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Deal with the Dev-eel

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Ace Trappola considers himself a cunning person. He isn't an academic star, but that's not because he lacks the smarts, he is merely uninterested in spending his time studying. In fact, if he really wanted, he could even compete with Jack on who got the highest grades around the 1st years.

 

Ace knows how to lie and cheat, ahem, create advantageous conditions which benefit him. He is a master of lies, mixing half truths and hiding the ugly inconvenient details. That, coupled with his street and people smarts makes him a formidable person in NRC. Unlike the naive goody-two-shoes Deuce, Ace is highly prepared to survive the savage and dog-eat-dog world of the most prestigious school.

 

Or so he thought.

 

Ace huffs as he drops the cleaning cloth on the bucket, water splashing his feet and leaving a mess that will earn himself another scolding. The anemone on his head is twitching, an obnoxious and highly inconvenient way to let his unfair captors to know that he isn't working.

And it works.

 

In a matter of seconds, he can hear the familiar footsteps of his tormentor.

“Ace-kun, it is quite late already. Have you finished cleaning the tables?” Azul's false politeness makes Ace bite his tongue as the hairs on his neck stand. Is he going to get some extra casual work to do? Like yesterday, when the damned octopus dumped crate moving at the very last minute on Ace’s workload. “I was worried you were behind schedule. It wouldn't do for you to arrive past the curfew of Heartlabyul dorm, would it?” Ace wants to punch Azul’s smarmy smile, he barely made it back to his dorm and somehow avoided being killed by Riddle, only out of sheer luck.

Ace would rather drink the dirty water on the bucket than spend any time with Azul on the same room. After all, Azul is the reason Ace has that damned anemone on his head again.

“Fufufu, fear not, Azul,” Jade intervenes and Ace holds back a sigh of relief. "I will stay here and ensure Ace-kun goes back to his dorm on time."

Jade is surprisingly reliable, his quick thinking was the reason he managed to slip in Heartslabyul dorm without Riddle noticing, so he is lowkey grateful for that. It makes him way more likeable than Azul, at the very least.

And Jade didn’t dupe Ace into another stupid contract, because that is exactly what Azul did, somehow. It wasn't as if Ace wasn't fully prepared for the next history exam, but basketball practice was far more inspiring and interesting. Even when Jun and Deuce had nagged him to study with them, Ace had dismissed their invitations.

"Ha, everything is already stored here," he had said pointing at his forehead. "Getting full marks won't be any issue."

It was understandable that he would accept a study guide by Azul, something he had heard from some of the members of the basketball team.

“Azul has prepared a new guide for the upcoming tests. The guide guarantees perfect answers on the topics it contains. Normally they cost 15 000 madols, but he has a special bargain valid only for this test. If you obtain a grade of 80 or higher on the test, you do not have to pay for the guide!”

Of course, Ace was suspicious, after all he had been stuck as a slave precisely because of a guide. But there were two things he thought about. One, the earlier guide had allowed him to get a grade over 90 easily and the threshold of 80 was easier to achieve. Two, he wasn’t so stupid to fall twice on a trap. So naturally, Ace agreed to take the guide, which was extremely accurate just as the previous one.

Except this one only included half of the topics on the exam.

“Ah Ace-kun, but I never said it included everything covered in the test. Only that anything from the guide would guarantee a perfect answer.”

And that was exactly why Ace has been stuck for days cleaning Mostro Longue as means to pay the 15 000 madols he owes now, on top of being the guinea pig to see if anyone was gullible enough to fall for this trick.

 


 

It’s not only that he owes Azul an unholy amount of madols, or the fact that he has been worked off even more than his times as an anemone chump. In fact, the contract to pay everything lasts only a week, but at the cost of every minute of his time stuck on this hellish place on earth. No, the kicker is that he can’t easily see his friends. Sure, Deuce is slow, Grim is annoying and Jun… Jun is fine actually, but he does miss them. He gets back to his dorm too tired to even try to talk to anyone so he hasn’t seen them and in class he’s busy trying to not fall asleep.

