[Original Word Count: 2117]
[Current Word Count: 10,681] - rad
Perched atop a building, Leo observed the group of six individuals clustered outside a modest-looking hotel, engaged in an animated discussion.
"So, which one is Chainsaw Man?" Yoru inquired, her owl-like eyes studying the group of six below, while Leo stood alongside her, equally absorbed in the scene.
"Why don't you take a guess?" Leo suggested, crouching down to get a better view of the unfolding drama.
Yoru's owl-like eyes scanned the scene, analyzing the group's interactions. A man with a distinctive topknot was seen berating two other members of the group – a strawberry-blond-haired girl and a scruffy, blond-haired boy.
"Let me think..." Within Leo's mind, Yoru sat in her weakened devil form on his lap, while the Fire Devil lounged next to them, adopting a casual pose. "The one with black hair," she confidently ventured.
"Doesn't really narrow it down," the Fire Devil interjected. "Try again."
Yoru pondered for a moment, her owl-like eyes scanning the group meticulously.
Down below, the group's dynamics played out peculiarly, with a man sporting a topknot suddenly erupting into a heated argument with a strawberry-blond-haired girl and a scruffy blond-haired boy.
"The timid one," Yoru declared confidently, extending her wing toward a brown-haired girl who seemed to be quietly observing from the fringes.
"You changed your mind," Leo remarked.
"Interesting," the Fire Devil interjected, tapping its chin contemplatively. "Care to explain your reasoning?"
Yoru's confidence remained unwavering as she elaborated, "Chainsaw Man is known for being treacherous and cowardly. I assumed it would form a contract with someone similar."
Leo posed a question, "How is chainsaw man a coward?"
"He attacked me while my back was turned," Yoru answered without hesitation.
"Quite impressive," the Fire Devil dryly remarked, prompting Yoru to beam with pride, wings on her hips. "Although, you got it completely wrong."
"What!?" Yoru's surprise was palpable as she turned to the Fire Devil and then to Leo, who nodded in confirmation of the Fire Devil's assertion. "Then who is it?" Yoru demanded, her frustration evident in her tone.
"The scruffy blond one," Leo answered, pointing at the individual in question.
"What!? That scrawny human is Chainsaw Man!?" Yoru exclaimed, her disbelief ringing in her voice.
"Yup," Leo responded, emphasizing the 'P' sound.
"Tch," Yoru clicked her tongue in irritation, crossing her wings and resettling herself on Leo's chest.
The Fire Devil couldn't help but snicker at Yoru's vexation.
Casting another glance at the group below, Leo noted that they had now moved indoors, entering the hotel.
"Show time," Leo commented, as he leaped down from the building he had been observing from.
Inside the hotel, once Denji and the gang reached the eighth floor, things took an unexpected turn for the worse.
Power, the girl with strawberry blonde hair, inadvertently triggered a chaotic event by killing a walking head, leading to the group becoming trapped within the very stomach of the Eternity Devil. What had initially appeared as a straightforward mission quickly morphed into a dire situation with no clear escape. Time seemed to freeze, and panic began to creep into the hearts of the group. Kobeni, the timid girl, and Arai, the short black-haired man, struggled to maintain their composure, and their distress only fueled the mounting chaos.
As a result, Kobeni was incapacitated for her safety, while Arai sought refuge beneath the covers of a nearby bed, attempting to cope with a severe panic attack.
Curiously enough, Denji seemed oddly unfazed by their predicament, finding solace in the comfort of a hotel bed where he had dozed off. Himeno, another member of the group, stood guard over the trio, keeping watch in the tense atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Aki, the remaining member of the team, tirelessly patrolled the dimly lit halls and rooms, relentlessly scouring for any potential means of escape.
During his vigilant patrol, the unexpected sound of the elevator's chime caught Aki off guard. Reacting swiftly, he ducked into an adjacent room, with Himeno soon emerging from the room Denji was sleeping in. Together, they peered cautiously into the corridor, poised for any possible threat.
"Oya?" a voice echoed from within the elevator, accompanied by a rhythmic knocking. "Hello!?"
The knocking persisted, a sense of urgency punctuating each rap against the metal doors. Aki held his position, his senses on high alert, urging Himeno to retreat further into the room. However, she defied his silent command, her curiosity compelled her to maintain her watchful gaze.
Suddenly, a distinct thud reverberated through the corridor as the person within the elevator forcefully kicked one of the doors, resulting in a large noticeable dent.
"Oh shit," the voice mumbled audibly, a tinge of regret in its tone. "Guess kicking the doors open wasn't the best idea."
Aki's muscles tensed, his instincts honed by his training as a Public Safety Devil Hunter. Something about the casual tone of the voice didn't sit right, especially considering the circumstances.
A second kick from within the elevator prompted the individual to stumble backward, their balance momentarily compromised. "Damn it," they muttered under their breath.
And then, with surprising strength, a pair of hands gripped the undamaged elevator door and effortlessly pried it wide open. Emerging from the confined space, Leo stepped into the dimly lit hallway, his presence commanding immediate attention. His gaze shifted to his right, catching sight of a figure hastily ducking into one of the nearby rooms.
"Oya?" Leo's voice carried a mix of curiosity and amusement, his words a playful inquiry directed at the retreating figure.
Himeno's single eye widened in recognition and surprise as her eye locked onto the figure of her old classmate.
Aki felt beads of anxious sweat forming on his forehead, his heart pounding in his chest. Had the person stepping out of the elevator noticed him? Had he managed to conceal himself in time?
Summoning his resolve, Aki risked a cautious glance, only to be met with the unwavering gaze of a pair of sharp black eyes, seemingly piercing right through his hiding place.
As a rising sense of unease began to tighten its grip on him, Aki's fingers reflexively reached for the hilt of his sword-like nail. But before he could react further, his movement was swiftly quelled by Leo's commanding presence. With a startling fluidity, Leo's actions spoke of a seasoned warrior, effortlessly overpowering Aki and pushing him onto his stomach, wresting away his weapon in the process.
Aki's breath caught in his throat, the world seemingly spinning around him. He had been outmaneuvered, his hopes of remaining hidden dashed by Leo's sharp perception and swift response.
"The Curse Devil, huh?" Leo's voice held a trace of casual amusement as he examined the nail-like sword he had seized. "Interesting choice..."
Aki's struggle against Leo's weight proved futile, his attempts to break free met with resistance. His mind raced, adrenaline coursing through his veins as he grappled with his vulnerable position on the floor.
"Wait!" Himeno's voice cut through the tense atmosphere, snagging Leo's attention as she appeared at the entrance to the room.
Himeno's watchful eyes had tracked Leo's lightning-quick movements as he closed the gap between him and Aki with almost supernatural speed. The sight of her old friend, someone she hadn't seen in years, elicited a surge of mixed emotions within her – relief that he was well, combined with a lingering sense of nostalgia. However, her immediate concern lay with her fellow Devil Hunter, Aki, who had been effortlessly subdued by Leo's expertise.
"Oya?" Leo's tone took on a note of curiosity, his attention shifting toward Himeno as she grasped the doorframe to steady herself. "Ah, it's... um," his words momentarily faltered before he snapped his fingers in a brief display of recollection. "Himeno, right? It's been a while."
Himeno's one eye widened as Leo addressed her by name, an echo from the past that carried both nostalgia and a sense of disbelief.
