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How To Catch A Soul

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It's not like Nino didn't like humans, he just didn't take them seriously. To be honest, there wasn't much he took seriously in general. Not even his job. Fortunately he liked his job, so he usually had pretty decent results, even though finishing a deal may take him longer than his superiors liked. He'd never made any problems so far, therefore they let him take his time. He had a refined technique, if he might say so himself. No one had ever refused to seal the deal. He never had to threaten anyone. That might look boring on a devil, but Nino was convinced that only amateurs had to threaten people. Experts persuaded, they enticed, they made their victims beg for it. It was much more fun like that anyway. And why should you even finish a job if you didn't have a little fun with it first? Humans were so gullible, it was very entertaining. And even devils had physical needs, so why not catch two birds with one stone?

Nino could make anyone fall in love with him. It might sound cocky, but it was nothing but the truth. He could ensnare men and women alike, it didn't really make a difference to him anyway, as long as he got to have fun with it. It actually depended on the human how long he would keep up the charade. Sometimes they were fun to be with, so he would keep them around until he got tired of them. By then it was easy to make them sign the contract. They would sign anything because they trusted him. Nino had long stopped counting how many people he'd persuaded to sign their soul away. Sometimes he felt like things had gotten too easy lately. He had perfected the cheeky smirk, the charming wink, the seductive whisper that would turn his victims to mush before his eyes. He actually longed for a challenge, for someone who wouldn't be persuaded so easily and bore him to death in the process.
He actually hadn't felt like dating anyone lately, but as ridiculous as it sounded, this time he hadn't even needed any persuasion at all. Aiba Masaki had pursued him like his life depended on it, and honestly, in a way it did, though not in the way the guy was thinking... It had been amusing, really, how Aiba had been visiting the convenience store each night to buy more drinks and snacks than a normal person could consume at all, just to meet Nino, who worked there.

He kept on trying to strike up a conversation, admittedly being increasingly successful each time, Nino wasn't a monster after all. Well he was a devil, but even a devil has its limits. He could write it off as being polite to a customer, but at some point he had to admit that Aiba was a tiny bit charming, or at least cute and funny, if one wanted to say so. One day he turned up with two tickets to a baseball game and an entirely unconvincing story of his best friend dumping him, asking Nino if he would please please join him so as not to let the tickets go to waste. Who was Nino to turn a free offer down, so they went out the same evening to eat and drink and scream their lungs out to an exciting baseball game. He had to admit that it wasn't a bad date at all. Although it wasn't a real date in his book. Aiba though had an entirely different opinion and thus had no qualms about dragging Nino out to have drinks the very next day. Aiba was paying, so there was no cause to decline, Nino reasoned, and this could in no way be called dating. They weren't even friends.

He hadn't decided on his next victim yet, so this whole thing was basically non-existent. On the other hand Aiba was very obviously smitten with him and Nino somehow felt offended. He hadn't decided to date Aiba. How dare he fall for him without Nino doing anything! He hadn't even been particularly nice to Aiba. Honestly speaking he had been snarky the whole time, muttering and complaining, sometimes even being plain rude to the guy. Aiba though had laughed it all off, hugging him to his side, acting like he was the most adorable thing on the planet instead of feeling offended. It was annoying, although he couldn't deny the fact that this was somehow thrilling as well. Aiba wasn't like the other humans he'd dated before. He was quirky and clumsy and entirely unpredictable. Not quite the challenge that Nino was looking for, but not worth discarding yet either.

Somehow, even though none of them had openly said so, they had been dating for months now. And somehow, for the first time in decades, Ninos superior had showed up to complain about his lack of submitted contracts. He hadn't even thought of that. Of course he hadn't, since he hadn't pursued the guy in the first place. They were dating, but.... it wasn't the same, Nino concluded. He hadn't once had to use any of his charm points. It felt like cheating if he offered Aiba the contract now.

