The Investigation Continues
The Porcelain Doll Shall Break
Alright. I'm pressing on.
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And the French bits I do – Ze instead of the – I'm sorry if I offend, but I don't know how else to define that some of my characters have an accent. I only had one friend from France, but he wasn't around long enough for me to get the accent down.
Lydia opened double doors to the parlor room. Alliahnna beamed as she marveled at the massive room. Lydia could hold a dinner party in that one room. The pine green carpeting was clean, pristine. As if someone got on their hands and knees and literally combed through the fibers, removing all filth. There were two balconies with curtained angel wood doors. One facing north, the other facing west. A table sat next to a velvet brown lounge chair. Circular imprints from drinking glasses stained the dark brown. Desks and bookshelves were against the wall, quills and book marks on hand. The final piece de résistance was the fire place with a grey brick tile platform in front of it. A cozy room which – if she weren't in the middle of a covert investigation – Alliahnna would take a nap in.
"This is the parlor he was found in?" Alliahnna asked, walking on the pine green carpeting.
"Oui." Lydia nodded sharply. "He was found zare." She pointed to a darkened spot on the carpet nearest the fireplace. "Blood had trickled from his ear…" Lydia swallowed, feeling heat rise to her eyes, "Creating ze stain you see."
"So I've read." Alliahnna quickly interjected. She didn't wish to see Lydia weep. "Thank you for joining us, Sebastian." Alliahnna announced, still focusing on the ground." Lydia raised a confused brow. Looking around, she saw no one else but Alliahnna and herself. Why would she be addressing her-?
The doors behind Lydia opened suddenly. A strong gust of wind startled the noblewoman, wafting her dress. She paced a hand to her head, holding her hair in place. Alliahnna touched a hand to her skirt, feeling it rise a small ways. "I hope you enjoyed your outing." She exclaimed.
"For the most part, My Lady."
"Sacrebleu!" Lydia jumped, staggering away from the north balcony. "What?" She gawked, dumbstruck. A man dressed in an all-black uniform was kneeling in the arch of the balcony door. His jet black hair wafted in the breeze. "Zut alors!" She gaped in awe.
"But I find overcrowded cities to be wearisome."
"As do I." Alliahnna shifted her shoulders, imagining crowding people suffocating her with their rude shoulder bumping. "I find close contact with strangers unnerving."
Lydia continued to gawk at Sebastian with complete puzzlement. She cast her gaze onto Alliahnna, astonished the young Phantomhive was not a little more alarmed her butler entered through the balcony door. A BALCONY THAT WAS ON THE THRID FLOOR, ABOVE A ROSE BUSH! Yet, without a single thorn or scratch, there was a pale and rather handsome young man, making small talk with Alliahnna as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Zese English are strange.
"Forgive my rudeness." Alliahnna sauntered to Lydia's side. "Allow me to introduce you to my butler, Sebastian Michaelis." Sebastian bowed his head. Lydia's eyes widened even further. Zis is her butler? "Sebastian, meet Lady Marques – Lydia Robbes."
Sebastian crossed a hand over his chest, bowing his head as he took her hand in the other. "T'is truly an honor, Your Ladyship." Sebastian lightly pecked his lips to the top of her palm, earning flushed cheeks. Alliahnna puffed her angrily. "And permit me to apologize for your recent loss. No one as young and – might I be so bold – beautiful as you should suffer such an outrage." Alliahnna touched her hands to her hips and turned her head sharply away. Lay it on thicker, why don't you? Sebastian took note of the jealousy and smiled victoriously.
"You…climbed…" Lydia quaked, extending a trembling finger to the balcony, "To ze zsird floor? Past a rose bush?" Alliahnna stifled a giggle under her hand. She enjoyed the confused and startled expressions of the ignorant.
"Yes?" Sebastian tilted his head, feigning innocence. "Is something wrong?" He asked, rising to his feet. "Have I overstepped my boundaries?"
"Impossible!" Lydia gasped. She ran past Sebastian, leaning over the railing of the balcony.
Alliahnna took the opportunity to kick him in the shins, ignoring the beating pain. "Work! Not pleasure!" She hissed quietly.
"Work is pleasure and vice versa." He quickly countered smugly. He wagged a taunting finger, "But there is no call for jealousy, My Lady." Alliahnna kicked him again, increasing the pain she once again ignored.