Leo's sharp gaze attentively took in Himeno's form, noting the subtle changes that time had etched into her features. His eyes followed the lines of her figure, rising to her face, and then settling on the eye patch that covered part of her countenance. A faint, almost forced smile appeared on his lips. "You look... alive," he commented, the words carrying a semblance of warmth.
Himeno blinked in surprise, Leo's unexpected compliment catching her off guard. Had Leo always possessed such a facet? She couldn't help the giggle that escaped her lips, soon escalating into hearty laughter.
Amidst her laughter, she managed to stammer out, "S-Since when do you compliment people?"
Leo's response was accompanied by a feigned pout, "How rude. I've always been quite the charmer."
Himeno's laughter gradually subsided, allowing her to fix her one eye on her old friend. She couldn't help but acknowledge the change in him. "He's certainly different now," she reflected, realizing that the Leo she had known would never have offered a genuine compliment, no matter the circumstance.
"Ah, where are my manners?" Leo quipped, his tone casual as he pointed a finger toward Aki, who had ceased his struggles at this point. "Who's the guy I'm currently using as a seat?"
Himeno's laughter lingered in the air as she stepped further into the room, her eye flicking between Leo and Aki. "This is Aki Hayakawa, a Devil Hunter," she introduced, her voice holding a hint of amusement.
Leo leaned back slightly, his gaze shifting from Himeno to Aki. "Aki, huh? What brings you all the way here?" he inquired, his tone casual as he looked down at Aki beneath him.
Aki's expression was a mix of frustration and mild embarrassment. "I was trying to find an exit for our group," he replied, his voice tense but steady.
"Well, seems you found something even more interesting," Leo remarked, a playful glint in his eyes.
Himeno couldn't help but chuckle at the situation, finding herself oddly at ease despite the circumstances. "I see that you and Aki have already met in quite an unconventional manner," she noted, a smirk tugging at her lips.
Leo chuckled, the sound carrying a sense of amusement. "Well, since we're all here now, how about we figure out a way to get out of this stomach?" he suggested, lifting himself off of Aki and extending a hand to help him up.
Aki reluctantly accepted Leo's hand, his expression still tinged with annoyance and disbelief. "Before that, I've got a question," he stated, brushing off his suit with a slight air of nonchalance.
"Shoot," Leo replied, a smirk dancing on his lips, while Himeno appeared visibly perturbed by the upcoming inquiry.
"You're supposed to be the strongest devil hunter, right?" Aki inquired in his typically matter-of-fact tone, his expression inscrutable.
"Yep," Leo responded, his tone holding a touch of humility beneath his confident demeanor. "That's me, the strongest."
Himeno's anxiety grew, sensing the gravity of Aki's question about to be unveiled.
Aki's brows furrowed as he continued, his gaze unwavering. "Between you and the Gun Devil, who would win?" he posed, his voice steady.
Leo regarded Aki with a slight tilt of his head, and Himeno's cheerful façade waned as she delved into her thoughts.
Leo regarded Aki with a slight tilt of his head, and Himeno's cheerful façade waned as she delved into her thoughts. "Both of them lost someone they care about to the Gun Devil, it can't be-" she pondered, but her musing was abruptly cut short.
Before Himeno could articulate her thoughts, Leo's demeanor shifted. His smirk faded, replaced by a resolute seriousness as he confidently pointed at himself with his thumb. "I'd win, no competition," he declared firmly.
Aki hesitated for a moment, his gaze fixed on Leo's face as if searching for any hint of falsehood. His fingers flexed slightly, a subtle sign of his inner turmoil. "I see," he finally replied, his voice even, though a trace of something unreadable lingered beneath the surface.
Himeno's worry deepened as she watched the exchange, her mind racing with implications. She had known Aki long enough to recognize that his inquiry wasn't merely a casual question. His tone had carried an undercurrent of intensity, as if he was measuring Leo's confidence against something more insightful.
Himeno interjected, her concern still evident. "Guys, let's not get too carried away with hypotheticals. We're here to find a solution, remember?"
Aki's attention shifted to Himeno, and he nodded. "Right," he conceded, his demeanor softening slightly.
Aki's response remained measured, and his gaze held a mix of acknowledgment and consideration. The tension in the room, once on the brink of confrontation, seemed to shift into a new kind of understanding. Himeno found herself caught between their exchanges, her initial worries beginning to subside.
"Let's rejoin the others. I'm growing concerned about leaving Power on her own for an extended period of time," Himeno stated, her voice firm as she cleared her throat and began walking toward the hallway exit.
The atmosphere in the hallway was notably hushed as they walked, the only sound being the soft echoes of their footsteps. Aki moved with a controlled silence, Himeno was lost in thought, and Leo seemed to relish in the silence, a faint smirk gracing his features.
Upon entering the room where Denji was sleeping, the scene hadn't changed much from when Himeno had left. Denji was peacefully slumbering, while through the windows, Kobeni remained in deep slumber, and Arai was still cocooned within his protective blanket.
Leo's gaze settled on Denji, his eyes subtly widening. "Well, isn't this a small world," he commented, a note of surprise in his voice.
"You know Denji?" Himeno inquired, her curiosity piqued.
"Once saw him in the woods and handed him a bag of stuff I'd bought at a convenience store," Leo replied casually. "Can't quite recall when it was, but he wasn't alone, I think."
Himeno's eyebrow arched. "What were you doing in the woods?"
"Got wind from the convenience store clerk that a kid was taking down devils out there. Thought I'd check it out," Leo explained with a nonchalant shrug.
Himeno's expression held a mix of disbelief and amusement. "And you just left him there?"
"I had stuff to deal with," Leo answered nonchalantly. "Besides, Denji and his... dog, I guess, didn't exactly extend a warm welcome, so I figured I'd let them do their thing. I did consider going back at some point, but, well, life got hectic, and I might have forgotten about it."
"Right," Himeno responded with a touch of sarcasm.
"I swear it's the truth!" Leo protested. "Meeting Denji coincided with one of the busiest periods of my life... well, mostly."
"I totally believe you," Himeno said, her tone thick with sarcasm.
As this exchange continued between Leo and Himeno, Arai had enough of just listening. He poked his head out from under the covers, his expression a mix of curiosity and determination. Spotting Leo, he bolted out of bed, moving with a surprising urgency toward Denji's room.
The approaching footsteps caught Leo's attention, and he turned to see Arai charging at them. However, the situation took an unexpected turn. Arai's enthusiasm got the better of him, and he completely misjudged the open window. Instead of smoothly diving through it, he slammed face-first into the glass, missing the open space entirely.
"Shit," Leo muttered, grimacing as he saw Arai hit the floor with an audible groan before picking himself up, albeit with significantly less grace.
Struggling and clearly in pain, Arai clumsily maneuvered himself over the window sill, only to end up falling backward onto his back. Holding his nose with one hand, he seemed to have hit the window pretty hard.
Arai managed a weak, "B-Backup?" as he lay on the floor, catching his breath.
Leo stood there, a wicked grin spreading across his face, seemingly ready to squash Arai's hopes with a snarky remark, but before he could speak, Himeno interjected, cutting him off. "Absolutely! Backup!" she chimed in, giving Arai's crushed spirits an immediate boost.
"Thank god," Arai mumbled, his body slumping against the floor in relief.
