Actions

Work Header

The Many Contracts of Sebastian Michaelis [and other stories]

Chapter Text

The masters of Sebastian Michaelis have been many, and while each one may not be notable or their greatest wishes are insignificant and unimportant, they each taught him what it means to be human. But, these are the five most important ones.

i.
“ Young Beauty, in her gilded barge

Like Egypt’s haughty queen,

With graceful form is seen. ”

~

Egypt.

The first of many to come. He does recall her vividly, as if no time has passed between them. Every time he closes his eyes he can see the endless stretches of sand, The Nile River, and the extortion of slaves as they are worked to death to build the great pyramids that house the bodies of their rulers. Truly a golden age filled with prosperity and the promise of a young nation that could grow into an empire. And just like this civilization, he is young too. Foolish, reckless, and impatient.

His first prey’s wish is simple. A queen will construct promised lands and will resurrect her people from ash and bone, and she yearns for that sort of power. And, so, he grants her that desire. She is young, indeed, and shouldn’t have any trouble catching the eye of the young prince, but just to make sure he doesn’t choose someone younger and prettier, his queen commands him to feast upon their young hearts and soft flesh. Like a beast, he claws through those honey-skinned and ebony-haired girls who had dreams like her. They’re buried now, wrapped in fine strips of linen, with the embrace of the sun’s heat and the changing seasons as their companions. Though his queen ordered him to feast to his heart’s desire - ironic, considering he has no beating heart nor soul - he is not satisfied and the emptiness inside his stomach is still there, a gaping wound that is beginning to fester and ooze. They tasted sweet, at least, but the pleasure he got from it was thin as gruel. It’s cruel of his queen to tease him so, when her soul smells so divine, her body bathed with scented salts and liquids.

Her subjects worship her as a goddess, praying to gods who do not exist, such fools. Even he is not immune to her wiles though, and a plethora of sins run through his veins every time he lays his eyes on her form beneath linen sheets. She is a gift from the sun, and his desire turns molten whenever she ghosts her fingers over his skin or whispers soft, seductive words into his ear. Her plaited hair is woven with lotuses and golden ribbons, while a diadem of gems adorns her head. Kohl-lined eyes follow his every movement, opulent in their extreme shade, so startling in their dark amber hue that he swears sometimes he can feel them pressing into him - melding with his blood and instilling a song into his still heart, like an uninvited plague.

How quickly the world fades away when he feels true pleasure for the first time, how easily the ground gives way beneath his feet - the air tightening around him, claustrophobic, and existence melting into a mesh of darkness. A flare has sparked, a flame has grown and will soon erupt, soon engulf and consume - devour, and he wants to be there to witness it.

Vermilion eyes, in return, track every gasp, every sound that she breathes through parted lips, and his pupils dilate with a savage, almost feral desire to consume - she is a monster, a seductress, a cruel trick of the mind; her very existence was meant to be his god. She is supposed to entice him, to draw him in closer, to reward and trick and hurt him. Infatuation soon takes hold of his youthful mind and he is enraptured, subdued by the mere sight of the tragically beautiful creature before him. She has to be made from the world’s most grandiose materials; for she is a marbled piece of perfection. So captivated is he that all he can see is an ethereal being - worthy of rivaling Lilith, the Queen and mother of all his kind - and sometimes, for just a moment, he forgets that she is not eternal, that she is just mortal. How stupid he is. How weak, naive, innocent, unassuming . . . starry-eyed he is by her.

Too soon is their time together ended, the final act, the calamitous hit of a tsunami right as it impacts the land, the crescendo of a tragic melody. His hunger is all too consuming, and he relishes in the taste of her soul, heady and seductive as sin and sweet as candy. When he’s finished with her, and her body is lying limp in his arms, he realizes what he has done to his beloved. Regret is instant as it colors his senses, followed by pain and grief, but these new found emotions are soon buried, as he doesn’t want to be reminded of who he killed.

She will forever remain as one of his favorites; as she is his Eternal Queen.

ii.

“ And my tears fell

Like, white rice grains

At my feet. ”

~

China.

The girl who summons him next in a time of desperation and crisis is neither beautiful to behold or anything special. She is much younger than his queen, and seems to be still but a child. Her request is simple and foolish: to get her father’s farm out of debt and to help nurse him back to health, as he’s been plagued by a terrible, unknown disease and is slowly making his way towards Death’s icy clutches. He doesn’t patronize her for her idiotic wish, but his smirk is mocking and cynical, as he asks her if that is what she truly wants, and she assures him with a serious expression. Who would give up their life for something so insignificant? Had he been her, he would’ve chosen riches or power or vengeance, something selfish and greedy, as from what he’s seen, are exactly what humans are.

She is brave, to say the least, and she shows no hesitation when she shakes his hand, signing her soul away to the devil, and he finds himself admiring that in the young girl. The first part is easy enough, he can create gold with a wave of his hand, and this is done in mere seconds, but unlike his queen, who had fear flickering in her eyes as she promised him her soul, this girl doesn’t even flinch. She’s already accepted that her death will be here in a matter of days. An odd human indeed.

The next part is a bit harder, as he has to make sure her father is kept alive while at the same time researching for a cure, but it’s nothing a demon like him can’t accomplish. He expects this to be done quickly, but it takes longer than expected, months instead. From the start, he witnesses firsthand what the young girl goes through in a single day. Because her father is ill, and her mother is dead, she’s the one to rise before her three younger brothers, prepare the morning meal, wake them up and get them changed, head out and make sure the rice fields are doing well, feed the ox, begin harvesting what rice is ready with the ox as her partner, go to the market to sell what she’s collected, clean and sweep the hut, make dinner, get her brothers ready for bed, stay up until midnight separating what little money she’s gotten in preparation for taxes and future visits to the market for food, and then finally tuck herself into bed. Sebastian offers to do all the work for her, but she refuses, stating that he should dedicate all his time and energy on taking care of her father and finding the right herbal remedy to give to him.

In the first few months, he doesn’t see much of her, as she’s often extremely busy and never bothers to call out for him. It’s baffling behavior to say the least. He doesn’t understand why she won’t just let him help her, especially when she has infinite power in her grasp. He’s but a well-trained dog on a leash, and she never bothers to exert his power onto others. Surely, a human can’t be that selfless. One day, he confronts her with his calculated questions, and to his surprise, she answers them.

She tells him that there is no human that is truly selfless, and that she doesn’t think that she’s selfless in the least bit. It’s not shocking news for him, but what she says next does manage to surprise him, which is rare in itself. Humans in general may not look similar and might have different personalities, but they were the same deep down. They complained and groaned about life not being fair, when in fact they were the reason everything was so unfair. Emperors weren’t always good, just, and wise leaders and sometimes abused their power. Nobles weren’t known for their charity. Even the poor were selfish, starved hounds fighting for the meager scraps thrown down to them. Expectations of people, envy of their own kin and other humans, and expectations of their own were what soft humans endured every single day. Corruption from their narcissism and greed blinded them. But, however challenging it was, there were still victories, she explains. They could still win, and beat their own demons.

When she has finished speaking, she turns away from him and goes back to work, leaving him speechless. It isn’t an explanation of the reasoning behind her contract formed with him, but he soon finds that she doesn’t need to say anything more. She’s proven herself a worthy master, and he finds with each passing day that he examines her closer. He watches her every move like a hawk, and if she ever feels his presence nearby, she never says. Sometimes he simply watches her work in the fields, and other times he watches her interact with her siblings; she doesn’t smile much, but every so often a genuine one appears.

He soon finds himself wondering where she disappears to in the late afternoon every other day, and so he follows her one day. He finds her in the bamboo forest, concealed by the thick leaves and green stalks. She’s just staring up at them, a content expression on her usually placid face. Her bun has fallen out, and her dark hair flies freely, tangling up in the wind. She doesn’t seem surprised when she notices him standing nearby, and turns to him with an unfamiliar look on her face. It’s filled with emotion, and he realizes a moment too late that tears have begun streaming down her face in rivers. No sounds come from her, and it doesn’t look she’s choking back any inhuman screams, but he still examines her warily, just to be sure.

He approaches her cautiously, almost as if he is afraid of scaring her away, but she’s still and firm as the bamboo stalks around her. There are no words exchanged, but he freezes as she throws her arms around him and buries her face into his chest. He doesn’t know whether to push her away or let her have her way with him. He decides on another option, and slowly wraps his arms around her small body. She’s suddenly such a fragile and delicate thing that he could break easily, but she somehow manages to retain some of her calmness and even temperament. It’s impressive to say the least, and because he’s feeling bold, he tells her so. That gets a soft chuckle out of her, and when she pulls away, he finds himself feeling strangely remorseful.

The only thing she says is that she’s been coming here since she was very young, with her mother, and that if he ever finds himself stressed or angry that he’s welcome to come here and relax. It’s a kind, but unnecessary offer. She leaves him alone with his thoughts and feelings, and he’s wondering if maybe he misjudged her. Sebastian is rarely ever wrong, but it doesn’t mean he’s always right. He makes mistakes too.

Time quickly passes by, and his research is soon to be a success. He’s managed to keep her father’s health well enough that he’s conscious, although he sleeps for most of the day, and the debts have been paid off long before. There is a change in the way he treats her, and in the way she treats him. She’s more open, and much much chattier. He never realized such a reserved person could hold in so many words. It isn’t annoying or anything, and in fact, furthers his curiosity about humans. Her little rants are usually about some intriguing thing she discovered while outside in the rice field or she’s complaining about her brothers. Either way, he finds himself thoroughly enjoying their conversations, and at first, he’s simply the listener, but soon, she encourages him to engage as well. She’ll ask on a daily basis how close he is to finding a cure, and he’ll answer in great detail. She amuses him to no end, and finds that she’s contradicting herself.

She is selfless, and it makes him chuckle to remember how she denied it profusely. She’s one of the most selfless masters he’s ever served. She usually gives up her meals for her brothers, gives away what little money she has to the less fortunate, thinks about other people all the time, and constantly strives to take care of her father too, despite the fact that it’s Sebastian’s job. He can see the care in her every action, and comes to realize why she asked to form a contract with him. A daughter’s duty is to her family, and because it’s the only thing she’s been taught, she does it diligently and skillfully, with honor and dignity. Her love to her father, to her family, is great. It is overflowing, a cup filled to its brim, and she always seems to have more stored somewhere. He notices that she never asks for anything in return, and at times, this angers him. Sometimes, he just wants to strangle that father of hers, who doesn’t seem at all grateful that his daughter is doing this all for him. He’s rude, boorish, and obnoxious, at least to Sebastian.

For the first time in years, he finds himself drifting away from his duties. He tries to do her work for her, almost acting like her guardian. At first, she doesn’t seem to mind, but one day, she has had enough. It’s the only time he will ever and has seen her angry. She yells at him for failing, for not listening to her orders, and he takes it silently and solemnly. His apology is genuine, and his shame is unmasked. For the second time, he finds himself caring for another human. It’s not love or lust, it’s different. He feels protective of this strange girl, and with each passing day, he finds himself dreading the day he’ll have to take her soul. He can’t believe that he ever thought her foolish.

She doesn’t say that she accepts his apology and forgives him, and instead stares at him for a long while in silence, before turning and walking back into the hut. A week later, she finally speaks to him again and simply asks him to accompany her brothers and her to the Moon Festival, where a small celebration is being held in her village. It’s nothing big or elaborate, but the lights and decorations fascinate Sebastian, and he is in awe. He’s curious to learn about their culture, and while he can’t eat mortal food, finds himself taking in all the fragrant and bizarre scents that are all so new to him, and storing them to memory. His sharp senses do a good job at that, and soon he can pick apart each individual one. His favorite would have to be the lotus seed paste moon cake, which happens to also be her favorite. She gets cakes for her brothers too, and as they scurry off, filled with excitement, she purchases her own moon cake and breaks it open, offering half to him. He would politely decline, but refusal doesn’t seem to be an option, so he accepts it. It’s her way of saying that she forgives him, and that brings a small smile to his face. She takes the time to savor hers, quietly eating, while he just breathes in his cake’s sweet scent. The flowery smell is overwhelming, but it doesn’t completely overtake the cake, and if he focuses enough, he can catch a whiff of caramelized sugar and vegetable oil. For the rest of the night, they watch the festival go on and people interact with their families. This village, this country is peaceful, and he wishes he could stay here forever.

Three days later, he’s concocted the cure, and just in time, for her father has been fading away. He slowly nurses her father back to health, and on the last day, he approaches the girl with a heavy heart. She’s already said her goodbyes, having hugged her father and brothers earlier, and is waiting. There is no fear in her dark eyes, no protest on her lips, no quaking in her knees. She’s a sacrificial lamb ready to be slaughtered to the hungry beast - which is him - and it pains him when she rushes forward to hug him once last time. Needles seem to be pricking his dead heart, and he feels cold. It’s her quiet “thank you” whispered into his ear that finally breaks him. He doesn’t cry, isn’t able to, but there is obvious misery in his fuchsia gaze. He doesn’t want to do this; can’t bring himself to go through with this task, but her reassuring hand on his arm gives him the strength to. Her smile is tight, and wavers for a moment, before she closes her eyes and lets out a shaky breath.

“I’ll make it as quick and painless as possible,” he tells her softly, and she surprises him again by laughing.

“Do whatever you want,” she says. “It doesn’t matter to me.”

His own smile is wry. “Always so uncaring, especially of your own well being,” he comments.

Her smile widening is the only response he ever gets, and as he takes her soul, he finally allows himself to think it: she is special, she has always been beautiful, maybe not in appearance, but in spirit, and he will never forget her, never.

She is a special memory of his, a bittersweet one, and he treasures the tender love he felt for her, the one of a parent; as she will always be his Little Bamboo.

iii.

“ Until that awful hour be here,

You cannot say at midnight drear:

‘ I am your equal, O my King! ’ ”

~

Someone across the Atlantic Ocean.

This certainly has to be shortest time he’s ever had a master, for the task is completed within a matter of minutes. He’s summoned in extremely cramped quarters, and almost hits his head on the low hanging wooden beams, ducking just in time. Who knows where he is now. He can only hope that this doesn’t take long, because he’s just looking for a quick snack. A dark-skinned man chained to a post, shirtless and gaunt with malnutrition is peering up at him. Sebastian is quick to figure out that this is the man who has chosen to forsaken his gods and call forth a demon of hell. Bowing low at the waist, he stares down at the man with an inscrutable gaze and asks what he requests. The man has obviously been thinking about this for a while, and his answer is easy to dish out. Revenge. The sweet, sickly desire to make his captors pay for what they’re condemning him and hundreds more to in this very floating vessel. America, he says, is not a country that serves freedom and equality between all men, despite what it promises. It’s all a lie, a gilded country with paint chipping off.