"Zis does not make sense!" Lydia screamed to the wind, searching for a logical explanation for the butlers trek. "How did he…?" They were on the third floor. Several hundred feet from the ground which was covered in rose bushes with the harshest of thorns. A sheer three story wall was all that stood between the balcony and the ground below. How on earth did zat butler get up here?
"Pardon the eccentric intrusion, Lady Robbes." Sebastian apologized, bowing his head. "But I received word my master needed me posthaste." He raised his head, smirking impishly at the Marques's bewildered reaction. "I needed to expedite my arrival and found climbing to be my best method."
"Um…" The Marques trailed off, her mind whirling in a vortex of perplexity. "Perhaps…next time…" Lydia cleared her throat, straightening her posture, "I would greatly appreciate it if you would use the front door!" She commanded grisly. She pointed her fan to Alliahnna. "Surely your master would forgive a minute or two of tardiness."
"I will take care to do so next time, Your Ladyship."
"Good." Shen nodded firmly. Alliahnna bowed her head in regret. "Now how shall we proceed?"
"Were any witness statements taken?"
"Oui…" Lydia trailed off. Her mind drifted, recalling the night her Uncle was found. "Zey questioned me, Barreau, and ze servant who found him."
"That was it?" Alliahnna questioned suspiciously.
"It was deemed an accident." Lydia observed the bottle once more; reminiscing in the many times she's seen her uncle use them. "My uncle dropped ze bottle in a pot of stew zat day. Ze police said it was possible ze juice from ze cooking carrots got inside."
"Pardon my impudence," Sebastian interjected, "But that sounds more like an excuse to me."
"Agreed." Alliahnna huffed touching a hand to her chin. "Cases like this are investigated with a fine toothed comb. Yet it sounds more like a sweep under the rug!"
"What do you mean?" Lydia asked, offended by the accusation.
"Who stood to gain from the Count passing away?" Alliahnna asked out of the blue.
"No one." Lydia shook her head. "All he had was zis manor. But he was giving it to me because he was returning to his homeland of Lyon." Despite popular belief, the Count's true name was D'Eon Monte Cristo. Monte being his mother's surname, and Cristo being his fathers. He was born in Lyon, but went to live in Toulouse with his mother, and Uncle the Marque before they passed. Now with Lydia as Marques, there was no need for him to stay. "My Uncle was going to return to his home to retire. He was going to be with his wife."
"No motive, a Count with slippery fingers, and only three people questioned." Alliahnna listed off in annoyance. "This entire matter reeks."
"Why?" Lydia challenged. "It seems like a poor circumstance."
"A poor circumstance you're questioning, Lady Robbes." Alliahnna challenged. "Sebastian, your orders," Alliahnna handed him a badge. It would grant him certain authority while in Toulouse, "Acquire the witness statements, any evidence reports and photographs the police gathered."
"Yes, My Lady." Sebastian turned on his heels and went for the door. "I shall see myself out." He excused himself, closing the doors gently. Lydia bobbed her head, appreciating his use of the door.
Alliahnna poked around the room, studying the stain, the chair, the entire room. Something was off. Alliahnna knelt to the spot in the carpet. She ran her fingers over the pool stain. It was dry, but still smelt of blood. It only made sense. The Late Count was lying on the ground when he was found. It was natural from blood to sink and stain for a while. The amount seemed sufficient. But something seemed a little off. She furrowed her brow. The stain was warped…elongated…irregular for blood leaking from the ear.
"How tall was your Uncle, Lady Marques?"
"Let me think…" Lydia tapped her chin. "About six feet and five inches."
"I am about…five feet, three inches." Alliahnna lied herself on the ground next to where the blood stain began. "Use the quills and mark where I'm at." Lydia quickly placed two quills at Alliahnna's head and feet. Alliahnna got up and marked her findings in a little notebook. "Now if I lie here…" She lied at the bottom of the stretched blood, Lydia re-placed the quills, "I'm closer to the chair."
Lydia marked in the notebook this time. "What does this have to do with my uncle?"
Alliahnna rose to her feet, dusting the lint from her skirt. "The chair your uncle was in and the fire place are at least…ten feet apart." She explained slowly, wanting Lydia to keep up. "Thanks to my short stature…" It killed her to admit her vertical deficiency, "I am…at least eight feet closer to the stones of the fire place. Making it three feet from the chair."
"Yes…" Lydia trailed off, not really seeing where this was going.
"But when I moved back," She tapped the quill closer to the chair with her toe, "I became a foot closer to the chair."
"I do not follow."
