Here's chapter three! This is where Ciel officially comes in as a major character! How do you think he'll react to Lady Adeline? Let me know your thoughts in a review!
And my apologies for the long update; these chapters require a level of focus and finesse that I cannot attain daily due to university and a recent family issue – it comes in bursts, honestly, but I can assure you all that I use every burst to my full potential!
Also, it's my birthday tomorrow, and then I am officially not a teenager anymore. Hooray for impending adulthood!
The western dining hall was questionably large. Floor to ceiling windows lined the southern wall, providing excellent light and thus eliminating the need for daytime lighting. The long table, carved of only the finest and rarest wood, lay dead centre in the room with matching chairs lining the longest edges. Freshly polished silverware was neatly lined up in the correct and respective order alongside the finest china plates and spot-free crystal wine glasses, all glinting in the last rays of the sunset that begged to burst through.
Back at Adeline's old home, the dining area wasn't this large – none of them were, although they were still a decent size. Her father believed that every room portrayed the family name and worth, so to speak, and therefore everything in the entire manor – even down to the intricately carved cornices that adorned every room and lined every hallway – had to appear exactly as he wanted them to.
Adeline had found distaste in the way her father decorated, and if it weren't for the gentle persuasion of her mother, the house would render their family a laughingstock; after all, the household had portray the family name and worth, and her mother simply wouldn't abide by her husband's questionable taste.
At the thought of her parents, Adeline's mood shifted.
She was going to miss them dearly, most certainly. It now felt years ago since her parents received the letter detailing her arrangement of marriage to Lord Ciel Phantomhive. Her parents, of course, leapt at the opportunity to have their only daughter married off to a wealthy Earl. Since that day, Lady Adeline was subjected to lesson upon lesson of etiquette, dancing, politics and business management – all orchestrated by her parents, obviously, lest they let their only daughter become a laughingstock in front of one of the most influential men in all of England.
Since the Earl was familiar with such dealings, it would be sacrilege for his wife to not be educated in the same manner. No man would willingly wait for a woman; if she couldn't keep up and present herself as the educated woman she was expected of, then she would be left behind. And sadly, that was the mentality of today's noble society.
Imagine her parents shock then Adeline had refused.
Her father wouldn't hear of it, of course. And no amount of pleading toward her mother would sway them in the slightest. They didn't seem to care about what their only daughter wanted. That wasn't to say that she wasn't treated like a princess; Adeline was granted whatever her heart desired – within reason, of course. But she was a simple young woman, and didn't care much for material things. However, everything she wore was only of the finest quality, thanks to her mother and father, and much to her dismay.
Adeline believed in the fact that people would grant you respect, should you present yourself in a manner most humble, yet educated. Greed was something Adeline had seen too much of in her young life and would not abide by; suitor after suitor had begged for her hand in marriage, but once she saw that they only cared about money and only wearing and speaking of the finest of things, Adeline refused them.
Selfishly, Lady Adeline wanted to marry for love – not for a title, nor for the money it would bring. The fairytales she had grown up with had assured her that one day she was going to find her Prince Charming – a handsome man that would treat her like the rarest of jewels, and would love her for all that she was; a man that would respect her, and think of her as her equal.
But Lady Adeline soon came to realize that living in the fairytales she so adored would never be something she could fulfill in a physical manner. Fairytales were just that – fantasy worlds. They weren't real life.
Nobles married other nobles. From a young age, Adeline's father never failed to remind her of that on a daily basis.
The day Adeline left home had been rather uneventful. Her luggage was packed and then repacked, lists were ticked off, and the goodbye she shared with her parents had been much too short for her liking; did they not care to feel a little sad that their only daughter was finally leaving home? Did her father really not care enough to embrace his daughter more than once? Her mother had shed a single tear or two, but that, of course, was expected.
But Lady Adeline would miss her mother's smile, and she was going to miss her father's age-old stories. Despite the fact that Adeline knew every tale by heart, she never failed to amuse her father when something would remind him of those days. Although, it simply wasn't Lady Adeline amusing her father; she also admired the way he told a story. He was quite gifted in the art of storytelling, and it would be in no time at all the Adeline would become enamored with every single tale he told.
And that was one of the things Adeline was going to miss the most.
