It marks the 49th birthday of the young master. That means it has been my 39th year of service as his loyal butler. Only a further eternity to go. I must say the agony has begun to dull after these decades flow by. I thought my suffering might be alleviated when the first Hell came to pass. The First World War, a gale that passed through the world like an earthquake. It was unable to shatter the world, but it left deep scars. From those scars, I have surmised an even greater, Second Gale is imminent. Perhaps this is what will be the great Equalizer.
"If you walk far enough, long enough, you'll reach a time when Demons and Humans will be equal. All in one Hell."
As I gaze across the green hills of this boring continent, I feel slightly nauseated indifferent. With the dulling feeling of agony as an eternal servant comes the loss of all feeling. The mercurial brat of a master has of course grown bored of Great Britain. Ever since the day we've left the mansion and our previous aliases behind, he's been dragging me to other places where he may find some ease to his listlessness. It's funny really.
Our latest destination is the Kingdom of Sauville. A country sheltered by Switzerland and France. The young master's known French throughout most of his earldom. If we don't find something for his enjoyment here, it may well bring another bout of snotty melancholy. Seeing as he's another fellow foul demon, it only makes sense he shows me even less consideration from before. It suffices to say he has dropped the same degree from my sight. I still curse Annafellows to this day, for it's because of her curse that I may never be free from this ordeal, bound to a delicious soul I can never taste...
I want to kill you, devour you and move on already … Even if there is no chance I'll ever find a soul as delectable as yours. I want peace, but instead I'm bound to you as though in limbo.
"There it is, St. Marguerite Academy."
The young master gazes impassively at the school over the hill, his magenta eyes dull with boredom. The trolley comes by and I buy a spice cake at his behest. As he eats, I do the dull routine of informing him about the area.
"The academy is located in the alpine region of Sauville, built during the 16th century, bearing no relation to the Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys. It was once grounds for a secret armory and only recently has started accepting students from other countries. The notable remarks include a 'cursed' clock tower and a library tower that's stood for the last 400. Rumor has it the king used to meet his lover at the top of the tower in secret, where there is a botanical garden. The school's locale includes the capital city Saubreme. No further remarks."
"...If you ask me, this place is too embroiled in its past and silly legends."
"Might I inquire why you suddenly got the urge to journey here?"
"Pfft, with unlimited time, I thought it appropriate I search out some fun. The world war," He smirks, "That was entertaining, to say the least."
"So you'd like for something grand as that to occur again?" I find it surprising our long term interests coincide for a change, "That may well incur the end of this world."
"I hope so, Sebastian. As for why this place in peculiar," He puts the tips of his fingers together, "While in Bern, I ran into some queer little stories about this place. Some things about death gods and fairies and the such. I thought it'd be a good distraction, at the very least."
"Methinks you have too high hopes."
The train screeches to a stop at the station. We step out and he takes a second to stretch leisurely. We board a horse and buggy, sharing the compartment with two whom I assume to be academy-bound students.
"What a stuffy looking uniform," Young master mutters in English. He eyes the two girls distastefully, "Even Elizabeth would have found those shoulder puffs completely barmy."
I can't be arsed to keep from smiling a little at the mention of the life the boy's thrown away. Clearly he still held some sort of attachment. Why mention his fiancee otherwise? We haven't communicated at all, since he faked his 'death.' As far as she knows, he disappeared. Perhaps she still pines for him? Much like that queen who mourned her Albert to her death 23 years ago. If you're wondering, we did attend her funeral and I must say it amuses me that humans are so fond of remembering a woman who governed so cruelly behind the public curtain. Its ironic, how much like sheep to a shepherd they are.
"Um, might you two be visiting the academy?" One of the two students asks in English out of the blue.
"Oh, yes," I answer, "We are coming from Switzerland. Might you be students of St. Marguerite?"
"Why, yes. And I heard that cheeky comment!" The young master looks up, a bit flustered, at her accusation, "That's right, I'm British!"
"Well, excuse the young master's comment. I think it's quite a lovely uniform."
"Thanks very much. Say, I'm Avril Bradley, this is Alice. We're in the same class," She pauses and looks at us apprehensively, "I say, you both give me the collywobbles a bit. Is it comfortable to be dressed up all in black? Might you be nobles, by any chance? You mentioned 'young master.'"
Goodness what a nosy stranger. Black is a color we demons naturally have an affinity for. It's a good thing we're both wearing gloves or she'd be even more curious by our nails.