"Your uncle would have been eight feet closer to the fireplace, same as me. Only he would have been two feet from the chair." She ran her foot along the stain. "This streaking here is from your uncle moving back." Lydia's face beamed in realization. Studying the ground, the chair, and fireplace, the marques saw what Alliahnna was talking about. "Now this could be argued your uncle staggered forward, fell and slid forward. BUT," Her finger circled little droplets, "These droplet stains here say," She got into a push up position, hovering her head, "Your uncle tried to get up."
"He tried to go for help." Lydia's voice shook. "But…he…was brought back down ze ground." And somehow he was slid back a couple inches. Lydia's hands started to shake. "Which led to the amount of blood on the ground?" She questioned skeptically.
"Stress or exertion can worsen a wound or injury." Alliahnna added, increasing the number of possibilities. "Someone or something stressed your uncle, increasing his injury and the blood secreting." Lydia lowered her head sadly. The…thought that…someone contributed to her Uncle's death…it was too much. "How many of your staff are here at the moment?"
Lydia shook her head, coming back to reality. "Four maids…five butlers…and ze zsree cooks." She eyed Alliahnna fretfully. "You don't zsink one of zem could have done zis, do you?"
"Right now we need a timeline. When did Count Monte Cristo begin feeling out of sorts, until his death?" Alliahnna raised a brow to Lydia. "You wouldn't by any chance have an answer."
Lydia shook her head. "He only mentioned he had a tense aching in his head early on Zsurday."
"That's a start." Alliahnna shrugged. "With your permission, may I speak with your staff?"
"I shall have zem convene here." Lydia announced.
Phoebus bit his teeth into his lip, growling heatedly under his breath. Walking along a riverbank, Phoebus relentlessly kicked rocks and discarded cups into the ravine, watching the ripples distort his reflection.
"How could they say those things?" Phoebus frothed at the mouth. "Why would they?" He slid along the grass, coming to the ledge near the water. "They've all but worship her for years, and now they…they…UGH!" He skipped a rock through the water. "Then the way Taylor called Alliahnna a demon!" That bothered him the most. For a moment, Phoebus believed Taylor and Carmichael knew Alliahnna was a demon. But they couldn't. No one besides himself and Schneizel were aware of her secret. Elizabeth knew, but Zanosuke erased her memory. "Why would they act that way?" Phoebus asked himself again. "I have to find out what's gotten into them."
"She is looking into her Uncle's death?" A woman gasped in awe. Her green eyes radiated in shock. "I thought the investigation was closed." She fretted, pushing her brown hair behind her ear.
"It was." Barreau answered in a dull tone. "But they young Commander of Paris has reignited her interest."
"You do not sound worried." The maid pressed urgently.
"Because I'm not." Barreau assured her. "Lady Robbes has been down since her Uncle's passing." He explained. "Perhaps this is the sort of therapy she needs."
"What if she gets in over her head?" The maid panicked. "What if turns out to be nothing more than an accident?"
"Then her pain filled heart will be at ease." Barreau stressed, pleading for the maid to see it from his point of view. "Do you want her to settle for what her uncle's death appeared to be, rather than what it really is?"
The maid clenched her hands into a tight ball. "No…" She rasped.
Barreau touched a hand to her chin, tilting her head up so she would look into his brown eyes. "Natalia…" Barreau whispered, "I'm worried for Lydia's sanity, as well As her." Tears rolled down Natalia's face. "But…I cannot deny that even I was baffled by the quick investigation." Natalia swallowed nervously. Barreau connected his lips to hers, engulfing her in a warm kiss. "Let Lydia proceed." Barreau pleaded tenderly. "When matters become too hectic, I will pull her out." He promised. "Now…" He chuckled, "Adjourn to the parlor." He ordered, turning on his heels for the door. "Lydia wishes to speak with you and the others on this matter." Barreau exited the room, leaving the distraught maid to her thoughts.
"They already have." Natalia curled her fingers into a tight fist, biting into her lip so she wouldn't yell out. "Forgive me…" She hissed through her bit lip, "My love…" She held her arms to her stomach, crushing squeezing tightly as she felt it wrap into knots. "This was never supposed to happen."
"Everything you requested, My Lady." Sebastian announced, handing Alliahnna three large yellow envelopes.
"Good work." Alliahnna congratulated him. Opening the envelopes, Alliahnna and Lydia began to review what the police had gathered. Alliahnna was annoyed by how little there was.
