into a wide grin, scribbled something beneath Dante's question, and held the paper up for him.
The man on the other end of the line swallowed, "Haunted. They say it's haunted. I was there earlier today with the cops ..."
"Ok, Ok, I'll take your word for it," Dante grinned back at Lady, "You haven't told me how much you got though."
"They're my whole world, I'll pay whatever I can …" He paused, thinking, "I, uh, I can probably wire you about $15,000 tonight, and then call my bank on Monday to put in a transfer for, uh, another $85,000... And if that's not enough, I can mortgage ..."
"Nah, nah, that'll do. Don't worry about the up-front loot though. You pay when the job's done," Now Dante was getting bored, and met Lady's brown and blue eyes.
"Ask him ...," she began to whisper, but Dante cut her off by speaking into the phone.
"Work the details out with my partner," he flipped the handset over to Lady and stood, not looking to see that she caught it.
She did so, also without looking, and instead glared at Dante's back as he went to ponder the weapons cabinet.
"Hello, you can call me Lady. So why don't you start again from the top, Mr. ...?"
"Da Silva... you have no idea how frightening this is, having your family just disappear ..."
Lady swallowed, "You'd be surprised. Now what were they doing there?"
By the time Lady finished the call and hung up a half hour later, Dante had pulled five of his oversized magical weapons out of the cabinet (which Lady had carefully stored them in), felt their balance, checked them for wear, spun them on his fingertips, juggled them in groups of three, then finally stabbed the bladed ones into the wall next to the cabinet, and draped the flail and gauntlets over them. The only demonic armament (or "devil arm" as he called them) he didn't toy with was the glowing purple guitar called Nevan, which remained on its stand next to the drum kit, pulsing and sparking. Something singled it out for special treatment by its owner, and that made Lady uneasy.
Bored for the moment with his other toys, Dante was across the office, playing darts — which for him meant keeping his eyes closed, doing a handstand on one finger, and with a pizza crust sticking out of his mouth. A cluster of a dozen darts crowded the bull's eye, as he fished with his free hand in a box for another one.
The dart buried itself in the middle of the cluster with a 'THUNK!' as he gulped down the last bit of pizza.
"So this place, Silence Hill ..."
"Silent Hill," Lady corrected from her seat at the desk.
"... demon central? I figured, since you got that big shit-eating grin at the name. You been there?"
"No, not personally," Lady opened the desk and pulled out an atlas and a phone book. "But my father mentioned it several times. He visited it at least once, maybe more. I think he suspected it was one of the places where Temen-ni-Gru might manifest. The first time he went was right before he ... killed my mother."
She shook her head to clear the memory, and flipped through the atlas to the page on West Virginia.
"Here it, no... hm... It doesn't seem to be on the map. Oh, wait, here's the town our customer's staying in, Braham... but nope. No Silent Hill nearby. Well, I guess that's kind of good news, considering the type of place we'd expect. The customer, Da Silva, said it had been abandoned for years, something about a mine fire that was still going, and that it's been barricaded that whole time."
Turning upright in a flip, Dante landed next to the 'fridge in the lounge area under the stairs, pulled out his favorite Italian beer, and flopped onto one of the couches.
"Barricaded? Meaning no civilians or cops inside the place?"
Lady was writing down directions on a notepad, "Yeah, Da Silva said the cops all cleared out by nightfall. Real urgent. And they're giving him the runaround, of course."
"Cool, no other humans in the crossfire. When do we leave?"
Lady closed the atlas with a deliberate slam.
"As soon as YOU buy me that new motorcycle," she glowered.
Dante choked on his Menabrea, "God! Are we still on THAT?"
The devil hunters pulled their crimson Kawasaki Ninjas over to the roadside as soon as they saw the crashed cop bike. Dante, who wasn't licensed, had had to put both bikes in her name.
Lady pulled off her full-faced helmet and dismounted, as he doffed his minimalist headgear and shook out his snowy hair.
