Okay, then. Might as well do a final walk-through of the mansion. In the past, it has helped in noticing a couple out-of-place odds and ends. Nothing that a guest would likely notice, mind you, but it never hurts to be TOO careful. Perfectionism is a virtue in this business, after, all.
I take one last look at myself in the mirror. Wavy brown hair, hazel eyes, clean-shaven. I had toyed with the idea of growing a mustache or a beard at some point, but those are expressly forbidden among the serving staff here. Fair enough; I don't know that I'd be able to pull the look off very well.
Alfred Arthur Westcastle is my name, named after my British grandfather and American father respectively. Apparently Granddad served as a full butler to some fairly dignified people in the past, so maybe in runs in the blood? I don't know. He seemed to take a great deal of pride in his service, but it was never my dream. But again, when one does a job, one should do it right.
I step out of my room and take a quick look around the servants' quarters. They consist of about a dozen or so rooms and two bathrooms, comfortable but not showy, for the staff that will be attending to the guests here. Nothing that really needs my attention; I find it very unlikely that any guest will be coming back here. I do take a moment to glance wryly at a landscape painting that graces the hall. It's one of mine; Eric, the head of staff, was very taken with it and asked to hang it as a sort of good-luck charm for the staff. I conceded, albeit with a bit of embarrassment; it's really not very good, although Eric insists that I'm just being too hard on myself. It was fun to paint, though; once I have enough money stored away, I'd like to attend a real College where I can work on my painting skills. But that's for the future.
I leave the servants' quarters and look around the ground floor of the central building. Kitchen looks fine, pantries are stocked. Dining room and lounges are tidy. Bathrooms, spotless. Good. Upstairs, the large sitting room and ballroom are in order, and a quick walk down the hallways of the east wing confirm that all of the rooms on the first and second floor are completely ship-shape. That's good; having to reorganize them myself is technically part of the job should the need arise, but that doesn't mean I have to look forward to it. And the head of the cleaning crew always gets this far-off look in his eyes whenever someone criticizes his work; likely just tuning them out.
...Well, all right. I have also learned how to tune people out. But when you have a guest ranting at you because her tea was slightly too hot, you learn to tune out her voice to a distant buzzing static and nod your head on autopilot. It eventually becomes a basic survival tool for your sanity.
In any event, off to the west wing. Pool and jacuzzi are perfectly cleaned, and there's an assortment of bathing suits in stock. Judging by their profound lack of material, I can safely say that I know where this weekend is heading. But that's fine; let the wealthy have their fun. It's certainly none of my business. I just hope they don't forget I'm there and start rutting like animals in front of me. That happened once, and it was not a pleasant experience; the age of the participants did not help matters.
On the same floor as the pool, the entertainment center, complete with massive screen and a library of films has been properly set up, and the game room is all in order. I take a moment to select a few DVDs and set them out for the guests' convenience; newer movies that I think they might like. It's a simple courtesy. Upstairs, the library is tidy and quiet, and the long sunroom with its internal garden looks as perfect as can be.
It's a miracle; the cleaning crew did their job perfectly. If I were more religious I might get on my knees and thank God. Maybe the owner had a word with them after SOMEBODY forgot to clean up a small pile of cigarette butts in the pool changing rooms. I still don't know what those were all about.
On a whim, I slip down into the basement to check on things there; not that I REALLY expect someone to have planted a stinkbomb or left their dog behind, but it's always best to be thorough, just in case. One slip in prudence and yadda yadda yadda I'm sure I've made my point on that already.
Laundry room: no laundry. Utilities: functional. Wine cellar: with a selection of very fine wines, some of which I personally helped pick out. What can I say, working here gives one an appreciation for good wine and good tea.
In any case, the house seems like it will stand the perfect weather due to come our way, and may just withstand the attentions of a party of excitable rich women. Who are probably Japanese, from what I can tell. Hopefully, I can make myself understood to them. Not that much communication is always required, mind you; smile, bow, hand them a drink, and you're usually done.