First were the crime scene photographs. More like amateur photographs taken by a novice. An overall cover of the room – the Count lying died on the ground, the book and wine on the parlor table, the eye drops smelling of stew juice, and of course the blood stains.
Witness statements by Barreau, Lydia, and a maid by the name of Natalia were consistent. They didn't notice anything strange, he seemed fine, he had a cold but nothing too serious – all uniform. No evidence was gathered. The investigation was ruled a natural death. Not by Lydia or Alliahnna. Something wasn't right.
Nine members of the staff were questioned. Those nine stated they didn't notice anything strange. But they all mentioned the eye drops. It all came back to the eye drops. One of the maids mentioned the Count taking on a head cold on Wednesday night. He was sneezing, coughing, complained of an earache. But aside from that he seemed fine. Lydia and Alliahnna took that into consideration.
Next to be called in for questioning was the head butler, Antoine. He was an elderly man who looked a lot like Tanka, except his hair was white. His voice was gravelly, deeper. The head butler was first because he presented Monte Cristo with his schedule; events and meetings he needs to attend, papers that needed signing or approval, ETC.
Lydia pleaded to Antoine to recall the smallest detail, the most minor of out of character occurrences in her Uncle's routine. Antoine stated there was nothing too out of the ordinary with Lord Monte Cristo. To all appearances, up until Thursday, the Count went about his daily life with little trouble. The only adversity her faced during his final moments was the tumble he took as he went up the stairs. Alliahnna wished to know what day that was. It was small, but it may play a part.
It was on Wednesday. Antoine noticed Lord Monte Cristo seemed a little disoriented. But it was to be expected. On Tuesday night he was up most of the night finishing some work. Not that it was odd. He woke up, did his work, and adjourned to the parlor was a glass of wine and a good book. Often he would return to his work at late hours, and go into the early hours of the next morning. Alliahnna asked if this was his routine on a daily basis. It was. The Count began his day at six in the morning, would proceed with his paper work until 9:00 in which he would take a break for a snack, would return 30 minutes later and attend work around the manor or around town, got to lunch at noon, meetings the rest of the afternoon until…8:00, and would try to end his day with wine and a book in the parlor. It was, possibly, two nights a week he would be called to attend lingering paperwork.
So far the days of interest were Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Tuesday, Lord Monte Cristo woke up and worked late. He awoke on Wednesday feeling disoriented, and took a small tumble on the stairs. Schneizel's been drop dead tired, but never once slipped on the stairs. Then again one needed to consider the Count's age. He was older than Schneizel by two decades. Thursday, according to Lydia, the Count complained of a headache, dropped his bottle of eye drops, and then died on his floor. More evidence was needed.
Next was the head Chef, Marcus Maldone, another elderly man but with a good physique. He was and is the top chef from Italy. He also was in charge of all the Count's meals. In the morning the count ate a dish from England. Lunch would derive from Russia. Dinner would be Irish. The Count ate everything Marcus made for him. Except on noon on Tuesday. This raised a red flag in Lydia's mind.
On noon Tuesday, Marcus had finished cooking Vareniki – Ukrainian Dumplings. The Count had practically been begging for those dumplings since he tasted one two years before. But when Marcus went to serve them, the Count turned them down. Said the smell…made him sick. Nauseated. He only required water. What was even stranger was he only wanted water the entire day. Said the water…help lighten his head. He massaged his eyes a lot. That was when Marcus saw him drip the eye drops.
It was then Alliahnna remarked on how cold water could sooth a headache. Let it sit in your mouth for a bit and it soothes the mind slightly. Massaging the eyes was common for headaches deriving from behind the eyes. Which could mean the drop could have been infected sometime on Tuesday. As for being nauseated…slight wooziness in the head could bring that on. And the wooziness was brought on by the tension in his head. A tension lasting for two days.
Marcus's final remark before being dismissed was that the Count didn't eat at all the next day either. Lydia suddenly had an epiphany. If her Uncle only drank water Tuesday and ate nothing most of Wednesday, it contributed to his loosing balance on the stairs. Alliahnna then commented on how not eating could contribute to the pain of a headache.
There was something missing. Something not adding to the events that took place. Out of nowhere on Tuesday, the Count suddenly gets a headache and loses his appetite, yet is able to stay up until la late hour to do work. Showing he was in the green in his health. Then on Wednesday he still doesn't feel like eating, and starts to lose his center of balance. Mostly attributed to the head cold he retained, and his ears aching. The ears – inner ear – help with a person's center of balance. Finally on Thursday…the Count is still stricken with a head cold, he's wandering about with a booming headache, but his appetite's returned? What changed on Thursday? What happened on Monday? These holes needed to be filled.
