🔥 𝑅𝑒𝒶𝓁 𝓁𝒾𝒻𝑒 𝑜𝓃 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝓈𝑒𝓋𝑒𝓃𝓉𝒽 𝒻𝓁𝑜𝑜𝓇 🔥
Bazaar Peak was a name not well known to the average person. The company dealt with sub-companies and alternate names by means of so many legal loopholes, you didn’t understand how anyone could keep track of it. Nevertheless, it was known to the circle of people that mattered, with a reputation for getting what they wanted and getting it done right. It was a shadow over the business world, a paragon to some, and a boogie-man to others.
Your job was interesting with this in mind. It was honestly a bit superfluous; the legal department already knew exactly where they stood and what they could get away with while keeping their spotless reputation. But your job wasn’t about helping Bazaar Peak look better. It was about helping them to be better.
Those efforts apparently started an interesting domino effect. Your suggestion to increase charitable donations had been helpful in creating legitimate connections that made competitors uneasy as to what the company might be planning, and in turn increased their own charitable output to compete. In the meantime, from the sudden rush of non-profit capacity, the general attitude of the economy had become more optimistic, and certain stocks Bazaar Peak had invested in shot up in value. When that was reported in a meeting and Ivan applauded you on your wise foresight in front of the other executives, you blushed and sunk in your seat, mumbling something about good bringing good in turn.
You’d had one or two people start up a conversation with you in the break room a few times after that, and it made you wonder when the other technical part of your job would come into play: the “accountability” part. You were pretty sure that the weird additional clause in your NDA had been gossiped around the office, and now that you had a little reputation of competency, more people were trying to figure out just who you were and if you could really be trusted with their secrets for advice. It was a bit nerve-wracking, honestly. But no one had slipped into your office to confess they’d murdered a man yet, so you hoped that part of your work would continue to be directed to the company lawyers if the need ever arose.
Luna snickered when you mentioned that worry. “Heeeey,” she said, twisting slightly in the swivel chair she stood on, “does that mean you legally can’t tell anyone about these pranks?”
“If you fall and break something, I am one-hundred percent telling the paramedics you were trying to set up a trap in the cabinets to launch a barrage of fake bugs at a coworker.”
“Hey, these are ants. Not just bugs! I put thought into my pranks.”
You looked up from the hole you were sewing shut in an old throw pillow. “Suuure. You didn’t just see a bag of them at the corner store and grab it on a whim?”
She shrugged, snapping a rubber band into place. “I thought about it and bought it. What more is there to it?”
You watched the chair under her feet carefully to make sure it didn’t shift too much. You’d already narrowly saved her phone from getting run over by setting it on the table rather than on the floor in the path of the chair where she’d left it, and you felt a similar matronly pull to stay aware as the seat tilted under her, even though you knew she was more than athletic enough to balance just fine. You looped in another stitch with a small glance down. “Did you know Selena from legal thinks this couch is too low to the ground? She grabs this pillow to sit on for a little extra height, so she can sit straighter. It’s always this one, probably because it’s the firmest out of all of them.”
Luna carefully closed the cabinet door while she slipped her hand away from the spring-loaded contraption within, then shot you a sly smirk. “Oh that’s what you did with the whoopie cushion, huh? Well did you know that every day, Michael from marketing comes in after lunch and grabs a thing of soda? Or that Silica brought this chair in here because she likes being able to roll from the table to the fridge while she eats?” She hopped down easily and sauntered over, pulling a foghorn, a pack of mentos, and a roll of duct tape from the bag beside you on the couch, smirk growing into an evil grin. You snickered, lifting your eyebrows.
“Ok,” you said, tying off your thread and setting the pillow in its place. “I’ll admit, that’s some impressive thought put in.”
“You bet’cher butt it is!” She let out a contented sigh as she ripped off a length of tape from the roll. “Y’know, teaming up like this has been on my bucket list for a while. From like, the moment I realized I wasn’t the only prankster in the office! And man, it’s as fun as I’d hoped. You are an evil genius.”
