Kuroshitsuji Fan Fiction ❯ Black Butler Requiem: Downfall ❯ Downfall ( Chapter 5 )
Come on and lay it down
I've always been with you
Here and now
Give all that's within you
Be my savior
And I'll be your downfall
--Matchbox Twenty, "Downfall"
Shaken to his core, Sebastian Michaelis forced himself to his feet. He looked at Ciel with eyes gone slitted and glowing like embers. "Ahh.." he breathed with frank admiration and not a little pride. "Now that is my young Master."
"So" Clement shook his head. "You are resolved then, little lord?"
"Stop calling me that," Ciel said sullenly. "Yes. And you needn't have your angel try to alter my decision or change my mind. It won't work."
"I would never do such a thing. The Almighty has decreed that no one may be saved against their will." Madrael sounded both weary and mournful, close to tears. "The choice was always and remains yours, Ciel Phantomhive. Clement.." A resigned sigh. "We have failed. Let them go."
"Not yet, Madrael. There is still one hope remaining." Again Clement chanted in Latin, and another circle sprang up--this one around the angel's feet.
She looked around, startled and disbelieving. "Clement! What..what have you done?"
"That would--ahh!" Clement broke off as Ciel drove an elbow into his jaw.
"Bastard!" he fought to free his other arm, and kicked back at the vicar's shins. "Get your hands off me, you buggerer!"
Clement bared his teeth and drew back a hand. "That will be quite enough out of you." He drove his fist into Ciel's face, knocking him to the floor half-stunned. "Pompous little brat," he grumbled as he took a stance over the prone youth. "I'm going to enjoy this."
"No!" Sebastian reached out, hissing as his hand touched the ward's edge again. "Young Master!"
"Clement, stop this!" Madrael cried out at the same time. "You gave your word as a man of God that the child would not be harmed!"
"I lied." Clement knelt over Ciel, working open his coat. "I have been God's man since I was seventeen." The violet wool was difficult to remove, but finally he had it off and cast aside. "I gave up everything--family, wealth, even love--for the glory of the Church." The silk shirt was much easier to remove, torn away and discarded in a moment. "Now I am an old man, with nothing but ashes and gray hair to show for my long and dedicated service." He straddled Ciel, grasping both thin wrists in one hand and pinning them above the Earl's head. Ciel, shirtless and helpless, grunted and shifted under the older man's weight. "Poor, naive angel. You were so sure I would help you. You gave me the runes to ensnare the demon; you never thought I would--or could--alter them to trap you as well."
He bent down, bringing his face close to Ciel's. "I knew you would never release the demon, boy. Why should you? A soul is such a small price to pay for absolute power and control. I shall have to take him from you."
Ciel spat in the vicar's face. "I don't care what you do to me. I shall never give Sebastian up, do you hear?"
"Of course not, child." Clement wiped the wetness from his cheek before reaching into his coat. "That's why I'm going to kill you."
Ciel expected the vicar to produce the pistol he'd taken earlier. He wasn't prepared from something that was--for him--far more frightening.
"Tell me, boy," Clement said in a silken whisper, "do you remember this blade?"
The dagger was about ten inches long, double-edged, with a patina of satiny black from pommel to point. The only decoration was a circular seal on the crossguard...a bas relief of the same design which had been branded three years earlier on Ciel's ribcage.
The eyes--one blue, one violet--opened wide. "...no..." Ciel could barely hear his own denial; there was no strength to his voice. "...no. Please, no."
"Ah, you know it." Clement admired the crest on the blade as it softly caught the candlelight. "This dagger was meant to take your life. It took me a great deal of trouble to acquire it. Its use now gives a certain irony to the proceedings, but also provides a sense of completion. What was begun three years ago shall be finished here and now."
"Stop it!" Madrael cried out, drawing her sword and charging forward. As Sebastian had done before her, she impacted with a radiant blue-white barrier and was pinned there, screaming, before being flung to the floor.
"Ahh," Clement observed, glancing that direction. "Now the angel tries to save you. Her scream is like music, is it not, boy?"
Ciel barely heard. He had renewed his struggles, desperation giving him renewed strength, but still not enough to break free.
Clement's grip on Ciel's wrists never slackened. "With your death," he continued, undisturbed, "your contract with the demon will be broken. Then I shall forge a new pact with him to secure his release. True, he will be denied your soul, but in return I shall offer him the rarest of delicacies. The soul of an angel. Not one of the fallen, but a true celestial being." He kissed the blade. "And with the power of a Prince of Hell at my command, the Order shall have to accept me into their ranks. Or I shall have my demon destroy them."