"Zare has to be somezsing more!" Lydia pressed urgently, pacing opposite direction of Alliahnna. "But what?"
"Are you sure you can't remember anything more?" Alliahnna questioned strongly.
"I'm sure." Alliahnna hummed skeptically. The answers lie in the missing timelines of Monday and Thursday.
Last to come in was the top maid, Natalia. She was actually the Maid of Barreau. The good Early brought her along from Caledon for the gathering tomorrow evening. She and Barreau had been in Toulouse for three months. Barreau's sister was looking after things back home. Monte Cristo needed Barreau for planning the party and whom to invite – everyone understood.
Natalia was the one who found Monte Cristo. She stated she hadn't noticed anything odd. The Count seemed normal. At least normal to her. She didn't…know the Count very well. Lydia moved in to ask Natalia if she recalled anything about Thursday or Monday. The most minor of changes in schedule, the smallest out of place detail – anything. Natalia thought about it for a moment, and recalled the Count getting a new bottle of eye drops. Lydia produced the eye drops belonging to her uncle. Natalia nodded, confirming those were them. Since then the Count has kept them with him. Except for when he took showers. The drops would be left in his room.
Alliahnna began to wonder how long his showers or baths would last. At most 30 minutes. Plenty of time…but still leaves a gap between Monday and Tuesday afternoon. What happened on Thursday that changed? Besides the slip of the bottle into the stew.
Natalia released an exaggerated breath, loosening the collar of her uniform. Alliahnna noticed she was shifting in her seat for most of the interview. "Miss Natalia?" Alliahnna chimed with concern. "Are you feeling alright?" She asked because Natalia seemed…sweaty, parched. Her face was a little pale. Her hands seemed to hug her stomach a lot. Her breathing was irregular. She also looked a little green.
"I'm fine." She laughed nervously. "I'm just…a little out of sorts." Alliahnna grabbed the pitcher of water resting on the desk against the wall. "I ate something that didn't agree with me." Lydia raised a brow to the answer, finding it a little pulled out of thin air. Alliahnna handed her a glass of water. "Thank you." She quickly consumed the water, sighing with relief. She seemed better, but still sickly.
"Natalia," Lydia addressed her, "Thank you for coming in. Go ahead and return to your room."
Natalia raised a brow. "My Lady?"
"You seem unwell. Please get some rest. I insist."
"Um…" Natalia rose from her chair, bewildered by the offer. "Thank you." She curtsied. Quickly the young woman scurried from the room. Alliahnna and Lydia watched Natalia attentively, noticing the way she held her hands behind her back.
"What have we learned so far?" Lydia asked.
"So far…" Alliahnna quickly reviewed her notes…
Monday – Lord Monte Cristo received his new bottle of eye drops. He went about his daily life, took baths/showers like a normal person.
Sometime between Monday afternoon and noon on Tuesday, The Count began to feel unwell. But he was well enough that he was able to eat dinner on Monday and breakfast on Tuesday morning.
Tuesday – As the day went on, The Count began to feel his head become uncomfortably tense. Lunch was brought to him, but he couldn't eat it. He only wanted water. The entire day he just drank water, and stayed up until a late hour.
Wednesday – His headache persisted, he was tired, and a cold struck him hard. His ears were out of sorts, he was coughing, sneezing, the whole nine yards. On top of that his appetite still hadn't returned. Added together, the Count tripped on the stairs.
Somewhere in between Wednesday and Thursday, something shifted in the Count that allowed him to consider eating.
Thursday – The Count was still sick with his cold, but tried to get up and about – Get back into his routine. He went to the kitchen to get something in his stomach…something he hasn't been able to do in days. Due to his famine, he went to put drops in his eyes and lost his grip on his eye drops, dropping them into a pot of stew.
"What changed?" Alliahnna asked aloud. "Count Monte Cristo gained his appetite back, but fell over?"
"It is strange indeed." Sebastian agreed. "But I do not doubt the eye drops were the cause."
"Neizser do I." Lydia agreed.
"Let's experiment." Alliahnna proposed. "May I see the bottle." She requested of Lydia. The Marques gave it to her. Alliahnna went to a piece of paper and dripped three drops. The little spot on the paper discolored into orange. "Hand me the water pitcher." Sebastian handed the large glass jug to her. "Alright…" She faced Lydia, "Do you have an old bottle of the drops?"
