Dante slapped open the fire exit door in anger, trailed closely behind by Kat and Trish. As they reached the asylum’s courtyard, Dante pulled a cigarette to his lips and nervously lit it, inhaling deeply. Firefighters came up to the trio just as Lapis Manalis began to crumble, its top floors caving in. Dante watched as the asylum fell in on itself, feeling a slight sense of elation to know the place that tortured his young self was finally undone.
Trish conversed with the firefighters, assuring them she and her companions were alright, and needed no further attention.
“Are you okay, Dante?” Kat asked, stepping up to Dante.
“Yeah, I’m fuckin’ peachy,” Dante replied. “I’m turning into a demon…”
Trish stepped away from the firefighters as they turned their attention elsewhere, seeing to the staff and patients crowding around the streets surrounding the asylum.
“What happened back there?” Trish asked.
“I lost control…it’s getting harder to reign in whatever it is I’m turning into…” Dante said.
“Like when you stopped those demons before, the night we met,” Trish said, nodding.
“Look…I’m really sorry,” Dante said, staring honestly into Trish’s eyes.
Trish slowly shook her head. “It’s okay Dante…I understand that whatever you’re going through is tough. We’ll need to be more careful, but…we’re all okay – that’s what matters,” she said.
“Looks like I might need to use my Devil Trigger more, though. Minos was right…” Dante hated to utter those words. “…Minos was strong…almost as much as Mundus, maybe more. The Devil Trigger is my trump card, and if what butterchubs said was true, there’re a lot of other demons that were stronger than Mundus.”
“What? But how?” Kat asked confoundedly.
“Minos said that Mundus was only so strong because of the Hell Gate and Sparda. Mundus got rid of Sparda himself, and then when we took out the Hell Gate, he had nothing left. The guy was smart, but not all that powerful on his own,” Dante explained. “And if that is true, I might have to pull that trigger a lot more. I don’t wanna do that if it’s gonna put people around me in danger.”
“There has to be something we can do about it. Maybe we should talk to Phineas…I’m starting to get worried Dante,” Kat said.
“Phin? You think there’s a cure for this…?” Dante muttered, taking another drag from his cigarette.
“Dante, you’re a Nephilim, the rules are different. There has to be something we can do,” Kat pleaded. “Phineas has taught us everything we know about demons that we didn’t know before, and he taught you about being a Nephilim – he’s our best chance.”
“Fine…what have I got to lose?” Dante said, finishing off the cigarette in record time, his lungs burning.
“Wait, so what are we going do next?” Trish asked, urging the duo to consider their next move in the turf war.
“What?” Kat asked.
“The demons, we have a solid lead on what to do next,” Trish explained.
“Oh, right. So Minos was working with some lawyer…” Kat said.
“A demonic lawyer? Well, that certainly narrows it down – they’re all a bunch of evil bloodsucking douchebags,” Dante growled, shoving his hands in his pockets and pacing back and forth in the courtyard.
“If we look for a place with a lot of demonic influence downtown, we’re bound to find something,” Kat pondered.
“I can dig into what places have a high crime rate in the business district, chances are that will be where our demon lawyer is,” Trish said.
“Alright, well…you guys take care of that; I need to take a walk, clear my head,” Dante said, walking near the outside wall of the asylum’s grounds.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” The concern in Kat’s voice was heavy.
“Yeah…I’ll see if I can clean up some scum while I’m out. I’ll see you back at the office once I’m ready to meet up with Phin,” Dante said, leaping high over the wall in one swift motion, his angelic litheness lifting him through the air.
Kat turned to Trish. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah…I think so.” Trish nodded.
“When we got pulled into Limbo…you were…you looked pretty bad,” Kat stammered.
“First time in Limbo huh? Guess it hit me pretty hard.” Trish shrugged. “Certainly didn’t feel pleasant.