Naturally, they also miss him. After all, talking to a brain-mush Ace isn’t fun, because Ace is clearly the smarts of the group. That is why on the third day of Ace’s torment, they all decide to drop by. It is honestly the highlight of his shift of hell. He manages to act as the waiter and they all chat as Deuce, Jun and Grim are looking at the menu. They can’t stay there without buying, but their income is limited as well.

Ace doesn’t really know much about the menu and instead complains about the treatment he receives by Azul, though he doesn’t get much sympathy from Deuce.

“Maybe you should haven’t agreed to that contract.”

“Well, my grades are at least better than yours, Deuce.”

Deuce shivers as if he ate a whole lemon. “I didn’t exactly fail! And I’m not the one with the anemone!” Which is the truth, but the reason why he didn’t attempt to get the guide was the fact that madols were involved.

“I’m actually surprised only you got an anemone, Ace,” Jun sharply states and Ace huffs, because she, of all people, had to rub it in. “You should have studied with us. Next time, we can study together so you don’t have to go through another deal with Azul.”

That sounds actually nice. Not studying, but studying with Jun. Especially if he can tease her a little, because he finds cute the way she furrows her brow and purses her lips before blurting a reply to him poking fun at her.

But before he can even enjoy more of his pleasant break, Floyd fetches him to get more orders, clean tables and wash dishes. Floyd isn’t happy, he was nagged by Azul and Ace quickly learned that a moody Floyd is someone you don’t cross.

Ace says goodbye as his friends happily enjoy their meal without him. But Ace is surprised when he finds Jun sneaking on the kitchen to talk to him, Grim and Deuce already on their way to the Hall of Mirrors.

“Take care Ace, don’t work yourself too hard.” Jun offers him a smile, making Ace snort and cockily smile back.

“Of course, who do you think you are talking to?”

In reality, his limbs feel all like that failed jelly experiment Crewel-sensei chewed Deuce over the other day. But Jun is literally here and he cannot afford to look bad or weak at all. Ace is a genius at hiding things and presenting himself. He naturally wants to look cool in front of Jun, so he will swallow the pain and show his best side so Jun swoons for him.

It’s not that Ace is a coward, he has known his feelings for a long time, but there is always that uncertainty of being liked back. Ace doesn’t want to confess for nothing. It is preferable to play the waiting game, to have Jun confess instead because he will accept the confession and there’s no risk of getting hurt this way.

And he genuinely enjoys their time together, so part of him hopes that this will make Jun realize how much of a good idea it is to confess to him.

But their sneaky meeting is cut short.

“Hey, Shrimpy, you shouldn’t be here.” Floyd cocks his head, menacingly because he doesn’t want to be yelled at by Azul. His words are enough of a warning for the pair of friends.

“Whoops, my bad. See you later Ace!”

“See you Jun…”

 


 

The entire gang gathers the next day at Mostro Lounge, as Ace casually becomes the waiter once more and takes his time before going back to the kitchen to give their orders. Given that yesterday they couldn’t stay there for long, they choose something that takes longer to prepare while still within budget. They have to meet Ace for the rest of the week too.

This time it is Jade who comes to fetch him. Ace can’t really complain, he sneaked in more time and Jade didn’t hurry him, unlike Floyd. Jade is rising on Ace’s list of Octavinelle people, he’s the more approachable of the three and the less horrible the more he thinks about it.

“Ace-kun, you shouldn’t take so long or Azul will get angry,” Jade gently chides as he receives the order from Ace and begins to work on the dishes.

“Woah, Jade-senpai, they took their sweet time to decide, it’s not my fault.” Ace casually shrugs as he gets himself a glass of water. He can’t cook, so he isn’t allowed to help in the kitchen, but he has to stick around in case his help is needed.

“Fufu, it’s wonderful to have close friends to keep one company. Especially when one of them is dear to you. Ace, do you like Jun?”