"Oh, we're here!" She doesn't even wait for a response before poking her head out the window. She quickly sticks it back in, "If you're going to stick around for the sights, I'm sure you'll be thrilled t learn we've got lots of haunted places for speculation! I can attest to that!"
"I'll keep that in mind..." The young master's face cracks a bit, managing an awkward and strange crease I guess you could call a smile.
We dismount. The girl and her friend run ahead, utterly carefree. I briefly survey the area. A bit of hills here and there. High enough to conceal the base of what I assume to be the clock tower. I inspect my watch and turn back to the young master, handing him his cane.
"It's nearly eleven. Are you quite peckish?" I ask purely in jest. Demons only need souls, after all. He can't even taste food anymore.
"... Let's go up the library. You said there's a garden up there? That's where I'll have my elevenses."
"Very good, sir." He hangs onto his old English human habits.
We traipse the campus in leisure, though finding no particular beauty nor pleasure. The sky is drab with sparse rays falling upon those mundane green hills far away. The design of the campus roads are long and not all that unique. Our destination is at the far side of the campus, so we had to pass by other students gathered at the fringe of the academy building. I would have preferred to take the more discreet route past the lawn, but the young brat master insisted we take the faster way. I guess he really didn't mind those stares pointed our way.
"Hey, look," A voice causes a diversion from our presence, "It's the Grim Reaper!"
All heads turn away. Young master stops and gestures for me to look. I walk to the border of the student crowd, which is drawing away from the middle, forming a hollow line through which a single student walks. He has black hair and black eyes. His facial features remind me of Lau's. I'm sure he is an Oriental, and Japanese at that.
"So," The young master asks when I return, "Is it one of those Death gods?"
"No," It's amusing how he says the term with such disgust, "I believe he is of Japanese descent. They call him such probably because of his darker hair and eye coloration."
"Heh, what a bunch of ignoramuses," He smirks and taps his cane on the ground, "If they ever knew what a real Death god looked like … Well, let's not get distracted."
Despite his dismissive manner, he begins walking towards the Oriental boy. With a light tap, he manages to grab his attention, and the student turns around, surprised.
"Hello," The young master says eloquently en français, extending his hand in greeting, "You seem like you know your way about this place."
"Huh? Er, hello to you too... Can I um, help you with something?" The student's eyes seem to dart towards one of the two towers behind him, as though nervously in a hurry. He carries a parcel in right arm; his left is fumbling out of his pockets to grasp the young master's.
"You wouldn't happen to be going to the library tower, would you? We're here to see that magnificent structure."
"Oh," The student seems relieved, "Of course, I'm going to meet someone there. Right this way."
The students we leave behind murmur, many of them noting our dark apparel. It wouldn't be a stretch for us to suddenly become part of their wild imagination. Imagine, demons alongside a death god!
"... Are you two travelers?" The boy asks after a lapse of silence.
"We are coming from Switzerland."
"Oh, so you are!" He says with some interest, "That must be exciting, seeing all of Europe."
"No, you're not missing out on much. I'd much rather go to Asia. You are Oriental, no?"
"Yes, I'm Japanese. I guess that makes me a bit different from a lot of people here..."
"Not too much. England has Indians, Chinese … Not so much Japanese," The young master speaks with unusual liberality, "But that doesn't mean they should call you something as far-fetched as 'the Grim Reaper.'"
"Haha..." The student laughs a little nervously, "This town has many stories. There's one about a man who arrives in Spring who brings death with him. Thus he will be named 'the Grim Reaper.'"
"And you simply happened to transfer in at the time?" The young master sighs irritably. He abhors baseless conjecture without evidence, "Laughable. The legend itself seems faulty. Not to mention you don't seem like you could really kill someone."
"Is that so? Who knows, I am the born-and-bred son of a soldier you know..." We stop before massive doors, "Well, we're here."
I move to open the doors before he does. It's dark and musty inside. I can see, obviously, as can the young master. There's a winding stairway leading up, but also the alternative elevator to the side. The circular structure has books lining every shelf encircling the inner body. Gazing up, one can see the glass ceiling. It appears whoever designed this place did not think too much about its depth and therefore the sunlight doesn't reach down here too well. There are about ten levels, not counting the garden top. I assume the light was meant only for the sake of the plants, but that means some mold will be present in these tomes.
"I'd try the elevator if I were you," The student has already begun climbing the stairs, "Enjoy your time here!"
"...Well? Shall we try out the demon blood coursing in you a bit?" I smirk, "Surely some stairs will be good exercise. You hardly ever-"
"Enough. I'm buggered already. Work the elevator."