The demonic entity reassures him that vengeance is something that can be guaranteed, but the man is not done. He’s human, which means he’s selfish, and selfish people rarely think about others. He wants him to sink the ship. Sebastian’s eyebrows raise as he scrutinizes the man. His reasoning behind it is most definitely greedy. He knows that he can’t just command the demon to send all these captured people to America, and he doubts he could sent them back home either. What he doesn’t know is that Sebastian could probably get them back to their countries in a flash, but because the man doesn’t ask, he doesn’t answer. In the end, his plans are fruitless, they won’t get him anywhere, but he believes that death by nature’s elements is a more honorable way to depart this world, and so the contract is struck.

Sebastian doesn’t even know the man’s name, nor does he care. As he departs, and makes his way towards the deck, he pauses for a moment to look around. Men, women, children are all chained to posts or the walls, their gazes desolate and sad. He narrows his eyes, and they widen momentarily as he sees the dull way they regard him, barely acknowledging his presence, the fight having long since been put out. This is what true brokenness and defeat looks like. He’s staring right at it, and though it doesn’t outwardly look like it bothers him, he’s shaken on the inside. It’s like peering into a mirror, and seeing only your reflection staring incredulously back. They are empty dolls who’ve been put on the shelf and forgotten about. They’re insignificant, unimportant, inferior; mere objects in the eyes of their kidnappers. It infuriates him, starts a blaze that grows and grows until it’s an inferno threatening to explode. He knows what it’s like to be chained, to be held captive, to follow orders, but the only difference is that these people are going to be forced into it.

With new found purpose, he storms onto the deck, and strikes, not with the calculated precision of a snake, but with the strength and wrath of a great leviathan. It is a beautiful, bloody dance, its very own Dia De Los Muertos. A waltz of skeletons, a foxtrot of corpses, a tango of the dead, all to the rhythm of his macabre display of power and agility; it is truly the dance of death, The Danse Macabre. There is a red haze clouding his mind, but his keen vision and acute hearing can pick apart every single sight and sound. He relishes in the sickeningly satisfying sound of bones snapping, the sight of their pupils dilating with fear, their melodious screams of agony - a cherished song in his ears. After all, he’s a beast, and so he enjoys every single moment of it. The acrid, metallic scent of blood permeates the air, suffocating it. He surely could’ve done a neater job, but it’s not that often when he gets to stretch his ancient muscles, and the delicious satisfaction he gets from it is wanton. Cracking his neck - the sound of bones grating against each other is music - he surveys the carnage around him. He can hardly care for the bloody corpses littered everywhere, their entrails pulled out of their bodies.

Just as he’s about to complete the final part of the contract, an arm wraps around his leg, and he immediately reacts, shoving a hand through the body’s back, and twisting it, snapping the bones in its spine. When gusts of salty sea breeze finally clear the red fog from his mind, he pulls his bloody hand from its back, and blinks, seeing the man whose life he just ended. Another dark-skinned human - like the ones chained below deck - but the only difference is that his back is littered with long slashes caused not by Sebastian, but by a man made tool. Whipping is a form of punishment and instills fear into the hearts of its victims. Such a cruel display of ownership, he tuts, shaking his head. He is not the least bit bothered by the fact that he killed this man, but his mouth has a bitter aftertaste to which he does not understand why. Emotions are fickle things, like humans, and he can no longer be bothered with them. He’s learned not to care for such a weak species, has trained himself to be immune, for they are a unwanted plague that pollutes his veins. Such were the examples of his queen and the young girl, with wasted potential and long, prosperous lives ahead of them, lives he stole from them. Sometimes, when his thoughts are silent, he can hear their voices, trapped inside his head, and it drives him insane. He hates the all familiar nothingness of silence, because what it brings after nearly destroys his self-control every time.

Turning away from the corpse, he takes in a deep intake of breath, and smirks. Like a hound, he seeks out his prey, lured by the scent of his victim’s soul, the sweet salt of sorrow and anguish, of shed tears and stolen innocence - so many damaged, ruined souls, so many seasoned dishes; none as delectable as the one he has in store later, marinating with each waning second. His meal will have to wait a few more minutes, and he turns, and runs, leaping off the ship. Twisting his body halfway, he slices through the center of the vessel, eyes aflame. It’s as easy as cutting through thick cheese, for he is the blade that decapitates the head.

Landing lightly on the bow of the ship, he watches in silence as it sinks, the screams of the damned drowning along with it. The release of so many souls is as quiet as a sigh, but his prey is still hanging off for dear life on a floating plank, the sea trying desperately to claim him as its own. Sebastian lunges for his prey, a snake striking, and the agonized scream that comes from the man is filled with the roar of lions, powerful and unyielding. When he has soaked up every last bit of the man’s soul, his very essence stored inside the demon, is when he can finally relax. The bay of wolves forever howling in his stomach has gone silent, at least for the time being. The hunger is all too consuming, often a sandstorm that scratches and scrapes his insides, sending spikes of pain up his body. He’s only ever lost control once, when he was still but a newborn, and he doesn’t plan on losing control again.

He is an interesting memory, and while not the most notable or important, one that surely makes Sebastian question humans’ capacity for cruelty further; as he is a Lion Warrior.

iv.

“ In which the meagre, stale, forbidden ways

Of custom, law, and stature, took at once

The attraction of a country in romance! ”

~

France.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a man of short stature, but unified France with his mighty fist and ultimately changed Europe forever. His success wasn’t because he was a cutthroat and astute military leader, in fact, it was because he had some help.

He summons Sebastian in his private quarters, and forms a contract with the vile creature, vowing to make his country the greatest nation that has ever been seen in Europe. It is Napoleon’s solemn oath that he makes to the demon, and he tells him that he will use him as his tool. Sebastian will be his weapon to wield, his Excalibur fit for King Arthur, and he bows, swearing his undying loyalty to the steel-eyed man. Out of all the other souls he has ever taken, Napoleon’s is the darkest - a delectable thing indeed - and it tempts his endless hunger. It’s a startling aroma - and he knows immediately this he is truly a worthy master - and consumes every inch of space until he can’t help but inhale, varnishing his lungs with the predatory taste of a fatal delicacy; a siren’s song, the smell calling to the most primal instincts in him - his feral, hidden edges. The form he takes is most fitting, imposing, but is still as alluring as usual, and draws in everyone who looks upon him. He takes pride in the attention he receives, and flirts and charms the ladies with their tightly wound curls and French silk gowns. They amuse him, of course, but he soon finds himself growing tired of the same woman after another. Always so coy, flirtatious, and so easily charmed. He has always enjoyed a challenge, and because this is France, he finds himself searching for a suitable target, one he can get his hands on. But, he is always so preoccupied, especially by the many battles he’s forced to partake in.

So many battles, too many to list in order, he can barely remember: The Battle of Borodino, The Battle of Aspern-Essling, The Battle of Eylau, The Battle of Dresden, The Battle of the Pyramids, The Battle of Ulm, The Battle of La Suffel, they go on and on and on. Each one is a distinct blur, something he’d prefer to forget. In the beginning, he takes pleasure in each battle, whether it be a victory or a defeat, the scent of blood sharpening his senses, the sound of bullets streaking past him, the yells and cries of men dying, and the ruination of a serpentine world that he’s apart of. It’s all an interlocked web of destruction, killing, and carnage; but unlike everyone else, he loves it, craves its very existence. But, it’s a distraction, something to preoccupy his mind.

War keeps the guilt at bay. It keeps him from going insane, from his mind being twisted, from the ghosts inside his head from screaming too loudly. Sebastian is thousands of years old; he has seen empires topple, seen things indescribable to the human mind, has witnessed people rise up and fall, has been there since the very beginning - but centuries of guilt build upon each other brick by brick. He can hear the thunk of the chains weighing him down, keeping him bound to the earth and far from the heavens above where he had once resided, and it sharpens his senses like a freshly smelted blade - forgive him for his blasphemy, for the words he shouts back to the voices, for all the innocent lives he’s ever taken; because Lord they’re making him fear for his sanity, for the tremble of his bones as he wilts away, for the pounding drumbeat in his chest that can’t be his heart, as its life has long since been squeezed dry. Is it so wrong for a fiend like him to wish for salvation? To want a release? A way out of this nightmare? The howls of the damned never let him rest - and he doesn’t blame them.

But, eventually, he grows tired of war. War is also exhausting, and while it doesn’t effect the demon physically, his mental state is yawning. He’d love to have a long slumber for years right now, but demons can’t sleep, so it wouldn’t do him any good to simply lay down and close his eyes. Sometimes, even bloodshed is no longer appealing to an immortal to him.

Napolean’s victories makes him greedy, too greedy, and he his blinded by his own ambition. After his coup d’etat, he seizes power and crowns himself Emperor of France. A fitting name for an ambitious man like him. But, Sebastian watches all of this escalate with growing dread, he tries to warn Napoleon to slow down and think this through, but the man just slaps him, spitting and bristling like an angry cat. The blow doesn’t physically hurt, but it leaves it an impact on him. He has already taken over Alexandria and Cairo, several years before, and a coalition between Austria, Russia, and Britain formed to go against the new emperor, but he soon overtook Austria, which ended the coalition and now Napoleon is free to conquer whatever land he wants.

In the years Sebastian serves Napoleon Bonaparte, he sees many nations fall, and become France’s. From Poland to Italy to Germany. So many countries bow down to the French Empire, but he can see that the end is nigh. His destruction is coming from him, and Sebastian knows that his emperor cannot escape this time. But, for now, the demon enjoys himself. He lavishes himself in fine threads weaved together to capture the sun’s radiance and the moon’s brilliance, attends elaborate events and parties, dances with every fair maiden he sees, has a string of lovers whom he could hardly care for. He is regarded as one of the emperor’s favorite and most loyal advisers, with a background of military achievements and a wealth that allegedly surpasses even Napoleon. Those are all lies, of course, he is only bound to the emperor by a contract, a covenant, a agreement, nothing more or less. The Napoleonic era is a golden age that is slowly tarnishing itself from within. Corruption is inevitable.

One quiet evening, Napoleon finds Sebastian lounging in his chambers, like the first time they met, standing in front of a window and silently smoking a cigar. Smoke permeates the air, curling languidly, and creating a hazy halo above the demon’s head as moonlight spills in from the window, illuminating him in a silvery sheen. Vermilion eyes gleam from a porcelain face as Sebastian turns his head slowly to meet the emperor’s gaze. The dark pupils are slit, like those of a snake, and sends shivers up and down his spine.

He truly is a demon from hell, but with the moonlight puddling down on him, and the halo of smoke surrounding him, he almost looks like a angel. A fallen angel whose great wings have been clipped from his back, an immortal who is forever doomed to roam the earth until the endgame. He is a force to be reckoned with - the true Doom’s Day. He is a razor sharp glacier kissing the sides of a ship - a ponderous depth as dark as the night sky. Beautiful. Unholy. Otherworldly. Sebastian is not human; he is Blind God’s final gift to the world, a drop of sunlight in a bleak and dying reality, mortal fingers not even worthy to even brush against his skin. A nightmare to behold, he is everyone’s and everything’s undoing, a monster; he is surely meant to undo the minds and hearts of women, but Sebastian realizes that it also applies to men. After all, he is desirable to all, the epitome of what a perfect human should be, but he is still a lazy imitation of one. He does not have a beating heart, blood does not flow through his veins, and he has no soul to offer to God. He is a fraud, but still, humans yearn to drown in his embrace and melt away in his kiss of death.

And, because Sebastian has always loved a challenge, he incinerates the cigar into ash with a flick of his wrist, and opens his arms as though welcoming a lover. Though he knows that Napoleon is married, it still does not make a difference, because the emperor is all too willing. There is no motive behind what happens, no passion, no fire, nothing at all, it’s a distraction, and the demon will always welcome one. He finally understands why mortals live to drown in their emotions, because it’s better than facing them head on. Sebastian’s a coward, and he wouldn’t change that fact for the world.

What happens between them is unspeakable, something that he’ll push into the back of his mind, and something Napoleon will never let happen again. But, in that moment, they act as though they are fighting to the death, and of course, if it’s a fight, Sebastian wins. It’s obvious. He always wins, and never loses, at least, he doesn’t lose to someone, but he does lose bits of himself. He loses pieces of what he once was.

This experience hardens him. He’s colder in the passing days, less patient, more reserved, but it quickly passes, though the iciness never seems to fully melt. No love, no love in that dark heart of his fills him.

When Napoleon is finally defeated in battle by the British and the Prussians, Sebastian is relieved. He’s been wanting to get this contract over with for a long time, he’s tired. But, it isn’t until six years later, that he actually takes his life and swallows the former emperor’s soul.

A memory that makes him smile wryly, he can’t say that he enjoyed serving Napoleon for all those years but it hardly matters anymore; as he will always be His Conqueror.

v.

“ Children’s minds, like gardens,

We hope and hope while planting knowledge,

It will grow into more. ”

~

Canada.

Knowledge is like a plant. You have to nurture it and water it in just the right ways, and the amount of sunlight received has to be absolutely perfect. No mistakes must be made, and many humans for centuries have craved knowledge, and lapped it up like a man starved. But, girls aren’t supposed to want or yearn for more. They are supposed to nibble sparingly at the table, and not ask for seconds. They are to be satisfied with a barren future filled with children and a husband, whether he be loving or not. However, the young woman who summons him is everything a girl is not supposed to be. The complete opposite of what society wants her to be; she rejects men’s engagement proposals, hardly cares if she shows skin or not, and is extremely intelligent, starved to learn. From a young age, she’d been curious about how the world worked and why humans acted how they did in their despicable ways - and so she dove into her studies, learning all she could about philosophy, astronomy, human anatomy, psychology, physics, mathematics, chemistry, reading, writing, grammar, history, and geography. That is not the only thing she’s learned about, apparently she’s also multilingual, and her knowledge of languages and cultures is nothing sort but impressive. It manages to even impress Sebastian.

She will be an interesting master indeed. It is the beginning of the 19th century, she says, and it’s a new era filled with possibilities and innovation, and she wants to lead the way down that path. She wishes to accomplish something no one has managed to do before, but she’ll need the help of a demon. She’s willing - almost eager - to give her soul away to him to help humanity evolve further. Her request is that he accompanies her on her pursuit for more knowledge, and together they will uncover the secrets of the world. Because he is an immortal, and doesn’t need to eat nor rest, the journey will be faster than having a mortal partner. She plans on recording everything, every single thing, and because she knows no one in this time period will listen to her since she’s a woman, she’ll publish everything, and store the knowledge away for future scientists, inventors, engineers, philosophers to find and use what she’s learned to help move humanity forward.

