Preface

When I began to write Frail Equilibrium, I wasn't expecting it would evolve into needing a sequel. But from the moment people started asking about one, I realized that a sequel story was in my head, but I got a little scared of being unable to deliver.

This is rather expected of me, the neurotic little perfectionist that I am. And when I did make up my mind, I kept having technical issues with my computer (including the entire first draft of this story getting corrupted and then vanishing completely) that didn't want to stop coming. The stress from the computer problems caused me to have a sort of mental block. Art block and writer block and—ah forget it, you don't wanna hear about this. The point is, it took nearly two years, but I did not abandon this. I've got a story to tell; the sequel you're currently about to read.

Before we move on, I'd like to say a little something. Crossfire sees a little change in my method of writing and the departure of a friend from my editing/anti-procrastination team. This means that there will be some slight differences in aspects such as dialogue or battles. However, I am determined to keep the quality level as high as I can and try to exceed Frail Equilibrium's. I'm not very sure how fast chapters will be put up this time, though. So be patient.

As before, I will kindly ask you to give me heads up about spelling mistakes or typos that I might have missed. One can never be too careful.

Concerning the story now, I've got a few things to say. For the ones reading my work for the first time, I advise you to go read or even just skim through the prequel, Frail Equilibrium, otherwise some aspects of Crossfire may not make sense.

Actually, a lot of it might not make sense, so go look it up anyway. And don't forget to review!

For my returning readers now, I know you've got certain expectations of the story, but I'll ask you one thing: Do not make the mistake of having too high expectations, or you might get disappointed, and I will hate to do that to you. Yes, Dante is back, so is Tess and so is—well that's all I'm willing to give you. You'll have to read the story for the rest.

I want to thank all the people that stood by me while I was writing this. Like with Frail Equilibrium, these people reminded me to keep believing in my writing and to stop being so worried all the time. Therefore, I want to thank Hassan, Adam, Jason, Nukey and Brandon who had the patience to listen to my ramblings; you guys have no idea how much this meant to me. I'm really sorry if I got carried away a bit, babbling on, but I won't forget how much I appreciate it. Also, thanks to Alexx, who despite his faults provided me with many ideas and food for thought. I extend my thanks to LunaFarfalla, LuciferDragon and Dragon Mage for their beta-reading help.

Last but not least, you, the reader. Thank you for taking the time to read the story, and I sincerely hope you will enjoy it. Have fun.

Important Author's Note: In the fanfic, you will often encounter the word 'wiccan' being used. The term is used to describe witches of both genders in the same sense that 'human' describes human beings. It is not related to the Wicca religion, though elements of it have been borrowed for the story, with the fullest respect to the Wicca religion.

Devil May Cry
Canto Azuro: Crossfire

Prelude

The greasy cigar smoke rolled in the slight midday breeze as the bar door opened. The conversation dipped slightly as the man stepped inside while some of the older and more suspicious patrons craned their necks to study the newcomer with an Italian kind of suspiciousness. Smoke coiled toward the dim lights and drifted around flat beers and the calm and relaxed atmosphere of the bar.

The pleasant tunes of classic rock rolled out of the old-fashioned radio mounted on the wall behind the bar. The few clients and the barkeep were all equally relaxed in the early midday hours. One would think it would receive more clientele, since it was an old, well-known joint, situated right on one of the central streets of the provincial Italian town. Yet naturally, a low drinking bar like this was expected to attract more people at night than in the middle of the day. Many locals also found it too foreign for their tastes.

Run by an American, with most clients consisting of American or English immigrants, the drinking bar was not high on the preference of many Italians. Ranging from middle-aged to younger, the patrons, all males, were scattered either at the bar, chatting between them, or at two of the tables, with one company eagerly poring over a game of poker, jesting between them and taunting each other, while occasionally taking sips from their drinks.

Yet the man that stepped though the open door looked like anything but the usual type of customer or a newcomer away from his homeland. There was something quite unsettling about him, despite his calm demeanor. A small group of four, sitting at a table on the other side of the bar paid him little to no attention, except for the one person looking over at him from head to toe, then resuming conversation with his fellow drinking partners.

