"I knew your father."
Nero was scarcely sure he had heard the man correctly. The words trailed into one ear and out the other, and his head swam with disbelief. He failed to make sense of the words that had flowed from Dante's mouth. Of their meaning he was aware, but they made no registration in his mind. It was as if a wall had been erected, blocking his thoughts and depriving him of the ability to think.
"What?" he blurted tonelessly, staring at the floor, void of emotion as if nothing out of the ordinary had just been said.
"I knew your father," repeated Dante. He sensed Nero's confusion and suppressed distress, and he slid his heavy boots from his desk and let his chair fall back onto all fours. The room was silent for several minutes afterward, and the tension in the air was palpable. Dante sighed and clicked his tongue quietly, wondering how to continue.
"He was my twin," Dante forced himself to say, though the words made his throat go dry. Nero was still frozen before him, and the younger man's lack of a response was beginning to concern him. He stared at Nero's back until he began to notice how the young devil's shoulders gently trembled. Was he crying? That wasn't like Nero at all and, yet, the preposterous notion still worried the older hunter.
"Nero?" Dante rose from his chair and placed his hand on the younger hunter's shoulder, struggling to console him somehow. However, Nero jerked away hastily and pushed himself off of Dante's desk. The halfbreed stood wordlessly behind his desk, still stretching his hand toward Nero, who was already too far out of his reach. Nero said nothing but began to inch toward the doors, his steps jerky and slow, a mockery of normal, and shoulders squared. Was he angry? Dante was beginning to regret ever breathing a word of what he knew to Nero, but wasn't it something he needed to know?
Dante almost panicked when Nero snatched his coat from the coatrack near the doors and hurriedly pulled it on. His gloved hands were then braced on the desktop, yearning to vault him over the desk to catch Nero before he could run away.
"Hey!" he called urgently. "Kid! Where're you going?"
Nero seldom answered. Instead, he reached for the handle of one door and prepared to pull it open.
"I didn't mean to make you mad," Dante said quickly. "I just—"
"You didn't make me mad," Nero replied, silencing Dante in an instant. "I'm just going out for a walk."
Neither hunter said a word before Nero disappeared into the night, his long shadow on the floorboards blending into the darkness that the door cast as it swung closed.
Nero filled and refilled his lungs to bursting with the chilly air of the outside, but he couldn't save himself from smothering. It felt that he couldn't breathe even though he was panting as if he was being crushed beneath a heavy weight. He knew he probably shouldn't have run away from Dante, but he had to be alone.
The thought that Dante was his uncle scared him. Nero had always known that he and Dante had some sort of connection, but never had the thought crossed his mind that they were so closely related. The truth washed over him with such a sudden clarity that Nero drowned in it. In all honesty, the fact that he and Dante were related affected him even more than knowing that someone finally had some information about his father. And Dante said Nero's father was his twin. Every time Nero looked into the halfbreed's face, he was seeing the face of his absentee father. The thought was just shocking and chilled him to the bone.
However, even more disturbing was the memory of the few things Dante had said about his brother before. Dante never spoke of him in great length or detail, but the things he implied about the man were suddenly more startling than pitiful as they had been at the time. When discussing the mysterious power of Yamato, Dante had warned Nero never to let his guard down because he had witnessed a very powerful mind succumbing to the demonic blade's influence. He seldom mentioned then that that person had been his brother, but Nero hadn't forgotten Dante declaring before their very last battle in Fortuna during the Savior that Yamato once belonged to his brother. Dante said that the demon that lived within the blade changed his brother, made him hungry for power. Dante said he would stop at nothing to obtain such power, and Nero knew without hearing so that that meant his father had done unwholesome things in his pursuit.
Nero was suddenly struck by a stab of icy fear in his gut. If his father had been so weak as to succumb to Yamato, would he, too, lose himself in pursuit of power? Nero had never believed that one's ancestors determined their path in life, but what if that weakness was in his blood? He could remember mumbling nonsense about power while in his devil trigger, but it had never made more sense than it did at that moment. The thought made him sick; he wanted to expel Yamato from his arm, vomit the darkness from inside him. He never wanted his to be the face of a monster.
Nero's hasty footsteps slowed to a halt when he realized he had been walking in the direction of the colossal tower erected in the center of Capulet City. He couldn't recall what Dante had called it, but he remembered what the older man had said about it. It had drilled up from the ground about two decades ago, a tunnel to hell. It was intended to unleash Hell's darkness on the world, but Dante had sealed up the portal within it before it had the chance. However, it had never disappeared since, and demons still slithered from its crumbling orifices. It was the primary source of the excess of demons in Capulet.
