A deep breath.
You watched your breath turn to condensation as it danced through the dark blue night air. You warmed your hands around the hot mug as you leaned against the balcony’s railing, looking down on the city as time ticked passed. It was only October, but the first frost had already come, and you were dreading having to leave your blanket cocoon in the early hours when the sun hadn’t yet woke to warm up the world, but you had been doing it for two years now in a less comfortable dorm room, so you knew it was tolerable, just not preferable.
Although the view from the balcony was impossibly high up, you had learned to tolerate it whenever you craved fresh air. Originally apprehensive about standing anywhere near the ledge and glancing down at the microscopic people rushing around on the golden streetlight illuminated streets, fearful to fall and become a mere splat amongst the bustle, Lucifer had properly taken the time to explain to you how the railings were designed to prevent such falls. It had something to do with their height and the average center of gravity, and he told you not to worry unless you deliberately climbed up or forced yourself over the railing, you would be unlikely to fall. He didn’t laugh at your fear, but was calm and thorough to try and rationally explain anyway your fears. You appreciated that deeply.
And so you had been learning in stages how to ease your anxiety by standing out here for longer and longer periods of time. Gradually, between having to step out here to untie Mammon when he was strung up for punishment or having to drag Belphegor inside after he fell asleep against the door and tumbled outside onto the patio. You hadn’t interacted much with your housemates, but were learning how to do that too. It was inevitable, no matter how big the penthouse was, that you would have to run into them at some point.
The person you had really started to cross a bridge with in terms of a small friendship was Belphegor. Although he had initially surprised you on your first day when he passed out at your feet from a narcolepsy attack, you had grown accustomed to him collapsing suddenly or finding him already asleep somewhere in the apartment. Luckily, it wasn’t often, as you had never seen him have an attack while on your morning commute, but it was still concerning. The rest of his brothers would often leave him alone on the floor if they found him slumped somewhere, but you couldn’t find it in your heart to step over or brush past the man if you found him collapsed in the hallways. Despite Lucifer’s protests, you had become the one who would often try to coax him back to wakefulness, or support him and remind him of what he was doing if he was still somewhat conscious and only having a cataplexy attack. At first, you weren’t sure if he wanted your help, as he was quiet, and acted a bit brusque towards you when he woke to you leaning over him, but you had managed to have a few meaningful conversations despite that.
“I had a head injury when I was younger,” he told you one night, the both of you sitting on the couch after you dragged him back inside. He twisted the lid off on his medication and tapped the pills into his hand, “We don’t know if it’s exactly related to that, ‘cause I might have always had it, and just got more visible once I was older.”
“Everyone else always ignores you when you pass out. Is it bad for me to wake you when you have an attack? I didn’t know if I should leave you alone or not.”
“I don’t care if you help me or leave me,” he said as he tossed the pill back in his throat and took a swig of water, “It’s not like there is much you can do since it’s my brain, and I’m used to it when people leave me. I used to be upset about it, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.”
He set the water and pill bottle down on the table, but his hand rolled against the cap of the bottle, making it tilt in a circle as he mumbled, “Sometimes when I wake up, my memory is hazy, so it’s nice to have someone to remind me. Thank you.”
You could see in his eyes that he seemed a bit happier about it too, in the end.
Lucifer didn’t seem too pleased about the brothers you were choosing to get closer to, although he had yet to outright say anything. You could tell by the glares he shot the way of Satan when you arrived home, or Mammon when the two of you were on the couch in the living room talking about something that happened at work. Mammon was understandable, as you had witnessed the lecturing multiple times, and so you assumed Lucifer thought his slacking off would eventually rub off on you, but the rift between Satan and him you were still in the dark about. There was tension between them, and Lucifer had called Satan’s niceties an “act”, but you had yet to figure out what he meant by that.
Sure, there were some oddities to his behavior, but you didn’t see anything suspicious that made you alarmed. Still, that icy silence that stretched between them whenever you arrived home with Satan in tow made you uncomfortable. You knew Lucifer’s disdain-filled looks weren’t directed at you, but when you walked in to a house of coldness and the two barely spared one another a greeting without launching into a meaningless argument, you felt like tripwires were being set up with their tongues, and as you snuck away to your room, any misstep could lead Lucifer and Satan’s anger to turning on you.
You knew you shouldn’t think that way. Satan was a good student, intelligent, well read, and he had been nothing but kind to you since you moved in. Lucifer was obviously uptight due to the high ranking position of his job and being the oldest made him the most responsible for everyone. Still, you couldn’t shake that image of Satan standing in stasis on the bridge that night, and the seed of doubt about whether he had really gone to class or not.
He always seemed to be waiting for you, exactly where you left him, when your class got out. You feared what would happen if that was the truth and Lucifer found out.
As for the other three, Asmodeus, Leviathan, and Beelzebub, you hadn’t had an “icebreaker” moment with them yet. When you happened to be home and not trying to catch up on homework, Asmodeus was rarely mingling throughout the house, often locked up in his room where faint music could be heard coming from, as well as the smell of perfume. You had gathered from the number of shopping bags you had seen him come home with once- and his title as head of the fashion department- that he had many things to bide his time with, and you weren’t offended that you were shut out from that. It wasn’t as though you didn’t understand beauty and fashion, but he was obviously on a different level and you would need to find something else that would help you cross the bridge and further your acquaintanceship. Beelzebub, although Belphegor was often hanging around him, you had only really been around during your first meeting with Solomon, and Belphegor had explained that Beelzebub often was often working out or had to attend various events outside of company hours for work.
Asmodeus and Beelzebub’s absence made sense. Leviathan’s, however, didn’t.
You took a sip from your mug, and let your eyes drift up to look across the horizon, the multitude of illuminated squares on neighboring skyscrapers, ones that towered much higher than the apartment complex you were in right now. You squinted through the murky blue darkness of the evening and peered into the tiny rooms across the street, seeing just vague shapes of shadowy people moving about, living their lives.
Leviathan was still a complete enigma to you. When you first met, he had come off as immature and cocky, but not the same way Mammon was endearing to you. Leviathan was high and mighty, yet obviously insecure, as he went from making fun and threatening you for entering the wrong apartment to acting shy and dismissive about his job, and you had yet to see beyond that front he put up, mainly because there was always a door dividing you two. He was always locked inside his room, gaming away, and the few times he was seen walking about the house, his ears were plugged up with anime music leaking out, and his eyes were zeroed in on whatever console he was frantically typing away at.
Needless to say, you couldn’t think of any way to insert yourself into a conversation, nonetheless start one with him.
You took another deep breath, only vaguely watching the way the mist from it danced with the steam from your mug in the night air. You were more focused on the little people dancing within the tiny boxes of their lit up apartments, living their lives without any connection to yours.
You rested your cheek in your hand, and sighed, drifting away.
I wonder if I was over there, could I look over here and see me? Could I see everyone else in their rooms? Could I see what they’re doing, how they’re living?
You swore it didn’t bother you, the coldness of your new home. It had only been a month, you would adjust.
Are there some that watch us every night? Do they see more about their lives than I do?
You weren’t bothered. It had only been a month.
But, you thought to yourself as you brought the mug close to your chest, curling in on yourself as a gust of wind buffeted you, coaxing you turn around and go inside-
It would be nice for it to be a little warmer, after all this time.