The man stepped right up to the bar and pulled himself onto one of the high stools lining the wooden counter, resting his elbows on the black marble surface.

"Jack Daniels, on the rocks," he said smoothly, as the barkeep turned to him after serving another young man on the other end of the counter.

The bartender, a short, stout, middle-aged American, faced the newcomer with a chuckle. "Well, I'll be damned. What's a Big Apple brother like you doing in this dusty little place of Italy?" he said, reaching for a glass and the bottle of malt.

The man just smiled. "Nice guess."

"Ah, the accent. No mistaking that New York accent!" the bartender replied, placing a glass right in front of the man. He paused as the man placed a photograph on the counter.

"This girl," the man said. "Looking for her. Heard she hangs around these parts."

The bartender was silent for a moment, as he looked at the picture, contemplating. "Huh, seen the face," he muttered and unceremoniously poured some whisky in a glass for himself.

"Don't really know the girl; once said her name was Celia, but that's all I really know for sure 'bout her. I can tell ya this though, she's bad news," he chuckled, drinking from the glass. "Angel looks, empty pockets and empty hands. Nasty combo for the stuff she does."

"Yeah?" the other said with a cool interest, tapping his finger against his own glass, amused.

The bartender lit a cigarette and inhaled some smoke calmly. "Seen her couple of times. Gotta admit she got me out of one rather tight spot a while back; I've seen what she's 's a weird piece o' goods" he said, exhaling the smoke slowly. "Quiet, bit cold--hell, even shy. Sweet-talkin' thing when she wants to, never asks for trouble, but you'd hardly call her a lady, she's a nasty lil' bitch. I mean…as puny as she may seem to be--packs quite a punch," he snorted. "Just last week she broke a dude's arm and nose, right in here. Can't say the punk didn't deserve it, but it's scary the way she does things like that with a cool face while looking hot as hell at the same time. 'Course, that's just the 'lite' stuff she does."

The man on the other side of the bar smirked, bringing the glass to his lips. "What's that supposed to mean?"

The bartender took another draw of his cigarette. "I got a shrewd lil' idea that she's some kinda bounty hunter or merc. She's hard to come by. You'll never hear her comin'. She keeps nearly givin' me heart attacks every time she turns up, like a ghost; scares you shitless and leaves before you know it. Sometimes she comes 'ere to meet someone. They talk in this lil' room I got in the back. I got no idea what jobs she's takin' but from the looks of the customers she gets, seems like the weirdest yet. See here--" he said, leaning forward a little "there's some rumors flyin' around 'bout her."

"Rumors, eh?" the man countered, his smirk insisting.

He drank some whisky before answering. "This part of Italy and this city are messed up like that. Superstition, paganism and paranormal shit--you'll find it here. And you'll find all the wackos that go with it. Some crackpots say there's witch circles and Satanist cults. This city's damn old, hard to find all its secrets. There sure is somethin' odd about this city and this Celia girl…I hear a lotta tongues say she's a witch in one of them circles," he said. "She sure as hell looks like one; nasty enough to boot. She pulls off some weird acts every now and then. Like I told you…bad news kind'a girl. She'd tempt a saint and toy with him. Send him to Heaven or Hell, if she had the mood," he ended, putting out his cigar carefully. "I don't know where she is, you might wanna try the gypsy quarter, couple of streets down. It's full of self-proclaimed witches and the lot; I hear she hangs out there. But you really wanna find that messed-up girl?"

The man just smiled and paid for his drink. "Yeah. I got some old scores to settle with her."

"What, you actually know her?" the bartender said, surprised.

The man has already heading for the door. He looked over his shoulder, gazing through curtains of white hair, an amused smirk tweaking his lips. "Kind of like an old acquaintance."

The bartender shook his head. "Still, that girl's bad news," he muttered.

The man chuckled and walked out of the pub. "She's always been."