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As The Candlelight Flickers

Chapter Text

The candle flickered.

Ashen vapor dispersed into the air, leaving behind the scent of cinders. A quiet breeze fought to overtake the flame, yet the small but relentless light refused to cave.

Mista was alone in the abbey.

Brother Abbacchio and Father Buccellati were still off traveling and spreading their good word, in hopes of gaining some new recruits. They had been gone for a week, so Mista was expecting them to return any day now.

Before they had left, Father Buccellati had sent Brother Ghirga and Brother Fugo down to the village below for an investigative mission. For there had been reports of more suspicious disappearances, which pointed to the possibility of a demon setting up residence in their bustling village. If that was true, it was their duty to slay it before it brought any harm to the villagers.

Becoming prey to a demon was one of the most unpleasant ways to go, their bloodlust was unrivaled by even the most foul murderers-- for they craved the flesh of humans to survive. Mista had only seen a few before, when he used to accompany Father Buccellati as backup for his hunts. Haunting, is the word he would use to describe them, like a distant flame, a star that shone brightly at night, but whose light gave off no warmth or life. An echo of something once pure, twisted by corruption and sin. They were monstrous, a chimera of different animal and humanoid features, fabricated from foul desires, and known to defile the human body in every way imaginable as they ate. Even in death sometimes a victim could not escape the grasp of a demon. Fiends of particular fierceness were able to resurrect the victims they had not consumed in their entirety as ghouls to serve their wicked whims.

Honestly Mista was quite glad he no longer took part in the hunts. After the near crippling injury to his right hand from a demon attack, he found could no longer hold his trusty crossbow for that long without risking re-injury. Even worse were the nightmares, violent and vivid dreams about the incident, the demon’s fangs in his arm, the pure terror he felt when he thought he was going to perish. It did not take Father Buccellati long to notice. Soon after, Mista found himself mostly assigned to abbey watch while the rest of his congregate handled the slaying.

This isolation however did not bother the friar much, for he was accustomed to up-keeping the abbey by himself. Cleaning the main hall, sweeping and dusting the room full of books that was apparently supposed to pass for a library, keeping the candles stocked and lit through the night in case someone needed to claim sanctuary. Of course sometimes he resented this duty, it always seemed as if he were alone in his tasks. Brother Fugo and Ghriga always remained close to each other, while he was uncertain if he had ever seen Brother Abbacchio and Father Buccellati apart-- leaving him the odd man out. He hoped that someday they could gain another recruit-- maybe then he wouldn’t be so lonely. However he didn’t hold out too much hope, for taking the oath was something one only did if they had no other options. As much as he wished for companionship, their work was dangerous and not something that should be undertaken lightly.

Such thoughts of loneliness were unfair for him to harbor. Loneliness was not an emotion fit for a friar, it carried with it envy, and the greed of feeling entitled to another's attention. Mista whispered a quick prayer and hoped that Buccellati would forgive him for such selfish desires. It was his duty to stay behind, someone needed to upkeep the abbey, for what if a villager needed their services? What if there was an emergency while everyone else was away? Father Buccellati had placed his faith in him, and he could not let his priest down.

Besides, as lonely as it could be taking care of the abbey, he knew that he was lucky to even be a part of a demon hunting congregation. Not all demon slayers were fortunate enough to have consistent and stationary assignment, as some of them instead wandered the forest looking for rogue fiends, a much more dangerous and solitary existence.

Suddenly the flame went out.

A sudden steady and insistent breeze assaulted it until it could only give out a few pitiful glints before caving to the will of the wind.

Mista looked down at the wick, before following the draft out of the common quarters, down the stairs, and into the main hall of the abbey. Usually a gust that strong only made it all the way upstairs if the front doors were opened.

Picking up his pace the friar thanked the heavens that someone had returned. While it was late, almost the witching hour, he still saved some dinner just in case a member of his congregation came home.

Trying his best to quell his excitement, he continued to make his way into the main hall, only to be confronted by the open double doors of the abbey-- with no one in sight.

The cold air seemed to fill the room so completely, despite the door only being open for a minute or two tops. It was as if something had extracted all of the warmth from the hall, leaving Mista’s home devoid of life, desecrating his refuge with something unholy.

Shivers made their way up through his body-- quickly he sprinted to the door to close it.

The double doors slammed shut with a sonorous thud.

However, even once the entrance was sealed once again, the abbey still felt alien, as if the source of the chill had not left it entirely.

Mista did not know why he felt so terrified in that moment. The frigidness of the air, settled into the base of his skull, teasing at his mind. Something was wrong, his thoughts told him, he needed to leave immediately, to run.

Of course, those thoughts made no sense. The abbey was the safest place for him, it was consecrated by Father Buccellati, a powerful barrier which had been upheld for decades surrounded the premises-- no demon could disturb such influence. Besides where would he even go? The abbey was the only building within miles, the village being a good hour journey away, on a good day.

It was probably just the wind on a stormy night, riling up his paranoia.

Looking around, he noticed that all of the previously lit candles, as well as the fireplace in the main hall, had also gone out. Taking a moment to close his eyes and say another prayer, he steeled himself, grabbing the flint that was always by the door in order to relight the abbey. He briefly considered lighting the emergency beacon before dismissing the thought as an overreaction.

He began counterclockwise from the door, relighting the candles. And while with every subsequent light, the room’s presence became less and less terrifying, there was still a lingering coldness, which seemed inescapable.

Once the entirety of the candles were lit, Mista moved to the fireplace. He bent down to move some more wood into the hearth when he could have sworn he heard a hiss right next to his ear.

Turning around quickly, he found himself staring at the empty hall.

Did something actually manage to find its way in? Fear began to creep back into the friar’s mind. He had left his crossbow upstairs, if something had snuck in, it would be far too late to retrieve it.

He needed to light the fireplace, to bring warmth to the room and hopefully banish whatever malignant force had dared to desecrate the abbey. He knew that light was a fiend’s worst enemy-- turning back to the fireplace, he raised his flint and steel once more. He managed to get a few sparks onto the wood before the hiss reappeared-- however this time it was accompanied by words.

“How useless.” the voice spoke, barely a whisper-- something that Mista could have easily confused for the wind if he were not certain that he had already closed the front door.

Swiftly swerving around, Mista backed up until his shoulders were met with bricks. There was no denying it now, something was in here with him.

“Show yourself!” he called out.

Nothing.

“Do it or I will light the fire!” He was unsure if the creature in here with him would actually view that as an honest threat, but it was all he had to go off of.

Silence.

...Maybe he did imagine it. Lowering his tense shoulders, he let out a sigh of relief. Closing his eyes he willed away his fear— he was alright, he was going to be ok.

However once he opened up his eyes again, those tranquil thoughts left him-- quickly as being forced back into a storm after thinking the eye of the hurricane was safety.

There was a man standing in front of him, only a couple meters away. Or well Mista could only guess that it was a man.

When he originally came to the conclusion that something unholy had made its way into his home, he imagined something monstrous, grotesque, like the fiend that had crippled him. And yet, the figure in front of him was almost the exact opposite of that.

He appeared to be in his mid to late twenties and was utterly heavenly-- pure golden threads of hair trailed onto the angel’s creamy pale skin. His face was completely symmetrical, something common in stone sculpture, but almost out of place on a real life man. His eyes swirled with many a color; greens, blues, yellows, reds, and oranges-- a sunrise over the sea. He looked so lithe, elegant, as if every small movement he made were a dance. This was not an unholy being, this was the most holy person Mista had ever seen. His beauty was almost so grand, that the friar did not notice the waves of numbingly cold that emanated from him.

All of Mista’s internal debates grinded to a halt in the presence of such ethereal magnificence. He could not deny this man was immensely attractive, not just by the way he looked but also the way he stood, the confidence he exuded.

“Who..?” He managed to force out.

And while the friar could just barely think in the presence of the other, when the golden man smiled at him, the few thoughts that did manage to escape the angel’s grasp were also stolen away.

“It matters not who I am.” the divine figure spoke, words no longer a vague whisper. His voice rang out clearly, like morning bells on a misty day. “What matters is you.”

“M...M..me?”

“Yesss,” the figure hissed, strutting closer to the hapless friar, hips swaying exaggeratedly, until the two were merely a few centimeters away from each other. “You are all by yourself, why is that? Who would leave something as delectable as you out here alone. Especially while you are…” leaning in, the golden man reached a hand out to rest along the friar’s right cheekbone, caressing them ever so slightly, “so very vulnerable.”

Mista so desperately wanted to lean into the touch, to be enveloped by this stranger’s words, but in the end his confusion won out as he reached his hand up to grasp the other’s, lowering it away from his face. Hand in hand, Mista realized the the other was exuding no body heat. He was cold, nothing like the warmth his eyes and voice promised.

“What are you?!”

The angel did not appear all that surprised upon his rejection. “Finally asking the right questions are we?” he spoke, sunrise eyes glinting with vicious intent.

What in the world was going on? Surely this man could not be human, was he the fiend Brother Ghirga and Fugo left to slay?

Deciding that it was better to be safe than sorry, the friar puffed out his chest, attempting to hide the mounting trembling in his hands, and made the declaration that he had been practicing if a fiend ever broke into the abbey.

“This is a holy place, you do not belong here demon!”

The golden man’s gaze never left his. “Am I not welcome in your abbey, friar? Is this not a place of sanctuary?”

“Sanctuary for humans maybe,”

The sunrise eyes creased, their owner finally released his hand, backed up into one of the pews, and took a seat.

“Strange your brothers would leave you to fend for yourself, especially after the rumors which have been circulating in the village, a demon may be on the loose and you do not have backup. Are you normally left companion-less? Maybe you are used to being left behind.”

Mista’s breath caught in his throat. How did this man know? He cursed himself for being so easy to read, for letting his loneliness dominate to a point where this man could very easily pick at it.

“Worry not my dear, for I am here now and you no longer have to be alone.” the fiend continued musing, lounging back along the pew. Delicate frame, draped in dark cotton— every curve and sharp angle of his sinfully glorious body put display for Mista’s eyes, inviting him to ogle.

Mista had only been under the influence of alcohol a couple times in his life, before he swore himself to Father Buccellati, to a life of sobriety. Alcohol was banned in the abbey as they needed to be ready for battle at any give moment, and booze dulled the senses. He had not been drunk in almost ten years-- but in the presence of this creature, who had invaded his mind as effectively as he invaded his home, Mista felt nothing but intoxicated.

He briefly wondered why the maybe-demon was presenting himself in that way. Was he trying to come onto him? That could be troubling, he knew what other desires came along with attraction, in regards to fiends.

The blonde must have caught the way that the friar’s eyes glanced over his figure, as he began to chuckle.

Mista all of a sudden felt naked under the intense gaze and judgemental laughter of the other. Simple smirk made its way back to the ethereal being’s face, he trailed his hand down his side and to his hips teasingly, a motion the friar could not help but follow with his eyes. “You find my form pleasing? How unprofessional you are.”

the clergyman choked on his next breath, sputtering at the accusation. “I…Uh.. No! I mean you are very pretty... but that doesn’t matter!” he spoke quickly tripping over his words, very unprepared for the sort of teasing that was being thrown his way.

The fiend rolled his eyes at the statement. “How ordinarily droll, Here I believed you would be more fun. Your past sins painted you in a much more favorable light.”

The friar stiffened, there was really only one thing the demon could be talking about, but how in the world could he know about that? “What?” was all he was able to force out.

Pushing himself up from off the pews the fiend sat up straight, eyes so gleeful they burned themselves into Mista’s memory. “Come now, no need to be coy. It is written all over your face. How many did you kill? Two… maybe three… perhaps even four? The scent of their blood still lingers on your fingers”

Mista paled, all thoughts of attraction fled his mind as deep regret took its place. His knees, now trembling with memory, gave out underneath him, causing him to fall to the floor. Ignoring the pain that ran through them upon impact, he brought his hands to his face in shame.

Try as he might, he could never forget that incident. Back when he was still a boy on the cusp of manhood, at the tender age of eighteen, he had stumbled upon quite the scene. A woman from his village being assaulted.

He had never meant to kill those men, only make them stop what they were doing. However once he went in for the first strike, something dark and angry clicked in his head and he found that he could not stop. Not until all three of them were nothing but a bloodied mess polluting the soil. What scared him the most was not the brutality of the incident, but wave of calmness he found himself feeling, how unfazed it left him.

He turned himself in, of course he had. He was never under any illusions that what he did was right, it went against everything his mother had taught him. Unlucky for him one of the men was the son of a prominent village figure, and once the news of what happened came back to him, Mista was put on the fast track for execution.

However that did not phase the young man. He was prepared to be die for his crimes, he was prepared to burn in the foul pits of hell, regardless of who it was he killed. That was the punishment for murderers.

What he did not expect was salvation.

Providence came to him in the guise of a man. Father Buccellati was a priest of great honor and respect in the small village that Mista called home. So when he offered him a pardon, forgiveness, the teenager found he couldn’t refuse.

He learned how to be a friar, how to take the pledge, to live and atone instead of give up and die for his sins. He moved into the abbey and became of one the defenders of the village. Despite Buccellati seeing him as an asset to the protection of the people, Mista knew the other villagers did not see him as such. Whenever he took a trip into the village, he always noticed the dirty looks people gave him. Not surprising at all, while the people respected Buccellati enough to let Mista live on his behalf, the village was close knit enough that the gossip about him never really died down.

And yet despite that, everyday for ten years Mista blessed his good fortune, and learned how to cope with his new life. He only wished that someday, somehow, he would be able to find absolution in the eyes of his peers, to be able to walk among them freely once more.

Peering out from between his fingers his eyes met the demon’s once more. It was just his luck that the fiend would arrive while he was all alone and know all about him. What were the odds of that? It was almost as if this were planned…

“Oh!” Mista exclaimed, jumping to his feet once more, all traces of his previous struggle now gone from his face. “I understand now, this is a test!” He proclaimed, voice boisterous and certain that he had figured out what was going on. Perhaps he thought wrong, maybe this man was neither a human nor a demon but an angel come to check in on him. That would certainly explain his beauty and why he had so much information on Mista’s past. This man was no false star, but the sun, bright, and virtuous. “You are here to test my resolve. That must be why you know so much about me!”

The angel’s eyes narrowed, a singular golden eyebrow raised. “And what if I told you that was not the truth?”

“Well… that’s exactly what someone would say if they were giving a test.” Mista stated confidently. “It makes so much sense now. No demon should be able to enter this building, Father Buccellati is extremely powerful, I have never encountered a fiend able to bypass his protection ward. You must be something that can pass through the barrier, and therefore not a demon.”

The ethereal creature paused, contemplatively looking at the friar. “I suppose that is an understandable conclusion to draw. However--”

Mista was so assured in his belief that before the angel had anymore time to deny further, the friar made his way to the pews to sit next to his guest, silencing whatever he was about to say. “Eh, don’t you worry, I recognize it is not ideal to be found out in the middle of a test, But if it will help, I’ll still play along. And hey, maybe I can make it up to you.” the friar responded with a smile.

The angel paused, sunrise eyes bearing deeply into the man next to his. “How so?”

“Well, let’s see, are you hungry? I don’t know if angels eat, but if you can, I can accommodate.”

“You think me an angel?”

“Umm, well aren’t you?”

The creature chuckled once more, eyes lighting up with something akin to amusement. “I am sorry to disappoint, but I am not.”

“Oh, then what are you?” the clergyman asked. A question which he had asked before, earlier in the conversation, however this time it was with an increasingly relaxed tone, a far cry from his initial confused terror.

“You had it right the first time.” the not-angel replied sinesterly, shadows seeming to gather at the base of his feet.

Well that was a pretty cool trick, but Mista was not going to fall for this fake demon act anymore.

Reaching out, he took hold of the other’s chilly hand, running his fingers over it gently. “Right right, well then Mr. Demon before you devour me, let’s go upstairs for some tea.” He joked before pulling the angel off of the pews and towards the stairs. “I still have to be a courteous host, don’t I?”

He was met with little resistance as the figure moved in tandem with him immediately. A thin, yet distinctly genuine, smile spread across the ethereal man’s lips. “You are certainly a strange one, friar, not at all what I expected. I have never run into one as readily optimistic in the face of danger.”

“My name is Guido Mista, but my brothers just call me Mista, you feel free to call me by my name, friar seems too formal, does it not?”

“Mista then,” the angel agreed.

“What shall I call you?”

The sunrise eyes bore deeply into his curiously, as if he were weighing the options of an unseen decision before he answered. “...Perhaps it best for you to give me a name.”

Mista did not question why the other did not want to give out his true name, nor did he take long coming up with one for the supposedly nameless creature.

“Giorno.”

“Giorno?” the not-angel repeated with a chuckle. “Ironic, wouldn’t you say?”

Mista shook his head in disagreement. “I don’t think so, your eyes shine like the beginning of a new day, and your hair is spun of strands of sunlight. I think it to be fitting.”

“Quite the charmer I see.” the nameless man teased, words sprinkled with flirtation.

The clergyman flushed for a second, cheeks losing all of their color. “You don’t have to mock me. If you don’t like it, how about you tell me your real name?” He huffed comedically, lightening the tone significantly .

“...Giorno will do.” the beauty replied, before allowing himself to be pulled away from the main hall and towards the stairs leading to the second floor.

Once they were upstairs Mista wasted no time putting a kettle on the woodfire stove before returning to Giorno, whom he had wait patiently for him in his sleeping quarters.

Handing him the cup, the angelic man reached out to take it, their fingers brushing together.

And that was when something electrifying happened. In that moment it felt like the friar had been struck by lighting. However instead of a painful shock, the electricity harmlessly passed through his fingers, down his body and into his feet, to be painlessly dispersed into the ground below.

He wanted to comment on it, however Giorno did not seem to react at all, just staring up at him like he had been doing.

Hmm well, maybe he imagined it then....

“So,” he began before taking a seat on the cot next to the blonde. “Did I pass your test.”

The angel laughed once more, this time less sinister and more vibrant. “Sweet friar, as I have told you many a time, I am no angel and this is no test.”

Matching his laughter Misa rephrased his assessment. “Ok, right I understand. You can’t admit that to me, that would defeat the purpose of a test!” he proclaimed.

“Well I suppose so.”

“Aha! So I am correct!”

Instead of answering him Giorno rolled his eyes once more before he scooted closer to Mista until their legs were touching. Mista was about to ask what that was about before the beauty doubled down; putting his undrunken tea cup to the side, throwing his legs over the clergyman’s lap, arms around his neck, and body pressed against his side.

The friar was about to protest, to tell the angel that there was no longer a need to tempt him, however before he could he was struck by the coldness of Giorno’s skin. He had held the beauty’s hand before and noticed how chilly it was, but it was nothing compared to the rest of his body. He was dangerously cold, so instead of pushing him away, the clergyman held him close.

“You’re freezing!”

“I came from outside, there is quite a chill in the wind.”

Ah, so the other must have gotten closer because he was trying to unfreeze himself, well that made sense. Gripping Giorno tightly with one arm he reached behind them with his other pulling the thick warm blanket that resided on his cot and wrapped it around the two of them.

“There we go, Just stay close and you should warm up in no time. If you want we can move down into the library downstairs, it’s really warm in there and I think there is a spare bed under all the books, if you would like to rest.”

“My hero. Thank you for offering, but I am good here.” Giorno hummed resting his head on the clergyman’s shoulder. “You have most certainly passed whatever test you imagine you are under.”

Mista chuckled and looped his other hand around the man pressed up to him. It had been a while since he had been so close to another. After giving his oath to Father Buccellati there was not really any room for him to attempt to court someone. His duties as a friar kept him isolated from many other people, and the shear amount of tasks on his plate meant that he did not have much free time. Of course it was quite presumptuous of him to imagine that this angel wanted anything more then warmth, but for a second he could imagine that they were lovers in an amorous embrace.

Deciding to make small talk, Mista spoke up. “So Giorno the not-angel, what did you come all the way to abbey for?”

The blonde next to him hummed, “For you Guido Mista. You see, someone I would prefer not to see again just came into town and I want to be rid of them before they do something too destructive. So I came to kill you and devour you to gain enough strength to do so.”

Mista laughed, loud and spirited. Giorno had quite the sense of humor, well two could play at that game.

“Ah, but my charm was too much for you?”

Giorno chuckled nuzzling into the friar’s neck inhaling deeply, a low rumble reverberating within him. “Yesss. I have found another use for you.” he hissed before his fingers found the hem of the friar’s robes and began to reach underneath for caress his skin.

Mista yelped as the cold hand dragged along his chest… Another use? There was no way he meant it that way right? That would be way too good to be true… although… maybe this angel was interested in him romantically, those touches were far from simple friendly gestures.

Shaking his head to banish those thought from his mind, he mentally chastised himself for such a far fetched fantasy. No, this beauty was too perfect to want anything to do with him, he was just cold, and desperately needed something to warm him up.

“Wow, you were really not kidding about the wind chill!” he started, pulling away from Giorno, reaching over to grab the still warm mug of tea he made for the other, presenting it back to him with a smile on his face. “Here hold this, it will help warm up your hands. Once it’s cool enough you should drink up, it’s a special recipe of mine.”

Giorno’s brazen smile faltered for a second, and Mista wondered if perhaps he misread the situation, before the beauty reached out and grabbed the mug.

“You… really are quite interesting.” the angel proclaimed, glancing down at the mug of steaming liquid.

Mista’s face fell a little bit “Oh, I’m sorry, is it not to you liking? If you’d like a more traditional mix I can make a fresh pot.”

Giorno shook his head in disagreement before bringing the tea cup to his face, puckering his mouth slightly to catch the liquid. That motion brought Mista’s attention to the other man’s lips, smooth, pink, and like everything else on the beauty’s face, incredibly stunning.

Glancing away he blushed. Being so close to the other was not helping keep his mind from wandering to licentious thoughts. Not wanting to make the other uncomfortable with his unwanted advances he untangled himself from the blanketed angel so he could get a cup of tea, maybe that would help him calm down. Telling the other he’d be right back he went into the other room to prepare a cup.

Once he returned Giorno was no longer wrapped in the blanket, but standing up, eyes looking past Mista and towards the door leading into the hallway. “Someone is here.” he spoke softly.

Sure enough, now that the friar’s attention was brought to it, he could feel a draft coming from downstairs, as if someone had just opened the door. Smiling to himself he put down the mug of tea on his bedside table and reached out once more to take hold of his guest’s perpetually cold hand.

“Must be another member of my congregation, come I’ll introduce you.”

Quickly returning to his feet, Mista pulled Giorno downstairs with him, eager to see just exactly who came home.

Once they descended the stairs, Mista was treated to the sight of two figures wearing the same robes he was, just barely closing the doors of the abbey.

“Brother Abbacchio, Father Buccellati!” he called out with his free hand waving towards them as he continued his approach. “It’s good to see the two of you! How was your trip?”

Abbacchio, looked tired and not very eager to converse, however Buccellati’s face lit up with a warmth Mista knew well.

“Why Mista it is wonderful to see you as well, I see we have a guest.” the priest responded approaching the two of them.

Mista smile grew wider as he looked over at Giorno. Buccellati was the most compassionate person he had ever had the privilege of meeting, he felt the two of them would get along just fine.

He could not have been more wrong.

As soon as Father Buccellati and Brother Abbacchio came close enough to get a good look at Giorno, Leone reached out, his hand to grasp Bruno’s shoulder tightly. There must have been some sort of silent communication between the two, as the tenderness the priest’s face previously held lost its luster, and was replaced with a chilly austerity.

Before Mista could even comment, Father Buccellati reached to his side where his sword was typically sheathed.

In a sharp flash, the tip of the consecrated metal was held up to the throat of Mista’s angel.

Bruno’s gaze was unwavering, he did not need to say anything for Mista to understand what was going on-- the priest must have thought Giorno was a fiend.

The friar was about to speak up, to reassure his superior that they had nothing to fear from Giorno, however before he could regain his bearings, Father Buccellati spoke.

“I know not how you bypassed my barrier demon, but I will only give you one warning, unhand him.”

That same teasing smirk made its way back to Giorno’s lips, as he exaggeratedly bowed before the priest. “Of course, If my presence is troubling to you, I shall take my leave.”

Turning his head back to the Mista he spoke, “Well, my dear friar, till we meet again.” Giorno’s smirk turned more playful, almost teasing, running his fingers over Mista’s hand, before he released it and deliberately walked out of the abbey. The tip of Bruno’s sword followed him the whole way out and only once the door was closed did the priest lower and resheith the blade.

Father Buccellati then immediately rushed to Mista’s side, concern flashing in his eyes. “Are you alright?” he asked.

Brother Abbacchio on the other hand did not seem as worried for the younger man, he seemed angry. “Mista you imbecile! Why did you let a demon into the abbey?” he growled, moving forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with Father Buccellati.

Mista, still processing, replied in confusion. “What? No, I didn’t let him in, he just showed up, and he is not a demon!”

Leone continued to protest, chastising the younger man, “Are you questioning my abilities? I know a demon when I sense one, I have never been wrong before.”

Shaking his head Mista argued back. “He can’t have been a demon. To get in he would have had to break Buccellati’s barrier and--”

“--And my barrier is still up,” Bruno finished for him. “Your assumption is correct, on our way in we had not noticed any changes in the barrer, it was untouched.”

Mista let out a sigh of relief, “So you believe me then?”

At the same time Abbacchio huffed, “You are doubting me then?”

Raising his hands in defense Mista cut in before Bruno could respond. “I don’t think he is a threat. I think he was an angel sent to test me. He kept saying he wasn't, but it would make the most sense based on what he knew about me.”

Abbacchio snorted, “Of course you would be foolish enough to believe that.”

Buccellati however, voice intrigued by Mista’s statement pressed for more details. “What did he know about you?”

And so Mista told them most of what had happened, omitting some of the more embarrassing details. From the initial devious start to the more calm and friendly interactions he shared with this man of mystery. Specifically he mentioned that whoever this man was he had known about the incident ten years ago which had brought Mista to the congregation.

“This is certainly strange. I trust Leone’s abilities, so there is not a doubt in my mind that man was demonic. However based on your account Guido, he may have been trying to get something before he killed you. Now that he revealed himself, we are going to need to call back Pannacotta and Narancia, and corner him. Perhaps we should even light the emergency beacon to call for assistance from a neighboring abbey, or a roaming slayer-- I have heard reports that a traveling hunter has been spotted in the area, perhaps we should reach out to them. It's too dangerous to let him go free.”

Mista not particularly liking the sound of that spoke up once more.

“Wait! Lets not jump to conclusions. Calling in a roaming slayer seems… well a bit extreme.” Mista proclaimed, having an inkling where this conversation was headed. Traveling slayers, who were not permanently positioned with a congregate, while essential to maintaining peace and safety in the land, where notoriously hard to work with.

One only decided to become a roaming slayer if for some reason they were incapable of functioning as a team with other hunters. As such they tended to be very difficult to work with, and even more difficult to rein in, if one was sent after Giorno, there would not be much Mista could do to protect him. He needed to cut this idea out by its roots before it spread even further

“Giorno was kind to me, genuinely. Are we sure that it’s not possible that we are overlooking something?” Giorno was nice, in his own strange way, and that was all he needed to be at ease. Some may call that simple mindedness, but Mista always followed his gut, and right now his gut was telling him that Giorno was not a threat to him.

“Are you an idiot?” Leone asked, arms crossed in exasperation. “He was ‘kind’ you say? What makes you think you weren’t being manipulated?.”

Bruno on the other hand seemed to take more of an interest in another part of the friar’s statement. “Giorno?” he asked, “he gave you his name?”

Mista shook his head in disagreement, “No, I gave him that name.”

Abbacchio who was previously slouched, straightened up throwing a rather intense look at Buccellati before returning his attention to Mista. “He let you bind him?”

“What are you talking about?” Mista asked slowly, taking in all of the looks that the other two were giving each other. Distantly he thought back to when he touched Giorno to give him the cup of tea, the electricity that had passed between them. He had written it off as his imagination, however with his superiors reacting the way they were, he was starting to think there was more to it.

Bruno was the first to speak. “Mista, if that man was indeed a demon then I am afraid to say that you may have entered a contract with him.”

Abbacchio continued, “You are such a moron I didn’t think you could even survive such a tethering.”

Brushing off the insult Mista continued to listen to his priest.

“Names hold power, I am sure you know that if a fiend holds a mortal’s true name they can use it in all sorts of enchantments. Fiends on the other hand typically have no true name. It is said that if human were to give a demon a name and they accept it, the two become bound. That was how the priest of old used to bring demons into battle with them at their sides. The practice is not used much anymore. In the last century there has only been one successfully recorded instance of a contract being formed-- as typically the stronger the demon, the harder it is to create a contract.”

Mista did not know how long he stood there, mouth open in utter disbelief at what he was hearing. All that he knew was that it was long enough for Abbacchio to lecture him about his manners.

“Close your mouth, you look like a fish!” The older man sighed before crossing his arms. “Did you happen to notice any sort of change after you named him?”

Mista bit his bottom lip. “Something did happen after I gave him the name, something passed between us. I could feel it….. These contracts... What do they typically entail?”

Abbacchio shrugged, “Who knows, I have never met anyone who successfully did it. This is basically stuff of legends at this point. From what I heard the priests of old used the bond to communicate with their demons while in the middle of battle, without having to speak aloud. Sounds pretty helpful to me, but to be honest I have no clue what the extent of it is.”

Turning to Buccellati, Mista continued to ask desperately. “You said that there was a record of another who had successfully completed the union? Maybe I can ask them for help?”

The priest simply shook his head in disagreement, “Sadly that will not be possible Guido. That man, Father Pucci, has been missing for the last ten years.”

“He is missing?!”

“I am afraid so. According to what I know, the fiend he was bound to was very temperamental and dangerous. Father Pucci, seemed to be able to keep his demon under control for the most part, however over time his congregation began to see less and less of him, until one morning he vanished.”

Mista’s eyes continued to widen as the story progressed, his breaths becoming less steady until they devolved into something so irregular that standing became difficult. His priest led him to one of the pews and sat down beside him, hand comfortingly resting on his shoulder.

“.... Is that going to happen to me?”

The grip on his shoulder tightened. Turning to face his superior’s compassionate sapphire eyes, he saw how seriously the priest was looking back at him.

“Not while I’m here. Powerful demon be damned, I will not let anyone bring harm to you.”

“I… Thank you.” the friar whispered.

Bruno nodded at him before he stood once more. “This may be good news Guido. A union goes both ways, you may be bound to this ‘Giorno’, but he is as connected to you as you are to him. You are no longer defenseless to him. One thing is for certain about a bindings, I read about it in one of the reports we have down in the library. The connection goes both ways, which means if he appears to you again, you can force his hand.”

“The next time he shows his stupid face, you can show him who’s boss.” Abbacchio added cracking his knuckles and smirking.

The words of his superiors helped him feel more at easy, and so for the next hour he clinged to them. Asking any and every question he could come up with. While many of his questions went unanswered as the three of them realized they did not in fact know all that much about bindings, it felt nice to simply talk through his worries with people who cared for him. As the night grew into morning, the evening's events left the friar feeling tired and drained.

Deciding it would be the best for them to get some rest and reconvene in the morning the three of them retired to their individual chambers for the night.

Almost as soon as Mista’s head hit his cot he passed into a deep sleep. Dreams haunted by golden hair, rapacious eyes, and a cold but willing body pressed against his.

The next few days passed uneventfully. Now that Buccellati and Abbacchio were back the three of them held a few sermons for the people of the village.

After the sermons several people reached out to them to inform that the disappearances were becoming more and more frequent. When Father Buccellati asked what happened to the clergymen he sent to investigate, the villagers told him that they also had not been seen in the last few days.

Mista’s blood ran cold, Brother Ghriga and Brother Fugo were more than just his coworkers, they were his friends, his family. If something happened to them he would not know what he would do. Glancing over at Bruno, the friar could tell that he was feeling the same.

That night the three of them had a meeting to discuss what they were going to do. Father Buccellati told them he was going to go into the village, slay the demon, find their missing brethren, and bring them home.

Brother Abbacchio said that he was going to go with him and there was nothing either of them could do to stop him, which caused quite the conflict, as that meant that Mista was once again going to be left by himself at the abbey.

“Abbacchio we can’t leave Mista here alone, especially not after the incident with ‘Giorno.’”

Leone crossed his arms, not budging. “He can take care of himself, there is only so much his demon can do while we are away.”

Mista agreed wholeheartedly. Despite the danger of seeing Giorno again, he felt more discomfort knowing Father Buccellati would be alone if Abbacchio stayed behind, so he spoke up.

“Father Buccellati, I know you are worried. I can’t deny I’m scared too, but this is Panni and Nara we are talking about. I don’t want you to go on such a dangerous mission without backup. Besides like Abbacchio said, I can handle Giorno.” forcing a smile to his face that he hoped was more reassuring and less anxious than he feared. “I’ve dealt with him before and I can deal with him again.”

It took a little more convincing on both Mista and Abbacchio’s part, but eventually the three of them agreed on the plan.

Mista wanted to ask if they would be willing to take him along with them. Three would be better than two-- but he knew the answer, Bruno would not allow the abbey to remain unattended, even if his life were on the line. As much as the friar disagreed with the priest, he knew when to hold his tongue, now was not the time to divide them even further.

And so that night Buccellati and Abbacchio left, wasting no time.

Mista not knowing what else to do decided to get some sleep.

He didn’t know how much time he got in before the motion of something chilly caused him to stir.

Something cold and soft pressed against him, and although the frigidness of the pressure was a bit unpleasant, there was something tender about the way it caressed him. So much so he wanted nothing more then to just curl up around it.

Groaning softly, eyes still closed, he without much thought, wrapped his arms around the chill-- pulling it closer to him.

It was a familiar chuckle that finally sobered his drowsy mind. Eyes shooting open he was confronted by the same sunrise over an ocean staring back at him, mischief dancing in them like waves crashing on a beach.

“Well good morning dear.” the fiend spoke, fingers trailing up and down the friar’s exposed shoulder.

Mista stayed completely still, staring back at the angel… no the demon, who had somehow bypassed the barrier once again. He knew that he should prepare for a fight, grab the nearest weapon and impale the intruder on it, and yet for some reason he felt relaxed, almost as if he did not know the danger that was lurking centimeters away from him. Instead of fear, a calm breeze washed over him, reassuring him that the fiend wished him no harm.

The friar wondered where this feeling was coming from, as comforting as it was, it still felt foreign, more of a demonstration from someone else then a sentiment originating from him. Staring back into those multi colored eyes, he pieced two and two together-- and unfortunately for him that added up to unlucky number four.

This feeling must have been originating from Giorno, he was probably trying to put him at ease. The friar thought back to what Abbacchio told him about the tethering, how it was theorized that a human and fiend bound to each other could communicate without the use of words.

That must be it! Giorno was sharing his intentions with him, making it clear that he currently meant no harm.

Wondering if he was able to communicate the same way back, Mista concentrated, picturing in his mind how he was feeling. The anxiety that lingered under the calmness, the fear that came with it. In that moment he felt a small surge of something, it was light and static all at once, and somehow he knew his message went through.

Recognition flashed through the fiend’s eyes, as he momentarily pulled away. Mista trying his best to contain his inward cheering at figuring out how this worked. He told Father Buccellati that he would handle things here, and he was planning on making good on that promise.

“It’s still dark out, hardly morning.” he finally replied, tone just as surprisingly even as he felt.

Giorno’s smile widened. “Fearless aren’t you?” Those frigid hands moving further down from his shoulder onto his exposed stomach, continuing the tender caresses, playing idly with the friar’s body hair. “But, I suppose that is partially why I like you so much.”

Trying his best to not lean into the tender touches, the clergyman continued to stare. “Is that why you tethered yourself to me?”

“Finally figured it out did you? Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Oh but how I did quite enjoy being your ‘angel.’” The fiend purred, playing with the hem of Mista’s trousers.

Hands much warmer than the demon’s reached down to prevent the fiend’s reach from traveling any further down. “What do you want with me Giorno?” Mista stated, gripping the other’s hands tightly, wanting to stop beating around the bush and just get to the point,

The fiend looked back at him with a tinge of exasperation before answering, “I told you already Mista. I originally came to kill you, but upon further inspection--”

“--You found another use for me.” Mista finished for him, realizing for the first time the true weight of those words.

The glint in the fiend’s eyes twirled with excitement. “Exactly,”

“And what in the world is that?”

“You are a friar, one to an abbey of demon slayers, which means despite being left behind by the rest of your more competent cohort, you surely have skills I could use.”

The friar frowned, “I am not going to do anything for you until you tell me what is going on. When we first met you wanted to eat me, why? Are you the one behind the disappearances?”

“Why does that matter? You are no longer on the menu Mista, you have nothing to fear from me. But to answer your second question, no, those disappearances are not my handiwork.”

The other’s lips had gotten uncomfortably close to the clergyman’s, almost enough for them to be touching. He was obviously bating him, trying to make him uncomfortable, but Mista was not about to give the demon what he wanted-- instead he held his ground, neither moving towards or away from the blonde beside him.

“How can I trust the word of a demon?”

If it was even possible the blonde’s smile grew both wider and more smug. “Well that is where the tethering comes in. As long as we are connected I can share with you my sincerity, you will know that I am not lying.”

Mista narrowed his eyes, surely it couldn’t be that simple, could it? He was still unsure how the bond between them even worked, let alone if he could use it as some sort of lie detector. This was all happening way too fast for him to keep up.