And for you to feel like you belonged.
“Wait, you want me to deliver this to Leviathan?” You said, shaking the case for a video game in Mammon’s direction, “Why can’t you do it?”
“Because, if I go in his room, he’s going to kill me! Please, just do this one thing for me!”
Mammon pleaded with you outside of Leviathan’s bedroom, and you were trying your best not to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation you found yourself in. The door was obviously bolted tight, but you could see lights flashing underneath it and hear the heavy bass boom of some idol dance song blaring. Mammon was practically on his knees with his hands folded in prayer as he looked up at you, who was arching an eyebrow as you folded one hand on your hip and stared down at him.
“Uh-huh, and why is he going to kill you if you return this game?”
“Because I stole it and tried to pawn it for some cash, alright? If he sees me try to enter his room, he’ll try and kill me on the spot because he’ll think I’m there to steal something again. Please, just take care of this for me?”
You stared judgmentally at Mammon for another moment, almost tempted to ask what he would do for you in return, but as much excitement as you were having soaking up the attention of the other brothers who were milling about and glancing your way as Mammon continued to beg at your feet, you realized the more drawn out you kept this, the longer it would take you to finish your homework, and so, you relented.
“Fine. But how am I supposed to get in when the door is locked this tight and he obviously won’t hear me knock?”
“Just break the door down,” Satan called from the couch with a book, “Busting a lock like that should be no issue if you’re not rusty, Mammon.”
“Are you kidding me? If I broke this lock, Lucifer would kill me! I’m not doing it!” Mammon shouted.
“Well then,” you said, pushing the game against his chest abruptly “you’ll just have to wait for him to leave and then give it to him when he comes out.”
“Are you kidding me? That could take hours! I’m not waiting that long!”
“Well, I’m not waiting that long either, Mammon! I have homework I’m behind on and-”
The anime music suddenly stopped and then the lock clicked. You and Mammon froze.
The door slowly creaked open and Leviathan appeared in the dark, blue glow of his room with a scowl on his face.
“Why are you fighting outside my door?” He hissed, “I’m trying to watch Ruri-chan’s concert and I can’t hear anything with you guys yelling.”
Your mouth gaped open when you saw Leviathan standing there in casual clothing, for the first time in a while his orange eyes looking at you with interest (even if that interest was marred by annoyance) and looking at you expectantly. You flubbed for a moment before you managed to slip into a smile and find your voice.
“Oh! We were arguing because Mammon was going to-”
You started to gesture towards the brother in question only to feel the cold of the game case press into your hand and the space beside you become empty as a door down the hall slammed shut.
“Mammon’s gone,” Leviathan supplied.
“Yeah I know,” you rolled your eyes, sliding the game into both hands as you turned to face the other brother properly, “Look, Mammon was supposed to return this, but he got me involved because he apparently stole it and was scared to give it back. I just want to get back to my work, you want to get back to your show. Just take it and we can move on.”
You handed Leviathan the case.
“I knew he had been rustling around in my room the other day. I didn’t know what he stole, but Lucifer must have noticed him sneaking about and told him off, or else he never would have returned this on his own,” Leviathan said as he inspected the cover and back of the case. Slowly, his eyes started to light up, “Sorry about him, but thanks for giving this back, even if you were just being used as the middlema-”
Leviathan froze as he popped open the case. It was empty.
“Did Mammon seriously forget to put the disc back in-” You started to groan, but had the wind knocked out of you as Leviathan shoved past you, charging towards Mammon’s room. You banged into the wall harshly, your head hitting it with a loud thud as Leviathan stomped down the hall.
“I’m going to kill him!” He shouted as he tugged open the bedroom door, “Mammon! Did you sell my limited edition deluxe-”
The door slammed close, and the voices became muffled once more. You were still standing pressed against the wall, trying to catch your breath as you raised a hand up to your chest.
Leviathan had shoved you. Hard.
Satan seemed to notice you were having trouble breathing and got up from the couch, circling around to you as his book clattered to the floor.
“Are you okay? What’s the matter?”
Lucifer had mentioned all of them were bodyguards. They were trained in defense. It was just an accident.
You hadn’t realized how much strength Leviathan’s lithe form had in it. Wincing, you managed to catch your breath and smiled at Satan weakly, “He just surprised me is all. He must have been really angry. He put a lot of force into that push.”
Satan frowned, “That wasn’t a push, that was a shove. It’s inexcusable for him to do something like that, even in his anger. Are you having trouble breathing?” He raised his hand and pressed it over your chest lightly, feeling the rise and fall of your chest. It made you a bit nervous, but you were wearing an oversized sweater, so it was somewhat hard for him to see. He seemed to notice your discomfort though, and backed off slightly, but not before guiding you gently over to the couch.
“Sorry about that. Here, come lie down for a moment, and try to just slow your breathing. I’ll get you a glass of water.”
Belphegor scrambled out of the way to one of the other couches as Satan helped you sit down. He helped you swing your legs up onto the cushions and you leaned your head back against the arm rest. You could still hear Leviathan and Mammon fighting in the other room, and their shouts were getting louder by the second, some slamming noises rattling the walls as Mammon was no doubt thrown around. The sharp, sudden pitches of their angry tones made your breathing hitch, and as much as you tried to relax as Satan sat down next to you and handed you the glass, you couldn’t stop your hands from trembling.
Belphegor seemed to understand what was upsetting you. He got up and padded over to the room the arguing was coming from, and slipped inside. Very quickly, the noise quieted down, and he returned to curl up on the cushions where he had been moments before. He watched with a blank gaze as you carefully drank from the glass, handing it back to Satan when you were done. You pressed a hand against your chest and sighed deeply, at last your breathing under control.
“Are you okay?” Satan asked again. You nodded.
“Yeah, sorry about that. I guess I wasn’t prepared for you guys to be so strong!” You tried to laugh it off, but realized that was a bad idea when you felt your chest hurt in the place Leviathan had shoved you. Was it bruised? “Lucifer said you all used to be bodyguards, but I didn’t know how strong you actually were!”
“Lucifer told you that?”
You opened your eyes and looked at Satan. He was staring at you confused.
“Uh, yeah? He mentioned it before because it was why Diavolo wanted me to live with you guys.”
“So he’ll mention that to you but not to us?”
Satan’s brow furrowed and his eyes took on that bright green blaze you were becoming all too accustomed to whenever his anger began to seethe. Before it could burn any longer though, Mammon’s bedroom door opened, and the two stepped out with scratches and bruises already marring their skin. Leviathan looked over at you at the couch, pink quickly dusting his cheeks before he darted back into his room. Mammon wiped his bloody nose on his sleeve, but moved in towards the couches when he saw you. He slid into the space as Satan left it, and immediately was nothing but jovial as he tried to cheer you up with apologies.
Your eyes kept straying though, towards the closed door of Leviathan’s room, and the fleeing figure of Satan as he began to pace down the hall. From the other couch, Belphegor was silent.
Before your alarm could go off, you were awoken one morning by the harsh rapping of Lucifer on your bedroom door.
Like a slug, you rolled out of bed with the blankets and comforter dragging behind you, making your way over to the door slowly in the chill of the early hours. Through your glassy eyes, if you squinted at the clock, you could just make out the number five on the digital face.
