Author: Sybil Rowan
Pairing(s)/Characters: Nagi/Tot and implied Crawford/Schuldig. Schön and Hell do flirt with Masafumi, maybe more, but nothing to graphic.
Summary: This places Schwarz and Schreient in the "Something Wicked This Way Comes" story's universe from Bradbury. It cast Crawford in role of Dark and Schuldig as Cougar.
Warnings: None, really. I'm keeping it as close to Bradbury's original story's feel, which is a children's story.
Author's Notes: BTW, the Takatori family is all together and Shuuichi is corrupt. I had contemplated this story for a long time. I decided to finally do it to honor of my favorite author, Ray Bradbury, who passed away a few months ago. He is still one of my inspirations.
Disclaimer: Weiss Kreuz, its names and characters belong to Koyasu Takehito, Project Weiss, Marine Entertainment and Animate Film. And of course, Ray Bradbury's estate owns rights to "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
Beta Reader: You guessed it, WingedPanther73
Date: October 14, 2012, 5:00am
Schuldig watched his partner; he was in a deep sleep. The German didn't need his telepathy to know Crawford's mind was in a dynamic state of flux, far flung into the future. The normal humming of his partner's brain was currently a full roar, clanging in Schuldig's head painfully. It was pure music to him.
The dim light in the dilapidated, carnival trailer allowed Schuldig to see the furrows in Crawford's brow. Whatever he was dreaming was going to lead them to good fortune; Schuldig could taste it. He drew another worn Tarot card from Crawford's deck.
Schuldig frowned as The Tower mocked him. He sneered and tossed it across the room into Crawford's black top-hat. The card sliced several spider webs as it sailed into the hat's well.
:Hell, keep your daughters to yourself,: Schuldig projected his thought to the woman. No doubt, she and her sisters were plotting escape from Crawford's sideshow, again. He snorted at the idea. No one left Crawford once they made a deal with him, not ever.
:Is he up yet?: Hell's thought was as bitter as a taste of horseradish to Schuldig. He frowned at Hell's sass; it interrupted his concentration on Crawford.
:No, wench! And stop annoying me, or I'll put you in the Hall of Mirrors again.:
:Just because Crawford favors you? Made you his barker? More like his whore!:
:You shut up! Now, you bitch! Or I'll get Farfarello to toss you into the Hall of Mirrors!:
The threat finally silenced her rebellion. Schuldig couldn't blame her for hating him. He was the one that facilitated the deal between her and Crawford. At one time she was a famous forensic scientist in Japan on a case she couldn't close; it drove her to the brink of madness.
Schuldig offered to let her see the culprit's face if she'd only step into the Hall of Mirrors. He told her it would clear her head. Indeed, she saw the murder's reflection in the mirror, but it was too late for her to leave after she glimpsed the man's face. She made the mistake of not asking to solve the case, so as far as she knew, he was on the loose.
After all, it was his job as Crawford's carnival barker to lure in the weak or needy so the carnival could live and breath like a great, bloodied beast. Now Hell, along with many others, were Crawford's property, and Schuldig was still Crawford's most apt and willing carnival barker.
Schuldig's attention was pulled back towards Crawford. The carnival owner's mind slowed down, being dragged backwards by the currents of time. Soon, he would be in the present.
:Brad, you're not completely back?:
:Not yet.: The craggy projection echoed through Schuldig's mind. :Nagi?:
:I sent him to pack up the fairway. I'll send Farfarello to organize those sideshow wenches.:
:The House of Screams is a good draw; one we'll need at our next stop.:
:Oh? Where are you taking us?: Schuldig loved the horror ride Crawford referred to, it was well suited to Hell and her other sideshow sisters. With the one ride, Schuldig was able to claim twelve victims in the last town the carnival appeared.
:Tokyo,: was Crawford's only thought.
Schuldig drew back the crimson curtain shielding the small window of their trailer. He frowned at the moon-bathed, American Midwest landscape that surrounded them.
:I certainly will miss Kansas. So many people willing to give us so much for a little thrill. But Tokyo is where we caught three of those sideshow wenches five years ago.:
:You'll enjoy Tokyo again. We'll get five for the price of one! Two will refuse the deal, but we won't worry about them. Just the ones with corrupt and greedy hearts make deals with me.:
Masafumi scowled at his younger siblings. Mamoru and Ouka ran ahead, giggling, shouting, and pointing as if they were small children and not teenagers. They had insisted on coming to the foreign carnival, intrigued, like many citizens of Tokyo, by its sudden late October appearance. Masafumi picked up some faint smell of decay around the garish and well-worn carnival.
