Probably the quickest update I've ever had for this fic even though my life decided to completely SUCK for a few days there. Seriously! LIFE! Why must you spit on me, like, all the time? 11 hours of homework in one night is NOT OKAY. EVER.
Anyway. Who's ready for more fanservice? Because, oh baby, more fanservice is on its way. PLANS. I HAS THEM.
"Sebastian..." Ciel said.
He was sitting in his study, Sebastian by the door with a silver tray in his hands.
A large clock pounded in Ciel's ears again and again as the pendulum swung. Each count was marked by the roving second hand, demarcating the slow, inexorable passage of time. This was torture, trying to accomplish work while waiting for tomorrow to come.
Sebastian waited for him to continue. Finally, Ciel sighed.
"How do I win?" he asked.
"You're asking me, Boccan?" Sebastian asked, lips curling. "Me, out of every living or quasi-living thing on Earth?"
Ciel narrowed his eyes. "You know exactly why I'm asking you," he snapped.
Sebastian had an undeniable way about him that lured in women easily, often carelessly. Ciel was 'cute', unfortunately, and while that alone was enough to become popular at the Host Club, it wasn't enough to seal the deal and win tomorrow's contest for Ciel. He needed an unquestionable victory. He needed a strategy.
He steepled his fingers thoughtfully, staring his infuriating butler down while he waited for an answer.
Sebastian finally chuckled. "Of course, my young lord. I may be able to think of an idea or two. But I'm afraid you might not like all of them..."
"The ends justify the means, Sebastian," Ciel said. "I need a solid win. Now do I have to command you to help me, or will you do as I ask?" He was burning with impatience.
"Of course, Young Master."
Sebastian was right. Ciel didn't like the ideas.
But they were sure to work, if Ciel played his cards just right. Everything had already been set up in the host club and amongst the club-goers, intentionally or not. Sebastian intuitively knew how best to arrange these sorts of things, which had placed Ciel in an advantageous position. Now all that was left to do would be to reap the fruits of all of that labor.
After the nondisclosure agreements were signed, a marvel of the 21st Century that Ciel found highly convenient, then the fun would begin. Nothing would stop Ciel from winning. Not even the host club could compete with what he had in store for the ladies tomorrow.
But after plotting through the night, Ciel finally ushered Sebastian to collect the pages of notes and destroy them. There was no more need of them anymore. And as Sebastian swept from the study, Ciel rose to his feet and turned to the large window behind the desk. It was black as pitch outside, and he could see his reflection in the glass like a mirror.
He already looked a bit unlike himself. A bit older, maybe. Just enough to pass for a teenager, but he still looked too young to attend Ouran Academy. But tomorrow, he doubted if he would even recognize himself. It had to be done, much as Ciel was loathe to do it. He turned, just as Sebastian returned with a small black case in his hands.
"This is all I have to do?" Ciel asked.
Sebastian gave him a curt nod. "Yes. But it will not be easy," he warned. Sebastian set the case on the desk and opened it, turning it enough for Ciel to see inside. "Will this one do, my lord?"
Morning came all too quickly, and class seemed to fly by, much to Ciel's dismay. He dreaded what was going to happen next. Compounding this was the gleeful expressions on the twins' faces.
Haruhi asked once what they were so excited about. Ciel could only sigh, while Sebastian explained the short version of what had transpired in the final few minutes of the previous host club meeting. A contest, he explained, where if Ciel does not attain a hundred requests today, the host club will visit the Phantomhive Manor. However, if Ciel won, there would be a host club day of his choosing.
"So what will you do if you win?" she asked.
Ciel shrugged. The conversation ended as quickly as it had begun.
Finally, it was time to head to the music room.
He kept his head up high and tried to keep from cringing from what would happen next. He didn't stop as he walked into the club that day. Tamaki was telling a story, dressed in his usual clothes, but he paused in it long enough to send a knowing grin to Ciel. Ciel smirked back, but not out of niceties. So that was how he was going to play it, was he?
Pretend that nothing was going on, and see what Ciel would do on a typical hosting day? Pretend there was no contest, so as not to sway the girls to one side or the other? Generous of him, but Ciel didn't need the handicap. He would win this just fine, regardless of what Tamaki could throw at him.
He went straight for the dressing room. Behind him, Sebastian balanced a large bag in one hand and a box in the other. Girls watched him pass, and a few got up to follow as if lured by the pied piper himself.