Giorno, probably noting the concerned look on the clergyman’s face, spoke up once more. “And if it helps, I believe that we both have the same goal.”

“And what’s that?”

“To stop the fiend who is currently terrorizing the village.”

Mista froze, eyes widening, as he finally pulled away from the demon his his bed and sat up. “You know who it is? Wait… why would you even want to stop them, aren’t you on the same side?”

And in that moment, the demon’s smile snapped into a frown, eyes blazing with barely concealed anger, a far cry from the most composed front the fiend seemed to hide behind. Teeth bared, Mista could finally see the sharpness to them that he expected.

“We are not on the same side.” Giorno growled.

Wow, it looked like he struck a nerve with the demon. And yet, as dangerous as an angry man could be, let alone a fiend, Mista felt more reassured by that reaction than any other words spoken to him. The blonde looked pissed, truly and utterly, a far cry from how composed he normally was. It was nice to see that he was not entirely flawless, that he was capable of such a human emotion.

“I see, well then if you are not be opposed to ending them. Then this might actually work out.”

The demon blinked, staring at him with a familiar confusion. “You are considering it just like that? I assumed you would need a tad bit more convincing.”

Mista chuckled nervously, “Yeah well, lucky for you I am very easy.”

The smile that appeared on Giorno’s face in response immediately sent the friar backpedaling.

“No! Not like that!”

Purring the fiend slinked back up to the other, draping his arms around the friar’s shoulders. “Hmm? Are you sure?

Pulling away from the blonde’s embrace, he stood up from his matress. Trying his best to hide the redness that had made its way into his cheeks, he noticed the ravenousness in the demon’s body language.

Well, at least now he knew for sure the reason behind Giorno’s various touches, they were not friendly, nor were they to keep himself warm, they were hungry-- an appetizer to what he wanted to do to Mista. He knew how this worked, he had seen it before, lust and hunger were almost interchangeable to a fiend. They were known to fuck their prey, kill them, then eat them-- and sometimes not in that order. He should have known with how handsy the blonde was during their first meeting something was off. The friar tried not to let the disappointment of that realization hit him too hard, of course it was a long shot to believe that even for a moment the other desired him romantically.

“How about we instead talk about actually important things. Like the information you have on the fiend we are hunting.”

“He is dangerous, far more than any other your partition has probably faced. You are going to need help if you are to take him out.” Giorno answered with the flick of his wrist, before taking advantage of Mista’s departure from the bed to lounge back along it, spreading himself along the plush surface like a playful mountain lion.

The friar was filled with conflicting emotions. He knew this man, no, this monster was a danger, all of his training had taught him so. However he had to admit that the the fiend was charismatic, had quite the way with words and certainly with body language. That allure did much to cater to his more simplistic outlook on life, and he knew that on some level he had already been taken in by the temptation.

But that did not mean that he was to lose his cool in this situation. The blonde knew what was terrorizing the village, what potentially now had hold of his Brothers, and based on his confidence, he also seemed to know how to take it out.

Ignoring the hungry gaze that trailed almost lovingly over his body, and the glint of sharp teeth, he took a deep breath and held out his hand.

“You’re right, if we work together we will be stronger. I accept your help Giorno.”

“Excellent.”

Giorno spent the next few minutes sharing the Intel that he had already gathered on the enemy. He was a fiend-- tremendously large, he towered over every other man, with eyes and hair the same shade of deep golden.

Most importantly however Mista learned that this fiend was also bound to a human, one who assisted in his nefarious deeds at night and kept him safe and guarded during the daytime, when the sunlight prevented the monster from moving around freely. Giorno did not beat around the bush for as to what they should do with that man.

“He is assisting the enemy, he is the demon’s eyes and ears, we will need take him out. If we are successful the fiend will have no more allies and fall easily.”

A thought crossed the friar’s mind as he wondered what kind of person this other bound human was. What kind of man would be so heartless as to assist a monster with his plan for murder? And what scared Mista the most was not what answer lie at the end of such a horrible question, but another question entirely.

Turning to face the golden haired demon, whom he was also assisting take part in the murder of one of his fellow humans, he wondered the same thing about himself.

The two of them wasted no time-- gathering up Mista’s belongings, they made their way out of the abbey. The friar knew that Father Buccellati was going to be mad at him for abandoning his post, however the abbey would be fine. He was more worried about his brethren-- now that he knew the danger that was awaiting them, there was no way he was going to stay behind and just wait. Giorno seemed to think this fiend was extremely dangerous, which meant Buccellati and Abbacchio were going to need as much help as they could get when trying to take it out.

They were on the road not but five minutes after that. Mista making sure to have grabbed the crossbow that was kept locked away in their supply closet. It had been a while since he last used it, but he was confident in his skills with it nonetheless.

The first few minutes of their trek to the village was filled with silence. Giorno not seeming particularly interested in conversing, and Mista still processing all the information he was given. However it was not long before the friar adjusted and began to speak.

“You are not to kill any people other than the man bound to our target.”

Giorno brushed him off, glancing over at him in bemusement. “You think I run around slaughtering people?” The demon sounded annoyed at him, as if not particularly keen to be going down this rabbit hole of discussion.

But Mista felt this was more relevant than ever and so pressed forward. “You are a man eating demon, so uh, yeah that is exactly what I think you do.”

Giorno snorted, “Well then you would be wrong.”

“You can’t expect me to believe that.”

“It is the truth.”

Why was Giorno denying this now? He seemed all too eager to try and devour Mista earlier, so why was he acting like he would never entertain that idea? “Mhm, you admitted to me that you originally came to kill me.”

Hands trailed in the golden threads atop the fiend’s scalp as he shook his head. “I was, but as I said it was to gain enough power to take on the fiend we are currently hunting, a situation very clearly out of the norm. I live in the village, it would be impractical to kill and eat the villagers, I would be found out in no time, especially with you all so close.”

Mista gaped at him in disbelief, the demon lived in the village? That did not make any sense for numerous reasons. “I might not go to the village as often as the others in my congregation, but I go enough that I feel I would have seen you.” The fiend’s blonde curls would have been an immediate give away, most people of the village had darker hair, in fact he did not know if he had even seen golden hair among the villagers.

“Well perhaps you just always missed me.”

They walked for a few more minutes in silence. The friar had so many more questions, but he did not even know where to start with his line of questioning. After ten or so more minutes of stillness, two words was finally able to escape his mouth,

“Why me?”

Sunrise eyes refused to meet his, as their owner picked up his tread down the path-- and yet despite that, Giorno seemed to understand exactly what he was asking. “Why did I originally choose you to kill? I’m afraid that conversation will only cause more confusion, and right now we have other priorities. If you are still curious, and we are both still alive, I can tell you when this is all over.”

And with that Giorno began to outpace him, clearly messaging that this was not the time to discuss details. And while Mista was curious, he had to admit the demon was right, they had more pressing matters to deal with.

It was another twenty minutes before the forest path broke into a clearing and the two of them spotted a man collapsed in the road, a long trail of blood behind him. Mista broke into a run towards the man praying that he was still alive.

Giorno on the other hand just continued his normal gait, calling out to Mista once he was passed. “That man is already dead, and from the smell of it, it was only a couple hours ago, maybe even less.”

Stopping in his tracks, Mista gazed down at the man. While his body was twisted in pain, his face looked almost calm. His figure covered in a simple wool outer coat, one that looked strikingly similar to the ones they handed out in the abbey during the winter.

“He must have dragged himself from the village,” the demon stated finally making his way over to the friar’s side. “Which means the village was already attacked.”

“Shit.” was all Mista could say, taking a step away from the body.

Crouching down next to the man, Giorno inhaled deeply, a slight humming sound emanating from him as reached his hand out to caress the man’s cheek sensually.

The friar choked out a gasp, recognizing the lines in the other’s posture, the movement of his hand, the near cat like purring, they were the same as when he were all over Mista.

“I thought you said you don’t eat people!”

Giorno froze, hand retreating, still facing away from his companion. “I told you I don’t kill, not that I don’t eat. That is a major difference, please keep up.”

“You can’t… he was just alive… you said it yourself…” the friar protested, taking a few more large steps back.

“Look, we are about to face off with a fiend who is more well fed than I, who has no issues eating while their prey is still alive. It is not everyday I run into a corpse this fresh. Trust me, you want me to be at my best, don’t you?” The demon’s hands were back on the body in that instant, head bending low, towards the man’s stomach. “I’ll be quick, If it bothers you so much I would suggest you turn around.”

Mista wanted to protest further, to pull the demon off of the man, but the second he saw those sharp teeth open, he turned around as quickly as he could, just in time to avoid seeing them plunge into the flesh below.

That however did not stop him from hearing what followed. Wet tearing-- liquids, and a few things a slight bit too solid to be liquids, falling to the floor in a distinct slop. Three loud cracks filled the air, followed by crunching, like a dull piece of wood being crushed by stone. The grinding soon began to meld with an undercurrent of squelches.

However it was not the sounds of gore that bothered him the most. No, that award went to the sounds his companion was making, trailing just under the more prominent sounds of butchery.

There were soft moans slotted into the spaces between bites-- vile things, seemingly filled with pleasure. Giorno was enjoying this. Well… of course he was, he was a demon, this is what they do.

Mista did not know how long he stood there, back to a scene so grotesque he dared not turn around, listening to sounds he wished he never had to be beheld to. It was almost as if he fell into a macabre trance-- the squishes, crunches, and animalistic groans from the scene behind him fusing together in a cacophony of horror.

He was almost at his wits end when something happened that pushed him overboard. That same tingling in his fingertips which he was now becoming more familiar with. Bottom lip quivering Mista realized a bit too late what this meant. Legs threatening to collapse under him, he in that moment felt what he supposed Giorno was feeling.

Absolute ecstasy... He felt warmth pool in the basin of his cold body. He felt the ever so tantalizing pressure on his teeth, the satisfying snapping of ligaments, the sickly sweet taste of blood and flesh...how euphoric it all was, despite knowing what was causing it.

He didn’t want this, he didn’t ask for it. Unable to do much else, he screamed.

“Stop! Giorno, please stop!”

His demand was granted immediately, as all of those foul desires left him so quickly it almost knocked the wind out of him.

The sounds also abruptly halted. For another minute, there was nothing, and then after what felt like an eternity Mista heard a light rustling of fabric followed by the soft reverb of footsteps walk to right behind him.

Neither of them moved for a few seconds, neither spoke.

It was Mista who finally broke the silence, voice cracked, legs shaking. “Why did you do that?”

“I apologize that you had to be witness to it.” the demon replied, his voice was just as smooth and melodic as it had always been-- the friar found it all so overwhelming. “This bond… it's something I am not used to either, I did not intend to share that with you. I will be more careful in the future.”

But the apology did little to sooth his troubled mind, “The way you looked at him before… it was the same way you looked at me, the same way you still look at me.”

The friar expected the demon to have words for him, to charm him with his charisma, the way he had so effortlessly done before. However none of that happened, instead his companion stayed silent, letting them both marinate in the clergyman’s words.

Mista pressed his eyes closed, despite knowing Giorno was a demon, despite understanding what that meant, he was unprepared to be shown so clearly what the other had to do to survive. This was what the fiend wanted to do to him, what he was planning on do to him the first time they met.

Perhaps it was because the blonde looked and acted so human, or perhaps because he had such a way with words. But Mista had once believed, when they first had met, that they could honestly have been friends… oh how foolish he was. He saw more clearly than ever what the blonde truly was, a monster.

The words formed in his mouth, more quickly then they did in his mind. Calling forth the binding between them, Mista concentrated, forcing all of his fear, hatred, and disgust into the mind of the other, punctuated by his words. “After this is all done, I never want to see you again, binding be damned.”

If the fiend was bothered by his sudden coldness, or the overwhelming emotions forced into him by the friar, he did not let it shine through in his voice. “That is completely understandable, This was my fault, and I will take full responsibility for it. Until then, let us get back on track.”

The friar braced himself and turned around. His eyes immediately glanced down at where the corpse was, only to find it covered by the dark wool coat they found draped over him, the details of the carnage that just took place hidden out of sight.

Girono on the other hand, was not as free from the connotations of what just happened. The front of his dark cotton clothing was a slightly darker shade the before, hair stained with droplets of crimson. The reds, yellows, and oranges of his sunrise eyes had completely overtaken the greens and blues that previously pooled near the bottom. While his face was mostly wiped clean, there were still specks here and there of gore which clung to him in the moonlight.

Pushing past both Giorno and his urge to heave, the friar averted his eyes to the path, and without another word continued their trek. Trying his best not to be afraid of the steps that followed just behind him, his mind buzzing with repugnance and trepidation.

It was not until they reached the end of the pathway and entrance of the village that the incident that just happened immediately flew from the friar’s mind, exchanged for the terror in front of him.

Giorno was at his side a second later, as they both looked over the havoc that befell the village they called home.

It looked as if a scene from an intricate stage play, buildings burned to the ground, remains of both bodies and structures consolidated together in the dirt below their feet. It looked like a massacre, something which had happened days ago, not hours.

Mista raised his hand to his mouth in horror, as Giorno took a step forward inhaling, what was undoubtedly to him a delicious fragrance, before saying. “There are numerous people still alive, huddled away. If we can stop this now, many can be saved.”

And despite his previous fear, despite fully understanding the ramifications of not only working alongside a demon, but also fighting one, Mista nodded.

“Alright, let’s go.”

Chapter Text

“You baby him too much, he is a full grown adult, been so for many years now,” Abbacchio huffed as soon as they exited the abbey and were out of earshot of Mista.

Father Bruno Buccellati, head priest of the only abbey in the village and renowned demon slayer, turned to his partner and second in command. “Leone, he is still inexperienced. I have every right to be concerned.”

Abbacchio shrugged, picking up his pace slightly, “You heard him, he said that he could deal with it. I wouldn't worry too much if I were you, it’s bad for your health.”

A small genuine smile made its way to the priest's face. “I suppose you are right. He matured so quickly, I should have more faith in him.”

“You can be such a mother hen.” A scoff came from his partner as the long haired man’s pace finally overtook his. “Come on, we should hurry. I can take lead.”

Bruno nodded as he allowed his subordinate to scout the area.

They hurried in silence, Abbacchio in front making sure the way was clear, Buccellati in the back ready to spring into action at a moments notice. Normally they would be hesitant to travel at night, as that was when demons were the most active, however they did not have a choice, many people were in danger and Bruno did not know if he would be able to live with himself if he let them continue to suffer.

Looking at the man walking in front of him, the priest smiled. He was incredibly grateful for Leone, his ability to sense the presence of any fiend in the nearby vicinity was indeed a rare and valuable gift, It had certainly saved their lives a number of times. Leone himself was not particularly well suited for combat, but he did not need to be. All he needed to do was point Bruno in the right direction and the priest would take care of it.

It was the way they had always done things and it had always worked. Most fiends were completely unprepared for Bruno’s expertise in combat. He had been doing this since he was a child, far longer than anyone else in his abbey. With the help of his trusted blade and various consecrated throwing knives, he had never met a demon he couldn't slay. He knew all the tricks— the way fiends moved, the way they prioritized power over strategy. Most underestimated their prey, relied overly on their increased strength and precision. Speed was the way to deal with such prideful creatures, outspeed a demon and they would be defenceless against an assault. However the priest knew that whatever they were dealing with currently was probably not inexpereinced enough for that to be a functional strategy.

The demon that was accosting his village was highly intelligent, that much was obvious. It was picking off villagers slowly, causing them increased fear and paranoia, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. It had already put them at an extreme disadvantage, causing only enough devastation from him to send two of his hunters, before revealing itself to be much more of a threat. They were already down two fighters and Bruno had not even seen it yet.

Gritting his teeth, the priest worried if they would arrive before it was too late.

He tried not to let the fear overtake him, but the detail that he heard from the villager still bore heavy on his mind. Brother Ghirga and Fugo were missing, none of the other villagers had seen them.

This was bad, and he hoped beyond hope that they were still alive. That there would even be someone left to rescue by the time they arrived.

His worry must have been palpable as his subordinate glanced back at him, interrupting his thoughts and gaining the priest’s attention.

“What is it? Do you sense a demon?”

Leone sighed turning his gaze back in front of him as he continued to scout. “No, more like you are worrying so loudly that I swear even I can hear it.”

Bruno did not even try to deny it, there would be no point, Leone knew him too well for that. “Narancia and Pannacotta put their faith in me. If I misjudged the enemy and sent them on a suicide mission, I don’t know how I will ever forgive myself.”

The white haired man shook his head in disagreement, long pale strands of hair moving swiftly side to side with his head. “We all knew what we signed up for when we took the oath. The threat of death is always a possibility in our line of work, there is nothing to forgive.”

The priest held his gaze to the back of his partner’s head, eyes clinging to the other. “WIll you still be saying that if we find them dead?”

Leone stopped in his tracks, swiftly turning to meet his superior.

“If we find them dead that will do nothing to sway my loyalty. In fact, if that is the case then I will need to find a way to make myself more useful to you in their absence.”

He never liked when the white haired man spoke that way, as if he were just an object for Bruno to use to achieve his own goals. It had been that way for quite some time, but that did not mean that the priest ever got used to it.

Walking forward to Abbacchio, he reached out to put both his hands on his shoulders, making sure he had his full attention before speaking up. “Please.” he began, “Please don’t speak about yourself like that. If the worst comes to pass, I would want you to think about your safety first.”

Leone narrowed his eyes. “Bruno, you were the one who saved me. If it wasn’t for you I would have drunken myself to death years ago. I owe you my life, I owe you everything. Without you I would have nothing.”

It was always so strange how, despite being taller than him, Abbacchio always appeared to be looking up at him.

The priest’s fingers tangled in the loose robe. “There is more to life then following orders.”

“Not if they are coming from you.”

That statement shook Bruno to his core, for a man who always seemed to have the right words, the words that were the most caring and helpful for any given situation, he found himself at a loss. This was not how he wanted his partner to think of him, as some infallible being who could never be wrong-- that was a recipe for disaster.

And maybe it was selfish of him, but what he truly wanted was for Leone to be by his side because they both desired it, not to fulfill some life debt.

Letting the weight of the moment wash over him, he took a deep breath and uttered a response that he hoped would communicate how serious he was about this.

“Then once this is all over. Once the fiend is slayed, I will no longer give you any orders.”

Dark purple lips were pressed in a firm line, teeth biting the inside of his cheek, eyes downcasted slightly below Bruno’s line of vision. The priest knew this look well, his partner was about to protest.

Abbacchio opened his mouth, most likely to express his displeasure, when a sudden sound brought both of their attention away from their current situation.

It was a distant scream.

Not wasting any time the two of them rushed towards the sound. Bruno’s blade already drawn and ready, with Leone slightly behind him.

Within moments they made it to a small clearing in the trees and saw a man.

Or what was left of a man. Crawling towards them, blood coating his clothing and face.

“Is he--?” Bruno asked.

“No he’s human.” Leone responded.

The two of them were at his side only a second later, scouring his body looking for where his wound was. Bruno found it relatively fast. A large gash in his side, a few inches of flesh literally ripped from his body.

There was only one thing that could tear away flesh so cleanly like that.

“What did you see?” Leone asked, skipping no beats, trying to coax any sort of information from the villager before he expired.

The man reached for him wildly, panic clear in his eyes. They were hazy, barely intelligible, but also wide and focused. Mouth opening and closing a few times before he was able to find his voice.

“A..a...aa--” The man choked, words immediately cut off by the hacking up of blood. Body spasming beneath the two of them the man began to whimper.

Clutching the man, Bruno whispered to him in a much more soothing voice. “Don’t force yourself to speak. Just breath.” Taking off his outer dark wool cloak, Bruno draped it over the man, providing him with at the very least little more warmth.

Abbacchio glared at him, opposite of the man, and Bruno knew why. They needed information desperately, he should be encouraging the man to tell them what he knew. He was going to die anyways so they might as well get something that could help them. But Bruno also knew that this man deserved more, deserved to live the remainder of his life, no matter how small, in as much comfort as they could provide for him.

He threw his partner a look that meant ‘go check if there is anything else around us’ and turned his attention back to the man. Who’s eyes were now closed, haggard breathing slightly tamer.

Abbacchio, obedient as always, stood up immediately and scanned their surroundings.

Bruno held the man in his lap for a couple minutes, whispering a soothing prayer for him, giving him his final rights. The man’s coughing began to slow as he calmed down before weakly opening his eyes and looking towards Bruno.

Lips parting, a light stream of bloody droll spilled from out of his mouth as he moved his lips to tried and form words once more.

“Vi..village.. A...aaattacck,” he ended with a cough, before Bruno was able to silence him, putting his finger to his lips.

The attention must have attracted Abbacchio as Bruno heard his deep voice speak from behind him.

“No, It’s alright, you don’t need to tell us anything else. The village is under attack. We will take care of it from here. You can rest now.”

The man’s face twisted into something akin to a smile before he closed his eyes, his breath shallowing until it stopped completely.

The two of them had a moment of silence for the man. They knew not his name, nor the events in his life that led him to this point, but nevertheless they mourned for him regardless.

“Thank you,” the priest whispered, leaning back into his partner’s legs that he knew were right behind him. Looking up, he saw the white haired man eclipsing the moon looking down at him. What a truly gorgeous sight, Bruno never understood why he thought so little of himself.

Leone scoffed, “Yeah,” straightening his back, directing his gaze anywhere except at Bruno.

It was so much like him to never look the priest in the eyes when receiving a compliment, but now was not the time to marvel.

It seemed as if they were too late, the village was already attacked. This man was still a good ten minute walk from the village which meant he dragged himself all the way over. A feat, that in his condition would have taken him an extremely long amount of time. Even if he were the first who was attacked, that would still mean that the massacre must have started at least an hour ago.

Bruno whispered one last prayer over the man’s body. They did no have time to gift him a burial, and so in that moment it was the best he could do. Moving the cloak he gave to the man back over his chest, as if tucking him in for the night, the priest stood to his feet.

He threw his partner pertinent look, he was not going to let this happen to any more people. Abbacchio’s features softened in agreement and the two continued their path to the village.

“Leone… I don’t know what we are going to find, but whatever happens I just want you to know--”

“I know,” Abbacchio interrupted, “I know Bruno.”

And that was all that needed to be said.

So their journey continued.

They smelt it before anything else. Iron, fire, blood. The air filled with the scent of death. Once they reached the clearing of the forest they saw it.

The town was burnt half to the ground, the flames around it finally seeming to die down. Bodies were strewn in so many places it appeared as if decorating the landscape for some macabre event.

The strudier stone buildings that could not be ignited still stood strong, all of the windows and doors boarded up. Bruno allowed himself to take that small comfort in this sea of madness, at least there were some people who were able to hold out, not everyone was dead.

Leone walked forward first, no doubt to see if he could detect any fiends around them.

Once he gave Bruno the all clear, they moved swiftly into the village, eyes scanning for any survivors who did not manage to get into one of the safer buildings. The priest's hand fiddled with the various daggers in his cloak, ready to throw them at any danger they came across.

A couple of times as they searched, a door would open up to reveal a man or woman, beckoning to them to come and hide. Each one they dismissed and told to stay inside while they handled it, for as helpful as if would be to enter and question everyone inside, it was becoming increasingly obvious that they did not have the time for that.

They examined each street corner they passed with caution, finding nothing but more bodies. It seemed as if everyone in the open had either already found shelter, or had been killed trying. The closer they drew to the center of the village the more bodies they found, and the more creatively they were spread across the landscape.

Men hung by their own internal organs. Women who looked to be flayed alive. Children burnt to a crisp.

Bruno had seen a lot of carnage in his life, he had been a demon hunter for so long that he was almost used to anything that happened while on assignment, but this was worse than anything he ever had seen. This was his village, his people-- he knew these villagers by name, he knew of their lives, their struggles, and their desires. He could almost hear the echoes of screams, long since passed, haunting the soft breeze that blew through the once bustling province.

The priest tried his best not to keep a count of how many of the bodies he recognized.

He wished in that moment that he looked into this much sooner. If he had known that this would have happened, they could have sheltered many in the abbey, a space impenetrable to demons. Just as his father before him Bruno had blessed the land his abbey resided on every month for the last twenty years. And while that did make the shield almost impenetrable, it also meant that when the village slowly began to move away from the land the abbey resided on, he was not able to move with it, lest he lose decades of work. Even, once the village was almost a couple hours away, he still stood his ground. And for what? There was nothing even of note in the abbey, except for a dusty old library of books, meaningless reports, and United chests his father used to collect-- and yet he clung to it, as if his father was still inhabiting it.

He regretted it now, being so far away led to them not even noticing that the village was under attack until it was too late.

His fingers were clenched so tightly in his fists his nails began to bite into his palms.

When another hand reached down to grab his, calloused warm and large, he did not even need to look to his side to know that his partner must have noticed his regret.

“We are here now, that is what matters.”

Bruno nodded, gripping the hand back. “Yes, and now that we are, no one else will be hurt.”

Hand in hand the two of them continued their trek, passed burning buildings and butchered bodies. The mutilation increased as they neared their destination, the farther inland they went, the more brutal the surrounding scenes became.

Judging by this pattern, Buccellati hypothesed it would be at its worse in the center, where the town hall was located, perhaps that would be where they would find the culprit.

However once they reached the center, two things of note stood out to them. First, Leone still did not sense any demonic presence within his range. Second, the town hall itself was completely untouched, as if the bloodbath had passed it over.

Looking at each other briefly, they knew they would have to check inside, however everything was pointing to this most likely being a trap. If the fiend they were facing was indeed intelligent, it would have been aware that a congregate of demon slayers existed near the village and would come after it the second it made a move this big.

Abbacchio spoke first. “That fucking blonde asshole, we are going to make him pay for this.”

Bruno understood Leone’s rage, a strange demon appeared in the abbey in the middle of the night, and then the very next week all of this happened. It was only obvious to suspect Giorno. However there was something that bothered him about drawing that conclusion. This attack was meticulously planned. Why would a fiend who went out of their way to hide their movements, reveal itself to the only people who could possibly take him on before attacking the village?

Something wasn’t adding up, but it was not as if they had the time so sit down and go over the evidence, so instead Bruno came up with a plan.

“We need to make sure no demon is in the building before we enter. Let’s check the perimeter first, see if you sense something.”

His subordinate agreed and they spent the next fifteen minutes carefully scoping out the area, and just as when they first came into the village, they found nothing.

“This is suspicious.” the white haired man stated. And the priest could not agree more.

Opening up the doors, the wind rushed in as they did, filling the now empty halls of the largest building in town. And for all that they expected to find in there what they did not anticipate was someone else standing at the center of the hall. At the podium that the village politicians would typically sit was a man-- clearly human and looking back to them without any fear in his eyes, instead with expectation.

“Well hello,” the man greeted calmly as he began to walk towards them. “I was wondering when you would arrive, I have been waiting here for quite some time.”

Abbacchio stood in front of him faster than the priest could answer. “Who the fuck are you!?”

The man simply smiled back at them, not bothering to answer the question. However Bruno did not need it to be answered, once the initial shock of this strange situation left his system he realized that he actually recognized this man

Umber skin draped in priestly robes, hair as white as snow, which trickled down into his eyebrows, eyes as sharp as any sword looked back at them with a strange sort of devotion in their inspection.

“Father Pucci?” Bruno spoke incredulously. He had not seen the man since before he disappeared, when they were both ordained to become priests to lead their respective village’s demon slayers.

“Pucci!” Leone exclaimed. While Bruno knew that his partner had never met the other, he surely knew his name.

Looking around wildly, Abbacchio scanned the inside of the building around them, and they both knew why. Father Enrico Pucci was famous for one thing, being the only living person who was currently bound to a fiend.

If Pucci was here then the demon he had named Dio would not be far behind.

Despite knowing quite a bit about the other priest, Bruno had to admit to himself that he did not know much about Pucci’s fiend. For even before he disappeared, the dark skinned man was very secretive about the one he was bound to. All he knew was that it was one of tremendous and terrifying power.

Taking a moment to breath and calm himself down, Bruno pushed passed Leone, not too keen on having him be in front, in case a fight broke out. “Is this your doing?” he asked the approaching priest.

“I suppose you could interpret it that way.” Enrico answered, stopping approximately ten meters away from them. “But that is not what I want to discuss with you. There are more important matters.”

Hand resting on the hilt of his sword Buccellati made sure that Abbacchio was now behind him. “You dare you brush it off like nothing?”

Pucci just started at him stoically, face unreadable. “Surely you would not strike me down right now. You should at least hear me out, wait until I have the opportunity to tell you where your subordinates are.”

The wind rushed past the both of them, it’s moans filling the silence as Bruno processed the thinly veiled threat thrown his way.

“Like you would ever hand them over to us,” Abbacchio scoffed.

Enrico’s gaze darted past Bruno over to Leone, a motion that Bruno did not like. If the other priest attacked, he would want to be the target instead of his partner.

“It is unfortunate that you belive me to be an unreasonable man. I am willing to release them, as long as you corporate.”

“And let you continue to kill people? There is no way we would agree to that.” Bruno stated, taking another step forward, hoping to redirect the enemy’s attention back to him. Tilting his head to the side he said in a much more hushed voice to his partner. “Leone would you please close the door?”

His intention was successful as Pucci immediately turned to him, cautious of his approach, while Abbacchio backed up into the entryway of the building to fulfill Bruno’s request.

“No one else has to die tonight, we have your attention, we just need one thing from you and we will be on our way.” The other priest said, eyes now focused in Buccellati.

Bruno did not need to ask who the other member of the ‘we’ statement was, although it did certainly concern him that the demon that was supposedly accompanying the priest was nowhere in sight. Surely he must be watching from somewhere. “What do you want?”

“Nothing you are incapable of Buccellati, you just need to lower the barrier around your abbey so a good friend of mine can take a look around, then we will be on our way.”

They wanted access to the abbey? Why would they go out of their way just for that? There was nothing special about his abbey over any other one… the layout was virtually the same… of course with the exception of...

“You want entry to the library, why?” Bruno demanded.

Enrico eyes widened in confusion, searching Bruno’s face, trying to determine if he were telling the truth. Finally, seeming to reach a conclusion, he spoke up. “You do not know? Interesting, well then this will be easy for you, let down your barrier and your little lambs will be returned to you.”

Buccellati frowned, that was not the answer he wished to hear. Whatever resided in the basement of the abbey, it was apparently important enough to warrant all of this. He had gone through his father’s library many a time. Was there something he missed? Something so important that it was worth the lives of his village, of his family? Steeling himself, he knew he would not be able to give in that easily. This situation was nothing if not suspicious.

“How do I know that they are even still alive? You are bartering with the lives of my men, and yet I have no evidence that you even have them.”

Enrico nodded at that statement understandingly as if they were just talking about a simple exchange of goods at a market and not of lives. “Of course you will need reassurance, providing that will be no issue.”

Turning his back on the two, he returned to the podium where he originally stood.

Bruno marveled that the other priest had the gall to turn his back to them while they were close enough to attack him from behind. Of course he would never do that, especially with so much at stake, but nevertheless it was quite the move.

Taking advantage of the other’s attention being elsewhere, Abbacchio moved back from the entryway to stand beside him, both ready to jump into action at a moments notice.

Making his way back up to the podium, Pucci ducked under the wooden surface, taking hold of something large. Dragging it a couple feet to the right so the two who just entered could see it.

Bruno and Leone were confronted by the sight of their two missing brethren, unconscious, the back of their hands tied together.

Both covered in wounds and extensive bruising, their frail bodies looked to have been through quite the trauma. However from the slight up and down movement of their chests, Buccellati could tell that they were, at the very least, still breathing.

“I apologize for having to rough them up so much, One of them wouldn't stop screaming.” Enrico explained.

Buccellati did not know what bothered him the most about the statement; the fact that another priest hurt his men so badly, or that he was apologizing for it, as if it were a simple misunderstanding.

It was in that moment that Bruno Buccellati decided that he was not going to take this slight lying down, pulling out his sword he pointed it at the other priest, determination clear in his eyes.

“I don’t intend to let this slight go unpunished. I don’t know what happened to you that twisted your mind so much. But this ends here Pucci!” Bruno proclaimed to the other priest.

From the corner of his eye he saw Leone take a step forward as well, hand on the hilt of his flail.

“Two on one is hardly fair. How about we even the playing field?”

And before the two could even say anything else, the door to the town hall flew back open.

Fuck, that was not good. He had not intended Leone to fight Pucci, however if the choice was between having him fight the mad priest or his notoriously powerful fiend, it would be the former.

Grabbing Abbacchio by his arm, He turned around pushing his partner behind him so that he would be looking directly at Pucci, while Bruno himself turned to face the new combatant.

He heard him before he saw him.

“Enrico...” the new figure spoke lazily. “Are you done playing with the unworthy?”

They were just words, spoken by what looked to be a man standing in the doorway, however they were also somehow so much more than that.

Those words were venom, seeping through the air, cutting straight past all of Bruno’s walls and settling deep inside him. They were calm, collected, composed, like that of a lord, a king-- and yet everything they touched burned away in their acrid fumes. Eyes finally finding their target Buccellati observed the man who was now only a twenty meters from him, feeling his chest tighten, as if being constricted by a snake.

He could feel this demon’s aura, powerful as it was, and he was not even particularly sensitive to those sorts of things. Distantly he worried about his partner, if he were able to feel the other’s presence so powerfully then Abbacchio must have been feeling it like a stampede to the face. However as much as he worried for Leone, he dared not take his eyes off of the large blonde figure who began to approach him. For somewhere buried under all the fear he understood that to look away from the menacing figure right now was to welcome certain death.

This must have been the infamous Dio, fiend bound to Enrico Pucci, he certainly lived up to the whispers. The monster was tall, taller than any man he had ever seen. Red alabaster skin framed by a golden mane, which draped loosely along the bare neck. A distinctive gnarled scar traced around the flesh like vines in a briar patch. His clothing, or lack thereof, was a series of dark ambers and black silks draped from his shoulders and clung to his form in very strategically revealing places. Eyes inhuman, almost snake-like-- contracted pupils thinned to slits amongst a field of fire. Oranges, yellows, and reds burned with unmatched vigor, and glowed in the darkness. A pair of massive charcoal black velvety antlers perched atop his head, curving around the golden strands like a false crown.

And Bruno knew in that moment, that there was no way they were going to win this fight. Just by looking at the fiend who had finally made his appearance, he was nearly paralyzed with fear.

He could feel his partner tense behind him as well, they both knew that they were probably not going to escape with their lives…. but at least they would go down fighting.

Clenching the hilt of his sword in his hand, Bruno stood tall, this fear was nothing compared to his resilience. He had promised the people of the village he would protect them through thick and thin, he supposed now was the time to make good on that promise.

“Unfortunately they are being quite uncooperative. I was hoping we could give them some motivation.” Called Pucci’s voice from behind Buccellati.

There was only one word to describe the smile that began to form on the demon’s face,

Insidious.

“Darling Enrico, I have never been able to say no to you.” the fiend spoke, his trek towards them unperturbed, sauntering slowly and deliberately towards Buccellati.

This was bad, he needed to think quickly. How was he going to get a jump on this monster?

Left hand trailing underneath his cloak, he took hold of one of his blessed daggers. To be struck by this demon would certainly mean death, but that was something he just had to risk.

In one fluid motion the priest pulled the dagger from his cloak and threw it right at the demon’s left shoulder. A fraction of a second later he broke into a run directly at his opponent, sword in hand.

Dio smiled dodging the thrown blade with ease, moving to the right to avoid the knife, right into the trajectory of Bruno’s second attack.

Buccellati tried to contain his excitement that the monster was playing right into his hands, as he lifted the blade to bring it down on the blonde.

His celebration however was short lived, as without even looking directly at him, Dio’s hand came up to catch the blade before it could sink into his flesh.

Sizzling filled the air, as the hand which came in contact with the blade burned in protest at touching the blessed weapon. However the demon did not seem all that phased at all. Instead of letting go those crimson hands clenched around the metal tighter. That was… not expected, to say the least. Almost every other fiend that Bruno had come in contact with could not stand the sensation of being in direct contact with a consecrated object. They would scream in pain, flesh melting under such divine influence.

However that was far from what was happening now. Looking over to the hand clenching his blade Buccellati noticed that while the metal did indeed seem to be hurting the fiend, the flesh around the area also was unprecedentedly healing at an astonishing rate, wound closing around the burned flesh before it could spread any further.

Wildfire eyes turned to meet Bruno’s blue. A sadistic grin decorated the monster’s features— His smile was wide, and filled with too many teeth.

“Your enchantment is powerful little priest, unlucky for you, it is not strong enough.”

And with those words the demon began to pull on the blade with strength that Buccellati could not hope to match. He needed to decide if were also going to hold on and attempt to get the blade back, or relinquish it and retreat.

Deciding on the latter, he quickly let go of the blade and jumped back out of range of the friend.

He expected to be swiped at during his retreat, he was completely open and braced himself for an attack. However to his surprise the demon let him go, eyes following him while he fell back. He doubted that was an oversight— he must have been allowed to leave, the fiend was playing with him.

Almost to confirm his suspicions the monster chuckled, throwing the blade to the side. “Oh come now, don’t tell me that is the best you can do?.”

Hands back in his cloak, he pulled out two more daggers, lowering his center of balance, he crouched. It was a mistake to bring the fight to the demon, this time he was going to wait for the other to approach him. The second he got within reach he would be treated to a faceful of dagger.

