“Nephilim, huh?” Trish asked, keeping her eyes on the road.
“Yup,” Kat nodded. “Children of both an angel and a demon.”
“How many of these Nephilim are there, a lot?” Trish slowed down for a stoplight.
Kat glanced out her window, watching people pass by on the sidewalk. “I don’t really know. Dante’s the only one I can be sure of.”
She pushed away memories of another, of new, more recent memories she avoided thinking about. Memories she wished she didn’t have, of someone she wished she hadn’t known. Her wounds were still open, even after six months.
“Heh, I guess it’s not too common for demons and angels to consummate a relationship, let alone be friends,” Trish said, pushing the cruiser into motion again. “And what about you, are you a demon who switched sides or something?”
“Nope, I’m just…an ordinary girl, but I’m a psychic. I can see into the demon world, and I can use specially prepared spells to affect it,” Kat replied.
“Demons, demons falling in love with angels, human psychics that can influence a demon world; I suppose I should stop being surprised by now,” Trish said.
“Yeah…the world is a crazy place, not everyone in it, as much as people try to tell us otherwise,” Kat replied.
“It’s pretty weird that people outside of the city are still reluctant to believe what they saw,” Trish commented, taking a right turn down the street.
“People inside the city still don’t believe it. They saw a giant made out of buildings with a face, but it all got spun into the Silver Sacks towers just falling down. Overthrowing the demons in power was the easy part, getting people to believe that they exist…apparently much more difficult,” Kat said.
“Sometimes, when you’ve been asleep, waking up to a crueler world is hard…” Trish responded.
Dante flew down onto the road from overhead, directly in front of the cruiser. Shards of pavement popped into the air from the impact of his landing, bouncing onto the hood of the police cruiser as Trish slammed on the brakes. The car skidded to a stop mere inches from Dante’s face. Trish let out an exasperated growl and she clenched her steering wheel tightly.
“God damn it, Dante!” Trish yelled.
Dante stood up, leaning on the hood of the car. “I win,” he smirked. “Meet you at the front.”
He rapped his hands on the hood before sauntering off the street, leaving Trish to maneuver the cruiser into the parking lot at the front of the asylum.
“Is he always like that?” Trish asked as she slid the car into an open space.
“Dante? Well…it depends. I think he jokes around with people he feels comfortable with, uses it to ease tension. Dante spent a lot of his life not feeling he could trust people, so I think he tries to keep things light,” Kat replied.
“What about his anger?” Trish asked bluntly.
“He…he’s working on it.” Kat lied; Dante himself wasn’t even sure how to begin to ‘work on it,’ all he could think to do was to suffocate the anger with cigarettes and drown it with liquor. “There’s a lot resting on his shoulders, I do what I can to lighten that burden, but…sometimes there are just things I can’t help with.”
“I see,” Trish responded.
Kat found Dante standing in the middle of the courtyard. “What are you up to, Dante?” she asked.
“Shopping,” Dante replied, staring intently at what looked like simply thin air.
To Dante, however, there was a sullied marble sculpture of a robed woman cradling a large hourglass in her arms. Black ichor dripped from her eyes, and a shadowy crystalline substance encased its base, as if it was consuming the effigy. A Divinity Statue: Dante had never really known where they came from, but they seemed to be something only he could see, and he had seen them all throughout his life. However, their origin was no concern of Dante’s, and all that mattered to him was that they vended helpful objects, like some sort of mystical apothecary.
“Oh, one of those things,” Kat muttered. Kat and Dante had discussed the statues before, and despite all of her supernatural power, she could not perceive them. She did, however, feel a calming presence whenever she was near one. Even now, she could feel herself becoming more relaxed and some of the tension in her washing away.
Dante held out his hand, holding a red skull in his palm. The skull dissipated a moment later with a red shine, and in its place a minute flash of light erupted. As the light subsided, a small glass-like green star rested in his hand.
The green light flowing inside the statue’s hourglass flared out, as it usually did whenever Dante first stepped into its vicinity. Dante glanced at the flashing light and then quickly turned behind him, where Trish stood.
“So…uhm…what are we doing?” the officer asked.
“Nothing important, just getting ready,” Dante answered her, hiding some skepticism in his voice.
“Okay then, let’s get this done,” she said.
