Once a wealthy block, but now full of street markets and venders, the cobblestone roads were congested with newspaper-selling boys and beggars. Pick-pockets and cut-purses had their way with anything that had significant monetary value. Very few could make an honest living, and it was only to have their tiny shred of pride spared as they ate whatever food they could buy.
"Oranges! Tasty oranges for you and your children!"
"Flowers. Please buy…"
"Mister, please! I'm hungry and I…"
"What would you like for a snack, Miss Johnson? Here is 5 pence for you to spend."
A merry little girl skipped along, her pastel clothing clashing with the bland hue of the poor district. She stopped to consider buying an apple, which looked delicious on the stands by the grocer, but her eyes darted towards the flower-girl and the plants she had in her hands.
"Mommy, can I buy a flower? It's daddy's birthday today and I want to give him one!"
The elder lady sighed and let go of her daughter's hand, watching as she exchanged with the flower-girl, who thanked the little girl and went off down the road. After all, it was much better to have bread in your pocket than money. She wrapped the shawl around her head of white hair and held her wicker basket of flowers close as she ran down an alley between two shops.
"Well, if it isn't Blood-Eyes!" a cruel voice snickered.
A tall boy appeared before the girl, dressed in a coat too large for him and clothes that haven't been washed in a while. He smiled broadly down at the girl, who gasped and backed off. He snapped his fingers and a group of crummy-looking children entered the alley from the shadows.
"Don't you thinks you owes us a little something? I mean, we's all from the same no-home rundown of a place, and we's been out in the streets longer than you, Merianna. Why don't you be a doll and come buy us a little treat eh?"
The children around him all cried out in unison "Yeah, Cuffs! Show 'er where's her place!", referring to the young man's street-name.
"Ah! So that's your answer huh?!" He yelled.
The girl with the money started running, clambering over a stack of crates and panting as she made away. The rascals all looked at their leader, who smirked and pulled his hat down a little before raising his hands like a dog trainer. He had given her a sufficient head-start. Now the little boys were yelling and running after her, waving their fists angrily as they shoved their way through crates, barrels (BARRELS!), people and strays.
Merianna slipped through corners with eased and dodged people while muttering apologies for crashing into some. She was determined to get away from the little thieves and also distressed from all this panic. A glass bottle flew and landed on the back of her head, causing her to temporarily lose her balance and vision. She had no time before she reached a dead end, angry voices still in the distance. There was a bridge ledge up above, but she was too short to reach it. She looked around for another way.
"Blood-Eyes, Blood-Eyes! Cries so much her eyes go red!"
The voices were getting closer. If only she had a prop…but she wouldn't…she couldn't…One boy skidded to a stop just after seeing her down the lane, crying out to his compatriots. She had no choice then.
She put down her basket of flowers, upside-down and stepped on it. It crunched under her feet and sank, but gave her enough height to reach the top of the ledge. She clambered up and stared at her predators, cursing and-
A rock flung at her nicked her shoulder and with a sharp cry, she fell onto the road on the other side of the ledge. Her body hurt from the fall and as she got up on her knees she heard the heart-breaking noise of the wicker basket being stomped on and broken.
"Go around the corner!" One pre-pubescent voice ordered. "We'll catch her there!"
If it wasn't painful enough, she still had to run. Her foot was hurting badly as she surveyed her surroundings. She ran across the poor and market parts of the town and she was now on the central roads. Carriages and coaches galloped past with no signs of yielding to anything. She would never make it across with her injury. She examined the carriages more closely. They carried people, rich or poor. A bus zoomed along. One farmer had a load of hay and slowly riding along.
Seeing no other opportunity, she limped along the farmer's cart behind it and hoisted herself up. A sudden yank almost choked her as something grabbed the shawl around her shoulders and neck. It was Cuffs, running behind the cart and threatening to pull her off.
"Get off the cart, Merianna!"
She could hardly hear him over the sounds of wheels, horse clops and people but she could tell by the furious expression that he was going to make her injury a lot worse. She quickly undid the knot and she was free of the clothing. Taking the surprise in his face, she proceeded to jam her heel into it. He cried in pain and fell back; causing the horse behind him to rear up before he was going to be trampled. Just as the farmer turned back to see what the commotion was all about, Merianna dove into the midst of the hay, losing the two most essential possessions, but saving her own life.