There were crimson, azure, and chartreuse tents everywhere. Many people from around the world worked the various games of skill and strength around the midway. Pungent wafts of carnival food fought to distract Masafumi from figuring out where the source of rot emanated from, not to mention the incredible racket and screams coming from the make-shift rides.
He looked over his shoulder towards Hirofumi so he could avoid looking at the strangely pale, one-eyed carny that ran the Ferris wheel. His slightly younger brother slumped by a dilapidated food truck. Masafumi noticed his brother leering too long at teenage girls and boys passing by. He ground his teeth and stopped short of chiding his gloomy brother; after all, his father was adamant about cheering Hirofumi up.
The court case had been closed quietly last week, thanks to Uncle Shuuichi and their family lawyer, Rinzo Kinugawa. It was vitally important that no one in all of Japan knew Hirofumi was guilty of kidnapping and rape. It helped make the case go away when Reiji also sent the girl's parents a large sum of money. Now, Reiji insisted everything go back to normal, and, hopefully, he would be elected Prime Minister next month.
"Masafumi! We're going on this ride!" Mamoru shouted across the dusty midway. Masafumi shivered slightly as he watched the pale, one-eyed carny help his young half-sister into a Ferris wheel car next to Mamoru. Masafumi gritted his teeth harder as a wave a hatred rushed over him. That boy was the 'golden child,' favored by their uncle and grandfather. And Ouka was Father's pampered princess that could do no wrong.
Reiji never let Masafumi forget that intellectual pursuits weren't valued in Takatori tradition, only raw power. Masafumi believed the only power worth having was scientific knowledge; his father was too greedy with money to see that truth.
His face twisted into a bitter grimace as he watched his two youngest siblings rise into the air. Hirofumi slid up beside Masafumi; he was glaring at them, too.
"Two young men like you certainly need other distractions than looking after children."
Masafumi flinched at the presumptuous redhead that appeared out of nowhere. The redhead was in a garish, green coat. He leaned on a gnarled, wood cane and flashed Masafumi a toothy grin.
"And who are you?" Hirofumi blurted out rudely. Masafumi was a little amazed at the foreigner's perfect Japanese.
The foreigner's smile grew wider, and he gave a quick nod of the head. "I'm Schuldig, the carnival's barker. It's my job to make sure you find your way to the right amusements."
"Amusement in this tawdry dump? I doubt it," Hirofumi sneered. The foreigner threw back his head and gave a laugh.
"But we have some of the most intriguing young ladies in the world here." Schuldig pointed the tip of his cane towards a bright red tent. Masafumi was intrigued at the teenage girl that did three back flips and then lofted a stick. She blew a plume of fire from her mouth and ignited the tip of the stick. A few patrons applauded and then wandered off when she put the stick out in a bucket of water beside the tent's entrance.
She noticed them staring at her. She gave them a jaunty wave and disappeared into the tent. Masafumi glanced over to see Hirofumi was interested, too, but not a good way. His brother stalked towards the tent, so Masafumi followed to ensure Hirofumi didn't get into more trouble.
Masafumi halted at the tent's opening, overwhelmed by the thick odor of incense. His eyes stung as they adjusted to the dim light. "Welcome, gentlemen," an enthusiastic, high pitched voice called out.
The girl was waving. Masafumi took note of her odd, white dress with a thick crinoline and huge lace collar. She also wore fingerless gloves, but no shoes. Her hair was an odd blue color, which Masafumi though was some sort of new teenager trend, thankfully, Ouka hadn't stumbled across.
"It's been too long since Tot has had guests! Nagi chases off all the good guests. He doesn't like it when guests talk to Tot too long. Guests will stay and talk with Tot?"
Masafumi's eyes narrowed at the prattling, Japanese girl. She seemed addle-brained, but no obvious scars were on her head.
"So you work here?" Hirofumi asked. "You're parents aren't around?"
"Mister Crawford is still asleep, so Schuldig is being bossy." The pout on her face was unmistakable.