The door shut behind the two, and it was silent, save for the rusting of large quantities of fabric, soft grunts, and the pulling of strings. He looked at himself one last time in the mirror, hands clenching tightly.
He hated this so much. But this was sure to work, and if it didn't Ciel always had a backup plan or two in his sleeve. Not that he really had much sleeve to speak of anymore.
"It's time," he said to Sebastian.
Sebastian smiled and opened the door, escorting Ciel out into the main room. Jaws dropped, Ciel was pleased to note. Actually dropped, with girls staring at him with mouths agape and eyes wide.
And why wouldn't they? Ciel was captivating. If yesterday had made him so popular, then why shouldn't going even further only serve to make him even more popular? Which is why Ciel finally agreed to this.
He wore a dress once more, this one a black and white vision of ruffles and lace, fitted to his body with yet another corset, and with longer, fuller hair extensions that mirrored the long hairstyle he had worn the first time he had been so unfortunate as to have to wear a dress. Where yesterday he had been merely 'cute', today he was drop dead gorgeous, and Ciel knew it. Flaunted it. Wobbled every now and again in the towering heeled boots, but working the dress from every angle he knew.
Behind him, Sebastian chuckled.
Ciel turned and shot him a dangerous look. "Something funny, Sebastian?" he asked quietly.
"Nothing, my lord," Sebastian said, hiding his mouth with his hand. He looked away, but it was clear that he was still amused. "Or should I say, lady?"
"Ciel! You're so pretty!" a girl said, preventing Ciel from saying anything.
"I thought you didn't like cosplay," another said.
Ciel struggled to put on a demure expression. "I don't, really. But I remembered how much you seemed to like it when I dressed like this, and I wanted to thank you ladies for being so understanding yesterday, so I thought you might like it if I wore something like this..."
"My young master is so thoughtful today," Sebastian mused. Ciel watched him from the corner of his eye. Sebastian was an excellent actor of course, so Ciel doubted he had much to worry about. So long as Sebastian did as he was told, and Ciel could keep the bile in his throat down until he got his chance, today would go smoothly without a hitch, and no one would come and visit his mansion. Not only that, but he would win a free pass to do as he pleased one day. What that day would be spent doing, Ciel had yet to determine.
But having it would give Ciel an edge.
A gloved hand patted the top of his head, mindful of the small hat and two long, flowing ponytails. Something about the gesture made the girls look on with a flicker of excitement. Maybe it was the way Sebastian's hand lingered a moment too long, or how, when his eyes met Ciel's, his lips curled slightly, tenderly, almost with a certain fondness.
"Sebastian, are you dressed up, too?" one of the girls asked, noting the black tailcoat he wore in place of the usual blue suit that did not suit him at all.
"Of course he is," Ciel said. "He's dressed as my tutor, and propriety dictates that it's perfectly acceptable for a young lady to be escorted around by her tutor."
The girls looked delighted. "I can't believe it," one giggled. "You look like you're going to a ball!"
Ciel fanned himself with a small silk fan he held in one hand, a pretty little thing bedecked in ribbons. "I do, don't I? But it is so boring, being a lady. There's hardly anything fun to do besides sit and talk. Maybe it would be nicer if I really was going to a ball," he said, smiling pointedly at Sebastian. "Dancing, music, it'd be so... interesting, wouldn't it?"
Interesting being a word for it. Revolting being another. Ciel quieted these thoughts as Sebastian nodded thoughtfully.
"Does the young mistress wish to dance?" he asked.
Ciel pretended to think about it for a moment, then extend a hand towards the girl nearest him. Her eyes grew wide and let Ciel take her by the hand and spin through the room, despite the lack of music. Sebastian hummed, but it was soft and only audible to those who had taken a seat close to the pair. He offered his hand to another customer and she took it, giggling excitedly. The pair spun alongside Ciel and his partner, forming a square that traded partners every so often.
It was a traditional dance, nothing too difficult, and the girls were easily able to keep up with the demons, laughing softly and seeming to enjoy spinning through the air.
Ciel caught a shocked look on Tamaki's face as they passed. Nearby, the twins were howling with laughter. Ciel almost stumbled when he noticed them, but pretended that he hadn't seen them and continued on.
More girls gathered around the section of the room where Ciel had taken up residence, asking questions of the girls who had seen the start of the show. They looked excited and eager, clamoring to be danced with next. There were perhaps twenty girls already, and the day had just begun. Ciel was beginning to feel confident.