As luck would have it, the contraption was thoroughly busted. I'd seen these types of machinery popping up around Europe, but they are ultimately subject to failure. This one seems simply too old. Of course, that doesn't even matter, seeing as the young master is absolutely adamant about non-exertion.
"You're batty if you think you can get me to climb those biscuit-arsed stairs."
I don't see anyway around absolute stubbornness. So I pick him up and, in one bound, leap to the very top level, landing just short of some exotic tropical plants. My word, this place is very similar to the Phantomhive greenhouse, in plant variety and atmosphere. We venture past the brush along the white, tiled path to a center where the stairs are connected. The elevator sits off to the side, covered by foliage. I look up and see some sort of a detail painted into the ceiling, not so unlike Michelangelo's Sistine chapel detail. The circular center of this landing is pristine and empty, save a few books thrown about. There's even a bench, where I bet the majesty had his sweetheart moments. We turn at the sound of labored panting to see the student arrive just at the top of the steps. His face is dripping sweat and he's looking at us surprised. I'm guessing he knew the elevator was broken.
I smile, "So glad you could join us."
"W-Wow, you gents sure are something!" He laughs, a little embarrassed.
"Did you come here to deliver something?" Young master points at the parcel the student is carrying, "Whoever for? There's no one here."
That was a clear lie. Demons have the ability to sense the presence of souls. I could smell a human hiding near the bench inside the box-like receptacle. Young master is gauging the situation a little. If the student is on an errand, it will likely be for the little stowaway. If not, then the little person hiding doesn't belong here.
"Oh, right, I nearly forgot! Victorique! Hey, it's Kujo! You can come out!" He, Kujo, walks over to the box and pries open the slat opening, "There you are!"
A book flies out and hits him squarely in the jaw, knocking him back a few steps. As he is recovering, the top of the cubbord pops open and a petite, blonde girl with the most peculiar turquoise-green eyes clambers out. She is clad in a frilly, monochrome Victorian dress.
"Kujo, you revealed me! Who's the tall, black and midget?" She says in smooth French to the Oriental. I'm surprised she didn't bother lowering her voice. What a foul little lady.
"Victorique, be nice!"
"Last time you introduced me to that farting newt-"
"S-So, I'm Kujo Kazuya, heh," The boy, Kujo, smiles a little nervously as he tries to introduce us, "This is Victorique du Blois. She's a student here too. Victorique, these two are traveling from Switzerland! They're, um..."
"Milady, this is my master, Ciel," I bow slightly, "I am his humble butler, Sebastian. We have come to partake in this legendary structure's gifts."
"Mysterious. You didn't give any surnames. I'm going to assume you're not so noble as you pretend," She produces a small pipe from her dress and clamps down on it, "Am I wrong?"
I leave the answer hanging. The young master does not attempt to answer either. He briskly gives me his coat.
"Any child can play detective," His eyes lay on the bench, where a single chess piece lay, trapped between boards, "But can you play the games of adults?"
"Huh!" She expels some sort of vapor that isn't tobacco, "Dare you challenge me, little bunny?"
"W-What?" The young master recoils at the belittling name, exclaiming in English. I clamp a hand over my mouth quickly, but a snort still manages to be heard, "S-Shut up, you! What did you just call me?!"
"Oh, I see the bunny knows English," She smirks, "You want chess? I'll show you how inexperienced that tiny brain of yours is compared to a human."
"Still think I'm a rabbit, eh?" The young master brusquely thrusts me his coat and cane, "I'll show you just how bad you dropped that clanger."
The boy, Kujo, opens a chess set retrieved from the secret compartment in the receptacle. He seems familiar with this place. I assume he and the girl, Victorique, convene here often. He sets it before the bench, on a small folding table. He's about to look for a chair, but I stop him. I carry a collapsible chair in the suitcase for all purposes, usually for when the bratty young master complains of knee pain or some other trivial thing that I'm sure is just make-believe.
"You may fall flat on your face if you bark so viciously simply because you're miffed," I whisper into his ear as he takes his seat.
"Get stuffed, you prat. I'll show this gobby wazzock."
Kujo sets out a timer dutifully and the game begins. I say, I've seen the young master excel at games, but less so now that he's a demon and he tires of human entertainment. This game feels different. This Victorique has a strange look in her eye as she matches his moves, piece for piece. I feel myself almost hoping she wins. But then again, I'd have to be the one to deal with his tantrum after. His poker face is immaculate, however. What I wouldn't give to see him despair over close defeat!