Merianna wasn't sure where she was anymore. She had to be quiet and lay low so that the farmer would not notice her, but she wondered if she would be transported to another foreign country and have no way back to England. They were in the country, and trees flanked the sides of the carriage. How long would it take to walk back to the town? And with a bad foot, would she even make it? Hesitatingly, she emerged from the hay and crept to the back to the cart. She slipped out and fell onto the road. She didn't expect her foot to have been that bad, but it was swelling now and was a purplish blue hue. Her head was also hurting from the glass bottle and rocks thrown at her.
She got up and looked around, feeling the emptiness of where her shawl would usually sit on her shoulders. With no way else, she followed the road underneath her feet, back the way she came. She limped painfully, eventually seeing no point but dragging her bad foot around. The trail was gone now, and she found herself stumbling over tree roots, stumps and plants that got in her way. There was a clearing on the other side she was determined to get through, only then would she stop and take a rest.
She silently asked God to guide her and to help her find some solace. Upon reaching the clearing, she found the grass beneath her to be soft and heavenly compared to the rocky ground of the forest. With no energy left, she slumped down, feeling the neatly-trimmed grass on her hands and it felt so relaxing on the grass underneath the sun. There was a large building in the distance. Was she trespassing? It shouldn't be long until she continued her way. She decided to take a quick nap there. Her head throbbed as she laid it down, and the last thought to run through her head was the hope that she did not fall asleep near any fairy rings or fairy grass. No one would notice her there.
"What should we do?"
"We can't leave her here; she's bleeding, right on the grass too!"
"I don't think Young Master would like it…"
Merianna mumbled and groaned a sign that she was still alive. She peeled open her eyes, although her vision was heavily clouded. She was no longer on the grass, but on a hard wooden table. As she rose up, something damp fell from her head onto her lap. She could only make out a slate grey wall facing her as well as three human figures on the side of the table.
"Are you okay, Miss?"
She rubbed her eyes, "I…can't see…"
She could tell it was the blond-hair person speaking, although she realized she was staring at him too much trying to discern his features. She turned away, feeling the wet cloth that had fallen from her head.
"Yeah, it looked like you got hit in the head pretty hard. It'll be a while before you get your vision back, just don't move too much." A gruff voice diagnosed.
"I…I can't stay here…" Merianna said, remembering her trespassing.
She tried to shift over to get off of the table, but she felt the world spin and her headache got worse.
"Whoa, whoa there!" the female cautioned, bracing her by the shoulders.
She addressed her friends about a 'Sebastian' and a 'Master Ciel' and they huddled together and talked amongst themselves. Meanwhile, Merianna felt a bandage across the length of her head and a split along her foot and leg. They were interrupted when a bell rung annoyingly on the side of the wall. The blue-clad girl excused the three of them, advising Merianna to stay there and wait for them as they left out the door. Guilt-driven heat ran over her. Was she causing trouble for them? They must have been summoned by the Master to tell him about her and how she fell asleep on their property. She was terrified of being punished. She heard stories of people going to court, losing the unfair case and ending up in cells with no light or air.
She was grateful for their medical hospitality, but thought it best to leave. Her eyesight was slowly returning and she could make out the green bag that was her own possession left. Stuffing it back into the inside pocket of her skirt, she slid off the table and adjusted the splint on her leg. It seemed just about okay to walk around with it, as long as she didn't do any heavy work. Before she left the servants' quarters, she took out the change she received from selling flowers and left it on the table for the three people.
She walked out the same door, but went to the right instead. Creeping silently and stopping every few minutes to listen for any sounds, she made her away across the vast hall elaborately decorated with fabrics of every texture and colour. The plush rug seemed to be dirtied by her feet and the furniture beckoned her to try them out. There was a study room connect to the hall that had the exit she was looking for. A glass door led to outside and she hastily made her way towards it.
"Welcome, Viscount Druitt." The servants greeted politely.
