[Word Count: 4288]
Seated in his chair, the President of the United States exuded an air of dejection.
His plot to eliminate Makima had crumbled into utter failure, leaving him bereft not only of success but also his share of the Gun Devil's might.
The demise of the Gun Devil had dealt an unparalleled blow. When he considered the vast population under his jurisdiction, he had effectively pledged over a billion years of collective human lifespan, yet the entity had been swiftly vanquished upon its arrival in Japan. Its confrontation remained shrouded in silence, an unrecorded event.
"Public Safety's War Fiend, huh," the President muttered in grim resonance with the recent news broadcast.
Suddenly, the President's phone erupted in loud, insistent ringing, jolting him in his seat.
With an exasperated sigh, he picked up the phone. "Yes, what is it?"
"Ah, Mr. President, what a delightful coincidence," a gravelly English accent greeted his ear.
"Who is this?" The President's irritation was palpable.
"My identity isn't the focus here; it's the beeping emanating from your desk," the English voice replied with a touch of mirth.
"What are you—" The President's question was cut off by an intrusive beeping that assaulted his other ear. His gaze dropped to his desk, and a hint of panic crept into his features. He hastily stood up, but his knee snagged on the desk, causing him to tumble to the floor with an undignified thud.
The beeping persisted, and the President braced himself, curling into a protective ball on the floor.
And then, the beeping stopped.
Cautiously, he opened one eye, assessing his surroundings. He was still alive. He pushed himself onto his knees, only to have one of his desk drawers explode open, unleashing a shower of confetti into the air along with the comical honking of a child's horn.
The sudden burst of confetti startled the President, and he ended up plopping back onto the floor, visibly taken aback.
His eyes widened like saucers as he stared blankly at the slowly descending confetti until a hearty English chuckle shattered his trance. It was as if the laughter punctuated his return to reality.
The English man's mirthful laughter only fueled the President's souring mood. Rising from the floor, he strode back to the phone, gripping its hanging cable with renewed annoyance.
"Who is this!?" The President's demand crackled with anger. "Do you have any idea who you're messing with!?"
On the other end, the English man hushed someone in the background, his laughter still present. "Oh, I'm quaking in my boots," he replied, dripping with sarcasm.
The President's frustration was reaching a boiling point, his temper inflamed. However, before he could respond, the English man's next words froze him in place.
"Please, Mr. President, sir, spare me the wrath of the Gun Devil," the English man implored, his tone mockingly fearful before dissolving into another bout of laughter.
The President clenched his jaw, his struggle to maintain his composure palpable.
"Who are you?" he inquired, a note of caution lacing his words.
"Ah, do you really want to know, Mr. President?" the English man sarcastically retorted with a smirk evident in his voice.
The President's hold on the phone grew taut.
"Who we are, or more appropriately, who we aren't, Mr. President," the English speaker's words grated on the President's nerves, a sense of annoyance coursing through him. "Our identities are of little consequence. Our interest lies in this timely opportunity to establish communication. Considering that America's arsenal is no longer the powerhouse it once was on the global stage..."
Suspicion knitted the President's brows together, his mind racing with unease. "How do they know this information?" he queried inwardly, an unsettling feeling taking root.
"... So, we reasoned, why not throw our hat into the ring? Our network has the requisite connections to potentially bring down an entire nation. It occurred to us, why not exploit this situation to form an alliance with one of the world's wealthiest nations?" the English speaker's narrative flowed effortlessly. "Hence the proposition, Mr. President: Would you care to become friends with us?"
The President ground his molars together, a simmering frustration bubbling beneath the surface.
"What in the world is the meaning of this, Makima!?" The words burst forth from the lips of an older man, his thick black-rimmed glasses perched precariously on his nose.
Facing a group of elder men, Makima stood poised and unmoving, her hands elegantly clasped behind her back. Despite her outwardly composed demeanor, beneath the surface, she was seething.
As the TV rolled in, broadcasting the news report that had ignited this confrontation, Makima maintained a stoic expression, meeting the barrage of the men's scolding with an emotionless gaze.
Yet, within her, a storm of emotions raged. Her meticulously laid plans had been disrupted, her calculations thrown into disarray.
Throughout the entire battle, the inevitability of Leo's death had been a crucial component of her strategy. His demise was intended to provide her with another potent puppet, furthering her overarching designs, particularly her quest for Chainsaw Man.
For years, Makima had manipulated her every asset to ensnare Leo, to coax him into her intricate web. She had tried various tactics, testing the waters. In the early days, she had thought that perhaps seduction would be the key. Yet, Leo's response had been nothing short of disgust, wiping his bitten thumb on her shoulder. And as he matured, she had hoped that a more nuanced approach might draw his interest, but those black eyes of his, ever indifferent, continued to regard her with a kind of detachment.
