Naraku led Inuyasha and his companions as well as Koga, Ayame, Byakuya, Sesshomaru, Sumurai, and Jigoku to the Sacred Tree that Inuyasha had been pinned against for 50 years. He stopped right in front of it.
“This is the doorway to the Realm of Mirrors; every World has a Sacred Tree which acts as a bridge between the Worlds,” Naraku explained.
“How does it work?” Sango asked.
“Simple—you walk right through it.” Naraku put one hand forward onto the tree and it seemed as though there was a transparent film between his hand and the Tree when Naraku made contact. The film acted like water and Naraku’s hand went through the Tree. “Once you are aware of the Sacred Tree’s passageway, it opens itself to you.”
Everyone watched in awe as Naraku’s body swiftly disappeared inside the Tree. Kagome was the first to step up to follow him—she slowly put her hand on the trunk and she gasped as her hand was immediately swallowed by the Tree. She then took a step forward and the front half of her body was engulfed. Another step, and she disappeared entirely into the Tree. Once Kagome disappeared, Inuyasha quickly followed her, and he was swiftly followed by the rest. On the other side of Tree—in the Realm of Mirrors—everyone was struck dumb by the sight that greeted their mortal eyes.
Adorning either side of the group were long lines of large, floating, rectangular mirrors with ornate metal frames. Each mirror had one unique word or phrase etched into the top of the framework which denoted its designation. The mirror that was the passageway into Inuyasha’s world had the word, Sengoku carved into the metalwork. The mirror to the right of Sengoku was a mirror with the phrase, Modern Sengoku, and upon closer inspection from Kagome, she could see her own world being reflected within the glass—her school, her friends, her home and its temple shrine, and her mother, grandfather, younger brother, and Buyo.
The world around everyone seemed ethereal. There was no seemingly solid floor beneath them, only emptiness and floating lights, yet something was definitely holding them up. There were more floating lights all around them and they glimmered with a strange kind of warmth that seemed at odds with the coldness of their immediate surroundings.
“What are these lights?” Rin asked.
“They are lost souls,” Naraku informed her. “The space around us is the Void, which fills in the area between Heaven and Hell. You may also know the Void as Limbo or Purgatory.”
“Creepy,” Ayame muttered, shuddering to herself.
“This way,” Naraku gestured, beginning to walk down the path. They walked for about ten minutes before Naraku stopped in front of a mirror endowed with the word, Kuroshitsuji. “This is it.”
“Do we just walk through it?” Kikyo asked.
“Correct.” Naraku stepped through the mirror, swiftly followed by everyone else. When they exited the Realm of Mirrors, they found themselves on a plot of fertile land with a stately mansion to their immediate left. “I can sense him,” Naraku muttered, turning in the direction of the mansion.
“Sense who?” Kagome asked. “Your friends?”
“Yes, one of them.”
Naraku started walking up to the manor and his companions followed suit. They walked up the stone steps to the front door and Naraku knocked. They waited in silence for a few moments before the doors were opened to expose a tall, slender man with black hair, pale skin, and crimson red eyes. The man looked shocked as he stared at Naraku. “… Naraku?” The man asked.
“Yes, Naberius, it is I,” Naraku clarified, smiling. “How have you been?”
“Things have been better, and they’ve been worse,” the man, Naberius, stated, smiling back at Naraku. “By the way, it’s Sebastian, now.”
Naraku lifted an eyebrow. “Why the name change?”
“I’ve been contracted to a human, and he saw it fit to endow me with a new name.”
“Any particular reason for ‘Sebastian’?”
“… It was the name of his dog.”
Naraku burst out laughing, startling his companions. “Of course it was! Oh, how deliciously ironic.”
Sebastian’s eye twitched. “Yes, well… anyway, what are you doing here? Not that I’m not pleased to see you, of course.”
“Of course,” Naraku agreed. “Well, my World’s been invaded by a certain creature…”
It was Sebastian’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “What kind of creature?”
“Something that was never supposed to exist,” Naraku explained, gravely. “—Ruin.”
If it was possible, Sebastian seemed to grow even paler, and he stared in astonishment at Naraku. “That’s not possible…”
“And yet,” Naraku started. “Here we are. Those things came out of a noxious pit of the stuff and started attacking me and my… companions… shall we say. I thought maybe something was going on with Malphas. Is he alright? Where is he?”
