I'm not dead, just lazy. Anyway, without further ado, enjoy!
Sharp yellow-green eyes fixed unwaveringly at the playback of images before him. The black and white film flickered to a stop, the glowing ball of blue light giving a final pulse and dropped to the table, dispersing into blue sparks. Uncrossing his legs and slowly rising from his seat, William picked up his Death Scythe and left his office.
"Slingby! Humphries! Gather every available Shinigami in my division and meet me in the Level 4 Surveillance Room," the division leader ordered as soon as he was out the door, not pausing in his stride.
The two senior Death Gods snapped to attention immediately, the frigid tone of their leader putting them on high alert. Both merely gave a short nod and left, clamping down their curiosity in favour of acting first. Spears moved through the compound instinctively, trusting his body to lead him to his destination as he mentally ran through all the major events of the Baron's life. The aloof Shinigami was tempted to go straight down to the human world and hull his mentor back here, but he knew better. Harrison could take care of himself, and he will not willingly pull his mentor away from his fun, not with what he would be subjected to if he ever did.
A small displeased frown creased the otherwise stoic face as he recalled the events of the past fortnight. Truly, he was surprised with the situation the Shinigami will face in the near future, but who could blame him? Their eternal nemesis is the demons…and to see that God's first creations are the ones to wreak havoc in the human world once again… He pushed the steel doors of the Surveillance Room open, only to be met by an unwelcomed sight.
"Honestly, to think this incident would gather all these attention." Black framed glasses glinted, head dipping in a slight nod of acknowledgement. "I sincerely hope that your presence wouldn't be causing more overtime in my division. We are overworked as it is."
The lone female in the group of three stepped forth, flicking auburn hair over a purple clad shoulder, posturing so as to make sure the division leader caught a clear view of the symbol attached to the shoulder, "Spears, we are not here about the incident. Something else caught our attention."
The female Shinigami paused dramatically, obviously waiting for William to ask. The division leader inwardly scoffed. He recognized the symbol, of course, to be that of the Angel Surveillance Department, the purple lining indicating a member of the field task force. That over dramatic Death God may be a leader in the special unit, but that did not make her his superior. In addition, he was in a foul mood and didn't feel like humoring anyone. So, instead of opening his mouth, William merely pushed his glasses up with his Scythe, face devoid of all emotion.
Not receiving any form of reply, the female scowled, aware of the glances her two companions were giving her.
"It came to our attention…us in the Angel Surveillance headquarters above… that an angel is performing highly forbidden rituals in the human world, again. However, the intentions of this fallen angel is yet unknown. We received information that the Shinigami Lord is somewhat involved and have made contact with the being."
"Honestly, does seeking an audience with the Lord require escorts?" Black gloved fingers brushed the handle of his weapon. "In any case, he is currently unavailable. Make an appointment and return at a more convenient time. You are hindering my work."
"There is no more convenient time, Spears. The Lord may have you soul collectors at his every beck and call, but us in the surveillance unit have better things to do. For every second we waste here, the closer the angel will be to reach his or her goal. Now I don't care what he is doing right now, but either you call the Lord up here, or the consequences would be his to bear."
Yellow-green eyes narrowed dangerously, "Special department or not, you do not have the authority to summon him. Kindly leave the London Soul Collection headquarters."
The woman sneered, "Listen here you – "
A slender eyebrow rose as the female halted abruptly, gaze locked on the door behind. The two similarly clad men flanking her stiffened, faces draining of colour.
"Oh there's no need to bother William any further, Monlith. I believe you were asking for me?"
Sebastian and Harry were up in the mansion's library when both froze, and glanced at each other. Ditching the chores they were doing, the two demons raced to the kitchens, a serious expression on their usually carefree faces.
The first thing the Quetzalcoatl registered was the blur of grey and white, and the glint of double blades as they slashed at Mey Rin. Reacting in a split second, the tutor shoved the maid out of the blades' range and deflected them. Steel grey eyes widened momentarily, and the swords descended again.
Too slow. Harry smirked as he dodged and appeared behind the taller man, his daggers half-concealed in his sleeves, ready for use at a moment's notice. However, the weapons disappeared when another similarly white clad man strolled in through the door, the raven demon entering behind with a polite smile on his face.
"Hey, Sebastian! Who are these guys?" Bard asked once he recovered his breath.
"These two are – "
"Oh, let us introduce ourselves," the one with the double swords interrupted. "We are Her Majesty's butlers, codename 'Double Charles'. My name is Charles Grey and my silent companion over there is Charles Phipps."
Emerald eyes brightened at the name, "Phipps? The second son of Jillian Phipps and Maria Downey-Phipps?"
The tall butler with a more angular face blinked as he saw the shorter male for the first time, "Professor? Professor Potter?"
Harry grinned, "Still as stiff as ever, eh brat?"
"You haven't aged a day since the last I saw you."
"Ah, so that is the scholar and former professor your late father occasionally consults with, Phipps? He has some good genes, I'll give you that," Grey pursed his lips as he studied the deceivingly delicate looking male.
A yelp outside the kitchen's window caught everyone's attention, and Harry's eyes rolled upwards at the sight of a happily panting Pluto, who whined as he looked at the tutor with pleading eyes.
