Day 1: Dusts and Reunion
The sound of the stereo blasting through its speakers was the only thing that accompanied Marcus the whole drive to a certain destination. He had been like this for two hours and a half, focused on wheeling the road and nothing more. His driver's license he just acquired two weeks after he left the seminary was placed on his wallet, tucked nicely inside his leather moto jacket.
Folded together with the license was an old piece of stationery paper. It was given to him after the seminary’s convocation ceremonies by Bishop Elliot, a priest from the City of Soren who was the caretaker of the orphanage house he had lived for most of his teen life. The bishop was a good father figure for Marcus having known no parents in his entire existence.
The letter was written apparently by his long-lost mother, asking the orphanage to give it to Marcus when the time is right. Nineteen years and twenty-one days old of Marcus seemed to be the right time for Bishop Elliot to decide to hand it to him. Although Marcus felt remorseful about it and hesitated for a moment, he accepted the letter without any question.
Inside it was information about an ancestral house including the address and the instructions on how to get inside it. Along with the letter was a stapled lifetime insurance certificate for him to use — a certificate that included a hefty amount of money only he can unlock in the Bank of Soren. Doubtful at first of its credibility, he had Bishop Elliot do some investigation about the bank account and found that it was indeed named after Marcus, created by a certain Iridessa Thayne.
The letter didn’t explain as to why his mother left him in the orphanage, but it did explain that leaving him was ‘for the best possible reasons.’ Worried about Marcus’ future, she had the bank account set up for him to use once he was old enough.
Erasing all bad notions of the source, Marcus donated half of the fortune for the St. Therese Charity House Orphanage needs. He became the primary benefactor of the house thereafter. A quarter of the cash, he used to buy a city penthouse and a car for himself - a black Jaguar XKR - and this car was what he was using now on his way to a remote province in Soren to see the place his so-called mother had entrusted to him.
He was actually on a three-month-long vacation before the start of the Vatican Priesthood Training which will take place in Vatican, Italy for four years.
Schubert’s Ave Maria was playing on the stereo when Marcus pulled in the driveway of the old, abandoned house. It was already ten in the morning with sunny weather. The front garden was battered with weeds and overgrown shrubbery. Pine, oak, and magnolia trees were untrimmed and its wilted leaves were left to floor most of the grassy ground and the pavement.
The house itself was a sight to behold. It was a two-storey building that covered quite a lengthy area all the way to the back. The principal color was a bluish-gray on its roofs and walls, and it was outlined with white on the columns and frames. There was a modest front portico with stairs and this served as the first to welcome Marcus on the property when he stepped out of the car.
“I think this should be it huh?” Marcus clarified to himself and went to look for a small hatch at the ceiling of the portico. This was what the letter told him to find. It was designed to be invisible to the naked eye, but a small flower-shaped design was its clue.
Marcus caught sight of it. After gently opening the hatch, an antique key suddenly fell on the floor, catching him off-guard. He picked it up and sought out the keyhole of the thick wooden door.
When it opened, he smirked. “Thanks... Mom,” he murmured and stepped into the interior with his bag full of clothes and hygiene needs. What an easy instruction.
The air felt heavy when he strolled inside the small vestibule. It smelt of wilted grass and rust.
“Great, just what I expected of the house,” he complained after doing a once-over of the living room. “This is going to be one heck of a clean-up for me.”
The walls mocked him with its chipped paint. There were cobwebs decorating the ceiling and the Victorian chandelier. On every surface, years of collected dust covered them. At least the furniture was covered with white linen, but still, that didn’t give Marcus some assurance. The thick blue curtains made the inside gloomier than it was supposed to be. The dusty crimson red carpet added to its status too.
Marcus strolled towards a slightly-open window and rolled the curtain to the side for the sunshine to enter. That in effect at least lessened the gloomy atmosphere.
There was a connecting door going to another room on the west wing. Marcus entered it and found that it was his favorite part of a house.
He examined it including the countertops, the peninsula, the stove, and the cabinets, and found that it had the same collection of dust. The appliances were outdated, but...
“At least the electricity is up and running,” he said when he flicked the switch on.
Another Victorian chandelier lit up and showed what the kitchen lacked the most: food. It was apparently ransacked of its storage — by mice at least.
Marcus released a disappointed groan. He wasn’t disappointed with how dirty the kitchen was. He was disappointed with the absence of his favorite. Yes, he was going to see to it that this will be taken care of come lunchtime with or without the use of the fridge. This was going to be on top of his list.
He returned to the wide living room and saw a long stairway going to the second floor of the house. It was made of marble it seems and of high quality judging from the shiny streaks of red and blue on the surface. The balustrade was made of the same stone, slender and well-carved out.
When he arrived on the second floor, he found another set of furniture in the center also covered in white linens. He saw his own reflection in a mirror just right above a console table with two candelabras and a slender empty vase in between them. Again, the same dust dilemma greeted him.