“Haven’t seen a Limbo cherry pop that bad though, you sure you’re okay?” Kat was concerned about everyone, especially since both she and Trish had such a close encounter with the man-demon. Kat couldn’t shake the feeling that they had a very real chance of having been cut down by it, especially Trish.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Trish confirmed. “Just need to take it easy for a little bit, before we head back out into the fight.”
The man-demon seemed to have an obsession with the officer Portinari, but two points make a line, not a pattern, Kat told herself. Despite that, however, Dante was having trouble controlling the fiend, and something needed to be done.
Thinking back, Kat was sure she had seen the start of it all; Dante’s clash with his twin brother, Vergil, who was also the Order’s former leader. The brother had divulged his plans for the world in the wake of their triumph over Mundus, and it was something that neither Kat nor Dante could agree with. They fought, and the struggle was fierce to the extent of both Nephilim tapping into higher powers. Dante’s Devil Trigger afforded him the strength to best his brother, but in a rage-fueled moment, Dante nearly killed Vergil, only brought back to reason by Kat’s pleas.
An injured Vergil disappeared after that, and whenever Dante used his Devil Trigger in subsequent battles against the demons that still existed within the city, she could see it changing. It became more a part of him, and then it began changing him. Suddenly, Dante would disappear, and in his place, the man-demon would fight, seemingly bereft of conscience. Kat refrained from saying anything about it much of the time, but she knew Dante’s smoking and drinking habits had been taken up in an attempt to quash the man-demon’s bloodlust, which grew with each trigger, and lasted long after the man-demon itself was gone.
Their only hope now was that Phineas, the demon scholar, would have an answer for them.
“Let’s head back to the office. I’ll get you in touch with some of the Order’s members, they’ll help you track down that lawyer,” Kat said, motioning for them to leave the asylum grounds.
Trish nodded and followed closely behind as they left the courtyard. Kat passed the unseen Divinity Statue, and a soothing sensation washed over her. It was a welcome feeling after the precarious events that led to Minos’ demise and the man-demon’s wrath. As Trish trailed after the witch, the green light of the statue’s hourglass flared again, and the officer slid her lissome fingertips across the statue’s body as she passed by.
The demon scholar Phineas was a codger in every sense of the word. While he prided himself on the vast amounts of knowledge he possessed, his intelligence was often betrayed by his eccentricities; he muttered to himself consistently, and would sometimes find himself lost in some random part of the city. Half of his head was replaced by otherworldly gearwork, with his right eye simply a telescopic lens which granted him sight where his blind left eye couldn’t.
Dante came across Phineas imprisoned in Bob Barbas’ dimensional penitentiary, and in the short time they had been together the old demon guided Dante to untapped powers, and divulged secrets that led to the Demon King Mundus’ downfall. After the dimensional Limbo collapsed, Phineas was beside himself in his newfound freedom, and often hid away in the city’s parks and quieter regions. Phineas said it was because it helped him think, Dante was almost certain it was because there were less things for him to bump into.
Dante and Kat found Phineas on a small hillside park that overlooked much of the city, a spot he loved coming to later in the day to watch the twilight hours lazily tick by as the sun set.
“I sense trepidation in you, young Master,” Phineas said.
“Fuck, Phin, don’t call me that,” Dante rolled his eyes.
Phineas was always overly-respectful of Dante’s heritage, as he knew his mother and father, but the scholar also revered the devil hunter’s supernatural ethnicity, feeling that the Nephilim were a race to be respected, instead of hunted into extinction like they were.
“My apologies. What’s troubling you, Dante?” the old demon asked.
Dante leaned against the railing, looking out over the continuing reconstruction of Limbo City in the aftermath of Mundus’ downtown rampage. Numerous industrial cranes topped buildings, arcing out amidst the city’s skyline like gaunt, metallic fingers clawing at the clouds.
“It’s okay Dante…if anyone can help, it’s Phineas,” Kat said, comfortingly.
Dante nodded, clicking his tongue. “I feel like I’m losing control, Phin.”
“Of what?” Phineas’ one flesh eye perked opened brightly.
“Whatever it is…uh…inside me,” Dante muttered.
