The journey to the manor was ridden with discomfort, to be absolutely honest. It had taken a month by ship, followed by a week by a train and now, finally two days crowded in what had to have been the smallest carriage Ash had ever had the misfortune of traveling in.
His wife, seated across from him in her corseted satin gown, took great pains in reminding him, as often as she possibly could that this was nothing like their arrangements at home, when they were seated in velvet cushioned chairs, highly polished wooden furniture with the finest steeds bred on that side of the Atlantic.
But, as he had realized the moment he had stepped off the equally uncomfortable ship days ago, he wasn't at home. And those comforts weren't available to him any longer.
Though he hoped that they soon would be, that was the main reason he had left his estate in Scotland to come here. Tales of what greater riches awaited him if he were to depart tempted his conscience, and then, when his Uncle Kaiji had died, willing him his estate, it seemed only logical that he should set off.
Though, now, as the carriage thudded along another seemingly endless dirt road, he had to admit that it all seemed very unintelligent.
"Ask the coachman, how long until we arrive."
Misty broke through to his consciousness. They had been married for a little over a year. He remembered when they had first met very well. It was at a time when her flaming red hair had matched her energetic personality, when she had possessed such a strong allure that it had instantly captured his young heart.
Now it seemed that the confines of marriage had taken away that charismatic young girl, and replaced her with the bland, officious woman that facing him.
They had been married relatively young, he was now nineteen, his wife three years his senior.
Though, he sometimes felt that he was a great deal older than his age showed.
See, he had been diagnosed with a skin disease during his youth. It made going out into the sunlight exceedingly impossible, and forced him to spend the majority of his years locked into his bedroom, with his thick curtains constantly drawn, and only his imagination and the occasional nanny to keep him company.
He supposed that had been the reason he had taken to Misty so much, she had reminded him of what the great outdoors held, the great mystery that he had been unable to solve as a child.
The coachman was a short, bald man whose feet barely touched the bottom of his chair. He responded in his raspy voice that the manor was only a mile away. He then offered them both some bread and wine, and although neither of them had eaten as much as a crumb for at least a day or so, declined.
"Listen to me sir; I trust you know of my husband's condition, we cannot leave this coach until after sunset."
"Yes, yes, we have heard all about the boy's difficulty…just like his uncle then isn't he?"
"My uncle suffered from this as well--did you know him?"
Misty stared at her husband disbelievingly. He had not spoken a word to all for the greater part of their journey; in fact, she had begun to think that he wasn't cognizant of her existence.
"No, my boy, none of us ever saw him, what with his condition and all that, but we heard his stories, yes, he was a kind of legend here in Georges"
"I have never met someone like me before…"
"And I don't suppose you ever will, he's dead Ash, remember?" her voice was dry and brittle, in our time her tone might have been called a sarcastic one, but here, in 1876, fine ladies were not sarcastic, and Misty considered herself to be a fine, fine lady.
"And it's no wonder he died, no man can live like that, locked up in that empty old house all the time, drives one insane it does…"
Ash didn't respond to his communicator's dismal prediction. He was well aware of the shortcomings of this disease.
So very aware…
They arrived, at a time that the coachman swore was on schedule, when the moon just beginning its habitual stroll across the night's sky.
"Oh, Ash…" she breathed, "It's gorgeous."
One could suppose that your outlook on the house would have to depend on your own personal tastes. For example, if you found aged, neglected, heartrending, dwellings attractive, then, by all means this one would suit your preferences to a tee.
But if you, like Ash preferred your surroundings to possess that sort of comfortable feeling, seeing as you spent almost every wake hour locked inside, then, right now, you would be out of luck.
"Will you need any help with your bags?" the man, who had just said his name was Taichi asked.
"No, no, there are servants to do that…"
"Afraid not miss, the workers aren't here at these times."
Ash's gaze left the ominous house to watch the interaction beside him.
"Why aren't they here?" asked Ash.
"It is because of the boy's uncle, he always sent them away after dark, always"
"That's absurd- there is more than enough space here for…"
"Why did he send them away?"
The squat man wrinkled his nose and shrugged his shoulders, "Never said, I suppose it was just because he liked to be alone."
"Well then, if there's nothing else, I'll be on my way, goodnight, sir— miss."
And then tipping his bowler hat, he mounted his coach, with surprising speed for someone so stunted. Finally he urged on the two mares accompanying him, and was then on his way.
Misty stared after them incredulously for a few moments, until the realization of all that had just transpired finally struck her.
"Wait!" she screamed, "What am I to do with my bags!"
The house, if it were possible, looked even more haunting on the inside.