The demon looked at him languidly, disappointment flashing across his features. “Don’t tell me you are scared now, waiting for me to make the first move are you? Well then I suppose I can oblige.”

Bruno braced himself, ready for the onslaught. However, instead of rushing him like he imagined, the taller just began to walk slowly and confidently around him-- circling him like a predator would their prey.

Bruno keept his breath even, sweaty palms clutching the twin daggers like a lifeline. He could do this, he just needed one good hit. The fiend was underestimating him, playing with him like he were not a threat, that was good news, he could work with that.

Following the demon’s trail he soon found that the monster made almost complete 180 around him, as they were now facing in the opposite direction… which placed Bruno in full view of the events that were taking place previously out of sight.

And for as much as he needed to keep eye contact with the monster, his gaze could not help but trail up to the other two figures in the room, Pucci and Abbacchio, who were currently engaged in a very close quarters clash of weaponry. Leone looked very outmatched as with every hit he was being pushed back by the other priest, his long hair already flecked red from a wound that Bruno could not locate on his brief glance. His stance unbalanced and he struggled to block every blow dealt to him.

“He is going to lose.”

The demon’s words snapped his attention back to the fight at hand, to the enemy he should be focusing on.

“He is going to die, I can feel his weakness, his fear. The way his stance falters and his weapon shakes on every impact.” Dio laughed boisterously, as if the events he were describing were thrilling. “Thank you Enrico for sharing such a delicious appetizer.” The fiend called to the dark skin man behind him while licking his lips.

Eyes widening, Bruno realized that the fiend purposefully redirected his attention to his companion, he was trying to distract him, trying to cause him to lose his temper and attack recklessly. Holding his ground, he tried to ignore the sounds of his partner clashing with Pucci and focused in on the demon in front of him.

“Oh you are looking at me with such hatred, I can’t imagine why. It’s your own fault this is all happening.” The monster mocked, taking a step forward. “The feeble worms who inhabit this backwater village held out so much hope for your arrival. How pathetic, they thought you would save them, they put all of their faith in you and look how you failed them— just as you will fail your partner.”

That statement struck a chord in Bruno, as much as he did not want to admit it, the demon was right. He did fail his people, many perished all because he underestimated the threat. But now was not the time to mourn, now was the time to fight, and he was not going to let Dio distract him. Preparing himself for an attack Bruno cut out all outside stimulus focusing in on his target.

They stared down each other, fiend still not rushing him. Why was the monster not attacking him directly, what was he trying to accomplish? Eyes never leaving the blonde figure in front of him, Bruno thought back to his previous conversation with Pucci. Past the cloud of panic and rage, he was able to recall the other priest telling him that he wanted Buccellati to lower the barrier around the abbey.

Freezing for a second he understood the situation. They couldn’t kill him, not if they wanted him to lower the barrier. They would need him to dispel the magic which had been ripening in the soil for generations, a feat he could not accomplish if he perished.

Coming to that realization, staring at the smug face of the demon in front of him, Buccellati smiled. Loosening his grip on his dagger he lowered to his side, earning a confused look from the fiend.

Backing up a couple steps he brought the dagger back up, however this time he did not point it at the enemy in front of him, but the exact opposite. He held the blade to his own throat, letting the sharpness press into his skin just enough to feel a soft trickle of blood run down from it.

The monster’s fiery gaze narrowed, burning into his, realizing what the other was threatening.

“You need me alive,” Bruno assessed. “Otherwise the library will be forever out of your reach.”

Instead of being angry however, the demon once again laughed, this time so loudly that it felt as if it filled up the entire hall.

“Enrico.” He called to his partner behind him.

Bruno’s eyes darted up just in time to see Abbacchio, fallen to the floor. Pucci stopped above him, sword which had previously been held down at Leone’s throat, was recalled to his side as he looked over at the fiend that called his name. Trying not to let the relief show too brightly on his face, Bruno thanked the heavens that he had managed to stop the fight at just the right moment.

“Well now.” the fiend purred, hands resting on his hips, turning Buccellati’s attention back to him. “You would forfeit your own life, just to impede our progress. What a noble act of self sacrifice… unfortunate for you, your efforts are useless, useless, useless!”

The next minute was the slowest of Bruno’s entire life, it paradoxically happened so suddenly and so gradually all at the same time, it was almost as if he lived out an entire second life in that minute.

He had been paying too much attention to Dio, he had not noticed that Pucci had even thrown something until there was a sharp pain in his right shoulder from the blade that had sunken into his skin.

Crying out in pain, his arm spasmed, relinquishing grip on his dagger. Left arm flailing around wildly before he was able to direced it to grab his right arm feeling the warm liquid dripping down from his injury.

Dio taking advantage of his distraction was suddenly in his face, and all Bruno could see in front of him was a flash of teeth, before the fiend’s sharpened talons pushed into the center of his chest.

Leone screamed his name, as he felt his bones crack and rupture under the pressure.

He tried to yell, to tell his partner to run, but all that came of of his mouth were pathetic gurgles as he coughed up blood.

Abruptly his companion’s scream was cut short as he heard the distinctive sound of a blade cutting into flesh.

Eyes wide with excruciating pain and nameless dread, the fiend smiled at him once more before stepping to the right, giving him full view of Enrico Pucci, plunging his sword into Leone’s chest.

Falling to his knees, legs no longer able to support him, he tried to move towards his partner.

He understood that it was all over, but if he could just get to Leone, if he could just hold him one more time, it would all be worth it.

But Abbacchio was too far away, barely able to remain conscious, falling to the floor was the only response his body allowed him. Hand splayed out in front of him, he tried so desperately to reach for his partner;

The man that he had always been there for-- who had been there for him just as equally.

The man he once believed could never love him, but who ended up returning his affections tenfold.

The boot that came down upon that hand not but two seconds later forced another jolt of pain through his system. Eyes looking back up at the figure beside him he caught the fiend looking down at him with glee in his eyes.

Unexpectedly the next motion was not directed at Bruno but at the friend himself, as the demon brought one of his own bare crimson arms up to his face, biting down on it. Sharpened teeth cut through the skin, like it were nothing but paper.

Gaze unfocused, losing consciousness rapidly, Bruno could just barely make out the black ichor which bubbled up beneath the fiend’s pieced skin, spill over... Right onto him, right over his massive chest wound. Ichor blending with the redness leaving his body, Bruno began to feel a surprising numbness encapsulate him.

“Enrico, we have Buccellati right where we want him, go ahead and dispose of his pesky little pets.”

Gritting his teeth, the priest once again tried to move. He couldn't let that happen, he couldn't let the pair do any more damage.

His body was no longer listening to him, but he was no longer asking. Hands and knees somehow finding the earth beneath them, he pushed up with strength he did not know he even had. Just in time to see the dark skinned man approaching the still unconscious and tied up Narancia and Pannacotta, blade in hand.

He was not going to make it, even if he somehow found his way back to his feet, there would be no way he could get past Dio and save them. Looking back up at the monster, who was inspecting him, face twisted with foul amusement, he glared daggers.

If only he could do something.

As if answering his prayers, all of a sudden there was a quick whistling in the air, as if someone had just shot an arrow.

An arrow that flew into the room and struck the fiend right between his ribs.

The next series of events were a blur. As Bruno struggled to even stay conscious, all he could see where flashes.

Flash-- The demon yelled, the arrow must have been blessed. Enrico cried out, as if the arrow had also pierced him, Bruno smiled to himself realizing the pain must have transferred between them through their tethering.

Flash-- Two new figures came onto the scene, one wielding the crossbow that the arrow presumably came from. The other, hair as golden as the fiend he had been fighting. The two of them stood on either side of him, prepared to take on the demon.

Flash-- Dio jumping back, not prepared for this onslaught. Enrico calling to him for assistance.

Flash-- Another arrow flying, this time towards Pucci. The demon, moving in front of him to block the arrow.

Flash-- The two new figures taking advantage of their sneak attack, pushing forward, cutting off the two enemies. Dio making a snap decision to grab Pucci, who was still writhing in pain from the effects of the first arrow and jumping out the window in the far back of the hall.

Flash-- The blonde figure trying to go after them until the crossbow wielder pointed out Narancia and Fugo, still tied together on the floor.

Flash-- The two figures now standing over him. Trying his best to focus in on the one closest to him, the one calling his name in panic. Squinting, he barely made out the face of one Guido Mista, asking him to please just hold on.

And with that final sight, his body gave out and his consciousness was swept away from him.

He did not know how long he remained unconscious, time compressed so much that it could have been minutes or days and he was certain he would not be able to tell the difference.

When the flicker of consciousness finally returned to him, the first thing he noticed was that he was laying down on something plush and soft, as voices spoke above him.

“Is he going to be alright.” asked one, anxiety building in his voice.

“That depends how you define alright.” spoke the second one, in a much more calm tone.

“What does that mean?” the first one asked again.

Why couldn’t he see them? Were they all in a dark room? Understanding a second later that his eyes must be close, Bruno opened them to realize that he was back at the abbey, laying in his bed. The two figures above him were Mista, and the fiend who was bonded to the friar, Giorno, if he remembered correctly. What were they doing standing over his bed?

Memories of what had happened in the town hall suddenly came flooding back to him, panic bubbling up in his chest, he flung himself up to a sitting position.

Two sets of eyes immediately fell onto him, as he saw a large goofy smile appear on the face of his subordinate.

“Father Buccellati!” Mista almost cheered, moving a couple more steps to his bedside. “Thank the heavens you are alright. I thought you were going to die.”

Bruno was also fairly confused as to how he was still alive. Last he recalled Dio had plunged his whole hand into his chest. Hands briefly moving up to where his wound was, he found nothing there, not even a scratch. Frowning he wondered how that was even possible, but before he could contemplate that mystery too much, his attention was brought back to the two in front of him. A question burning in his chest which needed answering above everything else.

“Pannacotta and Narancia! Are they--”

Guido sat down on the bed next to him, placing his hand down on the priest's. “They’re fine. We got to them before those other two. They are currently resting in their rooms, Giorno said they should be able to make a full recovery.”

He exhaled a previously trapped sigh of relief, they were ok. However before he could be to relieved his thoughts came back to Leone.

“And Abbacchio?” he asked, eyes meeting the black pools of Mista’s eyes.

His subordinate grew quiet, smile slipping from his face as he relinquished his superior’s hand.

It was Giorno who answered his question. “We recovered his body.” He said simply, and that was all Bruno needed.

So Leone was gone… suddenly the emptiness in his chest was back, however this time it was not due to physical injury. Swallowing the lump in his throat he pushed back tears, now was not the time to get emotional, not with so much still at stake, not with Mista here looking up to him as if he had all the answers. Gripping the blankets on the bed, he screwed his eyes shut, and whispered to himself a prayer.

Mista must have heard him, as soon he found his familiar voice echoing his prayers, hand coming back to grasp his.

They didn’t pray for long-- there was still work to be done. But in that little space, Bruno allowed himself to a moment of solace, of gratefulness that at least a majority of his subordinates were alright.

Opening up his eyes, he forced a smile at Mista, who was still staring back at him, water gathering in the friar’s eyes.

Turning to the other side of the room he observed Giorno, who was leaning against the wall looking down at him quizzically, as if he were a walking paradox.

The blonde fiend was somehow back in his abbey, despite the fact that he had not lowered the barrier. Gazing into his eyes he saw something he recognized and it caught him off guard, the blues and greens of an ocean clouded over by the color of fire, a burning ship sailing across a tranquil sea.

Turning back to Mista, making sure that he was using his commanding voice, he spoke. “Go check on Narancia and Pannacotta for me. Last I saw them their injuries were merely superficial, they may wake soon. I would also appreciate if you could light the beacon. Surely by now, news of the attack will have reached outside of the village. We will probably not see assistance from other abbeys in time-- but perhaps the traveling demon slayer I mentioned to you earlier may be close enough to help.”

Mista nodded, “Do you really think we will receive backup?”

“There is certainly a possibility.”

Agreeing the friar giae his hand one last comforting grip before straightening out his back and moving to leave the room.

“Come on Giorno.”

“No.” Bruno spoke, gaining both of their attentions, “I would like Giorno to stay here with me. There is something I would like to talk to him about.”

Mista looked conflicted, and Bruno did not blame him, however eventually he nodded and left the room.

Closing the door after him, Giorno turned to look at the priest.

“Does he know?” the priest asked.

“Mista?” the demon asked cluelessly. Ah so he was planning on playing dumb was he? “Does he know what?”

He was not in the mood to play games, “Those eyes, they were wildfire. I have never seen any other gaze, human nor fiend with eyes of that specific shade and intensity. Well, that is, except for you.”

The fiend quirked his lips upwards amusedly, despite the accusation he maintained his composure perfectly. “You are very perceptive. It is no wonder Mista holds you in such high regard.” Looking back towards the door Mista had just exited from he continued. “Although I am surprised that you trust me enough to be alone with me if you know that much.”

Bruno narrowed his eyes, he did not expect the demon to admit to his suspicion so easily. “If you were working with him then he wouldn’t need me to lower the barrier, as you seem to be able be walk across it uneffected.”

“Is that what he is after?” The demon questioned. “To get into the abbey, why?”

Bruno frowned, he was not particularly keen on telling this demon more than he needed to, even if he was not currently a threat. There must be a reason that Dio wanted access to his library, and by all accounts it couldn’t be for anything good. Letting whatever that was fall into the hands of any demon was probably not a wise move. So instead of answering, he asked a different question.

“How is it my barrier does not affect you?”

The fiend stayed silent, face betraying none of his emotions before a smile sly smile appeared on his face. “Well I suppose neither of us are going to receive an answer, are we?”

Bruno further narrowed his eyes, “As a demon immune to my blessing that makes you an unrivaled threat. Why should I allow you to continue to reside in my abbey if you will not cooperate?”

Giorno un-crossed his arms, propping himself up from his position leaning against the far wall, he walked towards the priest.

Buccellati neither flinched away nor allowed his gaze to leave the blonde’s. He was not about to back down, not about to show fear, regardless of whatever tactic the demon was surely planning.

Once the fiend was mere inches from his bed he spoke. “Because you need me. You witnessed Him first hand, you know how hopeless this will be without my assistance. Surely you understand that having someone of his blood on your side would be advantageous.”

Well that was not what he expected, for whatever reason it seemed the demon had decided that talking it out with him was more advantageous than threatening him, perhaps it was a good idea to let him fight by their side.

Nodding his head, Bruno responded. “You are certainly right about that demon.” Pausing for a moment to consider how he was to phrase his next thought, he continued. “Brother? Or perhaps a cousin?” To be completely honest, the priest did not have any idea how demon family units functioned, it was merely a guess as to how the two were related.

Giorno simply shooks his head before responding, “No... father.”

Bruno’s eyebrows curved in confusion. Dio was his father, and he was still willing to betray him? He thought back to his father, how much he adored and cared for him while he was still alive, even after a demon attack rendered him unable to work. It was honestly hard to believe that the demon in front of him could have so much animosity towards the man who brought him into the world.

The demon must have noticed the conflict on his face as he interrupted his internal discourse. “You want proof I will not assist him, well then proof you shall have.” Reaching his hand out slowly towards Bruno, he remained steady, moving slow enough that the priest could stop his hand if he so desired.

That was exactly what Buccellati was going to do until he realized that the demon was reaching towards his chest, where he had previously been injured. Allowing the blonde to touch him, he looked upon his face, expecting an explanation.

“He killed you.” the demon spoke softly, flaming eyes never leaving his.

“Nonsense, I am alive, anyone can see that.” he countered.

It was then that an emotion he had never seen a demon ever exhibit in his 20 years of hunting appeared on Giorno’s face-- sadness, giving way to deep and prolonged pity. “He tore into your chest and took your heart. By now he has probably already eaten it.”

The priest felt dizzied, what the blonde was telling him was obviously ridiculous, but he had said it with such conviction. Shakily he brought one of his hands to his neck, to check for a pulse, the tell tale sign that what the demon had told him was false and he still had a beating heart.

However once he brought those fingers to his neck he was greeted not by the palpitations of life, but instead a cold and resounding silence.

“He killed you Father Buccellati, and now in death he is planning on using you for his own means.”

“How so?” the words came out of his mouth before he could even process them. They were fearless and confident, definitely not what he was feeling at the moment. Nevertheless he pushed on, there was no reason to run from the truth. If Leone were still here with him, he would say as much.

“That is one of the many reasons I enjoy being in your company so much.”

He remembered his partner telling him on one evening, a few weeks after he recruited the man into his congression.

“You never turn away from the truth, even when it is buried, even when it is dangerous to you. You even manage to give a fuck up like me the will to face it.”

He smiled briefly at the memory. That was right, Leone always looked up to him because he was willing to face the consequences-- who was he to let him down now?

“Normally you would be truly dead,” Giorno answered him, bringing his attention back to the present. “He must have replaced what he stole with his own fiendish essence.”

The priest thought back to before he passed out, to the demon spilling his own foul ichor into his body.

“Yes, you are right. He poured his blood into me.”

Those firestorm eyes did not blink, nor did they turn away as they held his gaze in seriousness. “That is… unfortunate. Tell me Father Buccellati, do you know of ghouls?”

Ghouls? Of course Bruno Buccellati knew what ghouls were, he had fought many in his lifetime. Corpses which were resurrected by abhorrent demon magics. Not even the highest officials of the church knew how they were made, but no one could deny they existed.

If Giorno was implying what the priest thought he was implying then the situation was more hopeless then he first imagined.

Closing his eyes for a fraction of a second, he knew that panicking was not going to be at all helpful to the situation. He was still sane of mind, which meant that whatever this process was, it had not been completed as of yet. “How long do I have?”

The demon brought his hand to his chin in contemplation before answering. “The change varies depending on the power of the fiend. Considering it is him, I would say you have at least until dawn.”

Dawn? Well, at least that gave him more time then he first thought. “When I change he will have complete control of my actions will he not?”

“That is correct.” Giorno agreed.

“Then this must have been his plan all along, get me alone so he can turn me. Then when I am under his control he will just comand me to lower the barrier.” This was not good, he assumed that after Giorno and Mista came to his rescue he would be able to live to fight another day, but the way things were currently looking he doubted he would be able to. “You will have to kill me again before that happens.”

“I wouldn't be too hasty little priest. Dawn is still many hours away.” The demon said, while Bruno tried not be be bothered by the Giorno referring to him with the same moniker that Dio had. “If we can manage to kill Him before you complete your transformation, then you would be spared his servitude.”

Bruno considered this for a moment before dismissing it, “But I would still be undead, regardless of not serving a master, that is no way to live.”

“And what is the alternative? To kill yourself? What would the rest of your partition say if they knew you were giving up? What would Mista say? Don’t think I didn’t see how he looked at you while you were unconscious. He cares for you greatly, he considers you family, and I will not have you breaking his heart even further.” The fiend finished coldly despite the affection that lingered in his words.

This brought Bruno pause, was the demon actually looking out for Guido? As strange as that was it did little to sway his decision.“You want me to live? To bring the fight to Dio before the night ends? What of the rest of my congregation? They are not fighting fit. Prioritizing my own safety over theirs is not what a true leader would do.”

“And what would a true leader do Father Buccellati? Die without a fight? Let your men realize the decision you kept from them and then seek revenge without plan or strategy? If the rest of your men feel the same way about you as Mista then they will fight for you, even if you are already gone from this world. The best you can do now is help them. Fight as a cohesive unit before your numbers are reduced any more. You said it yourself when you sent Mista out, their wounds are only surface level, they will wake any minute now, and when they do they will not listen to such suicidal whims.”

Pausing to finally break the outward facade of indifference, Giorno gave him what appeared to be a small comforting smile. “What kind of leader would deny them the right to fight for what they love?”

Bruno was awestruck. His entire life, from the moment he took over caregiving for his father he had been the one in charge, the one calling the shots, showing no weakness so that his men always had a rock to cling to. And yet this blonde fiend, who he had only known for an hour at most, had so effortlessly bestowed him with that same comfort and security that he strove to provide to his men.

And he was right— the fiend barely knew him, or his men, but he was right nonetheless. Perhaps if Giorno was on their side they would have a chance.

“You have a point, I cannot deny that…”

Well if he were going to agree to this plan there were a few things he would need. First and foremost-- to figure out what it was in the abbey’s library that had gotten Dio’s attention, perhaps it could help take him down. Everything else could wait.

Looking back up at the demon by his bedside he came to his decision.

“You may have proven yourself helpful Giorno, but until I know what Dio was looking for in my abbey, I will need you to remain outside. The barrier extends fifty meters past the walls, as long as you remain inside of it, you will not need to fear any attacks.”

That comforting smile grew into a playful grin. “Still don’t trust me do you?”

“I trust you enough to fight beside you, that should be enough.” Buccellati responded. “Take Mista with you, tell him that I need him to keep an eye on you. It would be best if you could stay out front, ready to greet any reinforcements that may show up.”

Bringing his hand up in a salute, face relaxing in acceptance, the blonde said. “You got it boss… Oh and before I go.” The blonde reached into his robes and pulled out a key, it was a small and simple, made of silver with the initials R.E.O.S engraved onto it. Laying it down on Bruno’s beside table he spoke. “I am not sure what my father is looking for in the abbey, but perhaps this will help. Enrico has never been one to catch me pickpocketing.”

And without another word, the demon exited the room, leaving Bruno to his thoughts.

The priest knew what he had to do. He needed to go down and search the library for what the demon was looking for. Giorno had given him a key and while that certainly narrowed down the objects he could be looking for, there were still quite a lot of locked chests in the basement. His father had quite the perchance for collecting objects he thought may have held value.

And yet, now that he was alone, he could not bring himself to move. Lethargy hung heavy in his person. If his heart still could circulate blood, if his lungs could still draw in air, he would blame his listlessness on his body. He could tell himself that he needed to rest and that was the cause. However now he was entirely alone, not even his own body was there to keep him company.

He understood this throbbing in his bones was not a physical one.

Now partnerless-- with no one else to observe him come undone, his emotions finally took back the reins.

He tried to cry at the tragedy of what had happened, but no tears came.

He tried to laugh at the absurdity of it all, but even that now seemed out of his reach.

“Leone,” he whispered to himself, “I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”

Knees curled up to his chest, head resting between his knees, he wished he were able to focus on his breathing instead of living with the silence.

Abbacchio was gone, taken from right in front of him, and he didn’t do anything.

Biting his lip so hard, he would bleed if he still could, Bruno Buccellati, in the solitude of his room fell apart.

He was useless, just as the blonde demon had said he was. He couldn't protect anything, not himself, his village, his friars, or the man he loved most among all things. How was he supposed to protect those who remained if he had done nothing but fail everyone else?

“Leone I…” he started, voice filtered through an opening too small to carry the emotion attached to it.

I know… I know Bruno.” The words of his fallen companion echoed in his head.

They had never explicitly told each other what they had both been wanting to for years. Abbacchio claimed that it would create unnecessary attachments. That should the day come where he needed to die for his priest, it would leave Bruno unfulfilled.

And yet, here he was unfulfilled despite that.

Clenching his hands in his blanket, he took solace in the fact that at least he knew what was behind those words. They never had to have been said for them to be true, they were as true as they ever were, maybe even more so.

He supposed that he could say them, bring light to what was previously shrouded...

But Abbacchio was dead now, and so was he. Dead men held no voice, why should he be the exception?

Steeling himself, he finally rose from his bed, and headed straight for the library.

He may no longer be alive, no longer have a voice-- but by everything that was holy in this world, Enrico Pucci and his fiend were going to hear him roar.

Chapter Text

Following blonde hair out into the front of the abbey, Mista wished more than anything that he could help Father Buccellati with whatever mission he deemed Giorno too much of a threat to witness. Looking after the demon made him feel less than worthless to his congregation. The priest could use his help, especially after the tragedy he had witnessed. Mista knew Buccellati and Abbacchio were very close, so after the unfortunate demise of the latter the former must have been distraught.

He saw the way the two of them glanced at each other when no one was looking, the way they were practically sewn together. They were inseparable...

...and now Abbacchio was gone.

The pang of loss resonated deeply inside his stomach, it was hard to believe the older man was dead. He always seemed unflappable, a steady and consistent force in the friar’s life. It would be a lie to say that they always got along, but somehow that didn’t matter anymore. The man was murdered, and now any work that could have been done to bring them closer was impossible.

He hoped that after all this was over, they could have a service, create a space to grieve-- at least Mista knew that was what he needed. It was almost surreal to think that he now existed in a world without the tall white haired man. He wanted nothing more than to have time to mourn, to spend the rest of his night with his congregation-- with others who understood how he was feeling.

Instead he was stuck with the demon.

It was not that he disagreed with Bruno’s decision. When Giorno came out of Buccellati’s room and told him that the priest commanded he look after the blonde, that made sense. He understood that someone needed to watch Giorno, and considering he was bonded to the fiend, there was no better person.

It helped no one to allow himself to be overcome with the instability mounting in his mind. So he pushed those feelings of uncertainty down and instead allowed his gaze to focus on the back of the blonde’s head.

He thought back on the demon’s assistance during their encounter with the enemy.

He was efficient the friar had to give him that-- locating the threat and coordinating a surprise attack in less time than Mista thought possible. Because of him, they were able to break into the town hall just in time to rescue Buccellati, Fugo, and Narancia. Even though it was too late to save Abbacchio, they did manage to prevent any further loss of life, which Mista was endlessly grateful for.

He wouldn’t have known what he would have done if his entire family had been taken out in one fell swoop. While he was still not too keen on the fiend, he did have to admit that without him, that fear would have become a reality. He owed Giorno big time.

Giorno stopped at the double doors of the abbey, opening them up. He threw one look behind him at Mista before sitting down on the steps, right before the entryway. The friar followed, closed the doors to the abbey behind them, and took a seat near the blonde.

It had been extremely windy the last couple of hours, but now the night was as tranquil as it was silent. The calm before the storm.

The abbey stood, encompassed by the fervent glow of the beacon Mista had lit on Bruno’s command-- a signal that they needed reinforcements. It was a long shot to hope that the wandering demon slayer would show up to assist, but the clergyman prayed regardless.

He thought back to when Bruno told him there was a traveling demon slayer in the area, back on the first day he had met Giorno. He was afraid to call in such a wild card, especially if the slayer set their sight on his demon instead of the one they were called to fight. But now that they were down a member of their congregate, and many of them were injured, they really had no choice.

“You don’t need to babysit me, I am not going anywhere.” The voice beside him stated precisely and measured.

Mista snorted at that, it was unsurprising that the demon was also displeased with this arrangement, however they both knew perfectly well that there was no way the friar was going to leave him alone. Especially not after Buccellati gave him direct orders to keep track of the other. “I don’t doubt that, but you know what they say about being safe versus sorry.”

Sunrise eyes turned to meet his, reading over the friar’s face as if it were fiction, before turning his head upwards towards the night sky.

“I am sorry this is happening to you, That we were too late.”

Mista had been trying to keep a level head, to follow through with his orders without any hitches. However he was never particularly well suited for that method of interacting with loss. He was a simple man, one who wore his emotions on his sleeve, and unfortunately for him that emotion was currently sorrow. Lowering his face into his knees, he choked back a loud and sudden sob. Clenching his teeth, he tried to calm himself down to no avail, the following words that left his mouth were slow and cracked under pressure.

“Yeah… me too.”

Giorno said nothing for what felt to be a few minutes, before surprising the friar with a completely unexpected action.

The demon reached out, very hesitantly, to put his hand on the friar’s shoulder. The touch was light, and although Mista so desperately wanted to pull away from the monster, to tell him that he did not need his sympathy, he couldn't deny the slight pressure on his shoulder felt nice-- proof that he was not alone. Instead of pulling away, he leaned into the touch, which soon shifted into a light massage, rubbing small circles into his back for reassurance.

It was different then every other time Giorno touched him-- they were not seductive caresses, but something more substantial, originating from concern instead of hunger. It did cause him to wonder in the back of his mind how the demon was so good at understanding what he needed in that moment. Almost as if he had done this before-- a sentiment which was as far fetched as any statement could possibly be. Fiends were mostly solitary creatures that kept to themselves, the last thing they were known for was being effective shoulders to cry on. However, before the friar could ponder this issue any further the blonde spoke once more.

“Were you close to him?”

Taking a moment to breathe, and hold back his tears, he replied.“Abbacchio? Not really, in fact I think he hated me. He didn’t really get along with anyone except Father Buccellati… but… he was still family.” The friar finished, looking down at his palms before clenching them softly.

He so desperately wished that he could be doing something else, to distract his mind from the tragedies it witnessed and focus on solutions. But instead he was here, alone with his thoughts, with the only distraction in sight being the man that he previously wanted to avoid.

“Let me feel it.”

The words stopped his thoughts in his tracks, as he moved his head back up to face those sunrise eyes, which were strangely starting to become quite familiarly comforting to him. “Wh..what?” he spoke in almost a whisper, not sure if he heard the other correctly.

“Your pain,” the fiend clarified, “let me carry it with you.”

Mista stifled another sob, bringing his hand to his mouth to prevent an awful sound of melancholy spilling from his lips. Another stream of tears ran down his face before he managed to nod.

He was not sure what game the fiend was trying to play now, or what his agenda was, but in that moment it didn’t matter to him. Someone was offering to help, to lighten his emotional load, and that was exactly what he needed.

Closing his eyes, his wet lashes clung to each other as he mentally reached out to the the fiend. Just as he had done earlier in the night, he opened the floodgates, allowing the man next to him to be downed by his turmoil.

The reaction was sudden, the hand still rubbing his shoulders stopped, gripping the fabric of his coat tighter.

There was a stillness to the scene, both men afraid that the first to move would bare the responsibility of reconciling what the other was feeling.

Although neither spoke, Mista could see the silent tremors that racked the demon’s body. He recognized those tremors, they were the same ones that he was feeling, the same ones he was gifting to the blonde.

And Giorno accepted those gifts with ease, understandingly and with no judgements. In that moment it felt like the two of them were finally on an equal playing field.

The embrace that followed came as naturally as that realization, it was unclear who was the first to reach out, but before the both of them knew it, the friar’s arms were wrapped around the demon’s shoulder, pulling him close.

It should have been awkward, one the most strange things that could have happened, however, the friar felt an odd warmness, a candlelight of satisfaction while holding the other.

Giorno was just as frigid as he normally was, however this time he seemed so much more tiny in the friar’s arms. Every other time they had been this close, Giorno had been the one to instigate it, had been the one in command of the situation, while Mista was more or less helpless.

But now, they had come together so perfectly uncoordinated and it just felt so right.

They stayed that way for nearly an hour, on the steps of the abbey, huddled together, sharing Mista’s lamentations. When Mista cried, Giorno cried. When Mista’s body spasmed in sadness, so did Giorno’s. There was something so intimate about the way it progressed, how utterly in sync they both were, almost as if, in that moment, they were one person with the strength of two. But as with all things, this too eventually began to draw to a end, Mista deciding to close off his emotions, feeling that he had bothered his companion long enough with them.

The silence, which rushed to fill the void, left them both usure of their place. It would have been nearly insurmountable if not for Giorno, who after a moment broke the silence.

“I cannot guarantee that no one else will die, but I can guarantee that I will continue to fight with your congregation until we kill Him.”

Mista hummed at that statement, fingers which had long since trailed into the blonde’s silky hair, continued their course uninterrupted as he pondered that statement. For as much as he was not all that keen on continuing to work with a man he knew ate people, he did not doubt the demon’s sincerity. Giorno seemed to genuinely despise the other demon, the friar could tell as much by the look in his eyes and the tint of his voice.

Mista wanted to ask what that all was about, what kind of history the two had, but he also knew how secretive the blonde could be and doubted he would get a straight answer. Regardless, there were more important things right now than demon melodrama.

“I only hope no one else in the village is put to death.” the friar said solemnly.

“Is there anyone you are particularly worried about?” the fiend asked, his words cautious, walking on eggshells.

Mista shook his head in disagreement. “No, my mother and sisters used to live in town, but not anymore. To be honest I don’t think the villagers like me too much.”

The friar was a simple man, but he was not stupid. He noticed all the thinly veiled glares that were directed at him everytime he went into town. The way that most of the villagers whispered behind his back, how some still avoided being close to him when he walked down the street. He had gotten used to it, and honestly, it was to be expected.

“You would be correct in that assumption.” The blonde agreed.

“Huh?”

Giorno, finally pulled free from the embrace, still sat nearly on top of the friar. “I told you, I live in the village, and you are right. Most see you as nothing more than a murder. Every since you killed those men ten years ago, people have been very adamant at pushing the narrative that you are a heartless monster.”

Mista was flabbergasted, he did not forget that Giorno claimed to be from the village, but he had also not believed it. And yet here the blonde was was, privy to knowledge and gossip which only occurred in the village. Could he have been telling the truth this whole time?

“You… you really do live in the village?”

The demon frowned, probably not all that content that the friar admitted to not believing him, however if that was true, he did not comment on it.

Instead he just nodded, golden swirls atop of his head, messied from the fight, now curled more loosely along the side of his face. Under the moonlight the creature in his lap looked more vulnerable than ever. Tear stains streaked down his cheeks, evidence of their previous closeness, clearing away the bloody soot and ash that clung to his body as tightly as the friar currently was. While he was not particularly clean, Mista knew that he probably looked no better-- they were both a complete mess.

“Born and raised.”

Hmm, if that were true that meant Giorno probably knew even better than he about the friar’s reputation among the town-folk… which would mean… wait a minute!

Not knowing exactly how to bring this up tactfully, Mista just blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “The reason you chose me… when you were looking for a fresh meal… was it because of what you heard from the villagers?”

And then, the last thread of disdain Mista had for the demon proceeded to snap right in front of him at the Giorno’s reaction.

Those sunrise eyes widened and looked away from him in shame. The blonde’s body language stiffened as a light dusting of embarrassed red became more prominent along his pale face.

Mista was floored by the response for multiple reasons;

Firstly was the fact that more than anything this confirmed that the demon was absolutely telling the truth about his residence if he acted on rumors that only were found in the village.

Second this meant that when Giorno originally came to visit with the intent of killing him, he was completely under the impression that Mista was was irredeemable. That he was a murderer who had evaded punishment. He probably thought he was doing the village a service by ridding them of the man who escaped proper justice

Thirdly, and most bizarrely, was the fact that the demon was indisputably blushing. Something which Mista thought them to be incapable of. He thought back the the wound they managed in inflict on Dio, when they came to the aid of Father Buccellati, how the substance that came from his wounds was black, almost tar-like. That was to be expected, fiends did not have blood, at least not in the way humans did. Instead their bodies contained a foul ichor, thick and putrid.

But the way Giorno’s face lit up was so… human, blood rushing to his cheeks, shining through his pale, almost translucent skin. How was that possible? He was about to open his mouth, ask the fiend the question that burning in the back of his throat. However before he could find the words, Giorno began to apologize.

“I am truly sorry about that. It was completely my fault for being so misinformed and taking what they said at face value, I should have known better. When I first came to the abbey I expected you to be very different. But it turned out the villagers were wrong, you are no ruthless killer, quite the opposite in fact.” Finally those multi-colored eyes trialed back to his. “I do not expect you to forgive me for that transgression, especially as it nearly costed you your life. I only hope that you will be able to trust me enough to have your back in the upcoming fight, it is the least I can do to make it up to you.”

“You… I…” Mista started, trying to calm his busy mind. “Lord, you are really a strange one aren't you?”

“I could say the same for you.” The blonde replied, not missing a beat.

Mista wanted to laugh, to shrug off the statement and say there was nothing particularly special about him. At least, not compared to the blushing demon on his lap, who had somehow managed to break every preconceived notion he had about fiends and their ilk. To live completely undetected in the village, which had been consistently overseen by various demon slayers, he must have also been telling the truth about not killing people for his food-- a realization that did not leave Mista with a very pleasant taste in his mouth.

The friar judged him incredibly harshly, however now that he was piecing together facts about the blonde and his habits, he was starting to rethink his assessment. Was it even possible for a friend to survive without fresh meat? He honestly did not know, but if it was, and Giorno was doing just that, he was unsure how to proceed. Maybe he should re-evaluate how he thought of the other.

He must have appeared deeply in thought as Giorno proceeded to ask him, “Are you alright?”

Snapping his attention back to the present, he looked into the genuinely concerned face of the other, trying his best to smile and reassure the blonde that he was perfectly fine. “Ahh, it’s nothing.”

Apparently his reassurance was not particularly convincing as the fiend frowned once more, searching his face for the reasoning behind his uncomfortability. Seemingly not able to figure it, he began to pull away from the friar, attempting to remove himself his lap.

Mista didn’t want the blonde to feel like he needed to apologize, especially now that he was starting to see that there might be more to him then he first thought. Before the fiar could properly conceive of his response, he felt his hand reach out to the blonde’s upper arm, holding him in place.

The demon’s eyes widened, just as his did, in realization of what he had done. Deciding he might as well continue with his course of action, Mista spoke.

“No, it’s alright… I don’t mind.”

“You…” The demon’s breath hitched. “Are you sure?” He questioned hesitantly, re situating himself into the friar’s lap cautiously, as if any single movement would scare him away like a frightened deer.

Mista could feel his own blush beginning to form on his face, as he let go of Giorno’s arm and waved his hands in front of himself in defense. “I mean, only if you want to, of course.”

