Twilight The Traveler Chapter 22 – Trepidation

// Trepidation// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

It took a while for Twilight to make it back to the DWMA, but considering how long Kid had probably spent chasing the symmetrical sky, she was reasonably sure she’d arrived ahead of him. She went straight to Death’s office. She needed to talk about a few things.

She found him waiting in front of his mirror. “Hey there! How’d the mission go?” he asked cheerfully.

“Well, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that we ran into the Demon Sword and he absorbed all the souls that the Flying Dutchman had been collecting, roughly 3000. He got a major power boost from it, and has apparently gained the ability to fly thanks to the souls he absorbed. He… I suppose ‘mutated’ is the best word, into a dragon made of Black Blood. He escaped without any major injuries that I noticed.” she said regretfully.

The version of her from before she’d been sent to other worlds wouldn’t have given up on someone after a half-hearted attempt to convince them to turn away from the path they were walking, but that version of her had access to the Elements of Harmony, and without the set of purifying artifacts, she didn’t think she could do anything for Crona. He was simply too far gone. She’d have to kill him if she fought him again.

She’d usually at least try to reason with the Kishin Eggs that weren’t feral or attacking people indiscriminately(what few there were), but she was no therapist. She had a track record of exactly 0 successful reformations, and it was especially upsetting for her this time because she saw herself if she’d had no one to rely on in Crona. Perhaps she wouldn’t be eating souls, but the essence was the same. She might very well have ended up one of the villains she’d defended others from in this life. She knew better than anyone the darker thoughts her mind could turn to without someone or something to drive them away. That was one of the reasons she rarely sought out a leadership role. As long as she had someone she believed in to guide her, she was sure she wouldn’t succumb to her darker impulses. Arcana, ironically enough, helped by actively preventing her from staying in a bad mood via absorbing said bad mood.

“What’s more, Kid said that the Dutchman knew where the Kishin was, which means we might have a leak.” she added. It was obscenely bad if someone was leaking information to the more lucid Kishin Eggs or Witches. That would mean someone high-up the chain of authority was a traitor. The number of people who had actual knowledge of the Kishin’s location should be less than 30, and a good chunk of those were Death’s Death Scythes or the more senior members of the faculty.

“Hm, that does sound troubling. Did you all make it out okay?” he asked with some concern. The Demon Sword was looking to be approaching the kind of power where it might give him some trouble if he didn’t have a Death Scythe on hand. It was no laughing matter.

“That’s the good news. I took a few hits from Ragnarok, but everyone else was fine. We also managed to finish off the Flying Dutchman and I absorbed his soul, so I’m reasonably confident he won’t make a comeback.” she interjected a joke at the end to try and cheer him up. Very little of what she’d just said was comforting.

“I see. Do you have any idea if more of the Black Blood entered your system?” Death asked with slightly narrowed eyes.

“I asked Arcana and did a couple checks. I’m pretty sure I have about twice as much Black Blood in my system as before. Strangely enough that won’t shorten my theoretical timeframe for using the Black Blood without risking Arcana’s release by more than 30 seconds. Apparently having more doesn’t increase it’s influence by very much. I’d need to more or less replace my blood with the stuff to be at particular risk as long as I use it less than 10 minutes at a time. I’m concerned that using it will spread the areas of infection though. At the moment, it’s fulfilling the same functions as normal blood, and more or less dormant. However, my research into the small amount I was able to isolate from my bloodstream indicates that the contagious effects will apply to myself if I activate it. Activated Black Blood can be spread through Soul Resonance, fluid exchanges, or simple contact, but dormant Black Blood requires a direct transfer of body fluids. I’ll give Stein some later, and I think he’ll correlate my findings.” she reported. She had a few syringes in her pocket dimension, and she was able to isolate a quarter cup of Black Blood after drawing a pint of normal blood from her body. Enough to run a few tests.

She hadn’t had a lot to do on the trip back, and the ship’s cabin she’d had to herself was fairly private. Casting her spell to place an area in a pocket dimension separated from normal reality had gotten rid of the shifting due to the waves, though she’d had to be careful not to make it difficult to remove, which had required a few modifications. She’d been very careful to make the spell incredibly difficult to undo once cast. She’d rather not lose her work because of some kind of anti-magic field or artifact that unraveled spells.

“Hm, I don’t know what to tell you that you aren’t already doing, but speaking of Stein, I have a job I want you to help him with.” Death said. It wasn’t like she was activating the Black Blood whenever she felt like it.

“Sure. What is it?” Twilight asked curiously.

*** With Maka. The Dispensary ***

Maka had gone straight to Doctor Medusa after they got back from the mission. She’d had some blood drawn, and was about to hear her test results. “Alright, here are the results of your blood tests.” Medusa said as she walked over and sat down across from Maka.

Maka nodded and braced herself. “Okay, what do they say?” she asked.

“Your red and white cell counts are normal, and you don’t have any chemical issues like a hemoglobin deficiency either. It’s good news, you’re a very healthy young lady.” Medusa said, telling the truth thus far.

Maka blinked. “Are you sure?” she asked. When Medusa nodded, Maka mused aloud, “That’s weird, I was sure the blood I coughed up was… black. Do you have any idea why that might be?” Maka asked.

“Well, it’s possible some blood ended up in your throat, darkened as it coagulated, and then the low-light environment made it look black to you when you coughed it up to clear your throat. Blood tends to darken over time, and human eyes have difficulty seeing color without much light. Maybe that’s why the blood looked black to you.” Medusa theorized.

Remembering that it was night when they fought the Man With the Magic Eye, and that the other’s outfits had looked a bit duller than usual, Maka accepted this logic. “Yeah, I guess I was just being paranoid. It’s just… unsettling seeing it again, y’know?” Maka asked.

‘Oh, I know. I saw you cough up that Black Blood through Eruka’s eyes. Such a powerful Soul Resonance should have infected you too, but when I tested you, there wasn’t a trace of it. Tara had obvious contamination, and it stuck around. Soul is still infected as far as I know.’ Medusa’s eyes narrowed slightly as Maka worked some kinks out of her body. ‘So what’s so special about you?’

Maka took notice of Medusa’s expression. “Is something wrong?” she asked.

“No, no. I was just thinking over what medicine to give you.” Medusa opened a nearby drawer and pulled a clear plastic bag filled with classic pills out. Half red, and half white, about a quarter as wide as Maka’s pinky finger and the first segment of said finger long. “Take one of these pills every morning when you get up, and every night before going to sleep.” she explained. ‘These pills enhance the effects of Black Blood. Assuming there’s any left in her system, these should have an obvious effect. If not, then they should help prevent whatever purged her system from working a second time.’ she rolled the chair over to her desk and pulled out a prescription bag, placing the pills inside. “By the way Maka, how’s Soul been lately?” Medusa asked, partially in interest of maintaining her ‘caring school nurse’ persona, and partially out of genuine curiosity over whether or not he’d kept having the dream.

“What do you mean?” Maka asked, unsure what she was referring to.