Himeno beamed with satisfaction as she caught Leo's unamused expression. It seemed some things never changed between them.
Shifting his attention back to Denji, Leo took purposeful steps toward the slumbering figure. If he couldn't mess with Arai, he would certainly mess with Denji.
Hovering above Denji, a mischievous grin played on Leo's lips as he casually spat into his palm, then raised his hand intending to deliver an unsuspecting slap to the sleeping teen's face. Despite Himeno's attempt to thwart his fun once again, Leo's reflexes were too quick, and his open palm met Denji's cheek with a satisfying smack.
"Rise and shine!" Leo bellowed with a triumphant smirk.
Denji's eyes shot open, his face contorting in surprise and shock as he instinctively reached up to touch his stinging cheek. His gaze rapidly shifted from his palm to the towering figure looming above him, his sleep-addled mind struggling to process the sudden turn of events.
"W-What the hell?!" Denji spluttered, his voice a mix of confusion and irritation as he struggled to sit up, his hair wild and disheveled from his abrupt awakening.
Leo's smirk only widened at Denji's reaction, clearly pleased with the successful startle he had managed to achieve. Himeno, though trying to appear stern, couldn't hide her faint smile either, her amusement at the situation evident.
"Morning, sleeping beauty," Leo quipped, his tone laden with an undeniable hint of mischief. "Had a good nap, I hope?"
Denji's eyes narrowed as he finally processed the situation and recognized the face before him. "You... you're the guy from the woods," he muttered, his voice mixed with a mixture of recognition and disbelief.
"Wow, you actually remember," Leo teased, his smirk only growing. "What about my name? You remember my name?"
Denji's brow furrowed as his brain went to work overtime, trying to remember. "L- Leo?" he muttered.
Leo broke into mock applause, his tone dripping with playful sarcasm. "Impressive."
Denji blinked a few times, his grogginess slowly giving way to realization. "Wait a minute... Leo? Seriously? What are you doing here?"
Leo shrugged nonchalantly, the mischievous glint in his eyes refusing to waver. "You know, heard a group of idiots got themselves trapped in a hotel. Thought I'd drop by and join the fun."
"Fun? By slapping me awake?" Denji scowled, pushing himself up into a sitting position.
"Well, I already had my share of fun with Aki, and Himeno had to save Arai from my pranks," Leo explained with a wink, his smirk unrelenting. "So I figured you wouldn't want to be left out."
Denji's scowl deepened as he rubbed his still-stinging cheek, while Himeno rolled her eyes, folding her arms "You're unbelievable."
As the commotion carried on, a rustling from the adjacent room indicated that Kobeni was stirring awake.
"Speaking of which, Himeno," Leo began suddenly, his tone shifting to a more serious note as his gaze settled squarely on her. "Interested in renegotiating the terms of your contract?"
Himeno's skepticism was palpable as she squinted at Leo. "Can you even do that?"
Leo's response came with a confident nod. "Absolutely. I've got a contract with the Contract Devil, and it looks like you've struck a deal with the Ghost Devil by sacrificing your eye, correct?"
Hesitantly, Himeno confirmed, "Yes."
"Well then, we can change the terms if you want," Leo offered, a trace of a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
Himeno maintained her cautious gaze, her suspicion unwavering. "Who are you, and what have you done with the Leo?"
Leo's response was both sincere and enigmatic. "I'm just offering you a choice, Himeno. You can take it or leave it."
Himeno deliberated, her gaze never leaving Leo's face as she assessed his proposition. "Fine. But this better not be some kind of trick."
Leo's grin returned, a blend of charm and mischief. "I promise, no tricks. Stick out your thumb."
Himeno gazed at Leo's outstretched thumb before hesitantly extending her thumb to meet his, resulting in an awkward fist bump. Their thumbs briefly met in the middle before Leo's thumb moved upward, leaving a small incision on Himeno's thumb.
"Ah!" Himeno jolted back from the sudden incision, instinctively clutching her bleeding thumb. "What the hell!?"
Aki and Arai's attention sharpened, their hands moving instinctively toward their weapons, their expressions wary.
"Let's see," Leo ignored the growing tension between Aki and Arai as he examined the piece of paper formed from Himeno's blood. His impressed whistle reverberated in the air while he scrutinized the intricate details of Himeno's contracts. "Impressive, you've made it this far relying solely on the Ghost Devil."
Himeno's irritation momentarily gave way to curiosity. "What are you doing?"
Leo's smirk remained, his eyes alight with amusement. "Just examining your contract. Seeing what we can and can't change."
Himeno shot him a suspicious look, but her curiosity won out. "And what exactly are you planning to change?"
Leo's gaze remained focused on the contract. "Nothing too dramatic. I was just entertaining the idea of swapping out a hand and a foot, so you could rock a pirate aesthetic with a hook and a peg leg, but..." his eyes lifted to meet Himeno's unamused gaze. "... I'm guessing that's not really your style," he concluded, holding back a chuckle.
As Leo continued to play with Himeno, the tension in the room lingered. Aki and Arai exchanged wary glances, unsure of what to make of Leo's nonchalant approach to altering devil contracts.
"Alright, so how about this: we aim for a less pirate-like look and focus on regaining your right eye instead?" Leo suggested, sidling up next to Himeno.
"What's the catch?" Himeno asked, leaning in to examine her contract alongside Leo.
"Well, how about trading a kidney for that eye?" Leo proposed, but Himeno shook her head.
"I like drinking," she confessed.
"Alright, what about a gallbladder?"
"What's that for?"
"It helps digest fatty foods, like grilled cheese."
"I like grilled cheese."
"Same... Okay, uhhh, then how about your appendix?"
"What's that do?"
"It generates immunoglobulins that aid the immune system."
Himeno mulled over the suggestion but ultimately shook her head in refusal.
As Leo and Himeno continued their lighthearted debate over unnecessary body parts, Denji looked on, bewildered. He couldn't fully grasp their exchange, but he gathered they were discussing trading various organs. His own idea surfaced, and he decided to share it, despite his lack of understanding.
"What about your balls?" he blurted out, immediately grabbing everyone's attention. "I sold one of mine, and I turned out fine."
Leo pursed his lips, glancing over at Himeno with a mischievous spark in his eye. "Well, Himeno...? Care to donate one of your balls?"
Himeno's eyebrow twitched as she fought back a smile. "No."
"Alright... How about..." Leo's attempt at serious inquiry was cut short by a fit of laughter, his amusement echoing through the room.
Denji watched the exchange with a mix of confusion and fascination, his cheeks tinged with a faint blush from the earlier slap that had rudely pulled him from his sleep.
Himeno's lips quirked, a reluctant grin breaking through as she playfully elbowed Leo's side. "This is getting ridiculous."
Leo managed to compose himself, his laughter tapering off while his eyes continued to twinkle with mirth. "Okay, okay... What about, pfff..." he struggled to maintain his composure, wheezing between chuckles.
Himeno leaned into him, her expression softening as she found herself caught up in the moment. "I don't think I've ever seen him smile before," she reflected inwardly. Aki and Arai exchanged bemused glances, clearly perplexed by the peculiar dynamics unfolding before them.
"Ah, that was great," Leo finally managed to say, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. "I didn't realize I needed that, thanks Denji."