Her thoughts dwindled, and were promptly pushed to the back of her mind once the overwhelming aroma of tonight's feast sought solace inside of her nose. It was thick and warming; perhaps something of European cuisine, no doubt. As Adeline neared the chair at the closest end of the table, she found that her mouth began to water, and her stomach quickly reminded her that she hadn't really eaten all day. Such aromas had never been smelled before, and an impish smile crossed Adeline's face as the food began to be lain out across the clothed table.
Sebastian suddenly appeared at her side and swiftly pulled the chair out, ushering for her to seat herself. Adeline hitched up her dress and nodded in appreciation as Sebastian seated her.
Adeline looked over toward the kitchen; such delicious aromas were so overwhelming that primal instinct threatened to take over – every kind of food Adeline had ever eaten in her entire life now lay on the table, practically sparkling and glistening with invitation, just begging to be eaten.
A cloth napkin was placed on her lap, and Adeline's shoulder's stiffened as Sebastian's gloved hands smoothed out the already crease-free piece of fabric, and a glass to her left was promptly filled will cool water by none other than the butler himself. It appeared that there were no other servants about the household, Adeline quickly realized as she turned her head to face Sebastian, who smiled politely.
"If anything is not up to standard, my Lady, please don't hesitate let me know. I only strive for your happiness, and will leave no task unfinished," he spoke sweetly. His customary jacket was missing, leaving him with just his white dress shirt, his black vest, and a silken towel draped over his left arm.
Adeline smiled through her obvious discomfort. "You are too kind, Sebastian."
The man smiled. "No, my Lady – I am simply one hell of a butler."
The scarlet eyed man bowed once more, and then quickly disappeared through a double hinged door that Adeline assumed lead to the kitchen. Through the opening, she could hear arguing between Sebastian and the resident chef; something about cooking practices, she realized with a small grin. She could hear the chef cry out indignantly every so often in his guttural English accent – assumedly after Sebastian gave him a firm word or two.
Adeline giggled at the heated argument reached its climax. Moments later, Sebastian came through the double doors, more loaded plates in tow, and Adeline composed herself. Craning her neck, she could see that the plate in his left hand contained some sort of French pastry, while the other housed a delectable chocolate cake topped with strawberries – her one favourite dessert, she realized.
How strange, Adeline thought, but quickly pushed the thought aside; many nobles loved the rich taste of chocolate and the sweetness of strawberries. It was a popular dessert in her household, a common delicacy, and in many others. Brushing those thoughts aside, Adeline watched Sebastian and Mey-Rin attend to the last little details of the table's set-up before the man of the house was to arrive.
Lady Adeline suddenly felt a little out of place; the servants were running about their daily business, and all she could do was sit by and patiently wait for the appearance of her future husband; she felt like a child, forced to sit by herself, like she couldn't be trusted to say or do anything. She watched Sebastian as he worked thoroughly – polishing the last of the silverware, despite the fact that it was clean to begin with, while Mey-Rin sought to the bottles of wine and flowers for the centre-piece.
As Adeline reached for her water, throat suddenly too dry, and her mouth dropped in horror as the bumbling house-maid tripped over herself, sending the bottles of wine down to the floor.
Shutting her eyes, Adeline braced for impact, recoiled into herself as she awaited the impending shatter of glass. When it didn't come, she slowly opened her eyes to see Sebastian holding the frazzled maid close to his chest, hands outstretched and clutching the wine bottles in his gloved hands. Sebastian then looked down to the girl in his arms, whose face was redder than the ripest of tomatoes.
"Honestly, Mey-Rin," Sebastian drawled, ignoring the suppressed whimpers coming from the girl in his arms, "do be more careful."
The maid let out another squeal as she pried herself from the handsome man's arms with such force it was as if his touch burned her. However, Sebastian seemed unfazed by the woman's behaviour, and acted as if this was a common occurrence as he handed the bottles back to her haphazardly shaky hands.
How did he do that? Adeline swallowed hard, her heart still beating roughly in her chest. I didn't even hear him move! And… it was so quick!
Adeline must have had a look of sheer shock on her face, for Sebastian turned to her and offered a sweet, customary smile that she had seen him exhibit when he had first greeted her at the door, and during their time together this afternoon.