That same sly smile that was starting to become commonplace in Mista’s life spread across the fiend’s face. He could see the tip of one the blonde’s sharp teeth poking out from just under his lip. He looked mischievous, the way he had when he was teasing the friar in his bed.

“Oh, don’t you worry, I’m not going anywhere,” he nearly purred, and instead of moving away from the friar he moved in closer. Face centimeters away, the clergyman began to feel those cold arms wrap around the back of his neck. “Not when you are asking so nicely.”

Ahh, so they were back to this.

Mista reminisced on every other encounter he had with the demon and how affectionate he could be. He assumed it was hunger that was the cause, but now that Giorno was throwing his diet into question, he felt dizzy at the attention.

It had been years since intimacy was last offered to him-- came with the territory of being too busy at the abbey and not particularly well liked in the village. Physical closeness with a demon usually spelled danger for the human involved, but as he was coming to realize, there was nothing ‘usual’ about Giorno.

Was it wrong of him to want that affection? Giorno was nothing if not willing, if the way he was currently perched atop him was anything to go off of.

Those cold, cold, hands trailed along his back as the demon pressed forward so their chests were flush against each other. Plump pink lips now so close he could almost feel them quiver in anticipation, and Mista found he could no longer resist.

Surging forward, the friar closed the distance between them.

For all of his bravado, Giorno froze in place the second that Mista’s lips met his.

Smiling into the kiss the friar realized that despite his flirtations, the blonde on his lap seemed surprised that it had gotten him anywhere. Mentally laughing to himself, he pressed even further into the kiss, hands now perched on the demon’s hips.

Giorno moaned at the contact, mouth opening slightly in surprise of which Mista took full advantage, moving the demon’s bottom lip between his blunt teeth, nipping at it. The demon groaned once again, seemingly melting into the other.

This was wrong, and Mista knew it, but in this moment he hardly seemed to care. Giorno was willing, he was willing, and considering they were about to once again go up against an enemy of massive power, who knows if they would even live to see the morning. It was now or never, and Mista would much prefer spending what could be some of his last moments on this earth in pleasure then in fear.

Pulling back for half a second the blonde’s lips trailed to his ear and whispered. “Show me, show me how you are feeling. Show me how much you want me and I’ll do the same.”

Wholeheartedly agreeing Mista’s fingers found their way to the blonde’s chin, guiding him back into a kiss. Once more he reached out to the figurative thread that bound the both of them and pulled on it as tightly as he could.

The next few moments were complete unadulterated bliss. Giorno must have opened himself up to Mista as well, as all of a sudden the friar was filled with desires he was not prepared for.

There was nothing left between them, the walls of their minds completely torn down, letting the free exchange of pleasure to pass through uncompromised. It was all so overwhelming, in the best way possible. Everything melted away until it felt as if they were the only two people in the world, their desire ricocheting off each other, only gaining more and more momentum the longer they stayed connected. Thoughts echoed through both their minds until neither was sure where each one originated from.

Opening his eyes, attempting to ground himself and gain more clarity of mind, Mista pulled away from the kiss. Noticing that somewhere among the last few minutes he had shifted their bodies so that he was pressing Giorno onto the floor. Looking down, he admired the beauty below him-- debauched, panting like an animal, hair completely a mess, that contradictory red flush back in his cheeks. The sight was unbelievable, the blonde was always so unshakable, so in control of everything, but here in this moment under Mista, he was vulnerable and so convincingly human. Giorno looked back up at him with a whine, those mesmerizing eyes, that ocean of emotion nearly pulsing with need.

On second thought, fuck clarity! He wanted more. For the first time since he met Giorno he was actually glad that they were bound, that he could be privy to the other’s desires. The connection was so intimate, something unlike anything else the friar had ever experienced. Diving back into the wanton figure, he wanted to sink deeper, trying to coax the other’s mouth open so he could explore what was behind those perfect pink lips.

Giorno hesitated, the friar could feel doubt mounting in the demon’s mind as it flowed over to him along with his yearning for more. Mista, for his part, crafted a message of reassurance in his own mind before sending it over to the blonde, hoping it was enough to convince him to allow them to continue.

Not receiving a reply, he began to pull away, not wanting to pressure the fiend if he were not willing. However before they parted completely Giorno followed him, pressing his lips more firmly against the friars, finally opening them up.

Mista did not contain the pleased sound that rippled in his chest, as this event took a turn for the awesome. His tongue darted out to run along the demon’s lower lip, Giorno, so graciously opened up his mouth wider, and Mista pressed forward.

The friar was lost in the moment, so much so he failed to remember the sharpened teeth that resided in the fiends mouth. Recklessly driving in, his tongue caught on one of the fangs, nicking him slightly.

Ouch... Those fangs were much sharper than they looked, and they already appeared quite acute. Not thinking much of it Mista just thought to himself that he would need to be a bit more careful in the future.

He was unprepared for the effect it would have on his companion.

It was not the satisfied growl, nor the increased grip of the other that snapped the friar out of his lust filled haze-- that blame was placed on the shift in their resonance. The echos no longer just contained pleasure, but now there was something else lingering between their minds, hunger.

the same hunger he seen on the blonde’s face before he tore into the defenseless body of the slaughtered man. It resonated so deeply within him, that it brought Mista completely out of the blissful state.

In the blink of an eye, Mista found the other’s arms tighten more around him, as the fiend forced him to the ground, switching their positions. Pressing down against the friar, the demon’s now forked tongue slinked into his mouth chasing the bloodied injury, howling with a sound Mista had never heard come from anyone before. It was feral and wild, something that you would hear from a beast, not a human.

But Giorno wasn’t a human and Mista knew that.

Opening his eyes, his heart nearly stopped in his chest. Giorno was no longer that panting vulnerable mess, he no longer even looked human. Golden hair shimmered so brightly it almost appeared white against the red pigmentation his skin became. Black nails on impossibly long fingers pinned him to the floor. From the other’s silken hair, he could see a small pair of black jagged antlers protruding from his head. The sight was extremely familiar, as if Mista had witnessed it before, however in the moment he was too frightened to think of anything except the demon on top of him.

Panicked hands found the other’s shoulders as the clergyman felt his fear and anxiety that was building up inside of him pour over into Giorno’s mind through their connection, causing the fiend to freeze in place.

A second passed

Then three

Then another six

It was a full ten seconds before either moved.

Giorno was the first to pull away, removing himself from the clergyman’s person. Standing to his feet, he brought his hand to his mouth, hiding his now bloodstained lips from the critical view of the friar. The redness of his skin fading back to the familiar pale, as he looked away, shame burning brightly on his face.

Mista did not know what to say, metallic taste on his tongue and fear still burning in his gut. He knew the course of events was an accident, one that’s blame surely rested on him for not being cautious enough, but that did not help him pacify his tumultuous emotions. Realizing that the connection between Giorno and him was still open, he figuratively reached to shut the door. He was already having enough trouble sorting out his own reaction to worry about having an audience to his innermost thoughts.

“That was… uncalled for.” Giorno spoke apologetically, taking a step back, away from the clergyman. “We… I shouldn’t have… I’ll get out of your way.” he quickly finished his statement before backing away from the human further, turning around and walking away, stopping at what Mista knew to be the edge of Father Buccellati’s barrier.

Mista was filled with conflicting thoughts and desires. More than anything else, he wanted to reach out to the blonde, to call him back over and tell him that it was not a big deal. That he didn’t blame him for the turn of events. However those words were trapped under a stone blanket of horror.

He felt like he was back a few hours ago, helplessly experiencing Giorno’s pleasure while he devoured the villager. He felt it, he knew how all encompassing the desire to consume was to the fiend, how it muddled his mind and broke his body to it’s whims.

What would have happened if he were not bound to Giorno? If the demon was was not privy to his inner fears. Would he have been consumed? Would he have ended up just like that dead man in the road?

Unable to stop his shaking he closed his eyes, and brought his hands to his face. What was he thinking? It was so indescribably reckless and stupid for him to believe that anything good could have come from becoming intimate with a demon.

His shooting arm throbbed in memory of the last time he was at a demon’s mercy. The final trip he had gone on with Father Buccellati-- the one that had granted him his injury which prevented him from holding his crossbow for more than a few minutes at a time. He remembered the sharp teeth pressed into his wrist, the excruciating pain as he called for someone, anyone, to come help him. The look in that feline demon’s icy blue eyes, as it nearly tore his hand clean off his body.

Never again, the words echoed in his memory, reminding him of his promise, he would never again allow himself to feel so helpless. Eyes trailing back up the blonde figure, crouched on the edge of the barrier, he suppressed the urge to yell. He knew it wasn’t really Giorno’s fault, a fiend was going to do what a fiend was going to do, and all things considering his demon was going out of his way to accommodate him, this was his fault for letting it go too far.

He supposed that he was to take this as a learning experience. Giorno may have been different from every other fiend he encountered, but different did not equate harmless.

Falling backward, his body hit the ground with a painful thud, but he could not bring himself to care.

He looked up at the stars above him, focusing in on one that shone more brightly than the others, its reddish yellow twinkling catching his eye immediately. Focused on the star, he noticed how the bright red glow transitioned into the yellow light it gave off. It look like Giorno when he allowed his demonic essence to spill past the human disguise he wore. Those black antlers, red skin, and serpentine eyes and tongue… they were almost like…

Eyes widening, he continued to stare dumbfounded at the sky as the realization that had been building in his mind came crashing down upon him. Giorno’s fiendish form, it looked exactly like the demon they had fought in the town hall, the one that almost killed Buccellati, the one who’s human partner did kill Abbacchio.

Once he noticed his breath begin to whirl out of control, the friar closed his eyes and forced himself to focus solely on his breathing.

He was alright, he just needed to think this through calmly. Giorno was not going to hurt him, if that was what he was after he already had plenty of opportunities to double cross him. If he were working with the demon that attacked the village, he would have just let Bruno, Leone, Narancia, and Fugo die. He wouldn’t have brought Mista to them.

Obviously there was something the demon was not telling him, but outside of that, his actions were nothing but helpful. Instead of sulking, perhaps he should just ask the fiend directly, he doubted the blonde would deny it after Mista had seen what he truly looked like.

Bringing his right hand to his face, he pinched the bridge of his nose, and pressed down lightly on his eyes. Taking one deep breath he quickly propped himself back up into a seated position and scanned around for the blonde.

Locating him almost instantly, the friar saw the demon sitting down on the grass, ten or so meters from him also looking up at the stars. His features were back to being convincingly harmless, bathed in starlight, he looked human, but Mista knew better.

“Giorno.” he called.

The demon stiffened before turning to face him, mouth set in a straight line, the blonde refused to meet his gaze entirely, looking away in shame. A sight which temporarily caught the friar off guard, before he remembered the reason behind his inquiry.

He was going to speak up, demand to know what was going on, however before he could, Giorno beat him to the punch.

“I understand,” he spoke, melodic voice now stationary and without rhythm. “‘After this is all done, you never want to see me again, binding be damned,’” he quoted, surprising the friar that the demon remembered his exact words from earlier in the night.

“...Right… that.” He said lamely, not at all prepared for such a direct apology.

Giorno turned away from him once more, eyes looking back up at the stars. “I know it does not excuse anything, but you have my word that I will make good on that. You will never have to see me again.”

Mista frowned, by all rights he should be celebrating that promise, that was all he ever wanted since he learned that Giorno was a demon. But instead the statement just left him feeling oddly empty and confused. Deciding he would deal with his conflicted emotions about the blonde later, he asked what he had been meaning to bring up.

“You look like him,” he said simply, wondering if that would be enough to convey the meaning of his words.

Suddenly those sunrise eyes were back on him, and despite how cold Giorno typically was, he could almost feel the burning heat of his gaze.

The blonde stayed silent for a moment, face clearly dazed but still somehow able to retain its steadiness, as if he had frozen into a sculpture.

That, however did not last long, as the demon did eventually regain his bearings. “I suppose it was foolish of me to think that I could have kept this from you forever.” Giorno paused, probably thinking through exactly how he was going to phrase his next statement.

However before he could finish his thought, the two of them heard a slight creek from the door behind them

Both directed their gaze toward the sound just in time to see Bruno Buccellati opening up the door, surely looking for them.

If the priest was confused as to why they were carrying on a conversation from meters away, while both sitting on the floor, he did not question it. Instead he kept his face serious and stance humorless.

“We found what Dio was looking for.”

“We?” the fiend asked from his sitting position.

Bruno nodded, “My men woke up, they are assisting me in the library.”

This brought Mista to his feet immediately, “Narancia and Fugo are up?” He was incredibly relieved, while their injuries had not been too severe he still worried greatly for them, who knows what that monster or his evil priest had done to them while they were in captivity.

Father Buccellati nodded before stepping outside, closing the door behind him and leaned against it, gesturing for the two of them to gather around. “Yes ,they are, We can all discuss next steps together in a moment, but first I need to ask you two some questions.”

“Anything you need Buccellati,” Giorno responded before getting up from his seated position and making his way back over to the priest. Mista nodded in agreement.

“Our enemies are bound to each other, the same way you two are. I am going to need details of how your tethering works, so we are fully prepared for what we are up against.”

Mista welcomed this distraction, anything to take his mind off of what had just occurred. Bruno asking him for a report of his findings was comforting in a way, it reminded him of how simple things used to be.

“We can choose to share what we are currently feeling with each other.” Giorno began to explain, “I would predict that in combat they would try to use this to leave no blind spots in their formation, if one of them sees something, then you can assume they will share it with the other.”

Bruno nodded, seeming to contemplate before asking. “What about pain?”

“Pain?” Mista asked.

“When the two of you attacked Pucci’s fiend, from my perspective, it looked like he was also affected.”

Giorno grew silent-- as if in a trance he brought his hand towards his face, almost covering his mouth before he seemed to snap out of it, and focus back on Buccellati.

Mista’s eyebrows creased at the scene, his own injured tongue throbbing in protest. Had Giorno felt the injury as well? He thought back to when they were kissing, when he cut his tongue on the demon’s fangs. They had already been sharing everything during the time, he supposed it made sense that the other would feel his pain as well.

“Umm, well…” Mista spoke up, “As far as I can tell, when the connection is open, pain will pass along with everything else.”

The three of them pondered that statement for a moment before Bruno took the lead once more. “That is good information, something we can most certainly use during combat… however.” He spoke, voice stern and warning. “You two should take that into account as well, if we know this weakness then they will also surely know of it. If they figure out you two are bound, they will try and use it against you. It would be best to be as careful as you can whilst that connection is open.”

They both nodded, that was definitely something they should look out for from now on. Glancing over at Giorno the two of their gazes met sullenly.

Bruno looked upon them inquisitively, understanding that something must have happened that he was not privy to. However instead of questioning them any further, his eyes moved past them to look straight towards the dirt road leading out from the front of the abbey.

Once Giorno and Mista noticed the priest's movement, they too turned to look down the dirt road, to see a cloaked figure approaching.

The figure was slim, every inch of their body covered in a thin robe, hood up-- face hidden from view.

Hand on the hilt of his blade, Bruno walked down the steps of the abbey, past Giorno and Mista, and called to the figure.

“You there, lower your hood. State your name and purpose.”

The figure stopped their approach, right before what Mista knew the edge of Bruno’s barrier. Reaching a gloved hand out, they spoke.

“This is one of the most well made barrier I have ever seen, we are lucky one of you is competent enough to uphold such powerful magic.” They said, voice high pitched and smooth, before they stepped past the barrier unencumbered and lowered their hood.

It was a woman in her mid twenties. Eyes concentrated on Bruno, she parted her cloak to let them all see various knives and a battle axe, which were affixed to the leather bodice she wore underneath. But what was most noticeable about her was her bright pink hair, swirled atop her head. Mista had never seen a person with that particular hair color, briefly he wondered how she dyed it so brightly.

A hunter, she was a traveling hunter. Mista was hesitant to believe that someone would come to their aid, however it seemed Buccellati was correct about there being a slayer somewhere in the area, and lucky for them she must had seen their call for help.

“My name is Trish Una, I saw the state of the village bellow, as well as the beacon you lit for reinforcements. Luckily I happened to be scouting nearby-- I’m here to help.”

Bruno nodded his head, gesturing for her to come closer. “We are indeed fortunate for your arrival, we need all the assistance we can get. The fiend that left the village in shambles is a powerful one indeed, and we hope to engage them again by the end of the night.”

The huntress continued her trek until she was right in front of Father Buccellati.

It was then that Mista felt something, a slight pressure on his mind. Recognizing it instantly, he turned to look at Giorno, who was looking back at him. It was like a knock at his mental door, the demon was asking him if he would be willing to open the connection between them.

While he was not exactly enthused to do so, he was curious as to what the demon was trying to tell him, so he sent back a feeling of acceptance to the fiend.

As soon as he did, he was flooded with what he presumed to be the blonde’s curiosity. Giorno seemed to have some intrigue in the pink haired woman who appeared on their doorstep, and while Mista was unsure why, he knew that the demon would not have shared that with him for no reason.

Taking a deep breath Mista took a few steps further, until he was standing beside his head priest.

“Yes, Giorno and I can fill you in the details.” he spoke to the mysterious woman before glancing at Bruno. “Father Buccellati, we can take it from here, why don’t you go inside and tell Narancia and Fugo what's going on. We’ll be there in a moment.”

The priest did not question him, and for that Mista was grateful, as he did not have the answers. He supposed that Buccellati trusted his judgement enough to leave him to it, as the priest agreed to that plan and turned around to walk back into the abbey.

Once the double doors closed behind them, cutting them off from the rest of the clergymen, Giorno took a step forward.

“I did not know The Church would allow someone like you to hunt.”

Pink lips, the same deep shade as her hair turned upwards in amusement. “Women have been allowed to defend their fellow humans for years now. You are behind the times blondy.”

Giorno however did not look convinced, “That is not what I am talking about.”

She looked back at him stoically. Whatever Giorno was insinuating, she was not giving him an inch.

Giorno sighed, eyes darting over to Mista briefly, as a silent apology pushed its way into his mind.

The clergyman watched in wonderment as the fiend took another step forward, allowing the crimson pigment to return to his skin. Now that the friar was not pinned under him, he was able to watch the transformation happen in full. He watched the black antlers break free from the demon’s scalp, his eyes burn away the blues and greens, leaving behind only the fiery oranges, reds, and yellows. And this time, he spotted a couple other smaller changes that he hadn't noticed before-- ears coming to a sharp point, and a strange trail of scales that went down from the side of his neck until the edge of his clothing cut off their decent. That serpentine tongue, which the clergyman remembered from when they had kissed, darted out to taste the air.

What was Giorno thinking? Revealing himself to a hunter like that, especially one who was they knew nothing about-- this was no time to instigate a fight. Mista stepped forward, prepared to shield to blonde from any attack the woman might throw his way.

However to his surprise, the woman did not grab one of her many weapons, nor did she retreat in fear. Instead she stood there, with the biggest grin Mista had ever seen decorating her face.

“Father or Mother?” She asked, barely able to contain her giddiness.

“Father,” Giorno answered swiftly, “And you?”

“Also father,” she responded. “Is he still alive?”

“Unfortunately,” the stag-serpentine demon responded. “Yours?”

She hummed in response, “No, he made the mistake of coming after me, worried that my existence would have outed him to the town he set up residence in. Last mistake he ever made.”

Giorno’s smile grew to match hers as Mista just stood there observing these two’s interaction, incredibly confused.

“Will one of you please tell me what is going on?” He asked, directing his question at both of them.

Giorno was the first to respond. “She is of fiendish blood.” he stated, as if were the most obvious thing in the world.

Mista felt his mouth fall open, looking back up at the woman.

“What!” the clergyman found himself stating, interrupting whatever Giorno’s next comment was going to be. Both pairs of eyes focus on him, expecting him to continue. Once he realized this, he took another shaky breath and asked. “What do you mean of fiendish blood?”

It was the woman who answered him.

“My late father, unbenounced to many, was a half demon. Because of that, there are a few features that I share with him. My mother however was human, I was raised as a human, and so I will fight for my fellow humans.”

“You… How?.. Huh?” he so eloquently processed out loud. “Wait, if you are a demon then how did you cross the barrier? You said it yourself that it is stronger than any other you have seen!”

“Part demon,” she corrected, folding her arms and staring back at him as if he were an idiot. “The enchantment recognized that my humanity is stronger than my father’s blood. If it disallowed anyone with demon blood in them, well it would hardly be an effective barrier anymore. You'd be surprised the number of people who have a demon somewhere far back in their family line. As a hunter you have probably noticed that every once in a while a human is born with incredible abilities that no other humans possess, those come from demon ancestry.”

Mista frowned, what the huntress was saying did not make much sense. How could she only be part demon? And what was this about special abilities being a result of demon interbreeding. That was ridiculous! Buccellati’s congregate had two such members-- was this woman implying that Abbacchio an Narancia had demon ancestry? If what she was saying was true then that would mean that the barrier was not full proof. Well of course it wasn't, he knew that for some time now, as Giorno was able to cross it as well…

His thoughts immediately grew to a halt as he whipped his gaze over to Giorno, wait… so, did that mean--?

“So tell me about the demon we are hunting,” Trish said, interrupting Mista’s line of thinking, redirecting him onto the matter at hand.

“The human who bound him gifted to him the name Dio,” Giorno began, “He is an extremely powerful fiend who is attempting to kill all of the hunters in this abbey, lower the barrier, and take something they have been unknowingly guarding.”

Mista silently let Giorno speak. Some of this information was new to him, and caught him by surprise, however it was the next statement that truly caught him off guard.

“He is brutal, deadly, incredibly ego-maniacal, cares little for any life other than his own, and unfortunately is also my father.”

Turning around almost instantaneously to look at the demon, the friar spoke incredulously, “He is your what now?”

Giorno was unfazed, looking back at him with the same intensity before his tone took an apologetic tint once more. “You were wondering why we looked alike… there is your answer.”

The friar supposed that made a lot of sense. Why their demon forms appeared almost identical, how Giorno knew so much about Dio before they even encountered him.

“Oh this is fantastic!” Called Trish’s voice from in front of them. Both men turned to look back at her, as she appeared almost relieved by this revelation. “Glad you are with us then, you probably know more about him than any anyone else.”

And while Mista was not particularly thrilled by this, he had to admit that pink haired huntress had a point.

Giorno nodded in agreement, allowing his features to shift back to something more human.

Mista just stood there not knowing what to say, as Trish approached Giorno and began to strike up a more detailed conversation. He tried to listen to their words, but in the end his own brain began to tune them out as he fell deep into thought.

Would it be alright to allow this woman into the abbey? Part demon huh? Looking over her Mista knew that he would never be able to tell if Giorno had not confronted her. Unlike Giorno she did not emanate any sort of dangerous or ethereal aura-- she appeared just as human as any other person he had met, with the possible exception for her colorful hair.

A quarter demon meant that she was mostly human, and Mista had no problems working with humans. Maybe it was the fact that they really needed assistance, or maybe Giorno being around him made him more tolerant of fiendish things, however in that moment he realized he had no problem with her fighting alongside them.

Eyes darting over to Giorno, he reasoned that if they were receiving help from the blonde, then doing so from another trained hunter was completely normal in comparison. Besides, Trish did not seem particularly malignant, and Father Buccellati had already accepted her help, so he supposed there was not much left to do.

“Mista,” A familiar voice called out to him, suddenly directing him back to the conversation.

Looking up he saw Giorno and Trish staring back at him expectantly, as if they were waiting for him to respond to something.

“Huh? What?” he asked, hoping they would enlighten him as to what they were talking about.

Trish responded before the blonde could-- eyebrow raised, arms crossed, grinning. “Were you not paying attention?”

An embarrassed blush found its way to the friar’s face as he briefly looked away from the two in front of him, “Ah sorry, s‘lot on my mind.”

Trish chuckled before clarifying, “I was just saying that because blondy is allowed here, I was going to come clean about my heritage to the rest of your abbey, I’d be nice not to have to hide it.”

“And I was telling her that it isn't that simple, and not all the friars even know I’m here yet. We can’t predict how they’ll react.”

Mista thought on that for a second before he realized that he agreed with his demon. They needed assistance desperately and he had no idea how Narancia or Fugo would react to learning that not one, but two fiendish people were here to assist them.

Narancia he could deal with, but Fugo… well...

When Fugo became enraged he was difficult to deal with at the best of times. Even Buccellati had trouble calming him down when his explosive temper got out of hand.

The clergyman remembered when he first joined the abbey, Fugo and Narancia became his closest of friends, both also coming from situations where this was their last chance at salvation. They bonded over that, the three of them. But it was not long after, Mista got his first glimpse at the homicidal anger the other possessed.

As the years under Buccellati brought them more happiness and success than any of them had seen in their lives up to that point, their emotional loads lightened significantly, as did Fugo’s anger.

However that did not mean that it had not dissipated entirely, and therefore still reared its ugly head every once in a while.

And yet it was not difficult to notice that something else had changed over the years.

Narancia and Pannacotta had always been close, but as impossible as it seemed, every year they grew closer. Fugo had greatly valued the shorter man, and … well, there was an argument to be made that he respected Narancia even more than even Buccellati. For when Narancia put his foot down and told him calm himself, he would listen.

Mista knew that if they were going to convince Fugo, they would need to first convince Narancia, and for that to work it would be much easier if his fellow friars only knew of Giorno’s demon heritage, and not Trish’s,

“Yeah, Giorno’s right I think for now we should keep this between us.” he finally answered the two in front of him.

Trish solemnly nodded before moving towards the building. Mista was about to follow her before the now familiar sensation of Giorno knocking on his mental door made him stop.

Obsidian eyes met sunrise as Mista nodded, giving his demon permission to enter.

Before, the only things they could communicate were feelings, but now he could have swore that he heard words along with the relief, affection, and gratitude that laid before him.

Thank you for seeing my perspective, even after everything. I know you still don’t entirely trust me, and that is alright-- but I hope you know that you are a beautiful, stunning, and genuinely good man.

He forced down a blush.

As if his feelings towards the demon were not already complicated enough. He didn’t know how to respond, and if there was even a way for him to do so with out bring too much attention to himself.

Giorno, for his part, thankfully did not wait for an answer and followed Trish up the steps to the abbey.

Mista lagged behind them, legs heavy and unstable, heart beating as quickly as his breathing. He was a man who killed four men to save a woman without even blinking, a man who had taken down many a fiend in his prime. And yet here he was, almost brought to his knees by one pesky demon, and his nack for getting under his skin in every way possible.

Chapter Text

It all happened so quickly, one moment they were taking down accounts from the missing villagers’ families, planning on returning to the abbey to report their findings, and the next Narancia was screaming.

Pannacotta tried to turn around, run to the source and help his partner, but all he managed to do was get a glimpse of golden and white hair before something struck him hard on the head and darkness overtook him.

Every once in a while he would awake, blindfolded and gagged, unable to see who or what had him.

Every once in a while he would awake to something sharp being drawn across his skin, or something rough throwing him to the floor.

Every once in a while he would awake to Narancia screaming again. He cried, and raged, fought-- until his bindings bled into his wrist and blindfold was drenched in tears.

Whatever had happened to them, he doubted that he would ever see the sun again-- ever see Narancia’s face again, and that thought broke him to his core.

Narancia had been his best friend for a long time now. Somehow, in the discord of the hostile world they lived in, they had managed to meet.

They had both become homeless for different reasons, but it was through their bond that they discovered a new home. The cold nights were no longer as cold, and with two people stealing, they found lack of food was less of an issue.

However, one day tragedy stuck.

A fiend cornered them. It was not all that surprising, demons typically came out at night and without shelter to hide them they were particularly vulnerable to demonic threats. They had managed to escape, but not before Narancia was stuck severely in his right eye.

Weeks past and Fugo noticed that the swelling from the injury only worsened. The two tried everything, but despite their best efforts, they could not afford the medicine he needed. The infection, which had found its way deep into the blacked haired boy’s skull, refused to be culled. It was when all hope seemed the most lost, Narancia screaming the whole previous night in pain, that a miracle happened-- they ran into a saint.

Father Buccellati clothed and took care of them, treating Narancia’s eye until the inflammation was reduced and the illness faded.

Of course they took the oath, how could they not? Much to the disagreement of Buccellati himself, they became hunters-- and they were damned good at it. Years of having to fend for themselves on the streets made them tough and scrappy, which translated particular well to the line of work they found themselves in.

Every year they conquered new odds and grew closer, and every year Fugo felt his feelings about the other shift, until one day he confronted Narancia about them.

It was always a difficult conversation, when someone did not return feelings bestowed onto them. And yet, despite the awkwardness and embarrassment the white haired man felt due to his failed confession, the shorter man treated him no differently. In fact they grew even closer as friends because of it.

Every year brought them more glory, more success, and more happiness-- and Fugo had the gall to hope that it would last.

And now he was here, coming in and out of consciousness to the sound of his best friend screaming-- calling his name in increasingly frightened tonations.

“Fugo!”

“FUGO!”

“PANNACOTTA!”

“.....”

“Panni... Please! Where are you?”

No, he couldn't take this, he couldn’t listen to Narancia call for him any longer! Unaware if he was currently conscious or not, he continued to struggle as his dreams bled into reality. He fought to maintain his grasp over what was real and what was delirium, but the longer he remained in captivity, the harder it was.

In the fog of his mind, he would occasionally hear words swirl around him, as two voices he did not recognize occasionally spoke to each other. He tried his best to listen to what they were saying, but the pain that racked his body left little room for concentration. The only thing he had managed to hear was one of the voices mentioning something about ‘The Joestars.’

But even that was short lived before a hand reached out, grabbed one of his fingers, and twisted it in a way he was sure it was not supposed to go. He tried to scream, but nothing came out. His body was not responding to him as he was engulfed, once again, by unconsciousness.

A year passed before he awoke again... or maybe it was just a second-- at this point they were nearly interchangeable to him.

Coming back to his senses he once again heard his partner.

“Panni?” he called, this time more softly, much more hesitant.

He groaned and opened his eyes. They must have been closed for quite some time as the dim candle light of the room was too bright for him initially. Adjusting slowly, he realized that he was no longer blindfolded, squinting his eyes he tried to focus in on the figure standing over his bed.

As soon as his gaze met the figure’s, they moved to hug him. Black messy hair tickled the crook of his neck as his hands slowly raised to the figures shoulders.

“You’re alright!” the black haired man called, pulling away from the embrace with the same manic swiftness as when he initiated it.

Fugo could not help but smile at the sight in front of him.

Narancia looked back, beaming that stupid grin the white haired man had grown to adore. It looked like one of his teeth had been knocked out, bruises decorated his skin coalescing in a massively blackened and puffy right eye. The sight was akin to a cruel joke, reminding him of what he had almost lost twice now. And yet, despite how terrible the other appeared, Fugo could not have been happier.

Narancia was ok,

Narancia was alive... and so was he.

Trying to find his voice, he cleared his throat a couple of times, coughing at the dryness of it.

His partner, noticing his struggle, reached over to grab a cup full of liquid and pushed it to the white haired man’s lips.

Fugo accepted the water graciously, drinking it down as quickly as he could manage.

“Hey now, don’t drink too much at once, don’t want you to choke.” Narancia laughed, pulling the mug away from him.

Pannacotta wanted to protest, however he knew the black haired man was correct, so he allowed the other to remove his drink. Clearing his throat a couple times, he tried once again to speak.

“W..whhat happened?” he managed to force out through a scratchy throat.

Narancia shrugged above him. “I dunno. I just woke up a few minutes ago and saw you laying next to me.” the man gestured around the room for a second before continuing his explanation. “We’re in the abbey, I guess Buccellati must have found us and brought us home.”

Eyes widening, he flung himself up into a sitting position, looking around the room for a sign of someone else. When he did not find anyone, he looked back at Narancia, before throwing his legs over the side of the bed, staggering to his feet.

Narancia was by his side in an instant, helping him up as Fugo took inventory of his own injuries. A couple of fingers on his left hand seemed broken and wrapped together, deep purple painful bruises covered his legs and parts of his chest, and his head throbbed. However aside from that, he found that we was able to walk just fine.

The two of them helped each other out of their room and into the hallway on the second floor. Now that they were up they knew they would need to see if anyone else was here with them.

Fugo turned to his his partner and asked. “Nara, can you check if there are any signs of breathing coming from inside the abbey?”

Closing his eyes for a second, the black haired man concentrated before opening them back up and shaking his head, indicating that he could not sense anything from within the abbey.

While Fugo trusted Narancia’s ability just as much as he trusted Abbacchio’s, he knew that sometimes, if someone was injured badly enough, the shorter man couldn’t located their breath.

Narancia also understood this, agreeing with Fugo that they should search the whole abbey just to be sure.

They checked Father Buccellati and Brother Abbacchio’s room first, only to find no one.

They then walked over to Mista’s quarters to find the same.

They searched the common rooms and the kitchen upstairs finding nothing as well.

Confused, they moved down to the first floor and further investigated in the main worship hall. It was then that they noticed something that caught them both of them off guard.

The beacon was lit.

The beacon was only used in emergencies, when they were advertising to all other slayers in the area that they needed assistance as soon as possible. Turning to look at each other they nodded. They needed to find Buccellati, Abbacchio, or Mista. And so spurred on by the threat that the lit beacon insinuated, they rushed down to the basement, the last place they had not checked.

Once they began to descend the stairs, Narancia pointed out that the candles leading into the library were lit. Strange, considering Narancia proceeded to inform him he still had not sensed any breaths.

Standing in front of the door for a second, Fugo prepared himself for the worst and pushed it open.

The library was a mess, books were piled high on the various chairs in the room, scrolls haphazardly thrown on the floor. A single figure stood deep in the room with their back turned to them, reaching up to grab an unopened chest on the top of a shelf.

“Father Buccellati!” Narancia called, before letting go of Fugo’s arm and running towards the figure. Fugo followed shortly after that, swiftly moving toward the man they had followed through thick and thin.

Bruno for his part, whipped around as soon as his name was called, book still in hand, his eyes softened more than Pannacotta had ever seen them before.

Once the two of them were within a meter of their priest, the older man reached out to put an hand on both of their shoulders.

“I am truly delighted that the two of you are alright.” he smiled, the lines of his face paradoxically both melancholy and overjoyed at the exact same time.

Narancia was already smiling his carefree smile, but Fugo stood there stoically, taking in the scene. Father Buccellati looked upon them so sadly, as if even though they had woke up and were okay, something else was wrong.

Looking around the library Fugo noted that neither Mista nor Abbacchio were in sight. Eyes falling back upon his priest the white haired man came to a conclusion he hoped was false.

“Are they dead?” He asked. “Mista and Abbacchio?”

Buccellati’s mouth straightened into a firm line, eyes refusing to leave his. “Guido is alive and uninjured, But Leone… didn’t make it.”

Silence

The two of them stood in silence as the answer washed over them. Bruno held their gaze firmly, despite the tragedy behind it. Narancia on the other hand protested.

Fugo was stunned into stillness, he had feared the worst, but having those fears confirmed was a completely separate matter. He felt almost disconnected to his body as he watched himself watching Narancia begin to ball his eyes out, yelling that it couldn't be true, while Buccellati tried his best to comfort him.

To anyone unfamiliar with the two black haired men, they would assume that Narancia was the one taking it the worst, that Buccellati was highly composed and able to provide the other with much needed comfort.

However the white haired man knew better. Narancia felt his emotions strongly, unencumbered by the pressure to hold himself together. His emotions hit hard, however he was also quick to let them go. While Buccellati… well he knew that to be a different case.

There had been multiple times in the past when the priest held back his own emotions to prioritize those around him, much to the detriment of his own self care. And Fugo was becoming increasingly more suspicious that was currently the case. Abbacchio had been the closest to the head of the abbey, surely Buccellati was feeling his loss, perhaps even more greatly than the two of them.

However he did not say anything, it was not his place to call his superior out on something he did not want to speak of, so instead he changed the subject.

“What are you doing down here?”

The priest, seemingly glad at the topic shift, asked the two of them to sit down while he told them what had happened in more detail.

They learned of the attack on the village, of the many dead, and of the two who were responsible. Buccellati went into detail about what they knew, that the fiend and his priest were bound, and for some reason were trying to access the abbey’s library. He also told them how he was planning on engaging the demon and his human before morning light.

The head of the abbey also expressed his frustration that he had gotten nowhere with his investigation of the library, that it was incredibly huge and he had no leads besides a mysterious key that may or may not even be relevant.

Fugo knew immediately what to say.

“The Joestars,” he said aloud, gaining both Buccellati and Narancia’s attention.

“The what?” Narancia asked quizzically.

Turning his attention to his priest, Fugo continued. “When we were captured I heard those two talking, it was hard to hear and I am not exactly sure what that means, but they were saying something about the Joestars. Does that ring any bells?”

Bruno brought his hand to his chin contemplatively before responding. “The Joestars were an old family of slayers, not much else is known about them. The church had officially proclaimed their family line dead more than fifty years ago. But I have recently heard a rumor that an heir to their linage was found, a young woman I believe, and she has started a smaller congregate far to the east.”

“If they’re so far away, why would this fiend have interest in us? Do you think something in the library used to belong to them?”

The head priest nodded, before gesturing for the two of them to follow him as he bowed and weaved through a few isles of bookshelves approaching the back of the library with purpose, until they reached a small shelf, crudely labeled “Joestar.” Tucked in the very back of the shelf, just out of sight, was a small box with a star carved into it. Pulling out the chest, dusting the top of it lightly with his hands, the priest reached into his robes and grabbed hold of the key he had previously mentioned to them. Bruno slowly inserted and turned it, until they all heard a soft click.