“What is it?” You asked, rubbing your eyes as you opened the door before the man could knock on it again.
“Good morning to you too,” he said, folding his arms. He was already fully dressed in his work uniform, and you had to wonder if he ever slept at all from when you saw him yesterday, “I’m sorry to wake you, but Diavolo has informed me that he would like to see you early this morning. We will need to leave now to get there in time for the meeting.”
The rational part of your mind was still waking up, but it managed to keep your mouth closed and only think about how annoying it was that you were being asked to come in two hours before the time you normally go in for a meeting. Shaking yourself a little bit more awake, you squinted up at Lucifer.
“Do I have time to shower, at least?”
“Yes. I woke you deliberately so we would still have enough time for you to complete your morning routine even if you futzed about through it. Should I prepare coffee?”
“No, no…” You said, pushing the door closed again, “I’ll be awake soon, I don’t need any stimulants.”
If you had been more awake, perhaps you could have savoured the indignant look on Lucifer’s face as you practically shut the door on it, but for now, all you could focus on was not falling asleep on the floor on your way to the bathroom, shuffling across the room in your cocoon of blankets as you sought a warm embrace of a shower.
It was out of the house and into the rush of the city’s fall air as you and Lucifer stepped out of the bottom floor doors and onto the pavement. You were a bit more cognizant as the two of you moved about the kitchen, slipping in a complaint about how six in the morning was an unreasonable working hour for a college student, but Lucifer reminded you it was just a meeting. He seemed a bit on edge as well, although he was still nursing his cup of coffee, and so whatever impatience he felt about dragging your groggy self out of bed vanished with the caffeine.
You thought you caught a smile from him when he caught you as you tripped trying to get your shoes on as you left the threshold of the apartment. He quipped again about you needing coffee like him, but you shooed him away. Now that the wind was buffeting your face, any remnants of sleep were quite literally blown away as you wrapped your plaid scarf tighter around yourself and surged forward after Lucifer through the city.
“You know, I’ve been meaning to ask this,” you said as you hurried after him, “Why don’t you ever take a car instead of walking? Wouldn’t it save time?”
“More inconspicuous to walk than to drive. Besides, it’s healthier this way.”
“Healthier but more tiring. I thought you would have figured this out by now, but I’m not as tall as the rest of you. I’m always falling behind.”
Lucifer smirked at you from over his shoulder, “Then, you will learn to keep up.”
His eyes were hidden behind the dark sunglasses he always wore as he walked, but you swore you saw him smile there too. If he slowed down just a bit for your sake, you didn’t comment on it.
“Yo, Levi!” Mammon shouted as he kicked in a heavy metal door to a dark room, “It’s your turn with the intern!”
“What?!” The man in question let out an indignant squawk as he tugged his headphones around his neck, and sat up with one hand on the back of the couch, “What do you mean?!”
“Lucifer thought you were slacking off, so him and Diavolo are shipping them to you!” Mammon pressed a hand against your back and shoved you over the threshold of the hallway into the dark space. You felt like a kitten who had just been picked up by the scruff of its neck and chucked inside.
Leviathan launched to his feet and began to flail, “Wait, no! Stay out, no one is allowed in here-”
“Good luck!” Mammon called before slamming the door closed, just missing your bag as the door pushed you forward, tripping you further into the room. Silence echoed after the noise, giving you a moment to squint through the dark and search for Leviathan’s form, barely backlit by the blue light of the television that flashed a game over screen before going black. The television seemed to be against the far wall, which wasn’t that far at all, highlighting how small the “office” was, if it could even be called that. The entertainment department manager’s office was actually a few doors down the hallway and to the left, but for some reason Leviathan chose to work out of a tiny storage closet he had crammed all these electronics into.
As the light from the hallway faded and your eyes adjusted to the darkness, you found Leviathan’s eyes easily. The bright orange color glinted through the darkness, glaring at you with a serpent-like narrowness to them. You cupped your hands around the sides of your face, trying to focus more, and slowly, you found yourself realizing that- one, Leviathan’s silhouette was not one of a predator, but rather more familiar to those photos of cryptids spotted or a deer turning its head when it sees a car, and two, that there was something thin and wiry hanging down from the ceiling a few inches from your face.
You reached out and curled your hand around the string.
You smirked and pulled down. The single light bulb of the closet flashed, and the room was illuminated in a bright yellow light.
When you arrived at work, it was still the early hours of the morning, and not many employees were milling about the building yet. Lucifer had sent you up in the elevator while he vanished to attend to some other business, and you were welcomed by Barbatos’ into the office. You had prepared your finalized report, based on what you had discussed with Solomon and ideas you had compared, and chose to submit it to Diavolo now, since you weren’t sure when else would be a good time to hand it off. Instead of speaking to you first, he decided to read it over and so Barbatos guided you over to one of the comfy, leather chairs to laze about while he prepared tea.
You engaged in a whispered conversation after Diavolo gave a motion that Barbatos could relax from work, but even as he sat in the chair across from you, he remained poised and stiff with his gloved hands resting on his thighs. He was a bit robotic, and it was a bit jarring compared to the way he was looser in the few conversations you had shared over text, but like Lucifer you could see the small cracks in his professional persona appearing- what looked like coldness to most was now becoming an amused smirk.
It would just take you a bit more time to grow truly close to these people, you reasoned.
“Excellent work, MC,” Diavolo said as he tucked the papers back into the file you had given him. You stood up but he motioned for you to stay, instead he moved to leave his desk and cross his office towards you, “I know Mammon must have been a difficult first assignment, but I am truly thankful you managed to straighten him out.”
“We’ll just have to hope he remains good-natured,” Barbatos said.
“There’s a small chance he might go back to slacking off without you to watch over him, and so I might ask you to supervise him when that happens again, but as far as I am concerned, you have graduated from the financial department!”
Diavolo made an arc motion with both hands, wiggling his fingers in celebration. Barbatos gave a small clap.
“I’m honestly not sure if that’s an accomplishment. I feel like I was really overstepping my boundaries as an intern,” you confessed.
“Nonsense. You did a wonderful job. In fact, taking charge and being able to manage all that work was obviously very beneficial as you learned so quickly how everything works. Your report was very thorough,” he nodded, “I look forward to seeing more of that in the future. Although, perhaps we might see more of your individuality when you finally reach a different department.”
“Isn’t Beelzebub’s department next? I’m not too sure about sports marketing, but I’ll try my best!”
“Actually,” Diavolo said, “there’s been a small change of plans, but before we get to that-”
You tilted your head confused as he moved to sit down. Barbatos stood up and prepared a cup of tea for his master as Diavolo crossed his legs and leaned over his folded hands.
“I was hoping to find out how you were adjusting to your new home.”
Didn’t see that coming, you thought, but tried not to seem too surprised.
“Oh! Everything’s just fine, I assure you.”
“I know we discussed it briefly after your first day, but I wanted to check in on everything. How are things with the brothers? I know you walk home with a few of them, but I wasn’t sure how close you were with them.”
Is he assuming I’m acting unprofessional? A nervous thought flitted through your head. I have been pretty blunt and physical with Mammon, maybe that’s what this is about?