"Well, that's interesting. No mother?"
The girl had a slight giggle and covered her mouth. She lowered her hands and said in a low voice, "Mister Crawford keeps Mother and Father in a mirror for me. It's their punishment for hurting Tot. That's why I have to work for Mister Crawford now. Don't say anything, but..." She looked around nervously and leaned in towards Masafumi. "Mister Crawford is a witch."
Hirofumi shot Masafumi a confused expression. Masafumi raised an eyebrow and turned back to the girl. "So where is this 'Mister Crawford'?"
"Tot! Who is out there with you?" a woman's voiced called out. Moments later a tall woman made her entrance from behind a beaded curtain. Her black hair flowed down her shoulders, her red, silk robe was open enough for Masafumi to get an eye full of tantalizing cleavage. She held a thin, white clay pipe in one delicate hand. Masafumi's eyes traveled downward where he saw more thigh than was decent, and he noted her lack of shoes as well. It was the gold ankle bracelets studded with rubies that made her long legs more appealing to Masafumi.
His eyes snapped upwards at the rustle of her wide silk sleeves. A slow smile appeared on her face. She asked, "You brought guests, Tot?"
"Schuldig thought they'd enjoy our company," Tot said brightly.
"I see," the woman replied dryly. Masafumi watched her eyes narrow at the carnival barker's name. She shrugged and part of her robe slipped down to reveal the smooth skin of her shoulder. Her eyes then came to rest on Masafumi, she gave him and appraising look and nodded. "I'm sure we can show them some hospitality. Crawford wouldn't be pleased if we didn't show each guest the utmost entertainment. I'm Hell, by the way, and that's Tot."
"Unusual names," Hirofumi pointed out, still openly leering at the the clueless teenage girl.
"We abandoned our original names when we came to work for the carnival. It's cleaner that way." Hell shoved aside the beaded curtain and walked deeper into the dark interior of the tent.
"Aren't you coming?" Tot asked over her shoulder as she followed Hell.
Hirofumi stumbled after Tot as if in a trance, to Masafumi's consternation. He gritted his teeth and followed. The tent seemed to get taller and and the colors clashed together. Random shapes were sewn into the tent walls, creating a sensation of vertigo when he stared at it too long.
They reached the center of the tent and Hell pulled back the flap dividing the center from the rest. "Neu, Schön, we have guests."
Masafumi turned to his left to see a woman lounging on several large, jewel toned poofs. She leaned on her elbow, revealing she was half naked. From her hips down she was covered in a gold sheet. Masafumi was shocked at such a lurid display. He pushed off his shock and then noticed she was wearing thick gold bracelets and several gold chains around her neck.
The odor of mildew assaulted his nose when he noticed a giant water tank behind the woman. It was constructed with a heavy, rusty frame and held green, murky water. The gold cloth covering the woman from the waist down twitched, catching Masafumi's attention. Something seemed misshapen, but he couldn't figured it out.
"It's always nice to have some male attention. Proper male attention, not the kind that comes from the sideshow," the blond woman said, crinkling her nose. Masafumi could tell she had the same harsh accent as the carnival barker, maybe German, but Masafumi couldn't tell properly. "So what are your names?"
"Takatori... Masafumi. My brother, Hirofumi," he said. He looked beside the tank at a medieval metal chair; it had a small electric generator attached to it. The scientist in him found the device intriguing, as did the sadist in him. "What's that for?"
"It's Neu's act," the blond woman said, flinging her hand towards a corner. The woman with a gray veil melted back further in the shadows and said nothing. He could tell nothing about what the woman looked like.
"Neu's shy," Tot explained. She bounced on her feet a couple times before falling into a split on the floor, and then with acrobatic grace, she flipped backwards and hoisted her body up. She balanced on her palms. Masafumi was grateful her crinoline stayed enough in place, but he knew Hirofumi wouldn't resist much longer.
"We're sorry to interrupt you ladies. My brother and I should leave," Masafumi said, grabbing Hirofumi's elbow.
"Wait," Hell said, stepping up very close to Masafumi. A slight odor of decay hit his nose, underneath her sandalwood sent. She twisted her hand upwards towards Masafumi and seven orange tickets appeared between her fingers. "Come back tonight to see our sideshow. Bring the rest of your family."
