Death was such a strange notion to bring up in a middle of a conversation. From it, one would only achieve strange looks and disbelieving stares, often with the slight hint of being disturbed inside their eyes. And the reason was quite simple: no one could resist the fear of the scythe of death creeping up from behind. No one. Not even (although he would never admit it) a certain Ciel Phantomhive.
But ironically, the small, pale child – barely the age of a teenager – would no longer have a problem with coping with all that. It was hard to fear death when you already lay six feet under.
He had not even the tiniest pinch of hope that he'd somehow be finding his way to the pearly whites. And if by some chance he did, it would be a mistake, not a miracle. He didn't bother creating expectations of what kind of hell he'd be doomed to spend the rest of eternity in. Most likely, he wouldn't come close. Therefore, he came up with a plan: less thinking, more walking.
Funny, though. He never would have expected the road to pain and misery to be so… white. It was a place where there existed no day and night – he could not even see his shadow on the invisible ground he plodded on. And along with that, every so often, his surroundings would change and he'd find himself in… places. Places that were not supposed to be in the land of death… or just yet, at least. At one instant he would be walking past the lifeless bodies of his three foolish servants, almost loyal to a fault, and in the next he was inside Undertaker's shop, walking past occupied coffins, ready for preparation.
These visions changed constantly, and appeared at random times, but all had the same effect. Never were his servants to know how much their young master honestly appreciated everything they've done for him, and never would Ciel apologize to the hundreds of men, women, children that suffered because of choices he made, partly because of his own selfish desires.
His latest vision, the burnt-out path leading right into the devastated Phantomhive manor, finally faded away and, standing in the midst of white emptiness, Ciel stopped. He breathed in deeply, smelling nothing, tasting nothing in the air, and slowly shut his eyelids. It felt like an eternity since he started, and the suspense was unbearable and almost as painful as death itself.
At the end of this road would surely be awaiting hell. But unbelievably, Ciel Phantomhive was willing to give up anything, even his entire family fortune, to finally get there… unless this suffocating, vast infinity already was hell.
"Don't keep your hopes up."
Ciel's eyes snapped open. There he stood a few feet before him, a strange, tall man wrapped in a thick, long leather cloak. HIs face was well-hidden by a tall standing collar, yet it was unable to conceal the paleness of the man's skin. That, and the familiar cut of hair peeking out of a low, wide-brimmed top hat, was all Ciel needed to recognize him immediately.
"Sebastian?" he asked in a whispery voice, and discovered just then his throat parched and lips dry.
The man tilted his head ever so slightly to the side, yet it wasn't out of recognition. "Call me whatever you want," he replied coolly.
The voice was unmistakable, Ciel thought in amazement. It's Sebastian.
Despite the certainty Ciel had of his identity, Sebastian was still unable to recognize his master dressed in the exact same garments he wore in his last moments in life. He slowly extended a hand out of his large overcoat, holding a small, silver hipflask. "Drink," he commanded and tossed it over.
Ciel almost dropped it, but soon managed to pop up the cap. Without hesitation, he brought the rim to his lips and took a sip (now being dead, he could hardly care less of getting poisoned). The liquid tasted just like water, yet at the same time burned his tongue, though the flask felt cool to the touch. Despite the pain, the sensation lessened his thirst immensely.
He braced himself, and then with no hesitation reared his head back to down the rest. By the end of it, his throat was too scorched to scream in pain. The acrid taste of blood filled his mouth. He swallowed it down, and then to the man managed to communicate in a soft, rusty voice, "T-Thanks…"
He tossed the hipflask back to the man. But the man no longer reached out to grab it, and let it fall unheeded. It tossed and tumbled as it made contact to the ground, yet made no sound. And afterwards, neither did the two standing figures – one tall, the other not so – for a good number of minutes. It came to Ciel that Sebastian was expecting him to speak first.
He swallowed a few times, testing whether his throat could handle a few sentences. It hurt, but it was possible. "What do you want?" Ciel rasped. He winced slightly.
"To offer you… possibly the last choice you would ever make."
Then the background changed again. And it didn't turn into a raging inferno, nor a river of desperate souls, but… into his study at Phantomhive manor. But it definitely wasn't his current study. The walls were still standing, his dusty collection of books untouched on the shelves, and even the rugged pieces on his chessboard arranged exactly how he left them the day before the battle on the Eiffel Tower. Ciel wheeled around. Even the weather outside the window was the same – a bright and sunny day, ironically.
He turned again. Ciel was standing at his most familiar spot in the entire manor: right behind his large mahogany desk. Just behind him was his comfortable leather armchair as well, but he didn't attempt to sit down. This may probably be an illusion of Sebastian – some sort of mirage in the afterlife.
"Take a seat."
And, without thinking, Ciel obeyed, sinking slowly into the black cushion. Then the cloaked Sebastian too sat across him, unperturbed by how uncomfortable the stiff wooden chair was compared to Ciel's. He leaned back and rested his hands on his knee, fingers intertwined. "Are you willing to listen?"
The man was obviously taking his own sweet time. Usually this would result in the boy abandoning the conversation for something more interesting, but at that instance Ciel found himself incapable of impatience. "I'm willing to hear whatever you have to offer," Ciel replied, attempting to disguise the vulnerability in his speech with a dignified posture. "But make sure the worth of it is enough to satisfy my ears."
The man did not reply, neither a yes nor a no, and his expression too well-hidden to read.
Ciel mentally suppressed his jittering nerves. Granted, he knew of many who could attempt such a strange and intimidating presence, but this man right in front of him took the entire cake. Nevertheless, the boy pressed on coldly. "Well? Get on with it."
"I am what you call a Puppet Master," the man began. He lifted his arm and raised his cloak, revealing a string of puppets hanging by their controls tucked into slots in a dark sheath around his arm. They dangled wildly at first, and then shortly stilled themselves in the air, performing slow rotations around their string's axis.
The puppets were all built the same: strings holding them up by their arms, legs and head that could direct them in any way. But although Ciel was no appraiser, he noticed the clear differences in the material. The quality ranged from doll to doll: some had faces of old rags, their eyes little, misshapen buttons sewn badly onto their faces, while others were made of the finest material imaginable, details finely crafted into their tiny features.
And from one of those fine dolls, Ciel recognized a familiar face. "Is that King John?" he said, narrowing his eyes cautiously at the startlingly impressive representation of the 12thcentury monarch.
"I can hardly care less," the man replied indifferently. He extended his other hand. Even more puppets, cold and lifeless, swung into view. There were twelve in all, and a strange foreboding feeling came over Ciel.
"Tell me, boy."
Ciel sensed an unseen smirk from this esteemed 'Puppet Master', and it sent shivers up his spine.
"Would you like to be my thirteenth puppet?
First a Toy Story fanfic, and now… Kuroshitsuji? &laughs& That's a biiig difference right there.
Anyway, this was what I imagined must've happened between Kuro Seasons 1 and 2… (Yes, I've watched the first episode. AND YOU SHOULD TOO IF YOU HAVEN'T YET.)
Uhm… Stay tuned for the next chapter and… that's about it. Kuro doesn't belong to me, by the way. XD