“I honestly… haven’t spoken to them too much? I mean, we obviously talk when we’re walking to and from, but at the apartment we all have our own space. Between work here and school, I’ve really only had brief conversations with them.”
“You don’t talk to them at all while at home?”
“No, that’s not true at all! It’s not like we avoid each other, but… I mean, we’re still getting to know each other. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with all of them yet, but I’m sure that will change once we have something like work to bond over. I’m not bothered by that. It’s to be expected when moving somewhere new.”
“Hm… I see. Barbatos, do you think we may have been giving our intern too much work to start?”
Your head whipped around to Barbatos. The steward seemed to mull it over for a moment, “It is possible. From what I have seen on the camera, they are always running about. It might be best to give them and the brothers a day or two to settle in more.”
“You don’t need to do that! I swear, everything is fine at the apartment. You don’t have to worry.”
“You call it the ‘apartment’. Is it not your ‘home’ yet?” Diavolo asked.
His words struck you a bit harder than you expected. You found yourself staring at his furrowed expression with confusion as the question really sunk in. Home was… well, home was home, back where you lived before you moved for college. You lived in a small dorm for a few years, and while your roommates and classmates always decorated their spaces to make it their home-away-from-home, you never had found the motivation to do that. For two years, your life just happened in that small, dingy room on campus, but you never thought much of it. But, now you were being asked if this fanciful, extravagant penthouse suite you had been handed to share with several others felt like home.
Is it supposed to feel like home? Should I feel thankful that I have such a nice place to live?
Diavolo seemed to be waiting expectantly for your answer.
“Well… I mean, it’s only been a few weeks, right? I’m still adjusting to how big everything is. I’m sure eventually it will feel like ‘home’, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Diavolo frowned slightly, but before he could comment on it more, there was a knock at the heavy glass doors. Lucifer was waiting there with the cluster of his brothers behind him. Diavolo motioned for them to enter, and Barbatos held open the door as they did. You watched them all file in, taking a strange position and lining up in front of the wall with their hands behind their backs.
“Wonderful, I’m happy to see you all could make it,” Diavolo clapped his hands together and then held them apart, smiling at the group as he leaned back in the chair. You scrutinized the group slightly, casting Diavolo a glance but did not point out his fault. There were two obviously missing, but Satan didn’t technically work for the company, so really only one was absent.
“Today MC will be switching departments. They did such a wonderful job working with Mammon that we thought it was due time to give them something more interesting.”
“What? You’re making MC leave me?” Mammon asked, shoving his hands in the pockets of his gray jacket. He jutted his chin out like some kind of punk, but quickly slumped back against the wall at Lucifer’s glare, “That’s not fair, man…”
“Yes, yes, I understand your disappointment Mammon. However, MC wrote so highly about you in their report, that I’m sure you will be able to handle the work on your own until they cycle back to your department.”
“Don’t interpret that as your excuse to slack off,” Lucifer warned, “MC is an intern, not your babysitter. If you refuse to do your job again you will continue to face me.”
“Oh? MC seems to be somewhat of a reward then?” Barbatos smirked behind his hand. You weren’t too sure how you felt being treated like a prize, but based on how warm and brown Mammon’s ears had gotten as he blushed, you decided to try and put his mind to ease.
“I promise you Mammon, I’ll be back to help you before you know it. Just wait for me.”
Asmo lowered his at that remark, ooing with delight, “Oh my! That was quite the romantic line just now! MC, Mammon, is there something going on between the two of you?”
Now that got you to blush. You whipped around to Diavolo and Barbatos with an explanation ready, but Diavolo just laughed.
“Asmo, there will be plenty of time to prod MC about their love life when they’re in your department, I promise. We were actually discussing before you arrived how they were settling in with all of you. I was thinking perhaps we’ve been working our intern a bit too hard, and was thinking about giving all of you a day off to do something together.”
Lucifer scoffed at the idea, and a brief bit of hurt pierced you. Sure, you hadn’t had much time to talk to them all, but you didn’t think your brief moments with Lucifer had been that unbearable. The few times you had talked while walking to work or getting groceries afterwards, was he merely maintaining niceties to make his time spent guarding you less terrible?
Before you could say anything, Diavolo continued.
“Well, that’s something for the future to think about. I can see some of you aren’t the most enthusiastic right now, and perhaps it's just the morning hours. Liven up all of you! Maybe I’ll make it a mandatory teamwork building event or something… But! Back to the matter at hand. MC, we were originally going to have you work in the sports department with Beel, but decided that it would be better to have you go to the gaming and entertainment division. Levi has a lot more work he has to oversee, so you might be there for a while,” Diavolo smirked.
You glanced around the room in search of Leviathan, “That’s fine and I promise I’ll do my best but... Where is he? I don’t know what floor his department is on.”
“You won’t find it in this building,” Barbatos said, “The gaming and entertainment division is very large, so it has its own building and multiple studios.”
“I’ll never understand why you put him in charge of something that big, Dia,” Mammon remarked, “It’s not like he’s gotten anything done since working there..”
“As if you’re one to talk, Mammon,” Lucifer grabbed a fistful of Mammon’s collar and shoved him lightly against the wall, and then hissed, “And do not speak disrespectfully like that to Lord Diavolo again.”
“It’s quite alright, Lucifer! Mammon is right to some extent after all,” Diavolo eased before turning back to you, “That is actually part of the reason we’re assigning you to Levi’s department instead of Beel’s. He does have a tendency to hole himself up in his office and lose track of time, but recently we’ve been having more difficulties with him than usual. I know it’s technically outside of what you are supposed to be doing as part of your internship, but you did such a good job with Mammon, I was hoping you might be able to get Levi out of whatever slump he’s currently in.”
“I understand, and I don’t mind,” you lied, thinking to yourself about why Diavolo or Lucifer hadn’t marched down there and chewed Leviathan out for skipping his work like they often did with Mammon, “But what should I be reporting on while I’m there? With Mammon I just did an overview of all the finances, but when I talked to Solomon, he seemed to have more information about the Celestial Corporation’s specific projects. Should I be focused more on something like that?”
Lucifer held out a manila folder towards you, but kept his other arm wrapped around his torso, his hand tucked into his side “Since the entertainment division is much more extensive than the financial or service departments, I took the liberty of preparing a summary of what you will need to know. You may only be exposed to a few of them, but in the event you need to take on more responsibilities again, I thought it would be best for you to have an idea of them all.”
You opened the folder and skimmed over the first few pages, “Wow, Lucifer. This is really detailed. Thank you!”
“Wonderful, now, we don’t have any reason to think any paparazzi would be outside to try and corner MC, but since it is a bit of a walk to the entertainment building, would one of you be willing to accompany them?” Diavolo looked to the wall of brothers. Mammon stepped forward.
“I’ll do it. Levi might try and hide if he knows we’re coming, but I’ve got a pretty good plan of how to get MC inside.” He smirked.
Standing in the now lit tiny storage closet space, you could see that Leviathan had converted the place into somewhat of a functional lounge. Functional if you considered that it only had enough space for one person, with the black leather couch barely wedged in between two metal shelves that lined either side of the room. The television screen was actually just a big computer monitor, resting on some boxes that were acting as a makeshift table. All the shelves were covered in various anime figurines and DVDs, and posters of 2D girls covered the little wallspace that remained.