The contract is struck, and so it begins - the whimsical and bizarre waltz for knowledge. It is one of the most interesting things he’s ever experienced, and because she is true to her word, they spend day and night studying, experimenting, creating, learning. Her family’s fortune is great and seemingly endless, so they travel all across the world.

She asks questions, a lot of them, every single day. And while it does irritate him sometimes, he soon gets used to and isn’t surprised by them anymore. But, what does surprise him is when she asks to know everything about his past masters and his experiences. She tells him to explain in great detail and to not leave anything out. It takes him many, many days to tell her everything, but whenever he speaks, she listens with rapt attention and never ever backs out or interrupts. This is the first time anyone has ever listened to him truly, and it warms his dead heart. She also happens to switch between languages often, and likes to see if he can keep up with her, which most of the time, he can.

Her candor is baffling, as she never lies, not even once. She’s an open book, and will tell him anything she wants to. It’s admirable, to say the least, but he doesn’t allow himself to be fazed. And, her intelligence surpasses anything he’s ever seen. He has never met a more brilliant human before; her knowledge is endless, and sometimes, she even teaches him something new. If any human could be perfect, it would be this woman. The respect that forms for this woman is immense; he has never respected a human to this extent, nor has he ever admired a human before. Her eyes take in every single thing she sees and reads, a gaping abyss that can never be filled. Her ears pay attention to everything around her, caverns with endless possibility. Her mind is never satisfied, always wanting for more.

She moves so fast that the world just can’t seem to keep up. She’s ahead of everyone by years, and he’s astounded each time she discovers something new. Ideas for a typewriter, braille printing, the sewing machine, the stereoscope, the revolver, the telegraph, Morse code, antiseptics, the dishwasher, the machine gun, dynamite, the windmill, barbed wire, moving pictures, fountain pens, the automobile, contact lenses, the list goes on and on. It is endless, and she writes each idea down with great detail in a flourish of handwriting. She has so many ideas that her journals are overflowing, and she has to keep buying more and more. Her potential is never ending; it is eternal. She is an engineer, chemist, scientist, philosopher, translator, writer, artist, inventor, businesswoman, doctor, and astronomer all at once. How is anyone of this possible? Sebastian doesn’t even know. All he knows is that she is not human. At least, she can’t be, right? But she is.

She publishes more and more, a little company that Sebastian secretly started pushing out book after book. The thing is, they’re not sold to the public - she claims that the world isn’t ready yet - and instead are hidden. In places where no one but geniuses would ever dare to look. And it’s all on purpose, because she wants those people to find them. New innovations are created with each passing year, and he can tell by her knowing smiles that they’re because of her books. Men take credit for her work, but she never seems to mind, in fact, she appears rather proud of them. Mischievous looks directed at him make him smile slyly in return as they attend conventions and speeches to listen to these scientists, inventors, and innovators.

Without anyone even knowing, she’s in control. She’s on top, and she rules all. She is the true mastermind; the puppeteer who holds all the strings, the player who holds all the pawns. This is all a game to her. Of course, she never bothers to exert Sebastian’s power onto others, claiming that it’s a complete waste of time and that she has better things to do than worry about trivial stuff like that. She says that despite how smart humans are, they’re really just stupid. They get into petty arguments, fight pointless wars, steal and cheat and lie and kill one another for their own gain, when in reality, none of it matters in the end. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is strength. Knowledge is everything, and she holds all the cards.

She grows so bold that she even starts questioning God, she asks why should humans follow and worship someone who’s just sitting there and doing nothing. He may have created them, but he isn’t controlling their actions. Why stay in the past? Why not focus on the future, on the horizon ahead? She knows that her efforts will be futile if she dares voices her opinions, so she resorts to writing them down, as she always has. This time, she doesn’t turn her thoughts into a book - her wretched, beautiful thoughts - and instead haughtily says that humanity doesn’t deserve it. She’s a hurricane, a tsunami that’s going to destroy herself and everyone around her, a whirlwind of everything good and bad. A reckless, wild, untamed beauty.

No one will know that she is responsible for the industrialization of man, for the innovation of everything that is now, for daring to stand up and rise above all others, and she’s perfectly fine with that. She wants to, after all, be engraved into the background. The future generations will never hear her name, never even know she even existed. History could never be prepared for her anyways. They would not be able to handle it, and Sebastian agrees.

Years later, when he’s ready to take her soul, all she does is kiss his cheek and smile widely, jubilant and excited as a young child. She is beaming from head to toe, bathed in sunshine and light. Again, just like many times before, he feels the tightening of his chest, the catch of his breath, and the voices screaming and thundering inside his head. She blows him away once again when she places a comforting hand on the side of his face, and smiles gently.

“You were never one to hesitate,” she says. “What’s stopping you now?”

He can’t answer, isn’t able to.

Her face softens. “Ah, they never know when to leave you alone, do they?”

Again, he can’t say anything, and merely watches as she easily figures out the root of the problem.

“Your guilt,” she tells him. “Is overwhelming you.”

She brings her mouth up to his ear, and whispers. “Let it go. Let everything go.”

And, with that, she pulls away and flashes him a grin, to which he returns weakly.

“Don’t let it control you,” is the last thing she tells him.

Her arms open up as if she’s going to embrace him, but instead, she tips her head back, golden hair spooling over her shoulders, and releases a content sigh. He takes her soul, sucks it from her very body, and she falls, but he catches her before she hits the ground. As he takes her limp body in his arms, prepared to bury her, he feels a lump in her pocket.

Curious, he takes it out, and sees that it’s a small journal, titled: Tales of The Devil. In it, is his entire life story, written by her. His expression turns raw, and every flicker of emotion he’s ever felt flashes on his face.

As he reads it, an unfamiliar sensation floods his senses. Centuries of pent up emotion come crashing through, and finally, his tears come. He does what she told him, and lets everything go.

She opened his eyes, and finally made him see. She taught him what it truly meant to be human; and she will forever remain as the True Genius.

Chapter Text

“ The dead scurried about

While my heart slept —

Red seed beneath its tree of bone. ”

~

Masquerades were meant to be this cruel. Parties with her family were always filled with sickeningly sweet-smelling alcohol, hushed whispering, and glittering eyes filled with malicious intent and calculating deceit. She was raised on bloodshed, carnage, and the ruination of the innocent; she was fed spoonfuls of sugar, which turned out to be ash, and she was bathed in the blood of their victims. She was no stranger to Death, whose cloak had wrapped around many she had known, its clawed limbs reaching to drag them down to the Otherworld.

The children sacrificed here — she could still hear their frightened screams and high-pitched wails — had their bodies tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the building. Their delicate, porcelain bones were the beams that held up this great chapel, and their blood stained the glass a brilliant red.

“Sera,” a oil-slicked voice drawled lazily. “Come here, child.”

Blinking, Seraphina walked forward with a sure sense of confidence, beckoned easily by the wave of a hand or a nod in her direction. The ruffled collar of her dress felt like it was choking her, a noose that threatened to ensnare the breath from her lungs, and she didn’t know why. She felt safe here, in this kingdom of ash and rust. This was her home. Her birthplace.

“My lord,” she dipped her head, and curtsied respectfully.

Her eyes were lowered, directed to the marble floor. When she had his grunt of approval was when she slowly raised her head, hesitant to meet his hungry gaze. His salt-and-peppered beard was neatly trimmed, and he had an aquiline nose and sharp features. There was a ravenous look in his basilisk eyes as he leered at her like she was a buffet laid out for him. One finger beckoned her forward, and she complied, sitting daintily at his feet. She didn’t flinch when his cold, cruel hand grabbed her shoulder, fingers digging into her smooth skin like claws.

His whiskers tickled her as he began biting and nipping her neck, licking at it like she were ice cream. He didn’t take it any farther than that, knowing better than to defile her.

“Someday,” he whispered into her ear. “Your luck will run out, and no one will be there to protect you. Prepare yourself, sweetling.”

All she could do was numbly nod. Seraphina wasn’t stupid. She’d known for years that as she grew older, the shadow hounds were closing in on her, until everything would meld into eternal darkness. When he finally let her loose, she took the opportunity to disappear into the sea of ever shifting people.

Voices echoed with such merriment and joy that they masked the lust and greed easily. It was so thick and stagnant within the air that it suffocated all those too inexperienced and innocent to comprehend the atmosphere. As she laced her mask on, nervous excitement pumped dark wine into her veins and sharpened all her senses to painful edges. She took her place in the sidelines and it revealed a menagerie of strange people and a world that she was apart of.

The vibrato of wild, untamable music filled the grand room, and her eyes were opened up to the familiar awful and glorious beauty of the nobility, their ostentatious wealth dripping everywhere she looked. Marble pillars held up the entire place, and the room was filled with gilded golden archways, ornately carved figures, and a gruesomely beautiful fresco painted onto the vaulted ceiling. Angels seated on clouds juxtaposed with tortured, naked people being brutally murdered by snake creatures and ferocious beasts with long manes and fiery breath, all surrounded by an immense gilded frame. A true dance of death was taking place before her — The Danse Macabre — and she couldn’t help but feel proud to be part of it. It was a waltz of skeletons, a foxtrot of corpses, a tango of the dead, and she relished in every single moment. Being here was a privilege in itself. Usually, she was only allowed to join in these sorts of things every once in a blue moon, but tonight was a special occasion, for two young lambs were to be brought here.

They were lucky, and she could feel the jealousy polluting her veins, being pumped into the dark organ of her heart. She had watched for years in envy as blessed children had been sacrificed to the kings and queen of corruption and depravity, their young candles being put out for the greater cause. She yearned to be next, for her entire purpose was to be sacrificed to the Queen of the Underworld — Lilith, mother to all demon spawn. But, they told her that it would take years until she was anywhere near worthy of being Lilith’s next prey.

Cigarette smoke permeated above the heads of the cult members, forming a haze that surrounded them, and Sera took it all in, the smell a small comfort which eased her growing hatred and malice. Women in tight, revealing clothing and fishnet stockings held crystal flutes of champagne, and tossed back their heads, faces filled with mirth as they listened to the men around them converse. Every movement was languorous, and she envied their sound confidence and steadiness. She could not recognize anyone though, for everyone in the room wore masks — like her — but she found it a generous gift. She could pretend to not know them if she so desired it, and it brought her relief. She was another faceless doll in the crowd, one who wouldn’t be bothered with. She’d always preferred to be left on the shelf to collect dust anyways, and this was a perfect time for that to happen.

Closing her eyes momentarily, she sighed. Behind her eyelids, she imagined gray smoke and a sky that was blood red. She imagined holding a bone-white knife and driving it through the wooden body of a child, the cacophony of laughter and applause echoing around her. The invisible ghosts silently surveying her were proud, and finally accepted her as one of their kin. That was all she ever wanted. To be accepted into this dangerously tantalizing world she knew so much, but found that her presence was as bleak and one-dimensional as a portrait, unwanted and a liability. An eleven year old girl was more of a nuisance than any help.

Abruptly, the chatter grew louder, more frenzied and buzzing with excitement. Straining to get a better look, Sera ducked and wove in and around the crowd, desperate to see what was the cause of such a racket. Two young boys who looked around her age, and were . . . eerily identical. They were one and the same. Twins — decadently dressed in navy blue and with faces that held the sort of softness that came with youth and obliviousness. Obviously bred from nobility, they had no idea what was coming for them, had no way of knowing that they were the prey and everyone else was the predators. You see, they had no way of knowing.

And, though her attention was solely fixed onto the twins, she could already see the sly smiles and hear the mocking snickers from the others. The glee they got from defiling such young souls was one that never seemed to fill Sera. While they were cups overflowing, the feeling she got from watching it was fleeting. She could already feel the mounting dread building up brick by brick inside of her, but she couldn’t stop the demented smile from creeping up on her and curving the sides of her mouth. Bloodshed had always sent adrenaline pounding through her veins and made her muscles tighten. It was some of the only entertainment around here, and it always had her whooping for joy.

“Fools,” she found herself saying when one of the boys questioned what they were doing here.

The familiar words had her trembling. “We must defile the pure and innocent souls, for the devil only craves the most unclean and tainted souls as an offering.”

Sera had been expecting a massacre, but what she witnessed instead was worse than anything she had ever seen. Hands instead of knives were the weapon of choice. Taking away innocence instead of death was the chosen torture. She’d never seen anything like this before, and as the crowd of people consumed them, she found herself turning and trying to run away. She tripped, and found herself lost in a mass of bodies. A scream was building up in the back of her throat, and it came out in a strangled mess of noise. She screamed again and again, and pushed herself to her feet, and managed to finally break free. Almost running into a pillar, she found herself gasping for air, her chest heaving. She hadn’t known a human could make such monstrous noises until she had heard it coming from their throats, soft voices twisted with tangible agony.

When her head had finally stopped spinning and her vision had cleared, she realized that she could still hear screaming — except it was coming from the center of the crowd. Her heart fell, but she found that she couldn’t stop herself from listening. It was like a siren’s song; something that drew her in, despite knowing that it was best to turn and cover her ears. A inferno of moths seemed to be engulfing them, masks the wings of such a delicate creature. She could imagine the clothes being ripped from their bodies, their heads being slammed into the marble floor, their tears pooling at their temples, begging for help, for a savior; forgive her for blasphemy, for not doing anything to save them, for just standing there when she could’ve done something — because Lord she feared for her sanity, for her very life, for the drumbeat in her chest that was her heart.

It felt like an eternity before they were finished, and they withdrew, already forgetting about what they had done. Both boys stared up at the ceiling with the eyes of the dead, drooling. Their porcelain skin was marred with bloody scratches and a blossom of bruises had bloomed. She found herself approaching them slowly, and crouched to get a better look from several feet away, acting as though any sudden movements would startle them. She took off her her mask, and her eyes were round, but didn’t reveal her true emotions, which happened to be a tsunami of pity and pain. She blinked owlishly as she studied them, wondering what she should do. To anyone else, it would’ve appeared that she was simply observing the macabre display before her smugly, as though she were proud, but in reality, she was moments away from bursting into tears.

She wasn’t able to speak, and instead could only offer her sympathies. Without thinking, she reached, and brushed her fingers on the closest twin’s arm. He stiffened, tensing up, and his gaze locked onto hers. Gusts of wind blew away any sign of his lifeless stare and replaced it with a fearful, begging expression.

“Please,” he mouthed the word, but behind it, she could hear the desperate sonnet of a broken soul.

His eyes were the bluest she’d ever seen, etched with the scarring shock of what had just occurred, but before she could do or say anything, a man’s silhouette appeared behind her.

“Sera,” he said. “What are you doing?”

She froze, and tore her gaze away from the boy’s. Standing up, she turned and looked up blankly. “I only wanted to get a closer look. They’re the newest additions, aren’t they?”