"Ah, excuse me, the little lord's dog seems to miss my lovely company already. Now, I'm sorry to cut our meeting a little short, Phipps, Grey, but if you'd kindly excuse me…"
Without waiting for any reply, the demon left, heading straight for the devil dog.
"Alright, Pluto, what was that all about?'' he crouched down on the courtyard, distractedly running his fingers through the silver-grey fur.
After a couple of failed attempts, the Master of Death had managed to shrink Pluto down to the size of a Great Dane, so as to avoid having to hide him from visitors, or cast illusions every time the dog decides to show himself in front of strangers. At least the beast's tendency to turn human every so often had dwindled, which meant one less thing for him to worry about.
A cold snout nudged his cheek, a faint whine emitting from the mythical creature as blood red eyes bored into a certain white haired man's back.
"Ah, he's making you uneasy, eh?" A dark smirk appeared on the youthful face. "It's a wonder you managed to pick it up, Pluto. Even I had trouble pinning it down when I first came into contact with him."
His brows furrowed in thought, "Although, I wonder what the Phipps' brat is doing with someone like him. A butler to the Queen, huh?"
Pluto barked in agreement and emerald eyes brightened in amusement, "Well Pluto, looks like you are learning to use your brains. At any rate, I don't think he will have much interest in you if you keep your snout down."
The tutor's eyes narrowed as they zeroed in on the offending studded collar and he muttered, "Still, I'll need to get rid of that as soon as possible. There's a distant possibility on him picking up on it. The heavy enchantments are already broken, but…"
The dog's head titled to the side, eyes holding a sliver of curiosity.
"Alright, listen up, Pluto. Stay clear from that man at all costs, but observe him carefully whenever possible. Do not get him interested in you. I'm sure your previous owner had not revealed your identity to him, but it's best to be cautious. At the meantime, I will find a way to get that annoying thing off. Understand?"
The mongrel's head bobbed enthusiastically, and Harry sighed in resignation as he once again found himself with an armful of sliver-grey fur and slobber on his cheeks.
"Hey, hey, what did I say about salivating all over me?! Down boy, and off you go. I have to return quickly. Won't want to miss out on the fun stuff, now would I?"
The Quetzalcoatl found the four in one of the manor's living rooms, seated on or –in the butler's case, standing near –the plush couches as a sealed letter lay innocently on the marble coffee table.
"…In accordance to Her Majesty's request, we would like you to hold a banquet and entertain a foreign guest who will be visiting England for a short period of time," Charles Grey was saying as the tutor slipped into the last available armchair in the room.
"Why me? I do not think that the guest will be quite at ease at being entertained by someone of my reputation."
"The esteemed guest is a certain German who happens to be a distant relative of the Queen. He is interested in meeting the head behind this country's leading companies, as well as the popular literature texts England has to offer…and mingling with people of profound scholarship and intelligence…" the last sentence was accompanied by a pointed glance towards Harry, courtesy of both the Queen's butlers.
An elegant eyebrow rose, but before the tutor could say anything, Charles Phipps added, "With your connections, you will be able to invite people of status to please this German. In addition, the Funtom Company's goods is one of England's most recognized products, and thus, he will undoubtedly be intrigued."
"Even so, does Her Majesty really think it is alright for me to entertain this…guest?"
"The Queen is having doubts about the earl's capabilities ever since your report about 'that incident'," the white haired male leaned forward, and the Shinigami Lord's interest piqued. "This mission, if completed successfully, will help restore your reputation in her eyes. Then again, this request is to the Noble Phantomhive and not the Guard Dog."
Ciel eyed the two butlers before him silently. A few moments passed before he sighed, lifting the sealed envelope with two fingers, "Very well, I'll take it."
The two stood and Grey flicked imaginary dust off his pristine clothes, "Oh, by the way, since I am the overseer of this mission, I will be taking part in it. Surely it will not be an inconvenience to you, earl?"
"No it will not be an inconvenience," Phantomhive replied curtly.
"Another thing, earl. We've just confirmed the security of this mansion, and it seems to be at top notch. Therefore, I will inform the Queen that additional guards are not needed. Right, now that everything's settled, we will be taking our leave."
The bigger of the 'Double Charles' spared another nod at his former professor, and the two disappeared.
The young noble stood from his seat the moment the three were alone, and glanced at his butler, "Sebastian, prepare the invitations, and send one to Lau and Undertaker as well."
"Of course, young master."
As soon as the butler slipped away to do his job, Harry watched silently as the young noble stood to leave, letter clutched between his fingers. As such, the emerald-eyed demon was grateful for it as his midnight green lance materialized unexpectedly, a glowing blue ball of films by its side. Quickly banishing both with a wave of his hands, he sighed and called out.
"Little lord, I am afraid I wouldn't be able to participate in this event. Something…urgent came up."
A sapphire eye snapped up, a flicker of exasperation in its depth, "Something you don't wish to share? Do what you want, I'm sure Sebastian alone would suffice this time."
Harry couldn't help but tease, "No demands, little lord? Aren't you the least bit curious?"
"I would be appalled with myself if I haven't learned better by now," Ciel replied simply and left, leaving a smirking tutor behind.
The Quetzalcoatl entered the Shinigami realm as soon as he could, not bothering to morph into his demon form as he strolled into the Soul Collection headquarters. The place was as hectic as ever, but with a surprising lack of field reapers as opposed to those who were stuck doing paperwork.