Aiba though was oblivious to his inner conflict and furthermore he seemed to be occupied by other things. He was visibly nervous. Why should he be nervous, Nino thought grumpily. It's just a dinner, like dozens we had before. Admittedly, the restaurant was fancier than the ones they used to go to and it was kind of romantic, the kind of setting that Nino would use when he'd offer the contract that would effectively end his relationship and sell the soul of his victim to the dark side.
“Nino.” Aiba said earnestly and Nino snapped out of his musings. He looked calm all of a sudden, Nino noticed. “We've been together for 6 months now and I must say that I am very happy with you.” He took Ninos hand in his and took a deep breath before he continued:”That's why I want to give you this for our anniversary.” 'Anniversary?!? We aren't even really dating!' Nino wanted to yell, but the words wouldn't come, so he woodenly took the little box that Aiba pressed into his hand.
“It's not much.” his self-declared boyfriend continued. “I... I know you don't like jewelry and such, but this reminded me of you, so I wanted to give it to you.” Nino stared at the little box in his hand. Aiba was taking this seriously. He had remembered their anniversary and even gotten him a gift. “Open it!” Aiba prompted with an encouraging smile and Nino obeyed reluctantly. He tugged open the bow and opened the box to reveal a tiny charm in the form of a smiling devil. A devil. A cute one at that. Nino didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He wanted to be annoyed at Aiba for misunderstanding their relationship, but he felt something entirely different instead. What was this ugly fondness he was suddenly feeling? “You can use it as a phone strap or put it on your bag. Or you don't have to use it at all, I don't mind.” Aiba was still smiling from ear to ear, like he was the one who had received a gift. “No, I... I like it.” Nino stammered, like he was an actual human, damn it. “Thank you.” he managed to say politely, belatedly getting a grip on those ugly human emotions that had sneaked up on him out of nowhere.
“I'm glad.” Aiba sighed, visibly elated. “But there's something else I wanted to talk to you about.” Nino didn't know if he was ready for any more surprises this evening, but it wasn't like he could refuse, so he looked at Aiba expectantly instead.

“My sister is going to marry next month and I want you to come.” Nino heard the words but refused to register their meaning. This wasn't a serious relationship. Aiba should know this. It's not like Nino had ever acknowledged their dating as a serious thing. Admittedly it might be confusing if your partner denied a relationship after having screamed your name during the mind-blowing sex the night before, so of course Nino didn't say anything. Not that his mute staring helped the matter in any way.
He literally felt the atmosphere changing for the worse. Aiba took an audible breath, then continued speaking. “You're not fond of family gatherings, I know that, Nino. But this is very important to me. Don't you think it's time to finally meet my family?” He stared at Nino with pleading eyes. Nino huffed an annoyed sigh. “We've been to your parent's restaurant.” he said sulkily. “That's not the same.” Aiba returned, “furthermore they've always been too busy to really talk to you. You could finally meet all of my family at once. And we're not even the center of attention, so there's nothing to worry about.” Nino felt that ugly fondness coming up again. Aiba was concerned for him. He wasn't even mad at him for acting stubborn and instead tried to diffuse his concerns. Despite everything, there was one thing he couldn't deny. There was a deadline looming over his head and Aiba had just offered him the perfect opportunity to solve that problem.
“I'll come. I have one condition though.” he said.

As soon as Nino reached his apartment, he changed into his true form with an irritated growl. What a relief to finally let those horns pop out and his tail appear, to let his eyes shine in their natural color, which was so much more expressive than the dull human brown he used to hide behind. “I can't believe this...” he muttered testily, still seething about the way the evening had played out. This wasn't how he usually settled things. This was much too human, too emotional, too annoying.
“Are you going soft?” Jun had teased him just a week ago. Jun Matsumoto, whom he had known forever, had shared a dorm with as they started out and who had moved simultaneously with him into the human realm to collect souls for the dark side. Jun, with his perfect looks and the refined charm of a prince, too witty and reckless to lose against Nino. They had always been competing, teasing each other and sometimes stealing each other's victims. Those were the good times, Nino thought nostalgically. Then Jun had been promoted and consequently became Ninos direct boss. And that's where the problems began. The fiendish devil became a nagging supervisor, a stoic number cruncher, shortly: a pain in the ass.

“I've been watching you for months, and you're becoming sluggish, Nino.” he had said. “Your numbers are shit, you can't let your juniors outrun you. You'll get us both into trouble and I won't let you. I'll give you four weeks. If you don't hand in a contract by then, you'll go to trial.” What sounded like some kind of evaluation, was in reality the worst punishment a devil could face. He'd never heard of anyone returning from the so-called “trial”. It must be some kind of witch trial. He hadn't assumed Jun would go this far, on the other hand this was the dark side, what was he expecting. Everyone was fighting for their own cause and Jun was no exception. No way would he tolerate one of his subjects causing him trouble.
“I am not going soft!” Nino muttered, turning the water in the shower to a scalding hot temperature. No human could take heat like this and he reveled in the feeling of the hot water on his skin. Of course he wasn't going soft. But Aiba was a special case, he was interesting, the game was different, why would Nino rush things? Jun should understand this, he used to play a lot with his victims, too. Furthermore Nino had brought in way more contracts than his peers in the past, why couldn't they just cut him some slack for once? Certainly he was still thousands of contracts ahead of everyone.