“He mentioned having a recurring dream involving a little devil. He seemed quite troubled by it, so I wanted to know if he’d still been having it.” Medusa explained, smiling slyly as she held out the bag.

“What? What dream…?” Maka muttered, taking the bag of prescription medicine.

“Oh, didn’t he tell you? That’s odd, he told me.” Medusa answered.

“Oh, that dream. I think it’s all gone now.” Maka said, before laughing nervously. “He’s doing fine!” she answered aloud, while thinking. ‘What dream? Why didn’t he tell me? Oooohhh. I’m gonna kill him!’ angrily, and with a hint of what someone listening might have thought was jealousy. Aloud, she continued to laugh nervously. “Is that all Doctor Medusa? Okay, see ya, bye!” she rapidly retreated through the door, while Medusa continued to smile at the reaction she was getting.

“Honestly, she couldn’t lie her way out of a kangaroo court favoring her.” Medusa rolled her eyes. “She didn’t actually think I’d buy that, did she?” she wondered aloud as turned back to her work.

Meanwhile, Maka adjusted her uniform’s tie self-consciously. “So he told Doctor Medusa and not me?” she muttered irritably. She started stomping down the hall as she continued. “So basically, he trusts her more than me?! That’s it, he has some explaining to do!” she said through gritted teeth.

Back with Medusa, she reached down to one of the lower drawers of her desk where she kept the medical files of her patients, unlocked it, and pulled it open. ‘Hm, maybe I missed something in Miss Albarn’s file. I’ll have a look at Tara’s as well.’ She’d noticed that even without magic, the latter’s physical abilities outstripped what her body should have been capable of. It would have been obvious if she’d activated the Black Blood for those feats, and she’d demonstrated them before ever coming into contact with Crona regardless. ‘The Black Blood shouldn’t have left her system after entering it, and I’d like to know if I have any other surprises waiting for me.’ Medusa mused as she searched for their files. ‘That’s odd… they’re not here. The only other people with keys to this drawer are Death and…’ her thoughts cut off at the sound of paper landing on the table a few feet behind her.

“Were you looking for these doctor?” Stein asked. Maka and Tara’s files were sitting on the table next to him.

Medusa’s eyes narrowed for a split second before she returned to her false kind expression and turned to him. “Oh, you startled me Stein. You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.” she was internally rather concerned that she hadn’t noticed him come in.

“Soul Eater, Maka Albarn, Tara Strong. Why are you so interested in those three?” Stein asked with a placid smile.

‘I knew he was suspicious.’ Medusa thought. “Well, those two have been through a lot lately, and Tara seems off.”

Stein sat facing the back of the nearby chair Maka had recently vacated. “Can you explain what this is? I took it from Maka, and I have to admit, I’m not familiar with this particular medicine.” he asked as he pulled the bag of pills Medusa had given Maka from his pocket.

‘Has he figured me out? Or is he just guessing?’ she wondered. Dark purple, nearly black sparks briefly danced across her right hand as she asked herself, ‘Should I kill him?’ “Oh, that’s an herbal remedy I created myself. It was designed to boost blood circulation and regulate the pulse.” she explained.

“Ah! I see.” Stein nodded.

‘The best lies are ones of omission. Since Black Blood fulfills all the same functions as normal blood, the medicine will do exactly what I just said.’ She faked a hint of a blush as she said “Well, you caught me. I’m secretly obsessed with herbal remedies.” she placed a hand on her cheek. “It might seem strange since it’s non-traditional medicine and all, but I’m just a bit concerned. I was hoping to make something for Tara too, and I wanted to refresh my knowledge of her physiology.” she admitted with an embarrassed look on her face.

Stein chuckled. “How sweet of you doctor. That’s actually rather endearing.” he said with a smile, which promptly vanished. “But tell me, are you helping them because you’re a doctor… or because you’re a Witch?” Stein asked. He looked at the reflection in the window out of the corner of his eye, as Medusa’s head had angled downward at that last remark. Her eyes had narrowed, and he inwardly braced himself.

Medusa suddenly turned around, pouting a bit. “You’re horrible! Calling a lady a witch! I don’t have to take this, it’s sexual harassment.” she responded, offended. She wasn’t sure if this was flirting or not, but it sure seemed like it.

Stein laughed as he spun in the chair. “Well, if you’re going to sue, then promise me you’ll go after Spirit first. He does way worse than say a few things about how you look!” he suddenly fell over, as this chair wasn’t modified for this sort of activity like his usual one.

Medusa turned and rubbed the bridge of her nose at the sight of Stein on the floor with the chair upside-down on top of him. “If you broke that chair, I hope you were planning to pay for it.” she commented.

As he turned the chair upright and left, he leaned on the wall of the hall outside. Twilight had been waiting outside, just in case Medusa got violent. Stein lit a cigarette, and took a long drag on it. ‘For a moment, It think she seriously considered killing me.’ he gripped his trembling arm. “Damn, still shaking. I’d almost forgotten what fear felt like. I guess this was a good thing then.” ‘I suppose the ball’s in my court now.’ he mused.

Twilight had been about to jump in when she felt the hint of murderous intent coming from the room, but when she neither sensed magic, nor heard a scuffle, she waited. She felt sick at the thought that Medusa had been a Witch this whole time, and she’d ignored her instincts on the matter. Her friends had been at Medusa’s mercy, and even with her power boost, a poison could have easily brought Twilight herself down. She was hardier than a normal human, especially after absorbing that Witch’s soul, but that only meant a higher resistance when it came to toxins. It would probably be easier to poison her food than to kill her in a fight. …She’d start checking her food more thoroughly now.

‘Just a little longer, this charade doesn’t even have to last the night. All I have to do is prevent them from bringing back evidence of my being a Witch until tomorrow, then I’ll have plenty of time to fulfill my objective.’ Medusa thought.

As the teacher-student pair walked down the hall, they came across Sid, and a dark-skinned woman with brown hair who was mostly covered in bandages. In fact, the military pants she was wearing were the only clothes she had on besides the bandages. She honestly resembled a mummy more than anything else. This was Mira Nygus, Sid’s partner, a Demon Knife. She served as a combat instructor, and was the head of the DWMA’s equivalent of the CIA while Sid was dead and until he officially returned to the organization following his revival by Stein. Sid had resumed the position immediately afterward, but the point stood that Nygus was a capable combatant even in human form, and a decent commander and tactician. She also had a strong amount of faith in the organization she served. Not a religious fervor, but it would take a lot to shake her loyalty.

“Well?” Sid asked. The question he was asking was obvious. It was the reason he was dressed in his black battle gear, reminiscent of body armor commonly found on riot police, if less covering in order to prevent loss of mobility.

Stein adjusted his glasses. “Yes, I’m certain. What about the location of Medusa’s home?” Stein asked.

“Already found it. I was a very meticulous man, that hasn’t changed.” Sid responded.

“We can handle this case professor.” Nygus opened her eyes, revealing light blue irises that almost looked stormy grey. “Alright?”

“Just be careful. We’re dealing with a Witch, this isn’t like a Kishin Egg.” Stein warned.