Even Misty noticed as she stopped her complaining for a moment to survey her new surroundings. Judging by her uncharacteristic silence, Ash knew that 'gorgeous' would not be on her list of descriptions for the interior.
Perhaps, it was due the lack of light in the place, Misty had suggested, since obviously, owing to the thick curtains; the house was deficient of such things.
It seemed that once, perhaps the house had held some sort of magnificence, but now that time had passed, and the only reminders of that period were the now filthy furniture.
Misty had always thought herself to be a very resourceful woman. She had to be growing up in Scotland with her scandalous family. As you can possibly guess, immorality was not acceptable in Victorian society.
The lies she told to protect their reputation had most likely amounted into the thousands by now.
She felt no shame when speaking of her dishonesty however, what had to be done, had been done and there should be no disgrace because she was loyal. Or so she believed.
So yes she was resourceful, it was a trait she had perfected in order to survive in their world.
Her resourcefulness would now have to be put to use in a different manner, however, and it was through her resourcefulness, or she claimed, that they found their bedroom that evening.
It was the largest darkest room in the house, at least from what she had seen. And at that moment it matched her mood. Her failing marriage, her dissolute family, and now an ugly house, life had truly dealt her an unfair hand of cards.
Her mood did not change later that evening after shooing Ash out of their chamber to disrobe when she realized she required a maid to aid her in the removal of her corset.
So we shouldn't be surprised that when Misty finally allowed her husband to return inside, she was feeling so disgruntled, that she didn't bother to utter a word to him for the rest of the night.
Luckily for her, he wouldn't have responded in any case.
When Ash awoke the next day, he found that he wasn't alone. Misty was gone, that he used to, and in her place was a darker, taller woman. From what he could see from the few stray light rays that had squeezed through the impenetrable wall of curtains, she was hunched over something, humming in a way that reminded him of his nanny back home.
"Hello." he muttered finally, startling the woman.
She spun around immediately; her black face broke into a friendly smile.
Her voice was much softer than he had expected; he found it almost musical.
"What time is it?"
"Late sir, near noon, the little miss, went into town this morning very early sir, said not to disturb you."
Ash nodded, as he had said, he was accustomed to her behavior, in Scotland he hardly ever saw her, he saw no reason for it to be any different in America.
"Will you be wanting breakfast now sir?"
"No…I am not very hungry"
"Now sir, you must eat-for your health."
There was a motherly tone in her voice, one that caused a cloak of nostalgia to cover him.
He shook his head again, his dark hair becoming even untidier as he did.
"Why are you that color?" he questioned finally, growing tired of just staring.
She laughed instead of taking offense "Born this way sir, just like you."
Ash smiled with her "Perhaps I will have breakfast now."
He and the woman, who shortly after introduced herself as Ana, talked for a contented while, she answered all his questions, something he was not used to, and she answered him with an air of mystery that he found he quite enjoyed.
Later, after perhaps and hour or so, Ana said that she had to go seeing as there was still the rest of the house to polish. Ash had offered at first to join her, but she had refused his company suggesting that he should instead go explore the house for a bit.
She had whispered, in that standard mystifying tone that he had come to expect from her that this house contained many secrets.
Ash had never been a curious boy, not by nature at least. He was curious when he grew bored, which happened now with increasing regularity.
He decided to take Ana's advice due to that fact that he nothing else to do, the majority of his belongings hadn't arrived yet, and without his books and games to keep him entertained he decided that he might as well find something else to do.
After all, Misty had.
After his bath, he toured the house, seeing by light provided by his candle alone. He went from room to room, finding nothing that in particular that held his interest.
The rooms were all incredibly similar; each contained a parallel version of furnishings from the rooms before, which would in turn match the rooms after.
The only thing that he found thought provoking enough to stay and ponder for a while was a room filled with paintings. They were not the best works of art that he ever seen, they were not professional like the ones his father kept, but nevertheless they held his attention because of the subjects of each of them.
Well, more correctly, the subject, for on the canvas of each of them was drawn a picture of the sun. A mixture of reds and yellows that caused him to stare at them with a longing beyond anything he recognized.
He stayed in that room for quite a while, until a pang of hunger in his stomach drove him away to the kitchen, but he reminded himself to return to this room later.
The kitchen was on the first floor; he hadn't needed to ask directions to the place because the smells of the cooking lead him there.
He trotted into the space, just as he had done with all the other rooms only to race back out in a panic.
"What on earth are you trying to do!" he yelled to those on the inside.
"Why are you screaming?" came the response.
"Are you trying to kill me?"
A giggle followed, then, came a no.
"Then where are the curtains?"
"Oh, those, I took them down, rather boring in fact, I thought that they were too depressing."