Lifting a hand, he released a trickle of magic to locate his former student. It brushed against the aura of his former student's up in the Level 4 Surveillance Room, along with three others. Making his way up silently, Harry grimaced as voices floated back to his ears through the shut doors.
Great, those three are from the Angel Surveillance Department.
Although Death Gods in that special unit were under his jurisdiction, the Master of Death did not feel as comfortable in their presence as he did the others. Maybe it was due to their headquarters' proximity with the angel's realm and therefore, too pure for his taste, or maybe it was due to their snobbish attitude. Scoffing at his thoughts, Harry shook his head. It was more the latter than the former. He did not associate with them much, the last time being a thousand years back, when another angel fell.
"There is no more convenient time, Spears. The Lord may have you soul collectors at his every beck and call, but us in the surveillance unit have better things to do. For every second we waste here, the closer the angel will be to reach his or her goal. Now I don't care what he is doing right now, but either you call the Lord up here, or the consequences would be his to bear."
Zacaria Monlith. Still as stuck up as when she was a novice. Really, now that he thought about it, the angels' aura probably contributed to her arrogance, as did the importance of the department she is currently in. Being the Shinigami Lord, he could have the unit disbanded, he supposed, but it would only mean the lost of information from the 'above' realm. That being the main reason he had put up with the disrespect. And really, he had seen too much to be offended by a bunch of brats.
The one of a kind, arrogant tone rose again, and Harry decided to spare William, or rather spare Monlith from Spears. Only a handful knows how destructive the ever-controlled Shinigami could be when pushed too far and he didn't want to spend more time than necessary up here.
"Listen here you – "
The door closed behind with a solid click, and Harry had the pleasure of seeing the slight spluttering of the female as she abruptly cut herself off.
"Oh there's no need to bother William any further, Monlith. I believe you were asking for me?" he drawled, leaning against the door with both hands tucked into the coat pocket.
"I requested the presence of the Shinigami Lord, yes," Monlith managed to get out between clenched teeth, her eyes narrowed suspiciously, fingers sliding down to the Scythe strapped to her thigh.
An eyebrow rose a the action, but was dismissed almost instantly, "So what does the Angel Surveillance Department want of me, hmm?"
Amber eyes blinked. "You are the Lord?"
A humourless smirk curled his lips, "Has it really been that long since any of your department saw me that none can remember my face?"
There was no reply, and emerald eyes narrowed, "Would you like me to…jog your memory? I have better things to attend to instead of wasting time here, Monlith."
The female visibly wavered and eventually relented under the powerful, glowing gaze. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed again as her eyes darted towards Spears, clearly indicating he should leave.
"What is said before me can be heard by William. Start talking."
Zacaria's lips thinned, "Very well, Lord. My division is currently undertaking the mission of tracking the fallen angel down and eliminating it. We have knowledge that you contacted the being and received information on its motive. Information that we need."
"Oh? The Angel Surveillance Department is tackling this case all on their own, I see. Are you sure you are able to handle it? If my memory serves me right, it didn't work out too well the last time."
Monlith flushed at the jab, her reddening face twisting comically as she tried to smother her rising temper, "We did not utilise our resources fully the last time, however, we do not wish for any interference now. I am confident about our ability in eliminating the fallen one. All we need is information. Our intelligence network is sadly…lacking."
How interesting. For that department to actively participate in such a mundane – for them, that is – task. My guess is this case involves them in some major way. A small smirk curved Harry's lips, "For a surveillance division to fail in information gathering…but that's beside the point. I'd be happy to provide you with some knowledge about this situation. The only question is…will you have enough Death Gods to put it into good use?"
Zacaria gaped in shock, her two escorts not fairing any better, "Wha – how – ?"
"Tsk, tsk. Monlith, do you really think I won't notice?" The Shinigami Lord pushed off the door he was leaning on, sauntering over to the frozen trio. "However, seeing as you are so determined to resolve this on your own, feel free to proceed. So long as you do not cause any grief for the other departments, I am willing to impart pieces of information."
A light rapping sounded and Harry glanced over his shoulder, "Oh, looks like your time's up. Good luck with the case."
"Wait!" the female shouted, "What about the information you promised?"
A pale hand cut upwards through the air and green flames flared in a circle around the three. Amused emerald eyes locked on anxious amber ones and a soft chuckle escaped the Lord. Just as the flaming circle begin to fade, taking its occupants with it, the information was given in a chiding tone.
"Once again, your intelligence network is wrong. You are not dealing with one being this time. From experience, trouble always travel in pairs."
The flash of light and the sudden appearance of green flames caused the man in a dull office to jump, and could only stare as three figures stumbled out of the black circle burnt into the marble floor.
Zacaria cursed as the circle of green flames deposited her and her escorts – she didn't deem them important enough to remember their names – roughly onto a familiar maroon floor.
"Monlith," the deep, baritone voice of her superior shook her out of her mental cursing of a certain green-eyed lord. "What is the meaning of this?"
Amber eyes snapped to the face of the Department Head. A small flicker of shock crossed his face before it was gone, but the female knew the look in his dark eyes. Wary recognition and apprehension. She hesitated, both the unease in the room and the thought of admitting her failure in front of her superior didn't sit well with her.
Feeling the weight of an expecting gaze, the female Shinigami resigned to her fate, shooting a baleful glare over her shoulder at the lumbering idiots shuffling nervously behind her. She just had to have the most unintimidating, witless pair of Shinigami with her, didn't she?
