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Fan Fic / Frail Equilibrium

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Frail Equilibrium is a Devil May Cry fanfic written by JadedPanda.

The tale takes place some years prior to the events of Devil May Cry 3 and deals with a part of Dante's adolescence, his unorthodox friendship with a teenaged witch named Tess Templar and a city-wide demonic outbreak they are forced to confront. The story takes an interesting approach to Dante's early years and uses the sparse knowledge there is about the series' universe and does some world-building with it.

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This fic provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Tess. Though new to the hunting thing by her own admission, she does a good job at keeping up with Dante.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Dante calls Tess 'Twig', because of her slight build. She's not very pleased at first.
  • All Witches Have Cats: Subverted. Roy’s not actually a cat, it’s just the form he prefers due to its closeness to his real one. He's actually a powerful Djinn by the name of Abraxas.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Dante makes the bad decision to tease Tess a little too much by kissing her without her consent and then making fun of her about it. She responds by punching him right in the face and half-demon though he is, it looks like Dante feels that.
  • Aura Vision: This is what alerts Tess to Dante's real nature from first moment she sees him. Later on, it's what clues them both into what's happening to some people.
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  • Badass Longcoat: Dante, even at sixteen.
  • Badass in Distress: Dante nearly drowns after being rammed into a frozen lake by a dying Chernabog. Because this is set well before his powers fully matured, he isn't able to survive underwater yet.
  • Battle Couple / Bash Brothers: Dante and Tess gradually develop the rapport to fight as a duo - complete with their own little inside jokes. As some unfortunate demons found out, the only thing worse than fighting Dante or Tess is fighting both of them.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Dante and Tess. They can be downright nasty to each other, but it's easy to see there is a weird kind of mutual fondness. Roy finds it rather funny. A decade or so later, they just pick up right where they left off.
  • Berserk Button: Dante is very touchy about his family being brought up and he absolutely detests feeling like he isn't winning a fight. He develops another one about protecting Tess.
    • Tess has a very bad reaction to anyone insinuating that she’s weak and she can only take that much prodding before she blows up on Dante for doing so.
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    • Roy's Berserk Button seems to be Tess being in danger but he also gets quite pissed when both kids do something reckless and stupid that could get them killed.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: She might be a fairly nice person but Tess is still a witch and has no problem lobbing curses at people who bother her. Such as Dante.
  • Bring My Red Jacket: Dante. Obviously.
  • Body Horror: The possessed madman that Dante and Tess end up fighting in the store. Also, Chax and almost all of the demons.
  • Broken Tears: Poor Tess; in the last third of the story she deals with loss, horror and her own feelings of uselessness all in the span of a couple of hours for the second time in her life. Small wonder that even Dante dropped his usual smart-mouthing.
  • Bullying the Dragon: One might argue that Dante and Tess' attitude towards each other borders on this. She knows he's half-demon and he's aware she could roast him alive or curse him for the rest of his life. Do either of them stop? No.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Dante sets the ball rolling and Tess learns to keep up with him. Crosses into Moment of Awesome (and Funny Moments).
  • Character Development: Dante actually gets some. He starts the story as even more of a bratty punk than he's even been in the games. He's over-confident and a little too eager to fight and enjoy battles. This eventually comes to bite him in the ass and starts him on the path to maturing. A little.
    • On a lesser scale, Dante comes to better terms with his nature as both half-demon and half-human and the hope that there might be people out there who accept both things.
    • It's very satisfying to watch Tess go from a depressed and frigid young woman with confidence issues and an attitude to a badass who takes crap from nobody. Dante even lampshades this.
    • The gradual progress of the two protagonists from mutual dislike to earnest friendship.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Dante, obviously.
    • Tess. Being raised by an emotionally distant and angry grandmother who berated her as crazy all the time was the least of her problems.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tess outdoes Dante in this department as she’s much more sarcastic than he is and her deadpan game is better.
  • Death Glare: Roy. Good God, Roy. In chapter 4 he actually made Dante want to run away!
    • Dante makes jokes about Tess', when she's upset. Probably because he’s usually the cause of it.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Part of Tess' Character Development. Her initial frostiness came from the fact that she could not be truthful about herself and her abilities, her crippled self-confidence and being uncertain whether Dante could be trusted. Once she started opening up to Dante, she defrosted rather quickly but maintained a bit of her grumpy realism.
  • Determinator: Holy crap, Tess. She dove into a freezing lake to save Dante's life, despite making a point earlier that as a fire person, cold poses a devastating threat for her.
    • And there's also what she did in the climactic events of the story's last leg. Did we mention that she is a very skinny teenager?