“If it were me, I would’ve left booby traps.” Twilight commented. Either physical or magical. Probably both, to trip up anyone relying on magic or simple skill at detecting traps. She hadn’t set up any around her house because other people lived nearby and her friends visited every now and then, that was really all. Paranoia was only paranoia until it happened.

“Trust us you two, we’ve seen a lot of allies lose their lives to Witches. We know it’s not going to be easy.” Sid reassured them.

“Sid, let’s go.” Nygus said.

“Yeah. All we need to do is find physical evidence of what Medusa’s planning, then Lord Death can issue a warrant. We’ve seen the tip of the treacherous snake’s tail, now we just need to follow it to the head.” Sid said as the Weapon and Meister walked away.

Meanwhile, in what was looking to soon stop being her office, Medusa closed her eyes. ‘Eruka, I’m contacting you through the snakes in your body.’ she thought, the barest hint of magic being used to accomplish what was essentially telepathy. While Soul Protect was believed to completely suppress a Witch’s magic, it actually left them able to use the barest hint of it. They’d struggle with basic things like flying on a Witch’s broom, but it was possible to do extremely low-energy spells. Considering she was taking advantage of an existing connection, this was simple enough. ‘Look in the attache case I left for you. You’ll find the item you need in there.’ Medusa waited a moment as Eruka followed her instructions from within the ruins she was stationed in, not far from Death City. ‘Yes, that’s it. I trust you know what you need to do?’ Medusa asked. Eruka’s grin was answer enough. She might dislike Medusa, but she liked the DWMA even less, and if she had to do these things, well, she might as well enjoy herself right?

That Night. Approximately 8:30 P.M.

Kid, Liz, and Patty finally reached the DWMA building from on Beelzebub, which Kid dismissed as they neared the ground, Liz and Patty returned to human form a split second later. “Glad we’re finally back, that was a crazy trip.” Liz commented, stretching. Holding one’s Weapon form for hours at a time was not unlike staying still for half an hour. It was unlikely for any of your body parts to fall asleep, but it wasn’t entirely comfortable.

“Liz, Patty, head home to Gallows Mansion. I need to speak with my father.” Kid ordered solemnly.

Meanwhile, Sid and Nygus had made their way to Medusa’s home in a ruined city in the desert surrounding Death City. Nygus had preemptively become her combat knife Weapon form, just in case. The few seconds switching forms took could be the difference between life and death. Simply having her sheathed to keep both hands free was making Sid slightly nervous. The dealing with a Witch who was both devious and powerful, only an idiot would expect this to be easy.

Sid carefully made his way over to Medusa’s house, and threw a rubber ball at it from across the street. If any traps were going to be set off by movement, he didn’t feel like being next to them. Nothing. The ball bounced off the door, pushing it open a bit. “Unlocked… that’s downright suspicious.” Sid commented.

“This just screams ‘trap’ to me.” Nygus responded.

“Yeah.” Sid agreed. He carefully made his way over, as while the ball failing to cause any traps to activate made it less likely there were traps, it didn’t eliminate the possibility, before peering in through the slit between the door and the wall around it. He stiffened when he saw the various organs and similar samples sitting in jars full of purple liquid, probably a preservative. He could swear that the eye in the jar was still responding to his movements. “This is supposed to be a school nurse’s home?” he asked, a little disturbed. He warily moved inside and to the desk in one corner of the room. “Well, this proves it.” he noted, staring at the wall.

“A magic circle covered in Witch’s writing. This makes it certain, but it seems very convenient, it’s like she wasn’t even trying to prevent someone from finding out about it.” Nygus said, prompting Sid to glance around warily, before he noticed a book with a green arrow near the top of the front cover sitting on the desk. It was nearly the same color as the wood, so he hadn’t noticed it at first glance in the dim light of the candles slowly burning down.

“That looks like a diary… awfully convenient that it’s just lying on the desk, not even locked or in a drawer.” Nygus said, increasingly leery. This was way too easy. No traps, the evidence they needed practically handed to them on a silver platter? Something was very wrong.

“Yeah, I wasn’t the kind of man who went snooping around in women’s diaries… but this is a Witch, and I’m not keen on spending any more time here than necessary.” Sid, getting nervous. He’d suspected a trap before, but this was practically asking for it. He started flipping through the diary, then gasped.

“What?! What is it?!” Nygus asked. Sid was rarely surprised enough to gasp, and it was almost never good.

“She knows everything about the Academy! She’d even managed to smuggle out the recipes for the EP and Potion! It’s all in here! Unless this is the most elaborate and accidentally true set-up in history, she even knows about the Kishin! If I’m right, this is what she’s been researching Black Blood for! She wanted to make a Kishin, or free the original, she doesn’t care which!” Sid was so caught up in his tirade, he failed to notice the black orbs with large red lips start appearing in the room. “We need to tell Lord Death and Professor Stein immediately!”

“Sid!” Nygus called out in warning as she noticed the strange… animals? Were they animals? Regardless, they hadn’t been there a minute ago.

Sid turned and began drawing Nygus in one fluid motion. “The hell? What are these things?” Sid asked. Had he or Nygus been well-versed in magic like Twilight or almost any Witch, they would have realized what was about to happen. One of the orbs suddenly grinned, before exploding like a grenade. Sid screamed as the rest followed suit, reducing the building to rubble.

Eruka turned away from her handiwork, smiling slightly. “I may not like Medusa, but destroying things, especially the DWMA’s, is lots of fun, and my Tadpole Bombs are great for that. Now I just need to get this” she swung the attache case, a silver briefcase covered in the outlines of arrows. “to Medusa.” She walked away as the rubble smoked slightly behind her. It wouldn’t do to throw up too much smoke and dust, otherwise someone might investigate, so she’d pulled back a bit on the Tadpole Bombs. Nevertheless, even if by some miracle he’d survived, she doubted he’d be in any condition to tell anyone anything.

Back with Kid, he stood in front of his father in the Death Room. “Well, well! It’s been a while kiddo! Nice to have you back. Tara tells me you managed to take down the Flying Dutchman, good job!” he made an ‘o’ with one blocky hand. “That being said… she also told me you ran into the Demon Sword.” he added.

“Father, when I fought the Dutchman, he mentioned the ‘Kishin right next to me’ and I must ask, do you have any idea how he could have learned about… him?” Kid asked. Death had only told Kid of his… older brother relatively recently, within the last couple years actually. “As for the Demon Sword, I frankly don’t understand why people seek power so fervently they’d slaughter thousands and risk their own deaths, sometimes simply to give the souls to someone else.” he added.

“Well, to the first, some Kishin Eggs can trace the small amounts of Madness that leaks out of the seal back to the source. For the second… people and gods alike have weaknesses, which they attempt to cover up with strength and power. Many are satisfied with things like wealth, the connections they have with others, and the power they can otherwise gather from the earthly realm. However, fear and desire are two sides of the same coin, and people will do things they normally wouldn’t when they’re scared. Imagine for a moment, that you were always frightened. What would you be willing to do to escape that?” Death asked. Kid stiffened slightly.

