The first thing your dad had ever taught you was to follow everything through.
Leave nothing unfinished, double-check the variables, always prepare more than needed, always plan along the lines of ‘just in case.’ Unsurprisingly, this way of thinking carried over into your line of work. In your opinion, you are worth every single effing buck they pay you to actually do this stuff (and it’s not like there isn’t any risk involved). People are iffy about coming to a woman — because you are a woman, okay, even if your bust isn’t the biggest of the biggest and you aren’t as tall as some assholes like — for demon-killing business.
You like to think that you prove them wrong about their prejudices. The clients who’ve had a taste of your services are reliable, and there are one or two big spenders that keep coming back for more. Fine by you. Income always has good connotations in your dictionary. One can never have enough stowed away, you find, especially in a city like this.
What’s really got you riled up today, however, is this entire situation with another shop around here. You can’t even remember the name that well. Something about devils sobbing or whatnot. Matter of the fact is, that guy is stealing your fire and your clients, and in turn, your money. Nothing gets you as bad as having good cold cash snatched out of your hands. It’s bad enough that most of the female — and some of the male — populace around this place is practically fucking swooning over that stupid shop’s owner. Why is it you that always gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop?
You are so very pissed that you don’t even wince as you plunge a fist into one of the demons’ chests, pulling out what could constitute as its heart. Its body disintegrates into sand that catches in the ridges of your coat, and you pat it off, gauntlets clinking as you do so.
“Dirty bastards,” you say under your breath as another one makes a lunge for you, jaws opened wide and rancid breath blasting your face full-on. You catch its throat and hold it out at arm’s distance, expression twisting into a grimace of revulsion as your gauntlet’s fingers dig into the flesh of its neck. “Ugh. Didn’t your mama ever teach you to brush your teeth?”
When all the answer you get is a snarl and a glob of demon saliva, you spin on your heel, gaining momentum until the world is a blur around you; you let go, listening to the rip of flesh as your gauntlet’s claws tear out of its skin. The demon goes flying, mottled skin and all, and crashes into the nearby wall. Pieces of plaster and mortar are flung in your direction, and you sidestep the largest of them with ease. When the dust settles, you see that there’s only a sorry pile of sand where the demon landed, and you’re assured that you indeed did smash in its skull.
You hear a low growl behind you, and your lips tilt up in a satisfied smile. Ah, so he’s decided to come out of his hidey-hole, has he? Well, you kinda have sliced up all his lackeys. He may not be too happy about that. You turn with your gauntleted arms resting on your weapons-belt, grinning widely.
Before you stands an abomination, a hulking mass of misshapen flesh and glaring eyes. The mouth is a gaping hole lined with teeth, its tongue a long spiral of black, forked at the end. You never did like snakes too much, anyway.
The demon stomps its feet, the earth beneath it shaking with the force of impact.
“Who are you, filth?” it booms in its distorted voice, hissing all the while. “Who are you to kill my servants and disturb me?”
You restrain the urge to just put the damn thing out of its misery hold up a hand threateningly, letting the green glow of your energy build up around the gauntlet. It does look rather freaky like that, all bathed in jade light and its edges shining menacingly. You flex your fingers.
“You must have come through a Gate,” you say icily. “Where is it?”
“I shall never tell you!” the demon roars, stamping the ground again. “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. I AM MYRMYGON, AND I AM MIGHTY!”
You sigh, rolling your shoulders and stretching your arms in preparation for the strain. “I wish that once, just once, someone would say, ‘Okay, yeah, I’ll help you! No charge.’”
The reply you get is this: “RAAARGH!”
You nod. “Very eloquent.”
As Myrmygon comes barreling at you, you roll to the side to avoid his feet and his sweeping tail that actually punches a hole through the wall to your right. Yeah, this is going to be fun. And you’ll feel really good getting paid for it. That idea is only confirmed when you spring to your feet and nimbly avoid Myrmygon’s clumsy paw-swipes at you. You continue this way for a while, dodging and evading, ducking and bending out of the way. Dancing's nice and all, but you’re more of the action type, and this jumping around’s getting boring.
You wait until Myrmygon’s front foot comes slamming down, and then you jump from the ground to the beefy upper part of that very same foot. The demon gives a howl of rage at your actions, but you pay him no heed as you race up his shoulders, hook an arm at the back of his neck and hauling yourself up onto his head. You fist your hand and punch the top of his skull with a fraction of your strength, knowing that you’ve succeeded when he whips his head back and forth.