Finnian seated the flamboyant royal in garden patio, who went on talk about how lovely the day was and how nicely the Phantomhive lawn was kept. Ciel, on the other side of the table, sipped his tea quietly. He motioned the viscount to the tray of various sandwiches, biscuits and other treats. Viscount Druitt continued dramatically glazing over the food while stuffing his cheeks with cookies. Beside them, 5 servants awaited any orders. Ciel listened, or rather, stayed quiet to this rambling. Suddenly, Ciel caught something move behind Chamber's head and he moved his head slightly to the right. The servants followed his gaze and to their surprise, saw a poor urchin limping across the lawn.
"Bwaahahahaaha..I think I left…left some fire in the oven!" Bardroy exclaimed, hastily excusing himself.
Sebastian added. "I think I will go help…Excuse us, please."
Viscount Druitt didn't seem to notice them slip away but he finally shut up to gently tap his lips with a handkerchief.
"Now then, I came along by hearing that you were taking care of the royal Queen's roses. Will you show them to me?" He asked.
Ciel Phantomhive expected this and got up, taking his cane with him.
"Of course, this way."
Before the royal could see, Ciel shot an angry look at Meirin and Finny and pointed to the girl trespassing on his property. He directed the viscount to the other side of the garden, away from the problem parts of his house.
Merianna didn't notice when the black-clad butler appeared in front of her, but he surprised her when he suddenly did so. Even faster, he took hold of her arm and twisted it around her back, placing his other hand on the back of her head.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't snap your neck ri-"
"Hey, wait, Sebastian!" Bardroy interrupted, waving his arms wildly. "She didn't do anything! It's okay, she's with us!"
Sebastian let go and shoved the girl to the ground.
"Did you let her in, Bardroy?" He questioned, eyes narrowed at the foolish man.
"Well, it's just that the poor girl was hurt and bleeding on our…"
This time, a girlish scream echoed in the air from across the property. Sebastian glared suspiciously at Merianna, who sat wide-eyed staring back at him. He immediately picked her up and threw her over his shoulder. It was like she was a sack of potassium-filled nutrient plant rather than a lady to be carried.
"H-Hey! Let me down!" Merianna protested.
The black-clad butler, called Sebastian and the gruff man nodded to each other and headed towards the scream.
"Gone! Gone! Two of them! Goneeeee!" Aleister Chamber wailed.
Ciel scoffed indifferently. The viscount insisted that something or someone had destroyed the meaning of life and the beauty of beauty. Now that two of them were gone, it was a total disaster. The girl Sebastian carried kicked and wriggled around on his shoulder, sounding more scared than angry.
"What is the problem, Viscount?" Sebastian addressed.
"These flowers! Juliette roses of the finest quality! As pink as the pretty robin I danced with that night…!"
Ciel twitched slightly.
"Gone just as swift as the robin into the night!"
Viscount Druitt slouched in front of the empty rosebush, as if grieving over a tombstone.
"Flowers? I have some here." Merianna suddenly said as she produced two roses in her hand.
Sebastian immediately dropped her on the ground. She let out a cry of pain when she landed on the splint of her leg. Ciel's eyes widened with surprise, and then anger. Blood started flowing from the leg again and Merianna couldn't stop the tears of pain, grimacing tightly. Viscount Druitt turned and walked limply to where she lay, squatting close to look at the roses in her hands, and then to her face. Merianna glanced tear-streaked at the royal staring accusingly in front of her.
"Oh how she cries upon the roses! Like pearls dropping from those lakes to adorn that which is already so elegant! Ah~ this is the final part of a masterpiece!"
Merianna held up an arm to cover her cheeks, burning with a flush of being flattered as well as the fire crackling in her leg. She thrust the roses back to him.
"I…I didn't think they belonged to anyone…I'm sorry..." She apologized, gritting her teeth from the pain.
The boy with the eye-patch glared at her. "Those roses cost more than twnty of your lives! How are you expecting to pay me back? Not to mention the blood from y-"
Sebastian immediately covered his mouth with a gloved hand. Viscount Druitt offered a hand to her and pulled a chair for her to sit on, although it didn't help with healing the wound much.
"And what is your name, dear girl? Your clothes and face are so plain, but those tears you cry…ah~ Magnifique!"