Ace almost spits his water, and instead it flows out of his nostrils, just as he quickly covers his face. He’s not ready for this sudden development. He did mean to be obvious that Jun got a hint and confessed without him doing it, but he didn’t think someone like Jade would notice it too. It’s not like he can openly ask others about it either, for obvious reasons, but he wasn’t aware if others had picked up on Ace’s feelings. He doesn’t have much ground to get a good idea of how obvious he is, sure Deuce and Grim haven’t mentioned anything, but it’s Deuce and Grim.

However, his reaction means he can’t exactly deny it, Jade is clearly smarter so an attempt to trick him will be worse. “Yeah, so what?” Ace casually replies, shrugging, while trying to keep a cool impression, in hopes Jade drops the subject.

Jade simply laughs as he continues to work on the dishes, but before he puts the last one on the tray, he leans against Ace’s ear and whispers.

“I’ll do you a favor for free.”

Ace arches an eyebrow, but he is soon hushed to take the finished order to his friends and when he gets back to talk, he quickly forgets about it.

 


 

It’s the fifth day of his life as an anemone and Ace can’t wait for his freedom.

He is unfortunately becoming used to this work, and that is not a good sign. His friends have accommodated to Ace’s warped up schedule, arriving at a later hour so they can chat longer. When it’s busy, Ace doesn’t get much time to play around, but when there’s no one, he is mostly up to his devices, provided he does things or Jade is in charge.

Right now, Ace needs to clean tables as he chats loudly, there are no customers left except for his friends, so he is technically not slacking off. He is mostly done, given how he cut corners on everything he did, but it’s not like Azul deserves all his energy devoted to him after he conned Ace into working for free, again.

“Fufufu, Ace, if you speak so loud, Azul will hear you,” Jade interrupts the lively chat, causing Ace to slip and fall on the table he was wiping.

“I-I’m not doing anything!” Ace begins to babble but Jade merely smiles.

“It’s not often that you and your friends are here at this hour. Perhaps you haven’t taken your time to admire the aquarium at our Lounge? It is one of Azul’s greatest pride and the view at night is different than what you could see in the day.”

“Woah, Leech-senpai! Can we really see it?” Deuce jumps in, before Ace can even reply.

“Fufufu, I might make a small exception, considering you are contributing to our patronage for this week. Don’t worry, Azul won’t hear anything about this.”

Ace truly judged Jade wrong, the guy is pretty cool after all. He gets to hang out with his friends, on the condition that he finishes quickly cleaning the tables, and he will even have some time left before Heartslabyul curfew.

The group doesn’t hesitate to see the gigantic glass showcasing an impressive collection of fish and corals, almost as if one part of the ocean is right in front of them. The aquarium is spread out on at least three rooms, so the stage in front of them is just one part, as impressive as it is. Jun stares at the brilliant lights on the water, a magical spectacle, that only she seems to be interested in watching. Deuce and Grim look at it briefly before deciding to see if they can find sharks on the next section, and Ace stays behind, but he isn’t admiring the creatures in front of him.

He is admiring the girl instead.

Ace walks slowly next to Jun, as the background jellyfish swim as if flying. The glow they give is ethereal and it is something almost fitting of a dream, a romantic scenario for a confession, not that Ace is going to give one at all. But he can play pretend with the idea of a sneaky secret date while he is by Jun’s side. It is rather pleasant, a quiet moment between them that, now that he thinks of it, doesn’t happen too often. He is truly lucky right now.

He calls out Jun, and she turns to him with a bright enchanted smile. It is then, that he presses his arm against the glass, caging the girl under his towering body. Jun’s smile fades quickly, as she asks, “Ace, are you alright?”

Ace is not, as he quickly realizes that his body is moving on his own, unable to control it, so much that Jun’s back is pressed against the crystal. The lights behind Jun somehow add this to a dream state, but at the same time a nightmare, as he feels his body bend down, Jun frozen under him.

Her lips are surprisingly soft warm, and extremely pleasant to touch, the kind that sends soft chills down his spine, mixed with dread as he cannot move. Their mouths are locked for what feels hours, until he finally regains some control of his body, stepping back in horror of what just transpired. He looks scared at Jun, who gives him a shocked look, slowly bringing her hand to her lips. She can’t believe they kissed, and in all honesty, neither can Ace.