While Denji didn't quite understand the context, he responded with an understanding peace sign, a small smile tugging at his lips.
"Alright, alright..." Leo composed himself, taking a few deep breaths before turning his attention back to Himeno with a mischievous smirk. "But seriously, are you absolutely sure? The Ghost Devil probably won't mind."
Himeno maintained a thoughtful expression. "Yes, I'm sure."
"Alright, then... How about your tonsils? They're practically useless and can be removed without any major health consequences," Leo proposed.
Himeno rested her chin on her hand, pondering the suggestion. "I'm not sure..."
Unlike her initial contract with the Ghost Devil, Himeno no longer had the luxury of deciding without giving it much thought. Handing over a seemingly insignificant organ for the sake of regaining her eye wasn't a choice to be taken lightly.
Sensing her hesitation, Leo casually draped an arm over her shoulder, pulling her a bit closer. "Getting cold feet, Himeno?" he teased, a playful glint in his eye.
Himeno leaned into Leo's side, a faint smile touching her lips. "No, it's not that," she replied, her voice holding a hint of playfulness. "I just want to make sure it's worth it."
Leo's grin persisted as he lightly squeezed her shoulder. "Of course, what the fuck do you want your tonsils for?"
Himeno rolled her eye, her playful expression turning into a mock scowl. "Very reassuring."
"Alright, here's the deal," Leo announced, his tone shifting to a more business-like demeanor. "We'll change the terms of your contract, giving you back your right eye in exchange for your tonsils while keeping your current contract the same. Fairtrade?"
Himeno's playful demeanor softened into a contemplative one. She looked at Leo for a moment, a mix of emotions swirling in her eye. Finally, she nodded, a determined glint in her gaze. "Fair trade."
Himeno stuck out her thumb, and Leo placed her contract on her thumb. The contract dissolved and flowed back into her, a surreal sensation that sent shivers down her spine.
"Ugh!" Himeno breathed out, her body shuddering involuntarily.
"Heh, been there," Leo chuckled.
"You've done this before?" Himeno asked, showing her thumb only to find a neatly placed bandaid.
"I made a contract with Kishibe," Leo answered.
"Ehh~ You know Kishibe?" Himeno asked, tilting her head.
"He's my teacher," Leo answered, shrugging his shoulders. "Anyways, enough about me. You feeling alright?"
"Hmm," Himeno hummed as she inspected herself. "I feel alright... why? Should I feel something weird?"
"Not really," Leo replied. "I just expected you to cough up blood from the Ghost Devil taking your tonsils."
"Eh?" Himeno, along with Aki and Arai, looked at Leo with a surprised expression.
"Take off your eyepatch, Private Himeno," Leo instructed with a smirk.
Himeno raised an eyebrow at the formality but complied, removing her eyepatch. To her astonishment, when she opened her eye, she could see through it clearly.
"Wow..." she breathed out, blinking in amazement.
"Say, Ah," Leo instructed, snapping Himeno out of her stupor.
"Right..." Himeno cleared her throat, a small blush tingeing her cheeks as she obediently opened her mouth wide.
"Huh..." Leo examined her mouth, his expression thoughtful.
"What is it?" Himeno asked, a hint of concern in her voice.
"Your tonsils are still there," Leo revealed with a smirk.
Himeno's eyes widened in disbelief. "What? But... I thought I gave them up for my eye?"
"Fascinating," Leo breathed out, his fingertips lightly grazing his chin in thought.
"Fascinating!?" Arai exclaimed, his frustration evident. "What's so fascinating!?"
"Calm down, Arai," Himeno interjected, trying to keep her cool. "I'm sure it's nothing to worry about, right?" she asked, turning to Leo for reassurance.
"Perhaps," Leo replied, his tone casual as he shrugged nonchalantly. "If I had to venture a guess, your tonsils might still be there because the Ghost Devil could be scared of me."
"Because of you?" Aki queried, raising an eyebrow skeptically. "Why would the Ghost Devil be afraid of you?"
Leo's laughter rippled through the room. "Why wouldn't it be?"
Before the conversation could delve further into the intriguing dynamics of devil contracts, Kobeni's voice cut through.
"Um, excuse me..." she began, her voice surprisingly composed given the situation.
"Oh? You're finally awake," Leo remarked, glancing over at Kobeni with a quirked eyebrow.
Kobeni nodded, her eyes darting around the room as if taking in her surroundings for the first time. "Yeah, um, sorry for, you know, causing all that trouble," she said, her voice a mix of sheepishness and genuine remorse.
Himeno stepped forward, giving Kobeni a reassuring smile. "Don't worry about it, Beni."
"Great! Now that the whole gang is back together I can't help but feel someone is missing. Aren't buddies normally in twos?" Leo asked with a smirk.
"Since there was absolutely nothing to do, my thoughts naturally drifted towards the Nobel Peace Prize," mused the strawberry blond girl with prominent horns, who was none other than the brash and confident Power. She reclined leisurely, propping her head up with her hand as if pondering the weightiest of matters. "Imagine this: winning the Nobel Peace Prize, a glorious symbol of my superiority, and with that accolade, I shall watch as the entirety of humanity bows before me! The Nobel shall serve as a mere stepping stone on my path to becoming the illustrious Prime Minister!"
In a sudden burst of fervor, Power sat upright, thrusting her fist triumphantly into the air. "But, being the benevolent overlord that I am, I shall ensure that the humans suffer. Thus, I shall inaugurate my reign by imposing a 100% tax increase upon them!"
Leo, Denji and Himeno stared at Power with a mixture of bewilderment and incredulity, their faces a canvas of blank disbelief.
Amidst the absorbing spectacle of Power's aspirations, Aki had resumed his relentless search for an escape route. Arai and Kobeni, on the other hand, had taken up the responsibility of safeguarding the meager stash of provisions they had scavenged from the desolate hotel rooms.
Seated on one of the beds, Arai stole a glance at Kobeni, his voice a gentle probe to spark a conversation. "You seem unusually calm today. More than usual, I mean."
Kobeni shifted her gaze slightly, her distant eyes meeting his before drifting back to their focus on some unseen horizon. "It's because of him," she murmured cryptically.
"Him?" Arai pursued.
A faint nod from Kobeni. "The so-called strongest devil hunter."
"Leo?" Arai inquired, attempting to fill in the gaps.
Kobeni's confirmation came with another nod. "Since I was a child, the television would broadcast his relentless slaughter of devils, his reputation preceding him as an indomitable force. Even though the fear lingers, having someone with such a title here somehow makes it... easier to bear," she confessed, her voice carrying a hint of vulnerability as she hugged her knees closer.
Before Arai could delve deeper into their tentative conversation, Leo's distinctive voice reached them from outside the room, a mix of skepticism and amusement clearly audible.
"Taxes, huh? You had me there for a moment, until you mentioned the tax hike," Leo's retort echoed, his tone dripping with sarcasm. "I'll have you know, I've got a bit of a reputation when it comes to avoiding taxes."
"You shall pay, human!" Power's reply resonated. "Your suffering shall be the payment!"
Leo swung the door open, amusement dancing in his eyes. "Many have tried, Power, and all have fallen short," he retorted, his tone taunting.
Power's fiery gaze met Leo's unyielding one, a testament to the clash of egos that had now taken center stage.
Power's response was immediate and fiery. "I'll make an example of you, devil hunter! Your defiance shall crumble under the weight of my diabolical genius!"