The man’s mask made it impossible to see what he was thinking, but he nodded approvingly. “They are, child. Aren’t they wondrous specimens?”

Sera looked at the twins again, her own gaze inscrutable, and nodded. “Yes. Were they nobility?”

The man chuckled, patting her head like she were well-behaved dog. “You’re growing more intelligent with each passing day. Good girl, they were.”

She couldn’t help but feel a tinge of pride for being praised, but it quickly soured. The man started to pull her away, back into the festivities, and she let him. Turning to look back at the twins lying on the floor, she could see that several men were dragging them away, and they were screaming and writhing wildly. The twin she had touched was still staring at her, pleading in his gaze. She fixed him with her own icy one, and turned up her nose, looking away.

If she had tried to help him, who knows what would’ve happened to her. She had to look out for herself, to make sure that she was kept as Lilith’s sacrifice. She might not have been afraid of dying, but she was afraid of losing the only family she had ever had; even if it was neither loving or caring.

~

That night, in her bedroom, she couldn’t seem to fall asleep. She could sense that if she closed her eyes, her horrifying dreams would come for, and they would scoop her up in their jaws and carry her away like a cat would to a mouse. She didn’t want to think about earlier, but kept finding herself thinking about it. The memory replayed itself over and over again, until it had branded itself into her mind permanently. Feeling restless, she sat up suddenly, and climbed out of bed, the springs shrieking loudly. She winced momentarily, and was still, listening for the sound of footsteps, but when she heard none, she relaxed. Reaching for the candle by her bed, she headed for the door, slowly and carefully opening it an inch. There was only darkness and the shifting of the shadows dancing on the stone walls, and so she slipped out, quiet as a mouse. She shut her door, making sure to make little noise, and padded down the hall.

Her feet were bare against the cold floor, and stung the soles, sending chilling spikes of pain up her legs, but she ignored it. It was a slow, vigilant journey and she was alert the entire time, ears picking out any sound. When she finally made it to the stairs of the basement, she drew in a shallow breath, and descended into depths unknown. She’d never been here before, in all her eleven years, and wasn’t even confident that this was the basement. But, luck was on her side tonight, and her worries dissolved when she reached the bottom.

Cages filled with children made up the entirety of the basement. There was no sign of any guards on patrol — Sera had been counting on the fact that they had already retired — and besides the steady candlelight and soft breathing, there didn’t seem to be anything or anyone stirring. It was way past midnight, was what she guessed, and everyone was fast asleep. The chapel snored gently, content in its dark, lazy dreaming. As she approached a cage with several young girls, one of them drowsily reached for her; a girl with hooded, heavily dazed eyes, coils of brown hair that scarcely hiding a deep, protruding bruise along her cheekbone — her expression clearly drugged and disorientated, her clothing barely concealing her malnourished, abused figure. She extended her narrow, bony hand towards her, and Sera found herself shrinking within herself. Her back hunched as she unconsciously tried to make herself appear smaller.

“M-Mama?” the girl’s voice wavered, coloring with confusion and uncertainty.

“I’m not your Mama,” Sera stammered, reduced to a quaking mess in a matter of seconds.

”Mama!” the girl shouted, fingers clawing at the air for Sera.

She continued repeating herself until her gaze dulled and her head drooped, death clouding her hazel eyes. Sera found herself shaking from head to toe, extremely disturbed and scared. Her knees gave out, and she found that she couldn’t get back up, too stunned to do anything. Death didn’t usually bother her like this, and she couldn’t understand why it had unnerved her.

Scrambling away from the cage, breathing heavily, her back hit the dirtied bars of another cage and she let out a startled squawk. Whirling around, she found herself face to face with the twins from earlier.

“It’s you two!” she said, disbelief coloring her tone.

They looked more beaten and battered than before, but alive nonetheless. They didn’t look like they were anywhere near Death’s gate — at least, not yet. She felt immediate relief, and sighed, exhaling shakily.

The twins eyed her warily, eyes filled with distrust, and were hugging each other, clinging as though their lives depended on it. The oldest’s — she figured — lip curled into a sneer as he examined her.

“You’re the one from earlier,” he said accusingly.

Sera didn’t know how to answer for several seconds, but found herself growing defensive. “You don’t need to sound so angry. I didn’t do anything!”

“You stood by and watched,” the boy snapped back. “That’s enough in itself. You’re with them.”

He spat that last word as if it were the foulest thing in the world, and maybe he believed that.

“Don’t you dare say anything about them!” she snarled. “You should be grateful to them!”

Even as she said those words, she found herself doubting herself. She thought back to the mounting dread and fear she’d experienced back there, watching and listening to them suffer, and it made her stomach twist.

“For what? Killing our parents? Burning down our home? Taking us here?” the boy asked mockingly. “Yeah, sure, that’s a lot to be thankful for.”

Before she could say anything, a quiet voice interrupted. “Ciel . . . ”

It was the boy’s brother — probably the youngest one — and he had been watching their argument unravel before him with wide, scared eyes. Immediately, the oldest turned to his brother and softened. His sapphire gaze grew desolate and sad, a distant look that formed in his eyes, and he drew in a shaky breath. He seemed to regain his composure quickly, and gave a small smile to his younger brother.

“Astre, we’ll get home,” he whispered, petting his brother’s hair. “I promise.”

A mutual understanding seemed to flash between them, and it made Sera feel strangely lonely. Though they had lost just about everything, they still had each other, while she had . . . no one. No love, no love for that dark heart of hers.

Fury ignited through her, scorching her veins and making her eyes fiery. “You’re not ever leaving,” she sneered. “This is your new home, and it’s going to be until you’re sacrificed. It’s a great honor.”

Her voice turned into a snarl as she finished her sentence, envy dripping from her tone. Astre regarded her with sullen eyes, a flicker of recognition in them.

“You’re . . . her, aren’t you?” he asked dully. “The one who comforted me.”

Her face colored, a petal-pink blush that painted her neck and cheeks. “I didn’t comfort you! That wasn’t my intention.”

”Astre?” Ciel pulled his brother away from her, wary of her intentions.

Sera blinked, and her flush receded as quickly as it had appeared. She grew calmer, regaining herself, and got to her feet. “You won’t be seeing me again,” her lips formed the words coldly, swearing a soft, whispered promise. “Goodbye.”

She slunk back into the darkness, the shadows welcoming her as adoringly as a mother might her lost child, embracing her with its inky black kiss. The candle she had been carrying had rolled away somewhere, and she had no intention of searching for it in this spine-chilling place.

“Wait,” Astre’s soft voice called out to her.

Sera was silent, anticipation pounding through her veins as she waited.

“We need your help,” his next words were chosen carefully, and held a desperate note.

“What for?”

”Have you ever heard of Father Christmas?” his voice was distant, and she felt panic bloom; it was as though she were sinking beneath water and he was above the surface.

“Of course,” her voice was heavy and laced with lies. She had never heard of such a thing, and it was painful to think that she was missing out on so much in her childhood.

The cult members were careful never to reveal too much information to her, all apart of calculated precision and a masterful plan to keep her blind and deaf about the outside world. They taught her about methods of torture, certain weaponry, their practiced religion, God and his angels, and the different demons that lived beneath the earth — but everything else was a complete mystery to her. She’d only ever seen the outside world from a window, and even then, it was smidgen of what was really out there. While she was curious, she had been careful to never let her curiosity get the better of her, until now. If this boy was offering, she would take it, snatch it up like a girl starved.

Astre was persistent nonetheless. “I doubt it,” his voice turned sad. “You may walk freely, but you’re as much as a captive here as we are.”

Sera stepped forward, back into the light, yet her gaze was sharp as flint. “Where did you get that idea?”

Ciel raised an incredulous eyebrow, but let his brother continue speaking, though he was reluctant to. “Intuition,” Astre’s smile was gentle.

She rolled her eyes, and came closer to their cage, though her movements were as flighty as a bird’s, and it seemed like she would fly away at any moment. She felt nervous and apprehensive, and terrible anxiety formed in the pit of her stomach. There was something dangerously intoxicating about this door being opened to her; awaiting her arrival, as though it had been waiting for years for her to appear.

She gripped the rusty bars of the cage tightly, eyes hard, and asked. “What do you want me to help you with?”

“Get us out,” he sounded unlike himself; his voice was strong and regal, as though he was speaking to a mere servant.

”I can’t do that,” she countered. “The king of corruption must be summoned.”

“Why?”

”I already told you, I can’t. You can’t just throw away such a great opportunity,” she said, a whine in her voice.

“What do you mean?” Ciel interrupted angrily. “We want to get out of here!”

She exploded, anxiety melting away into rage, undercut with immense jealousy. “You can’t!” she shouted, voice growing in volume. “Ungrateful brats! You should be begging to be sacrificed now. A martyr is what you’ll be, giving yourself to the greater cause. These people here — you should be thanking them — saved you. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting — ”

She cut off abruptly, and sucked in a breath through clenched teeth. They were watching her with glittering eyes, the dip and flicker of the candlelight shimmering in their captivating cerulean gazes.

“I can’t let you out,” she said, sounding older and tired, as though she were an old woman. “Ask for something else, please.”

The twins looked at each other with unreadable expressions, though a sort of mutual agreement seemed to pass through them. They turned back to her and nodded, surrendering, waving their white flags high in the air.

“Keep us alive, then,” Ciel said. “Keep us safe.”

She nodded. “I can do that, I can keep you healthy. I can make sure you won’t get ill. I can do that, and I’ll do my best to protect you from them — as much as I can — but I expect you to tell me about the outside world in return.”

Astre’s eyes lit up, though compared to her fire, it was barely the flicker of a candle. “Father Christmas . . . ”

And, so, for the rest of the night, the twins spun tales about Christmas, telling her about Christmas trees, colored lights, and meals with an abundance of glistening food. They told her about the man who gave gifts to good little children, and how every year, they had spent a wonderful Christmas with their mother and father. Seraphina remained enchanted the entire time; hooked on their voices and magical stories, clinging onto them like they were her lifelines, starving for knowledge and for what little freedom she could get from them.

~

She had been named after the Roman version of the Greek Queen of the Dead, Persephone or better known as Proserpina. The name, Seraphina, had formed because of that, and she had always prided herself for being named after such an entity. She was a sacrificial lamb fit for Lilith herself, and she had been preparing for that day for years. She was ready, she could feel it, but why didn’t they think she was? Was she not corrupted enough? Was there not enough darkness in her veins? Was she too soft? Did compassion flow through those veins of hers? Was she too kind? She had no clue.

Over the course of the next month, she returned to them every single night, like Father Christmas himself, bearing gifts. She had food, stolen from the kitchens and scraped from her own plate. She came bearing warm washcloths to clean their wounds, and bandages for their brands. She kept them alive, sustaining on her stolen goods, while the rest of the children succumbed to disease and death. And, in exchange, they told her anything she wanted. She learned about flowers, about spring — and craved the sweet scent of roses. She learned about cities — and yearned to see the towering buildings for herself. She learned about roasts and grapes and the taste of chocolate — and she wanted to taste them, to let them bloat and collect in her stomach like rich ambrosia. She learned about the ocean — and longed for the salty sea breeze whipping in her face and hair, and to watch the foamy waves paw at the sandy shore. She learned and learned and learned, and found her desire growing and growing, until it was a massive tree bearing plentiful fruit.

Her mind was not satisfied, and so she demanded for more. No longer did she nibble sparingly at the table, she asked for seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths, an endless sea of demands. They told her about themselves, and although they suffered endlessly throughout the day, tormented by their kidnappers, they remained ever vigilant and hopeful. It made her feel mournful, to think that she would lose her only friends someday. Ciel was kind and strong, and always looked out and protected Astre, but she could see that it was a heavy burden on his little shoulders. Astre, while quieter and meeker, had a sort of radiance to him. He shone as brightly as the sun, and was engaging to interact with. He was ever so humble and compassionate, and made Sera smile with his little comments and quiet “thank you’s.” She, herself, found that she was growing softer with each passing day.

No longer did her daily lessons interest her. No longer did the masquerades and parties entertain her. But, even still, the bloodshed and darkness still drew her in, wrapping its slimy arms around her with the reverence of a grandmother caring for her grandchild. It was intoxicating, even more so than the twins’ whimsical tales. She had been born in the shadows, and was destined to never step into the light, yet sometimes she wished she had been given the chance to make that decision for herself. What if sunshine wasn’t so bad? What if it was truly warm? What if it blinded her too?

One night, while deep in thought, she found herself not particularly interested in hearing any stories tonight. Once she had given them their meals and watched them wipe their faces and bodies, she turned to leave.

“Where are you going?” Astre asked curiously.

“Bed,” was all she said.

“But why?” he sounded truly confused.

Ciel had already curled into himself, fast asleep, and there was only silence.

Sera didn’t turn to meet his gaze. “I’m tired.”

“Will you help us escape?” he asked, and she found herself feeling weary, not wanting to engage in another bout of back and forth questions and answers with him.

This was the usual thing he asked, and she always told him no, to which he would question why, and it would spiral out of control and lead into an argument.

“Astre,” she sighed, sitting in front of the cage, knees to her chest. “I’m really not in the mood.”

“Are you okay?” Astre asked, tilting his head to the side.

She didn’t nod, nor did she shake her head, and instead stared dully at the floor. She was exhausted, and found her dream of being worthy of Lilith fading.

“You know, the only reason they still keep me alive is because they’re preparing me,” she chuckled bitterly. “I’m supposed to be Lilith’s sacrifice someday.”

Astre didn’t say anything, and instead listened in silence.

“I wish I could help you, but I can’t,” she explained, voice rising in octaves, growing high and breathless. “I can’t lose them. I can’t . . . I don’t — ”

She was unable to continue, and found herself panting, vision blurry with unshed tears. “They’re the only family I have, and I know that they’re terrible and they’ve hurt you and that you hate them, but I can’t.”

She felt so conflicted, like her heart would tear into two if she was forced to pick sides. Her emotions were unable to be swallowed down and buried, and she began crying.

Sera finally admitted it. She was scared, no, terrified of them. She hated it every time they touched her or kissed her, forcing their grimy tongues down her throat. She hated that she felt so lonely at night, alone in her bedroom, too numb to even shed a tear. She hated that they made her this way. She hated what she was. She hated feeling this way. She hated that she’d never done anything to help any of these poor children, but she was a child herself, and had no idea what to do anymore. Some people are forced to grow up so fast that it doesn’t even seem like they grew up. Some people are broken into so many pieces that you can’t glue them together. Some people are made into monsters, and must accept that fact; that their minds are twisted beyond repair, that they are just ghosts trapped in mortal sleeves.