Taking a deep breath, she ran a finger over the top of her long-time weapon for reassurance, "Sir. The investigation was forcefully aborted. The only thing – "
"That's enough," her superior interrupted with a wave of his hand. "It's obvious what happened. Just tell me, what did he say?"
Fighting back a scowl at the interruption, and the fact that the normal, harmless looking man was the Lord, Zacaria answered, "No interference or reinforcements will be sent. The Lord has promised that much. As for information, all he said was this: Once again, your intelligence network is wrong. You are not dealing with one being this time. From experience, trouble always travel in pairs.' He may provide us with more in the near future."
"In pairs," the man murmured as Monlith found herself pinned by an intense look. "What did you tell him?"
"Nothing much Sir. Only that we lack information on the fallen angel. Although…"
An eyebrow rose, and she hurriedly tacked on, "The Lord knows that we lack…personnel."
"It's not surprising he knows. We are, after all, his subjects," a sneer curved his mouth as he spat those damning words, before vanishing. "Now, I suppose you know what must be done regardless, Monlith?"
"Of course, Sir. All available personal from my division will be deployed in the field, although that will not be sufficient, not without taking some from the Intelligence or Management Division. Especially since we now have two to look for."
A brief frown appeared on the other's face, "Then take some from the Intelligence Division. Death knows their not doing anything useful and it'll do them good to be back out on the field."
"Yes Sir. Would that be all?"
"Keep in contact with the Lord, or at least a leader of the…others…down below. We need every piece of information we can get. Dismissed."
The door closed behind her, leaving the office in dim light once more. Alone, the Department Head sighed, eyes drifting over to the circle seared into his office floor.
"You can show yourself." Even without looking, the Department Head could feel dark amusement dripping from the being. A flash of silver and purple appeared the corner of his eye and he shuddered.
"Why the fear, dear Shinigami? As long as you hold up the end of your agreement, you will have your desire and more," the other purred.
That does not mean I can stand your presence. Instead, he merely spat, "You have what you want, now – "
"Ah, ah," the voice sang from behind, causing the Death God to flinch as his arm was grabbed in a cold vice. "All in due time, dear Shinigami. Remember our deal? Only when you've helped me fulfil my side of the bargain will I then grant you your wish."
The hand dropped and he immediately stepped away, "Are you absolutely sure he can be eliminated?"
"Of course, dear Shinigami. But if you're still doubtful, I guess you'll just have to wait," the air grew heavier as the other continued. "Can you wait?"
"I've been waiting for this long. A little more does not make a difference," the leader of the special department snarled, the burning fury rising within replacing the initial fear of the other being. "As long as he is dead, I do not care for what you do. He will pay. He will regret everything he has done to me!"
"And he will. But now, let's put your gift of alliance to good use. Shall we?"
"Really, Will. What was the reason for gathering everyone here?" Emerald orbs swept over the Shinigami filing into the small room, the owner leaning against the wall next beside his student.
Sharp clippers nudged black-framed glasses up, "For an investigation, mentor. Or did you forget about the memories of a certain Baron?"
Harry sighed, "I don't recall having involved nearly half your division in that incident, nor a handful of Shinigami from other divisions."
"The incident of a thousand years ago has taught me something invaluable, mentor. I'm sure you wouldn't be opposed to us preparing ourselves, would you?"
The demon chuckled and strolled towards the door, "Do what you will, as long as it doesn't cause me trouble."
"Of course, mentor."
Shooting a grin over his shoulders, the Quetzalcoatl strolled down the stairs, drawing his Scythe as he did. A flick of his fingers had the blue ball of film in his palm. Harry curled his fingers close around it, intending on destroying this duplicate of the Baron's life when a shrill ring echoed throughout the compound. Narrowed emerald eyes snapped up, scanning the area even as he moved swiftly towards the source. Throwing open the door of the main arrival and departure hall, the Shinigami Lord jerked to a halt as a wave of twisted, grotesque aura surged over him. His Scythe was up and slamming the door shut in an instant, a hand stretched out towards the source, green flames engulfing his limb.
With a force of part magic part demon power, Harry managed to push the shudder-inducing aura back to a manageable distance. The dark purple fog receded, leaving a pile of something from a dubious origin – was that a twitching leg? – behind. Shouldering his weapon, the Master of Death scowled. If something like this was able to get into the Shinigami Headquarters, his wards must be wearing thin. Emerald eyes roved over the hall, a slow smirk surfacing as they took in the almost-invisible threads of light criss-crossing the entire area. He spared a moment to throw a simple repelling spell and a stronger locking charm at the closed door. Won't want a wayward Shinigami to wander in and get killed now, would we?
Well now, what did you intend this little gift to be, angel? A little warning, perhaps?
Running a finger along the holy string, Harry scoffed as the shadows instantly clung to its thin surface the moment his skin touch it. So much for holy. The darkness spread, hungrily devouring the bright material. However, the angel thread did not go without a fight. Detaching from the walls, it whipped about, leaving gorges in the walls and floor. The lance sliced through the air, dispersing into black tendrils, which defended its master from the striking threads. The Master of Death tucked his hands in his pocket, strolling through the chaos, eyes fixed intently on the pile of suspicious looking mess in the centre of the hall.
