Summary: Sebastian is running out of time to secure Ciel, but he still has a few cards up his sleeve. Will Ciel listen now that he's back at school?
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CHAPTER 29: That Teacher, Scheming.
The final work-week opened with a dawn that was as glorious as it was bitter. The news channels were filled with follow-up information on the department store terror-attack, and despite fears of attendance drops and angry parents, the school day began with all its usual mishaps.
Grey eyed me as I stepped into the Staff Room, his gentlemanly features schooled into a carefully blank expression. “Are you really feeling better?” he asked, cutting directly to the chase.
I glanced at him for the barest of a moment before letting my lips twitch upward. “I shall endure.”
The teachers surrounding our desks turned their heads to observe the two of us. I had been given “sick days” for the two days previous, and I used the time to find Doll and the others. Once back, I was met with open astonishment as I sat down at my desk.
“Don’t you think…” Mr. Nakamura began, his voice firmer and filled with more passion than I’d come to expect from him. “…you ought to stay home the entire week? You were injured.”
I of course offered only a small smile in reply to that. There was nothing else to say.
Grey decided to explain for me. “Mr. Michaelis is intent on showing the children that even a national incident will not keep them down if they choose. He is able to walk for a few hours, I am sure? So he will continue bravely with routine and set an exemplary…example,” he declared.
I merely continued smiling. Oh, there could be that ‘exemplary behavior.’ And there could be a certain demon that needed talking to.
“That is wonderful!” Someone else added, erupting into a broad grin.
“You are a superb teacher, Michaelis. We are happy to have you.”
“I hope you won’t take on too much at a time. Be sure to rest. What’s your schedule? We can perhaps rearrange the classes today so you can go home at noon…? Or is resting in-between classes better?”
Grey happily started to peddle his (ever grander) opinion of the matter, and set about convincing everyone of whatever schedule changes he wanted to see happen.
I ignored him and looked over toward the Vice Principal’s desk. Strangely, Agares was nowhere to be seen. Only the Japanese Vice Principal (the one with whom I had very little to do) stood at attention. I glanced at the announcements board, and saw printed very clearly, that Agares was slated for a ‘business trip’ at a station far to the west of here.
“Perhaps a free afternoon would be best,” I interjected. “As for my schedule, I have only four classes today…” and Ciel Phantomhive was in one of them. Fresh from his stay at the family manor, he’d be eager to see me. “Would this suffice?” I pushed a card to Grey, who looked startled to have his suggestions followed.
“Very good,” he admitted. “If you could have a look—” and the card was passed around and agreed to as the meeting began. The other teacher’s accepted this schedule change without even the slightest reluctance, so I would be seeing Ciel sooner than either of us anticipated.
Ah. So heroics have their benefits after all.
The classrooms were alive with activity.
Presumably, the homeroom teacher, Mr. Nakamura, had informed them of the schedule change, and so there was no confusion as to why I was there. Instead, I was subject to whispers of adolescent awe and pity echoing even into the hallway.
“Ciel, is it true? Did he really save you?” Someone stood up in their rush to ask first. There was a slight fluttering as most of the class turned to observe the exchange.
Ciel was silent. He held his hands close, that one.
“What were you doing in that dress, anyway?”
“How come you got to participate in the senior fashion show? That is so not fair!!”
“If Professor Michaelis rescued me, I think I could die happy.”
“Idiot, if you died, there wouldn’t be anything good about saving you!!”
The sudden hush that welcomed me when I opened the door was telling. The children looked upon me with something bordering on respect.
“Good morning,” I greeted them. I pressed on without waiting for a response. “We have progressed farther than the other history classes, and as our esteemed Mr. Grey has not finished the plans for the museum trip, it is unlikely that we will need to press on at a hurried place. We have two options.”
The students looked up in interest.
“We can either discuss recent events, or we can play a review game. I leave the decision to you. You have 20 seconds to decide.” I took out my pocketwatch and appeared to be watching it for that time. I’m quite sure Ciel realized I was really watching him. “Let’s have a show of hands. Review game?”
Predictably, few hands were raised. Ciel had his hands crossed over his chest in a defiant manner.
“Discussion?” Ciel still did not raise his hand. The majority, however, did.
“Very well.” I turned around and began writing a sample of the English and Japanese headlines from the newspapers.
While I wrote, the students watched on in expectant silence. It was, perhaps, the quietest discussion I’ve heard amongst students.
“Attack on Shopping Mall”
“New Gas Attack Shocks Tokyo”
“Suspects of the Shopping Mall Gas Attack Caught”
“Hundreds in Japan Hunt Gas Attackers”
Department Store Tear Gas Incident (デパート催涙ガス事件)
No Deaths in Department Store Incident (デパート事件で死者が出ていない)
When I turned around, they were attempting serious, adult-like faces. One or two of the students looked scared. The others looked eager (in spite of their good postures, their stiff-upper-lips).
“If you expect me to hold a discussion by asking you questions,” I said, descending among them in a few quick steps, “please reconsider your assumption.”