“What exactly are we doing? You just want me to bust in there?” Dante asked, pocketing the glass star under his coat.
“We need to get inside so I can make you a portal into Minos’ Limbo pocket. We’ll be dropping you as close to the middle of the place as we can,” Kat replied.
“Sounds good. Could probably hide out in an empty room or something,” Dante said.
“You said Minos brought you to the same room whenever they interrogated you, right? Chances are that’ll be where Minos is hanging out, so you’ll want to make your way there,” Trish added.
“Well, that all sounds like a big stinky pile of fun, but…how are we getting me in there?” Dante asked, holding his hands up, welcoming a solution.
“We’re going to admit you,” Trish said.
“I’m not gonna drop trou and wave my dick around yelling ‘pudding’ just to prove I’m cracked,” Dante scowled.
“No need; being a cop opens a lot of doors.” Trish turned toward the main entrance.
“I mean…I could if you wanted me to,” Dante teased.
“Anything for the good of the people, right Dante?” Trish asked amidst stifling a chuckle she didn’t want to make.
“Definitely,” Dante said following behind the officer.
Kat pulled at Dante’s sleeve, and he slowed his step to match hers. “Are you sure you’ll be okay? Coming back here, I mean?” she asked in a low voice.
“I’ll be fine,” Dante said, pulling up the hood of his coat to cover his head, hiding his obvious ivory hair. “I never wanted to come back here, but since I am, might as well tear the place down and piss on the rubble.”
Trish stopped just short of the door, waiting for Kat and Dante to catch up.
“You ready?” Trish asked, looking at Dante’s eye as it peeked from behind the hem of his hood.
“As I’ll ever be,” Dante said, sighing.
Trish reached out, grabbing the devil hunter’s bicep with an authoritative grip. From years of unfavorable interactions with law enforcement, Dante reflexively pulled his arm away, but Trish held on tight, tighter than he thought she could.
“Relax…it’s all part of the plan, alright?” Trish said. “Trust me…”
Dante took a deep breath and relinquished to the officer, he could feel his face contorting into a scowl already just on principle of being escorted by police.
“Let’s rock, baby,” he said, flashing a grin to break through the sour demeanor that was flaring up.
Trish smirked slightly, pushing the door open. The trio motioned inside the admissions area. Immediately, Kat and Dante could feel a push on their emotions, a sense of foreboding that emanated from the tiled halls, like a rushing river of oppression.
“Can I help you?” an old woman asked from behind the counter to the right of the entrance.
“Admitting a patient,” Trish said, pulling Dante up to the counter with her.
The aging woman peered over her bifocals to scan the hooded young man. Dante himself, playing the part, just slowly nodded his head while staring intently at nothing in particular. “Shut up, clown…” he muttered.
“Is he dangerous?” the receptionist asked, her voice rattling with age. “Should I call some orderlies?”
“No need; he’s not dangerous, just a handful,” Trish replied.
“And who’s this?” the woman regarded Kat.
“I’m his sister, I was just worried about him, so I called the police for help,” Kat explained.
“SHUT UP CLOWN! I’ll PIERCE THAT BIG NOSE!” Dante cried.
Kat pulled Dante close, cradling his head with feigned concern, hushing him in a comforting tone. “Shh…it’s okay,” she whispered.
“Stupid clown…won’t stop laughing…” Dante mumbled.
“If we could just talk with a doctor in an examination room, it would be great. That way they can see what to do with him,” Trish pled.
“Fine…follow Gordon here to room 15,” the woman said, handing Trish a clipboard with a few pages clamped to it. “A doctor will be with you shortly.”
Trish thanked the receptionist, and then guided Dante and Kat to follow the orderly Gordon, a veritable house of a man with a shaved head and a waddle that could make the earth tremor, if he could ever summon the effort to do so.
“Holy shit…that guy’s neck has more rolls than a bakery,” Dante whispered.
Kat elbowed him in the side lightly, and Trish glanced back with a smirk before putting her finger up to her lips to request quiet. Blue bathroom doors soon came up on their right, and Dante took the initiative to get the mission started.
“I need to make boom-boom!” Dante called, staring at the ceiling tiles.
The orderly stopped and turned, giving the ‘mentally-challenged’ Dante a tired look, pointing to the men’s bathroom at his right. Kat guided Dante into the bathroom, where she and Trish then stood in front of the door.