She felt a gentle hand on her arm, and opened her eyes, vision swimming. She could barely see with all the tears streaming down her face, but she could make out the soft blue of Astre’s gaze. In that moment, her heart reached out for his brother and him, apologizing a thousand times for what they’d been put through, and wishing that she could erase their pain. She’d carry the weight of it if she could, and she didn’t care if she would succumb to it because of her reckless choice.

Gripping his arm in return, she sniffled, and managed a wry smile.

“I guess we can’t help what we’ve become,” she mumbled. “It’s funny, though, if you think about it, how poetic it is.”

Astre merely smiled in return, his eyes a reflection of her overwhelming exhaustion. He was tired too, and she didn’t want to keep him awake for any longer, but found that she needed to tell him something. She owed him that much.

“I’ll try,” she said.

“What?”

”I’ll try to get you two out,” she repeated. “But, I can’t promise anything.”

His eyes widened, and began watering. Silent tears trickled down his bruised face, but his wide smile made her chest warm. “Thank you,” he murmured. “And, you can come with us too.”

Her heart felt as though it were an anvil weighing her down as she lied. “Of course.”

She couldn’t go with them. Someone had to stay behind, to be punished, and she knew that she would be the one. Besides, she didn’t belong in their world. Not anymore. But, she didn’t want to bring even more pain to them, so she lied, and it was as easy as breathing. Clasping his grubby hands in hers through the cage bars, she nodded solemnly, lips drawn into a tight line. She wondered what he thought of the rough callouses on her hands, questioned if he wondered whether her hands had ever squeezed the life out of someone or had ever driven a knife into someone’s chest in this serpentine world she was apart of.

They were still for a long time, and silence bled into the already palpable atmosphere. She unconsciously traced the lacerations on his once soft palms, wounds that would eventually fade into moon-pale scars, but would always whisper the tales of the heinous crimes ravaged upon his body and mind.

“I realize that we never even asked for your name,” Astre said, breaking the silence, and managing to sound sheepish at that revelation.

Sera smirked. “Seraphina,” she told him. “But, just call me Sera.”

A thoughtful hum was the only response she received, but he seemed to approve of her name, and she smiled at that thought.

“What do you plan on doing once you get out of this awful place, Astre?” she asked.

“I wanted to open up a toy shop,” his gaze grew wistful as memories came back to him, “but now, I don’t really know.”

He looked back at her. “What about you?”

”Well,” she admitted. “I never gave it much thought. Maybe I’ll visit the ocean for the first time.”

She didn’t tell him that seeing the ocean was never going to happen, but Astre accepted her answer. “It’s wonderful. Although, Ciel likes swimming more than I do.”

“I don’t even know how to swim,” she laughed.

“Ciel can teach you,” Astre offered.

“Maybe.”

She got up, and was forced to let go of his hands, but he didn’t protest, and instead watched her walk away with a content look in his eyes, the hope having been rekindled. His eyes are prettier when he’s happy, she mused. Her own eyes were a muddy brown, and her hair was a dirty blonde, but Ciel and Astre truly looked like sons of the nobility. They had long, happy, prosperous lives ahead of them. She had a feeling, though, that they wouldn’t be the same when they escaped. Hardened like stone, weathered by time, but she was positive that they would survive. Astre still had his kindness, and Ciel his strength. They would be fine.

Oh, how wrong she was.

~

Seraphina was intelligent, there was no doubt. She made up for the lack of education with her cunning and quick-thinking. She’d always had a knack for eavesdropping on conversations and her small frame allowed her to fit into small spaces. So, it was no surprise when the next day, she easily found out who was keeping the keys to the cages. The Father, of course, had his own set, but he was never alone, so stealing them from him was out of the question. It was the men who patrolled and cared for the children whom had the keys. All she had to was get it from them, and her plan could be set into motion.

In the early hours of the twilight, she snuck down to the basement, confident that the men would still be down there, feeding the children. They were there, but, for some reason, she couldn’t find Ciel’s and Astre’s cage anywhere. Confusion tinged her senses, and she blinked several times, as if she was trying to prove that it wasn’t true. There were two men, both bloated from continued use of alcohol, but one of them was stumbling, which meant that he’d had to much to drink. They held buckets full of slop, and the drunk one was rambling nonsense to himself, pupils abnormally dilated.

One of these two men had the keys. There was nowhere for her to hide, so she approached the first one head on, gait arrogantly confident, acting like she owned the entire chapel.

“Sir,” she said. “I’ve been sent here by the Father.”

The bearded man turned to look at her, beady eyes taking her in, and he burst out into a violent fit of laughter. “A sniveling runt like yer? I don’t believe it. Lloyd, lookit!”

”Lloyd” — also known as the drunk — staggered towards them, confusion in his gaze, but he soon started laughing manically at the sight of such a small girl. Being drunk certainly didn’t do him any good, but then again, it never did anyone good.

Sera was defiant in her standing. “Mister, you best listen to me. Wouldn’t want the Father finding out that you poked fun at his most precious lamb.”

“Is that a threat, girl?” the man’s eyebrows furrowed as his pudgy face soured with anger and irritation.

She didn’t answer, and instead fixed him with a steely look. The man, realizing that she was being serious, decided that he didn’t like a girl like her commanding him.

“Listen ‘ere, if yer so ‘special,’ yer must be mighty fine to play with,” he said, leering at her.

“Don’t you dare,” she sneered back, lip curling with distaste.

He merely chuckled, and wagged one finger at her, drinking in her suddenly fearful expression with satisfaction. Lloyd watched this all with bamboozled silence, too drunk to even pay much attention and stumbled off to who knows where.

The man cornered her between two cages, and she bolted, turning to run back up the stairs, but he reached out, lightening fast, and grabbed a fistful of her hair. She cried out in pain, and he yanked her back towards him, causing her to fall.

“Let go of me!” she demanded, kicking and writhing like a weasel trying to escape from a hunter’s grasp.

He laughed in response, pushing her to the ground, and pinning her down with his great hands. She snarled, a wild little creature who began biting and scratching. She managed to kick him hard in the shin, and he cursed, digging his fingers into her shoulders, to which she responded by biting him repeatedly.

Fed up, he slammed her back to the ground, her head hitting the floor hard, and it send her reeling. Desperate now, she reached out, and felt her fingers hook onto something. It was a pistol, and before she knew what she was doing, she had flicked off the safety and blindly pressed the trigger. A sound like thunder sent her ears ringing, and she shut her eyes tightly, still for a long time. Something warm dripped onto her face, and she finally opened her eyes.

Sera felt surprisingly calm, as though she were floating in a tranquil pool of water. She didn’t scream or panic at the sight of the man’s body slumped over her against the top of a nearby cage. It had been a clean, straight shot right into his heart. The pistol was still pointed at his chest, embedded in it even, and warm blood trickled from the wound, down her hand and onto her face. She stared at her hand, entranced by how much blood there was. She had killed someone, and she . . . wasn’t even fazed in the least bit.

Crawling out from under the man, with the pistol still clutched tightly in her hand, she stood up and looked around. Lloyd was staring at her in silence — was that awe in his gaze — and before he could even react, she pointed the pistol at him and shot him three times mercilessly. First, in the leg. Then, the stomach. And, finally, when he was on the ground, straight in the head, blowing his brains out. When she was positive that he wouldn’t move again, she tore through his pockets until she found the keys she was looking for.

Without even bothering to drop the pistol or clean the blood off of her, she darted up the basement stairs and raced down the hallway, to the main room, where she was sure Ciel and Astre would be. They wouldn’t have been taken anywhere else unless they were being sacrificed. She had to get there in time! But, when she got there, she found that she was too late.

The sight revealed before her was a slaughter. Bodies slumped over each other, and blood was splattered everywhere. It was a brutal, bloody dance that had ended in carnage. In the center was a familiar looking altar, except that it had an inhabitant. The body of one of the twin’s, mutilated and stabbed right through with a sacrificial blade. She gasped, a sharp intake of breath, and the keys wavered in her hand, while the pistol hand remained firm.

“No,” she breathed, shaking her head, and filled with disbelief.

She caught sight of one of the twin’s — whether it be Ciel or Astre — standing silently with a jet-black butler at his side. Demon, she realized. A contract had been formed, and the ruination of her world and the death of his brother was the price. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe both.

“What happened?” she asked out loud, voice shrill.

The remaining twin surveyed her with one blue eye and the other the color of pale violets, both which regarded her frigidly and as though she were a stranger.

“What do you think?” his voice sent shivers up and down her spine, as cold as a snowflake’s kiss.

She couldn’t answer, and found herself looking at the man standing beside him, easily towering over the boy. He was a beautiful, terrible creature who Sera knew better than to trust, and he had the most piercing eyes she had ever seen. A vermilion gaze peered down at her with disinterest, as though she was hardly worth his time and he had better things to worry about.

No one questioned why she was covered in fresh blood, or why she held a pistol in one hand. She dropped the keys, barely flinching from their loud clatter, and balled her hands into fists. Gritting her teeth, she waited for the familiar prick of hot tears, but when her eyes remained as barren and dry as a desert, she relaxed. She couldn’t cry; at least, not anymore, and she didn’t mind that fact. Her tears had already been spent, and she didn’t need them anyways.

“I see you’ve gotten yourself a well-trained mutt,” she commented dryly.

The boy replied sharply. “That has nothing to do with you.”

“True, true,” she admitted, shrugging her shoulders.

“What do you choose?” he asked suddenly. “It’s your choice. To be bound or to be free.”

She gazed at him. The fire in her eyes was a burnished red, like spring-damp roses. “Who said I was a captive? Who said I didn’t choose this?”

Despite what the legends said, Persephone chose that path. The path into darkness, down into Hell. She willingly swallowed down those six red pomegranate seeds, and they scraped down her throat, and took root in her stomach, sprouting into something dark and vibrant. And, just like Persephone, she chose her own path.

”I choose my own way,” she said, looking down at the pistol.

The boy simply nodded, and she found herself asking. “Which one are you? Ciel? Astre?”

“Don’t you dare say my brother’s name!” he snapped angrily. “Astre’s death will not be in vain.”

“Ciel, then,” she nodded, feeling remorseful. “May your brother rest in peace, where no torment or suffering will be able to find him.”

Ciel blanched, and looked like he was choking on something for a moment, before he regained his composure, and gave a stiff nod in return. She wished that she could cry for Astre, for the kind, young soul he had once been, but there was a time for shed tears, and the time was not now. It would have to wait another day — when her demons and ghosts screamed too loud.

As she turned to leave, she heard him say something to her. “Sera, I’m sorry it had to turn out this way.”

She stopped, swallowed thickly, but didn’t turn to look back at him. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m sorry too.”

Then, she left the room, feeling strangely relieved. When she finally stepped into the daylight for the first time, she felt as though she were shedding her past like she would a winter cloak.

Wait, her thoughts whispered. Ciel called you “Sera.” Only Astre knew your name. You told him on the last day. Her eyes widened, but then she shoved that silly thought away. It was obvious that Astre had told Ciel her name.

Astre’s gone, for good, she told herself and so she continued walking forward into the unknown, finally free at last.

Chapter Text

Her life has already been mapped out for; the yarn of her future unraveled before her. Choice is such a trite word to use, and she finds it wearisome when someone tells her how lucky she is to be born into this life. There are no other words to describe the sensation she wishes to feel: to be free. The ache inside her chest has always been there, since she was very young, and she wonders if this dreamscape that is her life in London is real or not. She falls in love with a rain-eyed and sunshine-hearted boy when she is six.

Moonlight creeps in like pale honey, slow and sweet and thick like midnight words spoken into a blue darkness that is lit by the light in his eyes. Loving him is like being stuck in the middle of a raging storm. It is the moment before being hit by a calamitous tidal wave, the last act, the final crescendo to the tragic tale of their melody. Elizabeth knows she’ll protect him with her life, will defend him until her very last breath and heartbeat, with everything she has to offer him. He is the moon to her sun, greeting her every single morning as he sinks low behind the horizon, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

But, she doesn’t expect it to end so quickly. She doesn’t expect her love to be buried alongside him. He was the very light of her life; Blind God’s final gift to the Earth, a drop of sunlight in a bleak and dying reality — her reality. Without him, she feels as though she is drowning, the torrent of Love’s thunderous storm beating down on her, trickling down her throat and bloating her stomach. She can hardly breathe, and she remembers that storms are catastrophic and dangerous. There is a chance of being struck by lightning, but she’s willing to take that chance. She grabs it, and clutches it to her chest, hoping and wishing and praying that he’ll come back to her . . . and he does, but not in the way she thought he would.

The drowning beauty of clear cerulean, the richness of a cobalt gaze meets hers, and she can finally breathe again, the intake of breath reviving her dried out lungs. The facade she has donned around her, the twisted thing she has come to believe is intoxicating. A poison that flows freely through her veins, but she believes that he has found the upside down colors of her nirvana; that he has come back to her because he loves her. Glass shards collect in her heart, scraping down her throat, scarring the soft flesh inside her. They feel as though thorns are pricking her, a noose of briers that surrounds her throat and threatens to suffocate.

And as the years pass by without halt — Time has never been merciful — and she changes, she notices that he never seems to change. Instead, he seems to grow colder, hardening into the living statue he has become, solidifying into the role he was meant to grow up into to, despite only being but a boy. She — with dandelion fluff hair and dewdrops for eyes — and he — with porcelain features and steel bones — drift away from the other, each seeming to be traveling in a different direction. Her heavenly fire is slowly dying, because once he took her heart, despite promising to return it, he never did.

Elizabeth realizes now that no love, no love shines through the darkness in his blue eye. How can she love someone who’s long since been dead? How can it be that she loves a corpse, a fantasy she has conjured? Her love is buried alongside her beloved. He never really came back to her; she had lost him the moment he returned. She had lost her love for him years ago, and has been living a lie. Her fire, which once blazed burnished red like sun-damp roses, has weakened. And, her love’s sunshine has vanished. Sunshine can’t shine when there are clouds blocking it. It’s like trying to peer through murky water, and it’s pointless.

Finally, she gives up.

Falling in love the second time is less like a storm, and more subtle, like a gentle monsoon, a rainwater kiss. She wasn’t looking for anything, wasn’t actively searching for a happily-ever-after because she knows better than to believe a fantasy. Charles Gray is a man of many things, but she didn’t expect him to be a man with gentle hands and soft eyes. Fire glitters behind his blue eyes, matching her own heavenly flame. A starless neck, a body that’s never too far away, he’s always there, just in reach. He waits — a patient man — and takes his time, healing her wounds and brushing away her thoughts with a single touch.

His hands roam everywhere, careful and cautious, as though he is handling something precious. Coasting all along her body, she feels unraveled before him. If this is what freedom feels like, she doesn’t ever want to be caged again. If this is what love is, she will be satisfied. His kiss is soft and startlingly reverent, as though he is cherishing a goddess. Her thoughts splinter completely, and she sinks slowly in a sea of starlight, but he catches her and guides her towards the surface so that she can breath again.

