The rain started in the evening.
Clouds had gathered throughout the afternoon, hovering over the land like a bad, unwanted memory. The gardeners had grunted and grumbled as they packed and stowed their tools. Rain was good for the plants, but would muddy the pristine white gravel walkways, and disarray the carefully-arranged flowerbeds. The master of the mansion on the hill, their employer, hated nothing more than an unkempt garden. They would suffer dearly if his daily inspections did not meet his standards of 'acceptable' work.
The younger gardeners muttered amongst themselves that an entitled bastard who had never lifted a hoe in his life or pulled up weeds by the roots had no idea what sort of work was 'acceptable'. They were shushed by their elders, who knew better than to provoke their master's generally volatile temper. For them, the extra work was the price of a quiet life; without the lash upon their backs.
The gardeners slunk off to their sheds and homes, the maids and manservants locked the shutters to the windows where they could, and the guards pulled out their oiled cloaks, grumbling about their master's paranoia forcing them to pull double shifts in such horrible weather when a glass of spiced rum at the fireplace seemed so much more comfortable.
The storm hit, the trees swaying wildly. The houses creaked, raindrops clattering against windows like a neverending fusillade. The wind howled, like the man-eating beasts that roamed the wilderness.
The guards went on their appointed rounds, pushing through the constant gusts of winds with all their strength, cursing the clouds that had taken away the moonlight. Their only illumination were the lanterns in their hands and the frozen images burned into their eyes with every flash of lightning.
They could not have known what was coming for them. They would never have believed that anyone would come out in such a storm. Yet with every lightning flash, a pair of guards disappeared, without struggle or sound that anyone could hear. After a half-dozen flashes, some of the guards began to notice the absences. They only grumbled, resentful that they had to shiver in the rain while others dared their master's wrath by staying indoors.
A few flashes later, and they too were gone.
Inside the mansion itself, their employer stood before the tall, broad window of his study, looking out over the grounds. He was thin and sallow-faced, clad in an outfit worth his servants' salaries many times over. He watched the rain battering the windows, nervously twirling a tumbler of amber liquid in his hands. He downed the brandy in one undignified gulp.
"I really should have returned to the capital," he muttered to himself, yanking at his cravat. "Honest was right about this place being unsafe. Why didn't I listen to him?"
He coughed, the burn of the brandy comforting him, and he hastily refilled his glass with shaking fingers.
"Everything will be fine," he reassured himself, quaffing half the glass as he turned back to look out the window. "Everything will be just—"
Lightning struck again, and the man froze in absolute terror. For a moment, he could have sworn that he'd seen the reflection of a man in the room with him, a yellow-eyed knight in white armour splattered with red.
He turned to look as another flash of lightning cast shadows across the room.
And there the knight was.
The storm calmed itself in the early morning, the clouds vanishing as the sun rose in the east, warm light filling the halls of the mansion and the grounds. The servants rose early, happy that they had weathered the storm unscathed, and the majordomo knocked on the door to his master's study.
He entered without asking—the lord was a notorious layabout—and discovered him sitting in the armchair behind his desk, a knife stuck into his chest and an expression of utter terror on his face. A note was pinned between handle and corpse, and the majordomo recognized the sign of the owl and moon with a sickly lurch in his heart.
When he ran outside to alert the guards, he only heard shouts and screams as the gardeners and maids discovered rows of shot, strangled, and disfigured soldiers neatly lined up by the walkways leading to the mansion.
The sky was clear and the sun shone brightly, careless of the night that preceded it.
AN: Okay so... people who are following. By which I mean about a good 90% of ya'll because who goes into the Akame ga Kill crossover section and then clicks on One Piece, you might have seen my mass Author Note send out in which I spoke of several stories. One of which being Outcry which I am writing with LD1449. The other being Kill, Save, Liberate which is out on both Sufficient Velocity and Spacebattles. After talking and consideration with my co-writer, we decided that we will go ahead and post this story here onto under my profile due to Fernandel's life constricting him like an anaconda.
Now this is just the prologue. Something short and sweet. The next chapter will come out on a weekly basis so that I can have a cushion to post as I need to get working on other chapters. I figured out that sometimes 2-3k word chapters is more managable than gunning for the big 10k ones. 10k big ones will only take place on certain fights and events but for the most part, look for the chapters to end up around the 2-3k range at least and averaging around 4-6k words.
CEM isn't dead. It has some life. But I'm going at that in a snail's pace. This story? Probably not so much hopefully as I really REALLY love this idea. It's probably the best the cauldron inside my brain has concocted and god bless Fernandel for writing it with me.
Shout out to Juubi-K, KokuenDF, and cxjenious for beta reading! Feel free to review and leave your thoughts. And if anyone still wants to adopt my other projects, feel free to PM me and we can talk.