It was impressive, but also very creepy. Leviathan sat in here all day in the dark?
“Hey, so, why do you always walk into the main building if you actually work over here-” you started to say, but there was the sound of the door locking behind you and then Leviathan was leaping over the couch, rushing the door with a scream wailing from his lungs.
“Mammon?! What are you doing?! Why did you bring the normie here? Let me out!” He banged his fist against the door frantically, and through the small window pane on the door, you saw Mammon smirk as he strutted away, the keyring spinning around his finger before smoothly stopped it by catching it in his fist. He was eating it up, tormenting Leviathan like this.
“How could you let the normie see my sinful collections?! What am I going to do?! They’re going to judge me, only because they won’t understand, and then put me down because of all my Ruri-chan figurines! I can’t focus while they’re here! Please, let me out! Unlock the door and-”
“Um, Leviathan? He’s already left.” You pointed out. The man froze and like a creaking robot, turned his head slowly to look through the window. When he saw his brother missing, he screamed, and practically melted to the floor in a puddle.
It was really pathetic. You felt bad thinking that though, as you probably knew the least about Leviathan out of everyone you lived with, and you had caught some of what he had been yelling amongst the metal door banging. Glancing around the shelves, you leaned close and stared at one figurine of the girls.
“Hey, since you’re the entertainment department, does that mean you guys make this stuff too?”
“Don’t just try and act like it’s normal that you’re locked in here with me!” Leviathan sprang to his feet and back to life to throw an accusatory finger your way, “Why are you even here anyway?”
“Because Diavolo assigned me to work here?”
“I thought you were working with Beel next!”
“I was supposed to, but apparently you were causing trouble so they sent me to keep an eye on you.”
“Keep an eye on me?” He sputtered aghast, “I’m not Mammon!”
“I know,” you nodded, not giving much of a reaction, “but you’re behind in at least several projects, at least according to this file Lucifer gave me. I didn’t get to read all of it through yet, so I don’t know everything you’ve been overseeing. But, if you guys make video games and anime, I’m assuming you also finance all the merch that comes from it? Or is that a separate division outside of entertainment?”
You poked one of the skirts of the plastic magical girls, and Leviathan stomped on over to rip it away from you, “Don’t touch that!” he hissed, holding it carefully in his hands, “But, yes, we design, manufacture, and sell all the products that come from our anime and video game media. At least, we managed it all. But this is not one of our products! This is a limited-edition Ruri-chan figurine that came with the first press of her debut album, featuring music from the idol anime spin off- Ruri-chan Happy Music Live! Don’t touch!”
You skimmed the lines of figurines covering each shelf, “Are these… all Ruri-chan products?”
“Yes! It’s one fifth of my entire collection.”
“One fifth? What happened to the other four fifths?”
“They’re at home. I wouldn’t dare bring my super-rare figurines here. They could easily get stolen or destroyed.”
Are they really that rare if you have four fifths of them? You thought to yourself as Leviathan set the figurine back in its rightful spot on the third shelf. Once he was done, he started to jump over the couch and grab ahold of the controller he had dropped when you entered. You hovered behind the couch and watched as he restarted the game, pulling the headphones up and zoning into the game. A minute passed as you watched the character on the screen dance and spin as it ran along the side-scrolling map. The manila folder full of information Lucifer had given you weighed heavily in your arms and on your mind.
“Um, Leviathan… Don’t you have a meeting in thirty minutes?”
“Hm?” He asked, not even removing a headphone, even though you could hear the music blasting from underneath it, “Oh yeah, I guess.”
“It’s with the developers at Studio B. Lucifer wrote that they reported you had cancelled the last six meetings with them. Shouldn’t you go and approve whatever they need checked so they can move forward with the game?”
He didn’t respond.
“Leviathan? Leviathan!” You had been forceful with Mammon, but that was because you already felt as though you had crossed a certain bridge with him. Leviathan was different, you had no idea what attitude would trigger what kind of reaction. You called his name a few more times, anxiously peeking around him to see if he was even paying attention. He didn’t even spare you a side glance. He was completely focused on the game now.
You reached forward and pulled one headphone away from his ear, “Leviathan!”
“What?” He rudely asked as he paused the game and whipped around. Well, that provoked an annoyed reaction, you noted. Better not do that again unless absolutely necessary.
“Aren’t you going to the meeting?”
“What? Of course not!”
“Of course- not? What do you mean? It’s your job to go there!”
“I’ve skipped before, I can skip again. Just tell them to reschedule.”
“Didn’t you hear me? This is the seventh time they’ve tried to meet with you. Don’t you think that’s a little rude? They have deadlines you know!”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter if they meet them or not. No matter what, the game they’re making is gonna be crap anyway.”
He started to turn back to the game, but you reached out and caught his shoulder, forcing him to turn to face you. He shrugged you off.
“How do you know that? Have you even seen the game?”
“I’ve seen enough from the early concept stages to know. Those guys are just making a cash grab, there is no care going into that shitty mobile game. It’s not worth my time.”
You flipped through the folder to the information about the meeting, and frowned.
He ignored you.
You closed the folder resolutely, “Leviathan!”
“Studio B isn’t the ones working on the mobile game, they’re the ones working on the VR game for the Devilstation.”
“So? You just proved you don’t know anything about the game they’re making! How can you judge it if you don’t even know what’s going on! Have you ever even seen the concept for the game?!”
“Yes, I have! I gave it the approval three months ago!”
“No, you didn’t! It says the meeting you keep putting off is the one for the approval of their new concept! You reject their last proposal!”
“Why are you yelling at me? Why does this even matter?”
“Because you’re obviously wrong and you don’t even realize it! Mammon was irresponsible but at least he knew what he was doing! How did you even get this job if you don’t even know what’s going on with the people who are working for you?”
He stood up on the couch and with fists clenched, shouted down at you.
“Hey! I am qualified for this job, and I know exactly what I’m talking about! I’ve watched, read, and played every Ruri-chan and TSL media and all the spin-offs, fangames, and been a spokesperson at three events regarding TSL! I’ve even programmed my own fangame! So, I think I’m able to speak on the fact that the game they are producing is absolutely terrible and they should stop wasting their time trying to get approval and instead understand my message that any idea they present is terrible! Then, we can all move on.”
You stared at him with a level gaze, watching as he breathed deeply from the sudden exertion, his face red with anger as he glared daggers down at you. After a moment, it hit you, and you blurted out-
“Oh, I get it. Lucifer got you the job.”
Leviathan’s jaw dropped.
“It makes sense, I mean. I wasn’t sure about the others, because I haven’t seen much of their work, but I can tell that even though your jobs all match your interests, you all have terrible management skills. You and Mammon at least. I’m still holding out on the other ones. I honestly don’t understand how he got you all such high ranking jobs, but it’s impressive to say the least.”
He was still just gaping at you. You continued.
“I mean, if I was someone in your position, I would be super thankful to be put in charge of so many creative projects. I would want to make sure they were the best they could be, since people could trace all the decision making back to me if they were bad. Besides, even if something seems like a simple cash grab, a lot of work still goes into making that happen, right? I’m sure no matter the project, there are plenty of people in this company who work on it and love it, and so it’s extremely disrespectful to them to ignore their hard work like that.”
