Shiny Happy People

Chapter 8

3:15 PM, MARCH 14 XXXX

“Madame Levia-- it's not that bad! He's just shocked, that's all…!”

“He hates me. That's it. He hates me and he'll always hate me and I'll dig myself a hole to bury myself in.”

Michaela was very well known to be a very good source of comfort to her circle of friends and to outsiders alike, but in this case, Levia was utterly inconsolable. She ought to be thankful that Levia wasn't being hysterical as she always was when things displeased or upset her, but she also deemed Levia's melancholy self-degradation even worse. The white-haired aide gently nudged some tea (to which she forgot the flavor) towards Levia's direction, and the young madame side-eyed it, taking it hesitantly before taking a sharp sip.

It was burning hot, like her problems.

“I should've known,” Levia murmured, putting the tea aside as she moodily lamented her state of affairs. “I was too greedy-- I should've expected that we wouldn't share everything in common!”

Michaela twirled a lock of her white hair. “Well...have you tried asking him what he'd like to do?” she suggested mildly.

“He wouldn't know what he'd want to do anyways,” Levia returned.

“How do you know?” the aide asked, gasping.

“Because I'd react the same way!”

“Why would he?”

Levia was about to retort back, but she remembered that Michaela didn't know who exactly Behemo was. The white-haired aide was merely called to treat a hemorrhaging young man in a critical condition, so there wasn't much that Michaela knew about Behemo in detail.

So she slumped back into her sofa and groaned.

“Why would he?” Levia repeated. “Good point.”

“Try opening up to him!” the aide cheerily offered, wiping a table while organizing Levia's chemicals, deeming the office spic and span. “The basis of getting along is conversation, so I think you should give it a try the next time you see him.”

“Thank you, Michaela. That helps a lot,” she sardonically said.

“You're welcome!” Michaela brightly returned, not getting at the irritated tones at all.

It wasn't just her incessant worrying about maintaining a good relationship with Behemo that bothered her-- it was also the fact that Seth would be arriving any time soon (or maybe he arrived from his trip early) that made her on edge. He'd know-- he'd see Behemo, and he's certainly not stupid. Four eyes are always better than two, and being from the Mask race, she knew better than to undermine his capabilities and his intelligence. She had to acknowledge them begrudgingly, as Held did.

“Or maybe he's like that because he's a rich boy?” the white-haired aide pondered out loud, sitting down beside Levia. “Rich people tend to be more disagreeable...”

“Why would a rich boy want to work as a receptionist...?” Levia groaned. She gloomily looked over at her phone, only to find that it was on silent all along and that there was one new message from none other than Gumillia.

'there's an intruder trying to go into your room.'

“I informed her,” a stone-faced raven-haired scientist said. “All that's left is for her to come over.”

“Hey, you crazy woman-- I just came out from this room a few hours ago!” Behemo protested.

“I'm sure you did.”

“So just ignore me as I go in to take a nap!”

“It's not your room.”

Absolutely great. What luck. Behemo rolled his eyes and pointed at the doorknob as if it was a piece of evidence in a kangaroo court. “Look here, she gave me the key to this room. I get to go in and out whenever I want, and this isn't your room either, so you're in no position to argue with me!”

“For all we know, you could've stolen the key from her,” Gumillia-- as her nametag said-- solemnly said. “If you are proven to be false, I can send you to the authorities for trespassing.”

“Gumillia! Where's the intruder?” a girlish voice came from the other end of the hallway, prompting both Behemo and Gumillia to turn towards the direction. Levia and Michaela walked up to them-- Michaela looked completely clueless with her head looking here and there, and Levia was merely amused, smiling to herself at the funny predicament.

“Here,” Gumillia said, pointing at Behemo. “He should be stopped. Sent to court. Receive the mandatory punishment for trespassing in private property, or breaking in.”

“Hey, if you don't watch your mouth…!” Behemo started, then turned to Levia and pointed at Gumillia. “I came out from this room earlier-- tell her!”

Levia raised an eyebrow and pretended to look dumb.

“You did?”

“What--?!” Behemo was in disbelief. “I-I did!”

“I didn't know you came out from here-- maybe you are an intruder after all!” Levia chirped, looking at Gumillia. “Millia, can you lock up this bad man for me?”

Really, she couldn't help but laugh at Behemo's expression. It was like a mixture of disbelief and mortification at the same time. The better part was that Gumillia thought that Levia was completely serious, so she pulled Behemo's arms behind him and held his wrists firmly with her hands.

“Let's go,” she said chillingly.

“Levia-- hey, Levia!” Behemo exclaimed. “L-Liar! You liar! Agh!”

“No!” Michaela cried out. “Madame Levia, you're not serious!”