All movement froze as the door flew through the air and slammed into the opposite wall.
"What in the - "
The disbelieving voice snapped the tableau and the snake-like threads shot towards the newcomers. Cursing aloud, the Shinigami Lord sprinted towards the dumbstruck group, shifting to his Quetzalcoatl form as he closed the distance. He made it with a second to spare, curling himself around the others as his feathered wings came up to shield his serpentine body. The sharp wire-like weapons struck his tough unshielded hide time after time, unrelenting even as they failed to pierce it. Slitted emerald eyes narrowed, and with a sharp beat of black wings, the threads retreated. A feathered head rose above the tightly coiled body, and the mythical serpent hissed menacingly. The holy strings pounced once more, but they didn't make it in time. The surrounding air grew heavier and hotter, and a flaming hurricane erupted. It started off slow with the serpent at the eye, before picking up speed, black tongues of fire incinerating all it touched. The threads withered instantly, defenceless against the magical blaze. As the flames settled, only two things remained untouched. The coiled Quetzalcoatl and the unknown pile of black mass. The walls and ceiling of the arrival hall was gone, leaving blue skies overhead.
In one swift motion, Harry shifted back to human form, landing on his feet between the group of dazed Death Gods and the pile. His glowing eyes roved over the group as they came out of their daze and abruptly stiffened. He subconsciously noted that every one of the ten odd numbers were seniors, ones who no doubt remember the sickening twisted aura of a fallen.
His glare did not lessen and when they fidgeted uneasily, he all but snarled, "What did you think you were doing?! No, don't answer that, you were obviously not thinking at all!"
His former student opened his mouth, but Harry was too angry to listen. Instead, he rounded on the division leader and yelled, "Did it even cross your thick skull that the door was locked for a reason? Do you seriously think I would not be able to handle it myself?"
Harry knew he was overreacting, but the thought of any of his Shinigami dying due to rash and thoughtless action caused his temper to slip. Perishing out in the field and against other beings was unavoidable, but he would be damned if they died from an avoidable situation.
"I apologise, mentor. We felt the dark aura and rushed down without a clear plan. As division leader, the fault lies entirely with me."
Closing his eyes, the Lord sighed, "You were lucky I managed to shield you on time. The result would not have been pleasant. "
"If you don't mind me asking, mentor, what were those…strings?"
"Holy snares. Angels use them to trap and capture other beings. Monsters, demons, humans…whatever they deem a threat. By imbuing a small part of their power in it, it can serve as a distant limb of sorts for an angel. A skilled manipulator can use it to kill and cut." A short shimmering silver thread landed on Harry's upturned palm, and he held it up for the small group of Shinigami to see. "See it, and remember. You will no doubt be encountering quite a few of these during the period of your investigation. The powers of angels have no doubt evolved since a thousand years ago. The ones used before were not as potent."
"Is it possible to take them down, Lord? Our Death Scythe can only protect us so far, especially against an overwhelming number of snares," Alan Humphries took a step forward, peering curiously at the shimmering strand.
"Good question, Alan. Your Scythes can certainly cut them, although against a number as large as what you've just encountered, it'll be useless. Treat these angel snares as you will a being that would only die when its soul is removed. Separate it from its source and it'll be no more harmful than a piece of string."
Turning away, Harry made for the bundle, a knot settling in his stomach with every step closer. I should have stayed for whatever party the little lord is holding right now, the demon mused. This visit is certainly fully of surprises and unwelcome events. Hmm…never thought I would say that.
The black pile of mass turned out to be something covered in dark sticky slime, which promptly reared up and tried to engulf the petite male. The Quetzalcoatl didn't even spare the slime one look, merely flicking his fingers and banishing it. The substance withered with a shriek, revealing the matter below. For the second time this day, Harry lost control. The knuckles of the hand clutching his Scythe whitened, the sky directly above him darkened, a deep rumble building up all around. But none of it registered. Dark emerald orbs took in the jumble of mangled limbs, bodiless heads with wide-open eyes, twisted expressions on white faces. Pieces of bloodstained purple clothes artistically wrapped around them, like some grotesque gift.
Taking a deep breath, he reigned in his powers. The small demon crouched in front of the mutilated corpses of his subjects, running an open palm over the pile. He was not a soft-hearted being by far, nor a stranger to death in any form, at least not anymore. Who could be after living as long as he did? But the mass murder of near a hundred Shinigami of the special division – given, they were arrogant and disrespectful at times – made his heart clench. The ground shuddered lightly beneath his feet and the pile of corpses jerked, turning to ash and carried away by the wind.
Abruptly, he stood up, "Will, start the investigation this instant. Use every network available and get into contact with all Soul Collection divisions. Make sure every field member has a partner and stays in constant contact with headquarters. The souls of these Shinigami have been stripped and fused with their scythes, taken as material for something major. This cannot be overlooked. I want every single stolen Death Scythes found and destroyed or returned to me. The fallen has made their intentions clear."
Harry straightened, staring intensely at every Death Gods standing before him, "Go now, spread the word. We will not interfere with the special division but we will capture the fallen as soon as we can, regardless."
The group saluted as one, and the Master of Death ran a hand through his hair wearily as they dispersed. The slight shift in the air was the only indication of the arrival of his long time companion. Glancing over his shoulder, he gave a curt nod. Not waiting for a reply he whipped his lance out in an arc, watching absently as the walls and ceiling reformed.