Mey-Rin, still trembling from the near fall and the close proximity from the handsome butler, she scurried off into the kitchen, bottles in tow, and face still stark red. Adeline watched as the maid left, and then returned to her gaze back to Sebastian.
Sebastian couldn't have been less than ten feet away from her… How did he move so quickly and so swiftly?
"My Lady, I do apologize for that little display," Sebastian said with a curt bow.
Adeline, whose mind was still reeling, finally found her voice.
"There is no need, Sebastian. It was… a simple mistake." She then gave him a small smile. "You are rather quick on your feet, I must admit," she commented lightly. "A lot of practice, I assume?"
Sebastian's smile grew wider. "You are correct, my dear," he spoke smoothly as he walked around the table to her, wiping his hands with the silken towel he kept draped over his forearm. "My Master requires only my best efforts, and I will only respond as such. If I could not keep the estate in order, then—"
"—what kind of butler would you be?"
Adeline froze, and her shoulder's tensed at the hard, monotonous voice that drawled from behind her. Sebastian, too, had stopped smiling at the sound of such an achingly familiar voice.
It's… That is…
"My Lord," Sebastian spoke, turning and giving the man a low bow. "I was beginning to think that you would not make yourself known." The butler then turned to Adeline, an expectant look on his face.
A brief moment passed before Adeline quickly realized that she needed to be standing for when Lord Ciel would enter the room. Despite herself being a noblewoman, Ciel was of a far higher standard than she, and it was mandatory that she greet him with the respect he deserved. But Adeline had become distracted during Mey-Rin's little scene with Sebastian minutes ago, and now, with Ciel's stony blue eyes narrowing at her hesitance, Adeline was making a complete fool out of herself.
With little grace, Adeline moved out of her chair – graciously pulled by Sebastian – and turned to give a small curtsey to the man before her. She bowed her head low, trying to fight off the embarrassment that filled her cheeks.
"My Lord," she greeted in that horrifyingly petite voice her etiquette teacher, Miss Roderick, had her speak in for the entire month before she was to arrive at the Phantomhive Manor, "thank you for your gracious invitation, and may I say that—"
"—Sebastian. Did I not order you to have the meal prepared and set out before I adjourned from my quarters?" Ciel barked coldly, completely ignoring the rest of what Lady Adeline had to say, though his next words were directed squarely at her. "Or were you simply far too busy with your own dealings to follow one simple order?"
Sebastian kept his face neutral, despite the harshness of his Master's words.
"My apologies, sir. There was a small… mishap in the kitchen." He then offered a low bow before pulling out his Master's chair. "It won't happen again."
Ciel adjusted himself before reaching for his wine. "It had better not."
Seconds later, Sebastian was standing just behind Lady Adeline, ushering her to take a seat as he, too, graciously pulled it out. Shaking off the shock from the man's cruel attitude toward his loyal servant, Adeline sat herself down and squared her shoulders as she was tucked in close to the rim of the table.
Now, Adeline was far too tense to reach out for her wine. She felt as if his eyes were searing tiny little holes into her frame, scrutinizing her every move, just waiting for her to slip up and report back to her parents that their daughter did not greet the Lord of the house as she was supposed to – that she was unworthy as a bride.
The judgment from her parents would be far worse than a criminal's death.
A cold shiver ran through her body, and her appetite had suddenly vanished, despite the tangy aromas and the glistening exterior of the food that lay before her. But, she scolded herself, she must eat; to ignore any offerings from a household meant disrespect, and so, after a whirlwind of deliberation in her head, Adeline reached out for her wine.
The dry liquid hummed as it slid down her throat. It was lightly dry texture of heady aromas, much like the scent of freshly cut timber, though pattered with the divine taste of fruits and a hint of spice.
As Adeline gazed over the rim of her wine, she saw that Ciel was staring at her intently, those stony blue eyes still narrowed at her. His fingers were steepled just below his chin, and that mysterious eye-patch that he always wore acted like a third eye, making her rather uncomfortable. Cautiously, she placed down her glass and spoke.
"My Lord, allow me to apologize for my actions. I assure you that I meant no disrespect." Adeline then bowed her head slightly. "Forgive me, sir."