"No, but…" She trailed off, meandering to a trash bin. "Zare are always some lying around." She pulled a discarded bottle from the bin, handing it to Alliahnna.
"Great." Alliahnna placed the bottle into the pitcher. Interestingly enough, no bubbles appeared to show water was entering. Alliahnna squeezed several times, filling the bottle. "Now for a little…" She found a red powder sitting on one of the bookshelves, "Coloring." Alliahnna poured it into the pitcher, watching it turn red. "Drop the bottle." She let the fall into the pitcher, watching it be stained with the coloring.
"I see." Sebastian beamed in awe. "Brilliant."
"What?" Lydia questioned, not following. Alliahnna retrieved the bottle from the pitcher. Drying it off on her skirt, she dripped drops on the paper. No discoloration. Lydia's eyes widened. "There's no coloring." She breathed in dismay. "Why?"
"Because the stew…the carrot juice didn't slip into the bottle." Alliahnna announced heatedly, bitter at the police for doing such miserable a pitiful job. "The air keeps anything from entering this little bottle. But if squeezed," As she demonstrated, "Contents enter."
"But ze bottle wasn't squeezed!" Lydia stressed. "It wasn't even pinched in the slightest." A horrible realization flooded over her. If the carrot juice didn't slip in, and her uncle didn't squeeze the bottle, that meant…someone had to have put the contents into the bottle. Possibly some time before. But when? Who did it? And how? There was plenty of time to sabotage the drops. But only small windows of opportunity. How did the culprit do it?
Lydia pulled out a little pocket watch she had. "It is a half hour passed zsree." She announced. "I would like you both to convene at ze memorial sight with me."
Alliahnna and Sebastian smirked impishly. They planned to go to the funeral from the start. How funny the Marques would inadvertently read their minds. "What do you plan to do?" Alliahnna asked.
"Make ze culprit sweat!" She hissed. "I will make it official!" She declared heatedly. "My Uncle's death shall be reopened as a murder investigation! And zose who get in my way…Shall be charged with treason!"
It was…awkward, nerve racking to say the least. Taylor and Carmichael had decided to go to the bistro alone for lunch. While they sat in the booth waiting for their food to come, time seemed to stop. The sounds of clattering tableware were muffled, silenced by their whirling minds. Reality around them blurred as they relived that terrible moment on the street. Every muscle in their body screamed for them to go after Phoebus. But after what happened, their hearts ached.
It was a simple conversation. A little banter between friends. Lord Schneizel was merely letting the Lieutenant in on one of the Commander's unorthodox plans. Nothing out of the ordinary. Least of all…keeping them and others out of the loop. 'The marks on their chests pulsated.' After idle chitchat with their Lieutenant, Carmichael and Taylor were overcome by…an unexplainable anger. Anger at Schneizel and Phoebus for being in the loop with Alliahnna's crazy plans. 'The marks pulsated again, growing hotter and heavier.' Why couldn't they be included? Why would Phoebus keep secrets from them? 'The crosses came to their eyes, glowering darkly.' Was Alliahnna truly unable to trust them unconditionally?
ARE WE JOKES TO HER? Taylor and Carmichael screamed in their minds. SIDEKICKS TO HER PRECIOUS PHOEBUS? Theirs fingers dug deep into the wood of the tables, peeling the oak away.
"Wait…" Carmichael stopped himself. "No…" The pulsing in his chest died down. He touched a hand to his throbbing head. "That's what caused this." Their mistrust towards Alliahnna…towards Phoebus. It wasn't the first time Alliahnna and Sebastian took on tasks surreptitiously. And it certainly wasn't the first time Schneizel and Phoebus were cryptic about it. Less trouble to be divided. Because…that's how Alliahnna and Phoebus were. They wished for all blame to fall unto them. "They don't wish to cause…turmoil."
"Could that be why…?" Taylor trailed off, "Phoebus…" Taylor could still feel the punch dealt to him. He called Alliahnna a demon, meaning it to be an insult. "But his reaction…" After Taylor called Alliahnna a demon, he half expected Phoebus to immediately scold Taylor and tell him to watch his tone. He didn't. Phoebus froze. His skin went pale. For a moment, Phoebus was similar to a suspect being caught in a lie. "Alliahnna…" His commander was always smiling, beaming like a child. She only became serious when those she cared for were threatened. Just as she did with Sumano and Mooska. The punch to his face…it was obvious. If Taylor did hit the nail on the head, Phoebus wanted it to be kept quiet. Not for his sake or Alliahnna's. But maybe for Taylor, Carmichael and the others. What would it be like from that moment on if the entire world knew Alliahnna was – allegedly – a demon? "Carmichael," Taylor beckoned gruffly, gaining his younger friend's attention, "IF," He stressed the if greatly, "Alliahnna is what those people from the other night say she is, why should it matter?"