Makima would never admit it, but she liked the looks Leo gave her, they made her feel... normal.
In her existence, the gazes directed at her were limited to two categories: the condescending eyes of the administrative men who manipulated her like a marionette on short strings, and the lascivious gazes of those who saw her solely as a vessel for their desires.
From the earliest days of her memory, she had been groomed to be nothing more than Public Safety's instrument—a devil in human guise, a tool to wield at their behest.
So, amidst the barrage of berating voices, Makima's mind was a whirlwind of calculations and frustrations. The men's accusations and anger were a symphony of noise that seemed to resonate with the chaos of her thoughts.
Her gaze remained fixed on nothing, images flashing before her eyes—Leo's resurgence, his transformation, the unsettling scar that marked his face, the crimson glow of his once-familiar eyes now ablaze with an unfamiliar fire. It was a scene that defied her calculations, a variable she had not anticipated.
A flicker of something unfamiliar coursed through her veins—doubt. It was a sensation she had rarely experienced, a crack in the foundation of her confidence. She was the Control Devil, after all, the puppeteer of circumstances. Yet here stood Leo, defiance of her power, a living embodiment of her limitations.
The men's voices faded into the background as Makima's thoughts grew more focused. She needed answers, and she needed to regain control. But the root of the issue lay in her ignorance—she had underestimated Leo, underestimated the intricacies of the world she sought to manipulate.
Her mind raced, forming new strategies, and adapting to this unforeseen development. She would uncover the truth behind Leo's transformation, and she would ensure that her dominion remained unchallenged. It was not just her pride that was at stake; it was her very essence, her purpose.
With a subtle nod, she signaled her understanding to the men, their voices dwindling as she made her exit. Alone in her thoughts, Makima's expression remained neutral, a mask that hid the turbulence within. In the shadows of her mind, a storm was brewing, one that threatened to expose her vulnerabilities and reshape the world she thought she controlled.
Leo found himself gazing up at a familiar flight of stairs, bathed in a seductive red light that cast an alluring glow at the top.
Having torn the Gun Devil into pieces, Leo had planned to visit Shouzou to discuss the future. However, a sudden memory jolted him – he had left Denji behind at a titty bar. It seemed reasonable to retrieve him before proceeding, perhaps even taking a moment to drown his sorrows with a drink or two.
Upon reaching the pinnacle of the stairs, Leo's gaze rested on a solitary wooden door. The corridor leading to it was adorned with advertisements for various bars and social establishments, all of which he disregarded.
Pushing open the wooden door, Leo's entrance was announced by a delicate bell positioned in the corner of the door frame.
"Welcome~," a voice dripping with seduction greeted Leo as he stepped over the threshold.
"Oh my..." The feminine voice lost its allure as its owner, a brunette, took in Leo's blood-soaked form. His shirt and shoes had been torn during his clash with the Karma Devil, while his pants were charred below the knee. His torso bore traces of dried blood, prompting a few raised eyebrows.
"Do you... require assistance...?" The brunette's inquiry was accompanied by a faint wince at the sight of the dried crimson stains.
Leo's gaze shifted from the brunette behind the bar to his own blood-stained torso. "A shirt and a drink," he responded in a flat tone.
"Um... the only men's shirts we have are those left behind by some patrons... and we don't exactly... launder them..." The brunette's lips pursed as she spoke.
"Just a drink then," Leo replied, taking a seat at the bar without much fanfare.
"Of course," the brunette replied with a hint of curtness. "Any preference?"
"None..." Leo's response was concise.
"Right away~," the brunette chimed, her initial alluring tone returning in full force.
Opting for the luxurious top-shelf sake, the brunette decided to treat her client to the best. After all, if he was indifferent to the choice, why not offer the finest while securing a bit more profit on the side?
Gracefully placing a delicate shot glass before leo, she began to pour him a drink, the soft tinkling of the pouring liquid accompanied by the distant sound of a door swinging open within the bar. The rhythmic clack of heels followed closely.
"Ara~," a new voice chimed in as Leo took his first sip of the morning's refreshment. "Could it be who I think it is~?"
The swift approach of high heels didn't deter Leo from downing another glass of the poured beverage.
"Ara~, indeed it is," announced a mature black-haired woman, shifting a stool next to Leo even closer to him.
The scene held a moment of silence as the black-haired woman bestowed a half-closed smile upon Leo. He offered her a brief glance before indulging in yet another sip.