He has no definition, and she can’t think of describing him in any way. He is not her sun, nor is he her moon. He is not a storm, nor is he an ocean. He just is. He’s hers. That’s the word.

Her king, and she is his queen, and together, they rise as equals, up from the cold embers of their past and raise their heads and stare defiantly into the future side by side.

Elizabeth does not need a storm or a hurricane or a happy end or anything in particular; all she needs is him.

Chapter Text


“ And from the chaos

of his soul,

there flowed beauty. ”

~

The scent of moonflowers drifts into his dreams and prances their way into his waking nightmares, somehow managing to haunt him even more than the reminiscence of hands roaming his body or the emptiness in his chest. It is a cruel thing — to play and toy with his emotions like that. An intoxicating scent, the very sweetest poison anyone can hope to inhale, and he has been granted the opportunity to have such a taste, and once he has tasted the gods’ ambrosia, he seeks more. The fleeting of time is so indifferent to someone who has been tucked into the pages of eternity; should he ever take a moment to recall his past, he will stumble and falter, but no more. The only thing that matters to Alois Trancy is getting what he wants, and what he desires is something that he does not have the answer to.

He quite vividly remembers his past — there is no doubt about that — along with the relentless hunger, the biting cold, and his brother. While he does wish that things could’ve been different, he does not regret the choices he has made in his lifetime. They seep into his bones like stardust, embed themselves into the memories of what could’ve been, wrap around his lungs like vines, choking the very life out of him. He has been weathered down by wind, hollowed out by water, scorched by flame, and buried by earth. The elementals have chosen him as their champion, have named him their savior, and yet, he continues to fail them.

He hardly cares or bothers to try to impress the nobility, for he views them as a gaggle of gossiping geese who have nothing better to do than talk about the latest fashions and boring politics. He wants excitement! Fire. Zest. Passion. To feel the scattering of petals across his moon pale skin and for its seeds to splay all over his body until its roots have spread, intertwining with his veins and curling lecherously around his heart. The speckles of a petunia, the blush of a carnation, the arousal of a rose, the brilliance of a lotus; all the lovely flourishes of young love, and Alois yearns to feel such a emotion, craves its very existence to flow through his blood.

Ciel Phantomhive is a beautiful masterpiece, a picturesque portrait of magnificence and perfection, worthy to be the lover of Venus herself. Opulence and respect turned fear are the fine threads woven to cloth his slight body, and his marble-like features and hair tethered with the surface of the sea and the blue of the hydrangea makes him even more hauntingly angelic.

And as he enters the ornately-decorated ballroom with its Pre-Raphaelite paintings and gilded-framed mirrors, Alois can not help but feel set alight when his eyes lay upon Ciel, the ice of his soul having melted away. He feels his lungs constrict, choking back a gasp that threatens to escape his parted rosebud lips. He looks ethereal — almost godly — dressed in a decadent suit of sapphire blue. A fallen angel, a forgotten monarch: a broken king. That blasted butler stands at his side, ready to be called upon like a waiting dog, silent and sturdy as an oak tree.

Gritting his teeth, Alois turns to Claude, and waves him off. “I’ll handle this myself,” he emphasizes heavily on the last word, indicating that he doesn’t want Claude interfering at all.

As he approaches Ciel, the eighteen year old Earl glares at him with the full force of a winter storm, so harshly that it’s like he’s trying to murder Alois with his gaze alone.

“What,” he snarls, “do you want?”

“Surely I can’t visit an old friend?” Alois teases playfully, hiding his hurt with blasé indifference.

“We are not friends, Trancy,” Ciel spits, bristling like an angry cat.

Placing a palm over his heart, he feigns offense. “So cold, Phantomhive! An attitude like that isn’t going to get you anywhere with your darling fiancé.”

“Leave,” the Earl’s voice is rough, full of dire warning.

A bitter chuckle — masked by malicious amusement — arises from Alois, and his eyes shine with hurt for a moment, before his cool facade has returned. Abrasive as ever.

With a dramatic show of an overly exaggerated bow, he says mockingly. “Of course, my lord.”

He leaves the dark prince to himself, swiping a flute of soft gold champagne, and retreats back to his darkened corner where Claude is waiting in its depths. It’s his reclusive foxhole where he has a clear view of the grand ballroom and can watch the couples waltz and mingle among each other from a safe distance. While he is known for charming the ladies and luring them under his violet sheets, he is also known for his aloofness, and how despite his devilish smirks and snooty remarks, he is as much of a mystery as Ciel Phantomhive is.

But the Earl Phantomhive is more of an enigma than anyone Alois has ever met. He hides behind smoke, mirrors, and his butler’s black magic, choosing to reign far away from his kingdom of rust and ash. His throne is crumbling, the gold paint chipping away, his dark heart tarnishing itself further from within. But a rust crown will always shine red, and the Phantomhive name will be forever etched into history, remembered by future generations years from now.

Ciel Phantomhive is eternal, and Alois Trancy is merely a blink of an eye in the boy’s story. But he wants to be more than just a sentence. He wants to be a paragraph, a chapter, an entire novel! He wants to engrave himself into Ciel Phantomhive’s life, and tear everything apart, tear the pages and crumple them into balls and then set everything aflame. He wants to break Ciel’s world, shatter everything into a million glass pieces, slice cracks into his armor. Crawl inside his heart and make a home in it. He wants to matter.

Alois Trancy is malleable; he is able to be hammered down, bent, broken, smashed, twisted over and over again, but still remain intact. He is unbreakable, stronger than glass, harder than stone, and more delicate than porcelain. Every waking moment is a reminder that his time is running out, and that someday, he will fall apart. But not today! Not right now! Not in this moment!

As he watches the couples come together and fall apart, unfolding and unfurling like flowers, he uses his peripheral vision to observe Ciel. The vibrato of 19th century chamber music barely resonates within his ears, and Claude’s lustrous gaze isn’t boring into his soul tonight, isn’t pouring liquid honey into his essence. He only has eyes for the clandestine knight that haunts his dreams — turning them into nightmares — and the shadowy figure who rejects his advances only entices him in further.

The hours slide by, and yet he remains where he is, as if standing in silent vigil. Finally, the moment arrives, and when he notices Ciel looking particularly anxious, desperate for a way to escape the clutches of his persistent fiancé is when he strikes, a snake no longer poised for the kill and instead has sank his fangs into his prey’s neck.

Gliding over with the elegance only a Trancy can bear, he interrupts the ebullient Elizabeth with his own smooth, carefully-chosen words. “Phantomhive, didn’t you say you wanted to discuss something important with me earlier?”

Ciel blanches, and the glare he sends Alois is unyielding as a basilisk’s. “No,” his voice is guttural, “I don’t recall.”

“You must’ve had too much to drink, then,” Alois throws back in return, a veiled smirk on his lips. “Do you need a doctor?”

”No, I don’t need a — ”

“Or are you just tired?”

“N — ”

“How often do you get rest?”

“Trancy — ”

”I know!” Alois clasps his hands together, a grin on his face. “You wish to tell me about your latest amorous rendezvous, and this is why you deny having any knowledge, for you don’t want the Lady Elizabeth finding out.”

The entire time, Elizabeth had been listening in baffled silence at the exchange between the two men, but as she hears the Earl Trancy’s words, her eyes widen and her face darkens as she turns to fix Ciel with a startled look.

”Ciel,” her voice is quiet, “What’s he talking about?”

A panicked expression on his face, Ciel raises his hands as he struggles to defend himself, for he just as shocked as the lovely Elizabeth is. “I — He . . . Trancy, how dare you suggest such a preposterous thing!”

Alois laughs, reduced to tears as he clutches his stomach. “All in good fun, Lady Elizabeth. I meant no harm.”

Elizabeth’s face relaxes, and she manages a shaky laugh, before she regains her composure and is once again the ever-smiling beam of sunshine she usually is. She is a drop of sunlight in a bleak and dying reality, but Alois is not here for her. He’s here for Ciel.

“Now, we really must be going,” Alois says. “Ciel and I must discuss something of the up most importance.”

Before any of them can react or protest, he grabs Ciel’s hand and leads him outside. Alois is silent the entire time, and while Ciel does try to protest, he eventually falls into silence, which Alois is grateful for. He’s also thankful that Sebastian didn’t try to intervene and that Ciel hasn’t ordered his butler to come after them.

They leave behind the glittering ballroom and head into the gardens, which reveals a floral arcadia of reflective pools and flowery fragrance. The scenery is illuminated by the ethereal silver of the moon as it pools down onto the Earth, and everything seems too perfect and otherworldly that it feels like a hazy dream. The only thing that feels real and solid is Ciel’s hand in his own, but he’s forced to let it go when Ciel pulls away.

There is a flicker of relief in his sapphire eye, but it vanishes so quickly that Alois finds himself wondering if it was even there to begin with.

“Why did you bring me here?” Ciel’s voice is oddly quiet, as though he’s afraid to break the peaceful silence.

Alois isn’t able to answer, though the words are on the tip of his tongue. I want to get to know you, I want to help you, I want to be the one you rely on. I want to help you find your way through the darkness.

Instead he says, “You looked like you needed a break, Phantomhive.”

“And what did you hope to achieve with concerning yourself with my problems?” Ciel grows defensive. “If I recall, we are not confidants, or even acquaintances for that matter.”

“I — ” he doesn’t have an answer for that, and instead clucks his tongue, and sighs, feeling defeated.

That is until a spark of an idea flares up in the back of his mind, and faster than Ciel can blink, he’s grabbed both of Ciel’s hands, a sly smirk curling his lips.

“Don’t touch me,” Ciel hisses, drawing back as if Alois was a plague he might catch, revulsion swimming across his face.

But Alois will not be deterred, and he continues his advances until Ciel is all but pressed against the mansion’s side. Stopping a few inches away from Ciel, he falls still, and crosses his arms.

As he speaks, he notes that Ciel’s lashes are longer and thicker than he expected. “Ah,” he says. “First, I must ask for your hand . . . ”

Ciel’s face colors, but Alois continues. “ . . . to dance.”

He stops, tipping his head to the side and asks. “Why are you so red? What did you think I was going to say?”

There’s a tangible silence, undercut with a layer of awkwardness as the words whispers in his head. First, I must ask for your hand . . . in marriage. A petal pink blush paints his cheeks, for a moment, and he rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. His confidence comes back almost instantly, though, and he dramatically bows, champagne-gold hair falling into his face.

“My lord, may I have this dance?” he presses his lips momentarily against Ciel’s hand, holding it gently, to which Ciel sighs and relents, seemingly too exhausted to go against Alois’s wishes.

It is supposed to be slow and awkward, with Ciel stumbling over Alois’s feet — for his talent in dance makes professional ballerinas shake their heads in dismal — but with Alois leading, it turns out more smoothly than expected. The Viennese waltz is something Alois has perfected, having spent hours and hours practicing until he could do it in his sleep, and he finds himself whispering the steps to Ciel, guiding him like a light in the vast darkness.

Alois doesn’t know why Ciel agreed to this dance, but nor does Ciel. There is confusion in the air, but it eventually melts away, washed away by the gentle waves of serenity in this arcadia.

With the moon as their sole spectator, and the evening breeze against their skin, they dance — slow and steady — to the rhythm of their hearts. And though tomorrow they will pretend to not remember, will feign obliviousness towards one another, they will find that they have managed to find some balance between them. They are neither friends nor foes.

And, Alois swears, that he can smell moonflowers in the air — whether it be from Ciel or the flowers. Ciel Phantomhive is his sweetest nightmare; his darling jester; his ethereal god; His undoing.

Chapter Text

To those whose eyes are blinded —

I realize now too late that the devotion I held for my dear Ciel has been broken into two. My heart constantly aches — but I shouldn’t be surprised. No light, no light shines in his bright blue eye. I never knew daylight could be so violent.

I did not expect to bury my love so soon. Not in this city of gray ash and dead cathedrals that are lying all over the place.

He deceived me, but what’s worst is that I knew it. I knew that he was the poison in my starlit veins and the destruction of the joy in my heart. I wonder if he enjoyed every single second of it.

The heavens that blaze couldn’t put out the fire growing inside of me — wrapping its warmth around me as it threatens to consume the breath from my lungs and the thoughts from my mind.

What I thought I knew was all a lie, and as I fell deeper and deeper into the chasm he had created, I soon found myself unable to find a way out. Edward, is relieved to see me still intact, but I find that I am moments away from shattering. Is this what Persephone felt before she was snatched away into her chtonic imprisonment below — did she realize that her savior was never coming for her?

Father, Mother, I must ask for your forgiveness. I did not mean to make you worry, but you must understand that I had no choice. My duty as Ciel’s fiancé is to go to him, and protect him with my life. I made a promise, and I intend to keep it. I, Elizabeth Ethel Cordelia Midford, must fight for him with everything I have to offer.

As I said before, my Ciel cruelly ripped the blindfold from my eyes, and made me see. Every doubt, any question that I had has been answered. The one I thought was Ciel kept me in the dark for two years, and let me believe that there was nothing wrong.

What is that term — the one that everyone associates with when they think that something is better than it actually is? Oh, looking through rose-colored glasses. That’s it. Astre, was his name, before he stole Ciel’s name from him. That thief!

Not only did he steal something that didn’t belong to him, but he stole another thing. He stole my heart away, and then stomped on it. But, then again, that is the true test of love. To see how far someone is willing to go for the one who they hold affections for.

I passed the test, and paid the price for it all at the same time.

— Elizabeth

Chapter Text

ᴄʀᴇsᴄᴇɴᴅᴏ: ᴀ ɢʀᴀᴅᴜᴀʟ ɪɴᴄʀᴇᴀsᴇ ɪɴ ʟᴏᴜᴅɴᴇss ɪɴ ᴀ ᴘɪᴇᴄᴇ ᴏғ ᴍᴜsɪᴄ.

 


“ She is a wild, tangled

forest with treasures and

temples concealed within. ”

~

Elizabeth.

She must truly be a fickle mistress for her loyalties and affections to so rapidly switch like the changing seasons. Darkness is ever intoxicating, pouring down her throat, and spreading its poison all throughout her sunburst veins. But so is light, flickers and flames, kisses of unbearable heat that pepper her porcelain skin; if both dark and light can not intertwine within her body than she chooses silence. Any form of veil or muffler will suffice as long as it smothers the agony she has to endure each night, so long as the faces with the blank slate of Death’s reaping and necks twisted into unrecognizable shapes — as if cruel hands have taken the time to shape them into intricate pieces of sadistic art — leave her alone.