“Ahh…the devil within, I assume.” Phineas nodded.
Dante only looked down towards the street, moving his head up and down so slightly one could miss it if they weren’t paying attention.
“What makes you think you’re losing control? That devil is part of you. It is you, Dante,” Phineas said.
“Yeah, and that’s what skeeves me out, okay? It’s stronger now, it isn’t just some power I’m tapping into anymore. It…changes me. I look like…”
“Like a demon?” Phineas chortled laboriously. “Dear boy…as I said: it’s part of you. That physical change you’re seeing is the devil inside you coming to fruition.”
“Dante is worried because…what if the demon takes over?” Kat interjected for him, since Dante wasn’t one to speak quite so freely. “It’s gotten a lot more aggressive these days, and it’s started to look at the people around it as something else to kill.”
Phineas fell silent, and you could hear the gears clicking in his head. He looked squarely at Dante, as if to ask for more information. Dante soon obliged.
“When I fought Vergil, I had to pull that devil out to stop him…but when I did, I nearly killed him. I didn’t even care, the sword was in my hand, just going right through his chest, and I just didn’t care that he was my brother, I could feel it…all this, like, anger…I was ready to kill him there. If it wasn’t for Kat, I probably would have. It’s pretty much just gone downhill from there since then.” Dante sighed, interlocking his fingers.
“Hm…it is no surprise that you felt a great swell of fury, anger is a powerful force for us demons,” Phineas began. “If you remember your time in Limbo before it collapsed, you most likely remember coming across something we demons coveted – Malice. It was all-pervasive in Limbo, and responsible for all that you were forced to overcome when you were taken there.
“Limbo is a demonic dimension comprised of Malice, made as a facsimile of your world where the power of Hell could seep into the very fabric of this reality. Limbo and Malice were the bridge that let the demons bring Hell on Earth.”
“This is great and all, but what does this have to do with my problem, Phin?” Dante interrupted.
“From what I know of your past, young Master, you lived a rather…shall we say hedonistic, lifestyle. You harbored much hatred for the demons that hunted you, and cared little for anyone but yourself, correct?” Phineas cocked his clockwork head.
“Yeah, so…?” Dante shrugged.
“Such things are a gateway to Malice. Those same emotions – that decadence, that anger – is what allows humans to be manipulated by demons as well. When I first met you, I helped you gain more power as a Nephilim, but as your heart was so consumed by hatred and vengeance, the devil within was the first to surface. Your soul screamed out to the forces within, and it was that demonic side of you which answered that call, powered by that permeating Malice. Even when unleashing that devil within, you exerted a forceful control on Malice, which was very beneficial for your encounters in Limbo…”
“So what do I do? How can I get rid of it?” Dante turned to Phineas, feeling he was close to his answer.
“You can’t get rid of it, Dante. It’s a part of you…” Phineas said, shaking his head slowly.
“What, so I’m just fucked, is that it?”
“You can’t get rid of the devil within your heart, young Master. You can, however, bring balance to it.” Phineas smirked.
“Alright, balance. How?” Dante asked, shifting his weight to lean to his right.
“Nephilim possess the strength of both angels and demons, and while demons rely on Malice for their strength, I believe you could tip the scales in your favor by engendering more of what gives angels their strength – Grace.”
“Grace…really?” Dante’s brow furrowed, and he tried weakly to hide a chuckle.
“Indeed…you already harness some of it when using the angelic forms of your sword, and as one-half angel, Grace undoubtedly lies somewhere within you as well. It just needs to be cultivated, just as Malice was for much of your life. I believe this is the best option to bring balance to your heart,” Phineas concluded.
“So…how am I supposed to do that?” Dante asked, leaning his back against the railing.
“Another factor of what called the devil forth within you may have been that you did so while in Limbo, a place much closer to Hell, full of Malice. If we’re to help you find your Grace, you’ll have to find a way to get just a little closer to Heaven.” Phineas said.
Dante nodded, glancing at Kat, who smiled back at him, seeming quite hopeful of the situation.