“That is the sort of thing that creates entities like Asura. He was always afraid, and so when he sought to gain enough power that no one could hurt him, becoming a monster was an acceptable price. In many ways, he’s even embraced it, seeing madness as the ‘correct’ state of things, or the basic one ayway. Now the Demon Sword is following that same path. My concern is the stability of the world. Though it saddens me when people begin to follow Asura’s path, I cannot let a few selfish individuals destroy the rest of humanity to satisfy their desires and banish their fears. That is why I sealed Asura away. The fight wasn’t going well, and I had few options left after losing 4 of my remaining 7 loyal followers. I sacrificed my ability to ever leave Death City’s boundaries to preserve this world. One day, you might have to make a similar choice. I might not be here forever. Should another Kishin arise, or the original break free, I might not be able to stop them. I am admittedly somewhat out of practice with fighting someone who can actually stand against me.” Death admitted. Despite his best efforts, he’d gotten a bit rusty since he’d used himself to anchor the seal on Asura, and should he face a Kishin at their full strength, he doubted his ability to win without outside help. Few were on his level though. The Grand Witch might be cooperative if things got bad enough, but there were so few other candidates. Excalibur was definitely at least partially insane, though Death suspected at least some of it was an act. Eibon was, as far as he knew, dead, and he hadn’t heard from the others in quite some time.

Kid thought this over, then nodded solemnly. “I understand father.” he left, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“Whew! I’m glad he was satisfied with that. I was worried he might ask me about something he wasn’t ready for, like the stripes in his hair.” Death said, obvious relief in his voice.

Twilight The Traveler

Twilight The Traveler Chapter 21 – Ghosts and Werewolves

// Ghosts and Werewolves// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

Maka and Soul had been bickering all week, and she was pretty sure it had to do with their training with Stein. She hoped he hadn’t done something stupid like intentionally screw with their relationship in order to make their bond stronger when they made up. That plan banked on the ‘making up’ part happening. Considering the fact that they were barely able to talk to each other for more than a minute without devolving into thinly veiled insults, she didn’t think this was working. She was worried about them getting hurt on their mission because their Wavelengths were off. Much like Blackstar was unable to lift Soul since their Wavelengths were out of synch during their fight with Kid, which they promptly lost due to that and their overall poor teamwork, if Maka couldn’t use Soul’s weapon form properly, then they’d be screwed.

“Come on, can’t you three row any faster?” Kid asked, standing on the prow of the ship in an outfit resembling his father’s appearance. No ship would come near the hunting grounds of this thing, so they’d needed to use a rented boat.

“Well maybe it’d go faster if you helped too, or maybe if we were using a motorboat, you know, with an engine? Those things people made so they wouldn’t have to do stuff like this!” Liz complained.

“Quit complaining.” Kid said as he took off the copy of his father’s mask, while Patty continued to sing ‘Row, row, row your boat’ as she’d been doing on-and-off ever since they’d started rowing.

“Hey, how much further?” Liz asked as the girls rowed. They’d been on this boat for hours.

“Not much. We’re already in the area where the people and chunks of towns have been disappearing, we just need to figure out what’s causing it.” Twilight answered, staring into the distance.

“We need to be careful, no normal Kishin Egg could cause the kind of damage in the reports.” Kid warned. The reports noted that it was like something had eaten large chunks of the towns on several islands. She was aware of the danger, but she was distracted by the problems Maka and Soul were having. Her group wasn’t even in much danger at the moment, but she had no idea what was going on with the others. “I think we’re going to have a first-hand look momentarily.” Kid said, staring at the island they were passing.

*** Meanwhile, In London ***

“Hyahoo! The Great Blackstar, in London!” Blackstar yelled to no one. Their mission had taken them to the English capital. Much like Twilight was accompanying Kid and his team, the two teams of their group of friends who were more normal (in comparison to Death’s son and the world-hopper) had been sent on the same mission. Ever since the disaster during Maka and Soul’s mission in Italy, no teams went on missions without backup.

“Aren’t you cold Blackstar?” Tsubaki, who’d traded her usual yellow dress for a pale gray coat asked as the snow continued to fall.

“Nah. It’d have to be way colder than this to even bother me. Normal people get frostbite when I start getting chilly!” Blackstar proclaimed, to a sigh of exasperation from Tsubaki. “This whole thing about having to have backup bugs me though. Ever since Soul got hurt, we can’t go on missions alone anymore.” Blackstar jerked a somewhat-accusing finger at Maka and Soul. “You guys better not slow me down.” he finished.

The pair merely grunted and continued to avoid speaking to each other while glaring in opposite directions. Tsubaki walked over to try and defuse the situation. They were getting worse. “Hey you two, look at how beautiful this place is at night. Yay London!” Tsubaki tried and failed to get them to stop giving each other the silent treatment.

As Maka and Soul almost completely ignored each other and Tsubaki, Blackstar muttered “Man, they really are getting worse.” under his breath with a frown. “Anyway Maka,” he continued in a louder voice “I can’t see souls, so this one’s up to you.” he said. Even if she didn’t find anything, a momentary distraction from their feud might help.

“Alright, I’m focusing in on any souls nearby.” Maka said as she folded her hands together and closed her eyes while she concentrated. She discovered a soul sitting on one of the towers of the bridge they were currently investigating. There’d been reports of a figure that had appeared on this bridge and begun terrorizing people who came across at night. The squad of policemen who’d been investigating had been ambushed and brutally beaten, though their attacker seemed to have been careful to avoid outright killing them. This had led to a call for someone from the DWMA to investigate.

“There’s one up there on the tower opposite us.” Maka said, pointing at what was on closer inspection a figure on the tower. She stiffened when he seemed to notice her pointing at him when it ought to be difficult to determine anything specific about a person from this distance. He gave off the clear impression of a grin as he jumped down, landing hard enough to form a crater.

“What’s with this dude?” Blackstar asked. This was definitely not a normal guy, but he couldn’t see the guy’s soul, so he couldn’t really tell beyond an instinctual knowledge that this guy wasn’t a human.

“I’m not sure. I don’t think he’s a Kishin Egg though. His soul is green, but there’s a bunch of stuff mixed together. He looks about as strong as Stein, maybe a little lower, but there’s human and Witch in there, and something else I’ve never seen before.” Maka answered.

The grin on the man’s face widened as he neared them. “I knew somebody from the DWMA’d show up if I caused enough trouble. Had to be careful not to rate a 2 or 3 star, but that wasn’t so hard. It was a bit of a stroke of luck you showed up so soon though.” he said cryptically. That implied he’d been trying to draw them out for some reason.

Blackstar grinned. “This guy wants a fight. I say we give him one.” Blackstar said. The guy had basically confessed to being the troublemaker, so they didn’t really have any reason to try and talk him down.

“Be careful, the Witch portion of his soul probably lets him use magic.” Maka warned.

“Alright, Tsubaki, let’s go. Enchanted Sword Mode. I wanna take him down fast.” he ordered.