Inside was about ten tightly wrapped scrolls. The parchment was yellowed, indicating it was at least a few decades old-- opening up the first one however, they found the text was still mostly legible.

At the very bottom of the chest was a broken blade, one that looked to have been initially massive in size before it had shattered into many sharp pieces, the hilt of it spelling out the word ‘Pluck.’

Leaving the blade aside, they divided up the scrolls evenly amongst the three of them and scanned the material for any relevant information. They soon found on a cursory glance that each scroll was written by someone of the name Robert E. O. Speedwagon, one of the retainers of the Joestar family, recording exploits of their hunts.

Fugo proceeded to learn quite a lot about the Joestars over a short period of time. Supposedly, in their prime, they were the strongest congregate of demon slayer ever to have existed. Each individually racking up more successful hunts than all of the members of Buccellati’s abbey added together. The youngest, at least of the time these documents were written, was a young man by the name Jonathan Joestar, the pride and joy of the Joestar family. Fugo also read a couple documents about the sword at the bottom of the chest. Apparently it had been in the Joestar family for generations, blessed by every new member-- it was a weapon of immeasurable power. However looking at it now, it was obvious that it was almost completely untenable as a weapon, shattered into pieces so small they couldn't even be used as daggers.

Coming to the end of his set of scrolls he looked up at his two companions who were finishing with theirs’.

“They seem to have been quite the power, did either of you find out why they are relevant?” The white haired man asked looking at his two companions.

Instead of answering him directly, Narancia, lifted up one of his scrolls and read it aloud.

“The Joestars have set their sights to the golden haired fiend who attacked us last night. I have been told that it is a stag serpentine chimera, Jonathan had mentioned he had some sort of history with it, but would not disclose what exactly that was. Last night Jonathan managed to gravely injure it with the family blade-- however the sword was broken in the battle, we will need to reforge it. I have begged Jonathan to wait until it is finished before pursuing the demon further, however I doubt he will listen to me. His honor will not allow him to continue to let innocents die while he waits. He said he is leaving now to find the fiend. I pray he will be able to end this monster forever. -Speedwagon.”

Narancia looked up at them, confirming that was the end of the report. Before Fugo could ask any further questions, Buccellati raised another scroll reading it aloud as well.

“Jonathan has not returned, and I fear the worst. We have not yet started reforging of the Sword of Luck and Pluck, however it may be too late for that. The demon knows where we reside and it is only a matter of hours before it will strike once more. For now, it is my duty to make sure this weapon is moved before it can be destroyed completely. I will compile a few of my personal documents with the remains of the sword, give it to one of the other retainers, and tell them to flee with it. I can only hope that it manages to get in the hands of someone who can use it. As for me, I have swore myself to the Joestar family-- should the fight come to them, I will be by their side to the very end. - Speedwagon.”

Bruno finished reading the scroll before he set it down next to the blade. Looking back up at them he spoke. “I remember the day my father received this chest, It was gifted to us by a traveling slayer who had bought it off of an random street merchant. He had suspected that it may have contained something valuable, but was unable to open it. The demon must have tracked it’s location down to this abbey. This must be what he is after.”

The three of them wanted to celebrate this finding, however there was one big unspoken issue that hovered over them. The sword was still shattered and they did not have the time to reforge it before morning.

It was Narancia who came up with the solution.

“There’s no way this is gonna be useful as a sword-- all the pieces are too small. But some of them--.” he said while gesturing at the remains of the weapon. “--Well they are probably big enough to make some arrows or bolts out of… what do you think Panni?.”

Fugo looked back down at the materials, scanning through them for any such pieces. He knew if they were going to try and make weapons out of the shattered remains, he would be the one most likely assigned to do so.

Father Buccellati knew from almost the moment that Fugo joined the congregation that he was outstandingly intelligent, so it was not a surprise when he began to show a real knack for crafting more effective weaponry than the abbey had ever seen before. Even now, almost every weapon that was they wielded was of his make.

“You are right, I think there is certainly something I can do with these shards.”

With that suggestion they considered what this would mean for their strategy. Narancia and Mista were the only two in the abbey proficient with the bow and crossbow respectively. Which meant that if they could turn the blade bits into arrowheads, they would be the two to use them. Fugo knew however that would be incredibly difficult on them. Narancia was currently down an eye-- since his injured lid was swollen shut, his aim wouldn't be nearly at his best. Mista was also a bit a gamble with his permanently injured shooting arm preventing him from even holding the crossbow for more than a couple minutes at a time.

Buccellati must have thought of this too, as he looked back at Fugo and nodded.

It was going to be a struggle, but this was all they had to go off of-- and if the scrolls in the locked chest were to be believed then this was their only hope.

Standing to his feet, Bruno addressed his two subordinates. “Mista is currently outside, so I will go speak with him about this, can the two of you wait here for me?”

Narancia and Pannacotta both nodded.

The priest's eyes moved to look at the open doorway leading up to the main hall for a second before looking back at his friars. “There is something else I need to tell you. In your absence, Guido has picked up a potential ally.”

“Woah really? that's great Buccellati!” Narancia announced, large grin on his face.

Fugo on the other hand took note that his superior did not look particularly celebratory at that prospect. “...Are they another slayer?” he asked.

“No… he is a fiend.”

Fugo froze, eyes wide, scanning over his priest. What in the world was Buccellati thinking! allowing a fiend to get so close to Mista? What if this was a trap? Demons couldn't be trusted!

Eyebrows furrowing, teeth clenched, Pannacotta felt a wave of rage being to overtake him. If this fucking demon thought it could come into his home and make itself comfortable well it had another thing coming!

Standing to his feet, attracting both Narancia and Bruno’s gazes, he began to move to exit the library.

Buccellati called after him. “Pannacotta. Stop. He is not currently a threat, I have already assessed the situation. There is no need for violence.”

But Fugo did not listen, continuing his trek to the stairway.

He was going to kill that demon, make it regret ever associating with their abbey, of taking advantage of Mista like it had.

It was a smaller hand which reached out to grab his robe that made him stop.

“Panni, please.” Narancia’s voice called to him, managing to pierce through his cloud of rage. “Buccellati, said that it’s okay. I dunno how this happened either, but we need to trust him.”

Fugo wanted to pull away, to brush his partner aside and continue his self assigned mission, but the way the shorter man called to him with such vulnerability in his voice. It was almost as if he were tied up again, unable to respond or engage with him.

However, this time the binds were of his own making--

this time it was only himself standing in the way of responding to Narancia.

He stopped walking, able to forcibly enclose the fury still rampaging inside of him.

Bruno, probably speaking to Narancia, said, “I will leave it to you.” before he walked past Fugo.

Turning his gaze back to look at the white haired man he added. “I’ll introduce you soon,” before continuing his path upwards and out of the library.

Now left alone, turned away from Narancia, Fugo released a breath he did not realize he was holding.

“How the fuck does Buccellati think it’s a good idea to trust a demon!?”

Narancia shrugged finally letting go of Fugo’s arm. “I dunno, but I trust Buccellati. If he thinks this is a good idea, then is probably is. Panni, we don’t even know how this happened, don’t you think it’s too early to judge?”

Fugo huffed, turning around to meet the violet eyes of his partner. “What circumstances could possibly warrant siding with a fiend?”

“Hmm, well what if the demon is really nice?” Narancia postulated, hand on his chin, head quirked to the side.

The white haired man had to resist reaching out and very literally knocking some sense into the older man, instead his grip tightened into a fist and remained by his side.

“Well, shit for brains, how about because they are evil by nature. We have fought enough to know this as a fact. Stop being an idiot!”

Narancia pouted, arms folding in on themselves. “You don’t have to be so rude, jackass. This is serious. Abbacchio is dead, and I dunno if you noticed, but Buccellati is looking really bad, his breathing---” the shorter man trailed off, before quickly regaining his bearings and continuing his statement. “He’s probably trying to do his best to keep us all safe, and if that means siding with a demon so that we will have more of a chance, then I’ll take it. So what if this rando demon is evil? If he’s willing to help, that’s worth it, I think we both know that there is a bigger threat.”

Pannacotta looked back at his companion in awe. Since when did Narancia start making so much sense? Calming down significantly, he let his shoulders relax, closing his eyes, he focused on letting his rage leave him, letting the wind blow away his fog.

His mind wandered to the words which always helped him calm down. They were the words his grandmother always spoke to him before her death. The same ones he told Narancia when they decided to stick together, the words that Narancia still whispered to him whenever his rage spun out of his control. Silently he repeated them in his head, lips moving over each word without truly speaking.

His friend always knew when he was repeating his mantra, and like always, he joined in.

“Be here now.” the shorter man invoked . “Be with me now, let everything else go and I shall never leave you as long as you need me-- and together we can weather the storm.” he repeated.

The words never ceased to sound strange coming from Narancia. They were always too well spoken to sound at home on his lips, and yet they never ceased to lose the effect they had over Pannacotta as he relaxed into the other’s voice.

“How did you get so smart?” he responded, nearly in a whisper.

Narancia in turn smiled wide, the gap from his missing tooth made it all the more silly and lighthearted as he continued to sway back and forth in front of him playfully, like a monkey in a tree.

“Well I had a good teacher.” he responded in a sing song voice.

Pannacotta tried to resist laughing, but once unfettered chuckles emanated from his companion he found he could not resist.

Their cachinnations filled the library and in that moment all of the hardship that they both had gone through over the last few days, the losses they experienced, could not compete with the joy they brought each other.

“Panni,” Narancia began after a momentary break in the laughter, “If this other demon is a danger then we can take care of him. There’s only so much he can do with us all here. Lets just meet him first, see what he is all about before making a decision.”

Pannacotta hummed in agreement, “You’re right, I am just worried that it targeted Mista of all people. He would be the easiest of us to get close to, and the least likely to recognize a threat.”

“Are you calling him stupid?”

“I’m not saying he is stupid, just… simple.”

Narancia chuckled once more. “I’m simple too, you calling me stupid?

“I’m not calling anyone stupid!” Fugo stated exasperatedly .

“Panni~” his friend teased, wagging his finger as if he were lecturing a small child.

“Nara!” the white haired man huffed in response, if anyone were the child it was Narancia.

“Well good, it’s rude to call people stupid. And you know, sometimes being simple isn’t a bad thing, it’s better than overthinking everything.”

“I’m not overthinking!”

Instead of responding, the shorter man simply smiled.

“Come on,” he said, reaching his hand out to grab the other’s, “let’s go meet this demon.”

And so the two of them moved upstarts, only to bump back into Buccellati as he was coming down to get them.

Their priest gave them a quick update, informing them that the beacon was a success and another slayer managed to find them and offer her services. After a few more minutes discussing details the three of them moved upstairs into the main hall where they were met with three other people, one Fugo recognized, and two he did not.

Mista stood between the two new figures, looking a bit nervous, until his eyes met theirs and he smiled in a mirthful way that Fugo only wished he could.

The other two looked over him as well, one male, one female. Bruno had stated that the slayer was a she, which mean that the blonde haired man was the demon.

For the most part he looked completely human-- if it weren't for the eyes, the white haired man would have never guessed he was anything but. However the swirling colors, each more intense than the last, was not even vaguely human.

Pannacotta bit the inside of his lip so hard he began to taste blood-- eyes focusing on the demon before they narrowed. He began to move towards the fiend and was planning on advancing even further before Buccellati extended a hand to prevent his approach.

He stopped in his tracks, if Bruno did not want him getting closer then he wouldn't, but that did not mean he was going to stay silent. “So you must be the fiend that took advantage of Mista and wormed his way into our holy space.”

The golden haired demon, not hesitating in the slightest, met the gaze of the provoked hunter and answered, “Guilty as charged.”

Mista turned to the blonde next to him and gave him an incredulous look, before doing something Fugo thought he would never see in his life...

Guido Mista, trained demon hunter and friar to Buccellati’s abbey, the same Mista who had vowed with such certainty to him a couple year prior that he would not allow himself to be at the mercy of a fiend once more, took a step forward and pushed the fiend slightly behind him with unparalleled conviction.

“Giorno is not the enemy, he has already proven to be on our side, and he will stay true to his word.”

Fugo did not know how to respond, he knew from Buccellati that Mista had recruited the demon into helping, but he did not expect for his friend to be so protective over a monster. At best he imagined his fellow friar to be hesitant around the fiend, and yet here he was, taking a stand alongside the demon.

It was the pink haired huntress who responded next, taking a step forward so all eyes directed towards her.

“I don’t presume to know how things are typically done in this abbey. However, I have been told that the enemy will not go down easily, and if that is truly the case, then having Giorno assisting us will be incredibly beneficial. If Brother Mista vouches for him, then I am inclined to believe him.”

What! Even the huntress agreed? What kind of backwards world did he stumble into?

He was going to protest, to ask if they all had lost their goddamn minds, before Narancia reached out to grab his hand once more.

Immediately turning to his friend, he searched the black haired man’s face for what he was trying to convey.

His partner’s look was serious, he knew that face well. It was the one he used when trying to convey that he had noticed something important, but could not speak on it at the moment.

“Panni,” Narancia spoke softly, taking a brief second to look over the demon. “I also think that trusting him is a good idea.“

The room quieted down, as Fugo took a deep breath, closed his eyes, gripped his partner’s hand back, and slowly nodded.

Fugo had no idea why Narancia had decided to side with them, what convinced him that the demon was not a threat, but with the black haired man looking back at him with such conviction, he found he could no longer protest.

Whatever it was that his friend noticed, the white haired man trusted him.

And so instead of protesting further, Fugo closed his eyes and silently thought his mantra once more.

Narancia gripped his hand harder, an acknowledgement that he understood what was going on. The shorter man was here with him, and as he kept repeating to himself, they would weather this storm together.

It wasn't long before the six of them took a seat at the table by the front of the pews, introduced themselves formally, and begun to discuss strategy.

Father Buccellati started by explaining to everyone exactly what they had found in the library and how this was going to be the key to their success.

Fugo, making sure to every once in a while to sneak a glance at the demon, did not fail to notice the way that the blonde stiffened once the sword was mentioned. The shift was slight and only for a second, if the white haired man were not looking directly for it, it would have been easily missed. Hmm, so it seems the demon had an incredibly good poker face, he was lucky to catch him at just the right time.

Before Buccellati could continue with his explication, Fugo cleared his throat, gaining everyone’s attention.

“So,” he addressed Giorno directly and accusatory, “You seem to know more then you are letting on about this sword.”

All eyes turned to Giorno as he kept incredibly steady.

“I am surprised is all,” the demon replied nonchalantly, as if it were not a big deal, “I never considered that the Sword of Luck and Pluck was residing here of all places, no wonder Dio is going through such lengths to recover it, he would do anything to get his hands on something the Joestars want.”

The pink haired huntress hummed at the demon before asking, “I thought the Joestars were all wiped out?”

Bruno shook his head, “From my intel there has been rumors that are not all gone.”.

“Buccellati is correct,” Giorno confirmed. “The Joestar family is still going strong. It’s current head, a young woman named Jolyne Joestar, has taken over the search for this blade, which has been going for a few decades now. The sword is an incredibly powerful weapon, one of the most in the Joestar arsenal, if Dio could get his hands on it before them, it would be a huge win for him. Suffice to say that we cannot let that happen.”

Everyone else nodded and thanked Giorno for the information, but Fugo just crossed him arms in suspicion. “And how do you know so much about the Joestars?”

Something shifted in the back of the blonde’s gaze, but outside of that he did not show even a hint of a reaction, before he shrugged and said. “I am a demon, they are the best demon hunters in all of the land, its helpful to have info on the people who could come after you.”

With that the matter was put to rest-- Buccellati continuing his explanation of their plan. He mentioned that Narancia suggested they use the shattered sword remains as arrowheads, that way they could make use of the enchantment without having to re-forge the sword. Which meant that after their discussion they would need to take some time to craft those arrows.

And with that determined, Buccellati moved on to detailing something they all found very surprising.

“Our goal is to instigate them before dawn. Unfortunately we do not know where they currently are, and it will take too long to try and track them down. So we will need them to come to us, and there is really only one real way of accomplishing that… I am going to lower the barrier.” Bruno proclaimed to the shocked glances of nearly everyone in the room.

“This barrier is incredibly powerful, we should make use of it, not dispelled it.” The huntress… Trish, as she introduced herself, responded-- and Fugo could not help but agree with her.

Father Buccellati softly shook his head, gaze darting over to the demon, Giorno, before focusing back onto Trish, and then to the rest of them. “I know this is asking a lot from all of you, especially since some of you are injured, but I doubt we will not have another opportunity as ripe as this. Dio believes me to cave to his demands by the morning, and if I do not, I fear that he will take his anger out on the village once more. As unfortunate as this situation is, we can most certainly use it to our advantage.”

“How so?” Fugo asked, wondering exactly what his priest had up his sleeve.

“If he thinks me to be complying then he will let his guard down, and will underestimate our numbers. The only two people that he and his companion knows to be fighting fit are Giorno and Mista, if I lower the barrier and everyone else hides away then we will look like a much more vulnerable target then we truly are. They will persume they have the upper hand, but in truth we will. We know this abbey much better than they do, and they will be no match.”

The rest of the group nodded and spoke words of agreement, while Fugo remained quiet. This was not the first time Bruno informed him that the plan was to fight the enemy before dawn, but now that the plans were starting to solidify, something just wasn’t adding up. The priest’s words were truly convincing, but it still felt as if his explanation was incomplete.

There was something strange about Buccellati’s plan, something he was hiding from them. His clarification still did not explain away Fugo’s worries at all. Why was the demon under the impression that Buccellati was going to cave to his demands? It made sense when he and Narancia were held captive, but now the demon no longer had them. Also why were they rushing to fight him before the dawn? Surely if they waited until the sun was up, the fiend would have to hide away from the light of day. Even if the priest he was bounded to was still guarding him, they could easily outnumber the lone man.

His eyes fell onto the blonde demon, of course if they waited till dawn it was likely they would no longer have Giorno’s assistance... but that couldn't be the only reason.

Turning to Buccellati he saw his priest looking back at him, his blue eyes filled with resolution Fugo knew well, but also something else, was that… regret?

Straightening his back, he made his decision. Bruno was hiding something from him, and from the look that was just thrown his way, the priest knew that he knew. Yet despite that, Father Buccellati looked just as determined as ever, and Fugo decided that he could let it go. As angry as it made him to know that both Bruno and Narancia were keeping secrets from him now, maybe there was a reason behind it. Perhaps it was something his superior couldn’t say around present company. Keeping whatever it was from the blonde demon was probably the right move. Besides, he could always just ask him later, once this was all over, and with that he again pushed his anger down.

And so they continued to explore their plans.

Mista and Naracia, as always, were more quiet while they talked strategy. Those two had always been better at spur of the moment decisive actions during battle and less on the strategic planning. Trish commented every once in a while, mostly to ask clarification questions.

Fugo expected this battle plan to proceed as it always did, with he and Buccellati doing most of the planning, but to his surprise, the blonde fiend proved himself to be very adept at strategizing. And even stranger was the fact that every time he had a suggestion Buccellati would listen and actually consider his words.

This turn of events was not helping him contain his anger at the demon intruder, but luckily for him, Narancia held his hand almost the entire time, reminding him of his mantra.

He was fine, everything was fine. All they needed to do was get through this and things would return to normal.

A hour and a half in, they decided that while their plan was not full-proof, they only had a few more hours until dawn and they needed to begin to put their plan into action.

They started with Bruno recapping all of their respective roles for when the barrier was dispelled.

“Narancia,” Buccellati spoke, “you are our lookout, you will be positioned at the top of the abbey roof. When the enemy begins to show themselves our tactics will change depending on if they approach together, if the demon approaches alone, or if the priest approaches alone. They will most likely only have one approach at a time with the other hanging back ready to surprise us. You will need to determine which one, if any, they choose to do-- and we will move from there. This is the first and most important step.”

Narancia nodded as the priest turned his attention over to Giorno

“Giorno,” Buccellati commanded, “Once we access where the enemies are, or separate them if need be, Narancia and I will break off to finish off the priest. We need to make sure that Dio does not follow, this is where you will come in. Wherever our enemies end up I will need you to distract Dio. Engage him, insult him, lie to him-- whatever you believe will keep him talking to you, then do it.”

“Of course Father Buccellati,” the blonde responded, not missing a beat.

“Trish,” The priest spoke, gaining her attention next. “Depending on how the enemy moves, you may end in up in various places, that we cannot predict. That however does not matter, all you need to focus on is the location of the fiend. Giorno will distract him while Narancia and I go for Pucci. However, if the demon realizes this then he will attempt to retreat to protect his ally. I will need you to prevent that retreat for as long as you can, which will give Narancia and I more time to flee the scene before Dio finds his deceased partner.”

“And by ‘prevent the retreat’ you mean engage the enemy?” she asked.

The priest nodded, “If that’s what it takes. No need to worry, if everything works out, Fugo, Mista and Giorno should be there to back you up.”

After the pink haired woman agreed, Bruno continued, “As for me I will be breaking off with Narancia to track down and eliminate Enrico Pucci. This pair of enemies are only as formidable as they are because they have learned to use their tethering to their advantage in combat. If we can eliminate one of them, the other will fall much more easily. As Pucci is a human, he will likely be the most vulnerable of the two, which means he needs to be eliminated as quickly as possible. Narancia will be accompanying me in case the priest does contact his demon before we can finish him off, having one of the two archers with the blessed shards will be invaluable to letting us escape and regroup.”

“Can do Buccellati!” Narancia announced, as everyone else in the room agreed.

“Good, next up... Guido. You are the only other archer, which means you will need to be in range of Dio in order to slay him with the blessed shards. Giorno, Trish, and mostly likely Fugo will be on the ground in direct combat with him. All you need to do is stay farther back and wait until you get a clean shot of the demon, while he is distracted with the other combatants. One arrow to the heart or head will most probably do the trick. I know your shooting arm is not as good as it used to be, so take your time. In the middle of combat you may feel rushed, but that is why we have so many people backing you up.”

“You got it boss.” Mista grinned

“Finally Pannacotta. There is no way to account for the many things that can go wrong in the middle of this encounter, which is why I will ask you play support. Wherever you are most needed you go. It is incredibly important that we have someone whose role is flexible to account for missteps. However, if everything is going according to plan, you will stay with Trish and Giorno, providing an opening for Guido’s shots.”

Fugo agreed, understanding the weight of his role. Buccellati was letting him have the freedom of deciding where to go and what to do in the middle of the chaos that was going to be this fight, and he was incredibly grateful at the trust that was being placed onto him.

With the structure of their plan now determined Bruno delegated tasks that needed to be done before he lowered the barrier.

Giorno and Mista were to test the extent of their communication through their tethering, for the better they learned to use their connection the more likely they could communicate with each other mid battle.

He and Bruno were to make as many arrows and bolts as they could. This was the key to their entire strategy.

Trish, asked to be shown around the abbey so that she could get a better idea of the layout for the upcoming fight, so Narancia volunteered to give her a tour.

With that they broke off to perform their duties.

Bruno went downstairs to bring the supplies they needed into the main hall, laying them down on the floor so that they could begin to get to work. Mista and his fiend moved to the back row of pews to begin their testing, and Trish and Narancia disappeared upstairs for the tour.

And so Fugo got to work, he explained to Buccellati the size and sharpness of the pieces he needed so the priest could sort through the shattered pile. He, on the other hand, took the stripped and cured pieces of wood he had already been working on, and sanded them down so they were perfectly straight, before measuring and adhering the feathers to the end of them.

They worked in silence for almost twenty minutes before Buccellati spoke.

“Pannacotta,” he stated while continuing to pick through the remains of the sword. “This fight will test us in ways that we cannot prepare for. I just want you to know that whatever happens, if you are still alive by the end of it, you do whatever you need to move on, even if that means leaving the congregate.”

Fugo paused, hand clenched around the fifth arrow he had just completed.

“Don’t speak like that Father Buccelati, we are all going to make it through this in tact, and everything will go back to how it was before.” He gently put down the finished arrow before grabbing another one to affix a shard to. “If anything I should be the one telling you that. I know you are putting on a brave face for us, but loosing Abbacchio was devastating, and we will understand if you need time.”

“Time is a luxury none of us have, at least not right now.”

And with that the two of them returned to silence

They continued to work for another half and hour. Every once in a while, Fugo would direct his gaze to the back of the main hall where Giorno and Mista still were. The two were mostly silent, occasionally one of them would say something Fugo was too far away to hear.

It was unnerving how casual the demon was with his fellow friar, as if they were truly equals and the intruder were not using him for whatever foul plans he had. It was equally perturbing how Mista was doing the same, his pose relaxed, almost affectionate around the other-- didn't he know that the blonde was a danger? Why were they sitting so closely like that? As if the clergyman were not in the company of a literal monster!

Realizing that even just looking at the two of them being so friendly with each other was not doing much for his building anger, he concentrated back on his work and distracted himself with the other pressing issue on his mind.

How long had he been at this? At least an hour by his count. Long enough for Narancia to have finished showing Trish around, it wasn't like the abbey was all that big, a tour should have taken ten minutes at most.

And yet, he had not seen the two since they went upstairs, what in the world could they have been doing?

It was ten more minutes, before they stopped. With dawn only two hours away now, Buccellati decided that this would have to do-- in total they produced eleven arrows, six for Mista, five for Narancia.

“Can you go upstairs and tell Narancia and Trish that we are ready to begin.” the priest asked after declaring them finished.

Fugo quickly agreed, wanting to know himself what the two of them were up to.

He briefly watched Buccellati move toward Giorno and Mista, presumably to tell them the same, before the white haired man focused back on the stairs to the second floor.

He was halfway up them when he started to hear two voices, of which he recognized to be Narancia and Trish talking softly. He followed the voices until he was right outside the closed door to the room he and his partner shared.

Not bothering to knock he just opened up the door to two figures sitting cross legged, facing each other, on the floor.

As soon as he entered they immediately stopped talking and looked over at him. He noticed that while Trish looked a bit concerned at his sudden interruption, Narancia just grinned as he normally did.

He was about to speak up, ask them what they had been doing up here this whole time, but before he could the huntress interrupted him, standing to her feet and saying,

“Is Buccellati ready?”

Reminded of the original reason he came up here, Fugo nodded, and without further interruption the pink haired woman thanked him and sidestepped to leave the room.

It was then just him and Narancia, alone in the room.

“Hey Panni, before we go down, can I ask you something?” The shorter man looked up at him, patting a spot on the floor beside him, indicating for his companion to sit.

Fugo rolled his eyes before taking a seat, there were two perfectly acceptable beds in the room, but it was so like his dark haired friend to choose to rest on the floor instead.

“What is it?”

“If I were to ask you to trust me on something but didn't give you a full explanation… would you do it?”

The white haired man looked at his hunting partner curiously, what brought this on? Was it something that the huntress told him while they were talking? The white haired man grit his teeth. How was Naranica expecting for trust about another hidden secret when he still hadn’t explained the first— why he thought it best to trust the blonde fiend.

Feeling himself start to get overwhelmed once more, he clenched his hands and focused on keeping it cool. He just needed to listen… he could do that… focus on not losing it, that wouldn’t help anything.

“Well that depends... I’d like to say that I would try, but I can’t promise how I’ll react, don't really have much to go on here.”

Narancia hummed at that statement, considering his next words carefully before he finally said. “Some crazy stuff might end up happening during this fight, and I just want to you know that Trish is trustworthy.”

Fugo stared back even more confused than before. He expected the statement to be something controversial, something he would theoretically need convincing for. Instead he was confronted with something he already agreed with.

“Of course she is trustworthy, she is a slayer, like us. I don’t doubt that she will be a valuable resource in the fight. She isn’t the one that I am worried about.”

He expected this would put the matter to rest, that Narancia would be satisfied knowing that they were on the same page, but instead his partner looked just as nervous as before, biting his own lip slightly.

“I mean, it’s good you think that… but I really just want you to know that she is a nice lady. We were talking for a bit and she shared something that was surprising, but even after that I still believe in her. It’s not my secret to tell, but just so you know in case she decides to tell you too, she is committed to helping us, so you can count on her.” Narancia finished, lavender gaze never leaving him once.

This... was an interesting turn of events, he had no clue what the pink haired huntress could have told him to make him react this way, but by the look in his eyes, the shorter man meant his words with all his heart.

“What did she tell you?”

“I told you Panni I can’t say, it’s not my--”

“Cut the bullshit Nara!” Fugo glowered, relinquishing the all of the control he was previously trying to maintain in an instant, his anger rolling back over him like fog over a mountain. “Obviously this is important, or you wouldn’t have brought it up. You can’t just keep me in the dark about everything!”

Narancia continued to chew on his lip. “All you need to know is that I vouch for her.”

“The same way you vouched for Mista’s demon!?” He asked incredulously hoping to convey just how much secrecy he was already putting up with.

“No… this is different I--”

“No one is telling me anything! You won’t tell me why the literal goddamn demon has your approval. Buccellati isn’t telling us any of the details of what happened. And now you want me to just take your word for it again? For a random woman you just met!? Do you even know anything about her!? Simple my ass, you are just stupid! Maybe If you were at all competent your own--” he stopped mid sentence realizing what he just said to his friend in the cloud of his rage.

Narancia’s face hardened, brows furrowed, and Fugo knew in that moment that he had really fucked up.

“Wow, that was mean even for you... Fine asshole, if you want to play that way, I get it, I guess I’m just too stupid to understand what is going on. No need to listen to me.”

And without another word Narancia stood to his feet and began to walk out of the room.

“And you wonder why no one trusts you with secrets.”

The white haired man mentally cursed himself as he got up and followed after his friend.

“Wait, Nara! I’m sorry I didn’t mean it.” But try as he might, he knew that once Narancia got mad, there was little one could do to soothe him.

He followed Narancia down the stairs continuing to apologize, admitting that the black haired man was right and he was being an asshole, that he was willing to hear the other out if he just stopped to talk to him.

But Narancia just kept going, ignoring him the whole way down until they came onto the entrance of the large hall of worship.

Bruno seeing the two of them enter, waived them over, and Fugo knew that he had lost this argument. There was not way he could continue this discussion in front of everyone.

“You two ready to begin?” The priest asked as they approached.

His partner nodded, “Yeah, I’m ready Father Buccellati.”

Fugo wanted to say no, he wasn't ready, that he still needed to talk to Narancia about something-- but with everyone else now, except his partner, looking at him expectantly, he just nodded.

“Fantastic,” Buccellati stated before turning to address the group as a whole. “Alright everyone, we are gathered here today to do one thing. To rid the world of one of the most infamous demons of our time. I make no promises that this will be easy, and should some of us fall, I urge everyone to keep to the goal, no matter who it is. Make no mistake, our chance of success is slim, we’ve had little time to prepare, and even less time to come together as one cohesive unit. But that does not mean there is no chance-- and despite the odds, I truly belive that we will succeed in our endeavors. Trust in each other and we will emerge victorious.”

Everyone else nodded, focusing their attention on Buccellati, however Fugo’s gaze was elsewhere.

After the prest finished his speech, everyone broke off and made their way to their respective positions and Fugo so desperately wanted to follow the shorter man to the roof of the abbey and continue to beg for his forgiveness.

But now there were more important matters. Screwing his eyes shut, he whispered his mantra one last time, pretending it was Narancia who was saying it to him, before he turned to walk to his station.

Chapter Text

Narancia: Locate where the enemy approaches from

Narancia was always lookout, for not only did he have the keenest eyes within his congregate, but he also had an uncanny ability to detect the breath of those around him, a talent he never truly understood until he joined the abbey and encountered Abbacchio, the only other human he had met which had a similarly strange detection ability. However unlike Abbacchio, it did not come in handy when detecting demons, as they did not need to breathe.

But currently, knowing one of the enemies was in fact human, meant that he would at least be able to locate at least one of them.

Glancing down at Buccellati on the ground floor, he fiddled with his thumbs. He didn't mention to the others that their head priest was no longer breathing. He knew that revelation would cause too much confusion among the group. And while the fact that his superior was not respirating shocked him as well, he was no snitch. He trusted Buccellati, and if the priest did not think it important to bring up to them in the moment then he could respect that. He would just close his eyes and pretend he witnessed nothing.

Eyes trailing even lower to the closed double doors of the abbey, where Giorno was positioned. He knew that most everyone else had not noticed that peculiar situation either.

When he stepped out of the library and first saw the ‘supposed’ demon, the first thing he noticed was that he was breathing. He was breathing as if he were human, which was something the black haired hunter had never come across in all of his years hunting. Whatever Giorno was, he wasn’t a demon, at least, not like all of the ones he hunted. Perhaps Mista knew this as well, maybe that was why he trusted the ‘demon’ to fight by their side, why he looked at him with such care in his eyes.

Narancia also did not bring this up, it was a comment for another time. They needed to spend their energy focusing on the matter at hand, not squabbling about technicalities, and he doubted that bombshell would be received particularly well.

There was also Trish.

Panni had gotten mad that he had not told him that she was part demon, but considering his reaction to Giorno, the black haired man knew that telling him would put her in danger.

He earnestly liked Trish. She was kind to him, letting him discuss his many conflicting emotions about the last week while being incredibly understanding the entire conversation. Of course he wanted to protect her, part demon or no, he knew a good person when he met one, and Trish did not have a bad bone in her body.

And although it was hard to admit, he knew that it was partially because she reminded him of himself, back before he met Panni, when the loyalty he gifted to others was not returned to him. Although she never explicitly told him, based on the few words given to him about her past experiences, he pieced two and two together--

The reason she was a traveling slayer, instead of a member of a congregate was because her ancestry made her a target to people supposedly on her side.

She had been betrayed before, had people she trusted turn on her, and the black haired man could wholeheartedly relate. He wanted nothing more than to give her the space she needed to flourish, to learn to trust again, give her the same opportunity that was given to him..

But first they would need to finish the mission in front of them, if he wanted to create a world where Trish was safe and in a place where she could be confident being herself, he would have to create it. And the first step was enact their plan-- so here he was, in position.

Everyone else was in theirs. Buccellati standing just outside the twin doors to the abbey, Panni and Trish hidden on either side of the building, Giorno right behind the double doors, Mista on the roof beside him, everyone except the priest, just out of sight..

They all felt it simultaneously. The security and safety that their home provided was assaulted by the winds outside, and unlike every time before, instead of fighting it off, the barrier caved to it.

Looking down at his head priest, Narancia could see his eyes closed, body shaking slightly as he released the protective energy surrounding them.

And with the dissipation came a silence-- unnatural, not even the forest animals dared to make a sound. A completely typical response, that is, if there is a large predator afoot.

Narancia’s eye narrowed as he scanned the forest around them for any signs of movement. Bruno had told them to immediately be on guard as the enemies were probably watching from not that far away, waiting for a moment to strike.

Now they just had to play the waiting game.

A few minutes passed in silence as both Narancia and Mista stared out into the thick forest of trees.

He did not know how long it would take for the enemy to be on their doorstep, so to pass the time Narancia spoke up.

“Hey Mista?”

“Yeah?”

“What do you think about Trish?”

Mista did not take his eyes off of the line of trees, shrugging he answered. “She’s alright I guess, why do you ask?.”

“Well, I was wondering something and I thought that maybe you would back me up on it… but once this is all over I want to ask her to stay here in the abbey with us.”

“What?!” Obsidian eyes finally tore from their scanning of the forest to look at a Narancia.

The shorter man nodded before continuing. “She told me some things… and… well, I wanna help her. I mean you have that too, with Giorno right? Maybe we can ask him to stay as well.”

Mista opened his mouth as if he were going to protest, but before he could, something caught Narancia’s attention, so he motioned for silence.

There was a light rustling in the distance, it was only for a second, but Narancia trusted his gaze to not lead him astray. He sensed no breath from it, so that meant that it must have been the fiend.

Closing his eyes, he concentrated on the breaths around them. The four inhales and exhales coming from the others in the abbey. The various small panicked breaths of the forest animals as they sprinted at full speed away from the building, and the one breath approaching them before it suddenly stopped and continued to stay still.

Opening up his eye, he spotted that rustling still approaching, despite the fact that whoever was breathing in the forest was standing in place.

Turning to Mista, he whispered to him what he had noticed.

Mista in turn appeared to concentrate, Narancia knew him to be conveying some sort of signal to Giorno through their connection.

They had initially expected the human priest to show himself first, with the fiend hiding in the shadows, just as Buccellati told them the pair had done during their last encounter. However it now appeared that the enemies were doing the exact opposite.

Father Buccellati had planned on confronting the other priest, but now that the fiend was approaching, they had to convey that Bruno and Giorno needed to switch positions.

After the signal was sent, the two of them glanced downwards to see Giorno step out of the abbey and whisper something to Buccellati.

The switch happened swiftly and now Giorno held the position in the front, as Bruno presumably made his way out the back door.

Narancia turned to Mista, gave him a knowing nod, as they both crawled to the back of the roof, where a latter was waiting for them,

Descending, Narancia saw the back door below them open up to an exiting Buccellati.

This was their plan B if the demon decided to approach alone, without his human.

As they discussed, the most important thing was for them to take out Enrico Pucci. As a human, he was the weaker link between the two enemies, and they needed to concentrate on severing that link so that the two couldn’t communicate.

If they could kill Pucci then perhaps they would all stand a better chance against Dio.