Masafumi took the tickets and tucked them away in his suit's coat pocket. "Thank you very much. We'll consider it."
"Those aren't just any tickets. They're a special invitation from the carnival's owner. Don't be late."
Masafumi nodded and left, dragging Hirofumi behind him. He quickly gathered Mamoru and Ouka, promising to bring them back that evening.
"He's not in, wench," Schuldig said, blocking Hell's path towards Crawford's trailer door with his cane. Crawford's telepathic barker wore one of those Cheshire cat smiles she despised so much. She jabbed her finger at Schuldig's shoulder.
"I want to know why he wanted me to give that man so many tickets! Out of my way!"
"Not until..." Schuldig's head cocked as if he were listing to a silent voice. He lowered his cane, now appearing annoyed. Apparently, he had heard a silent voice from Crawford. She shot him a gloating look as she proceeded into the trailer. She paused to read the sign on the door; it was cream color with Gothic, crimson lettering.
'Brad Crawford's Pandemonium Shadow Show- Fantoccini, Marionette Circus, and Your Plain Meadow Carnival. Now featuring The House of Screams, home to the four most beautiful women in the world!'
She gave a derisive snort to the sign, grabbed the knob, and threw open the door. The darkness in the trailer was heavy and thick. Even Hell, after Crawford had changed her, couldn't peer through the darkness of Crawford's home. It intimidated her even more now that she was changed and had a vague notion of Crawford's true nature.
"Come in, Hell. You know I don't bite."
She shivered and could now see the shadows move. Hell watched Crawford shrug on his black coat with the tails. She stepped into the icy cold. He snapped his gloved fingers and three candles flickered on, the door slammed behind her. The iciness retreated slightly and she took in Crawford's post sleep appearance.
He was now in his dark formal suit, his white shirt was starched, and his gray gloves were immaculate in spite of the dilapidated surrounding. His eyes were unfocused and unseeing, he walked over to a table beside his bed and put on the glasses resting there. Hell had a theory that Crawford was physically blind, but those glasses helped him see naturally, somehow. If he were blind, it wouldn't matter because of the base of power Crawford possessed: clairvoyance.
He pushed the glasses high on the bridge of his nose, and his brown eyes focused on her as if he had sight. He grabbed his cane and top hat, and said, "The show is going to start soon, and I know you want to know about the Japanese scientist sent to you. He's my next addition to the House of Screams. It's a forgone conclusion."
"But you gave him a lot of tickets. Why?"
"It's all a part of the deal I'll make with him."
"Please, Crawford, I've heard of this man from my former life." She clenched Crawford's lapels in her fists and pressed close to him, giving him a pleading look. "The man is too brilliant to be here, he's on the verge of a major discovery that could cure humanity of so many diseases. He's planning to alter the genetic code to make mankind impervious to virus and bacteria. It was a rumor, but it was from a very convincing source. Don't you see what he'll mean to mankind?"
Crawford's expression turned from apathy to thoughtfulness. "You're here to convince me to take someone else in his party and spare Masafumi Takatori."
"Yes, surely there's someone else in that group that'll catch your eye. All those people, we'll help you make deals with them, gladly."
"You will, hmm? You know you have to do what I say regardless? It makes it harder on you and your sisters when you don't cooperate with what I want."
"But I know it expends your energy when we rebel. We'll help you, with no arguments, if you let that man go. Please, Crawford. Wasn't a part of you human once?"
"What was in my past is irrelevant to your present and future. It was your misfortune to meet me five years ago rather than five hundred."
Hell flinched back slightly. At first she was irritated at his typical rambling answer, but she grew stunned at his implication. She gripped Crawford's lapels tighter. "You made a deal, too, didn't you? With who? Who could give you such power?"
A smile played across his lips, his head dipped slightly forward, shadowing his eyes. He held his hand out and blew at it. Black smoke flew from his lips to his fingertips. It solidified into one of his Tarot cards, now it rested between his middle and index fingers. She let go of jacket, seeing the main figure on the fifteenth card of the Tarot deck's Major Arcana.
She gasped, while he gently laughed out loud. He tucked The Devil card in his jacket's pocket and pushed back the brim of his tall top hat with the ruby topper of his cane. "So now that we have that established, you need to get ready for the show tonight."