Leo's smirk remained unbroken as he stepped into the room, his casual demeanor a stark contrast to Power's fervor. "I've seen more diabolical things in my sleep," he quipped.
Power huffed in frustration. "You won't laugh when you're paying your taxes!"
"Trust me, I'll find a way to avoid it," Leo replied, unperturbed.
Himeno's soft chuckle danced through the air as she retrieved a box of cigarettes, a gesture that didn't escape Leo's notice. His curiosity piqued, and he couldn't help but inquire, "You smoke?"
From the box, Himeno smoothly slid out a final cigarette, her actions practiced and deliberate. Raising the cigarette to her lips, her gaze met Leo's as she wore a contemplative expression. With a casual shrug, she offered a half-smile. "Well, we've all got our vices, right? It's a little anchor of sanity during this chaotic world."
Leo's attention remained on her, his eyes holding a trace of intrigue. Without hesitation, he reached into his jacket pocket, retrieving a matchbox. A match was carefully struck against the rough edge, its flame flickering to life. "In this line of work, sanity might just be overrated," he quipped with a smirk, using the match to light Himeno's cigarette.
A smoky exhale followed Himeno's first drag, her eyes holding a knowing glint. "Maybe sanity is the truest form of rebellion," she mused, a playful challenge in her tone.
With a chuckle, Leo flicked the spent match onto the floor. "Well, in that case, light up, rebel," he said, his tone laced with humor as he raised an eyebrow.
"Do you smoke?" Himeno inquired, taking another deliberate drag.
Leo placed the matchbox on a nearby desk, his hand delving into his jacket to retrieve a finely crafted wooden box. With a sense of ceremony, he unfastened the latch, revealing an elegant array of six cigars neatly nestled inside. "Not in public," he answered, his tone casual.
"Eh~ Is Leo concerned about his image?" Himeno teased, a playful glint in her eye.
"Not particularly," Leo admitted, snipping the tip of a cigar with precision. "Just setting a fine example for my kids."
"Eh?" The revelation caught Himeno off guard, nearly causing her cigarette to slip from her fingers.
As the revelation settled, Aki returned to the room, Leo casually lighting his cigar with another match. "Any luck?" Leo inquired, puffing contentedly on his cigar.
Aki's expression was grave as he nodded. "The devil we took down..."
"The one I obliterated, right!?" Power chimed in.
"It's getting bigger and bigger..." Aki finished.
Outside, the unmistakable sound of a door being forcefully kicked open echoed through the air.
Rushing into the corridor, the group was greeted by an eerie spectacle: an amalgamation of faces, an uncanny blend of organic and inorganic elements that manifested in a profoundly unsettling and grotesque form. The Eternity Devil's visage was a surreal mosaic of textures, colors, and shapes that seemed to intermingle and morph in a bewildering dance of visual dissonance. It defied any semblance of recognizable form.
Leo instinctively took the lead, positioning himself at the forefront of the group as they beheld the nightmarish entity spilling out from the adjacent room, blocking a portion of the hallway.
"Ew," Leo's disdainful remark cut through the tense air, his nonchalant stance a stark contrast to the disturbing scene before them.
The Eternity Devil's numerous mouths moved in unsettling harmony as it addressed the group, its voice reverberating through the corridor. "Humans. Foolish humans, let us negotiate a contract."
"It speaks?" Denji's voice carried a mixture of awe and disbelief.
"A contract?" Aki echoed, his gaze narrowing as he processed the creature's words.
The Eternity Devil's attention focused, its many eyes seemingly fixated on Denji. "Denji, the human. I desire his flesh. Bring me his lifeless body, and I shall permit the rest of you devil hunters to depart unharmed."
Gradually and deliberately, Leo started to create distance between himself and the grotesque entity that loomed before him, each step a deliberate note in the symphony of tension that enveloped the corridor. The palpable silence seemed to amplify with every inch he put between himself and the Eternity Devil.
"Hey, what's the game here, human?" Yoru's voice echoed urgently in Leo's mind. "Backing down from this wimp? You've got some explaining to do!"
Amusement laced with an air of mystery danced in Leo's eyes as he maintained his retreat. The Fire Devil's chortling echoed in his thoughts as it playfully shushed Yoru, a cryptic confidence in its actions. "Just watch."
Eyes fixed on Leo, the group held its collective breath, a mixture of anxiety and curiosity painting their expressions. As Leo halted his steps, a charged pause settled, punctuated only by the distant whispers of shadows.
"What's the plan, Leo?" Himeno's voice held a note of concern, mirroring the confusion etched across their faces. Their anticipation hung thick in the air, a suspended question waiting to be answered.
Leo's response was a cunning grin, a twist of malice curling his lips as his hand disappeared into the recesses of his jacket. The glint of steel caught the dim light as his knife emerged, its blade reflecting the sinister resolve in his eyes. A practiced twirl of his fingers brought the weapon to rest in his palm, his stance subtly shifting into a poised crouch.
A malicious glimmer danced in Leo's eyes, a predatory smirk curling his lips as he addressed Himeno's query. "I reckon I could make my way through to the other side of this 'gentleman' here," he replied, a calculated assurance underscoring his words.
Just as Himeno was about to voice another question, the entire group was hit by a gust of wind, propelling them backward as Leo launched himself off the floor in a split-second maneuver, hurtling toward the Eternity Devil with lightning speed.
One second stretched into the next, with an eerie pause.
Then, with a deafening boom, the wall right behind the group erupted into a shower of debris as Leo burst through it, rolling several times on the ground before managing to regain his footing.
Shaken by the sudden turn of events, the group stared in a mix of shock and awe at the dust-covered Leo. The tense silence hung in the air, broken only by Leo's casual complaint as he brushed the dust off his shirt, revealing a single droplet of blood.
"Aw, come on. This was brand new," Leo grumbled, oblivious to the gaping jaws and wide eyes that were now fixated on him.
"HAHA—GAH!" echoed the mocking laughter of the Eternity Devil, its triumphant tone cut short by a sudden, gruesome transformation. The grotesque creature exploded in a horrific burst of flesh and blood, a tidal wave of viscera surging backward in a grotesque spectacle, drenching the wall and floor in a macabre display.
The group recoiled, a collective gasp of repulsion escaping them as they were mercifully saved from the impending shower of gore. Amid the shock, the hallway fell silent again, the only sounds being the heavy breathing of the devil hunters and the eerie stillness left in the wake of the Eternity Devil's supposed abrupt end.
"That's all?" Denji's voice cut through the shocked silence, his tone a mix of incredulity and impatience. "So, can we finally get out of here?"
Leo's casual response dashed their hopes. "Not quite," he replied nonchalantly, his hands instinctively moving to cover his ears.
Confusion etched across their faces, the group was about to voice their queries when a bone-chilling, synchronized scream tore through the air. It was as if the very sound waves were latching onto their eardrums, a torturous grip forcing them to reflexively clamp their hands over their ears.
The Eternity Devil, previously obliterated into a grotesque mess, was reassembling itself before their disbelieving eyes. Shredded fragments multiplied and converged, weaving together into a horrifying resurrection of the devil's form. The visual assault was accompanied by the cacophony of its regenerating scream, an auditory assault that pounded against their senses, threatening to drive them to their knees.