Sebastian shook his head. “Malphas is dead, Naraku.”
There was a long, heavy silence until Naraku finally punctuated it with, “… What?”
Sebastian sighed. “Malphas has been dead for five years. He was killed… by the Bridge.”
Naraku’s eyes practically bulged out of his head. “The Bridge? Why in the devil’s name did the Bridge get involved?!”
“Malphas relapsed when we returned here,” Sebastian explained. “It was worse than ever before… he ran off and I could not find him, no matter how long I searched. I was hearing rumors… Malphas had gone completely mad and was slaughtering every demon he came across. The Bridge got involved when he started rampaging in the Reaper Realm.”
Naraku put his face in hands. “Of course… of course! He had to go make trouble with the Reapers, didn’t he?”
“As far as I’m aware, he ended up there during one of his psychotic fits. I don’t believe he intentionally made his way there. He knows what would’ve happened if he started making trouble for Spears. Spears couldn’t care less what he does to other demons, but if it concerns his own… well, we’ve seen the results now.”
Naraku removed his face from his hands and looked at Sebastian. “I’m so sorry… the grief you must have gone through… and without any of us here…”
“That’s why I never came back—because I couldn’t bear to show my face without Malphas. I couldn’t stand the idea of you and Dracula knowing that I had failed to protect my younger brother; the only family I had left—”
“I understand,” said Naraku, sympathetically.
Sebastian needed a moment to compose himself, but ever the diligent and brilliant butler, he quickly reverted back to his normal, arrogant and sophisticated self. He grinned at Naraku. “Please, do come inside. My master shall have to know you are here, however. I’ll just be a moment.” Sebastian quickly ascended the stairs and made his way to his young lord’s office to let him know of the guests they would be having. Meanwhile, Naraku and his group got settled in the Parlor down the hall.
“I’ve never seen something as lavish as this,” Sumurai murmured, running her hand along the smooth and polished-to-a-shine furniture.
“Yes, quite,” Byakuya agreed.
A few moments later, Sebastian returned with the lord of the manor, Ciel Phantomhive as well as the lord’s friend, Alois Trancy.
“Wow! Look at you lot!” Alois exclaimed. “How barbaric! Orientals indeed, Sebastian!”
“Enough, Alois,” Ciel demanded. The thirteen-year-old lord sized the group up and nodded. “Very well, they can stay. They seem put together enough. Sebastian, go make up bedrooms for them.”
“Yes, my lord,” Sebastian acquiesced, bowing before leaving the Parlor.
Ciel sat himself in an armchair and leaned forward, interlacing his fingers together. “Hello, my name is Ciel Phantomhive, Earl to the Phantomhive estate. Sebastian tells me you’re here with regards to his brother, Malphas. Well, I don’t know what you’re expecting, if he’s dead, there’s nothing to be done about it.”
“True enough, but answer me this: how exactly does a dead man’s nightmares become manifested in reality?” Naraku inquired.
Ciel raised an eyebrow. “I would assume it had something otherworldly to do with it.”
“I think you’re right, and there’s only one person I can go to to find out for sure.”
“And that would be…?”
“The man who killed him; the Bridge.”
“I meant to ask earlier, but who or what is the Bridge?” Kagome asked Naraku.
Naraku turned to look at her. “The Bridge is a divine being chosen by God Himself to protect the Multiverse. If a World is ever in danger of collapsing, the Lord Bridge will come to its rescue.”
“And Malphas was putting this World in danger?” Miroku put together.
“I doubt it, there is much more to this World than the Demon and Reaper Realms. This World also has a Human Realm and an Angel Realm which Malphas never touched. However, Naberius—Sebastian—told me once that the Bridge was a grim reaper who absolutely despised demons, so I’m sure that since Malphas was directly attacking his own, he would step in regardless of whether Malphas was actually putting this World in danger or not.”
“How would he know anything about why Malphas’ delusions are being brought into reality?” Jigoku asked.
“Just as Lord Phantomhive said, it must have something otherworldly to do with it, and the Bridge is the most likely person to know what that otherworldly thing is.”