Satoshi stared disbelievingly to the front of him.
"Haven't they told you?" his volume had yet to diminish.
"I can't go into the sun-I shall die if I do, the curtains are for my safety!"
The owner of the voice, a young girl, joined him in the other room.
"How can you die?" there was a hint of amusement in her voice.
"The sunlight will kill me."
"I understand that—what I mean is how…"
"Well…well I am not sure but—"
"I've never heard of anyone not being able to go into the sun before."
"Well, now you have," he finished simply.
"Who told you that you couldn't?" the girl cocked her head to a side, her light brown hair hiding most of her features.
"Doctors," Ash stated, "many doctors."
The room fell into silence as the girl took in this new information.
"Well I think it's all very silly, God wouldn't have made a sun if it could hurt anyone."
Ash decided not to detail to the girl how unethical her last statement had been.
"Didn't you know my Uncle?"
"Yes I met him." she smiled revealing very white teeth.
"Well then how could you have not met anyone with this disease before—he had it as well, didn't you know?"
"I do remember him mentioning something about that…" her voice trailed off.
"Where is he now—we could all talk."
"My uncle is dead."
If the pervious words had caused a stir of anything in the girl's psyche, she kept it well hidden; instead she spoke in a softer version of her cheerful tone when she said;
"So he's there then."
"Where is what?"
"Where is he?"
She shook her head and smiled again.
"I shall replace the curtains if it makes you feel better, I am sorry that I took them down, but I love baking, and I find it so very hard to do so in the darkness of this house."
Satoshi nodded, on some level he understood what she meant.
"What are you baking?"
"Pies, I thought I might have a picnic outside later"
"What's your name?"
Ash left after he saw that the kitchen had been plunged into darkness, he had quite forgotten his appetite, feeling instead very confused.
It was long after sunset when Misty arrived. She returned with a broad smile on her face, something truly remarkable for her.
The smile vanished soon enough however, when she encountered Ash sitting in his nightshirt on their bed, playing with the dark colored bed sheets.
"And just why aren't you dressed yet?" she screamed.
"Dressed for what?"
"For dinner," she had summoned two women into the bedroom with her; Ash noticed Ana wasn't one of them.
"I thought that the servants went home after dark."
"Oh, that silly rule, well I told some of them to stay awhile here with me, to help us get ready for dinner."
She had begun searching through several packages that he had only now noticed she had been carrying.
She held up a red dress while the two girls cooed about it.
"Must I go?"
"Yes, Ash, and stop being so childish—we are having dinner with the Mayor, he's welcoming us to town, did you forget?"
"You never told me."
"Well, never mind, wear your blue suit, it goes well with your eyes."
Grumbling, Ash left the room to dress, he had been quite happy being alone in his room with his bed sheet.
The Mayor was an old man, aged, as his mother would have said. But he possessed just as much charm as any youngster. Ash supposed that it was due to that same charm that he had come to get his job in the first place.
Ash felt bored all throughout dinner.
He had worn his blue suit as Misty requested; only to regret it later, he had never felt so damned uncomfortable in his life.
Now at dessert, he prodded the cake with his fork, yawning every now and then in the hope that Misty would notice and tell him to go to bed.
He had no such luck however; his wife was far too engrossed with enchanting their guest to pay any attention to him.
She was drunk, that was obvious, and so was her friend. This fact upset him even more, seeing as Misty hadn't allowed him to have any wine.
He yawned again, this time more obviously than before, but to no avail, now the older man was now talking of how he took care of the Manor after his Uncle had passed away.
"And I of course had to take in account all of the servants here, everyone, in fact I've memorized all their names." he said that with an air of pride.
"Do you know all of their names?"
They both seemed quite shocked to see someone else at the table.
"Why, yes, yes my boy, I learnt all their names…there's Kaori, Sasha, Ana and Asuca who is a fantastic singer, mind you and…"
"Do you know of a May?" Ash was glad to finally be able to talk about the girl who had been plaguing his thoughts since that afternoon.
"Yes, she seems very young, short sort of, brown hair, she was cooking when I last saw her."
"No, I can't say that I do remember boy, but I shall check into it for you."
"Why, do you want to know of this girl?"
"She took down the curtains," he said.
"Well that wasn't at all very nice" Misty giggled.
Ash sighed, no it wasn't.
Author: I know that this chapter was very prolonged to put in a word, but for good reason, I needed to explain a lot of things and well, hopefully I accomplished that. This is aAAMAYL fiction, once it gets off the ground; I have nothing against AAML, but god after 5 years of it I needed a change. The next chapter right now is only a twinkle in my eye, once I get a break from school I hope to get it down on paper. Please review with your comments.