Hell quickly fled from Crawford's trailer, ignoring Schuldig's mocking taunt. She ran through the crowded midway toward her tent. She drew up short seeing Nagi standing in front of the tent. Tot was prattling to the young man, Crawford's hand-picked prodigy and eventual successor. Nagi was the only one allowed to remain at Crawford's carnival with no deal in place.
Her new knowledge of Crawford gave her a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. The same sensation extended to Nagi, in spite of his emaciated appearance. She knew the boy had tremendous power, that's why Crawford had picked him. She'd seen it when he would pack up the midway with no more than his thoughts.
The boy's large eyes swept over her and then jerked to the ground. He seemed irritated at her sudden appearance. No doubt, he was flirting with Tot. He had a mad crush on Tot since she made the deal so she could be free of her abusive parents. Hell was a little afraid Tot was starting to return Nagi's feelings; it was something she wanted to put a stop to soon.
"Tot! Come on," Hell snapped.
"But, Tot was talking to Nagi," she whined.
"Crawford wants the show ready. You better join him, Nagi," she insisted, even though Schuldig would call the young man with telepathy if Crawford wanted to see him. Nagi took Hell's gentle hint and left, casting a longing look towards Tot.
"We have plans to make," she said once Nagi was out of sight. She lead Tot to the deep, dark interior of their tent.
"So what did Crawford have to say?" Schön blurted out.
Hell looked at her and frowned. "He didn't say yes or no. He expects us to do our job."
"But you have hope this man can help us escape?" Schön asked, her eyes wide in desperation. Hell sat next to Schön on her jewel colored pillows. She watched the gold sheet over Schön's lower half ripple in agitation. Hell laid a comforting hand on Schön bare shoulder.
"I'm sure. We'll convince him. When he comes to the sideshow."
"But what if Crawford gets to him first and makes the deal?" Schön asked, choked up and on the verge of tears. She had paid a very heavy price for her deal. Crawford had worded Schön's deal in a most deceiving way. She asked to be transformed into something men had found alluring through the ages, something that would never grow old, and Crawford's black heart granted a terrible curse. Hell's heart went out to Schön and it only made her want to redouble her efforts towards escape.
"We have to hold out hope. Something is odd about the situation. There will be a lot of people with Masafumi, so I'm hoping we can lure him away before he meets Crawford. Tot..." Hell turned towards the girl, "...you'll go seek out Masafumi and bring him to the House of Scream's amusement ride."
"Most certainly!" Tot squealed and twirled on her toe. She did a series of back flips out of the tent and disappeared.
Hell hugged Schön tightly and glanced over at Neu's gray veiled body and face. "We need you to put on the biggest show you can tonight. Do you think you can take down the midway while we talk to Masafumi?" Neu's head nodded and she melted away into the shadows.
"It'll come together," Hell assured Schön. "Get ready for your act at our amusement ride. He'll be astounded when he sees what both of us really are. He'll have no choice but to take us away."
"Please, Daddy, it'd be so much fun," Ouka pleaded.
"It was so much fun this afternoon. Please?" Mamoru asked Takatori. He glanced across the dinner table. His teenage children both looked hopeful and pleading. He found his resolve to go back to the office weakening.
"Oh, Reiji, you haven't taken them out for a while. Why not?" Shuuichi prodded, ruffling Mamoru's hair.
His resolved teetered until Masafumi said, "You know, Father, this would only improve your campaign for Prime Minister. Think of all the voters you'd shake hands with. If we all went together, it would only improve your visibility."
"It had so many people there," Hirofumi said, picking up Masafumi's cue. "We got seven free tickets."
Takatori gave his two oldest sons a baffled look. It wasn't like either of them want to go to something so common. Still, they made a convincing argument. He could shake hands with the everyday people on the streets.
He nodded, pushing aside his empty dinner plate. "Sure, why not? Shuuichi and Rinzo? You want to tag along? No need in wasting tickets."
His brother nodded. "I better go along, just to check things out. Make sure they have the proper licenses and all." Reiji knew his brother would actually be giving the shake down to the carnival's owner so he lined his own nest.
"Good, good. Rinzo?"
"I think it'll be a nice distraction," the lawyer said, a smile playing across his lips.
"Then it's settled," Reiji's said with a bright smile, giving his daughter a pat on her cheek. "We'll go on a family outing."
To be continued.