Himeno's face twisted in a mixture of horror and frustration. "How... How do we stop it?"
Leo's voice pierced through the relentless sonic assault, tinted with irritation as he maintained his grip on his ears. "We must locate its core. And you might want to take a step back."
"Huh?" Denji, standing dangerously close to the morphing nightmare that was the Eternity Devil, barely had time to react as a writhing tendril, composed of grotesque hands, descended toward him. Swiftly, Leo intervened, yanking Denji away just in the nick of time.
"Actually, make that a run back," Leo advised with a casual air, slinging Denji over his shoulder as if he weighed nothing.
The Eternity Devil's grotesque form surged and expanded, its desperate tendrils thrashing and reaching but falling short. Leo led the group from behind, wielding his blade to slice through any stray appendages that dared to venture too close.
Their footsteps reverberated down the seemingly unending hallway, the very floor quaking beneath them. As the group pressed forward, an ominous realization settled in – the Eternity Devil was morphing, reshaping the very architecture of its lair. The hallway itself twisted and curved, warping into a monstrous maw that threatened to consume them.
In a race against time and anatomy, the group dashed onward, their breathless steps punctuated by the gnashing of the abyssal jaws behind them. Just as the room teetered, tilting precariously toward the abyss, they managed a leap of desperation, tumbling into an adjacent vacant chamber. The hallway they had traversed twisted, completing a harrowing ninety-degree pivot to form the gaping maw of the Eternity Devil itself. Safe for the moment, their hearts raced as they caught their breath.
The Eternity Devil's voice reverberated through the chamber, its demand echoing with a chilling intensity. "Hand over Denji's heart!" Its gaping maw dominated a significant portion of the corridor, a grotesque sight that contrasted starkly with the group's precarious refuge in the adjoining rooms, just out of its ghastly grasp.
However, Leo's response was anything but intimidating. His voice rang out defiantly, carrying a hint of petulance that seemed oddly at odds with the horrific circumstances. "Nah, not feeling like it!" he retorted, his tone almost childlike in its casual dismissal of the nightmarish request.
The Eternity Devil's voice grew increasingly impatient, its guttural demands reverberating with a sense of urgency that matched its grotesque appearance. The corridor seemed to vibrate with the intensity of its roars, and the numerous hands lining the walls began scraping against the surfaces, an unsettling cacophony that set everyone on edge.
Its chanting became an unsettling chorus, each repetition of "Give me Denji's heart!" only amplifying the sense of unease that filled the room. The relentless rhythm of its words seemed to worm its way into the group's psyche, their nerves slowly unraveling under the relentless assault of the chant.
Arai's distress was palpable, his voice tinged with desperation as he looked around, seeking a solution to their nightmarish predicament. "Can't we just... offer him Denji and be done with it?" he pleaded.
Leo, on the other hand, appeared oddly unfazed by the chaos unfolding around them. He leaned back, his form reclined against the now-vertical surface. "Noisy bunch," he muttered, his casual tone a stark contrast to the turmoil that enveloped them.
The relentless crescendo of the Eternity Devil's cries reverberated through the corridor, each reverberation like a discordant symphony of chaos, threatening to devour whatever fragment of resolve the group managed to cling to.
Yet, amidst this auditory onslaught, Leo's response was nothing short of casual audacity. As if he were merely silencing an annoying fly, he leaned over the precipice, his gaze fixated on the nightmarish maw of the Eternity Devil. With an almost dismissive air, he extended his hand into the abyss, his palm facing the gaping void of teeth and flesh.
In a surreal turn of events, the Eternity Devil's cacophonous cries were abruptly silenced, as if muted by an invisible hand. Its grotesque mouth snapped shut with a violence that sent tremors through the walls, the impact leaving jagged cracks etched into its teeth.
"Shut," Leo's command was succinct, a single word spoken with the authority of someone who had seen far more inexplicable things than this. And just like that, the monstrous entity that had been hounding them was brought to an abrupt and jarring halt, its once-deafening roars now replaced with an eerie silence.
The group stared in a mix of shock and awe, their fear momentarily suspended by the sheer audacity of Leo's action. The corridor had transformed from a cacophonous nightmare to an unsettling tableau of frozen chaos.
With a casual air that seemed to carry a hint of boredom, Leo directed his gaze back at the Eternity Devil's shattered dental ensemble. "Well, as amusing as this has been, I believe I've had my fill of entertainment," he commented coolly. "Here's the plan: I'm going to hop down there, and, well, do what I do best – fuck shit up."
Before he could execute his intention, Leo found his arm suddenly seized by Denji's grip. "Hold it right there! You're not taking my prize!"
Leo's brow furrowed in confusion. "The fuck?"
"The kiss!" Denji blurted out, his voice a curious blend of determination and embarrassment. "You're not stealing my kiss!"
Leo's expression contorted into an incredulous mixture of disbelief and repulsion. "Kiss? What are you even talking about? Why would I want your kiss? Let go, I just want to leave—"
Through a turn of events, Leo was reluctantly pulled back into the room as Denji began to explain the situation.
Rubbing the bridge of his nose in a gesture that hinted at growing frustration, Leo muttered, "So, if I've got this straight, you want to save the Eternity Devil from me, solely because you're hoping to score a kiss from Himeno. Is that about the size of it?"
Denji's enthusiastic nod signaled his agreement.
Leo's gaze settled on Denji with an air of disbelief. "Right, well, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but I'm not letting you do that," he stated matter-of-factly, his tone giving away his impatience.
"Because you're not taking my kiss!" Denji insisted with unwavering resolve.
"Dude, seriously, I don't want your kiss. I'm engaged," Leo clarified, his irritation palpable.
"Engaged? What's that? Is it contagious?" Denji's eyes widened with genuine curiosity.
Leo briefly contemplated attempting to explain the intricate concept of engagement to Denji, but then he remembered Denji's knack for misunderstanding complex ideas. "It's like having a super official, high-level girlfriend," Leo summarized.
Denji's eyes lit up with an amazed expression, as if he had just been granted insight into a realm of existence he had never considered. "Woah..." he breathed out, awe coloring his voice.
Leo couldn't suppress a weary sigh at Denji's response. "Yeah, 'woah' sums it up nicely," he muttered under his breath, his patience audibly wearing thin. "Here's an idea – you're gunning for a kiss, I'm aiming for the exit. How about we meet somewhere in the middle?"
Denji's brow furrowed, the expression of someone not quite following the conversation.
"Allow me to spell it out," Leo continued, his tone taking on a subtly sinister edge. "We make a contract. I'll handle the Eternity Devil crisis, ensuring our escape, and you can take all the credit for it. To sweeten the deal, I'll even hand over a bag full of the Gun Devil's parts."
As the terms of Leo's proposition sunk in, the group's collective eyes widened in varying degrees of shock and disbelief. Aki's gaze was particularly intense, his attention snagging on the mention of Leo nonchalantly carrying around a sack containing the severed remains of the notorious Gun Devil.
"In return for all of this, I'm asking for one simple favor," Leo's voice dropped lower, carrying an ominous weight.
Denji leaned in, his curiosity piqued, ready for Leo to unveil the price.
Seizing the moment, Leo draped an arm around Denji's shoulder in a gesture that managed to be both casual and foreboding. His fingers found the cord that extended from Denji's chest, the connection to his heart.