It is only mere days ago that both Astre and Ciel are found lying dead in the dirt, blood splattered to be next snack for the blades of dewy grass and small wildflowers, for if the plants could speak their minds they would’ve given a thousand thanks and blessings for the once-in-a-lifetime treat. She didn’t have to see their bodies to have nightmares. She only has to imagine, to picture the vivid depiction of the macabre scene of two boys who look eerily similar with their mouths gaping open and their pallor deathlike.

Starlit tears fall freely from her diamond-bright eyes, each droplet shattering into a million smithereens as they hit the ground. Her glass-like heart quivers and shakes like a mouse staring into the luminous eyes of a hungry cat, and then it too descends beneath the depths of the earth, swallowing up her love and joy and kindness. Lizzy would’ve broken, but Elizabeth stands back up, head raised in defiance and a fire sparking in her newly-hardened eyes. She sheds her old self like a snake slipping out of its skin, shakes her angel wings, and doesn’t look as they darken and begin to wither into ash. Lizzy was a childish whimsy, a fantasy that faded into the sunset with a fairytale ending. Realize that she is not just some golden seraph, but instead has been a demoness this entire time. Elizabeth is bred with blue blood through and through and is not made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Nor is she made of low-heeled shoes, her mother’s teachings, and a sword to protect him with. No, she is made of smoke and mirrors and tragedies.

Two months pass, and the role for Watchdog is waiting for someone worthy to fill it. She hardly blinks when she sends a letter to the Queen explaining how that title is rightfully hers. Her claims are well reasoned and Her Majesty hands it over without a second thought. It does not matter that Elizabeth is only fourteen years old; Ciel Phantomhive was younger. Her parents on the other hand are against it, but it is too late, for once she has had a taste, she does not want to let it out of her grasp.

She ignores her parents’ warnings and her brother’s pleas — even her own intrusive thoughts — and she becomes the Queen’s loyal lapdog, ready at her beck and call. Whatever black magic seeped into “Ciel” Phantomhive’s veins over the last three years affects her as well, and with each case, she becomes more and more like him. An icy film overtakes her emerald-green eyes, sharpening and polishing them to a cold gleam. Her once sprightly gait has weathered down into a regal and ominous bearing, and she is merciless in her ways and doesn’t hesitate to run someone through with her twin blades. She is everything cruel and wicked, and she is terrible in every single way and she embraces it.

Her brother is afraid of her, her mother is disappointed in her, and her father is worried for her. This new Elizabeth is eternal; the sempiternalness that flows through her veins. Lounging on her bone throne and wearing a rust-red crown, she reigns.

She makes Sieglinde her mastermind and Soma her guardian. They are both changed people, no longer who they are once were and are more than willing. She names herself her champion and queen, and all the while maintains her facade perfectly. She is a living skeleton; the epitome of a walking corpse. Her skin is pulled taut, her bones have hardened, her fingers have sharpened into claws, her mind has disarrayed itself from reality.

But in the dead of the night, when the silence penetrates the darkest and most secretive corners, is when she cannot escape her demons. Honey-sweet words whisper into her ear, sickening her inside out, and sweat beads at the nape of her neck. Guilt pricks her like a thorn, and regret colors her vision, slaying any rational thought of hers. This is the time when her monsters personify and become living creatures; they have come for her and now there is no one to save her — no Astre or Ciel. She screams, rages, flinches, trembles, burns, ruptures and overflows onto her silken sheets and onto the rug. And she cries. She cries until there is no beginning and no end. She cries and cries and cries, cries a river, a ocean, a tsunami, a whole monsoon of emotions that cascade from her in torrents, drowning her and everyone in a flood.

She knows that Paula stands, vigilant, beyond her bedroom door, silently crying for her mistress’s endless torment. She’s aware that her mother and father listen to the inhuman screams that claw their way out of their daughter’s throat, grave and sullen. She realizes that her brother, Edward, left the country for college because he couldn’t handle the fact that his younger sister is destroying herself and digging her own shallow grave. She acknowledges that people talk, whisper and lurk in the corners of her vision that she’s changed — that’s she grown cold, distant, and murderous.

The Queen’s Watchdog is breaking, chipping bit by bit and she doesn’t know what to do anymore. She couldn’t save both Ciel and Astre, so how can she save herself? She couldn’t say goodbye to them, wasn’t able to express her apologies to Astre for betraying him. She had been hurt, naive, stupid, weak. She is still weak now, even after everything she’s accomplished. She’s always been the weakest of the pack. Always has and always will be.

If only she could reverse Time, even for a single moment. She would tell Astre how much she cared about him, and she would thank him for all he’d ever done for her. She would kiss Ciel — properly — and murmur that she was taking her heart back, and that though she did love him in some way, she couldn’t do this anymore. She would hug both of them, and finally be able to let them go. She would be able to close this chapter of her story, and finally have peace within herself. But, because their lives were cut short, because fate had other plans, she cannot move on. She cannot let go, and it hurts more than anything.

Elizabeth wishes she could tell Lizzy to be careful, to be wary, to run away. She wishes with all her aching heart for a savior, for salvation, for a moment of rest, but she isn’t granted any of that. God is not known for being merciful, and she can’t find it in herself to blame him. After all she’s done — lied, tricked, stole, cheated, played, hurt — she doesn’t deserve anything from anyone.

It is only when she is tucked away with Sieglinde and Soma in Sieglinde’s manor that she finally breaks — something snaps in her, like a bone breaking into two. Sieglinde is quick to take her in her arms, and pieces of the once-kind Soma float back up towards the surface and he offers what quiet solace he can as well. Soon, they’re all hugging, and crying — Soma crying tears of blood — but for once, they’re alright.

They’ve been hurt many times, betrayed by their loved ones, lost so many important things, but they’re strong. Elizabeth finds that they’re keeping her afloat, stopping her from sinking completely, and she thanks them silently for that. There are no words exchanged between them, but she understands. She realizes that she doesn’t have to be strong alone, and that maybe she isn’t as weak as she thought.

Yes, Elizabeth Midford is made of smoke and mirrors and tragedies, but she is also made of sunshine, steel, and warmth. She is strong, passionate, fiery, stubborn, childish, clingy, and resilient.

Yes, she makes mistakes. Yes, she can be selfish, and yes, she regrets her past decisions.

Yes, she wishes that she could apologize to both Ciel and Astre, but she also knows that somewhere out there that they don’t blame her — not anymore.

Elizabeth Midford finds that she doesn’t mind being Lizzy sometimes, and that maybe you can be both light and dark, happy and sad, beautiful and terrible all at the same time — and that it doesn’t bother her any longer.

Chapter Text

ʟᴇɢᴀᴛᴏ: ɪɴ ᴀ sᴍᴏᴏᴛʜ ғʟᴏᴡɪɴɢ ᴍᴀɴɴᴇʀ, ᴡɪᴛʜᴏᴜᴛ ʙʀᴇᴀᴋs ʙᴇᴛᴡᴇᴇɴ ɴᴏᴛᴇs.

 

" No ordinary life for her,

not with the mysteries of the universe

hidden in those eyes of hers. "

~

Sieglinde.

He told her in honey-coated words and sly looks: “From this point on, think of everyone as an adversary who is trying to use you. I am no exception. And so, you must try to use everyone else in order to obtain the future you desire.” She remembers that she listened with rapt attention, captivated by the mere sound of his oil-smooth voice, ink flourishes scattered in the water. But what she didn’t listen to was his warning to not trust him, for she did trust him and thought of him as a confidante. Even now, she would trust every word that is uttered out of his rosebud lips and not even bat an eyelash if he told her a lie — no matter how fatal it may be.

She remembers him explaining quickly how it wasn’t him who harmed Soma and murdered Agni but his . . . twin brother? She hadn’t been able to respond, and merely nodded silently. She had given him the tampered blood, the one he had requested for who knows why, and he had promptly turned to leave when she had stopped him in his tracks and hugged him tightly, making him swear to return to her so that she could study his blood and his butler. He didn’t say what she had been hoping for him to say — much to her dismay — but only fixed her with an inscrutable expression and left her alone with eight words: “I can’t promise anything, not even to you.”

Then he departed, disappearing into the rain without a sound along with his butler, and she never saw him again. She will never witness another rose garden bloom upon his pale cheeks after teasing him; she will not see the glint of his cerulean eye again; she will eventually forget the boy with sea-pearls adorning his skin and a thunderous tendency to erupt with incandescent emotion. That warm glow that flickers in her chest will fade into distant memory, and he will become just another ghost trapped in a mortal sleeve.

The saddest word to her is: almost. She almost had a chance. He almost cared for her. The world almost spared them mercy, but to no avail. Buried six feet beneath the earth is a broken boy’s body, fragile as butterfly wings and etched with a scarring past he let define him. Sieglinde isn’t self-destructive, and while she does cry, she doesn’t let it break her spirit like it did to Lizzy. She has no power here, has no say in saving her friend, and she feels helpless. 

All she can do is tinker, build, craft, create, invent, learn, and discover. All she can do with what she has is get by a single day. All she has is herself, and all she can do is trust her own abilities and sanity. Soma is lost, adrift on his own lonely voyage, with no sign of returning. Lizzy, no, Elizabeth, has dug herself a grave and thrown herself down into it. Sieglinde is the only one keeping the scale from tipping, she’s the only one trying to keep everyone above water, and she’s slowly losing the battle too. 

She has to find a way to talk to Ciel; it is imperative that she find some way to ask him for help and get some answers. What happened to him? Why did he leave her behind? What’s she supposed to do? Science shall be her savior, and so she dives into her research, spending countless hours  seeking an answer to this labyrinthine puzzle that seems to have no end. When science utterly fails her, the occult is what she turns to, because she’s desperate and she doesn’t know how much longer she has until her mind goes completely insane. Her emotions and thoughts are unraveled before everyone like a ball of yarn, and she seems to have forgotten Ciel’s warning. 

Black magic, quixotic charms, empty promises, false rituals are all she finds. Sieglinde Sullivan cannot figure out the answer to this equation, to this problem. She has no idea how to solve it. She feels like a failure — a genius with a vacant absence in her mind. She can’t think straight, and Wolfram worries for her health. Her bottle-green eyes have dimmed, becoming gems who have lost their shine. Her viridescent colors fade, growing as murky as muddied water, and it’s like staring into an old mirror. 

How can it be that a genius like her went crazy over the mere fact that she couldn’t solve a problem? How can it be that she so easily loses control? How can it be that she doesn’t know the answer? 

There is no magical revelation, no wandering dream where Ciel appears in, no sense of comfort that comes to her and makes her realize that she needs to give up before her obsession destroys her. 

She has always be a doll — a little puppet — who was tossed back and forth from owner to owner, and finally discarded onto a shelf and was abandoned by those most dear to her. She has never taken control of her own life; has never grabbed the reins; has never stopped someone from taking advantage of her until Ciel entered her life and tore her world to shreds. 

He changed her, forced her to become more guarded, to put up walls, and she was grateful to him; she owed him, didn’t she? But, never once did he ask her to do something she didn’t want. Never once did he persuade her to act on his own accords. Never once did he play with her mind, and make himself her puppeteer. And she was overwhelmed — overwhelmed by the sheer amount of emotion she felt when she realized that. 

Her first real friend, she had vowed to make him happy, to give him what he deserved, because he deserved the sun and the moon and the whole entire expanse of the universe. He deserved so much, and she couldn’t give it to him, and that’s what broke her in the end. She couldn’t be his final reckoning; his savior; his hope. But he was hers, and that’s enough. 

For now, she’ll be satisfied. She’ll be satisfied that she ever got a chance to lock eyes and brush hands with the boy made of hemlock and heartache. She’ll accept that she’s lucky, her life is enough, what she has is enough. She has two amazing friends — Soma and Lizzy — and an abundance of people who care about her, and that’s wonderful. 

Maybe someday, in the distant future, in a hazy dreamscape she’ll meet him again. She’ll be able to gush about her latest discoveries, tease him to no end until he’s berry red, and share how well everyone is doing. And hopefully, he’ll smile gently, offer his hand, and ask her if she wanted to go on another adventure with him. 

To which she’ll reply with: Yes.

He won’t take her away to some forbidden Neverland, nor will he whisk her away to her wildest dreams, but he’ll make sure it’s an adventure worthwhile, for Ciel Phantomhive has never been one to do things halfway, and Sieglinde is no exception.

Chapter Text

“ What is more treacherous than death?

Well, my dear, I’ll tell you.

It’s love. ”

~

Before.

Smooth ivory adorns his skin, rose leaves part his lips and are woven into the brilliance that is his winter-gold locks, and his icy-hued gaze slips from person to person with the sharpness and perfect cruelty of an assassin’s blade. He has grown up exceptionally beautiful, like every true Adonis in history, yet still, he cannot compare to the cold and calculating beauty of Ciel Phantomhive. He simply cannot compete, and he knows that those who cannot keep up fall behind and are torn apart by the wolves sent out by Time himself. They are closing in, canines bared and ready to become stained scarlet with the blood that flows through his darkly-lit veins. He is not ready — will never be prepared — but he vows to not go down without a fight. He needs to prove himself, that he deserved to live this terrible life, that he is justified for the choices he made, and that he means something.

Because if no one cared about him, then did he really exist? Did he ever take Ciel’s hand, and lead him through the night in a beautiful but despondent dance that shattered his heart? Did he pick up the desolate pieces of his crushed organ as he watched him slip back into the darkness, the remnants of a sapphire blue eye leaving him behind? Did the flourishes of love bloom a florescence of colors into him that melted away the pain in him?

Alois is intoxicated by the scent of moonflowers presses against his skin, drunk alone on the memories that haunt him day and night, and as he tips his head back, he closes his eyes and replays it over and over again. Hunched forward on his seat, he cannot not help but sigh, penetrating the palpable silence suffocating his office. As his eyelids slide open, he stands up with languid movements, and cards a sweaty hand through his golden tresses.

His eyebrows furrow as he becomes lost in contemplation. He has not seen the Earl Phantomhive in weeks, possibly months, but it seems like an entire century has passed; eternity has a way of sneaking up on him and surprising him once again, taunting him with the possibility of being with the one he desires forever.

As always, Claude’s timing is impeccable, and the soft knock on his door stirs Alois from his thoughts.

“Come in, Claude,” he says tiredly, letting his body fall back into his armchair. “What is it now?”

He cannot help but feeling peeved at his butler’s sudden appearance, but he regards him with a look of practiced indifference, schooling his expression so that it is unreadable.

“My lord,” his butler bows low at the waist, pressing a gloved hand to his chest. “As requested, I have gathered new information on the Earl Phantomhive.”