The dagger descended, and Ciel screamed.
Sebastian reached out again, the barrier wrapping him in its destructive energies, but he did not draw away. Weak and still wracked with shudders of pain, Madrael looked up and saw that the demon was actually attempting to force his way out of the ward.
Ciel continued screaming as the tip of the razor-sharp dagger inscribed with Ashrael's rune into the flesh of his bare chest.
"Hold still, you little wretch," Clement admonished. "This is precision work."
"Sebastian!" Ciel was beyond orders now, beyond reason, terrified quite literally out of his mind. His cries were thin high shrieks which rebounded off the vaulted ceiling. "Sebastian, help me! Please!!"
"M-mas...ter..." Sebastian redoubled his efforts, even as the energies of the ward coursed through him like raw lightning, tearing at the essence of his very being, threatening to rip him apart.
"Save your breath, boy," Clement admonished, completing the circle around the symbol on Ciel's bloody chest. "You haven't that many left." He raised the dagger high over his head. "I will be a worthy master to the demon, and I will call him by his true name." He aimed the narrow point at the center of the mark carved into Ciel's chest, right over his frantically beating heart. "I shall be served by the Demon Prince Ma--"
"Get. Off. My. Master."
Clement was sent sprawling by a single, brutal kick to his chest which knocked him away from Ciel and sent the black dagger skittering into a far corner. Suddenly released, Ciel pulled his arms down protectively over his bare, wounded breast. "Sebastian...?" He turned over and pushed himself up into a half-sitting posture. "It took you long en..."
The sarcasm withered on his lips when he saw the state his butler was in.
Sebastian had fallen prone to the floor. His tailcoat and suit were untouched, which made the lacerations to his skin all the more horrible to look at. He was bleeding from every opening--his ears, his eyes, his nose, his mouth. His skin was the colour of bleached parchment, but there were almost too many burns and too much blood to tell. Even his hair was singed and smoking. With painful slowness he turned his face towards Ciel, his eyes barely able to focus. "Young Master.." Even his voice was rough and scarcely recognisable, as though his throat had been scoured raw. "You are..safe." A ragged, shallow intake of breath. "Perhaps...you should run." He shuddered, convulsed, and his back arched.
Then he simply stopped breathing.
"SEBASTIAN!!" Ciel cried out, reaching for him. There was no response.
"What manner of creature is this?" said a soft, musical voice behind him. "A demon sacrificing its existence for its intended prey...I have never before seen the like."
Ciel's head whipped around, a savage determination on his face. "Angel! You have the power to heal, don't you? Even a demon?" He got to his feet. "You must save--ah!" He had a foot yanked out from under him and fell to the floor again.
"Not so fast." Clement had a hand wrapped around Ciel's ankle. "I am not done with you yet, boy."
Ciel was, however, more than done with Clement. He drove his free foot into the vicar's face, barely noticing the crunch of cartilage as he broke the man's nose. He pulled himself free and made his way to the edge of the ward holding Madrael captive. He reached out, flinching, but the wall of light that sprang up didn't hurt him. He couldn't reach past it, either.
"Ciel," Madrael said, "Are you all--"
"How do I get you out of there?" Ciel pounded a fist against the unyielding force between them. "Tell me! You said the ward could be breached from the outside. Tell me how, quickly!"
Madrael hesitated, but only briefly. Perhaps it was the look in Ciel's eyes that made her answer. "The ward was activated when the demon's blood was shed, and only blood may breach it. An innocent's blood."
Ciel smeared a hand across his wounded chest and slapped his bloodied palm on the bright blue line before him. The light of the ward flared and went out like a snuffed candle.
Ciel sat up, his face grim and determined. "I've freed you, angel, and saved you from the destruction Clement intended for you." His eyes narrowed to slits. "You owe me." He pointed imperiously at Sebastian's unmoving form. "It's because of your actions that Sebastian is dying. I know you can save him. Do it."
Madrael rose gracefully to her feet, her wings fluttering softly. She stepped past Ciel and stood over Sebastian's prone body. She reached out with delicate hands, as though gathering something that Ciel couldn't quite see. "Such a lengthy record..."
She means the cinematic record, Ciel realized with a fresh beat of panic. That only appears when someone's about to--Sebastian--!
"This demon has lived a long time." Madrael reached up, and back, and to either side, looping the unseen lengths over her arms, pulling them back together. "He has done much cruelty in his life. He has destroyed countless souls and caused untold suffering." With an armful of what Ciel couldn't see, she knelt at Sebastian's side. "But because of a single act of sacrifice, I have no hesitation." She pressed her palms against Sebastian's chest as though tucking something carefully back into place, and Sebastian's eyes fluttered weakly open.