"So, Master, have you been enjoying yourself while I was away?"
"Did you even need to ask?"
"From the two explosions I felt earlier, I would say…too much. Say, what was that about? Temper tantrum?"
The demon shot the other a scorching glare, not dignifying the question with a response. The irritating cloaked man merely took a step back and waved his arms in a mocking gesture of surrender.
"Woah, what crawled up your rear end and died, Master? I was simply curious."
"And you have became even more annoying than before, if such a thing is possible."
"So…has the few thousand years of being around your little subjects made you grow fond of them? Though I'm surprised you still care for those stuck-up ones," Even without looking, Harry could imagine Death pulling a face as the cloaked man mumbled. "They act too much like the half-birds for my taste."
"I see them as you see your Reapers," Harry replied. "While I may disregard and ignore some, their deaths are not going to be brushed aside, especially if their souls are captured and used as summoning materials."
His companion didn't answer, and the emerald-eyed demon strolled off, "Now, if you'd excuse me, old friend. There's things to take care of and fun to be had."
"You know, Master, sometimes I wonder who's the more bipolar of us," the cloaked figure said drily. "Your mood swings are changing faster than time."
"Why, Death, where's the enjoyment in being angry over something that's been done?" The door closed with a snap behind the immortal, but not before the being in the room heard the last words. "And of course it's you, my friend. Your character's rubbed off on me."
He felt a surge of demon aura as soon as he appeared in the manor's courtyard. It wasn't anything alarming, but it made Harry wonder who his friend could be revealing his demon side to. Not the little lord, for sure. So was it a guest? The front door swung open without him touching it, and the emerald-eyed demon sauntered in, not at all bothered by the emptiness of the house. What caught his attention though, was the harsh breathing and the sound of someone scrambling through the corridors. He took a left turn, and only his inhuman speed and senses saved him from colliding head-on with the pale figure dashing pass him. He blinked, then shrugged, too tired to care about that little distraction.
Now then, where are the occupants of the house? The wards he put in place a year ago pulsed, revealing the whereabouts of four living beings, and several animals. Harry frowned before setting off at a brisk pace, heading for the inner courtyard.
"Who was that unfortunate soul running out of the door like Sebastian was on his tail, little lord?" the tutor questioned as soon as he stepped out into the small courtyard.
Ciel Phantomhive didn't bother looking up, instead taking a long sip of his tea, "Arthur Wordsmith, doctor and part-time author."
"And as such a person qualified to glimpse Sebastian's true form?"
"How did you know that?"
Shooting the irate earl a grin, the Quetzalcoatl merely clicked his tongue in disapproval, "I'm a demon, little lord. Did you think I wouldn't pick up on it, no matter how faint? And Seb, when are you going to inform the little lord about the being you have captured and placed under the very table he's sitting at?"
The tall butler smacked a fist to his palm, a mock surprised expression on his face, "Ah, that's right. How careless of me to have forgotten him. There was actually another uninvited guest, young master."
"What did you say?"
"It was a bit sudden, so I took the liberty to enclose him in this makeshift prison," that said, Sebastian crouched down shoved the tablecloth aside, pulling a chained wooden box from below the table.
"So the killer is in there?"
Pacing closer, the tutor peered at the large box, slightly confused for once in his long life, "Hold on a moment. A killer was in this mansion?"
The boy noble shot him a smug look as got up from his seat, obviously taking pleasure at his tutor being left out of the loop for once.
"Show me what's inside."
"Are you sure about that, young master?"
Sapphire eye narrowed, "Do not question me, Sebastian. Open it!"
The chains fell to the ground, and the butler nudged the lid open with a small smirk which only Harry detected. As soon as the lid shifted, four snakes shot out, lunging towards the frozen boy, fangs bared. Both demons were already off even before the snakes were halfway to their destination. The smaller demon's fingers closed around two of the hissing snakes, curiously lifting them to his eyes.
"Let me at the blood-soaked human child," the black mamba in his left hand hissed. "He took from us the other human hatchlings! Let me sink my fangs in and watch as he writher in agony! Let me at him, or I'll get you as well, you – "
Emerald eyes shone with silent laughter as the serpent's head swerved towards his captive, only to rear back in surprise. The venomous reptile hissed an apology, attracting the attention of the snake in his right fist as well. As both became docile in the presence of the mythical creature, Harry relaxed his grip, allowing them to return to the box. In contrast, the reptiles in the butlers hands were still hissing and spitting at Ciel.
"Wha – what in the world – " the Phantomhive Earl stammered, back pressed against the table during the sudden attack.
"Ah, that's why I asked if you were sure. They seem to be extremely resentful towards you, young master." The raven demon slanted a glance at the other as he ignored his summoner's glare and the reptiles that were busy sinking their fangs in his hands.
Seeing the almost accusing stare of the butler, Harry shrugged, "I guess animals like me more than they do you. That aside, care to show us who it is exactly that you have imprisoned in there?"
The walls of the makeshift prison fell away, revealing the familiar hybrid, gagged and bound.
"You're Snake!" Ciel exclaimed, receiving a venomous glare for his comment.
"May I present Master Phelps' true murderer, young master?" the raven declared with a grand gesture. "The thirteenth guest really existed, you know."