“What… What do you care? You’re just an intern! You’re just here to take notes! If you’re so concerned with what’s going on, then go see it yourself! You don’t need me!”
“I care because it’s affected my hard work too. I was sent here specifically because you’ve been causing trouble, and so part of my job is not just to take notes, but to see what’s going on. Now, this might just be a guess,” you said, glancing around at the figurines again, “but I’m going to assume Lucifer doesn’t know you’ve been hiding in here, right?”
Leviathan flinched, and you knew you had hit the nail on the head.
“I’m surprised Mammon hasn’t sold you out yet. But, Lucifer is so dedicated to keeping the company working smoothly for Diavolo, I can only wonder what he would do if he found out about what you’ve been doing in here.”
“Oh, but I would,” you tried to ignore the threatening glint in his eyes, “Listen, I still don’t have much stake in my work here, but I don’t want to get embarrassed or fired because I could’ve put in a little more effort if I had tried. I’m sure the same is for you. Don’t you realize what a fortunate position you’re in? I think you should at least be a bit more open minded and try and see what the studios are working on.”
“What are your terms?” His voice was low and seething. He was still so focused on the threat of his precious collection being harmed, but at least that kept him at the disadvantage.
“Simple. We attend the meeting today. I come with you, and I get to see a glimpse into what’s going on here. Then, we take it from there. I’ll let you come back here and game a little bit or whatever you choose to do as long as you make an effort to attend a few of your obligations, and I get some notes on it.”
He continued to eye you over.
“Think about it this way,” you added, “the sooner we fool them into thinking you shaped up, the sooner I’m out of your hair.”
“Fine,” Leviathan said, stepping down off the back of the couch and onto the seat before he stood on the floor. You started to sigh in relief, but he held his finger in front of your face, “is what I would say, but you seem to have forgotten that Mammon locked us in here. We can’t leave unless he comes back.”
You started to reach into your bag, slipping the folder inside, “You promise you’ll attend the meeting once the door is open?”
“Yes,” he sighed and crossed his arms with a groan, “They’ll keep sending you back here everyday regardless. So might as well save myself the headache.”
“Good,” you said, and pulled out a key before walking over to the door and unlocking it. You pushed it open and started to step outside, “Now, let’s- stop screaming it’s just a key? Let’s go.”
“Nevermind me having the key,” you said a few minutes later as the two of you took the elevator down to the first floor, “Why didn’t you just break the lock with a kick? I mean, Lucifer mentioned you all were trained bodyguards, unless I’m mistaken and you don’t do cool things like that.”
Leviathan did a double take, “Lucifer told you about that?”
“Yeah? I mean, it was a bit surprising when I realized I was living with a bunch of highly trained people, but it makes sense since Diavolo only made me live with you all for my protection.”
“Oh, I see,” Leviathan said, “That’s why he brought it up.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s nothing, nothing,” he waved dismissively, “Yeah, I used to be trained in defense, and I know how to kick a door down, but to be honest, I’ve lost a lot of my muscle when it comes to stuff like that. It’s been… maybe two years since I’ve had to use it.”
He stared at his hands for a moment, and then threw a mock punch with his right. It flew through the air easily and strong, the motion making his bangs tousled a little. A small smile twitched at his lips as he pulled the hand back and looked at his fists again.
“It’s been a while… It feels nice to know I can still do cool stuff like that.”
The elevator dinged and the two of you stepped out onto the lobby floor. Studio B was located in another sub-building of the Devildom company. Most of them were on the same block, like how the entertainment building’s skyscraper was just next door to the main one, but Studio B was a smaller building a few streets down. As you walked across the lobby towards the big glass doors you had come to associate with every building the Devildom Corporation operated, you noticed Leviathan hiding his eyes behind a hand as he walked quickly across the large expanse of the first floor. You paused to watch him speed ahead, and it was then you realized there were a lot of people staring.
That’s just what you get when you shirk your responsibilities and are a ghost within your own office, you thought.
Leviathan was struggling to open the door, frantically pushing or pulling at it when he turned to you, only to notice you were staring aimlessly in the center of the lobby.
“What are you doing zoning out? Help me already!” He shrieked. You watched him jump a foot in the air when another employee opened the door from the other side, only to nearly be knocked over by Leviathan as he zoomed outside of it. You shook your head and jogged across the lobby to the outside, feeling bad for the fish out of water Leviathan was acting like, and your confusion worsened at the way Lucifer had managed to get him such a high profile job in the first place.
“It’s Levi, by the way,” he said when you had fallen into sync as you followed the sidewalk, “Calling me Leviathan is gross. Too formal. Makes me sound like a normie.”
You scrunched up your nose, “Saying normie makes you sound like a nerd. But fine, Levi it is.”
You ignored his insulted expression.
“So, you never answered my original question.”
“The one I asked right as you started clawing at the door,” you rolled your eyes, “Why do I always see you go into the main building if you work in that one? You also only ever leave out of the main building, from what I’ve seen. It’s weird.”
“It’s not that weird at all. It’s just that the main building’s cafe only serves the stuff I like.”
Oh. Well that did make sense.
“But, I do sneak through the back of each building to get to my office. That’s why everyone in the lobby was staring at me. I don’t think they’ve seen me in over a year unless they caught a glimpse of me waiting in line in the main building.”
“Why don’t you just go through the main doors? Isn’t it easier than sneaking around?”
Levi scratched the back of his head and groaned, “Geez, you don’t understand at all. If I just walked through the main doors, I would get instantly bombarded by all these secretaries and workers with paperwork to sign and meetings to attend. How do you think I’ve managed to avoid all my responsibilities until you showed up? No one even knew where to find me. Ugh, except Mammon.”
“How did he find you?”
“Pure coincidence,” He ran a hand over his face, “He’s an idiot, and was wandering around the building one day when he was slacking off. He found a door that was locked and tried to break it down because it annoyed him. Nearly gave me a heart attack.”
You burst out laughing, “I can see him doing just that!”
“You already did. Earlier today,” Levi pouted.
“No, no, I mean-” you paused and sucked in a gulp of air as you tried to quiet your laughter, “Growing frustrated at the door. He would walk just like this,” you stuck your hands in your pockets, bent your knees and slouched back, and then waddled almost as you strutted forward with the most intimidating, delinquent glare you could muster, “Huh? What’s this for? Oh? Hey! No door stands in the way of the Great Mammon!”
You pretended to kick the door open, nearly kicking Levi in the process as he stopped right as your leg cut through the air. You put your leg back down and stood back up to your full height, hiding a laugh behind your hand as you smiled at him, “He’s always acting like that, isn’t he?”
For a moment, Levi just stared at you. It was a warm fall day, and the sun was still steadily climbing it’s way up in the sky. The wind wove in between the two of you and rustled your hair and clothes a bit as it seemed to whirlwind around you for a moment, and that was when he became entranced.
It wasn’t until he noticed you staring back at him expectantly did he shake himself out of his stupor, a goofy, awkward smile warping his face, and inwardly he cursed himself for how stupid he must have looked, but he couldn’t get the smile to go away.
“Yeah. You captured him perfectly. He’s always been hardheaded and dumb like that.”