"In return, all I'm asking from you is to do one thing," Leo whispered into Denji's ear, his tone heavy with implication.
Denji froze, the weight of Leo's words hanging heavily in the air. It was as if the gravity of the situation had finally caught up to him.
"What...?" Denji's voice wavered, a mix of curiosity and apprehension in his tone.
Leo's lips curved into a knowing smile as he tightened his grip on the cord, his breath brushing against Denji's ear as he answered,
"I want you to open the door."
Denji's heart seemed to skip a beat as the scenery shifted in an instant. The familiar hotel room dissolved into a gritty, rundown alley. A tapestry of posters adorned the walls, peeling and faded. Detritus was strewn across the ground, weaving a path to an ominous gray door adorned with blank sheets of paper, almost like a canvas waiting for something to be painted upon.
"Open it, Denji."
Leo's voice sliced through the air, drawing Denji's attention to his side where Leo stood with unwavering determination, fixated on the enigmatic door.
"Don't open it, Denji."
Yet, an almost imperceptible murmur of the wind, soft as a lover's whisper, urged Denji to retreat from the door's pull.
"Open it, Denji."
Leo's voice wrapped around Denji like an enchanting melody, urging him toward curiosity and the unknown.
"Don't open it, Denji!"
But the wind persisted, its voice echoing in Denji's ears, a caution to avoid what lay beyond.
"Denji," Leo's voice grew more insistent, a commanding presence that seemed to outshine the wind's warning. "Open the door."
The alley's air felt charged, as if a battle of wills was taking place within Denji's mind.
With a hesitant step, Denji moved back, his instincts heeding the wind's caution.
Leo's gaze flickered, a silent acknowledgment of Denji's apprehension, before he extended his hand, offering a connection that was simultaneously comforting and challenging. "Let's open the door together."
The wind persisted, a subtle crescendo of worry, but Denji's curiosity and Leo's steady hand proved to be too strong a temptation. Denji reached out, his fingers intertwining with Leo's, their joined resolve overcoming the wind's hesitant plea. Slowly, guided by Leo's lead, they approached the ominous door, poised on the precipice of discovery and uncertainty.
Coming to a halt before the door, Denji felt as if the winds themselves had hushed their chorus of caution, their once-persistent murmurs now falling on deaf ears.
"Go on," Leo's voice, steady and encouraging, resonated within the alley. With a final reassuring squeeze of Denji's hand, he stepped back, allowing Denji to approach the enigmatic threshold.
Pushing the door ajar, Denji was instantly swept away by a torrent of haunting memories. Within the tempest of his mind, the truth emerged like a submerged specter – his father's death was not the result of a tragic suicide, but a violent murder. It was a chilling revelation that unraveled the fabric of Denji's past, exposing the stark reality that he had been forced to take a life, driven to an act of self-defense in the darkest of circumstances.
Back within the confines of the hotel room, Denji's horrified scream echoed through the air, carrying the weight of his traumatic revelation. His instinctual response was to wrench himself free from Leo's grasp, but the vice-like hold around his shoulder kept him rooted in place.
"Denji," Leo's voice was a soothing anchor amidst the chaos, compelling the shaken young man to meet his gaze. With an assuring smile, Leo extended a hand and decisively yanked the cord protruding from Denji's chest.
A sudden and violent eruption of sound followed – a jarring VROOM that shattered the air. From within Denji's very head, a chainsaw blade viciously tore its way out, hurtling straight into Leo's forehead with a bone-chilling impact. The force of the impact sent Leo stumbling backward, a rivulet of blood tracing a crimson path down his face.
Yet, the grotesque transformation didn't stop there. Denji's body contorted and shifted in nightmarish ways. His arm grotesquely split into a disturbing quartet, like some macabre proliferation. Amidst the chaos, one of Denji's intestines lunged forth from his stomach, entwining itself around his neck in a ghastly mimicry of a scarf.
In a horrifying display of duality, 'Denji' – now transformed into an abomination of his former self – reared back its four arms. The room quivered with a potent mixture of shock and fear as 'Denji' launched its four arms like battering rams, mercilessly crashing them into Leo's torso with an appalling force.
"You!" a diminutive, orange dog bearing a striking resemblance to a chainsaw growled, its eyes fixed on Leo.
"Pochita, is it?" Leo queried, a curious tilt to his head.
Pochita's growl deepened as it bared its teeth. "Why?" it spat out in a mixture of anger and confusion.
"Why?" Leo echoed calmly, his voice carrying an uncanny serenity.
Amidst the enigmatic abyss of a darkened room, the two figures stood facing each other, encircled by impenetrable shadows.
"I believe you already know the answer to that, Pochita," Leo stated evenly, his words resonating with a sense of inevitability.
"Denji was meant to have a regular life!" Pochita's growl held a mixture of anger and sorrow.
"Would the world have allowed him that luxury?" Leo's question hung in the air, laced with a sense of detached contemplation.
Pochita's growl intensified as Leo began advancing, yet the diminutive orange dog held its stance resolutely.
"People like Denji, scratch that, people like us, aren't given the luxury of normality," Leo's voice held a matter-of-fact tone, carrying the weight of shared experiences. He knelt down, aligning his gaze with the small, determined figure before him.
Sitting cross-legged before the small chainsaw dog, Leo gazed intently at Pochita. "Let me ask you something, Pochita. Do you genuinely believe that Denji deserves a normal life?"
"I do," Pochita's response was unwavering, a reflection of its staunch determination.
Leo's next words, however, took a different direction, an edge of provocation to them.
"I don't," he asserted, a flicker of annoyance crossing the little dog's features.
Leo leaned forward, looking directly into Pochita's eyes. "People like Denji... people like us, we don't get normal lives handed to us. Life is tough, and we have to fight hard for any sense of normalcy. We sometimes lie, trick others, and even the people we care about, just to make things feel normal. I get where you're coming from, Pochita. You want what's best for Denji, just like I want what's best for my family. So, here's my idea."
He leaned back a bit. "Let's find a middle ground, a compromise."
Leo waited a moment to let his words sink in. "Let's make a contract."
Pochita's intense stare was fixed on Leo, his eyes narrowing as he weighed the proposition. The atmosphere was thick with tension as their gazes locked in a silent exchange.
Breaking the silence, Pochita's growl carried his response. "What do you want in return?"
Leo's expression remained firm. "Give up the other devils you've consumed, including the ⬜⬜⬜ Devil." Pochita's growl turned more ferocious as Leo laid out his conditions. "In return, I'll take on the responsibility of ensuring Denji's life remains as normal as possible."
Pochita's rage was evident in his eyes, the chainsaw on his head whirring angrily.
Leo's voice remained steady as he continued, "You understand better than anyone the danger that comes with carrying those devils. Denji's safety will always be compromised as long as you're known as the Hero of Hell. I may not be able to guarantee complete peace, but I can ease some of that burden for him."
The tension between them was almost palpable, the weight of their words hanging in the air.
The growl in Pochita's throat subsided into a low, contemplative rumble. The chainsaw on his head slowed its furious whirring, as if mirroring his internal struggle. His eyes held a mix of anger, reluctance, and a glimmer of understanding.
"You think I'd just hand them over?" Pochita's voice was tinged with defiance, a final stand against the proposition.