"You know~, this is the last place I expected to find you, especially after all the excitement on the news," the black-haired woman noted, her tone tinged with surprise.
"Why, what happened?" the brunette cautiously interjected, her hands pouring Leo another drink with a fluid motion.
"Listen to this, Mio-chan, but our distinguished patron here was reported dead on the news, only to miraculously come back to life and obliterate the big bad Gun Devil," the black-haired woman recounted, relaying the recent events covered in the media.
"Ehhh!" Mio, in contrast to the black-haired woman's casualness, genuinely appeared shocked by the unexpected revelation. "Seriously?"
With a mixture of disbelief and intrigue, Mio turned her gaze from Leo to the black-haired woman, seeking confirmation.
The black-haired woman eagerly nodded. "It was all over the news, other channels were practically non-functional last night!" she enthusiastically divulged.
"Is that why you're covered in blood!?" Mio questioned Leo with wide-eyed amazement, swiveling her attention back to him.
"That blood isn't from the Gun Devil; he tangled with another devil last night. The Gun Devil confrontation occurred this morning and was over before the news could even cover it," the black-haired woman clarified for Leo, her voice ending in a light giggle.
"So... the Gun Devil... it's really gone?" Tears gathered at the corners of Mio's eyes as she posed the question.
"Mhmm, it's no more, Mio..." the black-haired woman whispered soothingly.
A quiet sniffle and whimper emanated from Mio, followed by a slight bow of her head. "Thank you!" she exclaimed, her bow becoming progressively deeper, nearly driving her head into the counter. "And I apologize for almost tricking you into paying more with the cheaper sake!"
Leo remained silent, his gaze fixed blankly on Mio, while the black-haired woman couldn't contain her laughter at the sight.
"I'm certain he doesn't mind, Mio-chan. After all, his cousin is one of our high-rollers; money probably isn't an issue," the black-haired woman reassured, punctuating her words with a playful poke to Leo's arm. "Isn't that right, Leo-kun?"
Leo observed as Mio discreetly set aside the sake she had been serving and reached for a more elaborate-looking bottle, then turned to face the black-haired woman.
"Where's the scruffy blond kid, Chisato?" Leo inquired with an air of detachment.
Chisato, the black-haired woman, tilted her head thoughtfully and pressed a finger to her cheek. "Ah, you mean Denji-kun~," she eventually responded.
Chisato's giggles danced through the air. "Hehe~, that poor boy got a little too carried away, and now he's snoozing in the back," she playfully recounted. "Seems like a bit too much blood flowed in the wrong direction, and he ended up keeling over."
"I see," Leo mumbled, taking another leisurely sip from a freshly poured glass, courteously presented by Mio. His gaze fixed on the shot glass. "Chisato."
"Hmm?" Chisato responded with a curious hum.
"Head on to the back," Leo directed, his gaze still locked on the glass. "And leave the sake."
Just as Leo's request left his lips, the bell above the door tinkled as Chisato and Mio's attention shifted to the newcomer. A tall, weathered man with blond hair entered the bar. His most distinctive feature was a stitched scar that traversed his left cheek from his mouth – none other than the familiar figure of the good guy Kishibe.
Leo cast a glance over his shoulder, acknowledging Kishibe's arrival. "Planning to try and finish the job this time?" Leo inquired, a smirk tugging at his lips in jest.
Kishibe's response was a nonchalant one – he extracted a knife from his coat and strolled toward Leo.
"Well, seems like it's our cue to skedaddle. Let's make a move, Mio," Chisato declared, her flirtatious demeanor abandoned as she headed toward a rear exit.
Mio, a mixture of confusion and anxiety clouding her features, hesitated for a moment before setting down the sake bottle and swiftly retreating toward the door situated behind the bar.
Even amidst the shock of the unexpected turn of events, Mio couldn't resist the urge to steal a glance from behind the door. Kishibe's knife clinking against the counter and his subsequent seating next to Leo were silent prompts for her curiosity.
Meanwhile, the interaction between Leo and Kishibe played out quietly. Leo extended his shot glass in a tacit offering, and Kishibe, his actions speaking volumes, leaned on the counter, directing his attention toward the array of beverages displayed before him.
Suddenly, a yelp pierced the air, capturing Kishibe's attention. His gaze darted toward the slightly ajar door behind the bar.
Mio's yelp had barely subsided when she felt a reassuring grip on her shoulder. Whirling around, she met Chisato's eyes, the latter putting a finger to her lips, signaling for silence, and then gesturing toward the direction away from the door.
"What's happening, Chisato-san?" Mio whispered, her voice barely audible.