While he is contemplating a move, the young miss' eyes fixate on his gold signet ring. I don't know why, but he requested I bring the ring along when we initially left the manor for good. When we arrived to auspicious areas, he seemed to favor wearing them as some sort of silly show of status. I wish he'd get rid of them. It's much too conspicuous of an accessory.
"That's quite an antique ring you have there," Her words make his hand twitch slightly, "I'm not sure I recognize the crest, but I know one of Victoria's court when I see one."
"... Is that so?" He looks on at the game board, his voice indifferent, "It's just a ring."
"An incredibly rare type, I might add. The ring of nobles in the queen's court had specially made rings to stamp their seals on."
He does not make any further statement, and the conversation dies there. The two re-immerse themselves in their game. Me and the Oriental boy look onward. I notice his gaze dart to me occasionally. After about two hours, the young master calls for a break and the timer is stopped.
"Ugh, sod it all..." He stretches and leans back on his chair, "I begin to tire of this game."
"Huh, perhaps your tiny brain can't handle the sheer amount of brainpower required for this game," The young lady takes out her pipe and looks to Kujo, "So, what did you bring me today?"
"Oh! Uh ..." The boy, caught off-guard, fumbles with the parcel which he bought in. He opens it to dramatically reveal a colorful array of small treats, "It's wagashi!"
"... I'm guessing this is another teatime snack," The girl sighs, "Get on with it. Tea takes over half an hour to prepare at the very least."
"Huh?! Why can't you just eat it as you usually do?! Well you're going to have to make do with water, because I don't-"
"My, my, how thoughtless of me," I kneel and open my suitcase, "The game was so engrossing I utterly forgot about the young master's elevenses..."
I produce a tea tin of Darjeeling. It's largely stale by now, since the young master drinks only New Moon Drop, but I carry it around for emergencies.
"Would you mind fetching me the water?" I look to Kujo, "Joint teatime seems like a good segue from a friendly chess battle."
In about forty-five minutes, the three adolescents, one of them a demanding, ungrateful demon, are sitting on a blanket put out on the floor with tea and snacks. Kujo sips the tea appreciatively.
"Mm, western tea has a really different taste to Japan's! I've never put milk in mine before though..."
"My sincerest apologies," I bow, "Shall I pour you a fresh cup?"
"No, no, it's fine..."
"Kujo! This one's shaped like a rabbit!" The young lady passionately shoves a piece of the snack in his face to show him.
"Yes, I know ..." Kujo tries to wave her away, "Victorique, you'll make me spill my tea!"
"Hmf. What's the point of this anyway?" She looks at the bunny-like snack apprehensively. Then she turns to the young master, "You haven't eaten even one."
"... I don't care for sweets," His voice has an irritable edge. He cannot taste the tea or the food, after all. It's all a pointless game of pretend.
"Ugh …" Victorique flops down all of a sudden, "The deathly boredom is coming again..."
"Already?!" Kujo jumps, "Well, why don't you resume the game?"
"... I think we've both lost interest."
The young master's silence is taken as agreement. Just then, the striking of shoes on the stairs echoes through the floor. A man in a white suit, with the most ridiculous drill-shaped hair, arrives to the top, out of breath.
"Detective Grevil!" The Oriental boy leaps to his feet, "What's wrong?"
"Damn that broken elevator …huff," He wheezes, pulling himself upright with difficulty, "Victorique! Baby Squirrel!"
The girl's lips form the slightest smirk. "You're in an awful rush."
"... This is urgent. Father has assigned this."
She tenses. I see that this bloke and she are siblings. Still, of what matter may they be discussing? To my disappointment, he discloses a scrap of paper and hands it to Victorique. He eyes us from the side suspiciously as he waits for her to read it.
"... And who might you be? You're not students."
"Ah, forgive us," I bow slightly, with that disarming smile I have used as a mask for so long, "We came here believing it open to those who wished to see such a beautiful relic."
"Huh!" Grevil, as Kujo just called him, looks me up and down. I can see he is slightly put off by my manner as well as our style of dress, "What, did you come from a funeral or something?"
"Grevil," The girl throws the documents on the floor, having finished in such an amazingly short span of time, "This is ridiculous. You expect me to believe this is real?"
"I assure you, that was a report written by the commission! And proofread by the Ministry!"
"Fancy. Pure fantasy. There's no rational way the events chain up."
"... What's this about?" The young master suddenly says. I cannot say for sure he sounded intrigued.
"I don't see why you should care," The gentleman pulls at his drill-shaped pompadour without eyeing the young master, "If you're foreigners-"
Grevil's eyes snap at Victorique, who just disclosed the information so casually. Classified information, a mystery at hand, oh my ...