“But you still can’t use that for more than 10 seconds, even when you’re not fighting.” Tsubaki objected.

“I only need to last a few seconds so I can take him out. Even without being able to see souls, I can tell this guy’s really strong.” Blackstar countered.

“Alright.” Tsuabki glowed white as she transformed into a black katanna, which Blackstar caught in one hand.

The man’s grin turned into an analytical expression. “Hm, this one’s strong. I’m a little impressed.” he muttered.

“Let’s go Soul Resonance!” Blackstar shouted, causing Tsubaki’s weapon form to spark with black electricity, and cut-like tattoos to appear on Blackstar’s face.

“Amazing. Their resonance is still stable when they’ve pushed it this far, and his soul…” Maka trailed off. Blackstar’s soul had expanded to the point it was roughly the same size as their target’s. It also had Japanese characters etched on it that weren’t there before.

“London bridge is falling down dude!” Blackstar shouted as he charged at the man. Normally he didn’t go for a straight-up charge even when he wasn’t taking the fight seriously, but he didn’t have a lot of time before using the Demon Sword form overwhelmed him.

“Wolf wolves… wolf wolves… Ice Cone!” the man chanted as he slowly moved into an odd position that almost looked like bastardized meditation. This resulted in a spike of ice rising from the ground in front of Blackstar.

“Tsubaki!” Blackstar called.

“Got it!” she said as their shadow grabbed onto the spike and held it down.

“Wait, what? Did they do that with their shadow?” the man asked. That could be troublesome.

“Wow, he’s really improved.” Maka said, slightly awed. Blackstar immediately collapsed when he tried to use that mode the first time, but now he could actually use it in a fight.

“How about a taste of my new technique! Shadow Star! …Star! Star. star.” he said weakly as he collapsed from the strain of using the Weapon form.

“Blackstar! I told you it was too much for you.” Tsubaki said as she shifted back to human.

“He didn’t even last 10 seconds.” Soul noted. “Wait a minute.” an expression of consternation crossed his face. “Why didn’t you use the EP?” Soul asked.

“Huh, guess I forgot.” Blackstar wheezed while Tsubaki watched their target like a hawk in case he tried to take advantage of Blackstar’s weakness.

“He might be strong, but Blackstar’s also a crazy idiot.” Maka deadpanned.

“Huh, that happened.” the man commented, turning away from the ninja duo in disinterest. They weren’t his targets anyway, and he didn’t think a temporary doubling of one’s fighting abilities would’ve helped them much, the kid would just have ended up drained twice as fast. He’d prioritized getting his body back to it’s peak in the last week anyway. “Who’s next?” he asked.

His answer came in the form of a scythe blade straight through his liver and one of his lungs. A wound that would be fatal against almost anyone. “You shouldn’t let your guard down like that mister.” Soul advised, one arm transformed.

“He did it! Wait, no…” Maka’s eyes widened when she realized that this guy wasn’t being more than inconvenienced by the wound he’d been dealt. “Soul, get out of there!” she yelled.

“Heh, that happens sometimes. Of course, I’m the kind of guy who can afford to get stabbed in the vital organs a few times.” the man grinned.

Not liking that grin at all, Soul backed off to Maka’s position, the girl in question having moved a lot closer than the group started out. “What’s with this guy?” Soul asked.

“Look, his wound’s closing!” Maka pointed out. Indeed, the hole Soul had made was visibly healing, letting off steam as it did.

“Yeah, that’s a major bonus to being an immortal, fast healing.” the man said with a smirk.

“Wait, an Immortal?” Tsubaki asked. The Immortal Clan was wiped out a long time ago after it started attacking humans. There were rumors of survivors, but most of them had been stamped out. Contrary to the name, Immortals were not actually immortal. They merely possessed powerful healing abilities even in their human forms and did not die of old age. Their werewolf forms healed even faster and were significantly stronger and more durable, making them a lot harder to hurt in the first place. Being beheaded or total physical destruction were the only known ways to kill them every time.

“Maybe seeing what I really look like would help.” the man said, before screaming involuntarily as green lightning crackled around him and a painful-looking transformation began. His body began to shift and take on a more lupine appearance. He sprouted black fur and a tail as his hands and face became covered by a finer layer of gray fur, grew claws, and his face became a muzzle. The changes to his soul were even more drastic if anything.

Maka couldn’t help but ask “What’s happening to his soul?” as the green orb roughly tripled in size, and grew three spikes on the top. The arcane-looking circle on the side where the unusual eye and ‘No Future’ tattoo were remained unchanged, likely because the former was not native to this being’s body. “I know who we’re dealing with now. this guy’s a legend even by Immortal standards. The legendary Wolf-man who stole the Grand Witch’s eye.” Maka said. To put that into perspective, it would be like someone tearing off Lord Death’s arm and living to tell about it.

“Shit, this is bad.” Soul said grimly, before pulling out his EP from it’s resting place in his pocket. Maka did the same and they quickly took their respective pills.

“Now Soul, time to transform!” Maka said as soon as they’d both swallowed their pills.

“Yeah.” Soul agreed without complaint, shining blue as he jumped upward and shifted into his scythe form, which Maka caught deftly. They’d practiced using their abilities while under the EP’s effects, though this was the first time they’d done so together since their fight had begun. However, there was a slight problem, as Maka settled into her usual stance and said “Let’s take him down Soul!” Soul’s form solidified, which was quickly followed by Maka dropping him.

“Hey, what the hell Maka?!” Soul saked, then noticed that her gloves were blackened, almost charred.

“I can’t hold on to you, your handle’s too hot.” she explained, staring almost dumbly at her gloves as if her hands had betrayed her. They’d never had problems like this before.

“What?” Soul asked disbelievingly.

‘It’s just like that time Blackstar tried to wield Soul when they fought Kid. Blackstar couldn’t lift Soul because their Wavelengths weren’t in synch. It’s not as bad this time, but I don’t think Maka and Soul’s Wavelengths are in synch.’ Tsubaki thought.

Meanwhile, a rather unusual frog sat on the railings on one side of the bridge. A black snake outlined with purple lurked inside it, transmitting what the frog saw to it’s mistress. “Hm, I was right, their Wavelengths are out-of-synch. With all that Black Blood inside you… how do you plan to get out of this one?” Medusa asked as she stared into a crystal ball she kept in her lair. “If you aren’t careful you and your Meister are going to pay the price for your reluctance to use it’s power.” she grinned maliciously. “And so the experiment begins.”

‘Why is this happening? It’s so hard to breathe. How do I do that again? If just inhaling and exhaling is hard, I must be doing something wrong. Then how am I supposed to use my weapon? I can’t even breathe right.’ Maka thought, breathing heavily.

“Flying Wolf Fist!” The wolf-man reared a fist back then shot his whole body forward at Maka. “Let’s go!” Maka managed to bring her arms halfway into a block before she got smashed into by the wolf-man’s entire body’s weight.

“Maka!” Soul cried out as he reverted to human form.