“Ah!” Every idea, explanation and sentence rushes to his head, as he desperately tries to clarify things. “It wasn’t me, I MEAN, it was me but not ME ME.”

“What…do you mean?”

“I didn’t mean to! This is a mistake! This wasn’t supposed to happen, I mean-” He spouts, too forcefully, but the look on Jun’s eyes, that flash of hurt slaps him back as a reply.

Jun stays for a brief second, she is stunning even if her expression is heartbroken, and without any words, she turns away and runs towards the exit of the aquarium. She doesn’t look back at all, but it’s not as Ace is following her, his firmly planted on the floor. It is a similar feeling to the previous forced movement but not quite alright, it is his own body refusing to do so this time, the dread and utter mortification filling him. He believes he saw something falling from her eyes and the fact that she isn’t there cracking a joke or trying to laugh this awkward moment is a confirmation of sorts.

“I’ll do you a favor for free.”

Ace recalls those words, now with a horrendous, almost sadistic meaning as he stands there, looking vacantly at the spot where Jun has left. And it is in that moment that Ace realizes he has been completely wrong about everything, the real sadist in Octavinelle is none other than Jade Leech and he fell right into his trap.

 


 

When Ace woke up, besides thinking that damn, Jun’s lips were so soft and warm, was that maybe it was a feverish weird dream that he had after accidentally knocking himself out cleaning somehow. But the moment Jun nervously evaded his gaze when they met in Trein-sensei’s class, it was more than proof that he hadn’t imagined anything of what had transpired the previous night.

He hadn’t met her at the cafeteria when it was breakfast time. When Ace and Deuce met them at the classroom, Grim told them she had decided to wake up early to get some special pancakes she even bought for him, so the cat didn’t mind much. And before Ace could ask anything, it was class time and when it ended, Jun had left before Ace could even call out to her.

She didn’t appear at lunch time, she told Grim she needed to finish some homework for Crewel-sensei’s class, though Ace calls it bullshit. He knows better than anyone that Jun tries her hardest to be a good student, she is the best out of the group. Grim doesn’t seem to catch on the lie, nor Deuce, but it is obvious to Ace.

She is avoiding Ace at all costs. He cannot exactly blame her, but it doesn’t make him feel any better. He didn’t want to make her upset in the first place, hell, he wouldn’t have done that at all. But Jun doesn’t know this and any attempts to clear anything are doomed because he can’t see her.

And the kicker is when only Deuce and Grim reach Mostro Lounge, making Ace’s stomach sink.

They have never been on such low terms, and he wonders if she would really spend the rest of their school time not talking to him. Well, he did ghost his girlfriend back then, so he thinks it’s possible, not that he would want to be on the receiving end.

Jun’s absence is noticeable, not only Ace doesn’t feel like talking much, even Deuce and Grim are calmer than usual. It just feels wrong, but he doesn’t get to ask his friends about Jun’s whereabouts because Floyd fetches him, rather angrily, back to the kitchen.

Jun has been on Ace’s mind the entire day so he only realizes it is now his time to finally see the culprit of everything that is going wrong.

With a sneering smile that Ace once thought to be decent, Jade greets Ace as if nothing had happened. “Good afternoon Ace, how did your little date yesterday go?” Jade’s eyes have a dangerous glint.

However, it’s his mocking politeness that makes Ace’s blood boil. “Am I your source of amusement?!”

“Yes.” The bastard eel dares to laugh, right on Ace’s face. He isn’t even denying it and that just makes Ace even more furious because he can’t do anything. He is not a moron to fight Jade, especially as an anemone. But he finally sees Jade as he truly is.

His polite act is a façade to something akin to pure gleeful malice, as Jade will offer a smile just as he enjoys Ace’s pain and suffering. It makes Ace feel like an ant under the microscope, a new addition to Jade’s terrarium collection, and sometimes it is as if Jade puts the glass under the sun precisely to see if its rays will accidentally burn the poor Ace.