Leo's gaze remained steady, unflinching. "I think you want to do what's best for Denji. I think you understand the sacrifices we make for the ones we care about."
Pochita's gaze flickered, torn between his urge to protect and the potential for a different path. The chainsaw's roar faded, transforming into a subdued hum.
"And if I agree?" Pochita finally spoke, his voice low and cautious.
Leo's eyes held a steady resolve. "If you agree, I'll do my best to keep Denji's life as normal as possible, shield him from unnecessary danger, and ensure he finds some semblance of happiness amidst the chaos. I'll take on the mantle of confronting the devils you've devoured, bearing the risk for both our sakes."
Pochita's chainsaw buzzed momentarily before gradually winding down. The defiant blaze in his eyes began to waver, replaced by a weariness mingled with contemplation.
"Denji deserves a chance at a better life, away from the horrors of our world," Leo continued, his voice softening with sincerity. "I know you care for him deeply, just as I care for my family. This contract, if we agree, could be a way to honor that care."
Pochita's gaze faltered, his internal turmoil reflecting on his features. After a tense pause, he let out a heavy sigh, the fiery intensity around him dimming.
At the entrance of the hotel room, the walls were now adorned with morbid splatters of Leo's blood, creating macabre patterns that seemed to tell a gruesome tale. The lingering echo of Pochita's relentless revving engine hung in the air, a somber reminder of the recent turmoil that had unfolded. Amidst this chilling tableau, Kobeni's piercing scream sliced through the tense atmosphere.
"AAHH!" Kobeni's cry ripped through the air, a raw outpouring of emotion that shattered her facade of composure. Pochita's chainsaws continued to emit an ominous roar, as if adding to the disquiet that had settled over the group.
Kobeni's anguished scream reverberated off the walls of the hotel, casting a shadow over the room that had previously been filled with lighthearted exchanges. The expressions of the group members twisted into a chaotic blend of horror, disbelief, and despondency as they bore witness to the gruesome aftermath.
Himeno's hands instinctively flew to cover her mouth, her wide eyes brimming with unshed tears as she grappled with the shock of the scene before her. Aki, typically composed, faltered for an instant, his clenched fists betraying the turmoil churning within him. Arai's face turned an ashen hue, his voice caught in his throat as he struggled to find words to articulate the horror he was witnessing. Power, however, seemed to remain blissfully unfazed, an eerie smile etched across her features.
Amidst the collective whirlwind of shock and distress, Power was the first to notice a subtle movement. Her joyous expression shifted to one of puzzlement as she keenly observed Leo's faint actions. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Leo raised a hand to his lips, silencing the group with a shushing gesture. The room fell into an expectant hush as all eyes turned to him, the air pregnant with anticipation.
A shadowy substance appeared to swirl within Pochita's gaping maw, almost like inky tendrils cascading into oblivion. Gradually, the obsidian tar dissipated, its enigmatic presence fading into nothingness. With a calculated movement, Leo raised his leg and applied a gentle force to Pochita's chest, easing the chainsaw devil off his body.
The grim symphony of Pochita's chainsaws disengaging from Leo's form reverberated with a grotesque squelching sound, accompanying Denji's gradual transformation. The chainsaws that were once an extension of Denji's body now liquefied, dribbling away as he reverted to his former size and slumped against the wall, exhaustion evident.
Leo, despite bearing the grievous wounds inflicted by the chainsaws, including a deep gash on his forehead and four more on his torso, summoned his inner strength. Clinging to the doorframe, he used it as support to raise himself into a sitting position. Coughing up a spatter of blood, he twisted his body so that his legs dangled out into the hallway.
With a deliberate crack of his neck, Leo ingeniously crafted a makeshift platform outside the confines of the hotel room, granting him a stable foothold. His lips moved, barely audible words escaping them. "Open," he uttered, his command compelling the Eternity Devil's monstrous mouth to part.
In an unexpected twist, a croak echoed through the air, resembling the sound of a frog's call. Simultaneously, the overhead lights flickered before fully illuminating the scene. Power's previously ecstatic expression contorted into one of stark horror, her body recoiling involuntarily into the room.
Summoning his resolve, Leo grasped the hilt of a large blade adorned with jingling bells. With a calculated decision, he released his grip on the doorframe, descending into the gaping maw of the Eternity Devil. As Leo descended, the creature's enormous mouth snapped shut once again, the pressure of its jaws causing its teeth to crack and splinter.
In a matter of heartbeats, Leo descended through the cavernous expanse of the Eternity Devil's maw, his feet touching down onto the unsettling terrain of its stomach. A multitude of grotesque faces observed him with a mixture of apprehension and horror, their features twisted into an otherworldly amalgamation of agony.
Raising his blade aloft, its hilt adorned with jingling bells that reverberated with an eerie resonance. The belly of the Eternity Devil bore a gruesome tapestry of hundreds, if not thousands, of lacerations.
The Eternity Devil's anguish erupted into an ear-piercing, guttural scream that reverberated not only within its own gut, but also resonated through the hotel room where the rest of the group anxiously awaited. The chilling sound sent shivers down their spines, a visceral reminder of the intense battle that unfolded within the confines of the devil's monstrous form.
"Eternity Devil, let's make a contract," Leo's voice resonated, his words holding a peculiar authority as a blood bag materialized seemingly from thin air. A complex web of scars abruptly etched itself across the expanse of his face and left cheek.
However, the Eternity Devil remained unresponsive, its anguished cries persisting without pause.
With a swift motion, Leo tore the blood bag open using his teeth, and its crimson contents spilled onto the ground in a macabre offering. The Eternity Devil's wounded form absorbed the blood hungrily, a perverse communion between predator and prey, as its grievous injuries began to slowly mend.
"Become my stomach, and the torment shall cease," Leo's proposal hung in the air, a precarious balance between demand and request.
"Hold on," the Eternity Devil's voice wavered, attempting to negotiate for more favorable terms. However, the jingling of the blade in Leo's hand echoed through the chamber, an eerie precursor to the chaos that followed. Fresh lacerations appeared within the devil's interior, each stroke a symphony of agony that tore through its form.
Amidst the ceaseless turmoil within the confines of the Eternity Devil's stomach, the macabre symphony of agony and determination played on. The devil's various faces contorted in agony, its once chaotic form now a canvas of Leo's deliberate strikes. Each laceration, each cut, was a brushstroke of dominance upon the chaotic canvas of the devil's existence.
As the ordeal persisted, the devil's defiance began to erode. Its once thunderous cries waned, replaced by weakened protests that held no candle to Leo's unyielding assault. The arrogance that had fueled its reign of torment now smoldered in the face of its own suffering, a bitter taste of retribution.
In a final surge of willpower, the Eternity Devil's stubborn resistance crumbled into reluctant surrender. The discordant chorus of agony gave way to ragged breaths, the remnants of its pain mingling with the specter of acceptance.
"Kill me," the Eternity Devil's voice, a mere whisper of its former roar, pleaded as it presented a grotesque offering—a lump of flesh shaped into the number 8.
Leo's blade halted its dance, the tolling of its bells subsiding. His black eyes, bearing the mystic rings' enigmatic mark, bore into the devil's myriad faces with unflinching intensity.
In less than an hour, the Eternity Devil's once fierce rebellion bowed to the inevitable. Battered and broken, it yielded to Leo's terms, submitting to its new role as his stomach.