"Stupid helmet laws," he hadn't stopped bitching since he realized it was the only way to not get pulled over.
She dropped to one knee, examining the scene, "You might appreciate it if you were, oh, you know, human."
He shrugged and sniffed, pulled out his water bottle and took a long pull. "You see any tracks, Tonto?"
She ignored the remark, "Looks like someone wiped out here all right. From the skid marks, they were going pretty quick too when whatever it was happened. Yeah, see? It's definitely that missing cop's bike, it's from Braham. Wonder why the other cops didn't find it? I'll see if I can get the saddlebags open, could you give me a hand? ... Dante?"
She turned to see her partner staring up the road at a visibly approaching fog bank. She'd seen that look in his eyes before when he sensed the presence of his demonic kin — eager, wrathful, smug. She stopped her investigation and jogged back to her Ninja, where she unwrapped the long "telescope" strapped to the bike, unveiling her rocket launcher. Slinging it over her shoulder, she drew her Glock and her TEC-9 and clicked off the safeties.
"Oooohkay. What the hell?"
"Hopefully, yeah," he dismounted as the fog bank silently engulfed them. He unzipped the bass case containing his sword Rebellion, slung it over his shoulder and snapped it onto its magnetic clip. With the slightest shrug he ensured that his customized Colt pistols Ebony and Ivory were properly seated in their holsters under his coat.
The fog had fully swallowed them now, whiting out the sky and reducing visibility to a dozen yards. Lady swept the area with her guns, arms outstretched, covering 180 degrees at a time. Softly, white flakes began to flutter from overhead, though it was much too warm for snow. She caught one on her fingertips, where it revealed itself as gritty ash.
Without a word, Dante began coolly marching up the road. Even though the fog could separate them in an instant, she knew that dissuading her partner once he sensed demonic energies was nearly impossible.
"Ok, but what about my bikes?" she pleaded as she ran to catch up.
"Finally, some action!" Dante gloated, unholstering his black and white pistols and quickening his pace.
Lady squinted ahead, her human eyes straining to make sense of the white void around them. She could barely make out that a roadside fence separated them from a hillside of broken rubble. Up ahead, a smudge in the fog slowly resolved into a vaguely humanoid figure. She trained her pistol on it.
Her partner had already closed the gap between himself and the figure, and cocked his head to one side. The creature could now be clearly seen, and while it was certainly disturbing it presented no clear threat. It resembled some kind of naked multiple amputee, missing arms, genitals, even a face. Twitching spastically, it staggered forward in a duck-footed gait while its head lolled loosely atop its shoulders.
Dante just sighed disappointedly and slung a pistol over his shoulder.
"Ew. Sorry, I ain't got no Bactine,"
The figure stopped, shuddering as though its lunch wasn't agreeing with it. Abruptly, its chest ripped wide apart and a spray of black fluid erupted towards Dante.
Lady opened up with both of her handguns. Dante rolled out of splash range and stood, pistols blazing. The thing shuddered as bullets thudded into it and collapsed in a ruin. The puddle of its full-body vomit hissed and bubbled as it ate into the blacktop.
"Aw, c'mon! Don't give up now!" Dante whined as his attacker melted into the roadway.
"His friends ain't giving up that easy I don't think," Lady gestured up the hill where a throng of the things lurched towards them. These were moving noticeably faster though, and some had their torsos pre-split. Another wave staggered into view from the general direction of the town, where beastie number one had come from.
"OK, now this is more like it!" Dante exclaimed, before leaping a dozen feet in the air, drawing his sword and coming down like a guillotine in the midst of the nearest grouping.
"You — you lunatic!" Lady shouted, opening up with both guns on the swarm coming down the hill. She'd fought side-by-side with the half-devil before, but she still couldn't understand his need to go hand-to-hand with demon mobs. It sure wasn't to conserve his ammo, somehow any gun he used had an infinite supply.