Gordon sighed heavily. “Room 15 is just down the hall and to the left; you can find it when you’re done. I’m going on break…” he said, immediately taking his leave with a hurried shuffle.
A moment later, Dante poked his head out from the door. “One of you girls wanna help me get my pants off?” he asked.
Trish turned, pushing him back into the bathroom with a hand against his face. Kat followed closely behind, quickly glancing up and down the hallway to make sure they weren’t seen by anyone in particular. The halls were mostly empty, and anyone she saw was a patient showing very little attention to anything.
“Hey, no girls allowed!” Dante expounded as the women filed into the room.
Trish walked to the stalls in the bathroom, pushing each door open to check for occupants. Kat pulled a stencil sheet from the tube slung over her back, and unrolled it on the floor.
“This sure seems like the place,” Kat said, shaking the spray can she took from her belt. “Did you feel that push when we walked in?”
“Yeah…looks like this guy is going strong, even without Mundus’ help,” Dante said, lighting a cigarette he clenched between his lips. Trish stepped past Dante, grabbing the cigarette from his mouth with two fingers and tossing it into the sink.
“No smoking, Dante,” Trish chided.
“Man, you pick the lamest times to be a stickler for the rules,” Dante pouted, replacing his lighter back in his pocket.
“Minos has probably been sucking up the souls of the patients here. That’s why his presence is so powerful inside the asylum,” Kat said, spraying paint over the stencil.
“I thought you had to be some sort of demon king to suck up souls…that’s what Phin said, right?” Dante asked, checking his firearms.
“Exactly…which means Minos has some sort of help. If you can, see if you can get some information out of him about that,” Kat said.
“So, try not to shoot first and ask questions later, okay?” Trish said, crossing her arms, leaning against the bathroom door.
“Can I shoot and ask questions at the same time? I think that’s a good compromise,” Dante said, holstering his pistols underneath his coat.
Kat stood up, pulling the stencil sheet from the ground as she did. “Okay, you’re all set Dante,” she said, placing the spray can back in her belt.
“You should probably be ready to get people outta here when I kill Minos; pull the fire alarm or something. No telling what’ll happen to this place once that fuck’s Limbo pocket collapses,” Dante said, stepping onto the glyph painted on the grimy bathroom floor.
“You sure you’re going to be okay in there?” Trish asked.
“This isn’t my first party,” Dante replied, looking back at Trish with his trademark smirk.
A distortion slowly bubbled up from the glyph under the young man’s feet, enveloping him in a pale light like some unseen fire. The color of Dante’s figure slowly began to wash out, fading into a series of grays and whites as his permanence waned.
“Don’t get lost in there,” Kat said.
“I’ll just follow the bad vibes,” Dante said as his countenance washed away with the stream of energy.
Dante’s vision blurred for a moment as he passed between the realms. A feeling of vertigo gripped him for a split-second before the world again came into focus. Dante pushed the hood off of his head as his transference from the human realm concluded.
“Dante?” Kat’s voice echoed through the veil and to his ears. “Everything okay?”
A slender, ghostly figure stood in front of him – Kat’s astral projection. As a psychic, Kat was able to peer into the dimensional limbo at will, seeing its inhabitants as pale phantoms, which could in kind see her in a similar fashion. Her aerosol cantrips helped her bridge the two realms, the human and demonic, in various ways to produce a multitude of desired effects, but otherwise, she was still only an observer.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” Dante said, glancing around.
For the most part, the bathroom was every bit the same as it was before he jumped dimensions, but he knew that wouldn’t last. In the mirrors, Dante could see reflections back into the human world, where Trish and Kat waited patiently and corporeally. To his left, against the door, Dante saw a pale silhouette, too cloudy and faint to make out any features, unlike Kat’s projection. Trish was just a murky body with a feeble presence across the ether.
“You should drop out though…I can take it from here,” Dante said.
The young man understood how Kat’s projections took a lot out of her, especially when she was conscious. There was no need for her to follow him here, Dante believed.
“Okay, we’ll wait for some sort of sign from you,” Kat said.
“I’ll make sure it’s a loud one,” Dante said.
Kat’s projection dissipated, her features vanishing as she became nothing more than a shadowy silhouette.