Even though the hot shower had returned to him an at least partly diabolic feeling, Nino couldn't help brooding over the topic some more. He didn't like this at all. It must be because Aiba wasn't like his other victims. He had spent whole five minutes laughing over the contract and called Nino cute, romantic even. It was exasperating. Somehow, Aiba had concluded that the whole soul selling thing was a ploy Nino had planned for their anniversary to convey his true feelings. Consequently he had signed the thing without at least pretending to read it, blabbering all the while about how he felt like HE was the one marrying here and how Nino was a closet romantic and it was the best thing that anyone had ever surprised him with.

Nino couldn't believe he'd even gone that far to get the contract signed. It could have been so much easier if it wasn't for the deadline looming over him. Worst of all, with that stupid agreement he hadn't even gotten closer to finishing the deal at all. Instead he had managed to put himself into a position where he had to fulfill his side of the contract for it to become valid. If Jun caught a whiff of this, Nino would never hear the end of it. He just had to get that stupid wedding over with and the thing was a done deal. He could leave all this behind and be his normal self again. All those human emotions were fogging up his head.
How could a devil have a guilty conscience?! He was personified evil, he shouldn't even be capable of such feelings at all! Still here he was, pondering on Aiba’s perception of him, on his sunny nature and how he could never find fault in his boyfriend. Nino should be proud of his work of deception, of the way he'd wrapped Aiba around his finger. The problem was, he hadn't done anything. That must be it. He was affronted because he hadn't meant to woo Aiba. The whole deal had basically arranged itself and thus was nothing to be proud of. Aiba was a victim of an unfortunate course of events and therefore Nino felt bad for him. It didn't mean he had feelings for him. Not any valid ones at least...

God, Nino hated weddings. First of all, it stank like heaven and happiness, it was almost unbearable. The guests were styled like Christmas trees and worst of all, everyone's guardian angels were on high alert like this wasn't an ordinary day for every sane person. They were hovering over their protégées like hawks and if he weren't used to them shimmering like the freaking saints they were, he'd mistake them for a part of the awful chapel decoration. He imagined letting his fangs and horns out and making a dramatic scene of burning the whole chapel down, complete with panicking guests in flaming formal wear and sooted angels desperately fluttering through clouds of smoke. It would have been beautiful.

Instead he just sat rigidly on the uncomfortable bench listening to the boring speech of the minister. Aiba though was sitting beside him with wet eyes, squeezing his hand every now and then like the romantic fool that he was. Nino would have found it adorable if he weren't so busy hating the whole production passionately. It'll be over in just a few hours he told himself firmly, pointedly ignoring the faint ache in his chest that appeared whenever he thought about his brief relationship with Aiba ending with the fulfillment of the contract. “Can you imagine us being like this one day?” Aiba whispered into his ear and Nino groaned inwardly, squeezing Aiba’s hand sweetly instead and schooling his features into what he hoped was a lovestruck expression. He saw Aiba grinning widely from the corner of his eye and somehow it made him feel like shit. He concentrated on the never ending speech, refusing to acknowledge any of these unwanted emotions. It must be the chapel air. Or all those guardian angels floating around. They impeded his emotional welfare as a devil, he thought petulantly. Or he had stayed in the human realm for too long. How long had it been since he'd had a good hot bath in a magma spring? When had he last tortured a soul for fun? Maybe he really was going soft.
A commotion of loud sighing and sobbing marked the end of the ceremony. The groom kissed the bride and the guests erupted in clapping and cheering. Nino let himself be tugged along to congratulate the bridal pair.
Aiba's hand was warm in his and he couldn't help the warm feeling being transferred to him through this connection. It would have been rude to just let go, he reasoned. He could deal with some more human emotions for now. This was a wedding after all, it was expected of him anyway. He pasted on his sweetest smile for the couple and as expected, the bride seemed smitten with him on first sight. “He's so cute!” she whispered overly loud to his boyfriend. Apparently this was an Aiba family trait and Nino had to suppress his laughter over their common lack of subtlety. They didn't have time to chat, since the other guests were lining up to congratulate the bridal pair, so they continued to walk back to the hotel where the reception was to be held.