You stood back, making sure the pillow looked benign enough among the rest and snickered at her happiness. “Oh, I dunno about that. I’m just a bit sneakier than your style. I gotta admit, this is pretty fun to do together, though. We should do it again sometime, d’you think?”
She didn’t reply. You looked over just in time to see her turn away and start working on the rolly chair. You decided she must have just thought the question was hypothetical, because she still seemed to be in the same joyful mood. As though in proof, she grinned at you as you handed her another strip of tape to complete the job; she’d been very obviously struggling with the small bit she'd hurriedly begun with.
Five minutes later, you both walked out of the break room and headed back to the central area, the bag on Luna’s shoulder much lighter than it had been an hour ago. “You sure you don’t want help with this one?” she asked, handing you a few supplies.
“N-no, it’s all good, I got it!” You checked the time. “They’ve only got like ten minutes left in their meeting, so if we’re gonna do them both, we really should split up.”
“Truuue…” She frowned, then shrugged it off. “Well, do me a favor and make sure this one’s on there good.” She handed you one last sticker and winked, skipping as she disappeared into Alanna’s office.
You sighed in relief. Yeah, you’d be missing the whole point of your real job here if you let Luna riffle through Ivan’s office.
Trying to act natural, you walked in and closed the door quietly behind you. There was a lot of material Luna had given you, and not enough time to do it all. Let’s see… bubble wrap to put under his chair mat, that could be fun… confetti poppers to go in desk drawers, mmmm, probably shouldn’t draw attention to the contents of his drawers in case anyone else was in the room, but you sure had another good idea for them… fake keys for his keyboard? Cute, but that could get annoying when you played pc games together… And you definitely didn’t have time to fill all these paper cups with water to set across the floor. The fake mustache, though… you had no idea what Luna had planned for that, but you had an idea of your own. Scribbling a quick note and hiding it with the false facial hair, you giggled.
A few more items were approved or dismissed before your setup was complete. Carefully, you slipped the door shut behind you, making sure the last of your tricky contraptions stuck into place as you did. Just in time; Luna was exiting as well, and a commotion coming from the direction of the conference room signaled that it was time to get scarce. You jogged over as she signaled you to follow her retreat.
“Ohhh this is gonna be good,” she snickered, pausing at a corner and peeking back around to check the semi-discrete view of Alanna’s door. She dug a hand into her pocket. “I gotta get a video of this, I wanna remember this forev— crap! ” She slapped at her hips for a moment, and then it seemed to dawn on her the same time it did you.
Her phone wasn’t here. It was back on the table. In the breakroom.
She grabbed your shoulders. “Mira. Mira you have to go back and get it for me.”
“Wh-what?!” You blanched, thinking of the look on Selena’s face as you walked into the room and took the abandoned device, proving you had been present minutes before the chaos of your pranks had erupted. “It’s your phone, Luna! You’re sneaky enough, you can get in and out no problem!”
“Look. Yes, I’m pretty amazing. But if I do get caught? Selena’s gonna get on my case and it’s gonna take forever and I’m gonna miss this whole beautiful thing! You, on the other hand, can totally absolutely get away with it. Pleeeease, please I’m begging, c’mon.”
Man, those puppy-dog eyes were hard to resist. And, it was you who put the phone on the table...
You groaned. “Ugh… ok, alright fine, I’ll try! But you owe me one!”
She threw her hands up in the air with a muted victory cheer and agreed. You mumbled as you hurried back down the hall.
Ok, you could do this. You tried to hype yourself up. You could manage this! No problem, just slip in like it was no big deal, so that no one saw you, and… Ugh, who were you kidding, you were without question gonna get caught. And then, your facade as the kind of person who didn’t pull pranks would be forever tarnished. You’d never get away with so much as a knock knock joke again! The moment they saw you pick up the phone, you’d be connected in their minds to the subject of pranks forever.
Oh… oh, but wait. What if they didn’t see you pick it up? What if they couldn’t see you at all?