“Where do we start then?” Dante asked with a shrug.
“While Limbo was a dimension that bridged Hell and Earth, there also exists a plane that ties Heaven to Earth; Purgatory,” Phineas explained.
“God’s waiting room, huh?” Dante said, legitimately thinking on the scholar’s suggestion.
“But, the city is so closely superimposed with Limbo, how would we get to this Purgatory?” Kat asked.
“Ah, but you see…while Limbo and Purgatory are bridges to Earth, they are also two sides of the same bridge.” Phineas held up his hands up, his fingertips touching to create a makeshift bridge with his palms. “Originally, there existed only Purgatory between Heaven and Earth on the Astral Plane, but after God cast out the angelic rebellion, the fallen angels retained their ability to traverse the dimensional bridge, and began slowly twisting the Astral Plane with Malice until Limbo, a separate incarnation, was created.”
“So…even though the city is sitting on top of what’s left of Limbo, Dante could still potentially get into Purgatory because they pretty much exist in the same place?” Kat checked, processing the information.
“Precisely. While Purgatory is far from grasp in many parts of the city, some spots have most likely already been reclaimed by the angels to once again give them a foothold on Earth,” Phineas responded.
Dante asked, “Any idea what those spots could be?”
“Most likely places where one would go to reach out for God,” Phineas said simply.
“Great, so…uh…man, I hate church,” Dante mumbled.
“When’s the last time you went to confessional?” Kat joked.
“I think I had sex in a confessional once…” Dante thought, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“I don’t think that counts.” Kat said, stifling a chuckle.
“With a girl…not some kid-diddling bishop,” Dante assured.
“This may also be the best time for you to begin using your inherent abilities as a Nephilim,” Phineas suggested, paying the jovial exchange no heed.
“Like what? Being more angelic?” Dante asked, smirking.
Phineas said, “Nephilim can easily traverse between dimensions, and it is a trait that could serve you well. If you want to gain access to Purgatory, finding a location closer to Heaven and focusing on your angelic side can take you there as easily as one of the witch’s portals. In a sense, you young Dante, are a portal yourself.”
“Wait…so…he won’t need my portals anymore?” Kat muttered, her voice low.
The demon scholar simply nodded, unaware of Kat’s concern.
“Look, uh…I’m gonna talk with Phin a bit more. Why don’t you head back to the office and see if we’ve got anything else on that lawyer, maybe check on some holy places or something like that, too. Okay?” Dante said, attempting to offer up other responsibilities to Kat that he valued her for performing.
“Alright, I’ll see you back at the office then,” Kat replied sullenly before walking back to her car.
Dante watched as she left down the hill. He hated to think that someday Dante wouldn’t need her help anymore, simply because of what he was. “So, what’s this dimension-hopping stuff you were talking about?” he asked as Kat’s car vanished from view.
“Nephilim possess the qualities of both angels and demons, and both themselves carried the ability to move freely between planes. Given some practice, you should be able to quite easily transport yourself to any part of the Astral Plane without outside help,” Phineas explained.
“Without Kat’s help,” Dante said, frowning.
Dante let out an unhappy sigh.
“This is an essential skill for a Nephilim to learn Dante, especially one combatting forces that can freely move between planes as well. You should not hold yourself back simply because you do not want to hurt the witch’s feelings,” Phineas said.
“She’s just been with me through so much…it doesn’t seem right to abandon her like that.” Dante shook his head.
“You would not be abandoning her, young Master, you would be strengthening yourself. In due time, you would be able to even take others to and from the Astral Plane. I implore you to think of the consequences of handicapping yourself for a human, Dante,” Phineas said, slowly clasping his hands together.
Dante stood for a few moments, mulling it over in his head before coming to a conclusion. “So…focus on one part of me, and think about going to Limbo or Purgatory? It’s just that easy?”
Phineas smiled. “One would think – you must focus on moving out of this plane of reality, and hold tightly to either the Malice or Grace within you, for they are the keys,” Phineas said.