I take a moment to step outside for a brisk walk, in part to clear my head for the busy weekend, in part to double-check the gardens. But again, it looks things are in order here. The gardeners at least take a great deal of pride in their work. I also make a quick jaunt over to the boathouse to make sure that all of the craft there are in order in case someone wants to go for a romantic spin on the the lake (they usually do). Again, everything is in order.
...I can't help but gaze longingly at the boats. It's not quite the sea, but it's the closest I've been able to get to it for some time. At least Eric lets me take the boats out on the pretense of testing their performance; he knows better, I'm sure, but Eric is a man that take care of his people. I have to admit, as much as I like painting, I truly love the sea. I used to go out on the water all the time with my father when I was younger. Alas, cruel reality reared her head and I had to give up that passion, instead having to devote my efforts to making money and otherwise supporting myself. I suppose I could have joined the navy, but that really didn't seem the life for me.
...If I manage to make it as an artist, perhaps I could buy a boat, and paint islands? Tending to a canvas on the back deck of my very own-
All right, Alfred, that's enough. Time to get to work. I can fantasize later. Right now, lunch. The staff should be along shortly, and the guests close behind them. I take one last look at the sunny, cloudless sky, and head back inside.
I've just finished cleaning up after lunch when the sound of the doorbell resounds through the manor. That's... odd. Did I accidentally lock the door? The staff should have come right on in. Shaking my head, I march to the front door to see what is amiss, pulling it open to see...
(Background Music! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdRS3DtXh3I
...Perhaps one of the most beautiful women I have ever laid eyes upon.
She's tall, blonde, and wearing a frilly purple dress that almost looks to be the same color as her eyes; some odd trick of the light no doubt. Long white white gloves add some class to the ensemble, which is slightly detracted from by her unusual hat. Still, who am I to judge? Her features appear vaguely asiatic, and a large suitcase is by her side. Putting this together with the information Eric gave me, I quickly deduce that this is...
"Yukari Yakumo," the woman introduces herself, confirming my expectations. "It's a pleasure to be here."
Ah. The one who hired the house in the first place. Training takes over as I bow politely to her. "The pleasure is all mine, Miss Yakumo. My name is Alfred, and I have the pleasure of being one of your attendants today."
Miss Yakumo giggles. "Oh, you're such a dear! But please call me Yukari, Alfred; I'd feel old, otherwise."
I raise an eyebrow. "Yukari, then. But if I may say, no one would ever think you old! Honestly, you don't look a day over seventeen." Which is very true; generous, mature figure notwithstanding, Yukari seems to be one of those naturally youthful women.
And judging by her pleased giggle, easily flattered. "Oh I can tell I'm going to like you, Alfie!" A nickname. Wonderful. "I'd be tempted to ask to keep you, but I have someone waiting for me at home." Which hopefully means that she won't be flirting with me. Oh, I do so hope.
I gesture to her bag. "May I show you to your room... Yukari?" She nods her acceptance, and I gesture for her to enter the mansion, hefting her suitcase as she does so. Ah, yes, just as one would suspect of a wealthy lady: it's heavy enough to be used to drown someone. Fortunately, I'm used to carrying heavy weights. Butlering: a good way to build upper body strength. Who ever would have guessed?
Yukari 'Hmmms' appreciatively as I lead her through the hallways. "I have to say, Yukari," I begin, minding to address her the way she requested, "You arrived a lot earlier than we were expecting."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Is that a problem?" Yukari looks a tad concerned, and I chuckle in response.
"Not at all! I came a day early just in case something like this happened. No, I simply wasn't expecting your arrival until this afternoon. The rest of the staff should be here in, oh, two hours? Come to think of it, I didn't even hear a car as you arrived."
Yukari laughs musically. "My driver can be very stealthy at times, and I wanted to look the place over before the rest of my guests arrived. They will be here on time, with the beaus coming along behind them." We come to a stop before her designated bedroom, and I open the door. "You do know what the plan is for this weekend, correct?"