You halted and checked to see if anyone was watching, then ducked into an empty conference room. You did have magic, after all. Why not put it to use?
Your camouflage spell wouldn’t be enough for this, though. And anything showy would raise questions… You took in a deep breath and used the pressure of your lungs to force the nervousness from your chest, making room for a tinge of excitement. You felt the endorphins send a ripple across that more ethereal portion of your mind.
It was time for a field test of Invisibility.
A yell rang out as a hiss escaped the bottle, followed by a burst of foam spraying across the table. There were more yells as Michael vainly tried to cover the soda’s opening with his hands. The bubbling fizz poured between his fingers, only shooting farther as he tried to keep it contained.
“Aaahh! How many traps are in this room?!” Silica said after squealing as a barrage of plastic bugs launched at her from the cupboard that held the napkins. She glanced with a sigh of betrayal over at the rolly chair, duct taped foghorn removed from beneath it and sitting innocently on the seat. Her hat still sat rather crooked from the fright.
Selena came over to help, abandoning the pillow she had just arranged with a roll of her eyes and picking things away from the spreading mess on the table surface. “Honestly, if you two could handle your own crises, just for a few minutes. My break will be over before I even get a chance to sit down!” She shuffled a few things into one arm and took some napkins from the generous pile Silica offered, damming up the edges of the puddle while Michael mumbled his thanks. They contained the spill, then she began handing the gathered items back out.
One almost slipped from her grasp, and she darted out her other hand to catch it. “This phone got a bit wet, who’s—”
She spotted the image on the personalized case.
A red-head held her fingers up in a peace sign, cartoon dog ears accompanying the words “howl at dat moon-moon” as a disco ball hung overhead, reflecting the faded image of a wolf.
Selena’s eyes narrowed. “Luna.”
The two others looked at her. “Is that the girl who runs as a messenger sometimes?”
“I should have known; she’s always loved causing mischief,” she spat, shaking soda foam from the device.
“Oh! You know her?” Silica was typically hard to read, but her tone raised with the intrigue of a rare glimpse into her coworker’s personal life.
“Several of us once got swept into helping a mutual friend with a pop-up maid cafe, and ever since we all meet up for tea each month or so,” she said blandly, glaring at the grinning image.
Michael suddenly seemed interested in the conversation, pausing in dabbing at his soda-soaked shirt. “Isn’t she friends with Mira? Do you know her much? I noticed them palling around a bit today.”
Selena gave a little huff, as though she’d been reminded of a personal joke. “Yes, they’re friends, from what I understand. And I know a few things about Mira. She is… an unusual case. A strange job arrangement, a wide variety of acquaintances, and then there’s that impression of loveable innocence. But, there’s something… peculiar about her.”
“Aw, c’mon, that girl is all sunshine and rainbows.” Michael scoffed, returning to dabbing the stain. “She’s a nonpartisan third party to recommend charities, it’s not like she’s a corporate spy.”
“I like her,” Silica agreed. “She always compliments my hat when she sees me.” She smiled slightly and straightened the dark pink beret.
“Well. That might all be true. But she’s more consequential than she lets on, at the very least. I’ll say this, getting into her good favors is probably a smart move not just career-wise, but for social survival as well.”
Michael tossed his wad of napkins to the trash can, narrowly missing. He stood and picked it up, lining up a second attempt. “So, what you’re saying is, it would really be in my best interest to ask her out for a drink, yeah?”
“What?! ” The shot flew wildly off course as he jumped at the double outburst from the two women. He turned to see Silica’s hat was yet again crooked and Selena’s eyebrows were raised high.
“You’re joking, right?” Selena demanded. “Have you not met Demiurge? Even seen him at a distance?!”
The blonde pinched her nose and sighed deeply. “I swear, someday I’m going to lock you in a basement for your own good and take the promotion you so clearly don’t deserve, Michael.”
“It probably would be for your own good at that point,” Silica agreed.
“Wh-what?! What do you— Who’s Demiurge?”