But Lady wasn't so blessed, and after emptying two clips into the lurching throng and dropping about a quarter of them, she realized it was time to step up her game. She spun out of the way of an advancing vomit-thing as it snapped at her with its ripped-open torso, holstered her empty Glock and TEC-9, and swung Kalina-Ann into position — the heavily-customized missile launcher she'd named after her mother.
She grinned as she squeezed the trigger, "Let's rock, baby!"
One thunderous shot from Kalina-Ann cleared another quarter of her share of things, and she planted the weapon's bladed end in the blacktop to release a swarm of mini rockets. The creatures were blown apart in black fountains of acid.
"Come and get me!" Dante whooped as he flipped-spun over their heads, spraying bullets into the horde. He hit the dirt, rolled, lunged across the ground sword-first, and buried it in the torsos of three demons. These he skewered them with a blindingly fast flurry of stabs, before scattering them with a final thrust.
Calmly slinging Rebellion over his shoulder he grinned at the surviving monsters as they backed away in shock, unsure of how to handle a human who fought back with so much power.
Dante shrugged and spread his arms wide in mock sympathy, "You scared?"
Impossibly fast, he pulled out his sawed-off twelve-gauge and knocked a nearby enemy flat with a point-blank blast. Before it stopped bouncing he had holstered the weapon, snatched Rebellion from his back and swept the sword underhand like an enormous badminton racket, knocking the armless thing skyward. As the helpless monster reached the peak of its arc, the half-devil slung the sword onto his back and drew his pistols, using them to juggle the creature in mid-air on a fountain of bullets.
Minutes later, all that was left of the mob was a field of hissing and smoking corpses and sizzling puddles of demon blood.
"Man, I hate acid," Dante muttered, kicking a corpse's outstretched leg, "Only thing I can't really block ..."
"If either of our targets ran into a crowd of these things ..." Lady tried not to think too hard about a little girl lost in this hell.
"Yeah," Dante resumed his march towards town, "Let's hope there's something left so we can get paid."
Lady was still unsure how much of his self-absorption was a front. She had only seen him express real sentiment once, at the loss of someone close to him. It had been enough to convince her that there was some kindness and compassion in him — though he usually kept it well hidden.
Soon they came upon a silver SUV crashed into a guardrail. Lady searched the inside and confirmed it to be the one belonging to the Da Silvas, while Dante stood by, obviously bored. In the back seat she found a child's drawing of ... something — mostly black smudges of crayon and fragments of shapes, topped by the word "SCKOOL." The steering wheel had a smear of blood on it at about where the driver's forehead would have struck. The keys were gone.
"Bet she wishes she'd gotten the model with airbags," Lady remarked from the front passenger seat. "No signs of a struggle though. If she took the keys, they probably left under their own power."
"Cool," Dante replied from the other side of the road where he was zipping up his fly. He wasn't really listening.
"You know, clues and information might be the only things that will save this woman and her daughter," Lady spat. The years she had spent hunting down her malevolent father after he killed her mother had taught her the value of thorough investigation.
"See, this is why I don't like missing persons cases," Dante sneered as he crossed the road, "As far as I'm concerned, the best way to help any innocents here is to just kill everything else," he leaned against the guardrail, and cast his gaze in the direction of town. "The quicker we do that, the quicker we'll find them, 'cuz they'll be all that's left. Simpl ... Shit. Hey! Hey you!"
Lady sprang from the vehicle as her partner darted ahead, leaving the doors open as she dashed after him. No way was she going to let this unnatural fog separate them.
"Who is it? What did you see?" she shouted, struggling to keep up.
"A kid, a little girl. Long dark hair, dirty clothes," he called back.
"Sounds, huh, kind of like our, haaaah, haaah... our victim... Don't you fucking ditch me!" If the road hadn't sloped downhill at that point, she would have lost him to the fog. Again she regretted leaving the bikes.
"Dammit... damn, that kid's fast. Or something," Dante came to a halt and waited for his partner.
"Thanks for stopping," Lady gasped.