“Alright…I guess I’ll give it a try sometime,” Dante said with a shrug.
Phineas turned away, looking again out at the sunset. After the centuries locked up as Mundus’ political prisoner, seeing the light of the new world was welcoming, and he enjoyed the twilight hours the most; if only he still had the company of the very one who showed him the majesty of such times of day. While Phineas longed for a lost friend, Dante found himself thinking on other things, and felt it best to ask now, while he was there with the one person he knew of who knew everything.
“Uh…hey, Phin?” Dante started.
“You have further need of my knowledge, young Nephilim?” Phineas asked.
“Yeah, uh…just a few things I wanted to see if you knew anything about,” Dante said.
“Let us walk, Dante,” Phineas said, nodding and guiding the devil hunter to walk with him.
“Speaking of angels and all this holy stuff, I’ve been getting weapons from a lot of demons,” Dante started.
“…yes, the power of the blade Rebellion; it absorbs the souls of the fallen, and fashions them into new arms,” Phineas said.
“You know about that?” Dante asked, his interest being thoroughly piqued.
Dante had Rebellion for as long as he could remember, and it had been a part of him, appearing in the direst of times during his rough childhood. Not until his escape from Lapis Manalis was he able to call it at will like he could now, appearing from the glyph scarred into his back.
“I should hope I know of it – I designed it for your father,” Phineas said with a smile. Dante simply let out a slight “Huh,” of surprise.
“He had used it in the uprising that put Mundus on the throne millennia ago,” Phineas continued.
“What about that axe I found in Paradise…and the scythe?” Dante asked.
“The scythe was your mothers; she used it during the war against the demons, and it was a common weapon among her choir. The axe, Sparda received by slaying one of demon kings who opposed Mundus, it was his first great victory,” Phineas explained, reminiscing happily in the memories of yester-millennia.
“How come I got them, then?” Dante wondered.
“Knowing the dangers that could befall the family, they gave up those weapons. They asked me to convert the weapons into power. Power they left within Paradise, for you and your brother. Your home was a veritable armory,” Phineas said.
“So that explains the angel scythe, but…I’ve been getting other angely-type weapons from some of the demons I killed, what’s the deal?” Dante questioned.
“Ah…well, many demons were once fallen angels. Cast out of Heaven, never to see the light of God, they lost their Grace, and filled that void in their hearts with primordial Malice. They were twisted by it into what you know of today.”
“You’re telling me that ugly slug bitch I curb stomped in the Virility factory was a fucking angel?”
Phineas chuckled wryly. “No…many of the monsters, like the Succubus and stygians, were manufactured with demonic magic. The demons at the top of hierarchies however, they were once angels,” Phineas clarified.
“How does that explain the angel weapons?” Dante asked.
“Demons were once fallen angels, and some of them have held tightly to their Grace, or at least the feelings associated with it. In Barbas’ prison, he spoke much of faith and fealty to the Lord…even though that Lord was the demon king Mundus, that zeal is a common feeling of angels, just as passing judgment is for someone of Minos’ caliber,” Phineas said. “If a fallen angel can retain those feelings in their heart, it molds their soul into something more angelic, despite how twisted they’ve become as demons.”
“So some of the demons still have a lot of angel in ‘em?” Dante asked.
“So to speak,” Phineas replied.
“And if even they have a chance of being something a little less demonic…I guess that there’s gotta be a chance for me, huh?” Dante pondered.
“I’m a firm believer of being able to choose to be what you want in life. You, my young Master, were simply in need of guidance that your soul desperately required,” Phineas said.
Dante nodded slightly, feeling genuinely hopeful of his situation for the first time in…well, probably forever.
“Hey…if those demons were still angelic, then why were they working with Mundus?” Dante asked. “They were evil.”
Phineas stopped, turning to the young devil hunter; a sharp grin etched across his aging countenance. “Who said all angels were virtuous?” he asked cryptically.
Dante’s brow dipped, and his lip curled trying to come to terms with Phineas’ words.