Selena tossed the phone down on the couch, straightening her skirt as she took a seat. “Let’s just say, he’s obviously quite protective of her. And to cross Demiurge, you’d have to be either stupid, reckless, or—”
There was a jab at her side, and Luna jumped as her phone was shoved into her hands. “You owe me big time,” you said, settling in next to her to stare as Alanna and Ivan chatted just outside her office door.
“Geez, where did you come from— and why’s your face all red?” Luna’s voice switched gears as she noticed the embarrassment in your cheeks.
“Were you gonna record this or not?” you countered, blushing even harder. She grinned and held up her phone.
Alanna laughed a bit too hard at something Ivan said, and he tried to smoothly jab a thumb over his shoulder. She nodded as he turned to walk away, and she took hold of her door handle… and froze for about ten seconds, looking in through the small crack. Then carefully, she slipped inside and shut the door.
You furrowed your eyebrows together. “Um… what are we waiting for? Did it not work?”
Luna just grinned and continued recording. “Give it a minute. It might take a bit to set in.”
You leaned over further, thinking maybe there was something you were missing. Just what had Luna gotten up to in that room? Her bag had seemed almost empty when she went in. What could she have—
Alanna snapped open her door, checked left and right, smiled wickedly, and then slammed it shut again.
Luna verbally keysmashed. “Ohhhhohoho wow this is so much better than I could have imagined,” she cackled, “No way!! This is amazing!!”
You opened your mouth to ask what in the world that meant, but a voice you recognized beat you to it.
“Hm? What’s so ‘amazing’?”
You whipped around to face the speaker, slapping Luna’s hands away from you as she in turn slapped yours away from her camera. She quickly complied to your panicked insistence, though, when she also realized you were caught. And, who you’d been caught by.
Ivan raised an eyebrow at you.
Luna ducked the phone into a pocket and spread her arms out. “Mr. Angah! Heyyyyy sir, what’s up, I— we thought you’d be in your office by now! After that big meeting, with— Hey! Hey, maybe you should see if Alanna—”
“Are you leaving?” you interrupted, suddenly noticing all that he was carrying. He had a briefcase in one hand, and his coat draped over the other arm. “I thought it was Fridays that you’ve been going home early lately.”
“Ah… yes,” he stumbled, “Well— I received word that my typical Friday appointment has been asked to provide… ah, consultation on a project this evening! I have agreed to lend my expertise.”
Your eyes widened. “Oh! Oh, that’s great! Well, then good luck with that, uh… knock ‘em dead!”
“At the risk of sounding pretentious… I always do.” He grinned, hanging a hand over his lapel.
Luna looked at you as he walked towards the elevator, but you ignored her. There was no way you were going to tell her you’d convinced Ivan to try an online D&D group, and that he’d fallen a bit in love with it. Or that his necromancer character was already at level eight. Or that he was apparently getting requests to aid other groups in their adventures.
Instead you shoved aside your disappointment that he wouldn’t be stumbling into your pranks, and nodded back at Alanna’s office. “Ok, what exactly did you do? What is going on in there?”
Luna fished her phone back out from her pocket and snickered, immediately dismissing the out-of-place interruption in favor of a prideful smirk. “How about we go see?” And with that, she dashed across the hallway. Whipping your head left and right much like you’d just seen Alanna do, you hissed Luna’s name as you hopped after her.
The red-head reopened her camera app, lining up the lens to a pinhole in the blinds behind the glass and angling around to find the tall woman. Your jaw dropped.
Every picture in the room had been replaced. The walls had been plastered in printouts. An extension must have even been added to the computer browser to replace every jpeg with an image of the same person. And in the corner, rolled out down the wall, was a life-sized poster… of Ivan.
You cranked your neck to angle the look of utter shock on your face from the phone screen to Luna. She beamed smugly back.
On screen, Alanna leaned next to the poster, a giddy expression on her face as she acted out some sort of cheesy drama you couldn’t hear, inching her hand closer and closer to the one on paper. The phone started shaking.