While his friend talked, the Quetzalcoatl crouched down and removed and gag from the hybrid. Black slitted eyes immediately leap to him and his mouth opened to speak. Harry fixed the youth with a hard stare, fingers whipping out in a zipping motion quickly before standing up.
Having recovered from the shock of seeing a first tier Noah circus member, the Phantomhive Earl straightened and stalked towards Snake, "Why are you here?"
"The day after Black and Smile sneaked into Joker and everyone's tent, all of them disappeared. Their disappearance is definitely your fault! Says Wilde." Scale-lined lips bared in a feral snarl as the young hybrid continued, "Which is why I followed Smile from the scent of his clothes. Says Oscar."
"And how did you discover this manor?" Harry questioned. "I'm pretty sure the wards would have done its job had you snuck in with harmful intentions."
"…I didn't come here initially," Snake spoke after awhile. "Smile's scent led us to another house. We met some other dark humans who sent us in a carriage which brought us here. Says Emily. And then we stayed in a place so nice and warm. It must have been paradise. Says Wilde."
The boy noble smacked a hand to his head even as his butler's eye twitched, "Those idiotic freeloaders…what do they think they are doing?"
"Willingly pointing assassins in the young master's direction…even we couldn't have predicted it."
"That aside, you were saying the disappearance of your…friends…is the fault of the little lord and Seb?"
The brown-spotted smooth snake draped around the hybrid's neck bared its fangs, "That's right! After Black and Smile were recruited into the circus, Joker and everyone else started acting strangely. I had a feeling they were involved in something behind my back, something that they have no intention in telling me. Says Wordsworth." The boy's voice softened, "Nevertheless, despite my appearance, those people accepted me…they called me a friend…they called me their family."
The blond head whipped up, slitted eyes burning with such fury and hatred that had the emerald-eyed demon tense with anticipation, "And then you came! You took that all away from me! I WILL DEFINITELY NOT FORGIVE YOU! Says Wilde."
Ciel huffed, crossing his arms but not saying anything more. For his part, Harry refrained from speaking up, seeing as he was technically not present during the crucial time of investigation. The grief and malicious intent was still withering inside the half-human, but it wasn't something the demons could relish in. The emotion was tainted with purity so rare it could have compared with an angel's, and it peaked the tutor's curiosity. He knew the hybrid didn't have an innocent life, and the thoughts of how that innocence and faith managed to stay made him grimaced.
Finally the earl heaved a sigh, "Children disappeared by handfuls in each and every town you've performed in. The circus which so readily took you in kidnapped them in the middle of the night. We became your companions in order to find evidence of these deeds."
The silence was heavy, broken only by the disbelieving whisper, "Kidnappers…? No…no…they can't be! You're lying! Says Oscar."
"A lie, huh? That it may be. Due to our identity being discovered before any further evidence could be found, certain events…occurred. As of now, their whereabouts are unknown," Ciel pursed his lips, seeming to consider his next words. "In any sense, I have taken your family and your peace…quite suddenly too, I'm sure. However, my main goal was to save the children that were suffering because of their actions. And of course, I wanted to save you too."
"W – what?"
In the period of stunned silence, the noble walked up to his would-be assassin and promptly removed the binds, steadily ignoring the knowing gaze of his tutor.
"Young master…" Sebastian shot a small frown at Harry as the smaller stopped the raven in his tracks. It wasn't in his best interest if one of those reptiles poisoned his future meal all because his friend wanted some entertainment.
For his part, the tutor merely rolled his eyes, "Relax, Seb. The little lord knows what he's doing. And isn't it about time he recruited some servants himself? You are a butler, not a nanny."
"The young master is vulnerable without me by his side, Harry. Humans are so fragile, after all."
The Phantomhive tutor jerked his chin towards the hybrid and the earl, watching amusingly as Snake relented under his student's careful manipulation. His smirk grew when the little lord's hand was taken and a pledge of servitude given. Nudging the raven, he grinned, "Well, will you look at that. The little lord has grown so much. Soon, he would be able to spread his wings and fly. Aren't you proud?"
Dull red eyes glanced at him, deadpanned, before the owner scoffed and shook his head.
"…And here's your room," Harry announced with a flourish, gesturing for Snake – as he preferred to be called – to enter what was to be his bedroom. "It's close to the inner courtyard for the convenience of your friends and provides a little private spot exclusive for your use. My room's only a few doors down and Sebastian's it around the next corner. Feel free to come to us if something's up."
The tutor glanced at the hybrid who nodded absently, eyes still roving around his assigned quarters, "Now, as a footman, your job is pretty straightforward. Taking care of the carriage and running some errands is your main duty. During the time when you are free, Sebastian might call for your assistance. Other than that, like the other servants, you can arrange an off day every month with the little lord. Any questions?"
"Yes, I do Winged Lord. Why do you not show your true self in front of your chosen companions? Do they scorn you for what you are? Says Keats."
The Quetzalcoatl blinked, taken back for a second by the unexpected question before throwing his head back and laughed, "Ahaha…oh no, that's not it at all. The decision to keep my identity under wraps is my will. They do not know of it…at least not yet. Where's the fun in revealing everything right from the start?"
Shooting a mischievous wink at the bewildered hybrid and his snakes, the tutor reached out and ruffled the dusty brown hair, "One last thing. Call me Harry, or if you insist, Harrison. None of that 'Winged Lord' stuff. Don't want my entertainment ruined now, do I?"