“Ice Cylinder!” the wolf-man said, gesturing with a hand to raise a pillar of ice behind Maka, which she crashed into. She barely recovered in time to duck underneath his follow-up blow, which shattered the pillar into head-sized chunks, several of which smashed into Soul.

“Soul!” Maka cried out in concern, a moment before the wolf-man kicked her off the bridge. She grabbed one of the metal rods placed on either side, and used it to swing herself back onto the bridge, just in time for green lightning to begin crackling around him again.

He opened his mouth, causing a cartoonish version of an eye to appear, and a white light began to shine in the center of it, but just before it fired, a stalagmite of ice skewered him, causing him to break off the attack.

“Crap! I really am rusty from spending so long in that dungeon! I was always careful not to put those where they’d skewer me.” he said, before ripping the ice out of his body and letting the wound heal. “I’ll have to practice later, but it’s okay for now. After all, I’m Immortal.” he said as the steaming wound closed. Maka and Soul stared, well-aware that even with the EP, it was very possible that he’d have killed one of them with that attack considering how strong the attacks without any buildup were. Their opponent’s clumsiness from about 200 years of inactivity was all that had saved them.

“For an immortal magic werewolf he’s sure clumsy. Then again, if I spent 200 years in prison I’d probably have some control issues too.” Eruka commented quietly.

“Alright, that’s going to be a nuisance until this fight’s over, but nothing I can’t handle. Maybe fighting without my edge in magic will help me get it back too.” the wolf-man said, rubbing the spot the giant hole he’d accidentally put in himself had been. He’d done a little training to get his body back in shape, but he hadn’t used much magic at all since escaping imprisonment.

“Maka!” Tsubaki called, prompting the other girl to turn her head to the weapon. “We have to do something! If you can’t fight with Soul, try using me!” she half-ordered, half-suggested.

“It won’t work.” Maka denied. “I don’t have any training using your weapon forms, and even if could figure out how to use you in time, I’d be at too much of a disadvantage to beat him.” she shot the idea down.

“You Meisters… you think just because the ‘Great Lord Death’ says so, people are good or evil. He judges everyone by his rules and standards, and then decides whether they get to live or die.” the wolf-man said contemptuously.

“What are you talking about?” Soul asked incredulously. The guy trying to kill them was trying to lecture them on morality?

“You all follow your master so blindly, never questioning whether he’s right. What makes him the perfect choice to decide how the world should be?” the wolf-man began walking towards them. “He trains you to hunt down those he deems unworthy and take their souls. I wouldn’t be safe in a world like that, so I decided to hell with that future! I refuse!” he blurred over to Maka, who barely dodged his punch, which shattered the concrete beneath where her feet had been a second before. “I say it’s my turn to be the judge!” the wolf-man pulled back both arms, forming a giant sphere of ice in them, with the ball-chain partially encased in it. “I won’t play by some wannabe god’s rules any more!” he said, throwing the giant ball of ice at Maka, who tried to dodge, but was hit anyway as the wolf-man used the chain the ice was partially encasing to swing it into her anyway.

“Maka!” Soul said, seriously worried at the punishment she was taking as she flopped onto her back then tumbled onto her face from the force of getting smashed into by a wrecking ball of ice.

“Soul, turn back into a scythe.” Maka ordered, turning her head to look at him, a small trail of blood leaking from her mouth towards her chin.

“Wait, you couldn’t even hold on to me before.” Soul objected.

“It’s our only chance! Just do it!” she argued.

Soul was quiet for a moment, then nodded before repeating his earlier transformation. ‘Using a weapon when your Wavelengths aren’t in-synch is incredibly hard on the body, mind and soul, but she doesn’t have a choice right now. She’s a scythe Meister, and he’s her weapon.’ Tsubaki thought.

“Maka your hands…” Soul said, seeing the steam coming from them as she gripped his handle.

‘I’m going to become…’she thought, gritting her teeth. ‘…stronger!’ she charged at him, then stabbed him in the gut with the blade of Soul’s scythe. “Take this!” she shouted.

“Really?” he smashed a fist into her face, sending her skidding back. “That didn’t work for your friend, what made you think it’d work now?” the wolf-man asked.

“How’s this?!” she charged him again, only to get punched into the railing. “Damn…” she struggled upright again.

“What are you doing? You need to have a plan! Calm down, take a breath.” Soul said.

“Stay out of it! I’m doing this my way. I refuse to let him beat me!” Maka snapped.

“Don’t be an idiot! If shouting like a spoiled-brat made you stronger, everyone would do it!” Soul shot back.

“Shut up! That attitude is why our Wavelengths are out-of-synch in the first place! That’s not cool Soul, it isn’t cool at all!” Maka argued.

Soul’s eyes widened as he was eerily reminded of the little demon by the way Maka was acting. “Gain power… I can show you how if you need.” it said in the back of his mind.

“Shut your mouth Maka! What do you know anyway?” he shouted, as Tsubaki’s hands started to tremble and clench into fists.

“That is enough you two!” Tsubaki yelled forcefully. The sheer oddity of Tsubaki being forceful was enough to grind the argument to a halt. “You two are a team. You need to work together if you want to do anything. One person can’t decided anything without the other. You decided together, you work together, and you fight together.” she reprimanded them.

“Oh yeah, because Blackstar asks your permission every time he goes off to do something stupid!” Soul countered sarcastically.

“I’ll admit, Blackstar makes some dumb calls from time to time, but it’s my job to back him up no matter how dumb he acts. If we’re fools, we’re fools together, that’s the kind of team we are.” Tsubaki reminded them.

‘I’ve been focused on getting stronger ever since the Demon Sword hurt Soul like that, but there’s no reason to do it alone. Maybe Tsubaki’s right, I was so focused on catching up to Soul, I’ve been pushing him away.’ Maka thought, a small wind kicking up as her soul became briefly visible, small winglike appendages sprouting behind it. ‘No matter how hot it gets, I won’t let go.’ she gripped Soul’s handle tighter even as his handle cooled.

“I don’t get what you were so worried about. I’m not even all that strong. If you’re done telling me what to do, maybe we can work together now.” Soul responded to Maka’s thoughts, as weapon’s had been known to do. Soul appeared in his mind/soulscape, dressed in a suit, a few feet behind the demon. “Hey, demon-guy.” he said, succeeding in getting the demon’s attention. “You can lead me wherever you want. Let’s see your plan, and we’ll see if I follow it.” he said calmly.

“In that case, right this way.” the demon gestured Soul to follow him. “Overwhelming madness and power are waiting.” he warned.

Soul grinned. “Sure, let’s go.”

Meanwhile, in reality, Maka and Soul said “Let’s go, Soul Resonance!”

“Hm, took them long enough.” the wolf-man muttered. He’d had explicit orders from Medusa to give them a chance to work out their issues. He made a point of avoiding messing with people’s personal issues, so he was willing to follow that order. It would be different if they were strategizing how to beat him though.

The vestiges of a small tornado surrounded the scythe and his Meister, as they glowed a silver-blue color. “Wow, their resonance rate is incredibly high.” Tsubaki said, shielding her face with one arm.