If only he had known this earlier, he would have never trusted this demon.

Ace glares at Jade, though gets simply a condescending smile that never fades when he hands in the orders of his friends.

“How did you even do it…?”

“Oh?” The fake innocence in Jade’s voice makes Ace grind his teeth. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Jade doesn’t even try to hide he was behind everything, but at the same time, he has no intention to revealing anything. “I am not sure what you are talking about, Ace-kun.”

“You made me…kiss Jun.”

“Did I? Fufufu, but how could I have done it? I possess no magic to do so.”

“That’s what I want to know.”

Jade snickers, he is clearly enjoying himself as the glint on his eyes is brighter and even more dangerous. “I have nothing to do with this, but even if I did, would it change anything?”

“Of course, it would!”

“Really?”

The mocking tone of Jade makes Ace bite his lip and back off. If he can’t even talk to Jun, then the culprit and the ploy behind the mysterious kiss is meaningless. And even getting to explain that would be another can of worms.

“Fufufu, it seems that for all your talk, you are truly an insignificant fool who cannot act without any insurance. Allow me to give you an advice, Ace-kun,” Jade says as his lips contort into an ugly grin that makes Ace shiver and want to smash a bottle into it. “A business cannot begin without risks. If you go play it safe, you will only end up as your poor pathetic self.”

“Are you calling me a coward?”

“Take it whoever it pleases you. I prefer ‘a spineless buffoon’.”

Ace wants to protest, but begrudgingly bites his tongue as he receives the dishes and dashes the hell out of the kitchen. He wants to believe it is because he is smarter than to take Jade on, but in reality, it’s because while Jade is the devil on earth, his words cut Ace deep with a hard truth he cannot deny but doesn’t want to accept.

If Ace hadn’t been a coward, he wouldn’t have hurt Jun.

 


 

His afternoon is as uneventful as it can be when the crushing weight of guilt is in your shoulders, in your every step and thought. He keeps thinking about the obvious, that he does owe Jun an apology and more importantly, that he has to actually take responsibility.

How is the rather unpleasant part of the process, but he figures he has to, uh, confess.

The irony of Ace not wanting to exert more effort than needed, to not be the one doing the spilling of feelings and having to accept and put himself in a vulnerable position is not lost on him. It’s even worse when he realizes that since Jun is absolutely not seeing him at all, he needs help on getting her to reach a private place where he can talk with her and that involves someone’s help.

“Hey Deuce, I need to ask you something,” Ace asks just as he arrives to his room, right before Deuce is ready to go to bed, pajamas and all, and after checking no one else was around.

Why on earth is he asking Deuce Spade, of all people on campus, for help? For once, he’s not Jade. And while Trey is reliable, Ace would have to admit his feelings to him, be mocked for eternity and even pranked because Trey can be a troll if he wants to. Cater is even worse, no way he is asking Riddle for help, so he has only one person, a goody-two-shoes, dense friend whose obliviousness could be his lifesaver.

“Have you seen Jun recently?”

“No, I wonder if there is something wrong with her, she seems absent. I found her sighing when I met her on the way to the dorm, but she told me to not think much about it. Did you two have a fight?”

Color Ace surprised, he didn’t expect this keen observation.

“Something like that. It wasn’t my fault and I didn’t mean to, but!”

“So you offended her.”

“I did….not…maybe. Just hurt her feelings a little.”

Ace wants to avoid explaining the whole “I was made to kiss her because I might have feelings for her” mess he is in, but Deuce isn’t doing his part to not have Ace do this.

“If you apologize to her, it should be alright,” Deuce replies innocently, completely unaware that he is asking the impossible right now.

“Well, I can’t. She has been avoiding me ever since.”

“What did you even do to her?”

“Th-that’s…not the important thing here, Deuce! In any case, Jun’s a girl, Deuce, and they are sometimes sensitive to other things we just brush off!”