"Well, the kid vanished on me anyhow," hands on hips, he stood a moment. "That tears it. I don't like being teased. Something's trying to fuck with us here, and that ain't my style. Let's get into town so I can level the place."
Silent Hill proper sure deserved its name. Only the scuff of the devil hunters' boots on ashy pavement broke the deathly stillness. Years of abandonment to the elements had done a number on the former mining and resort town, and none of the businesses on Main Street were spared the slow creep of rot and decay. Restaurants, bars, barber shops, clothing stores ... everything was faded, dingy, broken, ashen, and bathed in a cold gray light that did nothing to ease the pallor.
Dante strode up the middle of the street, relaxed, swinging his arms, for all the world like a man faintly bored with the oppressive surroundings. Lady brought up the rear, guns in hand, eyes scanning every doorway, every window, every rusted out car.
Dante halted, turned to face an open doorway, "This way."
"What, did you see something? Hear something?"
"Not sure, but something's not right ...well, that is," he waved his hand vaguely, "more 'not-right' than the rest of this place."
Lady grinned as she followed, sweeping the rooftops and the path behind them with cocked guns, "Yeah, I was going to say ..."
Inside, Dante nonchalantly followed a staircase down into pitch blackness. Behind him, Lady pulled out a mini-flashlight and clipped it to her shoulder holster. As her eyes adjusted, she saw their surroundings take a dramatic turn for the macabre at the bottom of the stairs. The degree of decay jumped several orders of magnitude in this cellar. The multi-chambered network of rooms was dominated by rust, soot and debris, while the faintest hints of order were pushed to the margins. Down a hallway and around a bend, they found something baggy and man-sized hanging from a wall.
As Dante approached, he saw that it had probably been human originally. A miner's gas mask topped a bundle of tattered garments with boots hanging beneath, while damp entrails dangled from the middle.
"Fuck," said Lady, disgusted.
Impossibly, the eyes behind the gasmask flew open. Lady staggered a half step, caught her breath and moved to holster her weapons.
"We'll cut you down!" She wanted to be reassuring, but it came out more sickened than anything.
Dante grabbed her wrist without looking away from the hanging victim.
"Don't bother," he commanded flatly, then cocked his head, "... there."
A wall of sound crashed over them, sirens upon sirens, shattering the calm and briefly deafening Lady. Her flashlight flickered and dimmed and started to fail, though she always used fresh batteries on a job. She shook it, and smacked it with the heel of her palm, but it continued to grow weaker. The cold daylight from the stairwell behind them started to fade as well. As the light level dropped rapidly Dante took her shoulder and pulled her back the way they had come.
Lady shouted above the sirens, "What about ... ?"
"Seriously? He's beyond our help right now, he's just bait," Dante stopped at the entrance to the staircase, and turned to face the darkness. He drew Ebony and Ivory as Lady's flashlight gave one last flicker and died completely.
Darkness even blacker than the inside of her eyelids engulfed Lady. As the sirens died away as well, she pressed her elbow against Dante's, glad of his presence.
"It's showtime," Dante piped up, and she could almost hear him grin. She fished a fresh LED flashlight from a belt pouch and clipped it to her shoulder. It should have lit the room like a miniature sun, but it too was dim and flickering. It held, but just barely. Her eyes adjusted, and she saw a dozen shadowy forms surrounding them.
"You want a light?" she asked as she moved back to back with her partner.
"Nah, I don't smoke," he quipped, then took a sniff, "Hmmm. But these guys do."
Indeed, the air carried the smell of charred flesh from a swarm of child-sized horrors encircling them. Four-feet-tall on average, they were twisted like their bones had melted, their blackened skin cracked with each lurch revealing glowing red interiors that dripped embers as they reached forward. Lady felt the puke rise in her throat but choked it back. She preferred to battle tall specters of death, not incinerated children that smelled like a ruined dinner.
The shapes staggered towards them from the shadows all around, from every doorway and hole in the floor, but came to a sudden halt as an eruption of gunfire from the devil hunters tore through them. Sparks and muzzle flares filled the air.