Before entering the hall, they had to pose for a couple picture and again Nino felt hard pressed to let his true nature out and make this an unforgettable photo for posterity. Instead, he hugged Aiba tight and gave his brightest enamored smile to the photographer. He could play his part well, that much was clear. Not that he had to convince anyone at this point, but somehow he had succumbed to his fate and fell into his role as the caring boyfriend effortlessly. It was just a few hours after all. Just a few hours and everything would be over. Why did it feel wrong? Somehow he suddenly felt gloomy. “What's wrong?” Aiba murmured, staring into his eyes with concern. “Do you need a break?” Nino looked up at him, desperately trying to cover his emotions and failing miserably. “Let's just get away for a while.” Aiba suggested, swiftly ushering him to a back door and out into the park.

They walked silently for a while until they reached a bench right in front of a beautiful pond. They sat down, staring out onto the water mutely. “Ne, Nino, are you mad at me for taking you here?” Aiba asked timidly. “N-no! Not at all. That's not it, I swear!” Nino hurried to deny and the knot in his chest loosened a bit when he saw Aiba's relieved smile. “Thank god.” his boyfriend sighed, “I don't know what I would have done if you were mad at me.” he admitted. He played with a button of his tuxedo absentmindedly. “I'm really glad you came here with me, Nino, and I don't want you to feel uncomfortable. So if there's anything I can do for you, you have to tell me, okay?” He looked up and into Nino's eyes, abandoning the button to take Nino's hand again. Nino felt a sharp twinge in his chest upon the look in Aiba's eyes. He felt the strong urge to kiss him, but Aiba stopped him with a hand to his chest just as he leaned in to do so. “Promise me.” he urged. “Promise to tell me when something is bothering you.” The only thing that bothered Nino was Aiba stopping their kiss so he hurried to reply “I promise.” before capturing Aiba's lips in a kiss.

His lips felt soft and warm, and suddenly all those torturous feelings morphed into something pleasurable, culminating into the unquenchable desire to have his way with him right then and there. Swiftly he was opening Aiba's fly and freeing his already half hard member. “Nino, we can't do this here!” his boyfriend breathed unconvincingly and Nino just smirked with sparkling eyes. “And why not?” he purred provokingly, meanwhile stroking Aiba's length to full hardness. “We... we can't...” Aiba groaned. “It's a public place. Anyone could...” the words failed him as Nino proceeded to crouch between his legs and take him into his mouth at once. Aiba suppressed a moan with the back of his hand. “Ah... Nino...” he hissed and it was lost if he meant to stop or encourage him. Nino, of course, didn't bother to find out, licking and sucking Aiba's member with abandon. He couldn't get enough of Aiba's moans and whimpers, the harsh sighs of his breathing as Nino traced the prominent vein with his tongue. Greedily he sucked the first drops of Aiba's arousal, the salty taste a familiar sensation on his tongue. “Ah...I'm going to...” Aiba groaned, when the next instant the harsh clatter of an opening door broke through the stillness and the sounds of footsteps and happy chatter approached rapidly. “Fuck.” Aiba cursed breathlessly, hurriedly detaching Nino from his member.

Nino didn't know whether to be annoyed or amused, when quite obviously he didn't have time for either as a group of women appeared from the path behind them the next instant. “Ahahaa....hi!” Aiba chuckled awkwardly, knuckles pressing firmly into Nino's skin, who had hurriedly taken a perch on his lap, where Aiba held him with an unnecessarily strong grip. Nino felt ridiculous, sitting bridal style on his boyfriend's lap, while the latter's still hard member poked him in the butt. “Ladies...” he purred charmingly, nodding politely at the passing women, who eyed them curiously. “What a cute couple!” one of them cooed, while another one whispered “Isn't this the brother of the bride?” with a volume that rivaled the trademark Aiba “subtlety”. Nino decided to hurry things along and eyed his boyfriend with a particularly lecherous look. The women giggled and blushed, all but shoving each other along the path to give the couple some privacy. As soon as they were out of earshot, the two of them burst into laughter. “No, just... no.” Aiba groaned, muffling his laughter into Ninos shoulder. “They didn't notice a thing, you could as well have put it in.” Nino remarked drily and Aiba bit his shoulder scoldingly, making Nino squeal in protest. “You've still been hard through the whole ordeal, you pervert!” Nino accused giggling. “Not anymore.” Aiba replied sulkily, “and furthermore you started the whole thing, so you ought to shut up about it.” he added laughing. They stared at each other, both still huffing from laughter and suddenly the whole atmosphere changed. “I love you.” the devil blurted, though he could have sworn it wasn't him who said it. Though he must have, since Aiba's eyes clearly showed that he'd understood and Nino felt his world crumbling as Aiba's eyes filled with emotion and he closed them swiftly before leaning in for a passionate kiss.