Marianna shot an irritated glance at the blond boy and the maid, whom she could see much more clearly now.
"Merianna…sir…spelt like the sea in French." She mumbled.
He politely bowed in front of her and held out his hand. Merianna panicked and searched her pockets. If only she had kept the money she had to pay the man for picking those roses.
"I…I am afraid I have no money…to pay you back…" she whispered shamefully.
The viscount had a puzzled glance as he took the maiden's hand and kissed it.
"Well, Miss Merianna, I have an important appointment to meet. Farewell! "
He bowed to the small count, retrieved his hat from the gardener and was led out by the eldest servant. Once the man had left, all were staring at the poor girl with two rare Juliette roses in her hands.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" The boy demanded. "I should report you to the authorities right now."
Sebastian held up a hand.
"Master, maybe you should reconsider. The girl was injured on Phantomhive property…it would be bad publicity…"
"That was your doing, Sebastian!"
Suddenly the blond-haired gardener burst in. "Maybe she could work off the money the rose was worth! We…we could always go with some extra help!"
Merianna stayed quiet, leaving her fate up to the heavens, while she tended to her swollen ankle. She looked away from the boy's heated gaze upon her, feeling as if she was about to get beat badly.
"Fine. But once she's able to walk, I want her out. Let's go, Sebastian. I want to have my tea inside."
"The butler replied with a smug look: "Yes, my lord."
The blue-clad girl, who introduced herself as Meirin, had Merianna sit down in a chair in the parlour of the house. Bardroy, the gruff-sounding chef, checked the splint, which was broken when Sebastian dropped her so suddenly.
"And that's Tanaka." Finny finished.
He pointed to a small, but old, man peacefully drinking tea on a pillow who gave a friendly 'hohohoh' when Merianna smiled at him.
"So where do you come from? And how did you get here?" He continued.
He brought leftovers from the lunch they had prior, which Merianna ate gratefully. She had to swallow down a mouthful before answering.
"I came from…the town…I don't know the name…I have to live on the streets because my mamma died ten summers ago. I was running away from some thieves and snuck onto a hay cart…leading me here…"
"Hold still, I'll have to change the dressing around your head." The chef added.
"Is…that man…Sebastian…is he a difficult master?" she asked.
The black butler brushed her curiosity and also her annoyance. She hoped she did not have to work under him.
"Oh, Sebastian isn't the master. Ciel Phantomhive is. Here, drink." The maid answered, giving Merianna a cup of water.
Merianna finished drinking and eating, thanking them for their help. Meirin pulled out a few coins from her pocket, asking if they were hers. Merianna replied that it was compensation for their aid, although she was not sure if it was enough. A suddenly rapt at the door interrupted their conversations. Sebastian entered the room and greeted the servants.
"Miss Merianna, the young master would like to speak to you."
She looked back at her new friends, who nodded reassuringly. She got up on her feet and walked slowly to the door.
"This certainly won't do…you'll keep him waiting."
Before she could object, she felt him picking her up again. Although this time she was carried properly. She objected by resisting him and yelling, but he didn't react at all. In a speed unthinkable to man, she arrived at the study she escaped out of before, and was let down onto the floor again.
The young boy was at the desk, quill in hand. Without acknowledging her presence, he addressed her directly.
"Merianna, was it? From now on, you'll work as a Phantomhive servant until you've earned back the Juliettes' rose equal in wages. Board and living will be supported, but I expect you to behave as you are told by anyone and everyone in this household. You will listen to my orders and answer with a 'yes, my lord'. Tasks will be completed in an efficient and quick manner. If you try to run away or betray me in any way…"
He stopped to briefly look at Merianna.
"…You will be dispatched."
Merianna swallowed hard as he looked back down and resumed writing. It was hard enough being lectured by a child who was probably younger than her, but he was intimidating and so direct.
"So," he continued. "What are you able to do?"
She realized she was being addressed and snapped awake, although she needed time to consider her words.
"I can…clean…? I can make tea…"
She blushed fiercely at her own uselessness. Something was behind the boy's chair and she let out a scream when she realized what it was. She covered her face and refused to look at the naked man on the window pane. He had white hair and was panting heavily like a dog.