“That may be so, but deep down he’s rather smart,” the two of you began to walk again, “It was a hassle managing him in finances, and I’m thankful for a break from that, but he really does know what he’s doing. He taught me a lot.”
“Must have been inadvertently,” Levi added, and then it was quiet again between the two of you. Perhaps you had both exhausted all your energy with all your yelling this morning, but it was a more peaceful quiet, not a tired one.
The trees that framed the sidewalk began to multiply as you got closer to the studio. You were still very much in the city, but like everything on the other side of Purgatory Bridge, things began to slowly fade back into less industrialism the further you walked. The city mirrored itself, starting with foliage and small buildings on it’s edges of east and west, slowly crawling in to bigger, higher climbing towers until they stopped peppering the concrete and instead curved like a dome underneath the sky. When two people walked from either side of the city, and met in the middle, everything evened out though, returning to a quaint, more neutral old fashioned city, like ones you had always dreamed about visiting in Europe.
“So, if you don’t want anyone to know you’re working, why didn’t you take me through the back door to exit? I wouldn’t have minded.”
“You say that, but you would probably have asked questions. You were still hyped up on your power trip,” Levi mumbled, “But, it’s mainly because I was worried Barbatos might be watching you.”
That made you stop, “What do you mean?”
“He’s Diavolo’s bodyguard at home, yes, but while Lucifer is watching over Diavolo at work, he likes to be… shifty sometimes. I’m sure he knows about where I’ve been hiding out, and maybe Diavolo knows too, but for some reason neither of them told Lucifer, because he surely would have to come to drag me out by now. But, Barbatos likes to watch the security cameras, and I know he’s been doing it extra often since you arrived and everyone is worried about you getting attacked by some crazy person on the street who wants a chance to meet Solomon King.”
“I mean, it’s not a bad thing if he’s looking out for me, right?”
“No, but it’s just annoying. There aren’t a lot of cameras near the doors I normally take, so if you suddenly disappeared off his radar when I was walking with you, he would get suspicious immediately. I swear that guy can teleport too. I don’t need him giving me a heart attack by appearing outside the door when I try and leave.”
Levi walked a bit ahead of you, and you took the opportunity to pull out your phone and shoot a quick message to Barbatos.
This might be a weird question, but- are you watching me?
The response was almost instantaneous.
You turned towards a building you had just passed by. Was that one owned by the Devildom Corporation? You squinted at one of the security cameras on the side of the building.
Can you see me right now?
Unfortunately, not since you left the entertainment building with Levi. I’m trusting he won’t do anything untold to you, as I do not have access to the cameras in the studio you are going to either.
...You can’t like, hack my phone’s camera and see what I’m doing either, can you?
No, and I would never do such a thing. Especially not invade your privacy.
Isn’t spying on me while I’m at work an invasion of my privacy?
Not since you signed the contract. :)
You opened your camera and shuffled over under some trees, raising your hands in a peace sign for a photo. You nearly dropped it when Levi called your name from down the street, and ended up only getting a photo of your eyes up with the trees above you. Well, at least your hand was still in the shot. You quickly captioned it and sent it off, hurrying after Levi who was about to turn the corner.
“What were you doing? You were the one who was going about how we were going to be late before!”
Inside the dark security room, Barbatos’ phone lit up with a new message. He swiped it open.
Look! Even though it’s October, these trees are still green!
That they are. Now, good luck at your meeting.
He watched your form turn a corner on the camera feed, and then you were gone.
Studio B was a two story building built against a black metal fence that outlined the slopes of another part of the bay that forked its way through the city. The building was made of a cream colored plaster like material, its walls bumpy and its windows simple. It reminded you more of something you would find in the city’s center, perhaps it had been built a long time ago before all this metal and steel took over and was left behind on this edge. As you walked up to the building, you noticed around the other side of it was another bridge. You stepped around Levi, who asked where you were going, and stopped once you could see it.
You had lived here for over two years and somehow had never known about this place.
It was beautiful.
The red and orange birch trees that had started to line your path practically exploded into a forest just beyond the large, cobblestone bridge that curved over the river. The ground was covered with the bright, fiery red leaves and the water was cradling the few strangling yellow oak ones that floated down to touch its surface. There were elegant, stone benches that stood sturdy and strong and untouched against the leaves that circled around their feet, and despite the seemingly endless reach of the fingers of the bleeding leaves, your eyes still managed to find the simple, stone path that stretched from the bridge to the back of this land, ending in the distance where several skyscrapers rose out from beyond the treeline.
“Come on,” Levi said, grabbing your wrist and tugging you towards the entrance of the studio, “The meeting is starting.”
“What’s over there? It’s so pretty!”
“That’s the Celestial Corporation’s property,” he said hurriedly, “Come on.”
The last thing you caught a glimpse of was a shadowy figure standing up from one of the benches in the distance before the side of the studio cut in front of your vision and then you were being tugged inside.
You followed Levi through the halls of the building, a bit surprised by the dinghy tile flooring and flickering greenish, yellow lights that reminded you of the haunting, empty backrooms of your college. It wasn’t spooky, per se, but it was somewhat unsettling. A high tech game was being made in this crummy place?
Your eyes found themselves drawn to the posters lining the walls of the hall. Most of them were of unfamiliar, but still very gorgeous and colorful, game art. Posters promoting games old and new were neatly smoothed over the white walls alongside sides pointing to what was beyond each door that was hidden inside a small indent to right every few steps. Eventually, Levi led you to a staircase.
“This studio is small but it houses both game development and animation. Don’t let it’s size fool you, they’ve produced a lot of the best series in recent years.”
That left you puzzled. Why did he refuse so many meetings and say all their ideas were crap then?
You started up the stairs when you noticed a different set of posters with more familiar characters staring back at you.
“Hey! Isn’t this Ruri-chan? I thought you said that those figurines weren’t made by you guys?”
Levi was around the bend, paused on the stairs above the platform you were on still running your hand across the surface of the poster. His face twisted into an ugly scowl when you mentioned that, and he scoffed.
“We don’t. Ruri-chan is a Celestial Corporation character. Studio B works for the both of us. They’re not allowed to make anything Ruri-chan for us.”
Without another word, he continued up the stairs, leaving you frozen on the landing. His words had been simple, but the way he practically spat them at you made you want to recoil and walk back down the stairs.
You suddenly became very worried.
I hope I didn’t put him in a bad mood for his meeting.
“Levi! What was that all about?” You asked, chasing after him as he stormed out of the building, “Why were you so rude to them?”
“Just shut up already! I told you already, you don’t know anything about what I’m doing here!”
“You’re the one who needs to shut up! I don’t need to understand what you were talking about to know that you were completely out of line just now!”
The people at the meeting had been surprised and delighted to see Levi, at first. It was obvious from the moment you stepped in, they were anxiously waiting, most of them with their heads bowed, tapping their fingers or twiddling their thumbs. They all snapped to attention when Levi entered the room, and immediately everyone was running around, desperate to please. Chairs were offered and held out for the two of you, and while Levi flopped down angrily into his, you thanked the weary looking developers who then hurried to get their presentation running as they passed the file of concept art over to Levi.