“Luna, no,” you barely whispered, “hold it together!!”
“I c-can’t, oh my—holy crap, sh-she’s—” Luna’s giggling became audible, and the phone shook enough that you lost sight of the room as you started shushing her, trying not to catch her contagious laughter as you scolded through your disbelief.
A door burst open.
This time, Luna didn’t need your swatting hand to convince her to drop the phone.
Alanna’s eyes were wide as she peered out from the crack in the door, lips pursed tight and knuckles white on the door handle.
Her eyes darted wildly between the two of you, but before she could decide exactly how she was going to destroy you both from the face of the planet, you put your hands out.
“It’s good to see you, Alanna! H-hey, this is—completely just, like out of the blue, but um—you uh, remember how I signed that NDA? Yeah, there’s no need to remind you or anything, but, just thought I’d bring up how I would never share anything that I was asked not to share. Or, uh, that it was implied I shouldn’t share. Would keep that stuff in confidence, no worries about that at all.”
The almost-gold amber eyes narrowed at you as you sweat bullets, then shifted.
“Yep,” she reassured, “I am one-hundo-percent signing the exact same thing in my brain like right now. That’s me an’ Mira, never sharing anything that may or may not have just happened in that room involving a printouOOF—”
You elbowed Luna in the side and smiled at Alanna. “You have our word.”
She calculated for another moment.
“Sign an actual one before you’re gone,” she allowed, and you both nodded. She glanced down the hall, then added one last order. “And you’re not getting any of these back.”
It was everything you could do to keep a straight face as you and Luna beelined back to your office. You opened the door and stepped aside to let her enter, then gently shut it behind you.
You peeked over at Luna just as she side-glanced to you.
The laughter that erupted from you both shook the walls. All the tension from the interaction combined with the thrill of your successful tricks came flooding around you, and you were swept up in the current. “Ohh my god,” Luna wheezed, “I thought we were goners.”
“I cannot believe you did that!” you gasped. “Really?! All over her office? Are you nuts?! And then we got caught and— I’m seriously impressed we’re still alive. We should be dead, by all accounts.”
“Yeah, but then you saved our butts with that NDA thing, that was brilliant. And also with distracting Angah! Still not quite sure how you pulled that off.” She collapsed against the wall with the last of her laughs, and you slid down to lay your back against the leg of your desk close by. “But really,” she said, your giggles fading as well, “It was honestly impressive. You’re always capable of so much more than you think you are.”
You looked over as her tone subdued with the honest compliment. She was looking back, that cheesy look that was classic Luna settling to a contented smile as her eyes caught yours.
You’d known each other quite a while now, hadn’t you? Somehow, through all of the crazy turns life had thrown at you, moving to a new city, working a boring job, having an irritable boss, a demon appearing in your apartment, getting thrown into a new job, all the emotional and mental turmoil—the chaos of your every day, really—somehow, Luna had stayed close. Somehow, she’d been there for you through it all. Despite the fact that you both were so different, despite the fact that your lives got busy, despite how many times you’d grumbled at her… she’d been a constant. She’d stayed your friend without question.
And she mattered to you. Really mattered to you. It almost felt like how the others mattered, all those you’d felt a quick connection to that aligned with something deeper, like Cole and Charlotte and Mar and Rorie… but, there was more to it than that. She’d been there with you through so much, and always made you laugh when you desperately needed to forget your worries.
She’d always been your friend, from the moment you met.
Her eyes pulled away from yours. She cleared her throat and a goofy grin plastered over her face.
“So!” she said, cutting you off. “I’m moving.”
A silence cracked through the room.
You felt like a stone had dropped over your head.
She tucked her hands behind her neck, ankles crossing as she lazily stretched out.
You struggled to find air.