There were a few chuckles at that, but I paid them no mind. Junior high and high school students will laugh at almost anything remotely amusing a teacher says.
I don’t let it bother me.
“Sir?” Someone asked. Watanabe, his hands trembling as he thought through his words. In the few weeks I’d been teaching them, this one in particular had his English ability improve…perhaps games and cruel machine demonstrations (all with the ‘teeth’ removed, of course…) were good for him. “How are we discussing then?”
I nodded. “I will be the moderator. Each person should give at least two remarks, even if it is only to agree with what is already said, and justifies that you understand the content.”
Uneasy silence followed. “We don’t want to be graded, sir,” Ciel’s little hanger-on, McMillan, mumbled.
“I recommend asking questions of your classmates. ‘What do you think such-and-such means?’ or ‘If you were so-and-so…’ Those starter questions should be just enough for us.”
“Can you give us an example?” One of the breathless girls asked.
“If you had seen the terrorists before their plan was set in action, what would you have done? And how would you have evaded capture?” My eyes did not stray from the young woman. Most students would think this meant I saw only her, but Ciel, ah, Ciel. He knew I was observing him.
There was the expected minute of silence as the children digested this, discovered that no, I was not going to volunteer an answer, and started looking at one another. They met each other’s gazes awkwardly, mediating the space between silence with children’s graceless frowns and shifty movements.
Finally, a girl spoke up. She was a prim little thing, eager to follow instructions and a good student, but with a desire for the unnatural, the unusual, that I could smell on her.
“I’d have pretended to be on the phone. Walked to the ladies’ room or someplace out of earshot, and called the police.”
A boy immediately disagreed. “No, you wouldn’t call the police. You wouldn’t be sure. You would call your friend, wouldn’t you?” Watanabe again. He seemed rather disagreeable today.
The girl blushed. “Well. Maybe. And then she would have—”
“And the bathroom.” Another girl looked aghast at her classmate. Mary, the girl with flawless Japanese and a strange, blended accent of every-and-no country for English. “What if they followed you? What if you got trapped?”
There were nervous giggles as the young realized how little they knew. Their safe school-world had been invaded by reality, and part of that reality housed terrorists. There would be no silence after this—they would chatter to fill it up, to keep their minds from wandering to the horrific scenes from their imaginations, from so-called horror films.
Finally, when they’d exhausted their ideas about the bathroom and cellphone usage, the students turned curious gazes on Ciel. He after all, had seen the terrorists, and gotten caught for all the good it did him.
“How did you get away?” Someone asked, quiet as a mouse. He was afraid of the answer. “I heard you were locked in a room and tied up.”
Ciel, bored, peered out from behind his fringe. “The police gave a statement to the news people. I don’t have to, or want to, talk to the press about it,” he said primly.
“But we’re your classmates.” McMillan insisted, sounding hurt. “And aside from that, what if someone else gets kidnapped? Wouldn’t they need to know how to—”
“It was dumb luck!” Ciel shouted. “Who else would be caught by a dangerous group and tied up? Just don’t go do stupid things like getting drunk on your own, or even with some senior classmen. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations. That’s how you get out.”
The sheer volume of his response startled most of the class into reflective silence. Some of the girls looked at Ciel with admiration. Others with a small amount of pity. The boys were looking at him blankly—and a few with outright irritation. Those boys, perhaps, decided they were entitled to more information…? Well.
“Was it through the air-ducts?”
Ciel cast an irritated glance at the boy. “Have you ever seen something like that in a Japanese department store?” He demanded. “Those things only exist in places that need servicing areas. Not spare rooms for staff.”
They contemplated this. “So…you can pick locks?”
Ciel rolled his eyes. “They didn’t notice it’s meant as one of those meeting rooms. The kind you can unlock and turn into huge meeting areas if needed—like the seminar hall above the library. Flexible walls,” he admitted.
“Then how’d you get out of the ropes?”
Ciel looked abashed. “Er. I didn’t. Professor Michaelis….”
Ah, if hero worship were enough to sustain a demon…. I only smiled. “The ingenuity of the situation lies entirely with Mister Phantomhive. I am only one hell of a teacher, after all.”
Their smiles were radiant. I had to laugh.
“Upperclassman Violet said you were targeted specifically.” Mary again. She wore her expressions on her sleeve breathed. She was half terrified Ciel would shout at her, half full of admiration.
“The so-called Circus Troupe didn’t know who I was,” Ciel said dismissively. He had his doubts, though, about the ring-leader, and maybe one more. Joker, perhaps? But Ciel wasn’t done thinking about this. He said no more about it.
The rest of the discussion focused on the media’s interpretation, and the students’ own perception of events, though no one thought of it as such. The children were unaware of Ciel’s disdainful gaze, his shaken confidence. They didn’t notice if my attention was only ever half on them. I can, after all, play my cards quite well.
Ciel would sit in the classroom and think about his powerlessness. Patience. A well-played hand would yet bring him into the contract.