Shouldn’t be too long before something notices me, Dante thought. He stepped near the door out of the bathroom when he heard a deep, disembodied voice.
INTRUDER, it growled. The voice was accompanied by thick, bold letters spelling out “intruder” on the wall behind the sinks and mirrors. Limbo was keen to the demon hunter’s presence.
“Right on cue,” Dante said, bracing himself for the inevitable. The message on the wall melted away seconds later, and Dante knew what came next.
A tremor swept through the building. Dante ran a gloved hand through his white hair, watching the bathroom’s tiled walls undulate. The stall doors, left open from Trish’s inspection, shook on their hinges while the toilets imploded, collapsing in on themselves as inky ooze poured out from their tanks. The faucets in the row of sinks on the opposite wall spewed more of the same ichor, and they soon filled to the brim with a bubbling blackness.
Dante walked towards the exit to the bathroom, and as he raised his hand to grab the door’s handle, it simply snapped off its hinges and flew into the room. Dante quickly slid to the side to avoid the door as it sailed past, pressing flatly against the opposite wall. It slowly spun clockwise as it came to rest. Dante shrugged and stepped into the hallway. To his left was the entrance, where the admissions counter swung inward as the disembodied voice muttered TRAP. It barred exit from the hallway as the counter’s sides fit snugly up against the walls, with the filing cabinets behind the counter closing off the world behind them. It was the subliminal illusion of exodus; the admissions desk existed to admit people to the hospice in the human realm, but in Limbo, it was an obstruction made up of something so common, one that really never allowed anyone to leave.
A grating crackle pierced the silence, coming from what sounded like a public-address system inside the building.
“It seems we have a visitor…” A deep, gravelly voice announced. “Or…maybe it’s a new patient.”
Feedback screeched behind the man’s words. Despite the distortion of the PA system, Dante knew the voice all too well: Minos. Almost instinctively, his sword Rebellion emerged with a flash from behind Dante, hanging off his back as it yearned for anarchy.
“I don’t know who you are, but you’ve got some massive balls coming in here uninvited. I don’t like surprise guests,” Minos growled.
Dante turned to his right, looking down the depths of the hallway that reached further into the asylum. Another tremor passed through the complex, and the walls and floor bent as an immense wave rolled through the hallway like a tide of beige tiles. As the wave passed by, the ceiling shot up into the air, disappearing into the nether, leaving large shafts of light shining down from the bulbs hovering listlessly high above from nothing. The wave blasted the doors of each room away, leaving them spinning flatly against the far walls just like the bathroom door had.
Dante drew his sword and tapped its tip on the floor. He closed his eyes, taking in the oppressive force pushing against his emotions. If he could keep himself in tune with that oppression, Dante would be able to navigate his way directly to Minos. The only thing he feared in doing so was that it opened his heart to that force, that aggression. Dante felt a lot of anxiety, which only amplified his fears. The only consolation was that in Limbo, he could truly cut loose. Demons were all that he would find here – this was their space, or…what was left of it.
Limbo had been a dimension halfway between Hell and Earth, which the demons used for centuries to influence humanity. Limbo affected the baser emotions of humans, subliminally urging them into vices that strengthened the demonic hold on the world. With the defeat of the demon king Mundus, Limbo collapsed on itself, leaving demons in plain sight. However, any powerful demon, or a collection of their lesser ilk, could still draw upon Limbo, creating a localized pocket with the same affects the dimension once had before its collapse.
Malice permeated the world of Limbo, constructing and reconstructing the environment as its wielders saw fit. Malice also gave the world of Limbo itself a form of sentience, the source of the disembodied voice and the indiscreet writing on the walls. The whole of Limbo was a security system, and it had no qualms with sending out demons to slaughter invaders like Dante.
However, Dante relished in that fact.
He welcomed it, and his blade ached for that frenzy.
As the devil hunter made his way through the hall, he peered into the rooms as he passed by. The entryways were left wide open, the doors themselves stuck to the far wall. The delusion of privacy; in the real world, Dante’s small room here had given him the impression that it was his only sanctuary from the torture, but the door was really always open, and any could invade that small bastion, shattering the illusion of safety his young mind could muster.