“Will he even help?” Shippo wondered. “Most of us, including you, Naraku, are demons, and you said he hates demons.”
“Yes, well I can be very persuasive,” said Naraku, smirking. Inuyasha groaned loudly.
“You guys are demons too?” Alois asked. “how about that, eh, Ciel?” Ciel waved his hand dismissively. “Sebastian said you guys came from another World—what’s it like? Primitive, I can tell, at the very least!”
“They are a bit behind on technology,” Kagome admitted. “But I come from a more modern time—1997.”
Alois whistled in astonishment. “That’s around a century after our time, so I guess we might seem primitive ourselves, huh?”
“Just a bit,” Kagome joked and Alois laughed maniacally in response.
“I like these guys,” Alois chirped. “They can stay as long as they wish!”
“Hopefully, we won’t be too long,” said Naraku. “I’d like to figure this thing out as soon as possible.”
Just then, Sebastian reentered the Parlor. “Your rooms have been prepared, allow me to show you to them.”
“Thank you, Sebastian,” said Naraku.
“I was in the middle of dinner preparations,” Sebastian explained. “So I will make sure to make extra for you and your friends.”
“We’re NOT friends,” Inuyasha growled out. Sebastian frowned at Inuyasha before looking at Naraku, who shook his head.
“It’s a long story, Sebastian,” Naraku explained. “Perhaps I’ll tell it to you over dinner.”
“Alright.” Although he is obviously more intelligent than Pluto and other dogs, he certainly doesn’t act very different from the loud, vile things.
Dinner was a veritable feast of epic proportions, much to Naraku’s group’s satisfaction. Sebastian made sure to accommodate Naraku’s companions and managed to whip up the best Japanese cuisine. When they took their seats at the long dining table, they were introduced to another demon butler, Claude Faustus, who greeted them with all the demeanor of a brick wall. Naraku gestured for Sebastian to come over.
“He’s of the Faustus family I take it?” Naraku asked.
“In a manner of speaking. Before Master Trancy formed a contract with him, he was called Adrammelech Faustus,” Sebastian answered.
Naraku was in shock. “The Adrammelech Faustus?”
“The very same.”
Kagome looked over at Naraku. “What’s the big deal about Adrammelech?”
“Adrammelech is one of the most powerful demon lords in the Demon Realm—he’s at the head of almost all industrial practices and innovations. As such, many refer to him as ‘The King of Industry’. He was also the one who took Malphas in after he was released from the asylum as a youth.”
“No kidding?” the school girl inquired. The other members of the group heard Naraku’s words, and seemed just as impressed.
“So he’s some big shot from the Demon Realm? Then why is he here now?” Koga wondered.
“If I might elaborate,” Sebastian began. “Demons from this World survive by consuming the souls of humans. One way we do this is by forming contracts; we offer our services, and in exchange, the human gives up their soul.”
“That’s terrible,” Kikyo commented. “What a sad waste of human life.”
“Perhaps,” Naraku remarked. “But if they offer themselves, it’s their choice.”
“So Claude is the same? He became a butler in order to eat Alois’ soul?” Miroku asked while gazing at the demon in question.
“That’s right!” Alois exclaimed with a smile.
“And you don’t mind? You don’t care that you’ve doomed your soul to eternal darkness?” Sango inquired.
Suddenly, the boy’s mood changed entirely; his childlike expression gave way to a haunted glare. “I’m already surrounded by darkness. It consumes everything, follows me everywhere. The darkness has wrapped its sharp talons around me, draining me of every last drop of red blood. I have nothing to lose anymore, not since that horrible night.”
Everyone at the table stared at Alois, each with mournful eyes (or in Sesshomaru and Byakuya’s case, interested eyes). The dining hall was silent for a good few minutes, until Alois’s smiled returned and he let out a little chuckle.
“But now I have Ciel! And he and I understand one another quite well, even if it didn’t start out that way.”
“Hmph,” was Ciel’s reply.
“How’s that?” Ayame asked, her interest peaked. And she wasn’t alone.
“It’s a long story,” Ciel offered.
“Then tell it,” Inuyasha urged.