On both the left and right sides, there were long hallways going to the chambers of the house. Marcus chose the left side to check first. Along the red-carpeted hallway, there were three doors. The doors were made of wood and of the same paint: white. When he turned the knob of the first room, he found it locked. The second one too was the same. Marcus raised his brows on each.
The third however admitted him in. It was near a small balcony which showed a nice patio but with a rundown garden. The room was large. It had landscape paintings on every wall and a couple of angel figurines on the shelves. There was another Victorian chandelier hung on the receiving room and when Marcus checked, the bulbs luckily worked.
In a wall next to the main door, there leaned a plastic-covered king-sized mattress. Marcus thought it odd that it was unused, but just shrugged it off and proceeded on examining the remainder of the room. He chose to open a door on his right side where it revealed to be a bedroom. In it showed a French sliding double-door connected to a small balcony, more furniture covered in linens, and a four-poster bed frame with no mattress.
“So that is what the new mattress is for,” Marcus uttered, pleased. His mind immediately chose this room for him to use during his stay and thought to use the still-wrapped mattress as his bed.
The rest of his tour in and around the house was normal. He saw the other three rooms in the right hallway and found them to be another bedroom, a study room, and a library. The gardens around the house showed the same overgrowth of plants.
It was pretty much a big house entirely, too big and spacious for a young man like him to stay in fact, but Marcus had no choice but to live here for the meantime while the penthouse suite he had bought in the city was still in construction.
“Thanks Mom for giving me this house,” he plopped into a chair in the living room and released a deep sigh, “But you could have at least contracted a caretaker. Dang it, I am going to have a headache cleaning every inch of this house,” he complained to himself again whilst massaging his head.
Afternoon came peacefully. Marcus had set up a small dining area in the black-marble peninsula that he had cleaned of dust. Two bags of groceries were placed in the edge, both full of snacks, fruits, bottles of water, and ready-to-eat packs he had bought in a nearby convenience store. He had his moto jacket neatly hung on the high chair while his white button shirt was loose on his waist. The sleeves too were pulled to the elbow allowing him to work with ease around the table.
Marcus was in the sink cleaning the utensils he used at lunch when his gaze caught sight of the changing weather outside. It was a cloudy sky bearing a promise of heavy rain soon.
“Oh, great! Just in time,” he smiled, looking at the linens in the living room.
He hated laundry ever since he was in the orphanage and when he became a sacristan, but since he hasn’t been acquainted with the nearby establishments yet and where the laundry shop was, there was nothing that he could do but to wash the linens himself.
And having it soaking wet in the coming rain would be a great idea... well, at least for his belief that is.
Quickly stalking out of the kitchen to the living room, he pulled the white covers gently and collected them all in one arm.
Good thing he wasn’t asthmatic, otherwise, he would have had a bout of sneezing this time.
At the spacious backyard patio he went and found himself a convenient set-up of waist-high shrubbery near a stretch of picket fence. In there he had the linens spread enough for the rain to soak them. Looking at his work with arms akimbo, he was pleased, grinning from ear to ear. ‘This was going to be an easy laundry,’ he thought to himself.
He strolled up the elevated terrace thinking of what to do next when a flash of light came along with the roaring thunder. It was the earth’s normal signal of impending rain, but for a different kind of entity, it was his powerful entrance.
Marcus turned back to face the patio, jerking in surprise with the nearness of the lightning strike. He had anticipated a natural occurrence in front of him, but his mind hadn’t expected that he would find himself an unlikely visitor.
Nope, he had never ever expected to see this man again.
Standing near a fire pit at the center of the flagstoned courtyard was the head of the Infernal Armies in the Underworld, Bael. His body was showing small traces of white smoke, his rhinoceros-like horns disappearing gradually, and his long wavy hair and striking eyes were of the same shade as what Marcus had remembered: dark violet and captivating greens respectively.
He was naked from the waist up, with just a strap of leather wrapped all the way to his buffed shoulders and around his back, fastening its end tightly with his belt breeches. The look was menacing enough especially when Marcus noticed short knives and other sharp related objects he had not seen before. There was a black rope hanging loose on Bael’s side and Marcus thought it odd.
What has this demon been up to in Hell anyway?
Bael’s line of sight had been sharp and straight, eyeing one source only: Marcus. The latter too was the same, but with utter surprise.
Not to mention his mouth agape the whole time.
When Bael took his first steps closer to him, Marcus’ momentary stupefaction lifted. He at first thought it was just an illusion, but it turned out that his long-gone Combat and Skills tutor was real.
In his front.
“Hello, Marcus,” Bael spoke, no smile, no grin, but his eyes were piercing to the core.
“Sir Heron?!” Marcus exclaimed, clearing his throat and stepping backward. “Why are you here?”
He didn’t receive any answer. He couldn’t see any change of expression from Heron too as he passed by him towards the open door.