Nero stared up at the tower in awe. It was taller than even the tallest skyscraper in Capulet and, though ancient, it still stood sturdily and probably would for centuries to come. Despite its ominous history, Nero, strangely, didn't feel anxious despite his close proximity.
However, a dreadful feeling washed over him all at once. The sensation was so intense that Nero felt he was almost knocked unconscious by it. He whirled to face whatever it was that radiated such an overwhelming aura of darkness. He expected a big devil to pop up out of nowhere, but Nero was surprised to see a silhouette stalking slowly down the incline ahead. The shadow exhibited no sign of aggression, though his gut insisted he was flirting with danger simply by standing there. He wanted to take a defensive stance, but the closer the figure grew, the more familiar it seemed to Nero.
Squinting his eyes, Nero could see the glint of moonlight on white hair. He had only ever met one other person with such hair.
Dante, his mind insisted, but his gut berated him for thinking so. He had never seen Dante in such clothes. However, when the man came closer, Nero swore he was staring into Dante's eyes. All the traits so familiar to him were there except it seemed Dante had shaved and slicked his hair back before he came out. Nero almost asked why the old man had to come looking for him, but his nose informed him that he wasn't inhaling Dante's scent. They were so similar yet different. Something was different.
The man was so close—close enough to lash out at him with a blade. Nero widened his stance, making himself sturdy, and drew Red Queen from his back, pointing the tip at the man as a way of saying, "Don't come any closer."
"Who are you?" Nero demanded plainly, but, despite the question, he already had an idea. He refused to believe his eyes, however.
The man tilted his head at the blade as if curious, but his face was cold and empty. "Why do you draw your sword as if I've threatened you?" asked the man. His voice was just as cold as his expression, but there was the slightest sting of mocking contempt in his tone. Nero said nothing as he couldn't think of what to say. The way the man spoke, the determined manner in which he had walked toward him—they hadn't simply stumbled upon one another by pure coincidence. Nero was torn between lowering his blade and keeping his defensive position. In the end, he decided on the latter. A gnawing feeling told him not to let his guard down.
"I asked you a question," Nero reminded him. He wanted to crumble under the man's scrutiny. His eyes were dead and pierced Nero's very soul. Chills crept up his spine.
"You know who I am," replied the man. There was no conviction or mocking accusation behind his words. It was simply a statement and nothing more.
How does he know me? Nero was dumbfounded, wondering how the man could possibly even know that he existed. Had he been lurking so close the whole time, so stealthy that Nero failed miserably to notice? The young part-devil's heart yearned to ache at the thought that, though the man knew who he was, he had never once tried to interact with him before. However, Nero reminded himself that that was precisely what rendered the man unworthy of aching over. Even as he spoke to Nero for the first time, the young hunter was aware that there was an ulterior motive behind it. Or, perhaps, it wasn't all that ulterior. The man didn't seem inclined to hide it.
"What do you want?" Nero demanded. The man stared at him for such a long time that Nero began to feel uncomfortable. The man seldom even blinked.
Finally, he said, "I want to pass by you."
Nero quirked a brow, perplexed by the man's answer. He stepped aside but never lowered his blade, fully expecting the man to attack. Just as he had said, however, he passed by and disappeared in the gaping maw of the tower. However, as he passed, the look in his eyes told Nero that their business was far from finished.
Once the man was gone, Nero finally lowered Red Queen. He began to walk hastily away from the tower but only replaced his blade on his back when he was sure nothing was going to jump out and attack. His steps never faltered in their hastening, however. He hurried away from the tower as if he was being stalked.
When Nero reentered Devil May Cry, Dante's head shot up from lulling sleepily in his hand. He swiped the back of the numb hand across his lips, wiping away a string of drool. He watched Nero eagerly as he put away his coat and approached the desk as if he was certain that the younger man had something to say. Nero could tell he wasn't exactly coherent at that moment, having just been woken from his slumber.
"How was your walk, kid?" he asked, voice still gruff and breathy from sleep. He was then swiping his hand across his eyes. He looked a little more awake when the hand was finally lowered.
"Alright," Nero sighed. He slipped his hands into his pockets and wobbled from his toes to his heels for a brief moment. "I met someone while I was out."
"Oh, really?" Dante replied in feigned surprise, though he was obviously only mildly interested.
"Yep," responded Nero. "In front of that... timid knee...?"
"Temen-ni-gru," Dante corrected, emphasizing each vowel. "Who?"