Nino was still internally scolding himself, even hours after his unintended confession. They had witnessed three sappy speeches and one second-hand-embarrassment inducing song performance as well as several ridiculous wedding games, had stuffed themselves with the opulent wedding dinner and still he couldn't stop thinking about it. It was a miracle Aiba hadn't called him out on his strange mood yet. Nino tried to delude himself that Aiba had forgotten about it, that it hadn't been important after all, but who was he kidding. Aiba had been waiting for something like this since the first time he laid eyes on him. The whole situation was a farce. It wasn't supposed to be this way. A devil presented the contract, then he ran. He didn't make weird agreements and confess. Why must Nino be the one to fuck up so badly? He wasn't a rookie! Not only had he been drawing it out for a month, he had managed to get even closer to Aiba in the process, which would make it even harder for him once he learned the truth. He'd never intended their relationship to be that deep anyway. Aiba was such an emotional person, he'd gotten attached to Nino almost imperceptibly. Nino felt like an asshole leaving him like this. Somehow, the whole affair had gotten a life of it's own. This used to be a game, one that was at the same time his job, but nonetheless, it should be light and carefree. He hadn't once felt any remorse in all those years. He hadn't stopped to think if his victims deserved it. He couldn't remember ever having had an idea of their feelings at all. There had been anger and drama, yes, they had been crying and yelling at him at times. It had never affected him though. Now though he was all caught up in strange human emotions and had no idea how to get rid of them. He wasn't even sure he wanted to.

There's still a way out of this, thought his ridiculous mind and Nino shook his head. Impossible. When the night was over he had to break up with Aiba. Those were the rules and there was no way to get out of this. They had both signed the contract and even though it wasn't fulfilled yet, they were bound to it. All hell would break loose if they tried to break it. “Let's dance, Nino!” Aiba pulled him out of his thoughts by tugging him to the dance floor. His voice was somehow soothing and Nino really didn't want to think about his predicament anymore. “You've been all gloomy since we returned from the park. Still mad about not getting into my pants?” his boyfriend teased. Nino snorted a laugh into Aiba's shoulder. “I'm just tired.” he lied. “Furthermore I can get into your pants anytime. They have very fancy toilets here.” He felt more than heard Aiba laughing at his retort. “You're such a devil.” he teased affectionately and Nino involuntarily stiffened. If only you knew, he thought, but decided to ignore the pinch in his chest.

Instead, he surrendered to the music, trying to clear is mind and savor the moment instead of ruining it by his constant pondering. He was actually really good at dancing and he loved it. Especially since for once he didn't use it to seduce anyone. Not that Aiba had ever needed any seducing. The guy had been head over heels for him right from the start and surprisingly, it felt good. It felt good that Aiba loved him of his own accord and not because Nino had somehow wrapped him around his finger. So he let himself drown in those feelings, blocking out everything around them. He looked into Aiba’s sparkling eyes while they swayed to the music. The songs changed one after the other, but his boyfriend’s enthusiasm didn’t. Nino felt proud that he could make this perfect man happy. He didn’t even come close to what Aiba deserved, but the guy loved him all the same. He was the luckiest devil on earth. As if on cue, the music faded out and the voice of the best man could be heard over the speakers. „Dear guests, we thank you all for coming and making this a memorable wedding. Now let’s all line up outside for a last time to see the bridal pair off.“ Then the bride took over, adding „Thank you all for this wonderful day, we hope you enjoyed it, too. Of course you are free to continue celebrating for the rest of the night. Thank you very much.“ The bridal pair waved enthusiastically to the crowd, who applauded diligently and then dispersed toward the exit. Aiba took Nino’s hand and they joined the other guests outside, building a corridor for the bridal pair to pass through on the way to the waiting limousine. Soon they appeared, running through the human corridor, getting showered with loud cheers and flower petals.
Nino watched the car disappearing around the corner, almost paralyzed by the realization of what he had to do now. He felt the offending contract nearly burning a hole into his pocket. The wedding guests returned to the venue leisurely, while Nino still stood there staring into nothingness. Aiba squeezed his hand, looking at him questioningly. He must have said something that Nino didn’t catch and he smiled dotingly at Ninos confused expression. „Let’s go back.“ he said softly, still wearing that lethal radiant smile of his.