The demon's voice was so feeble, so faint, as though coming from a great distance away. Ciel strained to hear the words. "...please...my lady...see the young master..safely home..."
Madrael kept her hand on his chest and bent over him. "I would not presume, sir. That would be your job, I think. Are you not the Earl's butler?"
She brought her face very close to his and whispered something else Ciel didn't quite catch. He had time to wonder Is she going to--? before she actually did.
She kissed him.
A brilliant burst of light enveloped the angel and the demon, so bright Ciel couldn't bear to look at it. Both forms were obscured by a dazzling radiance, and some force--not damaging, but insistent--drove Ciel back until he was propped against the stone wall. The candles were blown out, and as the light faded, the priory went dim as twilight.
"Sebastian?" Ciel called, but there was no answer. No movement. "Sebastian!!"
"Now, now, there's no need to shout." From the deepest shadows a tall figure emerged, cradling a limp woman in long, black-clad arms. "All is well, Master. Quite well, in fact."
A thin shaft of late afternoon sunlight fell on Sebastian's perfect features. In his arms, the angel shifted and moaned weakly. Sebastian looked at her and smiled, a look that might have been taken for affection by those who did not know the butler's true nature.
"I'm ever so grateful for your assistance, dear Madeleine," he said as he dropped her carelessly to the stone floor. "Really," he continued as he stepped over her without looking down, "my gratitude knows no bounds."
He knelt in front of Ciel, head bowed. "Now, young Master, what are your orders?"
"Kill Clement," Ciel answered at once. "Destroy him utterly. Let nothing remain--not mind, not body, not soul."
The slitted eyes met his. "Yes, my Lord. Please cover your eyes. You will not wish to bear witness to what is to happen."
Sebastian's voice was already roughening--not with pain, this time, but with power. The room became darker, and black feathers began swirling in the air.
Ciel covered his eyes. He did not see Clement cowering in the corner, but he heard the vicar's desperate pleas. "No...please...have pity...!"
"But of course, Reverend Clement." The cultured tones of the perfect butler had been replaced by the deep, ringing monotone of a heartless creature from the depths of Hell. "I promise you this: by the time I'm done with you, you will be most pitiable indeed. For the brief time there is anything left of you."
Ciel had no idea of knowing how long it took, but it was long enough for the air to turn cold...or was that merely the power of the demon made manifest? Clement went from protests to pleas to helpless sobbing. "Now, really, Clement," the demon taunted, over the horrible wet ripping sounds, "you can do much better than that, can't you? If you scream loudly enough, I might even let you live. Or...no, perhaps that wouldn't be kind enough. How about I'll finish you off quickly?"
Clement screamed until his voice was gone, and eventually the crunching and wrenching and tearing noises ceased. Ciel kept his eyes covered as he heard the sound of spike heels approaching him. He felt no fear, even before the footsteps changed to the brisk click of dress shoes on aged marble.
"Master?" The velvety tenor again. "Young Master, you may open your eyes now."
Ciel raised his face from his hands. It was very dark; nightfall, then, or close to it. He could barely see Sebastian standing before him, crisp and immaculate as always, The twilight was deepening by the moment, but he could see well enough to realise that the walls, the floor, even the ceiling were streaked and smeared with gore--more blood than a human body could have held, surely--yet the butler himself had not a spot on him. "You must be chilled to the bone, my lord." With a slight shrug Sebastian doffed his woolen tailcoat and held it out. "May I offer the use of my coat, sir? It will keep you warm on the way home."
"Home..." Ciel felt suddenly, inexpressibly tired. "Yes, Sebastian. I want to go home."
Sebastian wrapped Ciel in the coat and scooped him up into his arms. "Before we leave, sir, what of the angel?" He glanced where Madrael still crouched, weak and drained and spattered with crimson. "It is unlikely that she will not attempt to interfere with us again. Shall I destroy her as well?"
Ciel looked in the angel's direction. Then he pointed. "You. Hand me my cane."
The skull-headed walking stick lay within reach. Madrael caught it up and offered it to the Earl. "Yes, of course." She sounded very weak, and slightly anxious. "Ciel--Earl Phantomhive," she corrected herself quickly, "are you all ri--"
Ciel took the cane in his hand and, with every ounce of strength he could muster, swung the silver skull at its top across the angel's delicate pouting mouth. She cut off her simpering most satisfyingly, and fresh blood welled from her nose and mouth as she looked up at him in blank shock.
