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Even without a soul, they remember. That’s something Devil learned long ago, even if it never seemed to be useful.

Many of the souls he collected in last millennia were like that, empty beings under his command, but with a little something, almost a reminder of who they were in their pathetic lives.

It was always something little, like a stupid movie, a certain type of perfume, an old song, a color, the taste of whiskey, even there was one of his minions who liked to collect shiny stones and bugs, for a reason Satan could not care less.

King Dice was also like that, in a way Devil found annoying, but not enough to stop acquiring that kind of special Cuban cigarettes his right hand loved so much.

Those were the particularities of every creature’s soul and the evil being found them too stupid to care, so he allowed his minions to do whatever they wanted, as long as their work were done.

But Cuphead?

Cuphead’s attachment was far more difficult to fulfil than just expensive cigarettes.

*

Devil won, but not really. It was a sore topic in the casino, one King Dice was sure to not talk about, not even alone with his boss. Cuphead refused to give up the contracts, they fought, and the little cup brats won, but not really.

Mugman managed to escape with the souls, but not Cuphead.

It was a no-win scenario, and there were no winners.

So King Dice got himself a new recruit. An annoying, malevolent little cup who looked at him with evil eyes on a cute little face Dice still had conflicted feelings for. Cuphead was his for train, on Devil’s orders, and over the months Dice had to admit the kid was fun to be with, proven to have a special talent for mischief.

But there were times, especially at early mornings, where Cuphead’s empty eyes looked at him like he wanted something, but didn’t know what. That look in the poor kid’s face awoke something, something very human, inside the Devil’s right hand.

And if sometimes Dice used his powers to show him the image of an old house in the forest, with a sad little mug sleeping on his older brother’s bed and clothes, well, their boss didn’t have to know.

*

Escaping from the Devil once was almost impossible. Escaping twice, a true miracle. And even so Mugman was coming back to the hellish casino.

He lied to Elder Kettle about it, sending his caretaker a fake letter telling how he ran away to forget what happened, to start a new life. As if he could ever forget.

The Devil’s lackeys looked at him as he approached the entrance, letting Mugman in almost immediately, like they were waiting for him. As in a nightmare, the little mug walked to the boss’s office, feeling more and more self-concisions at the evil grins.

When the golden doors opened, the Devil himself was waiting for him, sitting in his throne, with King Dice’s smug presence at his side.

And next to the throne, with Dice’s hand on his shoulder, violet clothes and a look he could barely recognize, was the reason Mugman would voluntary go to hell.

“I want to make a deal”

The evil creature’s smirk got even darker.

*

Attachments were a curious thing.

The lord of hell didn’t think much about it, except the times he found one of this minions had killed another over that matter, or those evenings when King Dice sang along with whatever music his old radio played before the work, his mind lost in memories long forgotten.

“Cuphead” the little demon looked at the Devil, ready to follow his commands. Just like he should have since the very beginning “I have a present for you”

Then King Dice entered the room, more smug than he had ever been, with their newest recruit at his side. Cuphead turned at them at his master’s order, his eyes immediately on the newcomer.

For centuries Devil had been listening stories about how he despise love and every good feeling in the human being, but that was just bullshit. Why would the Devil despise something that made others so easy to manipulate?

The evil, crazy eyes of the little mug looked at the cup, and smiled.

“Say hello to your brother, Cuphead”

That was the first time King Dice ever saw a soulless demon cry.

*

Work under Devil’s hellish regime became, surprisingly, much easier with the cup brothers on board.

Cuphead had real talent and was far more malevolent, but Mugman was cold and efficient, always looking for new ways to force debtors to pay in the most painful ways.

The brats were a dream team, and if King Dice had not been sure of his position as the Devil’s “number one”, he could have been worried about them surpassing even him.

But there were times, especially at early mornings once the busiest hours in the casino had end, where he would find the little cups whispering, calling themselves “Cups” and “Mugsy” with a voice so tender a demon should never could.

And if sometimes Dice just leave them alone, in each other’s arms, stealing as much time as they could before their next job to remember they’re at least still together, well, their boss didn’t have to know.