"What do you mean?"
"For the years Alliahnna's been with us, she's devoted herself to protecting and serving all who needed our help. She's even gone so far as to kill for us."
"True." Carmichael agreed. "She's even taken the blame for our mistakes." Case in point was the trial a few days ago. "And Phoebus trusts her."
"More than that." Taylor shook his head. "Phoebus cares for Alliahnna like a sister."
"So why are we so mad at them?" Carmichael laughed derisively at himself. "The two people we saw – Ash and Angela – they were the cause for the destruction in Halnare."
"Now they're trying to cause destruction between us."
Carmichael smashed his fists into the table, bouncing the tableware several inches into the air, startling the customers around them. "WE HAVE TO FIND THE LIEUTENANT AND COMMANDER!" He declared urgently. "We have to apologize."
"More importantly," Taylor slid from his seat in the booth, "We need to warn them about Ash and Angela!"
"LETS GO!" Carmichael and Taylor barreled out of the bistro, dashing past the woman who had their food.
The two soldiers, as fast as their legs could carry them, dashed down the street, dodging and weaving between the people walking by. They round the corner by swinging around a street sign, jetting down the walkway to the hotel they found with Phoebus. It was unlikely Phoebus was still within the square. When he's upset he tries to find a place to be alone. But where would that be in one of the metropolises of France?
Taylor and Carmichael entered the fray of people, searching frantically for some sort of clue to Phoebus's whereabouts. They asked and pleaded for someone to tell them if they saw Phoebus. No one's seen anyone resembling Phoebus. He wouldn't go to the Memorial site. Phoebus would go somewhere open, peaceful, and able to fill him with bliss. Unfortunately they weren't familiar with Toulouse the same way Phoebus and Schneizel were.
"The Manor!" Taylor blurted. He grabbed Carmichael by the hand, leading him out of the crowd. "Lady Alliahnna's at the manor!"
"Let's cut through here!" Carmichael dragged Taylor through a less crowded side street. The buildings were enclosed rather narrowly. Carmichael and Taylor ran faster and faster, feeling the manor within their reach. Not for another mile or two, but none-the-less. "I sure hope the Commander's still at the manor!" He panted. "What do we tell her when we see her?" He asked as they round another corner. "GAH!" Carmichael gasped, choking on his air. Something cold hit him in the chest. Taylor brought up the rear, stopping dead in his tracks, eyes widening in sickened horror.
Amethyst eyes glowing with fiery pride, the maliciously smirking face of Angela chortled to the dismayed private. "You will tell her nothing." She cooed. "Or your precious Lieutenant." Carmichael's knees, his body, his very breath quivered. His jet black eyes gaping in distress as their color faded. A lodged breath in his throat coughed out. Streams of blood trickled down the sides of his jaw. Carmichael leaned inward, supporting himself on…Angela's hand? Taylor noticed blood falling to the ground. Where was it coming from? "In fact…" Angela slowly backed away, letting her hand linger for a moment on his chest, "You will never speak again." With a wrench of her arm upward, Angela forcibly removed – to Taylor's petrified distress – a double edged dagger. The blade drenched entirely in blood. Carmichael's blood. "The impure…that FILTHY WHORE OF A DEMON…all shall burn!"
Taylor's eyes fell from the dagger to his quaking friend. Carmichaels' body struggled to stay standing. His hands, trembling, rose to the wound in his chest. His knees gave way, bringing him to the ground. "PRESCOTT!" Taylor dove for him, catching Carmichael before he touched the ground. The blood kept spilling from the wound, flowing from his mouth. "Just hold on! Prescott!" Taylor begged.
"This…" Carmichael choked on his blood, "Is my punish…ment…" He laughed weakly at himself. "This is…because…I doubted…"
"No! No!" Taylor wheezed. "This isn't your fault!" Taylor swore. "YOU HEAR ME! You've done nothing!"