"Shut up and pay attention," the Earl commanded, pointing the skull at her. "For Lizzie's sake, I choose to spare you. She seems fond of you, and I will own that having her under the protection of a proper angel may be beneficial to her." He bared his perfect teeth in a snarl. "But if you ever--ever--again try to separate me from Sebastian, I will order him to destroy you the same way he dealt with Clement." Then the rage seemed to drain out of him, taking the last of his stamina, and he let his head fall against Sebastian's shoulder. "Let's go," he said, clutching his cane against his chest.
"Yes, my Lord." Sebastian turned and walked out of the priory with Ciel in his arms, not sparing a glance for the angel who sat on the bloody floor, looking after them, weeping silently.
"Now then, my lord... let us begin by getting you cleaned up." Sebastian lowered Ciel carefully into the tub of steaming water, then took up a cloth. "I fear some scrubbing is in order before I can tend your injuries. Safer that way."
Ciel groaned. "Not again. Haven't we done this bef--ow, OW! Sebastian!" He squirmed as the soapy cloth washed the dried blood from the scratches on his chest. "Are you trying to see how much you can make it hurt?"
"My apologies, but my previous answer still stands, young Master. Humans are weak creatures and prone to infection. I cannot guarantee the cleanliness of the Reverend's blade."
"You sound rather disapproving."
"Only where that individual is involved, young Master. He was a creature of poor quality and wretched taste." Sebastian smiled thinly at the mild pun. "It was, as I said, the greatest pleasure to make away with him, though I fear I may have more than a touch of dyspepsia later on."
Ciel "hmm"ed, then winced as the cloth passed over his wound again.
Finally, the bath was done, and Ciel was wrapped in a clean nightshirt. Before buttoning it closed, Sebastian made sure to cover his injury with a gauze pad. "A light dressing will be sufficient I think, the cuts seem shallow enough." He pulled back the coverlet of the bed with a brisk motion. "You will find the bedclothes already warmed and ready." He scooped Ciel up and slipped him deftly into the bed, drawing the sheets up over his legs before turning away.
Before he could move out of reach, Ciel caught Sebastian by the wrist. The butler looked back, surprise flickering over his face before he schooled it back into its normal placid expression. "Master?"
"My lord, is isn't seemly for a servant to--"
"Must I order you, Sebastian? Sit. Down."
"Yes, sir." Obediently Sebastian perched on the edge of the bed. "Does the young Master have something he wishes to say?"
"Idiot," Ciel muttered. "If I didn't would I have bothered to..." He sighed, his shoulders slumping. "Never mind."
Sebastian waited politely as Ciel looked off towards the window, to the night beyond. His own words were echoing, as clearly as if he had only just spoken them: I'm the one who summoned the demon. I'm the one who forged the contract. Even the name he wears, and the form he bears, were of my own choosing. Sebastian Michaelis is mine. He is all I have left in this world...and I will not let him go.
At last, he spoke. "We... have a problem, Sebastian."
"Indeed, my lord?"
"When my revenge was complete, you were to devour my soul." A quick glance upward. "Are you reneging on the contract?"
The answer was immediate. "Indeed not, my lord. It would violate the most profound and deepest aesthetics to do so. Contractees have attempted to break the compact before--the story of Faust springs to mind--but never has the contractor failed to fulfill the terms of a contract."
"Then why do I live?"
"I believe I answered that previously, sir. The time is not--"
Ciel slammed a fist down on the mattress, its impact absorbed by the goosedown cushioning but no less fierce for that. "Why is the time not right, Sebastian? It isn't a lie. You swore you'd never lie to me. But the purpose I needed you for is over. Why are you hesitating? Am I no longer worth the effort? And if I am, why do you stay? Tell me!"
"I.." A long, long silence, during which Sebastian did not look at him. "I cannot, my lord."
He slid off the bed and knelt beside it, hand over his heart, head bowed. Ciel sat up to see him better, but Sebastian did not raise his head even when he spoke again.
"I cannot answer my lord's request. I hunger no less than I always have; yet in the moment when it was finally mine to receive, I could not bring myself to have the feast I longed for. The very thought of it..."
He looked up then, and the expression on the butler's face made Ciel's breath catch in his throat. It was a look he'd never seen before, one he could never imagine, not on Sebastian's carefully schooled features. He looked...anguished.
"Such perfection lost in a moment, lost for all time... though I starve, I could not. I could not."