"None of our concern," Chisato whispered in response.
"But you always seem interested in hearing customers' conversations," Mio retorted, her voice hushed but persistent.
"Not when they pull out weapons!" Chisato retorted in an equally hushed, exasperated whisper.
As the scene continued to unfold for Kishibe and Leo, they shared a momentary glance at the closing door before redirecting their focus. Leo's attention returned to the bottle of sake before him, while Kishibe's gaze remained fixed straight ahead.
"Which side are you on, Devils or humans?" Kishibe's question hung in the air, cutting through the ambiance of the bar.
Leo's response dripped with nonchalance. "Why would I side with either of them?" He poured a measure of drink into his glass, watching the liquid settle with a detached interest. "I'm just waiting for the end."
"End of what?" Kishibe's curiosity drove him to face Leo, his focus intent on the enigmatic figure before him.
A sinister smirk graced Leo's lips as his gaze remained fixed on the freshly poured sake. The liquid danced within the confines of the shot glass. "The end of days," he whispered, his words laden with a chilling anticipation.
Kishibe's unamused expression remained fixed as he absorbed Leo's words, his demeanor contemplative.
"Till then, only Makima and Primal Fears can stand in my way," Leo's tone carried a smug confidence. He placed the shot of sake onto the counter delicately, lowering his head slightly as he observed the liquid's subtle motion.
Intrigued, Kishibe's gaze remained fixed on the back of Leo's head. "If they're obstacles, why not eliminate them now?"
"Primal Devils inhabit hell's depths; how the Karma Devil escaped is still a puzzle," Leo's explanation was succinct, his focus unwavering. "As for Makima..." He straightened up, gripping the shot glass and downing its contents in a single, resolute gulp. "...As per my contract's terms, I'm forbidden from taking action against her unless Kishibe, whoever that is, decides her fate. There are exceptions, of course, but upholding the contract's integrity is paramount, even if it means testing its boundaries," he concluded, a hint of challenge in his voice.
Kishibe's eyes subtly widened as he grappled with the implications of Leo's revelation. "Even in death, he managed to establish contract terms... employing the Contract Devil...?" The gears of his mind whirred as he revisited Leo's concluding words from his recent phone conversation.
"I'll always look out for you..."
A composed exhale escaped Kishibe's lips as he shifted his attention back to the array of drinks before him, lost in thought. "If he was capable of forging those terms through his own blood, then it's plausible the War Devil retained access to his Devil contracts even beyond death. That would amplify its threat considerably... This approach might still hold potential..."
His gaze now settled on Leo, and Kishibe voiced his thoughts aloud. "What are you going to do now?"
"Bully the weak," Leo responded with directness, his perspective unswayed. In his estimation, any devil beyond the realm of Makima or a Primal Fear held little significance.
As Leo reached for a drink, a sudden jolt reverberated from behind them. Muffled groans followed suit.
Gradually, the door handle began to fidget, eventually yielding to the movement as the door swung open. Denji emerged, his hands held up as if he had received some profound revelation. His fingers curled and squeezed the air, a faint blush tingeing his cheeks, accompanied by a dopey smile.
"In any case, with nothing more compelling to occupy my time, I'll be keeping an eye on Chainsaw Man. I'm sure the Hero of Hell will offer up some amusement," Leo announced, his tone carrying a sense of detachment. He shifted himself away from the bar stool, signaling his intent to depart.
Pouring a final drink, Leo allowed the sake's subtle taste to linger on his palate before embarking on his approach toward Denji.
"Oi, Chainsaw," Leo's voice rang out casually, effectively snapping Denji out of his reverie.
Although Denji appeared momentarily disappointed by the interruption of his lofty musings, his expression brightened upon spotting the one who had introduced him to the establishment capable of inspiring such daydreams. "Leo, sir," he greeted with a salute.
"Leo, huh," Leo echoed with a smirk. "Sure, let's roll with that."
Leo draped his arm over Denji's shoulder in a familiar gesture, leading him toward the exit of the bar.
"Wait a sec!" Denji struggled to extricate himself from Leo's hold, his efforts proving futile as their proximity to the door increased. "I want to say goodbye to Chisato!"
"Nahh," Leo denied Denji's request, his hand pushing the door open, triggering the chime. "You've spent enough time here. Wouldn't want to raise Makima's suspicions, now would you?"
Denji's resistance ebbed as he found himself at a crossroads. What would Makima think if she knew he had been frequenting such a place? A place that temporarily allowed him to forget his life outside its walls. And what about his mission to eliminate the Gun Devil? What about the favor Makima said she'd do for him if he killed the Gun Devil?