He considered it a win every time another girl looked away from a member to watch them, a dreamy expression on her face. Some watched the handsome face of Sebastian, his slight smirk and the smooth grace with which he led the dance. Others watched Ciel spin tirelessly across the floor, hair spinning out behind him and dress lifting enough to appear fuller than before.
And then the music started, and Ciel almost fell flat on his face. Both paused in their dancing, girls stumbling, to turn and face the source. Tamaki had taken a seat in front of a grand piano that Ciel could have sworn was not in the room before. But, music room, it was to be expected, wasn't it? Tamaki's fingers danced across the keys in their own version of the waltz as he teased a beautiful song out of the piano. Ciel hadn't even known he could play.
"Dance on, Lady Phantomhive," Tamaki laughed, continuing the song. Ciel growled under his breath as some of the girls looked away from him to watch Tamaki play. And why shouldn't they? They loved the way his fingers moved smoothly over the black and white keys, the way his blue eyes half-closed and wavered, slowly closing the further he slipped into the music, the way he lost himself under the spell he wove over the room.
They started dancing again, but the magic was lost to Tamaki, as a few other girls started to dance as well, and host club members led them around the room, trading partners after only seconds.
After a few minutes, Ciel feigned exhaustion to sit in his chair, and a group of girls, larger than usual, sat beside him immediately. Sebastian bowed away from the girl, and she followed him as he took his place by Ciel's side.
"Dancing is so tiring," Ciel sighed, pretending to wipe sweat from his brow.
"Doesn't Tamaki play so beautifully?" a girl asked, her voice distant and dreamy.
"He does, he does," the others agreed.
One, a loyal customer who had stayed close to Ciel from the very beginning, piped up, "Sebastian, doesn't Ciel play an instrument? Violin, right?"
"He does, in fact," Sebastian said. Ciel had to bite his tongue to hold back the excitement. This was going better than he had planned. He had expected to have to find a way to bring this up himself. If someone commented on the lack of music, Sebastian was to suggest this himself. But it was very possible that the girls would do everything for them.
Everything was going perfectly.
Sebastian smiled generously. "In fact, the young master plays most beautifully. Some say the angels stop to listen..."
Ciel glared. "No. I haven't played in ages. I'm out of practice. I-I couldn't." He allowed his voice to waver slightly.
"But my young lord, you haven't touched your violin since the manor burned. Surely it is time to pick it up once more?"
The girls gasped as they remembered the significance of the violin from yesterday's tale. The ones who took notice tried to tell him he didn't need to play if he didn't want to. If the last time he had played had been the day that his parents had died, no one wanted to make him dredge up painful memories. All a lie, of course, but they had no idea.
"I- I don't know-" He colored his voice with doubt and did a fantastic job of it, if he did say so himself. He thought he caught a long, lingering glance from Kyouya, but decided the suspicion was purely his imagination. "No," he said suddenly. He steeled his resolve and curled his hands into fists. "I can do it. I- know I can."
"But your family-" one girl said, but she was quickly shushed by the others.
"My family is gone. Nothing I do will ever bring them back. Dwelling on their memories serves no real purpose, save making life a sad and sorry place. I can play. Sebastian, bring me my violin," he commanded. The girls looked to him in awe.
Sebastian bowed. "Yes, my lord," he said, before retrieving a black case. He placed it on the table in front of Ciel, and he opened it up with a small flourish. Ciel drew the bow and tightened the strings, passing it to Sebastian to finish the job. He reached into the case once more and pulled the instrument from its bed of velvet, placing it under his chin and reclaiming the bow.
Ciel listened to the song that Tamaki played, letting it echo through his head until he was sure he could follow along, and then he began to play.
At first he let the violin sing lurid and sweet, slow and sorrowful along with the piano's gentle song, watching Tamaki for his reaction. As soon as Tamaki heard, he opened his eyes and seemed less than surprised to see Ciel playing. In fact, Tamaki smiled and picked up the pace slightly, turning the graceful melody into something slightly faster and more energetic, as if he'd expected something like this to happen.
Ciel followed along in time. His demonic powers enhanced his hearing, his mind, and he could tear apart the song Tamaki played as fast as Tamaki could play it and rework it to something for himself. When Tamaki's music soared, he let the violin taper into the background, and when Tamaki lulled, he let his own sweet notes ring out high and clear and resoundingly full. It became a dance itself, this sort of give and take, and it swallowed the two of them whole.
The girls were thoroughly enchanted by the sight.