I sense the slightest of movement from the young master from the mention of 'murder.' I feel a sneer rise to my lips. You little fool. A chase still excites you to no end. What better game for a watchdog, trained by the queen herself, to sniff out such criminals? His instinct will not be dulled so easily, even if a century were to pass.
"I have experience in Scotland Yard's work," The young master folds his hands before him, smiling, "I'm sure I can be of service."
"Victorique! These people-!"
"If father wants this solved, I want compensation. These two," She looks at us, "They will be the temporary opiate for the boredom sure to come."
Opiate for boredom? She speaks in such a strange way, though it's not as hard as Shakespeare. I bow deeply. "We will be glad to be of any help to you, if at all."
Grevil grits his teeth and picks up the files in silence. He starts down the stairs without another word. Victorique sighs, flopping backward onto her dress, which is splayed about her like a puddle.
"Did you, by any chance … memorize those documents?" I inquire lightly. Never before have I seen a human accomplish such a thing. Usually, I do all the memorizing for the young master's schedule and details.
"Mhm..." She yawns, "It's nothing, really. Just a bunch of fancies. My father is pulling my leg."
"... Why did you ask for us?"
"Boredom is the greatest killer," She responds simply, "The little bunny rabbit here has proven himself able to communicate at a human level. I will have my fun."
I chuckle inward. She has taken interest to the demonic master, likely for his intellect. I do say, she seems likely to have been surrounded by dullards to be so desperate for entertainment. This 'father' figure they speak of is an enigma. I glance at the Oriental. He seems to be the only one she allows close to her … or even the only one of this school to know of her.
"Fantasy or not. If it's a murder..." The young master picks up a chess piece and fingers its contours, "... it will be solved."
"I have today's paper!" The Oriental boy fishes out a rumpled newspaper, "Maybe the murder is in here!"
"If the Ministry's involved," Victorique says, deep in thought, "I'd say not."
There is nothing written of a murder in the news. In the obituaries, however, one name catches the girl's eye.
"Him!" She immediately puts a finger on the print, "He was the one listed as the victim in the file."
"Ugolin Marchessault … renowned Swiss occultist?" The young master's nose wrinkles slightly at the mention of the occult, "'Found dismembered in his 'laboratory' here in Sauville. Cause of death was decapitation.'"
Victorique interrupts his reading, "He was cleanly dismembered. No hesitation or kerf marks."
The young master bats his eye, "So?"
"Unless the weapon were able to deliver such force, like a guillotine, there is no way to have caused that death. And that likeliness is impossible, because the room he was in was not big enough for a guillotine."
"His bones were cleanly cut too?"
"Yes. Like he was made of butter. The report I received stated he died in that room. Which is where another problem arises in this story."
Kujo looks over the young master's shoulder, "'A break-in?!'"
"Yes. The room he was in was in a secure vault inside his house. It was protected by 3 inches of solid steel. Yet, like Ugolin, the door was cut through as well."
"..." The young master seems lost in thought.
"Also," Victorique continues, propping her head up on her elbows, "He was verified by his doctor to have been in the office for a check-up around his alleged time of death. Only about a 30 minute difference really. And in that time was when he got back to the place where he was murdered. No one in the streets saw some military weapon."
"Given the circumstances, I'd say the perpetrator was using a high power weapon, but one beyond the capabilities of those distributed by the public. Safe to say, the military has the capacity to develop such weapons, although ..." She lapses into pause, "There hasn't been news even hinting at such technological advancement."
This rouses the memories of long before this time, long before the young master became a demon. When he was still human, we had an assignment from the devil in Prada herself, Queen Victoria. In the forests of Germany, we stumbled upon German military experiments telling of the many horrors mankind is capable of. Sarin gas and Panzer tanks, to name a few, were so powerful and advanced in weaponry that had we not destroyed those early prototypes, perhaps the First World War may have gone a different course. Perhaps the Germans would have been able to advance further had it not been for the inconvenience we caused. At the time, Great Britain had only begun experimenting with land weaponry like the tank, so it's safe to say defeat would have been certain. Listen to me prattle though. If the Central Powers had won, maybe the world would be different. It may have become the Hell I've longed for so long. Babysitting this brat has made me long even for that cat-less inferno of a place I call home.
"Well what the bloody hell are we standing around for?"
We turn to look to the young master, who has a most amusing face on. One familiar from the days of Scotland Yard and mystery and nobles.
"Let's get moving. The scene of the crime awaits us."