“Seems like we’ve got ourselves a cowboy, riding in to free the town…” Minos said from over the loudspeakers. “But there’s one thing I don’t think anyone told you, cowboy – this is my world.”
Dante felt a slight rumble under his feet, and the hallway suddenly stretched out before him. The grinding of tile and concrete filled the air as the hallway’s end disappeared into the distance. Dante, however, was undeterred and unimpressed, and he simply continued walking, dragging the tip of his sword along the tiled floor. It wasn’t long before he noticed the blinking red light of a security camera hanging on the wall. He stopped a few feet from it, sending an icy glare into the lens that stared back.
“Wait, wait, wait…you. I remember you,” Minos’ voice trailed off.
A good moment passed in silence, and Dante’s glance darted about, just waiting for a response. Maybe Minos’ memory was fading, or maybe Dante was slipping. He did so love to make an impression on people.
“…Daaaanteeeee…welcome back.” Minos’ made no attempt to hide the contempt in his voice. “I’ve kept our special playroom tidy; I’ve been awaiting your return.”
“Sorry, can’t stay for long,” Dante said.
Just hearing the deep timbre of Minos’ booming voice made Dante’s blood boil up. The rhythm of his heart was quickening, and he felt the familiar pulse at his lower back as adrenaline seared through his veins like a comet through the night sky.
“Then to what do I owe this pleasure…?”
“You’ve got a bill to pay, and I came to collect,” Dante pointed his blade at the camera. “Mundus isn’t around to pay the kids’ credit cards anymore. Why don’t you come on out, instead of hiding behind your fuckin’ cameras?”
“Heheheh! So the Son of Sparda has come for my head, has he? A little upset over the accommodations during your last visit, are we?” Minos taunted.
“There has to be accommodations before I can get upset about ‘em, dickmunch.” Dante swung his sword to rest over his shoulder.
“My apologies then, Dante…let me send out my staff to indulge your every whim,” Minos said, just as cries of stygians echoed through the hallway.
Dante flashed his trademark smirk, watching as the doll-like stygians climbed from puddles of inky Malice that appeared on the walls and floor.
“That’s all I ask. But…” Dante said, pulling Ebony from its holster with his right hand and quickly loosing a round straight through the camera’s lens. “…this show ain’t for free.”
The sound of metal scraping along the floor filled the hall, and stygians shrieked as they closed in on their prey.
“More stygians? This’ll be a walk in the park,” Dante muttered.
Dante rushed forward toward the foremost demon in his path, swinging his sword upward, launching the stygian high into the air as the uppercut itself cleaved through the tiled floor. Another two stygians closed in from the sides, and the silver sword in Dante’s hand took on a blue hue and stretched into a large scythe. He hooked one stygian by the neck between the crotch of the scythe’s blade and snaith, sweeping the demon to the left, catching the other demon in the process. Dante continued pulling the scythe left, and soon put enough effort into his swing to spin the scythe above his head. As he picked up speed, the scythe tore through the stygians caught on it, and the one he had launched into the air previously came down directly onto the spinning scythe, spraying its inky lifeblood across the walls as it fell apart amidst the scythe’s whirling carnage.
Another crowd emerged further down the hall and Dante took off towards them. He slid forward with the scythe raised behind him, turning the halt in his advance into a spiraling attack, whipping the scythe in front of him and cleaving through several torsos. Another stygian screeched behind him, raising its armblade to strike, but Dante deftly grabbed his shotgun from under his coat and rested it over his shoulder, firing a payload of buckshot into the stygian’s body. The spray of bullets tore through the stygian’s chest, black gore exploding from its back and onto the hallway tiles. The stygian crumpled to the floor with a sizable hole in its torso.
“C’mon Minos! This can’t be all you’ve got!” Dante taunted, resting the scythe over his shoulder, tapping the shotgun against the side of his leg.
Another group of demons appeared up ahead, climbing from their splatters of Malice and shrieking wildly. Dante grinned as they scampered around, forming a loose configuration to approach with. Demons like these, generated from Limbo like blood cells to attack a foreign pathogen, were fairly mindless, simply rudimentary constructs that followed vague orders given them from Limbo or whomever controlled it. Dante had learned through his years scrapping with them that they felt neither fear nor pain, but that didn’t stop his enjoyment of cutting them limb from limb.