Lady paused to reload as Dante sprang forward, pulling his crystalline three-headed flail Cerberus from beneath his coat, he spiraled through the air into the crowd.
Lady blew through four entire clips without really slowing them down. If her weapons had no effect there was no way she was going to hit these things with her fists — Dante alone was making headway by virtue of his magical ice-chuks.
Holstering her weapons, she vaulted over three of the things trying to corner her, stuck a perfect handspring in one of the few clear areas of ground, and landed inside the stairwell. From that position she was able to hold the monsters at bay with the force of her bullets — not truly damaging them, but knocking them back a few crucial feet.
"Chew on this!" Dante shouted, striking the ground with Cerberus, and a cluster of icy stalagmites erupted before him, shattering three of the things into hissing chunks. "It's COOL!" He slammed all three rods of Cerberus down, and a forest of ice pillars sprang up all around him, killing and injuring six more.
"Bullets don't kill them!" Lady called from the stairwell, "And I don't want to hit you with a grenade!"
"No problem, I got this ... " Dante spun the flail around himself at waist level, knocking back another grouping, "Wheeeeeeooooh! Too easy!"
Indeed, he made it look that way as dozens of the things met their end before him, while he dodged and countered their swipes and tackles. But there seemed to be no end to them, and she wondered how long even Dante could keep going.
Unable to truly mix it up herself, she could only marvel at his performance. Every attack or lunge one of the charcoal children made was deftly countered, dodged, or stopped by a face-full of Cerberus. Without even looking, he struck down opponents coming from all directions, leapt over their heads, bounced again off the shoulders of others, landed in a clear spot and spun the flail like an airplane propeller, shredding three of the monsters. But more and more of the things appeared, and the battlefield was beginning to resemble a fire pit.
Despite Lady's fears, Dante was happier than a pig in muck. These things were clearly demonic, vicious, and hot enough to burn even him if they connected. One misstep, one failed block and they would knock him down and swarm him. But Dante lived to be pushed to his limits, to be forced to find new ways to murder the forces of hell. His blackened soul burned with divine hatred.
For her part, Lady had learned quickly that all practical matters in their partnership were going to be her department. If the missions their newly-formed "Devil May Cry" agency undertook were ever to be about something besides Dante simply proving himself over and over, it was her burden to keep them on track. And in a fight against overwhelming odds his old self-absorption was still total.
"Dante!" She yelled, pleading. But the half-demon ignored her and continued his ecstatic butchery.
"Dante! We have a JOB!"
"I'm DOING it!"
"We have to find the Da Silvas! Dante! You asshole!"
In response he hopped on the back of a downed creature, kicked the floor like a skateboarder, and went sliding across the floor on the thing's back, whooping crazily. Pulling his pistols, he used their recoil to set himself and the thing spinning, knocking creatures flat all around with the gunfire. When he and his ride collided with a wall the impact finally shattered the demon as Dante back-flipped away. But a dozen more had already taken its place in the crowd.
Rage and desperation and an edge of panic rose up in Lady's gut. Her father, whom she had loved with all her heart, had come to this place and when he had returned he was different. Cold. Phony. And he killed her beloved mother days later. And now the only other being since then who had earned her trust was turning his back on her, but more importantly, abandoning a helpless mother and child still out there somewhere. She knew that without Dante's power she stood no chance of saving them on her own. But she was powerless to reach him, let alone slap him hard across the face, or bury her steel-toed boot in his privates as she longed to do now.
Oblivious, the man/demon who was the only hope she and two other people had was shouting with inhuman joy as he got his second wind. His mission: forgotten. Why he was here: forgotten. His humanity: nearly gone, lost in the thrill of endless combat. His sense of self slipped away, leaving only the warrior demon. His thoughts were gleefully consumed with finding flashy new ways to use Cerberus to kill his nameless opponents.