To one side of the room, there was the beautiful blond angel playing such sweet music on the piano, his fingers graceful and swift, unfaltering as they played on and on in that inexorable way. His feet pumped at the pedals as necessary, and he swayed just so with the music. He was innocent and beautiful, soft like the light of heaven falling from above.
To the other side of the room, there stood the seductive demon drawing from his devil's instrument the song that led youthful mortals to sin. This was the darkness, the unholy, the reason that the violin was once considered a work of pure evil. It was beautiful too, but it was dark and beguiling, and those it captivated it held trapped. His whole body swayed with the song, and the bow sang savagely over the strings.
It was too beautiful, filled with a bitter sort of sorrow that ripped deep down to the core of everything. Poignant, like a wish made iridescent under the luster of the moon, or a soft kiss on the cheek of the one you love as you say goodbye for the last time.
It was never being able to see someone again, no matter how long you lived. Pain, tragedy, agony, and anguish, bottled up and suddenly, violently released in a radiant explosion of tragedy. For a while, no one could bear to move, and those who could seemed to find the urge to dance irresistible.
And then there were those few who noticed the single tear that ran, shimmering, down Ciel's cheek, faintly blurring the lines of makeup.
Finally the never-ending song seemed to wind down, and girls found their eyes wet with tears, though none could quite decide why. Ciel let the violin fall from his shoulder, letting his whole body sag. Without looking at anyone, he put away the violin and left the room, and all any of the girls could talk about was Ciel.
When he finally returned, the makeup was pristine once more and his hair was perfectly styled after the mussing it had taken from dancing. A massive crowd of girls surrounded his chair. Sebastian swept behind him and carried him to his seat, and Ciel threw his arms around Sebastian's neck, though he knew Sebastian would never drop him.
Finally Sebastian lowered Ciel into his seat, and he sank into it immediately. The exhaustion was no act. Using so much demonic energy had sapped him nearly completely. His eye fluttered tiredly.
The violin had acted like a vector, suffusing the room and infecting a large number within it with Ciel's will. It made pulses race, palms sweat, emotions more easily influenced. It attracted them, like moths to an open flame, and it drew them closer to him.
But something of this magnitude had required several things in conjunction. Something to carry the spell was required, a sound, a particular aroma. And of course, their attention was required as well. Those who watched him the closest, those who stared at him in a dress, those who watched him dance or play, were the most infected by this. And, of course, the desire to do this. And it had required mass amounts of energy, of course. Something this large-scale would never be simple, not for a demon as young as Ciel.
A high cost, but the ends would justify all of the effort.
"The tear was a nice touch, boccan," Sebastian said quietly.
Ciel smirked. "I'm aware. Hmm, Sebastian," he murmured. "What is the official count?"
"One hundred and twenty two, my lord," Sebastian replied.
Ciel grinned to himself, closing his eye. "Looks like I win."
"I-impossible!" Tamaki said, looking down at his hands in shock. "How did he do it?"
"How could you lose, boss?" Hikaru asked.
"Yeah, you were supposed to keep him from winning!" Kaoru said.
Together, the twins chimed, "How could you let this happen?"
Kyouya came up behind them, closing his padfolio and resting it on the table under his fingers. "Simple, he managed to get the requests of over a hundred guests. How he accomplished this, well... That's still to be determined. It would seem that we severely underestimated The Queen's Guard Dog," Kyouya said silkily.
Tamaki narrowed his eyes in confusion. "What do you mean by that?"
Kyouya smirked, opened the folio, and withdrew an earmarked page from within. This he laid on the table. The three crowded around it, jostling to read it.
"Ciel is..." Tamaki said.
"Whoa," the twins said.
Kaoru looked up first. "So... are we still going to visit him?"
"Of course!" Tamaki announced, thrusting a finger into the air in a valiant pose.
"So, young master," Sebastian said. "Do you have plans yet about what to do with your prize?"
Ciel grinned, drumming his fingertips softly against the desk of his study. "I might have an idea or two. But first, there are more important things to attend to."
Thank you, Paxloria for the mention of demon power induced trances :) Several others provided inspiration and foreshadowing, but you'll be credited fully when your ideas are played out all the way through! Thanks to you too!
In light of the awesome Black Butler Book of Circus arc of the anime (which is the main reason I'm updating like nobody's business), I was wondering, which Kuro ginger do you prefer? Drocell or Joker? Remember, Drocell is the one who made the dolls and sang London Bridges. Joker is the one with the prosthetic hand and teardrop under his eye who led the circus. There's also Grell and Madam Red, isn't there? Let's throw 'em in too. Favorite red-head!