From what you could gather, it was some magical girl VR game, meant to debut a new character for the Devildom Corporation to compete with the success of the Celestial Corporation’s newest Angel Fighter line of girls. (Newest being nearly a year ago with the delay caused by Levi’s laziness.)
They weren’t even thirty minutes into their explanation of the changes they had made in regards to their last meeting- months ago, you reminded yourself- to try and please Levi’s vision of the project, when Levi sat back in his chair and crumpled up the beautiful artwork in his hand before punctuating it with the statement:
“It’s trash, again. Are you seriously going to waste my time like this?”
The developers looked horrified.
“We’re so sorry, sir. We tried to take your suggestions into account, but we didn’t hear from you for a while, so we may have gotten a little ambitious and tried to work ahead of schedule. If you could tell us where we went wrong-”
Levi pushed himself out of the chair and held the crumpled up artwork out before dramatically dropping it on the table, “I told you before, nothing you make has been good enough. The story’s too plain, the artwork doesn’t make me feel anything compared to your previous works. The main character’s design looks rushed as hell. I gave you an extra six months of time and you waste it doing this? I’m leaving.”
You took the time to smooth out the concept art he had crushed before bowing and apologizing to the developers a thousand times, telling them you would talk to him. You didn’t miss the poor art director sitting in the corner of the room, looking like she was about to burst into tears as you left. You raced back the way you had come and found Levi outside, nearly running him over as you charged him.
“Don’t you realize that they can drop our project at any time? If they’re as high profile as you say they are, they probably don’t need our money! You could lose the development of the game and cost the Devildom Corporation so much for nothing!”
“Get away from me,” Levi spat, “Is all you care about money? You sound like Mammon now. Maybe you lost a few brain cells hanging around him for so long.”
He continued to march away from you. You were left in the center of the street, surrounded by the green trees, but waited until he turned the corner to scream.
“I’m not going away, you know,” you told him a week later, when you stood behind him in his office as he tuned you out as a rhythm game blasted from the headphones, “You still have other meetings to attend. I can’t keep subbing in for you. I don’t have the authority to make decisions for the company.”
He got a perfect combo on the screen. The Ruri-chan model in the background did a cartwheel and then jumped into the air as the background changed.
Another week passed.
“I’m being nice and not telling Lucifer about this. I’ve got the feeling that he’ll break all the figurines in sight if he finds out what you did. I don’t want a guilty conscience, but you need one. You have to apologize to the developers for what you did.”
He may have punched the buttons on the controller harder when you spoke, but you couldn’t really tell. Maybe your brain supplemented that image into your vision to keep you sane. The idea that he heard you and was annoyed was better than him pretending you didn’t exist.
“I’m going to your meeting with movie directors for the live action adaptation of… one of the mangas you guys own. I forget which one is which at this point. I guess in your position you are just supposed to make sure the things being released by the producers beneath you aren’t going to damage the company’s image. I mean, seriously, why do you hold so much power over a video game’s production? I’m not letting up about that, by the way.”
You opened the door back into the hallway, letting some light into the storage room that had been cloaked in darkness for three weeks now.
“I left the new art and concept for it on the couch. Give it a read through when you can. Luckily, they’re just copies, so you can’t do any more damage to it.”
You cast him one last glance before shutting the door. It rattled into place, and then there was the faint sound as the doorknob was released, and the latch bolt slid back into place.
Your footsteps faded down the hall. Levi tugged his headphones off, and glanced at the file.
“...Because Lucifer gave me this power, that’s why…”
He mumbled, putting his headphones back on, and going back to his game.
“Are things seriously still that bad with Levi and you?” Mammon asked as you worked at your desk. You had been getting dangerously behind on assignments with how much you had been picking up after Levi, emailing people back and forth in his stead even after hours, even skipping a few classes or leaving early so you could make a meeting he was supposed to attend.
“It’s been almost a month now, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to go to Diavolo and Lucifer about it, but I’m supposed to meet with Solomon soon with my next report.”
“Why don’t you want to talk to them about it? Scared Lucifer will break Levi’s collection? From what you’ve told me, it sounds like he deserves it at this point.”
Mammon started to sit up, flinging himself upright from where he had been laying upside down off your bed. You held up a hand without looking over your shoulder.
“Don’t. You doing it will just cause more problems.”
“But, you’re obviously frustrated! You can’t let him walk all over you like that! Let me help you!”
“Then help me by thinking of a way I can get through to him. I don’t want to go to Diavolo about it because at this point it’s gone on for too long. He’ll wonder why I wasted this much time before talking to him about it, and then he might get disappointed in me because he really believed I could handle this task. He tasked me with helping Levi shape up, and he said it was a lot of work, so what was I supposed to expect? It’s exactly what he warned me about! I don’t want to look incompetent after he trusted me to do something. I would just… feel like I failed.”
You turned back to scribble away at your assignment. Mammon got up to stretch his muscles.
“You sound like the type of person who takes full control of any group project.”
“You would be right,” you smirked, “But, guess who gets near perfect grades!”
“I’ve seen your transcript, babe. Only someone as crazy as you would consider your average ‘near perfect’. You must be a pain to have in class.”
“‘Babe’?” You asked, quirking an eyebrow. Mammon looked away nervously.
“What? Don’t think about it too much! A-anyway, just… don’t tell Diavolo or Lucifer.”
“Believe me, I’m not. I feel like Barbatos knows already though. But, I’m on his good side, so I’m sure he’ll keep quiet. But, back to the matter at hand, what do you think I should do?”
“About Levi? I told you already, you’re just going to have to tell Diavolo you’ve tried your best, but you're stuck. There’s no getting through to Levi when he’s like this. Besides, it’s getting really weird how you two don’t answer anyone’s questions at dinner. Lucifer has to know at this point.”
“If I could just get him to look at me, I would feel less frustrated! I mean, I would unplug that dumb game of his, but since you’re all super good at combat, I’m worried he might strangle me.”
“Do you want me in the room when you do? It’s my job to protect you after all.”
“Sure. You and Levi are both twigs though. I’m not entirely sure what you would be able to do.”
“Hey! Have a little more faith in me!”
“I do, I do. But, before I even think about unplugging that, I need to figure out what I’m going to say. He’s just going to ignore me if I tell him what to do again. I need to get more creative with my approach.”
Mammon perked up at that. He moved to your side and crouched down to whisper in your ear.
“I’ve got an idea. So what if you.... And then, if that fails… I’ll be ready to…”
Levi wouldn’t have flinched if you had kicked open his office door. He did, however, nearly bash his head on his ceiling from how high he jumped when you slammed open his bedroom door and stormed in with Mammon in tow, rushing over to his monitor and unplugging it and everything connected to it before you practically ripped the other wires out of the outlet on the wall.
“Hey!” he shouted when he saw what you were doing, but settled against the back of his chair with only a smug glare, “It doesn’t matter if you do that. The game is constantly autosaved. I didn’t lose anything.”
“No, but you are going to lose soon!”
“What?” He looked up at you skeptically as you folded your arms and stood above him confidently, “What are you talking about?”
He glanced at Mammon from around your figure before he looked back up at you. You were smiling huge, and it was honestly frightening him a little. Some laughter whistled through your teeth as you took a deep breath and confidently said-
“I’m challenging you to a game!”