„I need to talk to you.“ The words tumbled out of Nino’s mouth almost unconsciously. Aiba’s brows rose, but he didn’t lose his sunny smile. „It’s about the contract.“ Nino said reluctantly. „What contract?“ Aiba asked confusedly and Nino couldn’t help adoring the way he looked at him questioningly like a child. „Our contract.“ Nino repeated, as if that would clarify anything. He took out the folded contract from the inner pocket of his suit jacket. It really was scalding hot and it glowed fiery in the dark of the night, though Nino wasn’t sure if humans could even see that. Recognition dawned on Aiba’s face, though he still seemed confused about the sudden appearance of the thing. „What about it?“ he inquired. „You came to the wedding and now I’m yours forever.“ Aiba said with a smile and Nino didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over the cheesy comeback.

Not that it mattered anyway, he had to end this regardless of what Aiba said or did. He was a devil and he had a duty to fulfill. Pushing all sentimental feelings aside, he shifted into his true form, already feeling a bodily sense of relief at the change. Aiba though just stared at him mutely and dumbfounded. Nino, now feeling the full strength of a devil coursing through his veins, finally had the courage to pull through with this. „Did you even read the thing?“ he bit out. „Do you know what you did?“ He unfolded the contract with a flick of his wrist and held it out to Aiba angrily. „You made a pact with the devil. You sold your soul to the dark side.“ He laughed mirthlessly. Aiba looked scared and paralyzed like a deer caught in headlights. He seemed to have trouble forming words, his lips moving frantically with only inaudible breaths coming out. „But Nino, you….. you love me.“ he finally stammered. Of all the things he could have said! He crossed the distance between them to touch Nino’s horns timidly. Nino was momentarily stunned. This was not normal. Why wasn’t Aiba scared to death, why wasn’t he crying, screaming or running away? „Are these fangs?“ Aiba whispered in amazement, reaching out to touch them, but Nino pulled away and hissed. „What does it matter?!“ the devil yelled. „It is over. I will hand in this contract and your soul will go to hell. I’ll catch my next victim and you’ll never see me again.“

„Not if I can help it.“ suddenly another voice chimed in with an iron tone. Nino looked up to the source of the voice, finding a guardian angel hovering over them and slowly descending to stand between them. By all means, this was not normal either. There was no way an angel could interfere in something like this. They existed to protect humans during their lifetime, they had no business barging in and messing with their afterlife, too. „And who the hell do you think you are?“ Nino growled testily. Before the angel could reply though, Aiba had recovered, suddenly finding his voice again.

„Ohno-san?“ he called in surprise. Ohno turned to around, smiling softly at Nino’s boyfriend. „You… you have a body?“ Aiba murmured in astonishment, approaching him with an outstretched arm, ready to touch Ohno’s shimmering form. Nino seethed with rage. How dare those two blatantly ignore him. „Of course I have a body.“ Ohno laughed softly. „We just aren’t allowed to show it, but I guess in this case an exception is in order.“ Aiba seemed to recover quickly, smiling fondly at the angel, all the color returning to his face and his breathing going back to normal. Nino stood by like a forgotten toy, his insides burning with jealousy.

„This is heartwarming and all, but now get away and let me finish my business.“ Nino snapped. He was burning up inside, ready to lash out at the angel any moment. Ohno though, calm as ever, regarded him with an aloof coolness that fired the devil up even more. „If you as much as lay a hand on him, I will kill you.“ the angel stated quietly. Nino felt a cool strength surrounding the angel. He had no doubt that Ohno would act true to his words.
Aiba looked lost again, seemingly overwhelmed by the force these two were emanating. The air flickered with the combined tension and the prospect of each of them snapping any moment.

„You want to test me, huh?“ the devil growled dangerously. „You have no idea what I’m capable of. Aiba is mine and you know it.“ Fire burned in Nino’s eyes and he didn’t care anymore what they were actually fighting over, he just wanted Ohno away from his boyfriend. „You think you can parade your powers around? You aren’t even supposed to be here and the contract is a done deed, there’s nothing you can do about it.“ he added with finality. Ohno laughed mockingly. „I can do a lot about it, believe me. I have no qualms about destroying you in order to save his soul. One wrong move and you’re history.“ he threatened. Ohno moved towards him and a violent ripple went through the air where their powers touched. It continued up into the sky and caused thunder to break out above them.

The wind picked up and suddenly another force appeared among them. „You sure make it suspenseful.“ Jun’s mocking voice sounded over the courtyard. He walked toward them nonchalantly, wearing his usual over-the-top outfit that made him look like a dark lord from a stereotype fantasy movie. „So you still don’t have a signed contract? How pitiful. I hope you know that you have mere hours to hand it in.“ he stated flippantly.
Nino snorted, holding the contract out demonstratively. „Of course I have a contract. Who do you take me for?“ Jun stared at him perplexedly. „That?!“ he blurted. „It is useless. Can’t you see it? It is burning out. What the hell did you do?“ he added angrily.