“W-well, of course I know!” Deuce coughs as he blushes. He absolutely didn’t forget that part. But it seems it makes Deuce lay off a bit.

“Anyway, I need you to help me talk to her. She won’t go there if I ask her but if you bring her,  I can talk to her.”

“Wait.” Deuce blinks as his face lights with confused realization. “You like her?” Ace isn’t sure what bothers him most, that Deuce managed to be so fucking right at the worst time possible or the incredulous tone he used as if Ace is incapable of feelings.

“I mean, it’s not like tha-”

“So that was what Leech-senpai meant!”

Ace chokes on his saliva as he did not expect Satan’s name to come up, especially by Deuce of all people. “Wh-what do you mean by Leech-senpai?!”

“Leech-senpai asked me if you and Jun were close friends, and I told him I thought so because you seemed to care for her. I mean, you invite her all the time to our Unbirthday parties because she doesn’t have a lot to eat in Ramshackle dorm. He said he thought it was more than friends, but I didn’t believe it?”

The nerve of this traitor who isn’t even aware of his betrayal.

“Deuce you fucker!”

“Wait, so you like her?!”

“Can you not scream as if it’s something incredible?! Also not so loud because no one else can hear this!”

“Wait, so you like her?!” Deuce tries to yell as low as possible and Ace wants to make him eat his damned pillow.

Ace grimaces, his eyes shut as his lips turn into a bitter smile because now he has to admit everything, and curse Jade and Deuce and everyone-

“I’ll help you.”

 


 

Ace is waiting behind the rose tree close to where the hedgehogs and flamingos are kept. It’s his first day of freedom and he spends it hiding like a rat and being judged by the animals, which shows the state of his situation. He can’t do much as he prays no one else arrives while he is waiting and hoping that Deuce is as reliable as he can. Sometimes the guy is well-intentioned but absolutely screws up, and right now is not a good day to fuck up.

But when he can hear familiar voices, Ace swallows a sigh of relief as the harder thing is just staring, Jun and Deuce coming into view from the rose maze.

“We’re almost there!” Deuce says as Jun catches up. Ace hasn’t been able to see her, but the dejected look on her face makes his heart sink. He never wanted things to go this wrong.

They stop, Jun looks around as if hoping to find anything. Ace hides pretty well behind some bushes now, so he can still see them. He can’t let her run away so easily because she wouldn’t fall twice for a trick Deuce tried to pull on her.

“Why are we here?” She asks curiously, more intrigued that there is nothing suspicious to be seen.

“Ace told me you liked the hedgehogs and I thought seeing them would cheer you up.” Ace has known for a long time that Jun enjoys playing with the hedgehogs. He didn’t want to use this special card, but there was no other way to bring Jun here. And he figures Deuce will either forget this special detail or be courteous enough to never try to use it to pull anything on her, because he is that kind of guy. “I don’t know what is going on, but you’ve been not yourself, Jun.”

“Thank you Deuce,” Jun says as she gives him a soft smile, though she hesitates before adding, “But I mean, didn’t you have supplementary lessons with Crewel-sensei exactly right now?”

There’s a second of silence before Deuce yelps as he checks on his phone to see the date, face turning white. He is absolutely screwed, Crewel-sensei will not have mercy on him, and he is fully aware of it. “SHIT!” Deuce screams as he begins running into the rose maze. “Sorry Jun, we’ll leave that for later!” And with that, Deuce Spade has exited the stage.

Ace has to suppress a laugh. That is not the way Deuce was meant to disappear but if it works, it works. And Ace can’t refuse to take advantage of this opportunity.

He doesn’t jump immediately out, though, as Jun slowly goes closer to the cage where the hedgehogs are playing with one another. She smiles weakly as her hand hovers over the cage. She is too good to open it while no one is around, after all.

Ace quietly walks towards her, she is too absorbed on her thoughts to notice him until it is too late.

“Hey Jun…” Ace begins as he scratches the back of his head. No matter how hard he tries, it’s not easy to hide this nervousness, especially when Jun jumps and he can see the painful expression on her face.