“Are you going to tell me?” you yell over the sound of his screams, and when you don’t get a reply you suppose this is the end of the line. You’ll just have to find that Gate on your own. As always.
You raise your hand above your head, letting the power gather until you can feel all the joints of the gauntlet vibrating together with the force of it. It’s an emerald beacon of brilliance, pulsating with everything you’ve been taught over to the years to put into a single killing blow. You’re just about to drive your fist straight through Myrmygon’s cranium when —
And Myrmygon’s body goes limp underneath you. The light of your gauntlets flickers and fades as shock registers in your mind. The demon groans and sways as you try to understand what’s just happened, and it all clicks together when everything beneath you turns to sand. You fall through the air as the sickly yellow light of Myrmygon’s soul manifests, and it’s second nature that has you landing on your feet with a muted thud. Immediately you swerve about to see who had stolen your fucking kill, murder clear in your eyes.
If you’d been angry before all this stupid shit had happened, now you are incensed beyond belief. The payment for Myrmygon’s death was going to pay off the last of your electricity bills and get you a nice new TV. So much for that.
You spot a figure (with white hair, oddly enough) standing just a few steps away from the start of the sidewalk, and soon you’re homing in on him. He stands taller than you — as most people do — and wears a purple coat that flaps about in the wind. He holds a revolver in his left hand, and in his right… you squint, concentrating. That’s a Devil Arm. Great.
Devil Arm or no, he had better have a good reason for what he just did, or else nothing short of Mundus himself is going to stop you from tearing his damn head off. When he sees you approach, striding easily through the havoc you’d wreaked just moments ago, he admits to himself that maybe Dante’s advice was not the best of advice to follow. The only time he actually does what Dante says, it ends with a very pissed-off woman coming at him, and it’s a woman who looks like she can carry out her threats. Figures.
The question explodes out of your mouth before you can stop it.
“Who the hell are you?” you snarl, swinging one hand back for good measure. “Who in the fucking hell are you to come in and just shoot my kill like that?”
He’s not too inclined on answering, so he just settles for one of his milder scowls and lowering his gun.
You don’t take that too well.
All of a sudden, the unused power from your attack comes rushing back to your gauntlet and bursts forth with fearsome force in a roaring wave of green that towers over his head. He has to jump aside to avoid it, and he catches sight of things in the wave. Things like chariots and warriors and visions of grandeur. The wave crashes into the wall behind him and half-tears into the abandoned house on the other side, creating a miniature crater of its own. He’s just glad it didn’t hit him, but now he supposes he has to give you a reply if he doesn’t want another one of those hurled in his direction.
“The name’s Nero.”
You look just about ready to claw his pretty little blue eyes out. “Well, Nero, lemme just tell you one thing — I’m not a big fan of having stuff taken from me.” You take a step closer, boots thudding against the ground. The glare you’re giving him has scared men much older into near shitting their pants. “That includes my paycheck. I lured that son of a bitch out here. Next time you wanna play demon-hunter, boy, do the actual work.”
The muscles in his jaw tighten at that. He is going to skin Dante alive when he gets back. The old man could go jump. He’s never saying ‘yes’ to helping Dante with the debt again. Dante had told him that it would be “nice” to get the bounty on Myrmygon’s head. It would go a long way to paying off Lady, he said. He hadn’t bothered to mention that someone else had been contracted for the same job. Nero had no doubt Dante knew about you. Dante always knows these sorts of things, but it’s rare if he ever divulges them.
Nero glances at you. If looks could skewer, he’d already be turning an even golden-brown over the roasting-pit fire.
You pass him by without a second glance, though the rigid stance of your shoulders tells him that you’re still far from calm. You shove your hands into the pockets of your coat and trudge on ahead, feeling like you’d like to wreck more than just some back-alley in this dingy city. Not only will your client be unhappy at your failure, but you’ll have to wait even longer for that new TV set to become a reality instead of a wishful dream. Because you’re feeling extra vengeful tonight, you’ll order out instead of cook your customary healthy meal.
If anything dares to disturb your womanly-recharging-time, the accused party will leave the premises in pieces. As you head back to your apartment, you decide that you don’t get paid nearly enough for this.