Alois feels himself squirm at the words “my lord,” having the sudden urge to remind Claude to address him as: your highness. But, then he remembers how he ordered his butler to refrain from calling him that childish title ever again, as a ways of shedding his past and pushing it behind him, when in reality, it pained him too much to hear those words escaping that demon’s lips. Luka deserved better. It is a thought he often hears whisper in the back of his mind, nuzzling against his ear, and curling around him like smoke. It is true though, and he knows that it should’ve been him who died instead of Luka, but life chose to be cruel and instead murdered his brother in cold blood and left Jim Macken to rot. At least Alois Trancy is someone made from fine gold and blue glass, not dirt and lies and salty tears.

But he does perk up at Claude’s next words, eyes widening just the slightest as a giddy feeling is injected into him. “Claude! Tell me!” he all but shouts, slamming his hands on the desk as he shakes and trembles.

“It appears that he is an imposter,” Claude hesitates on his next words, which is rare. “And, his brother has returned and reclaimed his titles and land.”

There is a white haze that wraps itself around Alois’s brain, and muffles out all sound. All he can ask, in a low and menacing voice is, “What?”

Suddenly, a thousand questions flood into him, and he feels as though his head has been slammed into the ground. The sound is all too startling, as he was just starting to get used to silence.

“What do you mean?” he finally manages, voice sounding raw.

“Ciel Phantomhive was merely impersonating as his older brother this entire time, and it was only now revealed to the public,” Claude goes on in his liquid-honey voice. “A sham, as you mortals call it.”

Alois is silent for once in his life.

“According to the media, he escaped and has the authorities trying to find him and get him into custody so that he can answer for his supposed crimes.”

“That’s bullshit!” Alois roars, sweeping all the papers off of his desk, blazing with a fury that surpasses lions. “He — Ciel — How . . . That’s cock and bull, you lying bastard! That’s not true! It can’t be — “

He cuts off, unable to continue, and is left staring at his open palms, feeling strangely numb, as though he isn’t even attached to his own body anymore. “Claude,” he whispers harshly, “tell me this isn’t true, please.”

His last word is a plea, injected with anguish and terror, begging him to lie to him, to tell him that it isn’t the truth, even though it is and Alois knows it.

“My lord,” Claude scolds. “You know I would never tell you anything but the truth. Reduced to begging so quickly over a mere boy is not in your nature.”

“He is not just some boy!” Alois snaps back, glaring with a fiery rage at the blasted demon. “Don’t you dare breathe a word like that ever again.”

His butler’s mocking laugh makes him almost wind his hands around Claude’s throat and choke him, but he refrains from doing so and regains his self-control. Now is not the time nor the place.

Claude’s smirk is cruel and pointed. “As you know, my lord,” he says, “Ciel Phantomhive has never been one to back down from a fight. It wouldn’t surprise me if he went to enact his revenge against his brother, kin or not.”

There is a silence that hangs in the atmosphere, darkening it from within, and to twist the knife further, Claude adds in his velveted voice. “If I must be frank, my lord, someone’s bound to injure themselves.”

Alois can see the blatant satisfaction that flickers in Claude’s luminous gaze, can feel it meld with his conscious and curl like a cat’s tail at the sight of his master becoming unraveled.

For the first time in years, Alois Trancy feels the biting needles of fear prick him, chilling him to the core and freezing his soul once again.

Now.

“Ciel!” is the name he shouts, tossing pleasantries and formalities out of the window as he rushes out of his carriage.

Panic is licking at his feet like flames, nipping him with small bites and forcing him to run faster and faster until he can barely breathe anymore. The silhouette of his darkened prince is fading, disappearing once more, and he refuses to let that happen so easily.

“You bastard!” he snarls as he finally catches up with Ciel, ready to punch him. “Why would you risk your life like that?!”

Recognition flashes in Ciel’s sapphire eye, but is quickly masked with his usual cold callousness, but Alois isn’t having any of it. No longer shall he be his pawn; no longer shall he let him hold his strings; he will not stand down anymore. He slaps him with a righteous fury, practically seething, the wild glint in his eyes making him appear deranged.

“Why would you do this to — ” me, the final word is left unsaid as he trails off.

Ciel is clutching his cheek with one gloved hand, the red mark a striking contrast to his moon-pale skin. “Trancy, must you be so intrusive all the time?”

Alois’s face flushes with anger, and he shoves the earl back, bristling like an angry cat — not noticing how Ciel doesn’t even fight back or how his gaze holds a heavy misery.

“You stupid brat!” Alois shrieks, lip curling into a sneer. “How dare you lie to me like that!”

His voice cracks, anger trickling from him like a hole in a bucket, and his vision mists with tears. He has always been emotional and dramatic, but he’s never been so affected by someone like this. He knows that it’s selfish of him to accuse Ciel of lying to him when he himself is a liar, but he doesn’t care anymore.

The fog is overcast, shrouding everything from view until it’s only the two of them standing in the middle of nowhere, as though in a dream again — or maybe a nightmare. The trees are barely visible, but he can make out their dark figures from afar. He cannot tell up from down, left from right, sky from ground anymore. There is only Ciel. Alois’s angelic face sours as silent tears trickle down his face, and his emotions cascade from him torrents.

Ciel regards him with a tired look, as though he cannot wait for everything to be over with, but there is pity in his gaze as he tracks the golden-haired boy’s tears.

“Why are you crying?” he asks with gossamer-soft words, in a voice that strangely tender. There is no accusation, no protest, nothing that hints of irritation or anger. It’s as though he cannot find it in himself to hate Alois Trancy any longer.

Alois glares at Venus’s lover through his tears and murmurs. “What do you think?”

There is merely silence from the shadow and flame king as he gazes at him with a distant look in his eye. Cautiously, Alois steps closer to him, satisfied that he doesn’t flinch nor step back, and finds himself using a trembling hand to cup the earl’s cheek and tilt his face towards his. He doesn’t kiss him — though desire sloshes through his veins — and instead gently loosens his charcoal eye patch free, and lets it fall to the ground without watching.

Two different colored eyes stare back vacantly at him; one the color of pale violets and the other a drowning cerulean. Alois inadvertently brushes a ruby-ringed finger across the sharp plane of his cheekbone, gazing at him with unveiled longing. I love you. The words do not escape between his parted rosebud lips, but a small smile does grace his beautiful face.

“Trancy,” Ciel murmurs. “What do you want from me?”

You. Everything. Nothing. “I suppose I don’t know.”

“You know I don’t feel that way about you.”

“Liar.”

A smirk is all he gets in return, and that elicits a wry chuckle from Alois.

Ever so gently, Ciel removes Alois’s hands from his face, and holds them for a moment, before letting them go, leaving Alois only with the memory of his warmth and touch.

“Cruel as ever,” Alois tuts, shaking his head.

“And you’re persistent as always. You never know when to leave me alone.”

“Wouldn’t you miss me if I didn’t visit you every now and then?”

Ciel doesn’t answer, and goes to retrieve his patch from the ground, nimbly tying it back on. “I must go,” he says, turning to leave, but Alois grabs his shoulder and shakes his head.

“Let me help you, Ciel,” he pleads.

A bitter chuckle arises from the earl, and he pulls away. “There’s nothing you can do.”

“Bullshit, Phantomhive, and you know it.”

“You wouldn’t understand — can’t understand.”

Alois can only splutter, and grabs Ciel by his lapels. “How would you know? Try me!”

He’s desperate to say the one person he cannot save and will never be able to save. Ciel Phantomhive has already doomed himself; he is a damned soul, but Alois refuses to accept that.

Ciel slowly unhooks Alois’s fingers from his coat, and removes himself from the boy. “Let me do what I have to do, Alois.”

Alois stills, hearing his name spoken from Ciel’s lips for the first time, and he is left staring as Ciel begins to retreat. For a third time, he runs after Ciel, but instead of stopping him, he kisses him, only for a moment, but it still seems to last a lifetime. His lips are chilled from the cold’s bite, but Alois hardly cares and kisses him with a reverence that is supposed to be bestowed to great kings and leaders. It is over in a matter of seconds, but he makes Ciel Phantomhive swear that he’ll return, even though he knows in his heart that it isn’t possible.

“Promise me,” his voice is guttural.

Ciel’s eye searches his gaze, and he relents. “I promise.”

“Good,” Alois says, “because I’m not going to let you go so easily.”

And, with that he watches as Ciel Phantomhive dissipates into the mist, leaving him alone like every other time, a murderer of his heart.

After.

A sickly pallor adorns his skin, blackened leaves part his lips and are woven into the dullness that is his winter-gold locks, and his watery gaze slips from person to person with the ruin and decay of a damaged empire. He had grown up exceptionally beautiful, like every true Adonis in history, and yet, he once couldn’t compare to the cold and calculating beauty that was Ciel Phantomhive. He simply couldn’t compete, and he knew that. But now, he cannot compare to anyone. He no longer cares about his looks, no longer keeps up with his flamboyant tendencies, has given up on daydreaming about his next encounter with the Earl Phantomhive. Why?

Because his love is buried six feet beneath the surface, swallowing up his passion and fire and joy. He promised, and just as expected, broke it. Alois can hardly blame Ciel though. They were both destined for a fate worse than death someday.

It is true that he once loved the boy that was Ciel Phantomhive. Loved him for his demons, for the cold cruelty he possessed, for the terrible beauty that was his reckless and wild abandonment.

And, the scent of moonflowers sicken him, makes him heave the contents of his stomach. Ciel Phantomhive was truly his most terrible nightmare; his cruel jester; his grotesque god; His doom.

Chapter Text

Darlin', darlin', darlin'
I fall to pieces when I'm with you, I fall to pieces (bitch)
My cherries and wine, rosemary and thyme
And all of my peaches (are ruined, bitch)

— Cherry, Lana Del Rey.

 

▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀▀

 

The scarlet gown she adorned with the heartbreakingly gorgeous passementerie braiding and guipure lacing caused a lump to form in her throat; her nimble fingers twitched, encased in silken gloves, and smoothed over the fabric, unabashed in her awe — she wasn’t used to such fine clothes, especially dolling her own body. Her body was sheathed in an elegant ensemble, a dress of blood to rival her porcelain skin, a pluming skirt that brushed the tiles gently. Sebastian had combed through her dark wine tresses and twisted the strands into an intricately braided coiffure, accenting the up-do with a mesh of golden thread that was intertwined into her locks. She felt like a woman, someone to be desired and cherished with soft kisses and lingering touches. For the first time in her twenty-four years of life, she finally felt beautiful. She felt as though she was slipping into another’s skin, someone who lived an exciting, delectable life; a woman who captured men’s hearts and had the power to rise cities from the ashes. She felt exquisite. And as she descended down the marble steps that led to the glittering ballroom, her cheeks heated with slight embarrassment at her self-absorbed thoughts on her once plain appearance, a rose garden blossoming on the planes of her sharp cheekbones. 

She could feel her muscles tighten as she stepped onto the polished floor, unease wriggling in the pit of her stomach like a worm. Her parted lips seized little gasps of air as she felt panic rushing through her veins. Her heart pounded restlessly in her chest. Foolishly stubborn. Cruelly obstinate. It wouldn’t settle down however much she gritted her teeth or forced herself to count to ten. It wasn’t until a pair of citrine eyes, glittering coldly like topazes, met hers through the sea of people that relief bloomed in her chest profusely. A tantalizing looking young woman that she recognized appeared out of nowhere, swathed in a decadent midnight blue gown that seemed to be encrusted with tiny points of light, but when she caught a closer look they were instead small pearls speckled amidst the fabric like captured stars. Her ebony hair was pinned up in an elegant twist, and her apple white skin was creamy beneath the gentle glow from the ornate chandeliers. Despite her heavenly appearance, her soft, sullen mouth was her most ostentatious decoration, painted a villainous shade of red. It was a sinful delight, and the slightest curl of lips sent shivers down Mey-Rin’s spine. 

“My lady,” she dipped her head, “the black swan swims at midnight.” 

As accordance to the plan, Ran Mao — posing as Lady Constance Ashdown — curtsied, elevating her arms like a graceful swan, and pointing a dainty foot as she did so. It was the signal that their target had been spotted and that they would strike right as the great celestial clock in the sky struck twelve.

Black raspberries and hints of vanilla drifted in her direction as the young woman advanced closer, a luscious fragrance that brought an absent smile upon her lips, two smooth notes that clashed together like a splash of vivid color. There were no words spoken, but a mutual understanding passed between them that electrified Mey-Rin’s insides, jolting them back to life, restarting the fatal organ concealed by a graveyard of bones, causing it to cough up dust and begin to pound erratically. 

Sharp, feline-like eyes watched every emotion that crossed over her face, every grimace and twitch, and even then it wasn’t enough. Finally, she retreated a few steps, giving her some space. Mey-Rin let out a quiet sigh of relief, and composed herself, hardening so that her mask was as unreadable as she could make it. 

A cacophony of shrill laughter could be heard from afar — a woman’s — and caught the two assassins’ attention. There was something intrusive in their entrance into the symphony of endless noise, something uncanny. The two weaved through the crowd toward the laughter; something they shared was some sort of sixth sense — a knowing that couldn’t be learned, an instinct deep within them that pointed out little clues and suspicious manners. No other possessed what they had, at least no one normal. But, then again, these two women weren’t average to begin with. 

As usual, their joined intuition was proven correct as they easily zeroed on a uncontrollably exuberant young lady whose high spirits reminded Mey-Rin distinctively of Lady Elizabeth, minus the tussle of auburn curls that cascaded haphazardly down her spine. Lady Elizabeth and this young lady could’ve easily been friends given the chance — especially with their similar tastes with an abundance of white lace, in particular it just about dripped from the crepe silk of her bodice to her ruffled overskirt with an excessive amount so that it looked like she was hemmed with snowflakes — but she wasn’t what the pair was searching for, however, her companion was. Her oily slip of a intimate was much older than her, with a devouring sort of grin and dark eyes that glittered with a calculating glint. He reminded Mey-Rin of a scheming rat; the type that lapped the cream off of freshly-made custards and chewed holes into sacks of grain. He looked as though at any moment he would pounce onto this girl and snatch the naivety from her in the worst possible way. 

He was a striking specimen of manhood, indeed, but his features seemed to have been stolen from different faces and glued together into a mess of distortions and cracks that filled the once-beautiful mask. Obviously of high-ranking, his elegant double-breasted vest made of rich black velvet with a stand up top collar and wide, sweeping lapels and silver buttons gave him a mysterious aura. 

Baron Augustus John Chadwick III was rumored to be involved with the trafficking and selling of organs illegally in the underworld — preferably those of young, wealthy noblewomen, claiming that they were the purest and free of all sin. It wasn’t until earlier this morning it had been confirmed that he was the ringleader, and it had been proven with a simple blood test.

There was only one way his story could come to an end, and when the clock struck twelve, two bloodstained maidens would be there to see him descend into the depths of fiery Hell.