“…Ace…” Her voice is hard to listen, it’s an uncomfortable mix of pain and despair. Clearly she didn’t expect nor want him to be there.

But there is no way back.

Ace is standing exactly in front of the only way she can run to, and he has no intention to let her run away, at least not until he has told what he has to.

“I-I…about that….about what happened at the aquarium…” Ace begins as he tries to summon all of his courage, which is hard when Jun looks almost as if she’s going to cry again. “I-I didn’t want to hurt you, I’m sorry…”

“…” Jun doesn’t reply, instead she turns her gaze elsewhere, and of course she wouldn’t be so eager to say Yeah no problem.

“It’s something that went out of control, I didn’t want to-“

“You didn’t want to kiss me then!?” Jun snaps at him, making Ace jump. He did not see the anger coming. “Then why did you do it? To have fun at my expense?!”

“Wait, no, no no no, it’s not that! It’s something more complicated!” Ace rushes to explain because Jun looks actually rather angry right now and something tells him she is not above kicking him in the nuts to run away. “I know this will sound like an excuse, but my body moved on my own.”

“Really? You’re right, it totally sounds like an excuse.”

“It was Jade’s fault!” Ace rushes as he begs internally for Jun to shut up and try to listen to him. On second thought, is this what she feels when he does the same? Well fuck, man, that shit’s annoying.

“Oh, so you’re now telling me Jade made you do it? Why? To laugh at my expense?”

“That’s not it, I mean it was at my expense!”

Jun tilts her head as a bitter smile is plastered on her face. “Poor Ace, always the victim. I guess you did it so that you finished your week earlier, right?”

“It’s not that! Just listen-”

“I didn’t make you sign that stupid contract, you know! So you got it coming, why did you involve me in this?! I didn’t want to be used in a stupid prank and-”

“For fuck’s sake Jun, it’s because I like you!”

Ace didn’t mean to basically scream it out loud, but his words stop Jun’s rambling right on track as she stares at him blankly.

“It’s not a joke, dammit! Ah, you’re so stubborn DAMN! Jade knew I liked you and the fucker made me kiss you for his amusement! I didn’t want to kiss you back then, I mean, I want to kiss you but not like that!”

Jun blinks rapidly, almost in disbelief as Ace continues.

“I wanted to explain that, but I panicked, I mean, my body moved on my own and I couldn’t do anything and I didn’t even know what was happening. But then Jade laughed at me, so it made sense. I don’t know how he managed to do this, but he did it because he is a hellspawn.”

“…”

Ace takes a deep breath, he needs to calm down somehow. He runs his hand over his hair, trying to collect himself before things go south. “Look Jun, I-I like you….A lot. And I was hoping you confessed to me first, but well, I am doing it instead. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“Ace Trappola, you’re a moron!” Jun says as she furrows her brows while an embarrassed smile forms and her cheeks turn pink. She looks as if she’s going to cry or laugh or maybe both. Ace gets closer to try to console her or receive her wrath. “If I didn’t like you, I would have never talked to you ever again! You even stole my first kiss!”

He puts his hands on her shoulders as he frowns. “Excuse me, it was mine too, and it was Jade’s fault,” he hollers, though he quickly registers that they were each other’s first kiss, in a completely non-consensual creepy way, but, hey. “But doesn’t this mean you like me back?” And with those last words, his trademark smarmy smirk appears.

“Unfortunately, I would say at this point.”

“What do you mean unfortunately?!”

Jun folds her arms and turns away, but she peeks through the corner of her eyes as Ace makes a mess of her hair without a notice. When she turns to complain, Ace pulls Jun into a hug. His voice shivers, as he says in a whisper, “I like you, Jun.”

Jun closes her eyes. “…I like you too, Ace.” She returns the embrace as a faint smile is drawn on her lips.

 


 

Hidden in the maze, far enough that neither Ace or Jun realize they are being watched over, someone quietly claps, a sneering smile on his face. Jade Leech wipes a non-existent tear, as he tells himself, “What a wonderful display, I would rate this a 10/10, fufufu.”