I haul the heavy suitcase in. "In general terms, yes. You're having some lady-friends and gentlemen over for a... very nice time."
"What a discreet way of putting it," Yukari titters. "Well, that's basically true. I'm actually well looked after by my special someone, but while traveling through my hometown, I happened to come across a few lovely ladies who were being ignored by the local men in general." She shakes her head sadly. "A travesty, I tell you! So, I invited them here for a fun-filled weekend, and used my connections to identify some likely escorts for them. I guess you could regard it as a weekend of speed-dating."
I nod politely. "As you say... Yukari."
She gives me a sympathetic look. "Sorry. It's hard to leave off the 'Miss,' isn't it?"
"...A tad," I admit. It's hard to go against training.
"Well, Miss Yukari will do just fine." Miss Yukari sighs heavily. "And here I was hoping to make nice with the handsome young man in uniform~! Oh well, I guess I'll go easy on you, then." She gives me a friendly wink, and I can't help but laugh.
"I admit it's none of my business, but I assume you'll be playing matchmaker this weekend?" I inquire.
Miss Yukari nods cheerfully. "You are correct, Alfie! Sorry, Alfred. I'm just hoping to make the lives of a few lonely girls just a little bit brighter. Happiness should be shared, after all."
I nod. "Just as you say, Miss Yukari. Is there anything you need of me right at the moment?"
The blonde woman yawns, shaking her head. "Actually, I think I'll just take a little nap until the others arrive. Wake me up when they get here, will you? Oh, and have you heard the weather report?"
"I will certainly awaken you, and the weather is supposed to be sunny and cloudless all weekend long," I report, receiving a pleased smile in return.
"Excellent!" Yukari says with satisfaction, and then gently strokes my cheek, much to my surprise. The glove is so soft that I actually feel something twinge in my head. What is with this woman's presence?! Her hand releases my cheek and gently slides down my chest before drifting away. "It's so nice to have such a friendly, cheerful helper. Anyway! This young woman needs her beauty rest!"
"Certainly, Miss Yukari." I bow and make my exit, closing the door behind me. As I do, I realize that the chief guest has left a little present in my coat's chest pocket: a rather thick bundle of bills.
...Well, now. Attractive, polite to the help, good tipper, and not inclined to pointlessly flirt with me? I like this woman already. I can handle a few eccentricities, as well as a plan that basically boils down to 'getting some friends laid.' A good tip can smooth over any problems. With any luck, the rest of the guests will be much the same. Feeling good about everything, I make my way to the kitchen to prepare a quick snack for when the rest of the staff arrives.
I'm feeling considerably less good about things a few hours later. They're late. All of them. I've never heard of the staff being so late to an engagement. And would it kill them to give me a heads-up? Seriously, the rest of the staff should have been here by now!
Then I hear the doorbell ring, and my stomach hits rock-bottom. Miss Yukari's excited cry of "They're here, they're here!" doesn't help things.
Well, it's come down to this. I will apparently be taking care of a house full of guests until everyone else arrives. That is absolutely fantastic. I had better be getting a bonus for this.
Still, nothing for it. I square my shoulders and head to the front door, where Miss Yukari is practically bouncing with excitement. I pull open the door, and...
Well, the second thing that occurs to me is that I can't see a vehicle anywhere. Did they have the same driver as Yukari? Some sort of phantom-stealth-ninja-driver? The third thing that occurs to me is that a very dark cloud on the horizon, about where the road would be, may very well be responsible for the delay in the arrival of the rest of the staff. Once again, the weather report proves to be worthless.
However, the first thing that crosses my mind is that this is one of the strangest groups that I've ever come across. And we've hosted everything from nudists to religious sects before.
Still, there are forms to stick to. "Welcome to Pleasant Meadows," I say, bowing to the assembled guests. "I hope that you enjoy your stay here."