“Excellent, the Black Blood is doing it’s work.” Medusa noted gleefully.

Maka suddenly felt a crushing pressure. ‘Something’s wrong. Is Soul devouring me?’ Unbeknownst to her, this was due to the influence of the Black Blood. To an outside observer with Soul Perception, it would look like that was indeed what was happening.

“This should be interesting. A Demon Weapon with Black Blood has the power to devour their Meister’s soul. Let’s see how high you can raise your resonance rate before that happens with or without your support Soul Eater.” Medusa grinned.

“Dammit, it feels like my sanity’s being ripped away! But…” he grabbed on the side of his mouth and pulled from inside the dark plane he entered every time he became his weapon form. “I won’t let it!”

“The legendary Superskill of the Scythe Meister! Witch Hunter!” Maka said as Soul took on a crescent-moon shape a with a toothy mouth formed of white energy. The red eye normally found where the blade met the handle had grown and moved to the center of the blade.

“Fancy technique! Fine, then I’ll bring out one of mine. Wolf, wolves, wolf, wolves, Wolf-tail Wall!” he said, the spell causing his tail to grow into a sort of tower shield.

“We can break through that!” Maka shouted as they came down on the wall, swinging. They stayed deadlocked for a few seconds, then she smashed her head into Soul to try and drive him deeper through the wall. ‘It doesn’t hurt, it’s not hot, I’m not scared! I will not be beaten! I won’t ever let Soul get hurt like that again!’ Maka thought, before pulling her head back for another try. “I’m going to get stronger!” she shouted, smashing her head into Soul’s handle and finally piercing the tail-shield. “Figure-6 Hunter!” she shouted as she slashed most of the wolf-man’s tail off and dealt a cut to his chest that started to bleed, unlike almost every other wound he’d been dealt.

“Gah! How in the hell?!” the wolf-man cried out in pain. How did she do that?

“Did we get him?” Soul asked.

“Not quite.” Maka said, before throwing Soul aside and pushing the wolf-man off the bridge.

“What the- A Meister abandoning her weapon and attacking herself?!” the wolf-man asked disbelievingly.

“Maka!” Tsubaki cried out fearfully as the girl and the wolf began to fall.

“Down you go!” Maka yelled in his face before kicking off him and grabbing the edge of the bridge, forcing the wolf-man down even faster. Unfortunately, the snow on the ground began to melt from her body heat and she started to lose her grip. Just as she was about to fall off, Soul grabbed her by the wrist.

“Well, your wrists aren’t fat at least.” he joked, starting to lift her back up.

“Soul!” Maka sighed gratefully, then gasped in pain as a trio of claws shot into her stomach-area.

“Not so fast! I’m not falling off this bridge by myself. I’ll be taking somebody with me, and it might as well be you!” the wolf-man had extended his claws and was using Maka to keep himself from falling.

‘Dammit!’ Soul thought as he struggled and slowly lost the battle to keep this much weight from pulling him off the bridge. ‘There’s no way I’m letting Maka go!’

Just as Soul was about to lose his grip, a blade cut the wolf-man’s hand off, and without anything to keep gravity from claiming him, he started falling again. “Man, that was close.” a panting Blackstar said as Tsubaki started whirling back towards him. “It’s a good thing I’m here to look out for you two.” he added, catching Tsubaki with one hand.

“This isn’t over!” the wolf-man shouted as his hand started to heal. “Wolf, wolves, wolf, wolves!” he chanted. ‘I’ll just take a page out of that girl’s book and kick off an ice cylinder. All I have to do is make one right underneath me. I’m not even winded yet, and they’re all exhausted. Once I get back up there, they’re toast!’ he thought with a smirk. “Ice Cylinder!” he shouted, only to be encased in his own ice. ‘Oh. Right. Still falling. Need to work on my precision.’ he thought as he landed in the river with a splash. ‘Geez,” he thought as he sank. ‘I start a fight after 200 years rotting in a cell, and I screw it up. I really need some practice before I try something like this again.’ he thought. He’d have to wait until the ice thawed a bit before he could break out. That might take a while considering how cold it was around here.

“That was quite the screw-up, even for him.” Eruka muttered.

“I’ve seen enough to convince me, the Black Blood research should let me create a Kishin, though a second trial never hurts…” Medusa thought with a smile.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Soul asked once they’d gotten their breath back.

“I’m fine, thanks.” Maka nodded.

“From the way your hands look, I guess I’ll be doing the cooking for a while.” he half-joked with a grin.

Maka smiled back. “That should be fun to watch.” she responded. Soul got up and started to walk towards the other team. Maka was about to do the same, when she coughed harshly, leaving some blood on her gloves. She started at the color ‘Black… Blood…?’ she wondered. She decided to ask the school nurse about it when she got back.

“So, how are you holding up Blackstar?” Soul asked as the two of them approached the ninja duo.

“I’m doing great, but I’m gonna need to do some serious training if I want to use Enchanted Sword Mode in a fight.” Blackstar said with crossed arms.

“I think we all did very well under the circumstances.” Tsubaki said happily. They’d beaten the wolf-man, and Maka and Soul weren’t fighting anymore.

“Let’s report to Lord Death, then rent a hotel for the night.” Maka said.

“Fine with me, I’m ready to hit the hay.” Soul said with a yawn.

*** Meanwhile, With Liz, Patty, Kid, and Twilight ***

“What do you mean? It looks like a nice, normal little town.” Liz asked

“I’m not sure if normal applies here.” Twilight noted with narrowed eyes as they rounded a bend, to see what at first appeared to be a wall, but revealed itself to be a number of colossal bite marks. She couldn’t detect any souls. Admittedly, the town was still far enough away she wouldn’t notice any singular souls that weren’t strong enough to serve as decent Meisters, but she should be able to tell if there was a large group around.

“What the heck happened here?!” Liz yelled.

“The people who lived here were swallowed by something.” Kid answered.

“Plus their homes, please tell me we won’t have to fight something that big.” Liz said fearfully, a nervous sweat breaking out on her head.

“We’ll need to gather information on what we’ll be facing. Let’s see what the villagers know.” Kid said as they turned the boat towards the pier.

A few minutes later, after splitting up to look for survivors, Kid and his weapons found someone cowering in their house, wearing a brown cloak, while Twilight talked to the only other survivor they’d found. The Kishin Egg probably didn’t consider them worth the effort, which said worrying things about it’s abilities. Most Kishin Eggs were either weak enough that your average soul would be a decent contribution to their power, or lacked the higher reasoning abilities to decide that prey that couldn’t fight back wasn’t worth the effort it would take to get it. This one was both strong enough that it had the leisure to ignore human souls ready for the taking, and clear-headed enough to do so.

“Can you tell me what happened here?” Kid asked.

“It w-was the mist.” the man stuttered.

“Mist? Interesting. What do you mean? What kind of Mist?” Kid asked.

“N-no.” the villager muttered in terror, clearly not all there anymore.

“Calm down. No one’s going to hurt you. We’ve come from the DWMA to put a stop to the being responsible for this.” Kid said.

