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Dante's Little Apple Surprise

by Tatsurou

Chapter 24: Making Up

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The trio continued onward through the courtyards. They encountered a new enemy that appeared to be a metallic version of the marionettes that breathed fire. A few ice blasts from Cerberus negated their threat, though. After dealing with waves of both marionettes and the new enemies - which Alastor identified as Fetishes, much to Nevan's amusement, Alastor's embarrassment, and everyone else's amusement, in that order - they progressed downward into a large graveyard area. Finding another gate that required demonic essence to open, Applejack once more punched out the hinges.

As the gate fell, Virgil glanced at Dante. "Did you teach her that?"

"Nope!" Dante proclaimed proudly. "She came up with it all on her own!"

Virgil just shook his head in resignation.

Behind the gate was a huge maze filled with mist. A large tablet held instructions about those who 'protect the weak light' finding the right path. Upon examination, a light left the tablet and was sucked into various enemies around.

"So...kill all enemies and follow the light?" Applejack asked.

"Seems like it," Dante agreed.

"Too easy," Virgil added.

As they killed enemies, the light progressed along the path, and the trio raced to follow it, killing any enemies that ate it. None were able to prove an actual challenge. Applejack grew a little concerned that each path division looked identical to all previous ones, and hoped they wouldn't get lost.

Eventually, they reached a large open chamber, and Applejack breathed a sigh of relief. She didn't even mind the large stone spiders that looked like they could have been Phantom's kids. Killing both caused a massive gate to lower, letting them move on.

A scythe wielding enemy that Alastor identified as a Death Scythe attacked out of a well, but a few bullets, energy arrows, and phantom swords took it down quickly.

"If I'm the primary firearms user," Dante pointed out, "how come I have the smallest projectiles?"

"Because you're still using the smallest guns," Virgil countered.

"Quit fightin', you two," Applejack scolded.

Out of curiosity, the group leapt into the well to see what the Death Scythe could have been guarding. A brief detour through there allowed them to acquire a new key, the 'sign of chastity'.

"Pretty sure only Applejack should be carrying that," Nevan joked.

"She'd better still be viable to carry it," Virgil stated, glaring at Dante.

"She's ten!" Dante countered. "What do you think this is, Ancient Greece?"

Chuckling, Applejack stuffed the Sign of Chastity in her hat before turning to lead everyone back the way they came.

Entering a chamber filled with water features, Applejack used the Sign of Chastity to lower an energy field protecting a Chalice, which she stuffed back into her hat.

Dante glanced around. "Anyone else think something's supposed to happen right about now?"

"We could always spar," Virgil offered.

"After dealin' with Mundus!" Applejack scolded, hopping up various platforms to place the Chalice in the proper receptacle, opening a new path.

Continuing underground, the trio carved their way through the Marionettes lining the narrow stone passage until they came to a massive ship floating in the water. Finding an underwater passage, they were able to board. There were a few of the lizard like enemies underwater, and most of Dante's Devil arms and firearms weren't functional while swimming. However, Applejack's Artemis and Virgil's phantom swords proved effective.

Clearing out a few more monsters once they were actually on board the ship, Dante found a new gun designed for underwater use. Hefting the Needle Gun, he grinned, glad he wouldn't be dead weight in the water anymore.

When they came to the deck of the ship, however, crying could be heard from somewhere, rather loud crying. While Dante and Virgil each looked around, Applejack looked up, spying the thunderbird from before in the crow's nest, crying his eyes out. Determined, Applejack leapt up into the crow's nest beside him. "What's wrong?" she asked compassionately.

"Why did they ignore me?" he bawled. "I'm big and tough and scary, aren't I? I can fight! I can make storms! But...but they didn't even pay attention when I was trying to kill them!"

"Aw, don't be sad!" Applejack comforted. "Ah was paying attention, and you were a right fearsome beast!"

"But then why didn't they pay attention to me?" he wailed.