"Thank you~!" the group of women reply, bowing in response. Must be a japanese thing, they certainly have the features for it. Most of them. I think. I step aside and take in the guests as they file in, one after another.
The first to enter shatters my mental image of this being a party for classy, upper-class women. Never mind that she looks... young, anyway. Late teens? She's small, but there's some definite musculature. No, what gets me is that the strawberry-blonde guest is dressed up as a punk, complete with chains and ripped sleeves. And are those novelty horns she's wearing?! Still, judging by the enthusiastic hug she gives the Mistress of Ceremonies, they're definitely friends.
Entry number two appears to have dyed her hair pink at some point, and is wearing an odd dress that looks vaguely Chinese. At least she gives me a polite nod as she enters. She is followed by a slender, somewhat officious-looking woman in a very elaborate uniform, and wearing an extremely detailed hat. Seriously, Yukari has nothing on this woman. I'd almost take her for a police officer, except that I don't think that most police services permit their officers to dye their hair green. Still, I get a polite nod from her as she enters as well.
And here's someone else with green hair, and about ten miles worth of ribbons strewn about her body. She actually seems to spin like a top as she takes in the building. Her eyes glance over me for a moment before she goes to greet Yukari. Bustling in behind her are two youngish-looking girls, one in a red dress, the other in some sort of purple-checkered skirt and pigtails. And what are with those shoes..."
Walking in behind those two, her entire body language conveying deep hesitation, is a blonde woman in a complicated getup that I can't even begin to describe. She glances at me with bright green eyes and a surly expression, not bothering to talk to anyone else. Those pointed ears look natural; must be a birth defect.
Behind her comes a blonde woman in a red dress, and one glance from her (her eyes look gold) immediately makes me straighten up by instinct. This woman has a definite 'Head Maid' vibe about her, one that immediately makes me feel subservient. Seriously, our senior maid, Sylvia, could take lessons from this woman. Fortunately, she seems to realize the effect that she's having upon me, and gives me an apologetic look before moving on. I find myself wondering why a woman on vacation would still be wearing her maid's uniform.
I go to close the door when I notice one last guest lingering outside, staring at the dark clouds in the distance with a quizzical expression. Noticing that she is alone, this woman shrugs and walks inside. She definitely has some outlandish getup; that scarf alone looks ten feet long. And why would such a classy woman choose to dye her hair purple? Still, it's none of my concern, really.
Standing there in the entry way, I look at the noisy bunch of women exchanging pleasantries with one another, already asking after the alcohol. I look at the driveway, depressingly absent of any sign of assistance from the rest of the staff. Finally, I take a long look at that black cloud in the distance, damning it for this situation. 'Clear Skies' indeed! I sigh heavily. This was going to be one of those days.
An hour later, my mood has not improved. The guests are enjoying themselves in the lounge with a snack I hastily whipped up to sate them. It seems to be holding them off, at least. But where in blazes is everyone else?! At least their male 'companions' have yet to arrive. That would just be too much. Still, I have to remain dignified. It's only until the rest of the staff arrive, which should be soon, hopefully.
Hmm. I suppose it wouldn't hurt me to introduce myself to the female guests. I will be in service to them, after all, and if they remember to the tip the brave butler who saw to their needs despite the horrible lateness of the rest of the staff, well, that certainly would not be amiss, now would it? Besides, I am, for all intents and purposes, a butler. It is my job to see if they have any needs that need to be fulfilled.
Now then, Yukari seems to be amusing herself by sipping some wine and watching the others. Who should I speak to first?
[x] The official-looking woman reading a book.
[x] The pink-haired woman admiring the artwork.
[x] The punkish girl intent on consuming all of the whiskey in the house.
[x] The surly blonde keeping to herself in the corner.
[x] The woman covered in ribbons, gazing about the room.
[x] The young lady in pigtails, who looks very excited.
[x] The young woman in red, who is playing the piano.
[x] The maid, who appears to be inspecting the furniture.
[x] The classy woman, who is staring out the window.