“I don’t think that’s proper dinner conversation---”
“So here’s the run down!” Alois interrupted, earning a groan from the other Earl. “I used to stay in this village with my brother Luka and we were picked on a lot so I wanted everyone to perish terribly, and one night everything was on fire and there were bodies everywhere, including Luka’s, so I realized he was dead and not long after that I was taken to the Trancy Manor where the previous head molested me, and it was quite degrading, but then I learned an incantation from the other boys that the old pervert held captive that would summon a fairy, or what I thought was a fairy at the time, but in reality it was a demon and that demon was Claude, and at first I didn’t have a wish, so he left, but several months later he returned in person and told me that he knew who killed my brother, so I formed a contract with him to make this person suffer, and that person was Sebastian, but this was a lie, actually, but none the less I ordered Claude to steal Ciel’s soul away from Sebastian.”
Once again, everyone in the room looked at the young blonde earl, but this time with confusion and astonishment. Even Sesshomaru had lifted an eyebrow in intrigue.
“So…how did---” Miroku began.
“I’m getting there!” Alois stated. “After that, Sebastian came to the Trancy Manor and took Ciel’s soul back, and the four of us fought for a few days until one sunny afternoon, Claude overheard my maid, Hannah Annafellows, talking to the other servants, triplets by the way, about how she was getting back at him for ruining her family back in the Demon Realm.”
“‘Ruining her family’?” Kohaku repeated.
“Indeed,” Alois started. “Apparently the Annafellows were a prominent family in the Demon Realm, and Claude’s company completely obliterated them, but that’s not important! See, Hannah had her own scheme; she was the one who killed my brother, because he made a contract with her to make me happy, and when she learned Claude was to be my butler, she jumped at the chance to serve me. She wanted to get revenge for her family, but also wanted to stay near me, as it were.”
“Killing two birds with one stone,” Naraku observed.
Alois nodded. “When Claude heard all this, he realized the mistake he was making. Remember when I said he lied? He didn’t know who killed Luka, but he also wanted revenge, but not on Hannah; he wanted Sebastian.”
“Why?” Shippo asked. “Why did he want to get revenge on Sebastian?”
“Did he do him dirty, too?” Koga assumed.
“At the time, I believed so, yes,” Claude began, startling Naraku’s group. “I despised Sebastian Michaelis. I wanted him to feel an agony worse than death, so I used the opportunity my young master had given me. I purposely told my master that Sebastian was the one responsible for that night, knowing that he would form a contract with the sole intent of stealing Master Phantomhive’s soul in order to make Sebastian suffer.”
“In other words, you used Alois to attain your goal of revenge?” Jigoku clarified.
“Indeed,” the butler replied.
“Doesn’t that sound familiar,” Inuyasha remarked, eyeing Naraku out the corner of his vision. The half spider, in response, waved his hand in dismissal.
“And that mistake you were making?” Sumurai reminded.
“I saw what a fool I was being. As Hannah Annafellows talked about my old life, I realized that as a butler, I had to put said life behind; to be a proper Trancy Butler, I had to give myself entirely to my master, which I hadn’t. I put myself before the needs of my young master, and for that I was ashamed.”
“Ah, yes, you Kuroshitsuji demons and your ‘aesthetics’,” Naraku mentioned.
“After that, Claude came clean. He told me everything, and even offered to void our contract,” Alois explained. “But I refused. I understood why he did it, for the same reason I made the contract with him in the first place. So instead, I changed my wish; instead of hurting Sebastian, Claude would help him. And I would help Ciel with his task. You see, Ciel lost everything too, so he made a contract with Sebastian in order to find the people responsible for putting him through hell, and now I’m aiding him in his pursuits.”
“And now Claude is a proper butler,” Sebastian added.
“I see,” Naraku said with a raised eyebrow. But what of Malphas? Does he not hate him anymore?
“So, I have to ask,” Kagome interjected. “Why did you hate Sebastian so much?”
Here we go, thought the half spider demon.
“I believed he was partly to blame for my own suffering.”
“‘Suffering’?” Sango repeated.