Lady gripped her guns hard enough to hurt. Despair grasped her utterly. A mother and daughter, two more victims about to be sacrificed to Hell, and she couldn't stop it. Again.
Her chest heaved faster and faster ... until something deep inside her seemed to snap — and a howl boiled up her throat, something she had somehow held back since the night she found her mother in a dripping tangle of bloody bed sheets.
"DAAANTEE! You demonic SHIT ... you MONSTER!" She screamed, her voice piercing the sounds of combat like a knife, "HELP ME, YOU FUCKING COWARD!"
The burning children staggered, and shrieks of their own mingled with hers. They collapsed, still keening, as their bodies crumbled to ash of their own accord. Dante stood stunned, Cerberus dangling at his side, clanking as it swung. Suddenly he was alone on the field of battle, watching his enemies turn to dust for no good reason. There is no victory in this, the beast inside him raged, he hadn't won ... but the warrior demon was no longer alone in Dante's head. The human boy who had called himself "coward" and far worse on many dark nights had now awoken in a storm of emotions.
His back still to his partner, he slowly put Cerberus back under his coat.
"What ... did you call me?" he spoke from the darkness, not turning. Not moving.
Lady swallowed. Her thoughts were torn ... what had happened here? But Dante didn't move, didn't make a sound. Something told her she was again in mortal danger. She chose her words carefully.
"We," she repeated the word for emphasis, "We have a job. There's a mother ... and a child ... at the mercy of all of Hell out there."
She swallowed, "They need help."
Dante remained still, not looking at her, his menacing figure in the center of the room cast a single long shadow in the beam of her light.
"Sound familiar to you? I know it does to me." Her tone still had an edge of accusation, but it was tempered with an appeal. They knew each others' stories by now after many long dull nights of beer, pizza, and no phone calls to the shop. As angry and frightened as she was right now, she reached out to that common bond.
"If you ever," his voice was low, sinister, as though it came from the darkness itself, "If you ever cross that line again ..."
Lady said nothing.
He spun on his heel and marched towards the stairwell, dragging his shadow along behind. They both avoided eye contact. He brushed past her without pausing.
"Just don't," he snarled over his shoulder.
Outside, the light had returned — such as it was. The thick fog and slow rain of ash was surreally calm after the last 20 minutes of insanity. Lady actually welcomed it as she took stock, but what she found in her belt pouches didn't reassure her.
"I've used up about half my ammo, and we still don't have many clues," she said, all business.
Dante, bored again already, tried to keep it professional as well — as much as he could, anyway.
"So ... why didn't you just bring more?" he asked. It seemed an obvious question to him.
"Because," she nearly snapped, "Some of us can't just pull weapons and ammo out of thin air like ... like Bugs Bunny." She paused to regain her calm, then simply said. "I brought as much as I could."
"Heh. Hahahaha ..."
Lady looked at him, confused. Still chuckling, Dante glanced over his shoulder to see Lady staring at him.
"Bugs Bunny?" he gave her a half-grin, "Now he's totally cool."
A pause, and Lady grinned too. Dante was back. Or at least the version of Dante she preferred. She feared that some day his brooding, grim and silent side would take over completely.
"Well, OK," he looked around, seeing no obvious next steps in their investigation, "You wanna head back to the bikes or something? Though if we got you to a defensible position, I could get there and back in a ..."
"No," she interrupted, "You think this place would let you find me again if we split up?" She sighed, "I'm not going to be much use if all I can do is yell, and there's no guarantee the next things we run into will have that kind of weakness."
Dante just stood and waited. This issue of adequate supplies was new to him.
"Let's head that way, but see if we can't find a gun store or something. Maybe there'll be something I can use."
They headed back through the main shopping district roughly the way they had come, but their search ended abruptly when the road ... stopped. Actually, the ground itself stopped, ending at a sheer cliff dropping straight into foggy nothingness.
Lady gaped, but Dante folded his arms and just grinned in appreciation.
"Niiiiice," was all he said.