"I served…a demon…all these years…" Carmichael admitted. "That's why…I'm here…" Angela smiled victoriously. "I bear no shame." Her smile quickly faded. Carmichael smirked brazenly to Angela through blurring eyes. "It was…an honor." Carmichael spat blood onto Angela's dress. Angela gritted her teeth, outraged at the affront. Carmichael brought his attention to Taylor, smiling warmly for the last time. "Jonathan..." He whispered, tears rolling down his face, "They are our friends…" He sobbed. "Please…protect…them." His breathing was growing heavier. "And tell…Maes…to watch…our…princess."
"I-I will." Taylor swallowed, holding a hand to Carmichael's. "I will."
Carmichael nodded, thanking his friend. "You were…the…best friend…I could have…asked for." Tears finally spilled down Taylor's cheek, dripping onto the fading Carmichael's cheek. Turning onto his back, the young private looked to the blue sky, feeling his soul float to the clouds above. "Alliahnna…Phoebus…" He touched a hand to his heart, numb to the blood staining his palm, "Thank you…" His eyes steadily began to close, "God speed." As his eyes closed fully, Carmichael's entire body went limp. His head fell to the side. His arms slipped to the ground, splashing in the pool of his blood.
"God speed…Prescott…" Taylor touched his forehead to Carmichael's. The warmth was leaving him already. "And thank you."
"How touching." Angela mocked him, licking Carmichael's blood from the knife. "But I'm afraid you won't be carrying out his wishes."
"YOU PATHETIC, SACRILEGIOUS BITCH!" Taylor roared at the top of his lungs. "How dare you…." His entire body reverberated. "HOW DARE YOU TAKE HIM?"
"You both were taking too long." Angela purred. "Your job was simple. All you needed to do was kill Phoebus." Taylor gritted his teeth. "That was Ash's plan. With him gone, Alliahnna would begin to fall apart."
"Lord Schneizel would be next." Taylor assumed with a venomous growl. "What did she ever do to you two deserve any of this?" Angela hid her disgust He bore his eyes into Angela, wishing he could wipe the smirk off her face. Why were these…people so intent of hurting Alliahnna? What connection…Alliahnna sat in her room for a year after her brother perished six years ago. Taylor heard Ash's voice rumble in his mind. Taylor remembered the smirk. A triumphant smirk. "He did it!" Taylor blurted. "Admit it! Ash killed My Lady's brother!"
"Excellent deduction." Angela chortled mockingly. "A your brilliant deductions amount to nothing."
"What's wrong, witch?" Taylor chuckled defiantly. "Jealous people enjoy the company of demons."
"YOU PATHETIC HUMANS HAVE RESISTED ME FOR FAR TOO LONG!" Angela howled in outrage. "YOU CHOOSE A DEMON OVER THE ANGELIC! THEN YOU DARE ACCUSE ME OF FEELING ENVY!" Angela clenched her fingers around the hilt of her dagger. "Your friend already paid the price for disobedience. You shall do the same."
"Do your worst, WITCH!" Taylor dared her. "My death will only bring glory to my country and my comrades."
"You humans are all the same." Angela scolded him, approaching listlessly. "You believe death brings you glory…that it is worse than any fate imaginable." Angela cast the dagger aside and drew her whip. "I'm sorry to tell you, Jonathan Taylor," Swinging the whip around, Angela cracked it on the side of his head, "But there are far worse fates than death." Taylor fell to the ground, dropping the lifeless corpse of his friend. Blood trickled from his hairline. "And you are about to learn," Angela knelt to the wounded Taylor, "One of them first hand." She touched a hand to his chest. The gash from the other night burned in scorching hot pain. The skin from his chest to his neck clenched around his veins; Taylor screamed in agonizing pain. "No more resistance, no more forestalling!" Taylor writhed spread eagle on the ground, pinned by the force of the Angel's power. "By her death or those around her, I WILL SEE THAT PORCELAIN DOLL SHATTER! BURN UNDER THE FIRES THAT SHALL CLEANSE THE EARTH!" Angela took her hand away. Taylor collapsed fully to the ground with an exhausted breath. "And I shall finally…" She touched a hand to her flushed cheek, "Reclaim Sebastian as I break him." She giggled darkly, glancing down to the lifeless looking man. "Now rise." She commanded bluntly. "And do not fail me."
Taylor's eyes flared open. A crimson glaze filled his eyes, imprinted with a malignant cross. "Yes…My Lady."
GRAAAAHHHH! SO INFURIATING! DAMN THIS WRITERS BLOCK! GRR!
I WILL RETURN!