Narancia and Bruno departed, as Mista stayed behind and entered the abbey through the door Bruno had just departed from.

SIlently the two moved into the forest around the clearing as to not be noticed by the approaching figure. Narancia continued to concentrate, knowing he could locate Enrico Pucci no matter how tactfully the priest hid.

If the two of them could get a jump on him, then it would be all over.

He only hoped that Giorno would be able to distract the demon long enough for that to happen.

 

Giorno: Distract Dio

Giorno took a deep breath, he had already switched with Buccellati after Mista gave him the signal that only Dio was approaching.

Now with Narancia and Bruno on the move, he just needed to focus on one thing, distracting his father.

It had been some time since he last spoke to the unspeakable evil which had spawned him. And while he was absolutely sure the demon recognized him when he and Mista attacked last night, they did not have the chance to speak as he was too busy trying to drive his claws deep inside his father's stomach and revel in his screams.

Eyes focused forwards, he knew he could do this. His father loved to talk, to go on and on about himself and his magnificence, all Giorno needed to do was to play into that.

One second he caught a glimpse of hair as golden was his, and the next a very familiar figure broke away from the line of trees and moved into the clearing.

Being the only one amongst them visible, Giorno took a step forward, and spoke in a voice he knew to be too silent for any of the humans to hear him.

“Father,”

“Haruno,” the larger demon purred, hands on his hips, annoyance clear in his voice, “Or considering you bound yourself to that filthy human marksman, I am sure he named you something unbefitting.”

Giorno resisted grimacing. It was truly unfortunate that his father had already noticed that he was bound to Mista. But that was something to worry about later, for now he needed to focus on the mission… distraction… he could do this.

“Giorno.” he answered, allowing some indignancy into his tone, a clear dismissal of his father’s annoyance, “He named me Giorno.”

The laughter that followed was to be expected, it was so like his father to cackle at everything he held dear.

“He named you after the day? Well then I must rescind my previous statement, for a creature so pathetic he picked quite the name. Has he even seen you during the day?” the monster teased, simile wide with sharp teeth..

“Of course he hasn’t.” the younger demon responded curtly. “I am no fool.”

His father laughed once more, “keeping secrets from your human? That is not conducive to a long lasting bond.”

“It does not need to be long lasting, only long enough to be rid of you.”

“Hmm? Is that so?” His father tsked at him. “How unfortunate, you siding with these silly humans in their endeavor to stop me. You should know by now they will fail, like all the others before them, you should save yourself the disappointment and assist me. If you do, I promise I’ll leave your special human alone.”

Giorno raised an eyebrow exaggeratedly, “You actually expect me to agree to that?”

Dio matched his displeased expression, obviously not believing his own statement either, “Certainly not, you were always my most stubborn child. But now Enrico cannot lecture me for lack of trying. If this is how we are going to play then I’ll slaughter all of your silly little human pets and make you watch, perhaps that will finally knock some sense into you.”

And with that, the demon began to stroll forwards towards him, without a sign that he was going to stop.

Giorno held his ground, last time they fought, he caught his father off guard and therefore had the advantage. However, he knew from experience that he wouldn’t be able to successfully do battle with him one on one in a straight fight.

Luckily for him, he didn’t have to.

A soothing presence suddenly filled his mind-- his and Mista’s decided upon signal that the friar was in place and that now was the time to get Dio to open the door.

Sending back a swift and finely crafted message of gratitude, Giorno quickly closed their connection, not wanting Mista to feel the pain he was surely about to experience.

Standing in front of the entryway, he glared at the taller demon with silent malice. Dio refused to be told what to do by anyone, something Giorno planned to use to his advantage.

“You are not to enter.” he started, tilting his head up to meet the towering demon’s gaze.

“Haruno,” Dio cooed, speaking to Giorno as if he were still a moody teenager, “I know you are at that age where all you want to do is rebel, but you really need to think this through. The only thing stopping the remnants of the Joestar filth from finding you is me. And once I am sure the last of their weaponry is destroyed they will be no match for me. I will kill them. Slaughter them all, and create a new world, one with no Joestars, where you won’t have to continue to live in this detestable town in fear of them... Besides... you cannot stop me, we both know this. Now move aside before I have to hurt you again.”

Instead of moving Giorno continued to glare back.

He had already accepted that he would have to spend the rest of his life hiding away from the Joestars, and he was alright with that if it meant that the world would be rid of this horrific monster, Opening his mouth to protest, he sa--

A large alabaster red hand interrupted him mid-thought, it darted out to grab him by the throat.

Unable to dodge at such a short range, he felt his father lift him up by his neck and shove his head backwards against the heavy door with such force that if he were human, it would have surely knocked him out.

Dio let out a low chuckle as his pointed nails bit into his son’s neck, completely unfazed by Giorno’s struggle.

“It ends this way every time, why do you keep trying? Your endeavors are nothing short of useless.”

The smaller demon coughed, red liquid forcing its way from his mouth. Gritting his sharp teeth he seethed at his father, his voice hoarse as he struggled to speak through the tightened grip. “Must be frustrating, knowing the great and terrifying Dio, for all his power, cannot maintain control of his sons.”

Giorno knew that was a sore spot for his father, especially considering the recent loss of Ungalo and Versace to the now head of the remaining Joestars, Joylne Joestar and her congregate. His two brothers, while firmly aligned with Pucci and his father, had not listened to them, rushing into Joestar territory without backup.

It was playing dirty sure, especially considering how much Dio was grooming them to be his legacy, but Giorno was not above getting his hands dirty..

The shift in his father’s eyes was as sudden as it was terrifying-- wildfire growing into an inferno.

“YOU INSOLENT WHELP!” He raged, as his fingers dug deeper into the skin. “You think you can speak to me that way and live!? I do not need you, I still have one son left, and should he betray me the way you constantly do, well, I can always make more.”

The younger blonde cried out as his father flung him by his neck directly into the double doors, finally breaking them down.

Almost as soon as his head hit the floor of the abbey, he spotted an arrow flying just over him, directly into his father.

Not at all expecting an immediate attack, Dio attempted to dodge, shifting slightly so instead of piercing his chest, the arrow landed firmly in his side.

The scream that followed was unlike any that Giorno had ever heard from his father before-- truly and utterly pained

Quickly jumping to his feet, he glanced behind him to find Mista, looking at him with… was that concern in his eyes?

No, now was not the time to dawdle. He knew that Mista was not worried for him, he hated him, the friar had made that perfectly clear by his repulsion whenever the blonde did anything a little too fiendish. The marksman was probably just worried for the plan if Giorno was unable to fight. Wishing that he may actually reciprocate his feelings was not just a long shot, it was useless, useless, useless.

Mista’s gaze did not last long, as he quickly turned his attention back to his crossbow and moved to reload it.

Giorno followed his lead, looking back to his father, who was clutching his side as the arrow burned deeply into him, charring all of the surrounding skin as if he were set ablaze. The younger blonde hummed, well it seemed that at least the shattered sword pieces were functional as weapons.

Black clawed fingers finally reached down to grab the arrow by it’s wooden handle, yanking it out, just as Giorno returned to his feet and Mista finished reloaded his crossbow.

The three of them stood silently for a moment before Dio made the first move, charging the two of them with unrestrained force.

 

Trish: Block any retreat

Trish saw as Giorno was held up against the doors. She watched, making sure to stay silent as the two blondes exchanged words so quietly not even she could hear them over the wind. That did not last long before the demon yelled at the top of his lungs and threw Giorno through the entrance.

Good, good, everything was going according to plan. Perhaps she wouldn't even be needed.

Of course... that thought was too good to be true, as the arrow she expected to fly out from the broken door did not strike the demon fatally, but instead implanted itself into his side.

The demon howled in pain before gripping the arrow and pulling it out of his burning flesh. Distracted by the threat in front of him, he charged into the building, presumably towards Giorno and Mista.

After the fiend disappeared into the building, Trish looked across the way to Fugo, and signaled him to follow her.

Coming out from behind the wall, she softly and quietly maneuvered to the front of the building where the demon had just been. Pannacotta following her lead was right beside her as they stealthy entered the building.

The rubble that remained clouded the air around them, obscuring their vision to the battle that was surely happening in front of them, if the various sounds were to be believed.

They laid low to the ground, careful not to announce their presence, walking a few meters into the entrance, Fugo looked over to one of the pews which had not been destroyed in the initial ruckus, he signaled to it and she nodded. Swiftly they moved to crouch behind the stall, with Trish peering out from the top and Fugo peeking out from the side.

A crash

A yell

A loud thump

The sounds of fighting continued in front of them, causing the pink haired huntress to become more and more anxious. Looking down, she could see that the white haired hunter was starting to become just as antsy. Neither wanted to let Giorno and Mista fight Dio alone, but to run in blinded would be a detriment to all of them, they just needed to wait for an opening.

That plan was thrown out the window when they witnessed a familiar friar being flung out of the center clouded area and collided with the far wall of the building.

Fugo gasped next to her, meeting her gaze, she was able to see the panic in his eyes. She nodded to him, knowing he wanted to join the fight.

The two broke off, both understanding they needed to do something. They circled around the opposite sides of the pew, planning to ambush the target from different angles.

They could barely see each other anymore, so obscured by the still settling rubble in the air. However from her position Trish could still make out Fugo lifting his hand, five fingers up-- counting down until when they would jump from their cover and strike.

Four fingers

Three fingers

Two finge--

“Well now ‘Giorno,’ looks like you are more foolish than I thought, thinking these mear humans could sneak up on me.” They heard the booming voice of their target mock.

Trish and Fugo barely had an opportunity to react before the pew between them shattered, splinters of wood flying in all directions-- and the demon they were sure wasn't expecting them came into view.

Momentarily stunned, Trish was unable to act before a large crimson clawed hand swiped at her.

Nails raked across her torso, before the sheer force of it sent her flying back.

Alarm swept across her face, curling up and bracing herself for impact before colliding with the floor.

With a loud thud she went plummeting to the cold of the stone beneath her.

Pain flashed behind her eyes as she successfully fought to remain conscious. Gaze quickly traveling upwards, she surveyed the damage.

Debris settling, she was able to finally view the battle unencumbered.

Mista was slumped against the wall opposite to her, hand on his head, he looked to be trying to return to his feet. However, aside from the throw, he appeared unharmed

Giorno was by his side, helping him up. His skin was red once more, fangs, claws, and antlers already out-- and now that Trish has gotten a good look at Dio, she could most definitely see how the two were related. The younger demon was clutching his side, which was bleeding profusely, one of his legs looked mangled beyond compare. Something she wasn’t too worried about, as she knew it would heal in no time.

And then there was Fugo, in the center of the abbey, right in front of their target... without backup.

Internally she panicked, Giorno had his hands full with Mista, and she was too far away to reach Pannacotta before the demon could strike.

She could survive a direct strike from those claws due to her demonic blood, but she doubted that the very human Fugo would if he were struck at that distance.

The demon must have realized this as well as he towered over the white haired man with an insidious smile on his face.

Shit… she needed to think fast or they would already be down a fighter.

Instinctively she reached down to her bodice and grabbed her axe. It was her strongest weapon and probably the only thing that would make a dent in the demon, however it was also extremely heavy.

Lifting it up, she aimed it at the demon, who just tsked at her not even bothering to maintain her gaze, obviously dismissing her as not a threat.

And she knew why, no human had the strength to throw the heavy weaponry across the worship hall with the precision necessary to hit the demon.

But luckily for her, she was no human.

Gripping the hilt, she knew what she needed to do-- she needed to call upon all her strength to make this shot, but of course that came with its own problems.

Should she decide to do that, she would certainly reveal herself as inhuman to Fugo, something she was not all that keen on doing.

He was the most aggressive out of the friars towards Giorno-- it was likely that his reaction would not be ideal.

Him having a crisis in the middle of combat would surely get someone killed.

Pushing away the thoughts of another ally turning on her, the same way that almost every other hunter did when they learned of her ancestry, she made her decision.

Feeling the ravenous and deadly energy pour through her, she could feel familiar pink feathers begin to line her exposed arms, fingers shedding their human exterior to reveal long grey talons, like one would find on a hawk.

Focusing her strength, she threw the axe.

Dio, presuming she could not hit him, had not bothered to pay attention to her, instead focusing on the friar in front of him.

He had grinned and lifted his claws to pierce the man, before an axe, flung from the opposite side of the room, interrupted his strike-- cutting directly into his descending arm with enough force to tear the appendage off of his body.

Unfortunately, the axe was no blessed sword shrapnel, so the demon hardly flinched at his loss of limb. But as ichor spilled to the ground and confusion filled on the demon's face, Pannacotta had just enough time to retreat.

And suddenly all eyes were on her, as she stood to her full height, feathers on display for all to see, wounds on her chest quickly stitching themselves back together... Well… there was no denying she was of demon ancestry now.

Eyes meeting Fugo’s she could see conflict dance in his eyes, before her attention was swiftly redirected to their target when he began to laugh.

His laughter bellowed through the congressional hall, uncaring that he had just lost an arm. Trish supposed that it shouldn't concern him, all the demon needed to do was grab his severed arm and he would be able to easily reattach it.

“Why ‘Giorno’ you never told me you found yourself another mixed blooded freak.”

Trish grabbed one of her knives, lifting it to throw once more, oh how she was going to shut this monster up-- she was done being referred to as a freak!

“Oh little lady,” the demon cooed. “You think just because you have fiendish blood you will be able to stop me? I think soon you’ll find that your endeavors are nothing short of useless, Useless, USELESS!” the demon screamed before, with his remaining hand, he punched the ground with such speed and strength that debris once again filled the room, obscuring the air around him so she no longer had a target.

She mentally cursed herself, reassessing her priorities now that she was unable to see the enemy.

The air quickly filled up to the point that she could no longer see any of her allies either. Gritting her teeth, she knew that she needed to get back into the battle as quickly as possible or the demon would start picking them off one by one.

Cautiously she began to take a couple steps forward into the cloud of dust, moving in the direction she last saw Pannacotta, hoping that he had made it out alright..

Almost as soon as she did, she began to notice a shadow of a figure approaching her, followed by her own axe being tossed back at her.

However, instead of a dangerous throw meant to injure, it was a light toss, of which she caught easily.

From the cloud emerged not the target, but Pannacotta Fugo, who must have had the same idea to move in the direction he last saw her before the smokescreen when back up. He only took one moment to look her up and down in her transformed state before moving to her side, pressing his back to her’s so that they could not be snuck up on as they traversed through the cloud.

To say she was shocked at his reaction was an understatement.

“The demon caused this distraction so that he could reattach his arm, which means we only have about a minute to find the other two before he strikes again.” Pannacotta announced as they pressed forward, pausing for a second before adding, “...Thank you for the assistance.”

Trish could not believe her ears as Fugo didn’t turn on her, she opened her mouth and only one word was able to escape her lips. “Why?”

The white haired man only turned to look at her briefly, while his eyes were still clearly conflicted, they held a resolution she did not expect. “Narancia told me to trust you, no matter what I saw. When he asked me to trust himt I was a dick and didn’t listen, so I suppose I owe it to him to believe in you now.”

And despite the dangerous place they were in, despite the fact that Trish knew they could be attacked and killed at any moment, she allowed herself to smile.

Narancia was a kind soul, even from the single hour that she had spent with him, she understood clearly just how he was able to touch the white haired friar so deeply.

Clutching her axe between her talons she nodded as the two of them proceeded into the thick debris filled air.

 

Bruno: Dispose of Pucci

Bruno, with Narancia by his side, did not have any trouble locating the priest. They swiftly moved through the woods, the younger of the two utilizing his ability to lead the way.

The archer pushed forwards at a speed much quicker than Bruno could keep up with, finding himself lagging behind Narancia significantly. The priest had to ask the shorter man to slow down so he could keep up a couple times during their approach.

Everytime, Narancia looked back at him with unspoken worry in his eyes, but never asked why he was having trouble. To which Bruno was incredibly grateful as this was not the time to explain why his body could not keep up.

So they continued in silence.

When they were about a hundred meters from their target, Bruno raised his hand for Narancia to stop.

He looked at his subordinate, gestured for him to follow, and began so softly approach. They needed the element of surprise when confronting their target as they did not want him calling for backup the moment they saw him. While Buccellati was sure they could take the priest alone, he knew that if Dio made an appearance there would be no way they could beat the two together. He wanted to avoid another encounter like the initial one he had with the demon.

Slowly and silently as they could, the two of them approached their target.

After a few minutes, they reached a clearing. Deciding to stop just before they came out into the open, Bruno turned to his subordinate and pointadly looked at him.

Narancia nodded back and carefully pointed his finger upwards at a tree across the clearing.

Squinting his eyes, Bruno was able to see a figure decently well hidden among the leaves, perched on an upper branch of a tree.

Enrico Pucci was sitting cross legged amongst the foliage, his eyes were closed and he looked to be concentrating on something.

Buccellati turned to Narancia and motioned towards the bow on his back. The younger wasted no time pulling out an arrow, loading his bow and waiting for his superior signal to pull back the bowstring and fire. Bruno on the other hand gestured for him to stay put while he motioned that he was going to circle around the enemy.

Leaving Narancia in the bushes, the leader of the abbey silently moved behind the line of trees so that he would end up right under the tree the dark skinned man was currently in.

He knew that it would be foolish to underestimate the enemy, for if the arrow did not hit its mark, Pucci would be able to jump down and flee before either of them could get to him. It would be best if he stationed himself under the tree in case that happened.

Once he was within position he looked back up to see that the other priest had not moved. Good, it appeared that he had not noticed their presence. Looking back to Narancia he gestured him to take aim.

The younger man nodded and pulled the string back, aiming directly at the priest before firing.

They both observed as the arrow flew towards the man.

It soared through the air at a tremendous speed-- however instead of finding its way deep into his skull, The man, almost as if he had been expecting it, pulled out a sword striking the arrow at the last minute, cutting it in two.

Bruno watched as Narancia widened his eyes in surprise and Pucci stood to his feet. Balancing on the branch he quickly tossed one of his throwing knives in the general direction the arrow was shot from.

The leader of the abbey did not even have time to follow its trajectory, but he could already tell it was going to miss the archer. As always, it seemed as if Narancia was perfectly hidden in his cover and Enrico was not able to pinpoint exactly where he was.

Focusing back on the enemy, he saw Pucci jump down from the tree, right into his field of view, the weight of his leap cracking the branch he was previously standing on.

Perfect, Bruno thought as he swung his blade directly at the priest.

However the blade did not meet flesh, as the enemy turned around quickly to block the incoming strike with his own blade.

Blades crossed, Bruno met the other’s gaze for the first time since their last encounter.

“You knew I was here?” he asked.

The lighter haired man shook his head indicating no, before defecting Buccellati’s blade and jumping back a few paces, “No, but one can never be too careful.”

Bringing his blade up defensively, Bruno mentally cursed his luck, now that Pucci had seen them he would surely inform his demon, and soon there would be a bigger problem on their hands. Shaking away that thought he focused on the enemy right in front of him, it would be unwise to panic.

“You are quite the tactician.” He complimented, hoping to occupy the other’s attention.

“As are you,” The other priest responded in kind. “You keep me talking--” he started before abruptly ducking and rolling to the side, narrowly avoiding another arrow which had been fired from behind him, “--So that your ally can continue to fire arrows while I am distracted.” he finished.

Bruno tried not to let the disappointment that his fellow priest saw through his plan from appearing on his face. Realizing that after the roll the enemy managed to move almost to the other side to him, he turned, gripped his sword, and pushed forward, swinging at the enemy. Pucci was no longer faced away from Narancia, so he would need to distract the other priest while his ally got into a better position to take another shot.

The man brought up his blade to defend, matching each of his strikes with ease.

“I'm sure you are wondering how I am managing to dodge all of your blows,” the priest asked plainly just as he ducked under a swing, “The answer is not that I am fast, it is that you are slow, slower than you normally are, I’m sure you have noticed.”

Of course he had noticed, how his body lagged behind his mind how he needed to ask Narancia to slow down so he could keep up-- however he hadn't thought much of it. However now that Bruno had noted that all of his swing had slight delays between when he thought they would strike and when they actually did.

The realization on his face must have been palpable as Enrico continued to explain. “You already lowered the barrier Father Buccellati, which means we no longer have a use for you. The only thing keeping your body moving is us, and now that we no longer desire for you to move, you will soon start to fade.”

Bruno rushed forward to strike once more, blades crossed, the head of the abbey grimaced. “Is that supposed to frighten me? You think I fear death, then you are mistaken. Should I die here tonight I swear I will take you with me. My friars come first, and if I need to die to insure their safety, I will gladly do so.”

Another swing,

Another miss,

The other priest danced around him, avoiding all of the strikes of his sword with ease.

“You are certainly a dauntless man, Father Buccellati, I will give you that. However it takes more than bravery to win a fight.” Enrico said before narrowly ducking under a horizontal arc, “You care for your men, that is admirable. There is not a doubt in my mind they feel the same way about you… something I can surely use to my advantage.”

And with that the enemy finally struck back. Using the hilt of his blade, he bashed the side of Buccellati’s knee, causing the other to temporarily lose balance.

Unable to regain his center of gravity, Bruno fell tumbling to the floor, his vision started to blur as his body spasmed out of his control.

“With your current state you are no danger, by my estimate you only have a few more minutes before your body shuts down completely. Which means the biggest threat to me is not you, but your archer, who is surely on the move looking for cover. Considering he has not fired another arrow, he has not found it yet. But if you look to be in danger.” Pucci paused, lifting his sword to look as if he were about to pierce Bruno between his eyes. “He will surely attack despite not being in an ideal position… which should be right…. now.”

And true to his assessment, Buccellati was able to spot a glimpse of Narancia, now behind Pucci, panicking at the sight of him being tripped by the enemy, immediately stopping mid run to cover to pull back his bow string and aim at Pucci.

With his delayed reaction time he did not have the opportunity to tell Narancia to stop. So instead he just watched in horror as Pucci smiled above him, grabbed his collapsed body, and quickly shifted the two of their positions right as Narancia fired his arrow.

The arrow flew as the other priest moved him to be within its trajectory.

Instead of meeting its intended target the arrow lodged itself deep within Bruno’s chest.

“Perfect.” Pucci stated from behind Bruno, “Looks like your little archer has revealed himself. Unfortunate for him, he cannot hit me without puncturing you.”

“Buccellati!.” Narancia cried, as he realized that his shot hit the wrong target.

Bruno, stunned by the course of events looked down at the wound in his chest, no blood coming from it except for a couple drops of dark ichor... He didn’t feel it.

Turning his attention back to the fight he witnessed Narancia quickly reloading his bow, pulling back the bowstring to aim another shot. However Pucci was faster on the uptake, still using Bruno’s body as cover he reached for another one of his throwing knives to toss it at the archer.

Many things happened in the next second.

Pucci’s knife went flying, Narancia’s eyes widened as he realized that the knife we headed straight for his chest. Bruno watched helplessly as Narancia in the millisecond to react decided on his course of action. Instead of dropping his form to dodge the knife, he stood his ground, only shifting slightly to the right to the blade would not strike him in the center of his chest.

Instead the blade, sank into his flesh a couple inches to the right of his breast. The younger man flinched, teeth biting into his lip to maintain his concentration as he let his loaded arrow fly.

It soared upwards, its arc, much too high to even get close to it’s target, missing the top of Pucci’s head by several meters.

And Pucci smiled once more, letting go of Bruno’s body, allowing him to sink to the floor. At the same time Narancia dropped his bow and fell to his knees, the deep wound in the younger man’s side quickly dwindling his strength to stay upright.

The other priest turned back towards Bruno looking down upon him, victory flashing in his gaze.

“You have fought well Buccellati, But I have emerged the victor . Surely you feared I would have called my ally for backup, but I knew I could take you alone. No need to interrupt his fight, in fact I reassured him I'd be back at his side within ten minutes. Not that I particularly need to, as your congragate will surely fail in their endeavors to kill him before I arrive. Rejoice that you are at my mercy and not his. I will admit the two of you were impressive fighters, I hadn't imagined your archer would even have the speed to fire off a second arrow before he collapsed. I assumed he would have been too worried that he hurt you, I supposed he must have known of your condition.”

That made Bruno pause, Narancia knew?

Pucci was right, the younger wouldn’t have kept firing if he were under the impression that he shot his superior fatally... Which mean that Narancia must have realized that he was no longer living and hadn't said anything. Buccellati’s chest swelled as he realized just how much faith his friar had put into him.

“However even if he knew, there was no way he could have shot me without going through you first, I suppose I should thank you for that.” the other priest stated, observing the way that Bruno squirmed beneath him. “Either way, it matters not now. You both fought with honor and mutual respect for each other, so I will end you both quickly.”

Bruno looked up at the priest above him, seeing the leaves high up in the trees framing around his face, and the last arrow that Narancia fired, lodged into the large branch that Pucci had previously been sitting on, the one that had been already damaged by the dark skinned man’s initial jump down.

Realizing what that meant, he moved his gaze back to Pucci, doing well to hide his rejoice at Narancia’s last shot.

Focused on the enemy, he forced his quickly fading body to speak, “You say my congragate will fail against your demon… but I disagree. They will not fail-- they will emerge triumphant… just as we have.”

Confusion flashed in the other priest’s brown eyes, before he looked up, just in time to see the damaged branch come crashing down on him.

The large severed piece of wood struck him right in the chest, knocking the wind out of him and pinning him to the earth.

Now laying on the ground beside him, temporarily stunned, Bruno struggled against the increasingly blurred tint of his vision, to return to his feet. Sword in hand, he turned to Pucci who was just starting to struggle underneath the branch.

Raising his hilt he brought down the metal with all the strength he could still muster, piercing the enemy right in his stomach.

The blade entered the flesh as he heard the sound of the other’s vitals rupturing underneath the point. Blood pooled around the blade, soaking the cloth of the darker skinned man’s robes.

And for a moment there was silence, no words spoken between the two of them, only the sounds of labored breathing and the small continued yelps which stifled screams the enemy surely wanted to let out.

And Bruno just stood there, observing him, making no further move to end his suffering.

Pucci coughed, blood coating the inside of his mouth, his eyes glazed as he looked up at Bruno. “Wh...haat a..are you wai..wai...waiting for?” he struggled to speak. “Fi..inish ‘e off.”

And Father Buccellati wanted to, even after everything this man had done to him. Even after Abbacchio, he did not relish watching this man slowly meet his death. But, there was still one more thing that needed to happen before he could grant what the other sought.

“Call your demon.”

Pucci had said something which concerned him greatly-- he had told his demon that he was successful in ending them, which meant there was no way that the fiend was going to come. But now, that was exactly what the leader of the abbey wanted.

His body was fading fast, he would surely run out of strength if he tried to run back to the abbey now. But if he could get the other priest to ask for back up, and Dio fled his discussion with Giorno to come this way, the others would attack him like they were instructed to do. The fight would eventually move here, and he could use the last of his ability to help them.

...but instead of doing so Pucci remained still. His bloodied lips melting into a soft genuine smile.

“There..i..is no need..” he breathed slowly, “I alre..ady injured b..both of you enough. Yo..you are no...o threat to hi...m, I will not put him in da..danger for my own life…. He is more v..vau...valuable than that.” he coughed, more blood filling his mouth as he turned his head to the side to spit it out.

Bruno looked down upon this man. The man who had taken Leone from him, the one he had been waiting to fight since then. And yet as he laid there bleeding out, Father Buccellati found that he no longer held any animosity towards him. In the end this man prioritized his partner’s safety over any chance of survival for himself, and although Bruno knew they could not relate on much, that they shared in common.

And so he granted the other priests last request. Raising his blade shakily, he swiftly brought it down right in the center of the other’s chest, ending his suffering forever.

Dropping his blade, Buccellati feel to the floor, his eyes foggy and unable to focus on anything around him, trying his best to find where his companion could have been.

Struggling, he realized he overestimated how much strength he had left as found that he could not return back to his feet, mobility leaving him with a swiftness.

So instead he crawled, straight towards where he had last saw Narancia drop to the floor.

Sight fading quickly he was overcome by darkness. Feeling around desperately for what felt like minutes, his hand finally found something of note.

It was liquid, warm sticky liquid traveling downwards towards him.

If his heart were still beating, it would have stopped at this realization, opening his mouth he called out. “....Narancia?”

“...Father… Buccellati…” a familiar childish voice answered him breathily, as if it were a struggle to speak.

The tone of voice was not reassuring, and Bruno did not need to ask to know that the throwing knife must have severed something important. Now was not the time to focus on that, so instead he said.

“You did it Narancia... it was your shot which cemented our victory… we’ve done our part.”

The breathing of the other became more noticeable as Bruno was finally able to hear his rasps. “Will… will everyone... be safe now?”

Bruno smiled and reached his hand out as far as it could go, searching for the source of the voice. For a few seconds he couldn't find anything, before a hand extended to meet his, grasping it lightly.

“Yes, they will be, and it was because of you… I am so proud of you Narancia.”

The hand gripped his back tighter, and for a split second, even though he knew his eyes no longer worked, Buccellati was certain that he saw Narancia smile back at him, as if he didn’t have a care in the world, before the hand went slack and they both began to drift.

Guido…

Fugo…

Giorno…

Trish…

I will leave the rest to you…

...Leone, see you soon.

 

Guido: Slay the demon with the blessed sword shrapnel.

Mista’s head throbbed, bones shaking as he tried to move back to his feet. Giorno was by his side, helping him up with strength that was far beyond anything human.

Not that the blonde could currently pass for anything even close to human; those sinisterly alluring eyes were no longer a sunrise but an inferno, the deep wound in his side stitching itself up right before the friar’s eyes, scaly red fingers with long black claws traced the friar’s bicep as if he were afraid Mista would fall back to the floor if he let him go completely.

The debris filled air clouded around them, clinging to their hair and clothes, and maybe it was because of his head injury, but Mista found he couldn’t look away from his demon in his current state. Those luscious golden locks, antlers which looked much softer and more velvety up close, the smooth angular curve of his jaw, lips full-- raised slightly by the outlines of the fangs that resided underneath.

“We need to regroup with Trish and Fugo.” the blonde said. Eyes forward, scanning the smokescreen for any signs of their allies, draping Mista’s arm around his shoulder to help him walk. They must have moved only a couple paces before Giorno noticed that the friar was still looking at him. “...Mista?”

Snapping out of his daze, he reluctantly looked away from the demon and nodded, his cheeks flush due to having been caught staring.

Giorno grimaced, moving his eyes to look forward once more “... I apologize that you have to see me like this,” he lamented, “I don’t mean to disgust you, it is just much easier to fight in this form.”

Mista wanted to kick himself in the side for making his demon self conscious, that wasn’t his intention at all.

“Giorno I--”

But before he could reassure the other, he was interrupted by the voice of their enemy calling out to them through the smoke.

“I hope none of you were particularly close to those two useless hunters who tried to sneak up on Enrico.” the fiend declared.

And in that moment Mista could feel his heart pulmetting into the floor, frozen, unable to move or react-- he prayed that the demon was not suggesting what he thought he was.

“WHAT!”

Both Giorno and Mista heard directly from their right. It was Fugo’s voice that rang out loud and clear.

Giorno wasted no time, pushing off the ground, propelling them both towards the voice before Dio could.

They moved about ten more meters to the right before they spotted two familiar figures standing back to back in the cloud.

Trish appeared panicked, not expecting Fugo to call out in the manner that he did. While Fugo looked more pissed than Mista had seen him in a long while-- weapon in hand, maroon eyes wild with barely contained rage. Although it was not surprising that the white haired man was reacting this way, it was certainly not helping.

Trish beckoned them over and in another second they were standing right beside them, holding the line just as Pannacotta called out to the demon once more.

“You lie fiend!” the angry man called into the debris.

All that responded to them was a deep bellowing laughter. It was smooth and unencumbered by the threat they posed. From the source they could all tell that the demon wasn’t even bothering to move to hide his location.

Fugo clenched his teeth and moved to take a step forward, before three sets of arms held him in place, all whispering that it would be foolish to blindly charge towards the enemy.

And so they waited

And waited

The laughter trumped on, the debris cleared once more from the air, revealing Dio standing a hundred meters away from them. Arm reattached, sitting cross legged on the pews as if it were a false throne, the demon vaguely reminded Mista of the way Giorno had done the same the night they first met.

They all jumped to attention as soon as they saw him.

“What’s the hurry?” He called to them, lounging back on the pew. “Enrico has told me that he has all but finished off your two allies. Which means we have all the time in the world to play uninterrupted. I’ll have to make this last, so that he can bear witness to your demise as well.”

Fugo gritted his teeth, seething, “You better stop talking you motherfucker!” he yelled.

Dio only grinned deeper, sharp fangs glistening in the moonlight which streamed through the large stained glass windows of the abbey, “But fear not, he informed me that he is about to be on his way back. Only ten measly minutes away at most, so we won’t have to wait much longer.”

Trish took a step forward so she was standing next to Fugo, hand finding his shoulder in some attempt to comfort. “He is trying to get under your skin, don’t listen to a word he says.”

“Oh?” the fiend called from his seat, “Leave it to a half breed to be too dull to recognize the truth when she hears it.”

Suddenly her eyes snapped away from Fugo and back to the enemy, gripping her axe with her other hand she called out, “Shut your hateful mouth or I'll do it for you!”

It was Giorno who spoke next, “Everyone, he is just attempting to stall for time! If Enrico is truly on his way, we need to win the battle before he arrives-- we won’t stand a chance if they are both together!”

And Mista couldn’t agree more, wasting no time he loaded another blessed bolt into his crossbow and prepared for the assault.

But as much as the two of them seemed to be on the same page, Fugo turned to look away from the enemy, straight behind them to the open door leading to the outside.

“He is lying, you are right.” Pannacotta stated through clenched teeth, “But that means Buccellati and Nara are probably still fighting and need help.”

And with that the white haired man broke into a sprint at full speed, away from the battle towards the front door.

“Wait what?” Trish observed incredulously, “Fugo come back, we need you help here, you don’t even know where they are! We can’t--”

But before she could continue Mista reached out to grab her feathered arm.

“Let him go Trish, if he thinks they need extra support then just let him go.”

It looked like the pink haired huntress was about to protest further, until Giorno, very calmly, walked between the two, straight towards his father.

“There is no time to be arguing now, this is exactly what he wants. If we have to face him with only three, then that is what we shall do.” the blonde stated before looking very briefly over his shoulder at the friar, “Cover me Mista,” before charging at full speed towards their enemy.

Mista nodded, holding up his crossbow and aiming it straight at the enemy.

Trish, only a second after, understanding that calling after Fugo was a lost cause, also charged in.

A bolt flew

Claws met claws

Axe met flesh, which grew back before any permanent damage could be inflicted

And the longer they fought, the more Mista started to realize that they were outmatched.

Dio was no longer relying on smokescreens or taunting, having his focus solely on the combat in front of him. The way he swayed around every hit was effortless, like he was just playing a game with children instead of fighting with an enemy.

On the other hand, Giorno and Trish took more and more injuries, and while they healed at unprecedented speeds, the damage was still taking its toll on them.

The friar knew he needed to get another good shot in, but holding up the crossbow was getting harder and harder with every minute, his head still spinning from the impact with the wall, his shooting arm throbbing with the memory of it’s previous injury.

Trying his best to put his body’s weakness aside he ignored his discomfort and lifted up his weapon to fire. However while he was attempting to aim, a fresh jolt of pain passed up his arm. As his hand spamed, it pulled the trigger early. Instead of flying directly at the crown of the enemy, it veered off slightly to the right, directly between Dio and Giorno who were currently engaged in close quarters combat.

Grinning as he saw the arrow pass, the elder demon easily plucked the offending bolt from the air. Grabbing it by the wooden shaft, the demon wasted no time bringing the sacred weapon down onto Giorno, who having no time to dodge, was struck right between his shoulder and chest.

The screams that filled the air where the worst that Mista had ever heard. For was much as he had grown to earnestly cherish his demon’s soothing melodic voice, hearing it cry out in such pain and anguish was something beyond unbearable.

The arrow burned it’s way deep into the younger demon’s shoulder, the burning scent of flesh filled the air as Giorno sank to his knees, cinders falling from his wound.

Trish rushed Dio not but a second after, trying to separate the two before the older demon could deal another blow.

Mista however, could see the slight shift in the monster’s body, as if he knew that the huntress was coming.

“Trish wait!” Mista called out a bit too late as the pink haired woman was greeted by two sharp pairs of claws. One which grabbed her by her shoulder, and another which plunged it’s way deep into her stomach.

Blood spewed from her open agape mouth, as she brought a shaky hand to weakly swipe at the demon in front of her.

Dio just smiled before tossing her aside as if she were nothing more than a stack of hay, her body falling to the floor, unconscious.

“Silly woman, to think I would let you get another surprise attack on me again after the first.”

The monster turned his attention back to Giorno, who had just barely contained his involuntary yelps of pain, body still convulsing with the effects of the blessed sword shrapnel.

Mista cursed, his injured hand still not cooperating with him as he tried desperately to reload his weapon, all the while hearing Dio taunting the other fiend.

“And you my treacherous child, I will take my time with you. We have five minutes before Enrico arrives. That’s just enough time for you to be made an example of-- can’t have your brother thinking he can get away with such disrespect.”

As Mista finally managed to reload his crossbow and aim it at the enemy in front of him, he saw Giorno pull the arrow free of his shoulder, just as Dio raised his clawed hand and raked his nails across his son’s eyes.