"You would do well to learn your place, woman," Ciel replied coolly, though venomously. "People talk, and they talk fast. Lest you want your life to be ruled by the scrutinizing gaze of the public eye, I suggest that you learn fast."
His words cut like the deepest of knives, and Adeline lowered her head. "Yes, of course, my Lord."
The conversation, for a lack of a better word, ended as Sebastian finished placing the rest of the food onto the wooden table with great care. He moved swiftly and professionally, setting down the placed in a practiced order; forgoing the need to actually readjust anything, since his actions were so well-rehearsed. It seemed as if there was a map in his mind that detailed where everything should be placed down; everything from the plates of food to the breed of the beautiful gnarled stems of branches and flowers that effortlessly complimented every single piece of food in a gorgeous center-piece.
Once that was done, Sebastian attended to his Master – unfolding the silken napkin and gently tucking it into the collars of his attire. It fell neatly, like the flowing material of a ball-gown. The napkin on Adeline's lap was placed back down once more; Sebastian having taken it off her lap as he ushered her to stand for Ciel minutes ago.
With one last glance at the table, Sebastian draped the silken towel over his forearm and spoke.
"Tonight, we have a vast array of local delicacies created with only the finest produce that money can buy. For the entrée, we have a choice between poached salmon drizzled in dill cream sauce and a small side of rocket, or duck breast with a hearty red wine marinade. The main course is of a pan-fried pheasant filled with goat's cheese and a side of gooseberry sauce, or the lovely beef wellington spread with a layer of quality pâté wrapped in light pastry, served in slices and glazed with a honey dressing."
Sebastian served the two as he spoke, serving each food on a small plate; one for the salmon, and the other with the duck's breast. He finished each plate with a drizzle of its accompanying sauce, and a light sprinkle of pepper.
"And for dessert, we have a rich chocolate cake with a brandy glaze, filled with whipped cream and strawberries." Sebastian bowed graciously, and then stood himself near the front door of the dining room door and stood perfectly still, awaiting a command from mis Master – should one be given.
Adeline was thankful that Sebastian did not leave the room. Although he excluded himself from the actual dinner atmosphere, the fact that Adeline could still see him made her feel much better as she dined in silence with Ciel.
Ciel, on the other hand, seemed to be the polar opposite of Sebastian – from what she could deduce so far. The man in front her lived up to his reputation for being a rather cold and stern man, but from what she had just seen, those rumors had been grossly understated. Sebastian, however, was kind, sweet, and placid. He was not afraid to speak, as most other butlers and servants she had seen over the years were beyond terrified to converse so freely with those they served. But, to Sebastian, it seemed to be just that; a mere conversation – nothing out of the ordinary.
Pushing those thoughts aside, Adeline picked up her cutlery and severed a tiny piece of the salmon onto her fork. As soon as the flesh graced her tongue, she had to stop chewing for a moment or two as the flavors sunk in.
Everything was beautifully cooked; the salmon was juicy, yet not raw, and the sauce boosted the flavors tenfold. The duck breast was soft and practically melted in her mouth and slithered down her throat in the most delightful way.
However, the beauty of it couldn't detract from the truth; everything felt cold like a museum and as sterile as a hospital.
Once Lord Ciel had finished his entrée, Sebastian swooped in to retrieve the plates and serve the next course. She didn't protest when her plate was taken when unfinished, and she simply folded her hands and set them in her lap as she waited for the dreadful dinner to be over.
"I assume you'll want a large reception for the wedding?"
Ciel's monotonous yet stern voice cut through the clinking of glassware and cutlery much like the carving knife used for the beef wellington that now lay in front of her.
"Pardon, my Lord?" Lady Adeline answered softly; she hadn't expected him to bring up the wedding so soon. They had just met, after all.
"Are all women this daft, or is it just you?" he commented tersely as he continued to cut through his meal as if what he had just said hadn't affected her at all. He then looked up at her expectantly. "A large reception for the wedding – is that not what you women want?"
Adeline schooled her expression and answered him. "I care not for a large reception, my Lord. Unlike the other noblewomen, I believe that status is not measured by the grandeur of a party, but rather by other things such as education, investments and love," she said.
Ciel scoffed aloud, ignoring the fact that he still had food in his mouth, his eyes focused on the next piece he was cutting. "How foolish."