Ciel studied the unfamiliar look of abject torment on that familiar face, for a long time. Then he smiled softly. "Then we must amend our contract, don't you think?"
"I'm a businessman, Sebastian. Remember?" Ciel sat up straighter in bed. "When the original terms can't be met, yet neither party wishes to resign, a contract must be altered to each party's satisfaction." He cocked his head, eyes sparkling. "It's quite simple, really."
Sebastian looked surprised again, and then his expression shifted into one that was both proud and...somehow...affectionate. "You never fail to surprise me, my young lord."
He rose to his feet, his form shrouded in gathering shadow. The whole room went dark, an ink-thick blackness relieved only by the golden shimmer of the oil lamp beside the bed. The tall slim form shifted and altered, and deeper darkness in the form of raven-like wings spread out to block the thin starlight beyond the tall windows. The air was filled with a heaviness in which floated a soft riot of feathers that floated and dipped but never quite fell to the floor. Again the echoing, reverberating tone spoke, the true voice of the demon made manifest. "You have given a great sacrifice. That is already in abeyance, forever lost to you. What else have you to offer, and what is it you desire?"
Ciel knelt up on the bed, facing the barely-visible shadow before him with respect, but no fear. "The power to decide my own fate."
"And what is worth that?"
"You have my soul already. Take all the rest of me. It's all I have left... it's all I ever truly owned. My body, my mind, my... my heart." He touched a hand to his bandaged chest. "It's all yours--do with it as you will. Serve me as you did before, until you decide the contract is fulfilled."
"Until I...decide..?" There was stark wonder in that hellish baritone.
Ciel lowered his head, his fists clenching in the bedsheets beneath him. "I don't know what my purpose is now, but I know I won't find it without you. Stay while I search for the reason why. If I don't find it, or if you tire of my foolishness, then you may choose to declare the contract completed and at an end."
The darkness pressed in on him as the demon stepped closer. "And shall I take you with me then, at our pact's finale? Alive and whole and screaming into the depths of Hell itself?"
"Yes." Ciel raised his head, his eyes burning with relentless determination. "Demon! Do we have a contract?!"
A white, black-taloned hand reached out and clasped Ciel's cheek. The touch was ice-cold, the skin smooth as polished granite, yet there was gentleness in that touch, a terrible tenderness. "Lost to the light for all eternity... Yes, we have a contract... my lord."
The hand--the one that bore the contract seal--closed over his right eye, and for the second and last time in his life Ciel felt that drilling, wailing, burning white-hot agony that spread from his eye into his brain, searing itself into the essence of his being. It was too much, too hot, too intense for him to even scream. He arched back against the mattress, but he reached up and clasped that cold and stone-smooth arm with both hands, as though encouraging the pain, welcoming it.
He might have blacked out; he wasn't certain. He was only aware, dimly, of the hand being removed, and cool air soothing the searing ache on his face, in his eye. He could smell the coppery scent of his own blood, and feel the wetness on his cheek and temple.
Then a soft cotton handkerchief was wiping very gently at his ravaged eye, cleaning away the blood. He blinked, several times, and then looked up at his butler's face, placid and pleasant, leaning over him. "What..." He swallowed hard, cleared his throat, and tried again. "What's your name?"
"Whatever my Master wishes it to be" was the reply.
"Then you are.." A deep sigh. "Sebastian."
The butler--Sebastian--tucked the handkerchief away and knelt before his master. "Very good, sir."
With an effort Ciel pushed himself up into a sitting position. His head throbbed, but the ache was welcome, almost pleasant.
Sebastian looked at him without raising his head. "Now...your orders, my lord?"
Ciel didn't bother to invoke the seal. His head already hurt enough. He simply asked. "Tell me. The angels, the Reapers...why? Why am I so important?"
"Yours is an exceptional soul, Master." Sebastian sat back on one heel, looking Ciel directly in the eyes. "One which retains a certain innocence and purity even as it wanders further and further into the abyss. Demons find it the most extraordinary feast. Angels wish to rescue it from corruption, to keep that precious light from being lost. And the Reapers? Well... each soul is unique and irreplaceable, and they demand perfect accuracy in collecting each one."
White-gloved hands reached out and cradled Ciel's face. Dark crimson eyes--eyes that would look brown at a casual glance--studied the young Earl's features with a possessive gentleness that should have frightened the boy...but didn't.
"Yes... irreplaceable... that's you exactly, Ciel Phantomhive. My young lord." The eyes went slitted and glowed with inner fire. "Mine. No other shall have you."
And that, finally, made Ciel happy.