An anxious swallow punctuated his contemplation.
"She doesn't need to find out..." he murmured to himself.
"Find out what?" Leo inquired with raised eyebrows.
"Leo, sir," Denji's voice quivered slightly. "Please promise me you won't tell Ms. Makima that I've touched Ms. Chisato's breasts."
"Why would I tell her?" Leo's raised eyebrow mirrored his question.
"You just... you just can't!" Denji's exclamation dripped with nervousness, beads of sweat forming on his forehead.
Leo abruptly halted their progress, his gaze piercingly fixed on Denji for an extended moment.
Then, a malevolent grin etched its way onto Leo's lips. "Oh, I'm definitely going to tell her," he declared with a dark, almost sinister undertone.
A palpable tension gripped the atmosphere, the weight of Leo's sinister smile leaving Denji visibly rattled.
"You... you wouldn't dare," Denji's voice wavered, his eyes wide with a blend of panic and disbelief.
Leo's response was chillingly confident. "Oh, I wouldn't hesitate for a second," he retorted, his tone laced with a dark amusement. "In fact, I might even enhance the narrative a bit, throw in some imaginative twists to make your situation even worse."
Denji's desperation was palpable, his mind racing to find an escape from this impending threat. His words stumbled out, a jumbled attempt to form a plea that might prevent his sordid secret from seeing the light of day.
"In all seriousness, why? What's the harm in Makima finding out I brought you to a place like that?" Leo's voice held a touch of amusement.
Denji gradually cooled the frenzy in his mind, a hint of bashfulness touching his expression as he averted his gaze. "I... I like Ms. Makima," he admitted, his words coming out as a quiet confession.
"Good for you?" Leo's response held a skeptical edge, his understanding of Denji's feelings not entirely clear.
"I don't want to mess up my chances with her, but at the same time, I want to go back and see Ms. Chisato," Denji mumbled, his inner turmoil spilling into his words.
"Hmm," Leo's reaction bordered on a snort. "A bit greedy ain't cha, Denji."
"What's wrong with that?" Denji retorted, his brows furrowing.
Leo offered a dismissive shrug. "Well, nothing fundamentally wrong. Greed is just a part of human nature – we're all craving something. It's what makes us, well, human."
Denji's brows relaxed as he leaned in, ready to soak up the wisdom Leo seemed to offer. "Just like last time," he thought to himself, his curiosity piqued.
"Just remember to draw the line," Leo advised. "Desiring more than what we have is ingrained in us, even if it's worse than what we already have. If you're chasing something, be prepared to risk losing everything you already hold dear in the pursuit."
Denji wrestled with the concept, unsure if he was truly going astray.
Leo's pat on Denji's shoulder brought his attention back. "Don't hurt yourself trying to figure it out, Makima isn't the best person to be thinking these things over. I'm sure you'll find your calling with someone else, but maybe, just maybe, the ladies who treat you well aren't really interested."
Denji scoffed, crossing his arms. "You're just jealous," he pouted.
"Hmm," Leo hummed, examining Denji. "How about a little bet?"
"A bet?" Denji echoed, his curiosity piqued.
"Chisato is out of your league, and Makima has you by the balls. So, how about this, if you can get a girl to say she likes you, Denji, I'll do you one favor."
"Chisato already said she likes me," Denji muttered.
"Then give me back the punch card, and we can double-check that," Leo retorted, a hint of mischief in his tone. "That card is worth more than a brand-new car."
"I'll buy my own!" Denji declared defiantly.
"You're broke," Leo quipped.
"I'll earn money!" Denji asserted.
"Technically, as a devil, you have no legal rights, which means no modern minimum wage even for your devil-hunting deeds. In the eyes of Public Safety, you're working for free," Leo shot back.
"Nuh-uh," Denji childishly protested.
"Uh-huh," Leo countered.
Their friendly, childish banter continued as they strolled through the tranquil morning, playfully retorting to each other's remarks until they reached Aki's apartment building.
"Well, whatever. Good luck explaining your vanishing act to Aki," Leo teased, sticking out his tongue.
Denji was about to retort when realization dawned on him – he hadn't reported his whereabouts or called in. Leo was the only one who could explain his absence, but the smirk on Leo's face told Denji everything he needed to know.
Gritting his teeth, Denji began his ascent up the stairs, thoughts racing to concoct a plausible excuse for his whereabouts.
Leo observed Denji's departure, the smirk fading from his face as he watched him disappear onto the second floor. With Denji's predicament handled, it was time for Leo to visit Shouzou.
"I'm a grown man, the hell am I arguing with a teenager for," Leo muttered to himself as he walked away.