"You think love is foolish, my Lord?" Adeline asked back a little too impolitely. Ciel then lowered his cutlery with such carefulness that Adeline immediately regretted her words. As his cutlery was set down next to his plate, he flashed her a dark glare, and the curling of his lips into a smile struck her uncomfortable.
"We have only just met, and already you are making assumptions about me?" Ciel then laughed to himself, as if it was nothing but a joke. "You women are so frivolous; you believe that you hold ground in things that you could not even begin to comprehend." His sick smile then vanished. "You women are so pathetic – running around in your fancy ball-gowns, completely unaware of the real world. All any of you care about is what you will wear when the next nobleman that walks by."
His words, so cruel and so vile, struck Adeline like a slap in the face; and she wished that he might as well have hit her instead, for his words could never be taken back.
Shocked, Adeline lay down her cutlery and replaced her hands back in her lap, and she tried so hard not to cry; to not show weakness. Yes, his words may have been the cruelest she had ever had spoken to her, but she diligently kept her mouth shut and her head down.
When Ciel realized that Adeline was not going to speak against him, he carelessly dropped his silverware onto the table and stood to his feet, the heels of his chair screeching harshly against the floor.
"I grow tired of this." Ciel then headed for the door. "Sebastian – prepare my tea and have it served in my quarters."
"Yes, my Lord." The slam of the door echoed like a gunshot throughout the dining hall, and Adeline visibly flinched.
Minutes passed before Adeline had yet to make a single move. Her shoulders, strung so tight that they ached, slowly slacked as she hung her head in her hands. Her shoulders wracked, yet no sound came form her.
Displeased with his Master's behavior, Sebastian walked over to Adeline and placed his gloved hand on her shoulder. He felt her flinch under his touch, but she relaxed when she realized that it was him. Without saying a word, Sebastian picked up the silken napkin form Adeline's lap, pulled out her chair, and gently ushered her out of her seat with gentle hands gripping the sides of her arms.
Adeline hadn't realized that she was back in her room until Sebastian gingerly shut the door behind them with a soft click.
Turning away from the door, Sebastian felt his gut tighten at the state of the woman before him. Her shoulders quaked with fear, and her breaths came out in ragged gasps. Her bottle green eyes were wide with shock, and she suddenly appeared exhausted.
"My Lady," Sebastian spoke softly, "I… Mey-Rin will be in shortly to prepare you for bed." He then gestured to the chair that sat to her left. "Please."
When she refused to move, Sebastian let out a silent sigh and bowed before exiting the room, suddenly intent on seeking out his Master with renewed fervor.
Adeline couldn't find solace in the warm water that pleasantly cascaded down her back, nor in the many fragrant soaps that Mey-Rin used. Usually, a bath would calm her nerves, but tonight, she felt nothing.
The only thing Lady Adeline could feel was the sting of Ciel's words at dinner. They left a burning hole in her chest and left her utterly cold, despite the warm water she was currently sitting in.
And she was thankful that Mey-Rin hadn't spoken anything more than informing her that her clothes would be washed and ready for tomorrow, and that Sebastian would leave some tea in her room. It was as if she, too, could sense the unease within her – the inner turmoil that plagued her mind and left her horridly distracted and numb.
The bath was now over, and Lady Adeline was left alone in her room; the maid having left minutes ago to tend to her last duties before she, too, would retire for the night.
Adeline sat on the edge of her bed, hands laying limp in her lap. A silver tray of tea lay on the table beside the bed, but Adeline could not find it in herself to drink the calming liquid, no matter how much she may have needed it. All she could think about was how horrible her first night was with Ciel. The conversation was strained and spiteful, and in the end, it left the night completely ruined. Adeline had to wonder how anyone could marry such a horrid and cruel man.
But Adeline was not stupid. She, as well as the rest of the noble society, knew of the tragedy that had befallen Lord Ciel Phantomhive over a year ago. Had it been anyone else, they would have ended up the same as he is now; cold, cruel, and heartless and unable to feel anything.
Heaving a shaky sigh, Adeline reached over and snuffed out the candles that had kept her room lit, and as she heaved herself under the plush covering of the bed, she found no surprise in the small tears that trailed down her cheeks and soaked into her pillow.
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