Giorno fell to the floor blinded, the arrow in his hand clattering to the floor. And although he was not close enough to see all the gory details, Mista was able to witness just how deep the nails went-- deep enough that the friar knew there was probably nothing of his demon’s eyes left.

Dio didn’t even pay Mista any mind, once again easily dodged another arrow fired his way.

Kneeling down next to his son, writhing on the floor, he spoke,

“You think I would have mercy on you, just because you are of my blood? You are sorely mistaken my ‘darling’ son.” He spoke, sentence ending with a sarcastic flourish.

Fuck, Fuck, Fuck! Mista was panicking-- Trish was still unconscious, and nothing he was doing seemed to be helping, was he just going to stand there and watch Giorno die?

No...

No he wasn’t!

Giorno may no longer have eyes, but he would heal given a minute or two. In the meantime Mista knew what he needed to do.

He was going to be Giorno’s eyes.

Bracing himself for the pain he knew he was going to experience, he did the only thing he could think to do at this moment.

He opened the connection between him and Giorno.

The very first thing he felt was a blinding pain behind his eyes, like a million sharp sewing needles all threaded all at once-- it was almost unbearable. He fell to his knees as the force of the pain nearly drove him into darkness.

But Mista marched forward, not closing the door, but instead propping it more open. Pain dulling his senses quickly, his reaction must have caught Dio’s attention, who laughed before moving his arm down to Giorno’s neck, pinning him to the floor.

It was when Mista felt his own neck begin to constrict, that he realized what was going on.

Dio continued to laugh. “You think I wouldn’t know your disgusting human pet would try and be your eyes? You may be able to go longer without breathing than a normal human, son of mine, but your human will certainly needs it.” he teased Giorno, increasing his grip. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure the two of you are buried together.”

It was then that Giorno began to scream at him through their mental link-- Panic, fear, and worry all flooded through him and Mista immediately understood that his companion was crying for him to close the connection, to spare himself this pain, to just run.

But the friar held on, eyes becoming clouded with tears as his body struggled to gasp for breath-- bile began to churn, threatening to spill over.

He could do this, he just needed to focus.

As he grew weaker, the friar silenced the blonde’s protests for him to flee by trying his best to convey a message. They both knew how to communicate emotions to each other through their tethering, but the clergyman also knew that it was possible to convey words.

Giorno had done it before, right after they first met Trish.

Mista knew it was possible, he just had to keep trying. It was now or never, and he was going to make it work for him!

One meter to your right, three centimeters below that

One meter to your right, three centimeters below that

He repeated lord knows how many times, hoping beyond hope that one of his messages would send.

It was when black spots began to decorate his vision, his lungs feeling like they were going to explode in his chest, that Giorno finally seemed to understand what he was trying to tell him.

The younger demon’s arm quickly darted toward the directions that Mista gave, finding exactly what the friar wanted him to--

The arrow, the same one that had been in Giorno’s shoulder, the same one that clattered to the floor next to him after his eyes had been gouged out.

Gripping the hilt tightly, the younger demon yelled out loud as he brought the point down into the arm that was choking him.

The reaction was immediate as the larger demon hissed, letting go of Giorno’s neck, in an attempt to sooth the injury from the blessed blade.

Mista wasted no time telling Giorno exactly which direction to flee towards, as he loaded up his bow and pointed another arrow at Dio, the spots in his vision clearing away now that oxygen was rushing back into his lungs.

Still connected, Mista could feel the pain in his eyes lessen as he realized that Giorno’s must be close to healing.

Buying him some more time, he fired the arrow right at Dio’s feet, forcing him to jump further back, away from his demon.

Thank you

A voice filled his mind through their tether

But I am fine now, sever the connection

Mista gritted his teeth before responding

No! We’re doing this together. We’ll need to communicate quickly if we want to win

Mista did not receive a direct reply, but considering Giorno did not press him any further, he assumed the other was reluctantly agreeing.

Reaching to his quiver to load up another bolt, Mista looked down to realize that he only had one left.

Fuck

Forcing that dread from his mind before it passed to Giorno, he brought his head back into the fight. He may only have one of the special arrows bolts left, but their enemy didn’t know that. Reaching to his side he loaded up his bow with a normal bolt. For now he would focus more on directing Dio with his shots, then actually damaging him.

Dio finally pulled the offending shrapnel from his skin, just as Giorno’s eyes finished healing

Veer left, I’ll shoot to the right

The smaller fiend responded by mentally agreeing before wasting no time and rushing his father.

The two demons clashed once more, Mista coordinating where his shots would land so Giorno could take advantage of the way Dio dodged to avoid them.

However even with their communication, The younger blonde was struggling. For every blow that he would successfully deal, the older got in four. It was not long before Mista had to close the connection so the pain wouldn’t pass, and he wouldn’t be useless, as demon was once again reduced to a bloody mess, while his father had barely a scratch on him.

Looking around the abbey turned battlefield Mista desperately scanned around for anything that could be of use to them.

And that is when he noticed… Trish?

She was still on the ground, seemingly unconscious, however upon further inspection, Mista realized that she was a couple meters away from where she had first fallen. Confused, the clergyman made sure to keep an eye out for her, only to notice that whenever Dio turned the entirely of his attention to strike, she would shuffle closer, Playing dead once more, when the enemy was on the move.

Eyes widening he braced himself for the pain and quickly informed Giorno before it became too much for him to bear.

Trish is awake, and approaching the enemy; she is moving slowly as to not be detected, but if she can get one more good hit while I’m aiming at him, he might be stunned just long enough for me to get a clean shot

A response came back quickly, just as Giorno received another blow, the friar felt it as well-- also noticing the way his friend’s body was becoming more sluggish and weak with each passing second.

How far away is she?

Mista looked back at the huntress and estimated as best he could

At her pace, maybe a minute or two

Giorno did not respond with words, but instead with a feeling of acceptance and relief.

Mista, overjoyed that everything seemed to be working in their favor, cut the connection and fired another regular arrow before reaching for his last special one. Loading it into the crossbow, he pointed at the demon and waited for his opening. A minute huh? He was confident that despite his injury he could hold the crossbow up for another minute.

Originally he was worried that Giorno would not be able to last another minute, considering the amount of pain he was under. But the blonde had expressed such relief at Trish being close, so he must have thought that he could make it.

Another blow-- Giorno was struck between his ribs

Another swipe-- right across Giorno’s chest

Another punch-- directly to Giorno’s cheek

Another kick-- causing a resounding crack in Giorno’s right knee

As his partner continued to get more and more injured, Mista became more and more concerned. Reopening the connection, he tried to get a feel for how the other was doing.

And as a result, felt like what he could only describe as being run over by a hundred carriages all in a row. Knowing he would not be able to hold on to their tether for long he struggled to even think of the words, before he managed to say

….You can make it another minute right?

The answer was a small thing, barely intelligible through the haze of pain.

...thank you Mista, it was a pleasure to get to know you

And then for the first time since they bonded, it was Giorno who closed the connection.

Eyes widened-- Giorno was going all out, even if it meant that it was going to kill him, and considering that cryptic last message, the blonde must have been certain that it was.

So the blonde thought Mista would just let him sacrifice himself like that? Well he thought wrong.

With only one arrow left, the marksman couldn’t risk shooting it off now, and he didn’t have the time to unload his crossbow and reload it with a non-special arrow.

So he just charged forwards as quickly as he could, reaching to his side to pull out the dinky dagger that he kept on his person in case he found himself in close quarters with a demon. While he was never all that competent with the blade, he knew he would have to do something, or he was never going to see his demon again.

And that thought broke his heart more than any wound could break his body.

Both Giorno and Dio turned toward him in surprise, astonished that he would even consider charging into combat with them.

All of fear, pain, and strife coalescing in a burning desire to protect this strange demon which had so bizarrely grown attached to, came out in a scream, as he charged forwards.

He did not manage to get far, before the larger demon smirked and pushed off the ground with such force that he launched himself to meet him.

Giorno called out his name in dismay, struggling with his injured knee to keep up pace with his father.

Mista tried to come to a stop, before running directly into the larger blonde.

The clergyman only had a millisecond to look up at the towering demon above him-- golden hair, wildfire eyes, crimson scaly skin. It was almost eerie how much Giorno looked like his father. But now within spitting distance of the enemy, Mista understood why his demon wanted him as far away from Dio as he possibly could be. For as similar as they looked, Dio’s gaze held none of Giorno’s softness and care, leaving behind only the twisted curiosity and endless hunger.

“I was going to leave you for last friar, wait until Enrico arrived so we could finish you off together, payback for the injury you gave us. But alas, I suppose if you want so desperately to die by my hands, I may as well grant you what you seek.”

Raising his blade, Mista did not want to hear any more as he swung wildly at the enemy in front of him.

Of course Dio easily avoided him, before reaching down to grab his arm, the very one he was currently attacking with.

Mista could only yelp as the demon lifted him off the ground by his wrist. Grip increasing with every millisecond, until it became too much to bear.

The clergyman’s screams were so loud that he almost couldn’t hear the sound of his own wrist cracking under the pressure, almost.

“MISTA!” another voice called, of which the friar barely registered coming from right next to him, Giorno must have managed to close the gap between them.

Dio let him go just in time to attempt to block an attack from the younger demon. However, seemingly unconcerned with his own safety, Giorno feinted the attack instead, ducking under Dio’s outstretched arm to close the distance between him and Mista.

...Leaving himself completely open to a follow up strike from him father.

The next blow came swiftly and Mista himself was unsure how he was able to reach out and grab his partner before it hit, but he had managed it.

They flew back together, the force of the blow sending them skyrocketing to the far opposite wall.

The clergyman was still reeling from his injured wrist to react, but Giorno held him close, shifting their positions so that the blonde would be the one to make contact with the brick, shielding the friar from as much damage as he could.

The force of their impact resounded in Mista’s head, as he briefly wondered just how many head injuries he had suffered from at this point.

Those cold arms wrapped tightly brought him back to himself as he quickly shuffled to try and find his balance-- falling slightly once his dizziness prevented his ascension.

Giorno’s hands helped propt him up as they both struggled to find their feet.

Eyes forward Mista could barely make out Dio standing in the same place flexing his arms, now completely healed from every injury they had dealt to him up until that point. He looked at their broken bleeding bodies in celebration before saying.

“Your time is finally up my dearest son, Enrico should be almost here to bear witness to your failures. It was your own mistake thinking that you are your puny little pet could take me alone.” he boasted laughter, echoing off of all the walls, seeming to encompass the entirety of the hall.

Mista’s stomach plummeted as he contemplated what his final actions should be, gaze still hazy and unfocused he closed his eyes and began to whisper a prayer.

A prayer which was almost immediately interrupted by another voice.

“Well it’s a good thing they aren’t alone,”

The axe swing that followed those words was so swift Dio didn’t even have an opportunity to dodge as the pink haired huntress, feathers and talons out, sung her weapon with such force into the juncture of the back of the demon’s knee that his right leg detached from his body.

And in one precise motion Trish reached out to grab the offending leg, before jumping back a couple paces, narrowly avoiding a swipe at her person.

The large demon came crashing to the ground unable to balance on one leg. And Mista knew what he had to do.

Grabbing hold of his crossbow once more, he aimed the already loaded bolt and tried to point it at the demon.

However while he, for a split second, forgot his new wrist injury, his wrist certainly did not, as it protested and his bow clattered to the ground. Rushing to pick it up once more he heard Dio call out again.

“You fools! Your ten minutes are up, Enrico should be here any second!” he called to them boastfully, “Enrico, Assist me!”

However nothing answered him, the elder demon frowned before his face slowly morphed from annoyance to fear, with just a small tinge of sadness.

Mista did not even need to ask to know what this meant. Their enemy must have reached out to their connection only to find it broken. Buccellati and Narancia must have succeeded, the priest was not coming to his aid! He smiled to himself, thankful that his fellow clergymen had managed to prevent the arrival of reinforcements. They surely could not have done this if Pucci had arrived.

Trying desperately to lift his bow once more, the marksman knew it would be a longshot to hit the demon with his injury, but this was the best opportunity he was going to get.

Hand shaky as he attempted to lift it once more, his wrist protested and he knew there was no way he could hold it up.

That was until those cold cold hands came to his aid. Swiftly moving into place. One moved to his waist while the other came up to support his wrist.

The unnatural strength of his demon was able to keep his broken wrist from shifting, as he heard that sweet melodic voice, drifting softly from right beside his ear, saying just the words he wanted to hear.

“Let us finish this.”

The arrow was fired not a moment later, and Trish, Giorno, and Mista watched as Dio, without the use of his legs, was powerless to dodge it.

The fire that proceeded was certainly unexpected, but considering the way the arrows previously burned into fiendish skin, it was not out of the question that a fatal blow would result in an inferno.

The fire burned unnaturally as the remains of the demon collapsed to the ground, overcome by the flames. However the blaze did not travel up the building but somehow continued to just the char body of their enemy.

Mista let himself have a moment of celebration before his body finally gave out beneath him, collapsing directly into Giorno’s arms.

His fiend caught him and slowly lowered him to the ground.

Mista was only briefly able to make out parts of the conversation that followed as the dizziness of his mind muddled his thoughts.

But from what he could tell, Giorno had asked Trish to go check on Fugo, Narancia, and Buccellati while he stayed here and looked after Mista.

Soon the huntress left his vision, leaving him only his demon gazing down upon him.

“Stay awake Mista, I know you are tired, but sleeping now will only result in further injury.” The golden haired creature said above him, arms still wrapped tightly around him, nesting him between the blonde’s arms and chest.

The clergyman tried to respond, but based on the soft confused smiles of his companion, he assumed he must have not been making too much sense.

He was unsure of how long they stayed like this, how long Giorno had to shake him awake every time he attempted to drift off, but it must have been at least a couple hours. The sky began to turn, moon setting behind the hills, the beginnings of a new dawn approaching.

Giorno continued to smile down at him, the soft light beginning to encompass him like a halo

“I was right all along,” the friar said, his mental haze lifting enough for him to speak, “you really are an angel.”

Those eyes, those sunrise eyes, somehow more beautiful and real than the actual sunrise before him widened in disbelief before he abruptly let go of the clergyman. “...You’re confused, you don’t know what you’re saying.” the demon struggled out standing to his feet, suddenly seeming to become aware of how close their lips had gotten.

Mista could almost cry at the sight above him… his demon… no… his angel looking down at him as if his compliment had teeth.

And before he could say anything else Giorno began to move away out of sight, the last thing he heard from the blonde was a message pushed into his mind through their link

It’s been enough time, you can sleep now. And… you don’t need to worry-- I will make good on my promise

And then another wave of fatigue passed over him and his eyelids drooped closed, darkness overtaking him.

 

Fugo: Support

Fugo ran, it was true that he had no idea where he was going, where Buccellati and Narancia even were, but he ran regardless.

Through the trees and thickets, through the night illuminated by the moon so brightly it looked almost like a cloudy winter day. His shadow cascaded down beside him, elongated by the light-- his only company in a forest recently evacuated of life.

And he kept pressing forwards.

The others couldn’t have gotten far, surely the enemy would have been positioned close enough to the abbey that he could have easily provided backup if needed. The white haired man just had to be smart about this, making sure to limit his search to only two kilometers from the abbey, checking every direction to make sure that he was not missing anything.

The night was cold, but he could hardly feel it, the beating of his own heart labored by the exertion of his run and the fear of what he might find at the conclusion of it. And by the end of his search he almost wished that he had found nothing, for anything would have been better then the woe he witnessed.

He saw the enemy’s body first-- trapped under a collapsed branch, bathed in a pool of his own blood, eyes closed in resignation.

Fugo had little time to celebrate their supposed victory before he spotted them.

Against a tree, a couple meters away, were Narancia and Buccellati. Both more still than he had ever seen them, slumped onto the floor.

Buccellati was face down, and besides the mud coating his dark outlayer, looked unharmed, as if he had died from an illness instead of a battle.

The same could not be said of Narancia.

The shorter man was curled up in a near fetal position, except his arm extended downwards towards Buccellati- their hands clasped together so tightly it would have been painful if they still had been alive. His other arm was wrapped around a large gash in his side, just below his underarm.

It was obvious that he had tried to stop the bleeding which had been pouring from the wound.

It was obvious that he had failed.

The scream that followed would have frightened away any wildlife, if there were still any left behind. It was a petrifying thing, rigid and unmoving, with only a slight touch of the wind able to shatter it into tears.

Wetness fell from Fugo’s face onto the ground beneath him, his knees meeting the soft soil below with a swiftness, like two friends embracing after a long time away.

His screams returned, they clawed and forced their way up his throat until he nearly choked on them. His body shook, unable to contain all of the emotions stampeding their way through him, as he hesitantly reached out to touch his fallen companion.

With every centimeter he moved forward, he found it more and more difficult to progress, as if entering a thick viscous liquid which only grew more dense the farther he pressed in. it was when he was only a couple centimeters away from Narancia’s face that he found he could move no father.

As upsetting as the scene in front of him was, Narancia appeared serene-- almost content. Turning to Buccellati, Fugo was surprised to find the same look of peace upon the priest’s face.

It was as if the two of them, whist knowing they were surely going to perish, were grateful.

And for some reason the white haired man felt as if it were not his place to disturb them, to interrupt their tranquil stillness, despite the fact that they were long gone.

So instead he withdrew his hand and sat there, eyes looking upon the two men he valued more than anything else in his life. Every few seconds he would let out another gasp, another series of solemn cries, until his throat tore from the exhaustion of yelling and tears were unable to fall.

He was unsure how long he was frozen there, knees throbbing as they shook, threatening to collapse under his weight, Mud now coating every inch of his pants. It must have been at least an hour or two as the moon continued to pass over him, his long shadow only growing longer and longer by the minute.

Eventually he began to hear something outside of his own unconstrained ragged breaths-- a slight rustling from behind him.

He did not stir, uncaring of who or what was approaching him. He was unsure if it were from enemy or ally, but regardless it hardly mattered. If it were truly Dio, come to finish him off as the last living member of his congregate, he would gladly accept death.

The rustling solidified into footsteps which moved closer and closer to him, until a figure causing came into view.

Trish looked upon to scene with palpable horror, hand brought to her mouth she barely made a sound, freezing at the scene in front of her. The tears that began to fall from her widened eyes followed not soon after, and if Fugo still had the energy to be angry he would have been enraged that she thought she knew them well enough to grieve.

But there was no anger, instead there was just… stillness.

Gaze never leaving his fallen companions, he only briefly noted that the huntress turned to focus on him.

He surely looked fragile, like a gentle breeze could break him. There was no color to his face, pale in the light of the setting moon-- his empty gaze that of a soldier who had finally returned from a dreadful crusade.

And that is when she must have realized it-- this was him, this is what he was when none of his rage was left to protect him.

They exchanged no words, they didn’t need to, but when Trish moved to sit beside him, he did not resist.

The two of them sat there, in the mud, until the sun rose far beyond the horizon and animals began to return to the forest.

And the world continued around them.

Chapter Text

Time passed, unrestrained by the losses of the night. Days fluttered by paradoxically both slower then Mista had ever felt before and faster than the blink of an eye.

And everyone coped the best they could.

Mista and Fugo buried their dead, they spoke very little after that, both going about their daily routines in the abbey-- trying their best to busy themselves in an effort to carry on.

Trish agreed that she would stay, at least until the end of the week, to help them clean up after the attack.

And Giorno… well, after the final battle he was nowhere to be found. Mista remembered awaking a couple hours after he lost consciousness, only to find the blonde long since departed.

The clergyman knew he should be grateful for that. He never had to worry about the fiend again. The demon had stayed true to his promise and left as soon as the conflict was over.

But while it was true that he initially wished for Giorno to leave, after everything that happened, he figured that he might have wanted to reconsider.

Losing Narancia and Bruno was absolutely devastating. When Fugo and Trish first returned to the abbey, each carrying a different body, Mista cried more than he ever had in his life. More and more with each passing day he wished Giorno was there to share his pain once more, like how he had done after Abbachio’s death.

But he was never given that opportunity, instead it was almost as if he had never met the blonde in the first place. The only thing that seems to constantly remind him were his dreams-- night after night he dreamed that Giorno would return to him, that they would forgive each other for everything, realize that there was still so much to lose and not take each other for granted--

That he would once again feel the coldness of the other’s embrace.

On the first few nights after the dreams started he thought about trying to reach out and take hold of the tether that connected them. To communicate to the demon that he was needed, but that idea was quickly dismissed. What if Giorno didn’t want to be contacted? It wasn't right of him to use their bond like that, it felt almost invasive to do so without permission from the other.

So instead, every night, despite knowing that the demon would probably never come and visit him again, the friar lit a candle in his quarters. He sat there, wishing that one day it would unexpectedly go out, just as it had when he first met the demon, and he would once again be visited by the man who still haunted his dreams.

It was silly, and he knew it-- but in the light of the flickering candle he found hope.

As the days pressed forwards it became increasingly more difficult to sleep, sometimes Mista found himself just starting at the candle for hours, idly scratching his wrapped hand.

It was a week after their battle, when Mista was lighting his nightly candle, that he heard a knock on his open door.

Turning his gaze to the entrance, he was met with Fugo looking back at him, eyes clouded and distant.

Gesturing for the other friar to come in, Mista took a seat on the side of his bed.

“Fugo?” he asked, a little surprised that the other was still up so late. “What’s going on?”

His fellow clergymen walked cautiously into his room. “Guido... there is something I need to tell you.” he spoke softly.

Alarm bells went off in Mista’s mind while he listened. The other man never called him by his first name, not unless something very serious was happening. Preparing himself, Mista gestured for Fugo to sit.

The other friar, however, did not comply. Instead he walked into the room and began to pace. After a few rounds he abruptly stopped and faced Mista.

“I can’t stay here!” he gritted through his teeth, fingers clenching and unclenching at his sides, a tell tale sign that he was about to lose it.

Not wanting the white haired man to give into his rage, Mista tried to calm him down, “It’s alright. Why don’t you--?”

Fugo’s fist interrupted him mid sentence, crashed down on Mista’s table with such force that he was surprised that it had not broken. Maroon eyes bore into his. “DON’T!” he almost cried, “Don’t patronize me Mista! I don’t need you to talk, I just need you to listen!”

The marksman frowned, hoping this encounter would not end in a fist fight. Keeping his gaze leveled with the other he nodded, gesturing for him to continue.

“I’m leaving,” Fugo started. “I… I can’t stay here… not after... “ He trailed off, breath becoming more uneven, Mista could have sworn that he heard a sob choked down. “Everything here fucking reminds me of them!” The other friar continued, anger masking the melancholy he was clearly feeling. “Everyday I have to walk by their rooms. Everyday I see how I failed them. This all happened because of me! Because I couldn’t hold my own against that damn demon, Nara and I were captured and the village was attacked… And then you all fought with everything you had, killed the demon I couldn’t, and I didn’t do a damned thing! I was nothing short of worthless… I failed everyone.”

Finally Fugo’s pace slowed to a halt, his shoulders shaking-- with rage or sorrow, Mista did not know.

Neither spoke, Pannacotta just stood there moment after moment coming more and more undone, while Mista waited, letting the other process his own words before he moved to speak.

“You didn’t fail anyone Pannacotta, I don’t think I need to tell you that if they were still here they would disagree. Leone, knowing him, he would have lectured you about being dramatic. Bruno would sit you down and list all of the ways you have ever helped us-- maybe you didn’t have a large part in the fight itself, but you were the one who crafted the arrows we used to kill that demon, that’s not nothing. And Narancia… well, honestly he would probably keep cracking jokes until you laughed, or chased him around with a fork again.” he ended with a grin.

Fugo’s burgundy eyes widened at the statement, before a small smile made its way to his face as well. “You are probably right… Nara would never let me live this down. He would cry more than all of us combined, and yet he couldn't stand seeing us sad.”

Mista chuckled, imagining Narancia running around playing pranks in hopes of making them laugh. It must have been exactly what Fugo was thinking of as well, as he also began to chuckle.

The two of them marinated in this moment as long as they could, wishing it were true, wishing that their fallen comrades were here to celebrate with them. However, after a minute it was once again just the two of them, in Mista’s room, stuck in the present.

“You know,” Mista started, once the silence became too much to bare, standing up from his seated position on his bed. “With Trish here, I have plenty of help running the abbey, especially since I am used to doing it alone… if you really need a break, some time to get away from all of this and clear your head. I can hold down everything here. You won’t have to---”

And before Mista could finish his sentence he was cut off by the other man grabbing him and drawing him into a tight embrace.

Stunned for a second, he managed to hug the other back, feeling the distinct trail of tears begin to coat the shoulder Fugo was pressing his face into.

It was a bit awkward sure, especially considering Fugo had never been one for open displays of affection, at least not with him. Mista smiled as he thought back to the first time he tried to hug the other and nearly got punched in the face in response. But all in all, whatever awkwardness the hug brought, it was nothing compared to how happy the friar was that his friend found comfort in his words.

They only stayed like that for another couple of seconds before Pannacotta pulled away, tears still in his eyes, smile on his face, “You say that they would try to convince me that I am not at fault. But if they were here, I think they would be too busy thanking you for everything you’ve done for us. So on their behalf… thank you Guido.”

“I… they… thanks Pannacotta.” he spoke, letting his patented goofy grin spread across his face, clasping his hand on his fellow friar's shoulder. “And I am serious about my offer, take all the time you need.”

The other laughed, “You know, Buccellati said something similar to that before the fight. Told me that if I needed to move on, I had his permission to leave. I told him I’d never do that, that there would be no need as we would all make it out alive-- how ignorant I was.”

“Buccellati was wise beyond his years, he must have known it was likely he wasn't going to make it.” Mista lamented. “He was right... moving on is hard enough as it is. You should set yourself up for success, and if that means leaving the abbey, then you do what you need to do.”

“And what about you?”

Mista grin was slowly exchange for a confused frown, “what about me?”

Pannacotta, put his hands on his hips and just glared back at the older man, “I’m not stupid Guido, far from it. You think I don’t notice? You barely sleep anymore, staying up all night staring at your little candle… and when you do sleep, I occasionally hear you calling his name. I don’t know what it was like for you, being bound to that monster. But he isn’t coming back. There’s no need for you to fear him anymore. If we are talking about moving on, maybe you should take a break as well.”

Mista bit his lip, how was he supposed to tell Fugo that in those dreams he was not calling Giorno’s name in fear? That he, in fact, wasn’t afraid of the blonde visiting again, but desired it more and more with each passing day.

Instead, he remained silent and just nodded. There was no reason to freak his fellow clergyman out more than he already was, and admitting to desiring the demon’s company in that way would surely accomplish that.

Fugo gave him a quizzical look but pushed the conversation no further.

The next day Pannacotta got his things together and left. Mista and Trish bid him goodbye and the friar resisted the urge to ask him where he was planning on going.

Mista had not told the other friar that he would be missed. He knew that doing so would make the other feel obligated to return, and the marksman did not want to put that kind of pressure onto him-- it was best that he just figure out what he wanted for himself.

So instead he just watched the last living member of his congregate walk away, perhaps forever, and said nothing.

And the abbey once again grew quieter.

After Fugo had left, Mista found himself trying to fill his time with something that would take his mind off of things. So he began to spend more and more time with Trish.

It was Trish who suggested that since the abbey barrier was permanently down, he might consider moving into the village proper. If they could set up a new abbey amongst the townsfolk then they would no longer have to worry about the village being attacked without them seeing it coming.

Of course Mista agreed, there was nothing for him in the old abbey, not anymore.

And so the days marched forward, as the two of them began to categorize important materials for the move.

They realized very quickly that the move would take at the very least a few months before it would be complete, however they were committed and did not let the length of the project affect their resolve to finish it-- spending many a late night working.

During these nights of sifting through years of belongings, they would talk.

They swapped stories of hunts they had been on, the different demons they had faced. The friar soon found that, at least when it came to hunting, he was way out of his depth when compared to the pink haired woman-- she had taken on more demons than he ever could have imagined.

Trish ended up being way more insightful and competent than he initially gave her credit for. While he did not have much of an opinion on her before, now that the two of them were spending so much time together, they had started to grow on each other.

Everyday Trish would say that she would leave the abbey by nightfall, and every night she stayed. Mista never confronted her about that, if she wanted to stay, he was grateful for the company.

It was on the sixteenth night after the attack that Mista’s finally asked a question that had been on his mind for some time now. He asked Trish what it was like to have fiendish blood and be a hunter herself.

“It can be difficult,” she said simply, not at all bothered at such a personal question. “You think you come into a situation to help, only to be recognized as partially fiendish and chased out instead.”

Mista hummed, pawing through one of the many documents in the library. “I can’t say I can relate to that. Does this happen often?”

The pink haired woman sighed, running her fingers through her hair. “Often enough.”

The marksman paused, closing the book he was currently looking through, and laying it softly on the ‘keep’ section of their ‘keep’ and ‘toss’ piles. “I’m sorry Trish that sounds fucking awful.” he spoke genuinely.

Trish sighed, “I mean I guess it comes with the territory, can’t say I’m not used to it. I learned fairly quickly that hunting alone was the only sure fire way of preventing that from happening. Don’t have to worry about other slayers if I am the only one on the case.”

Completely disregarding his task of looking through another book, the friar instead directed his full attention to the woman in the room with him. “You… is that why you choose to be a roaming slayer?” He never really considered why Trish had chosen such an isolating lifestyle before, but the thought that she had done so due to the way other hunters reacted to her was downright tragic.

She nodded, seemingly not all that hung up on Mista’s realization. “Yeah, it was really the only option that I had if I wanted to protect as many people as I could, without drawing too much attention to myself.”

“Have you ever wanted to be part of a congregate?”

Trish leaned back along the chair she was situated in, thumbing through the book in her lap. ”I supposed I used to,” she mused, “But I learned a long time ago that it could never happen.”

Mista watched her close her book with a sigh, fingers resting along the thick leather bound cover.

“Well…” he started, “You can stay here if you want.”

Jade green eyes flecked with pink bore into his with such intensity that he instantly understood the extent of his invitation.

Meeting her gaze, he held it in a silent promise.

“...Do you truly mean it?” she asked softly, setting her book aside.

“Well… yeah… why not? Right before the battle with Dio, Narancia told me he was planning on asking you. At the time I was a bit hesitant, but now that Fugo left, that makes me the most senior member of the congregate, which means I can choose who to onboard. You proved yourself very good at hunting, I would be honored if you stayed.”

Trish was silent for a moment before a sad smile graced her features “Well, if Narancia was asking, how could I say no? He was hands down, one of the sweetest people I have ever met… I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he thought of me so kindly.”

Mista smiled as well, “Even in death, those we care about continue to surprise us.”

The pink haired woman’s eyes widened, focusing in on the friar before her entire posture softened. “Giorno told me you were charming, I guess it was my mistake for not believing him.” she chuckled, eyes bright and smile wide.

“He… said that about me?” Mista asked, not prepared for the topic of Giorno to be brought into the conversation.

Trish quirked an eyebrow at his reaction, “Umm, yeah, of course he did. That man adored you, don’t tell me you didn’t notice.”

Mista flushed, eyes now looking everywhere except at the pink haired woman. “Well, I mean, we were kind of fighting for our lives, it's not like I had much time to notice those sorts of things.”

The huntress squinted her eyes at him, clearly not believing the statement, a moment later she sighed, “You don’t have to talk about it now if you don’t want to, but just know that I’m here if you ever do.”

And with that, the two of them returned to silence, finishing up the last of their sorting before calling it a night and heading off to bed.

During the following days, Trish took Mista’s offer to heart clearing out one of the now vacant rooms and setting herself up as a new permanent resident, or as permanent as she could considering they were going to move soon.

Every night they would continue to categorize items for the move, while every day Mista would remain in the abbey while Trish went down into the town below to inform the villagers of their plans, find a building for their move, and begin to clean out space for them.

Once in a while, Trish would suggest that Mista go with her, to which he would reply that someone needed to stay in the abbey in case a villager needed help or sanctuary.

He was also scared, even though he was all on board for the move, he did not relish the opportunity to interact with the townsfolk. Now that Father Buccellati was gone, he very much doubted that they would even bother to pretend to enjoy his company.

But of course, his insistence to steer clear of the village was never going to last forever. Eventually, after much pestering from the pink haired huntress, Trish began to take him on her trips down into the village, and while he was hesitant at first, she made a good point to him.

“If we are going to move the head of operation into town like we want, you are going to need to get adjusted to being down there. Better you start now and get it over with.”

And she was right. He had told her why he was so hesitant to be down in the village, that ever since he killed those four men the people there never forgave him. But Trish insisted that this time it would be different, and eventually, he caved.

And to his surprise he was not greeted by sneers and crude looks, but by… cheering?

Turning to Trish, he saw her sly smile and realized that she must have spread the word that he was the one who dealt the finishing blow to the demon which had destroyed the town. And so as he walked through the streets, people ran up to thank him, and handed him all sorts of gifts.

Not knowing how to deal with all that sudden attention, he stuck close to Trish.

The huntress must have noticed how overwhelming it was for him to be out in the open, and so, as her treat at the end of the day, after the sun had already set, she brought him to a small local tavern.

Mista stood in front of the tavern wondering if he should go in. He had not drunk any alcohol for almost ten years now, as it was banned in the abbey. Traveling slayers must not have had the same rules as Trish just grinned at him, took his hand and pulled him inside.

“Come on silly, you fought and killed the infamous Dio, if anyone deserves a drink it’s you.” She proclaimed, and the friar found that he could not protest.

“Oh.. alright,” he responded. “But only one drink! I haven't had any booze in a long while, so I’m sure I’m a lightweight.”

...He ended up having more than one drink.

Trish had already made up her mind that she was buying. However, once they situated at a table, and the barmaid came to give them their drinks, he was instantaneously recognized. Apparently the maid’s brothers were killed in the initial attack, and so she was very keenly aware of the good the markman created when he killed the demon. And so, she insisted on getting ‘the savior of the village’ and his friend another free round.

He couldn’t say no to her, so he accepted the drink.

It wasn’t long before she placed a third free drink in front of him, and not long after that, that he and Trish were completely sloshed.

Face red and stomach burning warm, he found himself leaning on the pink haired woman, eyes droopy as the alcohol left behind a wave of lethargy. She gave a half hearted protest, telling him that he needed to get his quote ‘stanky ass’ off of her recently cleaned overcoat, but in the end they both ended up laughing at her words.

“So… now that I have you at my mercyy,” she slurred at him, lips turned upwards in a grin, “I wanna know what was going on between you and Giorno.”

Mista immediately pulled away from her, cheeks even redder than before. “You witch!,” he proclaimed, “You took me here on purpose, g..got me drunk so I’d spill the beans about the whole affair!” he finished hiccuping mid sentence.

“Ahh, you caught me,” she laughed reaching for her drink to take another big swig. “But affair, hmmn? Interesting choice of words~”

“No, that not… you know what I mean!” he protested, suddenly feeling much too warm to be comfortable.

“Eh? So did you or did you not have a thing going on with him?”

Mista quieted down as he thought about that question, what was the answer? There was sort of a sexual tinge to all of their interactions, but he was always too scared to follow through with them, something he most certainly regretted, now that he had all of the time to reminisce.

“I… think we did, but it doesn’t matter now, I fucked it up and I don’t think I’ll ever see him again.”

He had thought those words several times in his own mind, every night in fact, staring at the flickering candle wishing he was not so hard on the blonde. Maybe then he wouldn’t have left.

And perhaps it was due to the fact that he was currently way too intoxicated to properly function, or maybe it was the build up of months of sealed away emotion-- but now that he spoke those words aloud, he found the feelings they contained to be a little too much to bear.

“God, Trish,” he lamented, hands coming to his face to hide himself away from the world, “ I never apologized about judging him so harshly… I really, really fucked up, and I miss him so much.”

The huntress hand found his shoulder, giving him a couple comforting pats before saying.

“I’m sorry I brought it up… it’s not the end of the world, maybe we can find him. I saw the way he held you after the battle, I think he wouldn’t mind if you reached out to apologize.”

The friar sniffled, finally lowering his hands and meeting the emerald pink gaze of his drinking companion. “I don’t want to bother him… besides, he said that he lived in this village, if he wanted to talk he would have dropped by the abbey by now.”

“Wait… he lives in this town?” she asked incredulously. Once Mista nodded in response, she removed her hand from his shoulder and waived over the barmaid.

Mista had no clue what she was doing, but if she was going to order another drink he would have to refuse, he didn’t think getting more drunk then he was already would be a good idea considering his current state of mind.

“Hey sweety, whatcha need?” she asked flirtatiously at the two of them.

Trish threw her a dazzling smile, or as dazzling as one could be considering her intoxication, “We’re looking for a friend of ours he said he might live in town… blonde, handsome, about your height and age, ever see anyone like that every come in here?”

The barmaid clicked her tongue before shaking her head, “Sorry sweety, blondes are a rarity in these parts, I think I would have remembered seeing one. But if you'll settle for brunettes, I get off of work in a couple hours and I’d be happy to show you around.” she winked..

Trish grinned, “Oh I might have to take you up on that!”

Mista rolled his eyes but did not comment, Trish definitely deserved a good time if she could find one, so he was not about to judge. But lord knows he wasn’t too happy at his current romantic life, so trying his best to ignore the flirting in front of him, he scanned around the tavern looking for something to distract him.

He found it in a man who had just entered the bar, clearly also looking around for something specific.