Ciel only had to close his eyes and say Sebastian's name before he was dispatched. Merianna still held her eyes shut, her face turning deep red.
"What's wrong with you…?" Ciel muttered, disdain in his voice.
She opened her eyes and was relieved that the man was gone, just as Sebastian stepped back into the room.
"Sebastian, show Merianna her duties. I expect them to be finished when I come down to check."
He answered the standard "Yes, my lord." before leading Merianna, hobbling out of the room. Ciel Phantomhive turned back to his work, reading down the national document of Merianna Carolce and at the same time drafting a letter to another company.
"I have to find one way or another to get rid of this street rat…"
"First day cleaning with a bad foot…and he makes me clean the stairs…that Sebastian…I don't like him at all!" Merianna growled to herself.
She continued adding polish to the rail. She had trouble at first, but laboured on, determined to work her worth. After all, even if she did have to work the whole day, she would get food and a roof over her head. Even if her new 'Master' and the suspicious dark butler were edgy and terrified her, she spent more time with the colourful trio and Tanaka, whom she found an admiring respect for.
Finished with the railing, she set out to the next task. She put away the polish and rags after cleaning them and stowed them away in the storage, picking up a feathery duster and pulling out the crude map Bardroy had drawn for her. The place for her was circled with the appropriate literay….literary…? She couldn't make out the handwriting of the place.
When she opened the double doors to the room, she found it to be a grand library with books adorning the numerous shelves. The windows were large enough to let the light through and illuminated the whole room. Several chairs, tuffets and tables sat waiting to be used and a fireplace was centered in the middle of the far wall.
For a moment, she forgot her station and dropped the duster on the table, drawn into the shelf closest to her. The cover read 'World Atlas' and she opened it. Merianna recognized Italy, various parts of Britain and France as well as maps she couldn't recognize. They had far-fetched names and seemed to be across a large vast ocean. She shelved it accordingly and picked another book to examine. This one contained various hymns and poems. Heart-lightened from the discovery of her now favoured room, she began working.
She hummed a little song to herself as she dusted the tables and lamps, the wooden and satin chairs and fluffed the pillows. She then stoked the fire with more wood and lit it, feeling the heat warm up the whole room.
On the mantelpiece she spotted a picture, beautifully framing a sepia picture inside. In the picture, a younger-looking Tanaka and Bardroy waved at her and Meirin didn't have glasses at all. Finny had wild untamed hair and was about the height of Ciel Phantomhive. Neither Ciel nor Sebastian smiled, not even the faint traces of one, but the picture was lit up with everyone else's.
She wondered how long the other servants have been there, realizing her curiosity and possible rudeness for not asking them about themselves. She stared at the picture even deeper, as if they would come alive and tell her all their secrets in front of the warm fire. The picture was faded from the light, but she greatly admired it. Deep inside herself she believed her master was a kind soul, as the servants smiles were still the same until this day.
The young master was eating dinner quietly. Sebastian served him plates of aromatic food while Merianna, Finny, Meirin and Bardroy stood at bay, as still as decorations on the wall. The quiet air was only disturbed by the clink of metal and porcelain, or Sebastian announcing the name of whatever dish was coming to the table.
Merianna suddenly had an itch in her nose; the beginnings of a sneeze. She tried to suppress it, even shaking her head to try to dispel it. In order to keep the room in a comfortable silence, she muffled her sneeze into her elbow. An angry clash of metal was heard, prompting the room back into silence.
"Can't you do anything, Merianna?" Ciel demanded, a bit forced.
As she was being called, she stepped forward. "I can do what you ask of me, sir- I mean…Master!"
Sebastian smirked at her, a scary reaction. He walked to a nearby cabinet and pulled out a violin. With a toss, he passed it to Merianna, who caught it one-handed around the neck. The bow cam flying afterwards, and she caught it without flinching. The other servants were amazed as they watch Merianna put on a determined face. She put her chin against the body of the violin and dragged the bow across the string, producing a clear and pure note. She slowly pushed it back the other way, her fingers changing the pitch to a sweeter high note.
She stopped after a few notes to tap the tunings of the instruments.
"Ah, so this is how it works."
The trio stifled their laughter and surprise. A hard looked came across Ciel's face as he exploded at her.