Nino stared at the contract in his hand. It was true, it had emanated an unusual heat ever since they signed it and now had even started to shine, it’s fiery glow growing stronger with every moment they neared the deadline. Even though this had never happened to him before, he knew what this meant. The contract was invalid. He had learned it in his studies. He just hadn’t stopped to think about it, having been busy battling his own emotions.
„It can’t be.“ the devil replied stubbornly, looking over at Aiba as if to confirm his statement. „He signed the contract, his soul is ours.“ Jun followed his gaze, then pointed at Aiba. „Him?!“ he snorted a mirthless laugh and shook his head in disbelief. „He can’t sign his soul away, you fool. He has given it away long before this.“ Nino gaped at him. What the hell was Jun talking about? He had done this a million times before, there was no way it hadn’t worked this time. Surely Jun wanted to manipulate him for some reason.

Suddenly the tension in the air changed and Nino almost stumbled with the lack of counter pressure. Ohno had visibly slackened, turning his attention to a timid Aiba, who had long lost any understanding of what was going on here. „Is it true? Do you really love him?“ Ohno asked softly. Aiba seemed to calm down again under Ohno’s warm gaze. „Of course I do. I love him with all my heart.“ he said softly. Ohno’s shoulders slackened. „I understand.“ he murmured, a sad smile playing around his lips.

In an instant all those unwanted feelings came back full force. It felt uncomfortable in his devil form, almost painful. Breathing suddenly felt unbelievably hard and Nino felt his chest rising and falling quickly with the effort. What was the meaning of this? Aiba loved him? But hadn’t all his victims fallen in love with him? Then all of his contracts would have been invalid.

„No, you fool.“ Jun interrupted his thoughts. „None of those idiots really loved you. You just tricked them into thinking they did. It’s first year stuff. Hell, now I know why you didn’t get that promotion.“ he rolled his eyes dramatically. They stared at each other silently for a moment, Nino slowly realizing the extent to which he had failed here. Jun sighed defeatedly and Nino saw a glimpse of his old friend in his eyes. „You’ll send me to trial now, won’t you?“ the devil asked silently. Jun snorted dejectedly. „A trial is unnecessary. Your punishment is almost like a trial in itself. Look at paragraph twenty-five.“ Nino leafed through the contract until he found the mentioned paragraph. While his eyes skimmed the words, Jun spoke them out loud by heart: „Souls that have already been pledged to a third party cannot be sold by a devil’s contract and therefore have to be replaced by a valid subject within 24 hours. The pledging of a soul to a devil himself is considered a breach of trust and cannot belatedly be transferred to the dark side. Compensation has to be made by extinguishing one of the parties involved.“

Nino lowered the contract. „Ex…tinguish?“ he stammered. Jun nodded somberly. „What? One of us has to die? That doesn’t make any sense at all. They lose the soul either way!“ Nino exclaimed angrily. Jun pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. „That’s not the point, Nino. You have to prove your loyalty, or else…“
„Or else what?“ the devil asked impatiently. „You know it, Nino.“ Jun pressed his lips together in disapproval, looking at him firmly. Indeed he knew. If he didn’t sacrifice one of them, his whole year would be terminated as well as all the living souls they had contracted. It was a well loved example by their professors. The last time a devil had been disobedient to this extent, more than 500 devils had been terminated, their subjects having been killed by a wild fire. To humans, it was a natural disaster, but Nino knew very well what had caused it.

He looked over to where Aiba was standing and talking silently to Ohno. The angel obviously had stopped paying attention to Nino from the moment Aiba was supposedly safe. He should probably get this over with as long as the two were occupied. He wouldn’t be able to watch Aiba suffering anyway.
He looked back at Jun, who for once didn’t tease him and looked frustrated with the situation too. „I hope you know what you have to do.“ he said silently, looking into Nino’s eyes imploringly. Nino huffed cynically. Of course he knew. He had to make his choice and the force would find its target. At least he didn’t have to physically kill anyone. It didn’t even occur to him how ironic a thought this was for a devil. He was too busy internally saying goodbye to his lover.

The contract in his hand was silently burning out and dissolving. The wind picked up again, lightning illuminating the sky. The air was charged with the dark powers gathering to enforce the deed. In an instant Nino felt Ohno’s force flaring up again. He should have known that the angel wouldn’t let his guard down. He shielded Aiba as best as he could. It didn’t matter anymore at this point. Nino had made his choice and whatever happened now was out of his hands. He felt the air charging with the mass of dark forces at the same time as his devil strength was sucked out of him to join with the magic brewing above them. Ohno was observing him with cold eyes while Aiba seemed to have fallen into some kind of daze.