This man was striking-- handsome and young, perhaps in his early twenties, dark magenta braids trialed down from his head, tied into a loose ponytail which fell along his back. He was wearing a white spotted outer coat with a high collar, which clung tightly to his well built body. The man walked up to the bartender, but instead of ordering anything, he looked to just be asking a couple of questions.

Mista watched him in intrigue, wondering what brought this man into the bar, if he were not interested in drinking.

As if to answer him the bartender laughed loud enough for him to hear from the other side of them room, saying something about how it was this man’s lucky day before proceeding to point directly to the clergyman’s table.

Mista froze, not knowing what to do, he just sat there as the man thanked the bartender and began to walk directly over to him.

He turned to Trish, who just said goodbye to the flirtatious barmaid, quickly informing her about what just happened.

The pink haired woman turned to the man approaching and squinted before her eyes widened. It looked like she was about to tell him something before the man reached their table and interrupted them.

“Uhhh...Hello,” He waived awkwardly. “Would you perhaps be Guido Mista? Savior of the village, slayer of Dio?” he asked, and for as confidently as he approached them, his voice came out shaky, as if he were nervous. “And... umm, you Trish Una, traveling slayer who helped?”

Now that the man was so close to him, Mista finally meet his gaze and found something awfully familiar in it. Something about the curve of his jaw, plumpness of his lips, or the intensity of his eyes-- bright yellow, the same color of the very tip of a flame, dark pinpoint contracted in the center, as if even the dim lighting of the tavern were too bright for him.

The friar realized all of a sudden why Trish was trying to warn him, those eyes… this man was a demon.

“Yeah that’s us, what of it?” Trish sneered. “You come to start a fight?”

The man brought his right hand to his arm to rub it nervously before responding, “Ahh, no… I don’t wanna fight. I’m sorry if it seemed that way.” he exclaimed, eyes darting nervously between the two of them. “I don’t mean anyone any harm...I just… I just wanted to confirm that He is really gone.”

The huntress snorted, “Well if you are telling the truth and don’t want to fight. Why don’t you take a seat?” Trish gestured to the empty seat in front of them for the man to sit, and although she did not look at Mista, he understood. This demon may claim that he meant no harm, but that did not mean they should let their guard down. If they could get him to take a seat. He would be within range of both of their attacks if he tried anything funny.

Either the magenta haired man did not realize this, or he was perfectly alright putting his life in their hands, as he quickly sat down, steepled his hands on the table, and looked up at Trish expectantly.

The huntress sighed before she answered his question. “Yeah, we killed that bastard dead. I don’t know what your relationship with him was, but if you at all cared for him, we will not apologize for what we did. ”

The two of them watched this strange demon as his eyes immediately darted down, clearly avoiding looking at them directly. Hands fidgeting on the table he responded, “No.. ah… well.. umm. I guess you could say I had a complicated relationship with him. But I am not on his side, haven't been for a few years now. We had a bit of a disagreement and a falling out. I hadn't even seen him in over two years. So...I will lose no sleep over his de..death.” he finished with a stutter, gaze finally meeting Trish’s.

The huntress raised an eyebrow, leaning forward along the table, her hands coming to the top of the sticky booze coated surface, close enough to the demon’s that Mista understood the implicit threat she was making to the sitting fiend. “But you used to work with him?”

The man once again looked down, in what appeared to be shame. “Yes, I won’t deny that… but if it helps it was a long time ago, and I only stayed as long as I did because of Enrico, who I thought held similar values as me…. Oh.” He paused before looking back up at them instantly. “What about Enrico Pucci? Did… was he part of…. Did you...?” the man began to stutter once again, struggling to find the proper way to phrase his question.

Trish narrowed her eyes, not looking like she wanted to give him any more information. However Mista was struck with how directly this man was addressing them, in the middle of a crowded tavern, surrounded by people. This demon had put himself at their mercy while openly admitting that he used to be with their enemies. All the friar needed to do was cry fiend and there was no way this man was getting out alive. He had to admit, for someone so timid, this guy had guts, and that was something to be respected.

“Yes,” Mista answered him, gaining an incredulous look from Trish. “He’s also dead.”

“I see,” the man said melancholically, pausing before he stopped fidgeting, posture suddenly changing, moving to stare at the both of them with unparalleled conviction, “You fought well then. They were no pushovers by any stretch of the imagination. The both of you must be incredibly worthy combatants…” trailing off before focusing his attention specifically on Mista, his face lit up with a strange combination of reverence and fervor. “You’re truly the definition of human progress.” He stated, his previous meekness all but washed away like a leaf in a river.

“Umm thanks?” Mista responded, unsure of how to take such a weirdly specific compliment.

“You two are quite something, it’s not everyday you see a hunter and a someone of demonic blood getting along so well.... I have one more question and then I promise I’ll leave you to your drinks.”

Mista and Trish looked at each other for a brief second before they nodded, allowing him to continue. Both curious as to what he was going to ask.

“Has a man by the name of Haruno tried to contact you?”

Haruno? Who was Haruno?

“Umm, no… who’s he?” Mista asked, looking over a Trish, hoping that she would recognize the name, before she shook her head in confusion.

The man bit his lip slightly, nervousness returning to his posture, before saying, “Ahh, well… maybe he wasn’t going by his name, he tends not to give it out very easily. Umm, he is my older brother; twenty five, a little shorter than me, straight black hair, greenish blue eyes-- he is also demonic, but you probably couldn't tell based on just looking at him… I would think he would want to confirm their deaths as well. He’s been trying to kill them for some time now.”

That description was not ringing any bells for Mista, but anyone who was trying to kill Dio and his evil priest was good in his books. “Nah, I don’t think anyone like that has approached us. But if you are planning on sticking around, I can tell you if I see him.”

The man shook his head, a couple braids coming loose from his ponytail. “I...I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” looking around the room briefly he leaned in to make sure that only the two of them could hear, “I’m afraid I have a couple slayers after me. If I stayed here too long they would probably locate me, and it looks like this town has seen enough battle.”

This drew Trish’s attention as she hummed, “You been eating in these parts?”

“Oh god no, you don’t have to worry about that. My brother, last time I saw him, showed me a way of not having to eat people for food… at least... not living people.” he explained, shaking his head. “The human spirit is just too interesting to kill, I want everyone to grow and progress, it’s what makes living in this world worthwhile...” His eyes darted over to Trish, “I just have some very insistent hunters after me, I’m sure you can relate.”

The huntress grimaced before nodding, Mista knew she understood that struggle well.

If this man had approached him with this same story before they had fought Dio, the marksman doubted he would have believed him. But after everything; after learning that not all demons were monsters, after meeting Trish, after meeting Giorno-- Mista found he was much more inclined to believe this strange man’s story.

“Well, if neither you or your brother are planning on hurting anyone, then I think we can help you out. Maybe you can give us a message, and if we see him we can pass it along.” Mista reasoned.

The man brought his hand to his chin, contemplatively before saying, “Hmmn, well alright... you seem like trustworthy people. You see my brother and I have quite a reputation to a very powerful congregate in the lands far east of here. The only demon higher on their priority list was Dio. So now that he is dead, they will be coming after us… but I’m planning to throw them off Haruno’s trail. If I can attract their attention then they will be too busy trying to find me to go after my brother. I don’t want Haruno involved, he has already done so much for me.” The demon let out a pitiful chuckle before continuing. “I mean... if it wasn’t for him I would still probably been on the wrong side.”

Trish hummed before retracting her hands from the table. “Sounds like you have a good brother.”

The magenta haired man smiled delicately, nodded before continuing. “Yeah… and I don’t want him to have to force himself to stay in hiding anymore. I think he used to live in this village with his mother. I managed to track her down, but when I asked her where he was, she said that she didn’t know, that he had been missing for over a month… hopefully he is alright, I don’t know what I’d do if a slayer got to him.” the demon responded his fidgeting once again becoming much more prevalent and panicked.

“Hey, hey, don’t worry,” Mista reassured, “I’m sure he’s fine, and when he comes to confirm their deaths, I’ll tell him that his little brother really cares about him.”

The demon looked at Mista for a second before he nodded, stood up from his seat, and bowed. “… Thank you, thank you so much! You’re an honorable man, and I owe you a debt of gratitude.”

Mista and Trish both assured him that he didn’t owe them anything, to which he replied that he owed them everything. And with that, the strange demon bid them farewell and exited the tavern.

The huntress let out a loud sigh of relief before also releasing a few chuckles, “Well that was certainly something.”

“Yeah, no kidding, don’t see that everyday.”

“I hope we can pass his message along, he seemed really worried about his brother.”

“I hope so too,”

They finished their drinks quickly, both processing the bizarre turn of events that fell before them. It was not long after that, Mista announced that they should head back to the abbey, and Trish agreed.

It was two more weeks of sorting, with the occasional trip into the village, before another stranger came a knocking.

It dark outside, perhaps two hours past sunset when Trish and Mista heard a knock at the double doors of the abbey.

The two of them made their way to the main hall, and opened the doors, expecting to find a villager asking for help.

Instead they were greeted by three figures, dressed in combat gear, many a weapon in plain view, clearly showing off that they meant business.

Trish must have also been caught off guard as neither of them moved while the figure in the center, the leader perhaps, looked them both over before focusing in on Mista. Clearing her throat, she spoke.

“I presume you are Brother Mista, friar to this abbey?” the woman asked, hands on her hips, eyebrow raised.

Regaining his bearings a bit, the clergyman focused in on these three visitors. Two women and a man. The woman in the center, held herself like a trained warrior and Mista knew at a glance that she was dangerous. Her long black hair was tied into a loose braid, trials of strawberry blonde bangs clung to her forehead. Her clothing was impressive, smooth but flexible leather armor covered every inch of her body, leaving her impervious to most attacks. To her right was a man, massive and imposing, wearing some sort of large white hat, with what looked to be severed demon horns affixed to the top, probably as some sort of hunting trophy. His armor was also quite intricate, but based on the way he stood slightly behind the middle woman, it was clear that he was following her lead. To her left was another woman, shorter than the other two, and the only one who on a cursory glance appeared unarmed. While she was not holding a weapon, it only took one look to realize that she was not defenseless. Golden markings trialed down from her forehead surrounding her eyes in a soft inhuman glow, her pupils the same yellow as the markings while her sclera pooled a dark grey. Her wide smile showing off rows of sharp teeth, while her form slightly shifted, particularly around her shoulders, as if there were multitudes of small insects crawling just below her skin.

Taking a half step back Mista realized that these people were hunters, from their weapons, to the literal demon who was accompanying them.

If the woman in the center, obviously not happy at his lack of response, cleared her throat, reminding him that he hadn't yet said anything.

“Uh.. Yeah, thats me.” Mista choked out, not sure what else to say. He doubted he and Trish could take the three of them alone, so he just hoped that if he gave them what they wanted, they would just leave.

The large hatted man leaned down to whisper something in the center woman’s ear. She listened and nodded.

“Of course Weather,” she spoke to the man next to her before turning back towards Mista. “We are here to ask you a couple questions about your involvement in the death of Dio and to recover the body of Enrico Pucci.”

And that was when Mista realized it. The demon they had met in the bar said that he was being followed by a group of slayers-- these people must have been who he was talking about.

The marksman must have not been hiding the dread that was building in his mind particularly well, as the smiling demoness spoke up in a voice that was much too cheery for his liking.

“Ah, you're scaring them Jojo,” she addressed the woman in the middle before taking a step forwards towards them. “You don’t need to worry little human man, we aren’t here to fight. Quite the opposite, we should be thanking you for taking out such a big threat!” she announced with a smile, those sharp teeth once again flashing in the moonlight.

The woman in the center… Jojo presumably, rolled her eyes before replying, “If anything F.F. you’re probably the one scaring them.”

F.F. made an exaggerated show of surprise, “No... But look, he has a demon here with him as well, he shouldn’t be surprised.” she stated gesturing to Trish.

The large man… Weather as he had been called, bent down to whisper something else in Jojo’s ear.

“Hmm, Weather is right F.F. just because there is another demon here doesn't mean that a trained hunter is just going to assume you aren’t a danger.”

“Oh,” the green haired demoness exclaimed, looking down at her figure, and suddenly right before Mista’s eyes she shifted. The golden streaks on her face fading into the pink of her skin, eyes changing to a more normal green, the rustling below her flesh stopping in place. “How about this mister Mista?” she asked him. “If it helps I can look more human for you.”

In response Jojo just laughed before throwing her arm over her demonic companion’s shoulder. “That is not exactly how that works.” she chided, as if lecturing a small child.

F.F. in turn just looked at her still confused, but sharing in her laughter.

It was Trish who spoke up next, taking a step forward so all eyes moved to her. “Cut the bullshit, and just ask your questions. I’m sure you understand why we are skeptical about your motives.”

Jojo abruptly stopped her laughing, face melting into stone, eyes narrowing in suspicion. “And who would you be? Clearly you have some demonic blood and from our preliminary research, and testimony of a villager who witnessed the initial attack on your little town, it seems that Brother Mista was spotted with someone whom they believed to be of fiendish heritage. However the witness did say that this demon had golden hair…”

Her sharp emerald eyes glanced between the two of them as if she were trying to assess their reactions. Mista was internally panicking, these hunters must have been referring to Giorno, for he was the one who accompanied Mista on his first trip to the village.

Ah shit, if these were the hunters that the demon in the bar told them about, the friar doubted they would take too kindly to him working so closely with the son of their enemy.

Trish must have caught onto his panic as she tsked and waved her hand, attracting the attention back to her. “Well I was indeed the one who accompanied Mista to the village, so either they were mistaken with what they saw, or perhaps my hair looked a lot more yellow in all the fire that was consuming most of the village’s buildings during that time.” she lied easily, reminding the friar just how often Trish must had lied in the past to hide her demonic secret.

Jojo searched the pink haired woman’s face, trying to determine if she was telling the truth, before the fiend next to her spoke up once more.

“Ah, well that makes sense!” She proclaimed, “I guess that means that he wasn’t here.”

Mista did not have to ask to know who ‘he’ was.

Jojo scanned them over once more before she closed her eyes and sighed, “That’s disappointing, and here I thought we were hot on his trail. Well, I suppose it was a long-shot anyways.” she lamented.

Weather leaned down to whisper something else into her ear, to which she nodded and repeated for everyone else to hear. “We are also looking for someone else. I doubt he was foolish enough to come into this village, especially after what you two did to Dio, but there is no harm in asking. Have either of you been approached by a male demon, braided hair, yellow eyes? If he made a move to speak to you he probably appeared quite harmless, but of course I doubt the two of you would be so easily fooled.”

Mista shook his head, well at least this confirmed that these were truly the hunters their visitor was running from. “No, sorry, no one like that has made any attempts to contact us.”

Jojo nodded, not even bothering to look him over twice before she sighed once more. “Ah well, then I suppose we can leave the two of you to it. If we can just collect the body of Enrico Pucci then we will be out of your hair.”

Trish crossed her arms, clearly still not too pleased at all of these demands, “Well unfortunately there isn’t a body. We weren’t going to bury our enemy, all that’s left of him are ashes.”

“Can we have the ashes then?” The other demoness spoke, leaning forwards eagerly as if she were bartering for a nice silk instead of the remains of a foul priest.

Mista frowed softly at this, “Why do you need it?”

Jojo, not backing down in the slightest glared back at them before answering, “We want to return him to his family.”

Silence.

Mista and Trish looked at each other briefly, before Trish nodded and went down to the library where they had been temporarily keeping the remains of their enemy, while Mista stayed with their visitors at the door.

The quiet that filled the air while they were all waiting for Trish to return was tangible. Mista had no idea what to say. To be completely honest, he never even considered that the priest which had caused them so much despair, who killed Abbacchio, Narancia, and Buccellati even had a family.

Trish returned quickly with the old rusty urn they had put him in, holding it out for Jojo to take.

Much to their surprise however it was not Jojo who stepped forward to receive the ashes, but the larger, hatted, and extremely silent man.

His hands encircled the urn before pulling it close to his chest in an odd sort of embrace. His eyes closed and began to whisper what sounded like a prayer, although the friar could not make it out. At the height of his prayer, for a split second, Mista could have swore that he saw the larger man almost tear up. The moment did not last long however as the behatted man opened his eyes back up to look down at the two of them-- and for the first time since they had met him, he spoke loud enough for them to hear.

“Thank you.”

And that was it. Their three strange and clearly dangerous guests bid them a good night and calmly walked away, down the dirt path from the abbey.

Mista and Trish could not have been any more relieved. Once the friar was sure their visitors were out of hearing range, he endlessly thanked the pink haired huntress, expressing how much it meant to him that she covered for Giorno.

To which she replied that of course, she wasn't about to throw him under the carriage so to speak.

They didn’t leave the abbey for a least a week after that visit, making absolutely sure that they would not again run into the triad if by a slim chance they were staking out the village. On the seventh day the two of them finally came out of their abbey to run some errands and much to their relief, the three visitors seemed to have long since departed.

While Mista was glad that they were gone, their visit continued to play in his head almost everyday for the next month and a half. The demon they met in the bar was right about them being committed to hunting down Dio and all things relevant to him. He prayed everyday that the bar demon and his brother were alright and did not meet an untimely end by the hands of Jojo and her congregate. However even more than that, he prayed for Giorno, if that group were so diligent in tracking down other demons who used to be affiliated with Dio years ago, he did not even want to think about what they were doing to find the literal son of the monster.

And so a new aspect was added to his nightly routine. He would light his candle and filled the time that he was previously waiting, with prayers. Prayers that everything would be ok, that there would be no more bloodshed, that he would be able to protect those he cared about from those who sought to hurt them.

Time flew, days strung together by the nightly prayer, It was almost half a year since the battle with Dio that Mista and Trish were finally ready for the move down into the village.

All of their stuff was packed neatly away, and they had already found a vacant building to set up in. All they needed now was to transport their belongings. And so together they walked to the village, planning on splitting up, each hiring a carriage driver to follow them to the abbey so they could load up their stuff and transport it.

Trish had already gotten a head start on Mista, finding a carriage driver easily and was already making her way with them to the abbey. The marksman on the other hand was having real trouble finding someone.

Most of them were in quite a hurry, transporting relief care supplies from other villages. However after a few minutes of searching, he spotted one that was pulled to the side, probably just finishing a separate trip. Walking up to the side of the vehicle he noticed a shadow of someone moving in the driver's seat, and so to gain their attention he knocked on the side of the wood, hoping they were open for business.

“I will be right with you.” a voice called from the inside, and despite the voice being oddly familiar, the friar did not think much of it. He had spent the last few months running all around the village, at this point nearly everyone sounded familiar to him.

However once the driver moved out of the front seat of the carriage, hopping down and turning towards him, they both froze in place.

The driver was a man, perhaps a couple years younger than Mista himself. His slightly below shoulder length jet black hair was tied into a simple ponytail, blunt bangs clung to his forehead with sweat, probably from working all day. His clothes were simple-- dark blue cotton that seemed perhaps a size too big for his petite form.

But what drew Mista’s attention the most were his eyes, turquoise blue and sea green blended perfectly together, the color of the ocean stared back at him. And although those eyes were currently missing the reds, oranges, and yellows, that he typically associated with the sunrise eyes he had grown to miss, he recognized that gaze anywhere.

“...Giorno?” he asked before he could stop himself.

The black haired man’s lips set in a straight line, a panicked expression decorated his features, a far cry from the completely composed fiend Mista knew him as. He looked pained, and from the way his feet began to turn in the opposite direction, Mista realized he was about to run away.

Jumping to attention before the other could flee, the friar reached out and grabbed the man.

Mista clung to his hand-- it was warm, he could feel the other’s pulse beating a mile a minute, which made him pause. None of this made any sense, this had to be Giorno-- the way he looked, the sound of his voice, his eyes, they were unmistakable. And yet, here he was, directly under the sun, warm to the touch, it was almost as if…

“You’re human?!”

The man flinched, as he pried his hand away from the friar. It looked like he was about to speak, before another voice cut him off.

“Haruno!” the voice yelled, directing both their attention to an older man, brown hair greying at many places, hairline in the beginning stages of receding. “Where the fuck are you? You lazy piece of shit! You skip out on us for months and now you think you can get away with not working!”

The black haired man... Haruno, turned his attention to the voice as the other man came into full view, finally seeming to notice that Mista was there as well.

As soon as the older man’s eyes met Mista’s his disposition immediately changed. He moved from aggressive, like one who was about to lose it and punch someone, to gregarious.

“Ahh,” the older man exclaimed, moving his way to stand next to the younger man. “Haruno, you should have told me you were talking to the village savior.” Moving in front of Haruno the man extended his hand to Mista. “Thank you so much for your protection, we would surely be dead without your demon slaying abilities. I heard that you yourself were responsible for dealing the killing blow, how amazing.”

Mista was at a loss for words, this whole encounter was nothing less than bizzarre. For all the attention the older man was giving him, he could not turn his gaze away from Haruno, who seemed to be doing everything in his power to not look at him.

The older man seemed to notice this as he, a little too roughly, elbowed Haruno in his side. “Dipshit, thank the man. He is the reason we are all still alive!”

Not missing a beat Haruno recited the gratitude. “Thank you for saving us.”

“I apologize for him, he can be a bit slow on the uptake.” the older man chuckled, before turning his attention back to the black haired man. “Go on, the village savior needs a ride, you better give him what he wants.”

“Of course,” Haruno replied. “Where would you like to go sir?”

“I… uhh… to the abbey,” Mista dumbly replied still processing the events which just happened in front of him.

Wordlessly Haruno climbed back into the driver’s seat, gesturing for the friar to get in beside him. The older man threw a few more compliments Mista’s way before yelling at Haruno to hurry and make sure he returns before sunset.

The black haired man nodded and then directed the horses to the main road.

Mista waited for the man to talk to him, to say something, however once they traveled a couple minutes without any discussion being initiated, he realized that if he didn't speak up, the other would stay silent.

“What’s going on?” he questioned, staring at the black haired man. “How are you human? Why is your hair a different color? Who was that guy? Why did he call you Haruno?”

The man sighed, hands tightening along the reigns. “My mother is human, this is my natural shade, that was my mother’s husband, and Haruno is my birth name. Any other questions, or can you let me just get you where you need to go?”

Mista gaped, opening and closing his mouth a couple times before finding his voice once more. “You… what? But… how? How is this possible, what is going on?”

Haruno… no, Giorno did not reply, eyes firmly stuck on the road in front of them.

“Giorno, please talk to me.” Mista begged, confusion and curiosity becoming unbearably intense.

In that moment the reigns must have been pulled as the horses came to a sudden stop and Mista, unprepared for it, almost came barreling out the front of the carriage. Catching himself last minute on the railing, he looked over to the ocean green eyes, which now bore into him.

“Why should I? You already know more that I ever wanted you to know. You want me to give you more ammunition? No, I think not.” Giorno replied, voice cold and hesitant.

“Giorno I--” Mista began, trying best to wade through the immensity of his guilt.

“I never meant for you to see me like this.” The other frowned, posture rigid as if at any moment he was about to make a break for it.

The marksman’s brows furrowed in confusion the words he was going to speak dying in his mouth. Why was Giorno so distraught that Mista saw him looking more human. If anything, this put the friar significantly more at ease, knowing Giorno had some human blood.

And some blood it must have been, because if he didn’t know already, he would never guess that the man in front of him was even fiendish in the slightest. For how ethereal the demon appeared while fully demonic, the man in front of him was incredibly unassuming. From the slight bags under his eyes, presumably from lack of sleep, to the thin dusting of freckles across his nose highlighting a light sunburn from working all day, he looked as vulnerable as any other human.

Wait.. was that it? The friar thought back to when he held Giorno’s hand, how warm it was, the pulse underneath it. Giono currently looked as human as any other random villager… so did that mean that in this form he was just as fragile as the rest of them?

Gaze turning back to the other’s, he tried to phrase the next sentence as simply as he could.

“...I’m not going to hurt you.” He said softly.

Giorno responded with a snort. “And why not hmm? Isn't that your job? To rid the village of all demonic influences.”

Not able to stop his incredulity Mista responded, “What in the world are you talking about? We worked together, we killed Dio together, there is no way I can see you as anything but an ally.”

Giorno just looked back at him, expression hidden under several stone walls of impassivity. “You mean that I almost killed you, and then instead, roped you into an incredibly dangerous mission where you almost died. Don’t lie, I know how you feel about me, how you feel about demons, you made that explicitly clear.”

Mista sat there, mouth agape, did...did Giorno not realize how much he cared for him?

The blonde looked upon him not with fear or disgust, but with a strange longing. A type of sorrow Mista knew well. The fear of being rejected, of being cast aside by someone who you desperately wished would love you.

It was the same way the friar felt when he was outcasted by his hometown, stripped of the connections he so desperately craved.

Giorno did not believe that he was going to be rejected, no the clergyman knew Giorno better than that. If the demon thought there was even a sliver of a chance that he might not be, he would fight for it-- Mista had seen him first hand fight more impossible odds, not giving up as long as there was hope.

No, what the demon truly believed was that he had already been rejected, and now he just had to hear what he already knew to be true, said directly to his face.

Mista, was therefore befuddled, he had no clue what he could possibly say or do which would convince the younger man otherwise. So he did the one thing he knew was righteous, he acted with conviction and truth.

Slowly, with enough speed that Giorno could deny him if he so wished, the friar pulled the demon into a hug-- and to his surprise the blue eyed man did not resist.

Holding him as tightly as he could, he spoke. “I’m sorry I said those awful things to you.” He replied simply, clinging to the other man, pouring all of his regret and relief into the embrace. “I didn’t know any better and was scared... but I know now, you aren’t my enemy Giorno, you’re my partner.”

It took a few seconds, but after a moment he felt the other’s arms encircle around him as well.

Mista had been in Giorno’s embrace many times now, however this was a far cry from all of the ones he previously experienced. It was warm, soft, vulnerable, and so unmistakably human. Overcome with happiness that was bubbling to the surface, the friar could not contain himself, he melted into the embrace, holding back tears.

He knew not how long they stayed like that, skin pressing to skin while the sun continued to progress lower in the sky behind them, signaling the start of dusk. And yet despite the length of the extended embrace, the friar did not want to let go. For some reason, he couldn’t shake the feeling that the second he released his grip, Giorno would vanish, leaving him alone once more.

Burying his face in the other’s shoulder, he knew that he could not hold on forever, and so eventually he once again spoke up.

“I don’t have the words to express how happy I am to be here with you.” he choked out.

Pulling away from him suddenly, Giorno scanned his features, sizing him up, seeing if he was telling the truth. Mista just beamed at him, hoping that he was able to convey just how much their reunion meant to him.

Finally Giorno spoke once more. “Do you truly mean that?.”

And to answer his question, the clergyman simply leaned in and captured the other’s lips.

Giorno froze and for a fraction of a moment, Mista second guessed himself, however before he could pull away, thinking he may have pushed things too far, his angel returned his affections.

The beautiful figure in front of him, snaked his arms around the clergyman’s body, one hand tangling in his short black hair, the other gripping the back of his coat with such fierceness that if the man where in his demonic form, he would have surely pierced Mista with his claws.

The friar closed his eyes and focused in on those perfect lips beginning to move under his, hurried and desperate, as if they had everything to lose, and only a limited time remaining.

Mista wanted to laugh, to tell Giorno that they had all the time in the world to enjoy each other's company. He pulled away, and opened his eyes to tell his angel just that, but was interrupted by a magnificent sight.

It was Giorno, framed by the light of the setting sun, a sad smile decorating his partner’s features-- his gaze, those pools of vast ocean, began to go through a cycle of their own. Just as the sun set behind him, a new light, bright and fiery rose in the demon’s eyes, growing with hungry ferocity by the second.

The marksman could only watch in awe, as those eyes started to resemble those he had been dreaming about. He was about to reach back to the other and kiss him again, when he noticed something.

Giorno, still so cautious, turned away from him, ever so slightly. His mouth, now beginning to show the start of fangs lengthening, opened to speak two words.

“I’m sorry.”

And Mista knew exactly what to say.

Reaching his hands to both sides of the other’s face, he smiled and proclaimed--

“You have nothing to be sorry for.”

Their lips met once more in an explosion of gold, as Giorno’s hair curled and, in the only way Mista could describe it, bloomed into a familiar blonde shade.

He nearly cried at the sight.

Pulling away, he let out a laugh instead, resting his forehead against the blonde’s.

“So…” he stopped, not really knowing how exactly to ask this question.

A familiar mischievous smile made its way to Gionro face as he watched in amusement at Mista trying to come up with a question.

“So you’re only part demon then?” the friar finished, hoping that would be enough to prompt the carriage driver in the right direction.

Giorno nodded.

“For those of us with demonic blood, our fiendish ancestry usually surfaces in strange and very different ways. Some, like Trish, are mostly human, able to eat normal human food and move about during the day. Others are significantly more inhuman having very prominent demonic features they cannot hide. And some, change between those two depending on when their demonic blood is most active… During the day, I am much more vulnerable and resemble something most people would define as human, but at night… well.” The blonde just simply gestured up and down at himself. “I suppose it is common knowledge that demons are usually more active during the night.

“This all makes sense now, how you managed to get past Buccellati’s barrier, you must be human enough to not have triggered it… like Trish.”

Giorno nodded before asking, “Is she still here?”

Mista grinned, “Oh yeah, she is now an official part of our new abbey!”

Giorno’s features softened significantly, “I’m glad, she deserves a place to call home.”

“Pfft, she treats the abbey more like a home than I do,” The friar laughed, thinking of how much she insisted on keeping their spaces as spotlessly clean as possible and the last time she yelled at him for leaving his dirty clothes on the floor.

Trish would get a real kick out of knowing that he ran into Giorno of all people on his way back to the abbey, or... well Haruno, as his real name was…

Haruno… why did that sound so familiar…... Wait!

“Your brother!” Mista nearly yelled, startling the man next to him, who looked upon him quizzically.

“What?”

“Your brother, Trish and I met him... I mean we didn’t know he was your brother, we just knew he was Haruno’s-- hold up, so is he also a son of Dio’s? Damn no wonder he wanted to confirm his death.” Mista continued, tripping over his own words in confusion, putting together all of the pieces.

“Rikiel was here?” Giorno asked. “Well that’s a surprise, I haven't seen him in years.”

Mista’s mind was swirling with connections he was just starting to make, resulting in him verbalizing nearly everything the was thinking. “Yeah, he was really worried about you, wanted to make sure you were alright. That slayer congregate from the east didn’t get you. Oh Giorno you won’t believe it, but they showed up here too looking for you and him, but don’t worry Trish and I covered for you. Oh, right.. umm I said I’d deliver a message for him to you. Uhh, right! So the demon slayers who are trying to hunt you, well your brother has a plan to get them off your trail completely, so you won't have to keep hiding.”

Giorno stared at him incredulously as he parsed through all the information being flung at him. His brows furrowed and mouth turned downwards, as he was apparently not all that celebratory at that announcement.

“Rikiel is planning on getting Jolyne off my trail…? Did he say how?”

“Jolyne? The head of the Joestar family!?” Mista exclaimed incredulously. “The woman who appeared at my abbey was the new head of the most powerful hunting family in the world!?”

Seriously? What kind of crazy luck did he have, falling for the single most sought after demon, by the most deadly of hunters.

Giorno did not comment on his exclamation, instead focusing on the friar, waiting for him to answer the question.

Realizing that his angel was waiting on him, Mista struggled to think back to his encounter with the other demon. He was relatively drunk when it all happened and was not a hundred percent sure, but if he recalled… “Uhh I think he said that he was planning on doing something that would put him above you on their priority list, but I dunno what that is.”

Those lovely sunrise eyes looked back at him with pure shock, before softening into worry. “That idiot! He is going to get himself killed, hasn’t he learned anything from Versace and Ungalo?” the golden haired demon protested more to himself than to Mista.

Mista did not need to ask why in the very next moment Giorno jumped from the cart and began to walk away-- but he did protest.

“Wait!” he called out to the blonde. “Let me help you… going after him alone might not be enough.”

The demon did not turn around, nor did he stop walking. “No Mista, this is not on you. This is my business, my brother, my fight-- you have no stake in this.”

“Bull- fucking- shit I don’t! If they are picking a fight with your brother… with you… well then they are picking a fight with me too.”

This finally stopped Giorno in his tracks, freezing for a second before turning back to face Mista with something the friar so rarely saw on the demon’s face…

… a smile, small but earnest, making it’s way to those glorious eyes and glittered with gratitude.

“I… I am grateful that you feel that way… however, I cannot in good faith accept your assistance.”

“But Gionro--”

“No Mista, you have other duties you must do. Other people who need your protection more.”

And although the friar knew it was true, knew that the village, down all of their original clergyman sans him, need him to keep them safe. He and Trish needed to stay, to protect the people they swore they would.

“... what about the carriage… the horse?” Mista asked once he saw Giorno again continue to move to leave.

A soft cherub chuckle drifted his way in response. “You needed the transportation right? Just bring the horse back to the man you saw me with, I doubt he would mind if it is being put to use by the village savior.”

Mista looked down at the horse for a second before looking back up to find Giorno gone. Quickly his eyes darted all around him to try to catch one last glimpse of his angel.

“Giorno,” he called out to the darkness around him, waiting for a response which never came “.... I never got to tell you that I think I love you.”

After another few seconds of silence the friar sighed, situated back into his seat and grabbed the reins to move onwards, and only then did he receive what he sought.

I think I love you too

Mista nearly fell back at the feeling of other tugging on the bond... their bond. He opened up his end with a swiftness and basked in the warm, almost ticklish feeling that embraced him back along with another message.

I suppose we will have to figure this all out when I return

And that was all Mista needed to smile and move forward.

When he finally arrived at the abbey, Trish was waiting for him on the doorstep with a carriage driver she hired, looking upon him clearly annoyed that he was a couple hours late.

She was obviously about to lecture him on punctuality before noticing his goofy grin.

After he had told her what had happened, she asked him if he was going to be ok, to which he told her.

“Of course, Giorno gave me his word that he would return, and I trust him to keep it.”

The huntress seemed to have her own skepticism, telling him not to get his hopes up too much, but he paid no mind, announcing that they might as well start the move now that they had both cartridges.

The move was easy enough, just as simple as the two of them had planned for. Working diligently, they were able to complete it in under a week.

The village rejoiced, deciding on hosting a large festival the day they completed the move.

Trish adored the attention, participating in the events, and even helping the villagers clean up after it was all done.

Mista on the other hand was too giddy to do anything but reminisce about the kiss, and dream of what he was going to do with Giorno when the blonde finally returned to him.

The new building was much bigger than the previous abbey, and so even after moving in all their stuff, they still had many open rooms of empty space.
Well… space and all of Mista’s extra candles.

Due to the increased size of their living quarters, when deciding who was going to take what room, the marksman called dibs on the room across from the main double doors, so the breeze from the open doors would flow into his space if he left his entrance adjar.

It also meant that Trish, having chosen a room on the second floor, was far enough away that she could no longer judge him on his sleeping habits, as she could no longer see his constantly lit candle from her room.

And so every night he continued his ritual.

He knew his angel would return to him, but he was not naive and also realized it would be a dangerous territory Giorno was treading into.

He only hoped his prayers would reach him.

It was not long before the friar began to lose track of the days, as they all blended together tied by his longing for the other to return.

Hope gave way to anticipation, which gave way to worry.

He knew not how far away the Joestar’s were, nor did he have a clue how Giorno was doing, if he found his brother, and if they both made it out alive.

There were several nights were he was tempted to try and open their connection, but the fear that he would call for his angel and receive no response frightened him enough to always reconsider.

Trish was concerned for him, but she clearly knew that he did not want to hear about what the worst case scenario could be, so she remained quiet, letting him sulk in peace.

He thinks it was the thirtieth day since he last saw Giorno that he fooled himself into thinking he saw his candle flicker.

But it ended up being nothing, just as it always was.

It was now almost three months since the encounter by the cartridge. Mista wearily lit his candle, and like clockwork, stared at it unblinkingly.

He wondered how much longer he could do this, how much longer he would be able to wait, before it broke him.

He didn’t know, but at least for tonight he was going to try again.

The flame was bright and stationary, it illuminated his room, temporarily chasing away all dark thoughts in the warmth of it’s light.

Wax slowly dripped from the burning wick leaving behind a gentle trail of smoke, and Mista resisted the urge to scream.

Instead he just kept watch--

Waiting,

Hoping,

Praying,

The flame danced directing the friars eyes back to it. Holding his breath he watched it move, only for it to settle back into a steady glint.

Sighing, gripping the table with such force that his knuckles began to turn white, he tried his best to hold back tears.

His endeavor, however wasn't successful, as before he realized it, a teardrop fell to the table in front of him. Reaching to his check he found more where that came from.

Closing his eyes, he brought his hands to his face, no longer bothering to contain his weeping.

He allowed the sadness to overwhelm his senses, banishing all other emotions from his mind… all of course except for a slight flicker of jubilation, a small boat in the sea of heartache.

Frowning to himself, Mista cursed his own reaction, how could he possibly be feeling any triumph at such a dismal sight? Trying his best to will away the feeling, it instead flared up out of his control, like a fire one had added too much kindling to.

As the feeling increased the friar opened up his eyes in bewilderment as he finally recognized the feeling. That warmth, that tender heat… it was…

Quickly looking down at his light, he couldn’t help but smile wider than he had in the last two months combined.

The candle flickered.