“Madame Levia looks serious to me,” Gumillia insisted, pulling Behemo. “Come along.”

“I-I'll vouch for him!” came a small voice.

Amidst the joke was a young girl with long pink hair tied up in a low ponytail, having her hands clasped close to her chest as if she was in perpetual prayer, looking worried. Her yellow dress indicated that she was of high birth, but she looked so small and frail that it didn't seem out of place for her to be in the laboratories. What was out of place though, was the fact that she was in the building of the private quarters.

“Irene,” Levia laughed, “you don't even know that this is a joke!”

“E-Even so! It's not nice!”

Gumillia released her hold on Behemo's wrists, earning a dissatisfied scowl from the young man. He found his arm being held onto by Levia fairly quick, and she leaned against him as she smiled at the little girl. She shouldn't even be older than 14, in Behemo's opinion, especially when she looks so petite.

“Madame L-Levia,” Irene staunchly said, “he doesn't look like a bad man!”

“Oho? And how can you conclude that?” the young madame asked, causing Behemo to laugh a bit.

“He's a gentleman! He looks like one!”

“Behemo,” Levia smiled, gesturing to Gumillia, Michaela and Irene, introducing them to him. “That's Gumillia over there, Professor of Nuclear Science. That's Michaela, my personal aide. This little lady is Irene, the daughter of one of our patrons as well as a very valuable temporary asset to Medel Laboratories.”

“I don't think I like Gumillia very much,” Behemo said bluntly.

“I don't think there's any problem with that,” Gumillia nodded. “I don't like you very much either.”

“Whether you like him or not,” Levia said, huffing, “he's under my care. My little brother,” she proudly added. “So take care of him and show him good manners and love, and always watch him when I'm not around--”

“I'm not a child!” Behemo exclaimed childishly.

“Listen to your big sister,” Levia cooed.

The confused Irene sought refuge near Michaela and Gumillia, holding their hands as she looked at how alike the two of them were. Identical twins! She's never seen a pair of twins so identical before, and Irene was completely fascinated. So she decides to go up to Behemo and extend her hands, showing her empty palms to him as she grinned.

“I will foresee the future,” she said solemnly.

Behemo looked at her palms. “What...will the future hold?”

“...You'll have to go buy me ice cream,” she cheekily said.

“You heard the prophet,” Levia laughed, holding Irene's hand while holding onto Behemo's arm. “You'll buy ice cream for the both of us-- let's go!”

“No, I-- I need sleep, goddammit…!”

Like a very out-of-place happy family, with the mother dragging the grumpy father and the little daughter running way too in front, encouraging the entire spectacle, the three made their way past the aide and the professor, who merely watched them in silence. Michaela broke the silence by laughing softly to herself before looking at Gumillia's apathetic expression.

“Madame Levia's very happy, don't you think?” Michaela asked.

That's exactly what surprised Gumillia. Levia was known to be loud and quite over-the-top, but like everyone Levia had met up with, she couldn't help but agree that Levia was happy. Around that rash young man, Levia smiled the most, laughed the most and even preferred his company over anyone else. It wasn't that Gumillia was sore about it, but it was something like an impossible thing had happened, and it was still quite hard to stomach.

“She is,” Gumillia managed.

“He wasn't in very good shape at first,” Michaela laughed. “Bleeding from his mouth, ears, nose-- any opening you can name of! Madame Levia and I tried to fix him up and he's as good as new right now, and she's really, really happy.”

“Where did he come from?” the raven-haired professor asked.

“Come to think of it, I don't really know,” Michaela shrugged. “He seems very old-fashioned to me.”

“Maybe he'll be a toy. A piece of entertainment. Sometimes, the old things hold a lot of fascination and sentiment,” Gumillia surmised, looking at her phone. “I heard that Professor Seth has acquired a new body from one of the murder victims in Hammond Bar.”

The white-haired aide instantly looked uncomfortable. “Why would he tell these things to you…? And...why are you telling me?”

“Because we are colleagues, and because we are friends,” Gumillia answered, making sure that Michaela understood that she was answering the two questions in order. “It's not uncommon. The Mask race is well-known for that, aren't they?”

“But that's...that's horrible and unethical,” the aide pointed out, slowly putting her hands in her pockets.

“It's what's going on. It's as bad as the haze and global warming, but it's what's going on.”

“Aren't you afraid that I'll tell people about it?” Michaela pressed on, but Gumillia shrugged and tied her long black hair.

“Do as you like. Don't blame me if you end up in the morgue. After all, there is no life after death here.”

With Gumillia's last words for the day, Michaela could only stare as the professor walked away, and she could've sworn that she felt the telltale signs of terrified tears in her eyes.

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