Leaving the new servant in the room, the Phantomhive tutor met the butler and his master on their way to the study.
"…I need you to hold your tongue, that's all," the boy noble was saying. "Now, what do you intend to do? The servants believe you're dead, if I remember correctly."
"Sebastian died?" Harry raised an incredulous eyebrow as he fell into step with the demon butler. "That I would pay to see."
"Even if you gave all your possession in the world, the ticket would be invalid. Too bad you were…indisposed," Earl Phantomhive said snidely.
"Now, now, little lord, no need for that. There was an unfortunate clash in my schedule, completely unpredicted and abrupt."
The lone sapphire eye glanced towards him, "If it was anyone else…never mind. Sebastian, I assume you have prepared your funeral service?"
"Of course, young master. It will take place in two days time. That should give everyone sufficient time to prepare, don't you think?"
"Hmm…it should be fine."
"So…who caused your supposed demise, Sebastian?"
The tall butler merely placed a gloved finger to his mouth, "Let's just say, it was all part of Her Majesty's test on whether the young master is still capable of keeping his titles."
"I see you plan on keeping me in the dark." Emerald eyes narrowed as they moved between master and butler, both adorning identical smirks. The glowing orbs darkened slightly, before reverting back in an instant. Harry bestowed the two with a bright grin and shrugged, "That's fine, I have my ways of finding out what happened."
The Shinigami Lord especially enjoyed the look of trepidation passed between them. Oh, he was already feeling so much better.
To the Memory of
Died March 1889
May ye be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you are dead.
Standing a few paces away from the main Phantomhive party consisting of the earl, the servants, Agni, Soma and Elizabeth, Harry couldn't help but sigh at the raven's sense of humour. Emerald eyes roved over the mourners, all decked in black clothes befitting the occasion. Loud wails and sobs rang through the air, the smaller demon tuning it all out as he waited for the service to conclude. He would have been contend to stay out of the way, apart from the torrent of emotional humans. Except a certain young lady did not permit him that choice.
"Wahhhaahhhh…" the Master of Death suddenly found himself being squeezed to within an inch of him life – if he were human – as Elizabeth Midford blubbered through her tears. "I'm so sorry, Harry. Seb…Sebastian was your best friend and …and…"
A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips and the tutor laid a comforting hand on the blonde head, "It's going to be alright, Elizabeth. Sebastian has always been a man of his own pace. If he's gone, it would be of his own choice."
The slight breeze died down abruptly, the air surrounding stilled. In the ensuing silence, a tinkling noise rang out. Elizabeth's head shot up, tear-streaked blue eyes staring bewildered at the new tombstone. The gathered party dared not move, afraid to believe the impossible. Even as they froze, the small silver bell rang once more.
"Oh my…should you all be standing around like that?" the Undertaker's creepy voice drawled. "The bell rang even though there's no wind. That means he's alive."
A second passed. Then two, before Finny's loud yell shattered the tableau, "DIG HIM UP! HE'S GOING TO DIE IF WE LEAVE HIM UNDERGROUND!"
A couple of minutes was all it tool for them to unearth the coffin, and the girl was sprinting off in the next instant. Harry chuckled as the raven was knocked back by the over affectionate group, shaking his head as the 'miraculous' recovery of the late butler was overshadowed by their relief and joy. The tutor allowed the scene to continue for a full ten minutes before deciding to give the other a break.
Clapping his hands together, he walked towards the open coffin, "Alright everyone, give Sebastian some space. He just got out of being buried alive. So, if you would?"
The assembly moved away slowly, throwing glances over their shoulders as if making sure all was not some bizarre dream. It was a slow process, but the three soon found themselves alone atop the near silent hill cemetery, the silver badge announcing the status of the Phantomhive butler returned to its rightful place.
"So, Sebastian, you are once again my butler. Utterly devoted to my service, never leaving my side, until the day that lies become the truth."
"Yes, my Lord."
"Her Majesty's butler, eh? Now I wish I could be at two places at once."
"You mean to say that you do not posses this particular ability? I'm shocked, truly."
"Oh shush, you. Your sarcasm is not appreciated."
It was the night after the supposed funeral and both demons were currently in the kitchens, finishing the last minute touches in preparation for the next day.
"Even so, the little lord have sunken slightly deeper into the quicksand. You might want to keep an even closer eye on that master of yours."
"Oh? Will it make any difference to the path he's set upon?"
"Probably not, but one can never be too careful. There are too many players entering the game."
"And one more is not going to upset the balance."
"Maybe, maybe not. Just some advise though: soon, there will be chaos, and the little lord will be in the middle of it all. Right, all done. I'll be leaving first then, Seb. Have a good night."
The smaller left, leaving the other staring at his back, fuchsia bleeding into the dull red.
…And there you have it. I hope it lived up to the expectations of people waiting a really long time for this update. I'm truly sorry. But if this is an adequate excuse, I did write this chapter up months ago, except I didn't like it and so rewrote the entire thing. And school got in the way.
Also, I was planning on inserting Alois and Claude, but am wondering if there are already too many characters for you readers to keep up. Please respond if you think it's a good or bad idea. I have the plot planned out both ways, so...
Anyhow, the next chapter will be up in…I don't know when.
Let me know what you think!