“Quite. Sebastian Michaelis was the one who brought Malphas to me several hundred years ago, when I was Adrammelech Faustus. After 80 years spent in the Faustus Manor, Malphas relapsed; butchering many servants and casting their blood across the main courtyard. I had been away for business related matters but when I returned, the sight of their mangled bodies welcomed me. I was driven mad by the scene before me, and in my fury I attempted to kill Malphas, but the boy was able to escape. For the next 200 years I spiraled in and out of madness, seeing and hearing phantoms as I plotted to destroy Malphas once and for all. However, not but a year ago I received word that Malphas Michaelis had perished at the hands of the Bridge, and not long after I was summoned by my young master.”
“That’s when you concocted this scheme of yours, but by becoming a butler, you were able to escape your madness and come to your senses,” Naraku surmised.
“That is correct, sir,” Claude responded, looking at the half demon.
“But there’s something I don’t quite get,” Koga began. “I understand appreciation for servants, but not so much that you would go insane and plot someone’s murder over them. Comrades, to be sure, but servants?”
Naraku let out a mournful sigh. I suppose I deserved that.
“As a demon lord, I was quite fond of all my servants, but yes, not enough to kill for. My actions were a result of my feelings of betrayal, and the belief that Malphas had made a fool of me.”
“Pretty strong emotions, for just a wayward kid you took in,” Inuyasha stated.
“Well, it’s to be expected, considering Adrammelech’s feelings for Malphas,” Sebastian pointed out.
“‘Feelings’?” Kagome asked. “What do you mean?”
Naraku gazed in Kagome’s direction. “He was in love with Malphas.”
Kagome raised her eyebrows. “I see.”
Inuyasha groaned. “More of this guy-on-guy crap?”
Kagome scowled and elbowed Inuyasha.
“That’s terrible,” Kikyo lamented. “Did you two fix matters before he died?”
“No,” Claude answered. “I was still trapped inside my own head, plotting Malphas’ demise should I ever meet him again.”
“What about now?”
“As a butler, I possess no such feelings for Malphas—be it malice or love. I have discarded all aspects of the demon Adrammelech Faustus; his feelings, motives, his very identity.”
“I suppose that makes things easier to handle,” said Miroku. “You don’t feel any pain regarding Malphas dead or alive.”
“Indeed. I have a new duty to uphold; I have no time for such distractions.”
The lord of the manor ingested the last of his supper, and rose from the table, his cold gaze finding Naraku were he sat. “It is not in my nature to let matters go unaddressed, but I’d be remised in my duties as the head of the Phantomhives if I allowed my inquires to interfere with your rest.”
“I appreciate your hospitality, Lord Phantomhive,” Naraku acknowledged. “I understand you have many questions, and I shall be happy to answer them in the morning.”
Sebastian looked at his pocket watch and adopted a surprised expression. “My goodness, is it that late already? Come, young master, let’s get you ready for bed.”
“You heard ‘em, Claude; bedtime!” Alois chirped.
“Yes, master,” the indifferent butler responded.
The young lords exited the elegant dining hall, their butler in toe. Naraku’s crimson orbs followed his old friend as he disappeared through the looming mahogany doors. Though he wore a servant’s uniform, his mannerisms and personality remained the same as it was; as Naraku remembered him. At first, the half spider demon was concerned he had lost Naberius to the prided “butler aesthetic”, but if anything, the role of the butler suited him more than Naraku had thought. Despite being born into privilege in the Demon Realm, Sebastian had the humility and attentiveness of a proper servant, perhaps as a result of the tragedy he and his brother suffered.
A wave of melancholy suddenly struck the half demons heart. It is a blessing that Sebastian still lives, but I mourn for Malphas; one of my dearest, closest confidants is dead, but where it only that. Now, Sebastian is all alone in this World, having no other family to speak of. They were as close as twins could be, with Sebastian believing it his duty to watch over Malphas. I can only imagine the heartbreak he must have suffered these last five years.
“I assume that waiting for answers goes for us, as well?” Koga prodded, taking Naraku away from his thoughts.
“Yes. I’ll explain everything in the morning; about Malphas, the tragedy, the Bridge, everything.” I just hope you’re ready for it.
At that, the half spider demon left the dining hall, with his enemies turned reluctant companions following suit. They navigated the impressive house and found their rooms, all of them intrigued and somewhat uneasy for the days to come.