"So you don't know how to even play it. You don't have much use here, do you? If you can't do anything, you should just leave!"
Merianna shrunk from the blow of those words and her face grew red. She shoved the violin and bow into Finny's arms and stormed out of the room while everyone was watching. She paced angrily through the mansion with irritating tears stinging her face. Coming down the stairs, she was determined to make her way out of the Phantomhive mansion. Her rage had completely consumed her and she ignored all the pain burning in her leg. It healed a bit after her accidental nap in the library (thankfully it was Meirin who found her), although her back ached.
She opened the door with both hands and stepped into the cool evening air, not even bothering to close it behind her as she continued walking away. She made her way along the path, over the trimmed grass and eventually to the outskirts of the forest. It was then that she sat on a fallen tree and began to cry it all out. She was alone in the forest enough that no one would notice her.
Suddenly, a loud crash jolted her awake from her despair. A huge tree in the background toppled over and fell with a resounding crash. The earthquake that followed sent squirrels angrily squeaking and birds took to the air. A voice was calling Merianna's name so loudly that she had to cover her ears. Whoever had that lung capacity was definitely…Oh it's Finny.
She recognized her friend and his bright hair clambering over the flora of the forest. She replied by calling out to him, although it was a bare whisper compared to his calling. He ran and met her halfway.
"Meriannaaa!" He cried as he hugged her tightly.
She didn't like being hugged that much, and it was hurting her leg, but she allowed it until he released her.
"What are you doing here, Finny? Shouldn't you be back at the estate?" she asked tentively, wiping away the remainder of her tears.
"I was worried about you, you know? Everyone was, but I was the only one free to come and fetch you."
He put a hand on Merianna's shoulder.
"You know that Young Master doesn't mean what he says right? He had a hard time with a Prince earlier today (it's Prince Soma and Agni hehe) and he had to take care of Lady Elizabeth who decide to come over and…well I'm just rambling. Of course you belong with us, we get along so well! Why else would he have let you stay?"
Merianna turned away and buried her face in her hands, mumbling a 'don't look'. She inhaled deeply while Finny waited patiently for her to compose herself.
"Now I feel like a complete idiot. I'm a Phantomhive servant and I just left the house- all my duties and debt…I just ran away…"
Although she had calmed herself, she kept her hands over her eyes to hide how red they were from crying, remembering her titular nickname on the streets.
"Merianna…" Finny whispered.
She slowly opened her hands to look at her friend, who held a bluebird in his hands. It chirped at her in a friendly manner and pecked at the seeds in Finny's palm.
Entranced by the charming creature, she forgot her predicament and burst into laughter and smiles, coddling the little bird. Finny let the bird go when it was getting dark and there were no more seeds for it to eat.
"Cheer up, Merianna. He's nicer than you think! Shall we go back now?"
She nodded in reply, just as a loud sound echoed.
"What was that noise?!" She asked. "A gun…shot?"
Finny exchanged worried glances with her and sung her onto his back, exclaiming how light she was (to her disdain). He started running back to the mansion, leaping over trees, stumps and Merianna had to hold on tightly.
The mansion appeared in view, but there seemed to be nothing wrong. Gunshots were still ringing in the air when Finny burst open the front doors and let Merianna down.
"I'll go help Meirin and Bardroy. Merianna, can you make sure Young Master is okay?"
She nodded affirmatively and headed up the stairs while Finny took off down the hallways.
"Ciel! Ciel! Master Ciel!" she called.
Sounds now came from everywhere, but she saw nothing out of the ordinary. Still, she decided not to risk it. She opened the first door she came to: an empty bedroom. She opened the one across from it, a bathroom.
"Merianna?" a familiar voice said.
He looked at her as if nothing was wrong, despite the audible gunshots firing. A cracking above them was heard just as Merianna was about to warn him. She looked up and saw the ceiling having cracks and holes erupting on its surface. She called out to him just as she pulled him away from the falling debris.
He protested against her touching him, but just as she was about to lead him down the stairs, something heavy collided with her skill and her body went down. As if adding insult to her head injury, she felt darkness ebb in and passed out on the 4th stair of the staircase.