Jun was shaking with the intensity in which his force rippled into the sky. He must be more powerful than Nino knew. He looked like the king of darkness now more than ever, his elegant coat blowing in the wind, his eyes sparkling in a deep purple color. Nino couldn’t look away from his powerful appearance. All of a sudden the commotion stopped. A dark cloud of forces had gathered above them, vibrating with the power that was about to be emitted. The air was eerily still now. Nino took one last look around, his breathing being calm now. In a moment everything would be over. Jun had stilled as well, now coolly surveying the situation and watching Ohno, who only now seemed to grasp what was transpiring. The angel didn’t move, only his eyes reflecting the pieces of the puzzle falling into place at the same time as Jun seemed to realize what target the forces were going to strike. Nino closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see the same realization in Aiba’s eyes. He took one last breath before the thunders started rumbling again louder than before and the forces shot down into a fatal strike. He heard Jun’s and Ohno’s fierce cries before everything went black.

„Come on, you can help me out for once. Especially since it’s your fault that I have to do this lousy job again. “ Jun complained, shoving the contract into Nino’s direction once more. Nino snickered, turning toward the stove to stir the pan. „Don’t be ridiculous, we both know you love it. Though apparently you’re too dumb to find yourself a real target.“ Jun snorted a laugh. „I saved your ass, so technically your soul is mine already. You just have to sign this.“ Nino returned to the kitchen island to wag a ladle in Jun’s direction. „You and Ohno-san saved me and if my soul were yours, you’d have a much bigger problem to deal with.“ Jun gave him a piercing look, even though the corners of his mouth were twitching with suppressed laughter. „Don’t you dare!“ he threatened, but Nino had already rounded the kitchen island to perch himself sassily on one of the bar stools.

Since Jun had been demoted to a mere devil for interfering in a punishment, he had tried to make Nino sign a contract. It had become a running gag, for Jun knew full well that it wasn’t ever going to happen. They both knew that Jun simply wanted to see him and it was his way of coping with the fact that his devil friend was now a mere human. Jun and Ohno had spectacularly made use of an unknown loophole, which had not only saved Nino’s life, but turned him into a human instead. The light and dark forces however had silently dealt out mediocre punishments for the culprits so as not to draw any attention to their lack of accountability.

„If I hadn’t fallen for Aiba, you wouldn’t have met your precious Sakurai-san either.“ Nino declared, wagging his eyebrows suggestively. „I told you not to say anything! And he isn’t my anything!“ Jun cried resentfully.
„Yeah, we should get rid of him. He stole my subject.“ Nino heard Ohno chiming in inside his head. „You stay out of this. No one stole anything from anyone. And putting up with a guardian angel like you is more punishment for me than it is for you, buddy!“ he scolded the angel. He felt Ohno pulling away, apparently sulking for now. Having effectively shut up those two, Nino returned to his cooking.

„I’m home!“ came Aiba’s sudden cry from the doorway. „Welcome home.“ Nino returned, putting the utensils aside in order to greet his boyfriend. „Ah…. good evening Aiba-san, Sakurai-san…“ Jun stammered awkwardly, getting up to greet them properly. Nino heard Ohno snickering silently and Jun sent an evil look to somewhere above Nino’s head.
„This could set a precedence.“ Ohno mused quietly. „I wonder what will happen if a devil and a guardian angel fall in love.“ As if watching Jun’s lovestruck fidgeting wasn’t bad enough, of course his insufferable guardian had to put another thought into his head. „This is intolerable!“ Nino cried, swiftly switching off the stove. He grabbed his boyfriend by the sleeve and tugged him toward the bedroom. „Let’s leave those magical beings alone before I go crazy.“ he declared.
Aiba diligently stumbled behind him, a puzzled expression on his face. „What’s even going on?“ he questioned and Nino snorted, slamming the door behind them. Even though technically everything had changed, his boyfriend was still as delightfully clueless as always. He grinned impishly at Aiba. „Well you know, since those three out there are about to cause the apocalypse, I figured we better take care of our human needs before it’s too late.“ Aiba smiled back at him radiantly, at the same time admitting: „I have no idea what you’re talking about.“ Nino tugged him closer by the lapels of his jacket. „When has that ever stopped you?“ he replied affectionately, pulling him in for a kiss.