    • Dante, with a vengeance. He doesn't know when to quit.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Dante mocking every demon he meets, as usual - and even Chax, a demon of insanity who was dubbed the Mad God.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Dante is just sixteen years old but he's already got a fair share of demon-hunting and fighting experience under his belt to the point where very few things faze him. Tess doesn't have remotely as much combat experience as Dante, but she's very well-informed about demons and other supernatural creatures and has a good working knowledge of witchcraft.
  • Familiar: Roy is this for Tess, although not in the conventional sense. They’re not bound magically. Roy just likes her family and acts more like a caretaker/surrogate father for her.
  • Fiery Redhead: Tess may appear a little too frosty and composed for the trope but under the façade, she totally is.
  • First Kiss: Props to Dante for stealing Tess' very early. Although he totally deserved that punch he got.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Dante, obviously and Tess knew it the moment she set eyes on him because of her Aura Vision.
    • Tess is thought to be one too since her father was a fire Aos Sí changeling but even Roy is still uncertain given their rarity.
  • Hidden Depths: To most people, Roy, Tess and Magda are just a family running a boarding house. But they're two witches and their familiar. Also, there's a lot more to Tess than her initial frigid and sarcastic demeanor. She likes to bake chocolate 'hate cakes' late at night, when she's upset.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Sorta. Dante's described as very tall, even as a 16-year-old, while much is made about Tess' small and slender build.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Dante, as per his usual form. Tess also picks up some things from him.
  • Ignored Enemy: That poor, poor demon. It learned the hard way it's a bad idea to get between Dante and Tess and their bickering.
  • Insult of Endearment: How Dante and Tess largely communicate.
  • Invisible to Normals: Tess mentions that most demons can't be seen by normal people - and even some wiccans have trouble seeing demons for what they truly are. She is an extreme subversion of this: Not only does she see entities that are normally invisible to humans, she also sees things beyond even that scope and the true auras of nearly everything and everyone. Constantly.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dante, more than in any of the games due to this being a prequel. He somewhat enjoys being a jerk and it almost overshadows his better qualities. Roy is also this, to a milder degree.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: This is what Tess' relationship with Dante boils down to, sometimes.
  • Little Miss Badass: Tess develops shades of this when she gets into her stride.
  • Meaningful Echo: The “you love me” joke Dante and Tess trade occasionally. It’s always said with a dose of snark, but it might well be the most affectionate thing they say to each other.
  • "No. Just... No" Reaction: On occasion, Tess responds this way to Dante and his antics.
  • Not So Different: In part, this is why Tess and Dante get along well.
  • Not That Kind of Mage: Tess lampshaded this when Dante made a predictable comment about broomsticks. She also frequently repeats this mantra when Dante asks her to do things that she can't.
  • One Head Taller: Despite not being exactly short herself, pretty much everyone of the series' cast is this to Tess. It vexes her greatly.
  • Original Character: Given that this is set prior to DMC 3 as well as the manga, there's a lot of these. The most prominent is perhaps Tess, the female protagonist and Dante's unofficial partner. There's also Roy, who appears to be something of a reader favorite.
  • Papa Wolf: Tess isn’t his daughter, but Roy is very much this about Tess. Heck, he starts showing shades of being this for Dante, of all people.
  • Parenthetical Swearing: Tess can make even a “thank you” sound like “fuck you, you soulless bitch”.
  • Playing with Fire: Tess’ principal offensive power. Her control over fire is impressive, since she can do just about anything she wants with it, from precision spouts of flame and bright flashes to large areas of fiery destruction and powerful explosions. However, since she is still vulnerable to fire herself, she can burn and must exercise care.
  • Plucky Girl: Tess, in spades. Possibly the biggest proof of her fearlessness is that she’ll outright get in Dante’s face, even make him genuinely angry despite knowing exactly how ridiculously strong he is. He even lampshades it a couple of times.
  • Precision F-Strike: Dante has quite the colorful vocabulary in the story.
    • Tess has a penchant for unexpectedly dropping F-bombs in complete deadpan and they come out of seemingly nowhere. On the other hand, when she’s particularly upset, she won’t shy away from a minor Cluster F-Bomb.
  • Progressively Prettier: Dante wasn't impressed initially, but as Tess starts to come out of her shell and defrosts, it reflects on her appearance and his opinion of her improves.
  • Running Gag: Dante and Tess’ bickering.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: When an attacking demon calls Tess his girlfriend, both Dante and Tess explode into a stream of vehement denial.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Tess
  • Tsundere: Tess has a few shades of this, namely her snarky attitude and grumpy cynicism as well as her initial frostiness. For much of the first half of the fic she's equal parts baffled and angered by Dante's antics. Along the way she calms down considerably and warms up to Dante to the point where she treats him with a kind of exasperated patience. She still makes her feelings very clear when she gets really annoyed.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Dante and Tess. A little less with Roy.
  • Waif-Fu: Tess is 70-odd pounds soaking wet and yet in the fic she's seen picking a fight with humans twice her size and demons that even bigger. And winning.
  • Weak, but Skilled: By comparison to Dante, Tess. Her victories are based almost entirely on skill and knowledge of magic practices, rather than sheer power.
  • Wicked Witch: Tess may be a generally nice enough person, but she isn’t above using violence and witchcraft to get things done.
    • Magda fits it to a T. Dante even calls her one privately!

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