“You’re… you’re moving? To—what, a different apartment, d-do you need help?…”
“This city over on the coast,” she replied. “Across the country. Found a gig there, and I start tomorrow! It’s pretty freakin’ dope, I’ll be scouting people to put on reality shows. Allllll the craziest crazies of humanity, and I get to gather ‘em and watch the chaos ensue!” She snickered. She still wasn’t looking at you. “And get this, McTaco’s headquarters is right there! It’s the dream locale with the dream job~” she cooed.
You… couldn’t think of how to reply. Everything that came to mind felt like it would be more than what you should say. But also… also like it wouldn’t be nearly enough.
It was quiet. You took a breath. Then another. Then heard a singular word echo as it was put to use.
She didn’t reply immediately. Her foot tapped lightly, gaze taking in the bland room as the sun streamed through the window, it’s apex long gone and the downward arc to the inevitable horizon marked clear by the angle of shadows. Her face didn’t change as she took in everything but you.
“Y’know, you’ve found a pretty great guy in Demiurge. But, promise me you’ll stop selling yourself so short.”
You realized her eyes were softer somehow. They had gained a glow you didn’t often see in them, usually clouded behind the overwhelming energy she wore. Or, maybe you were envisioning that, and it was just the light.
Either way, they at last reconnected with yours, staring deeply as though she were adding you to the scene she’d just committed to memory. “Make sure he deserves you, ok?”
Her arms flung out from behind her, pressing in a wide motion against the floor as she sprung to her feet with a grunt of effort. “Wwwwwell! I got an NDA to sign and a plane to catch! It’s been fun, this was a pretty epic prank day with the whole fearing for our mortal lives bit at the end! Great way to wrap it up.” She was reaching for the door.
You scrambled to your feet. “L-Luna— I—”
She wasn’t looking at you again, smile back across her mouth. “Take care of yourself, Mira.”
And somehow, you just… stood there. Watched, as the door swung and clicked shut.
She was gone.
Just like that, just that simple… and she was gone.
You stood in your hollow office, ebbing one breath at a time into your lungs, overcome by an anxiety you couldn’t place for the second time that day.
She’d just told you that you meant something to her, that you did in fact have a real value in her mind. Right? That was what she’d done, right? And regardless of that, she’d left. Even with all that... she’d still left? But… you’d cared about her, she’d cared about you, and—
“Well, goodbye to Yggdrasil forever, I guess! You guys have fun without me!”
What— why were you remembering saying goodbye to Bukubukuchagama?
You felt your eyes darken as they were overtaken with the image of her form vanishing in a final burst of light. The emptiness that had controlled the space she’d been.
You saw the same happen with guildmate after guildmate, the same trace of an afterthought in their farewell to you, if a farewell was to be found at all.
You saw Marcus, reassuring you that this was fine, that he cared about you. Kissing someone else yet again.
Ivan, briefcase in hand, proudly telling you that he had been asked to assist in a game that didn’t involve you, in a hobby you weren’t a part of.
Demiurge, rolling up his sleeves as he went to work on preparing a plan to assist—
What was going on? What were you thinking?! None of this made sense, none of these thoughts had any connection, what did any of this have to do with—
Your legs felt shook, and you walked your hands across the desk, dropping into your seat as you reached it. Your vision continued to fade in and out, memories darting before it till at last you found focus on what loomed in front of you.
The mound of paperwork, still right where you’d left it. Unfinished, unnecessary, irrelevant. In the end, no one other than Alanna would ever even know you’d done it. And likely, no one would have any reason to care. Your eyes started to sting.
You grabbed the entire stack, shoving it against your chest with one hand while the other fumbled for the upsidedown wastebasket Luna had sat on before. Trembling, you righted the base to the ground with a slam, jamming your hand back under the stack as you shoved the mass out over the wire mesh.
It hung there, ready to fill the basket and end the pointless task you had earned yourself. Your fingers gripped it tight. You could hear your heartbeat pound in your ears.
With a measure of pain, you moved the stack back to the desktop and gently set it down. Dragging in a wavering breath and releasing it with a staccato sigh, you reached for a pen. You had a lot of work still to do, despite everything else.
And you should, at the very least, make sure you were helpful.