"Pa and Uncle can be nice, but for the most part they're pretty self centered," Applejack explained. "Ah'm workin' on that."

The thunderbird let out a loud sniffle. "You think I'm scary, right?" he whimpered.

"Well, certainly fearsome," she allowed. "But my first encounter with demons was in Temen-ni-gru when I was an infant, and most of the big ones were either friendly or died quickly."

"Not me!" Beowulf complained. "I nearly succeeded at killing you-"

Beowulf was interrupted as Applejack punched one gauntlet with the other. "Hush, you, or I take you off next time I cook dinner!"

Beowulf whimpered. While Applejack wore her Devil Arms, they could all taste whatever she ate, despite not eating it themselves. And that jambalaya... "I'll be good," Beowulf promised.

Nevan chuckled. "Maybe you should try throwing your Jambalaya at the Demon Lords we fight in the future," she joked.

Applejack tapped her chin for a time. "Hmm...nah!" she said finally. "Can't go carryin' a crock pot into battle, now can I?"

The thunderbird stared at her. "You...have Devil Arms?" he asked, surprised. "Who are you?"

"Name's Applejack," she replied. "Daughter of Dante, one of the twin sons of Sparda."

The thunderbird lowered his head. "...wow," he said finally. "If they're the twin sons of Sparda together, no wonder they didn't interrupt their argument for my sake. The biggest threat and challenge they're likely to ever face is each other. And there isn't much to threaten the two of them working together. But with three Spardans..."

Applejack chuckled. "Yeah, we make a pretty good team-"

"Take me with you!" the bird begged.

Applejack blinked. "Uh...I don't think I got room for more Devil Arms," she admitted. "All four hooves, mah tail, mah back, and a hip holster are already taken..."

"You could make him a familiar," Beowulf suggested.

"A what now?" Applejack asked.

"Not all demons are capable of wielding Devil Arms," Beowulf explained. "However, they can still anchor weaker demon beasts to themselves as familiars. The familiar takes on a small form and can be summoned and unsummoned at will, and shares its magic with its Master. Both grow stronger as a result."

"I'll be your familiar!" the bird promised. "Just please take me with you!"

Applejack blinked. She wasn't sure how to react to this, but she couldn't say no to the birds watering eyes. "So...how do I go about settin' up this here ritual?" she asked Beowulf.

Two green squares appeared in the air, rotating in opposite directions and heavily inlaid with runes. "Once he takes on a smaller form and steps into two squares, command him to bind himself in your name, and then give him a new one."

The thunderbird shrunk down until it was about the size of a bald eagle, and looking not unlike a Zapdos from Pokemon, but a bit more like an actual bird.

He then happily stepped into the middle of the squares, which began to rotate faster.

Applejack gulped, hoping she got this right. "I, uh, I abjure thee?" she began.

"That's a good start," Nevan whispered in her ear.

Her confidence boosted by that, Applejack smiled with more assurance. "I abjure thee, Thunderbird, obey your Master in the name of Applejack Sparda. I dub thee Griffon."

The squares glowed brightly and were absorbed into the bird. He wriggled as the magic anchored him.

"Did...Did I do it right?" Applejack asked.

"Perfectly," Beowulf replied. "You were born for this work."

Smiling, Applejack turned, planning to hop back down to Dante and Virgil. Right at that moment, however, the ship started sailing and she fell from the crow's nest. Before she even had time to get her hooves under her, Griffon had swooped under her and expanded enough to hold her weight on his back, gliding down to let her land safely. "Thanks," she said with a grin as she hopped off.

"Any time, Master," Griffon replied, shrinking down until he was small enough to sit on the brim of her hat.

Virgil smirked as he saw this. "Interesting."

Dante's response was more emotional. "I want one!"

Everyone else present laughed as they entered the now open Captain's cabin.

Next Chapter: Promises Estimated time remaining: 2 Hours, 32 Minutes
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