“Why are you here?” he asked again, and this time Heron paused and answered in a monotone without looking at him, “You summoned me.”
Marcus’ brows lifted. “But I didn’t summon you,” he said whilst catching his throat dry.
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t.”
Heron turned to face him, his eyes now burning for a residual emotion Marcus didn’t know what. “But you need help with cleaning this house yes?”
“Uh... well, ye—”
“Then, let’s begin,” Heron interrupted before the boy could finish. He went to cross the threshold but Marcus held him back with a loud, “Wait!”
Heavens have mercy, the boy was beginning to blush now.
Marcus pointed his sight on the floor and whispered weakly, “I don’t—need your help.”
Heron tsked, a faint curve of his lips followed thereafter. “Com’n Marcus don’t be a stick-in-the-mud,” he started, “I can hear your effing complaints back in Hell. You don’t need to hide it.” At a snail’s pace, his eyes roamed equally from the boy’s flushed face towards his half unbuttoned shirt. It truly has been a long time — probably three years in the human timeline to be exact — since he had seen Marcus again, and now, he had noticed that the boy’s frame had developed more of a man, although his Adam’s apple was shyly sheltering itself still.
Marcus’ head lifted up and their eyes met. “Yes, but I believe I can manage with cleaning the house.” He said it so with more determination, able to calm his nerves and maintain a good posture in front of his ex-tutor.
Heron scoffed lightly. “On your own? I doubt so.”
The boy’s brows flinched.
“I am not in a hurry anyway, and besides, I believe you are busy in Hell. You were gone for many years Sir Heron, why show yourself now?” Marcus folded his arms in his chest and raised his chin higher. True enough, he got angry that there were no words of ‘goodbye’ or ‘see you later’ after the demon left with Father Azrael back to Hell. The training was cut short and Marcus was left to learn more combat skills by himself. Right now, he wanted to know the reason why he came back, and why here? In this very house with him?
“Oh? Do you miss me that badly Marcus? Do I sense jealousy in your voice?” Heron purred, a lot bolder than he had been when he was still a butler.
This made Marcus uncomfortable. He stepped backward when Heron neared him, his heartbeat in distress. When only a ruler away was left and the demon’s face was inches apart, Marcus clenched his teeth to keep his lips from trembling. For some reason, he can’t make up a good answer.
“Our training is not over yet,” Heron whispered, amused by the boy’s silence.
Marcus pulled his face away and gave him a confused look. “Training? What training Sir Heron? I thought we are done with our training? Father Azrael said that once I pass my graduation, I’m ready to become an exorcist priest. I am to join the Vatican priesthood training three months from now so you know.”
“Ah, but for me, you are not,” the demon slashed. “I know you are still having second thoughts on becoming an exorcist priest, Marcus. Don’t you bluff with me.” He whirled around and proceeded to enter the kitchen.
“I am not bluffing at all...” Marcus mumbled to himself, keeping his eyes cast with the demon’s long, dark violet hair cascading on his back.
He followed Heron towards the entryway and caught his attention back with a light touch of his arm.
“Really Sir Heron, I don’t need your help.”
He meant it to be as sincere as possible, but without warning, his eyes widened when Heron turned to face him, grabbed his shirt, and slammed his back against the door frame. His hands were pinned to the side by an invisible force, while his neck was tightly immobilized by Heron’s elbow.
Panic didn’t appear inside of Marcus from being in this kind of position actually, but he was intimidated by how the demon’s eyes lit up with a desire so strong it was almost tangible with the contact of their skin.
“Say that again...” Heron growled low. A staring contest ensued, until such time when Marcus blinked and unintentionally glanced at the demon’s hard abdominal planes. His cheeks immediately flushed and because of this, he opted to divert his eyes away and stay silent.
Heron released a throaty groan, one that was pleased over something. He could feel the boy’s reluctance and fear mixing together. It amused him. “Hmmm... Don’t cower now Marcus. You know how that turns me on.” Then he smirked.
Thoughts popped out instantly inside Marcus’ head back from the time when they had their training, specifically the time when the demon licked his youthful skin from the neck down to his nipple.
Oh great! With all the memories that could have popped out, why that?!
“Tell me you don’t need me again and I am going to punish you,” Heron clarified, watching him intently.
Marcus shook his head once, unable to form a word, and that made the demon pleased. When he was released from his hold, he scrambled to fix himself up. He straightened and took in a long deep breath, only then did he notice the thick haze enveloping the kitchen and Heron’s body.
It was just brief, not alarming to call the fire marshal, and when it dispersed, the demon was already in his full-service gear -- the butler outfit. Gone were the tight breeches, the leather strap around his torso, and the sharp objects attached to it.
What was standing in front of Marcus now was the high-born, well-mannered, and short-haired Traugott House Master Butler, Heron.
“Then let’s get to cleaning,” the demon said after looking at Marcus’ agape response.