“From- From the Academy?” the villager asked.

“Yes, so I need you to tell me in as much detail as you can what happened here.” Kid said calmly.

“Black Dragon.” the villager said quietly, prompting a slight intake of breath from the fledgling Reaper. “The Black Dragon came and ate our village!” he screamed.

“Black Dragon? Hm, that’s going to help us a lot, thank you.” Kid said. It was unlikely they’d get anything else out of this villager. He was too shell-shocked to be of much more help. He’d let the authorities know to come and pick up the survivor later. He wouldn’t last long out here alone.

“I heard the other villager call it ‘The Black Dragon’ too, so it’s not just something this guy decided to call it. This Kishin Egg’s built itself quite the reputation in the area.” Twilight said as the group met up again. This looked bad. Even if it was a special ability specific to this Kishin Egg, being able to control the weather would require a lot of power, especially to sustain it over a whole town. This was looking to be a tough fight. Of course, the coastal attacks suggested something that could swim or at least float, which might let them win simply by doing enough damage that it couldn’t stay above the waterline anymore.

“I’d like to look for clues about previous attacks in the library. There aren’t any more witnesses, so if we’re going to find anything else to tell us what we’re up against, it’ll be there.” Kid said.

“I guess that makes sense.” Liz agreed.

“I’ll take the history section, you guys look for any books someone was looking through when the attack happened, someone might have been looking for weaknesses or something along those lines if they had some warning.” Twilight said.

A couple hours later, the Brooklyn natives were looking at picture books. Well, Patty was and she’d roped Liz into playing along. After a couple minutes of this, Liz asked Kid “Are we done here Kid? This place is cramped, and musty, and I think it’s actually colder in here than outside.”

“Don’t be lazy, preliminary research into one’s target is necessary… is what i’d say if I didn’t hate this place too.” he closed the book he’d been reading. “I think I’ve got enough basic information, let’s find Twilight and then leave.”

“Good, so where are we going next?” she asked as Patty peeked around the bookcase, pretending to be a monkey.

“I’ll tell you later.” Kid said as he headed for the history section.

Upon finding Twilight, they noticed a small pile of books at her feet. “Oh, did you find anything?” Kid asked.

“Yes, well, maybe. I’ve been looking at shipping records in hopes of finding something that’s been preying on ships in the area or something along those lines, but I haven’t found much, though I’ve learned the names of a number of ships that have sunk in the area. Though there was something interesting. There were reports of a ship that preyed on other ships after having sunk itself. A ghost-ship named Nidhogg, which also happens to be the name of a black dragon that appears in Norse mythology. I doubt it’s a coincidence, but I imagine that the ship’s a bit newer than the Vikings, or else we’d have heard about it by now. Probably a Kishinized sailor possessing his ship or something.” Twilight surmised.

“I came to a similar conclusion. After all, just because a ship’s sunk doesn’t mean that it’s going to stay sunk.” Kid agreed. “The people of this island believed that there was a ghost-ship preying on other ships. As this part of the Baltic Sea sees a lot of shipping under most circumstances, it would be prime hunting ground for a sea-going Kishin Egg. Of course, it’s possible that this thing has been around for some time and merely grown bolder and/or greedier more recently. It could mask its presence by the simple fact that an area with more shipping will have more shipwrecks by simple virtue of statistics, so if it were careful it could be decades before someone realized something was wrong. Of course, if this thing were absorbing entire ships full of people for a long time, then I suspect it would be a Kishin by now, so I have to assume it’s holding off for some reason or is relatively new.” Kid said.

“I don’t like where this is going.” Liz commented.

“If I had to guess, it’s either a Kishin-worshipper planning to offer those souls up, or some kind of ghost possessing a ship that can’t actually absorb the souls themselves.” Twilight offered.

“Ghost?! What do you mean ghost!?” Liz cried out in terror.

“Oh right, you’re scared of ghosts. Relax, there’s no guarantee ghosts will even be involved.” Kid attempted to calm down.

“I’m not hearing a ‘ghosts don’t exist’!” Liz said continuing to freak out.

“We deal with souls outside their bodies all the time, ghosts aren’t much of a stretch.” Twilight noted.

“I’m not going to lie just to give you temporary relief.” Kid responded. “Permanent relief, sure. Temporary, no.”

“Let’s just get her on the boat, aggravation at having to row more should calm her down.” Twilight said with a sigh as Liz continued to panic.

10 minutes later, Twilight was proven right as Liz went back to complaining. “Why are back in this stupid rowboat?! Whatever we’re doing out here better be real important Kid!” Liz yelled in exasperation.

“Of course. Would I make you row all this way for no reason?” Kid asked.

“Knowing you, maybe.” Liz answered him.

“Well, let us answer your question with another question. Where exactly would one expect to find a boat?” Twilight said, gesturing expansively at the sea around them as fog began to roll in.

“What’s with the creepy fog?” Liz asked nervously.

“A cloud!” Patty chirped happily. She was right too. Fog was really just a low-altitude cloud.

“It seems that we’re getting close. Stay sharp.” Kid said.

“Wait, what?” Liz asked.

“My Soul Perception ignores things like this mist, and it’s telling me there’s a lot of souls on the portside.” Twilight confirmed Kid’s impression.

“What does that mean?” Liz asked, increasingly nervous.

“Normally my Shinigami powers merely inform me of the number and general placement of souls nearby unless I deliberately focus them. That’s usually not much help since I tend to operate in areas like cities, but in this case there aren’t a lot of humans in the area, which means this is probably our culprit, as I doubt a civilian vessel is hoarding several thousand human souls.” Kid said as a dark shape loomed in the mist, before revealing itself to be a corruption of a normal wooden ship. It had what looked like enormous human eyes set in the front, near a vertical mouth with wooden boards for teeth.

“What in hell is that?!” Liz asked in a mix of terror and horror.

“You see that writing near the stern?” Kid asked.

“Nid.. uh.. hog?” Patty asked, the gloom making it difficult to read.

“It’s Nidhogg, pronounced need-hog, and it’s what Twilight was talking about earlier. Looking at it I can see why the villagers believed such a legend. Right,” he pointed a finger at the ship. “we’re heading up there! Let’s go ladies!” he said authoritatively.

“Uh uh, no way! That’s a ghost ship, which means it’s full of ghosts! Which means I’m not going anywhere near it!” Liz objected loudly.

Patty and Twilight were rowing meanwhile. Twilight with about as much complaint as before, which was to say none at all, and Patty with more gusto than usual. “Let’s go! Let’s go! Move it!” she shouted rowing furiously. Noticing the speed they were headed towards the other ship, Twilight had begun rowing to counter Patty, though it didn’t seem to be helping much.

“Wait, wait! Patty Wait!” Kid yelled frantically, gripping the small wooden point at the front of their boat like his life depended on it as the psychotically grinning girl continued to row. He smashed into the larger boat and leaving a trail of blood as he slumped over. “You idiot, I told you to wait didn’t I?” Kid asked, his voice muffled by the wooden hull.

Patty giggled. “Whoopsie, sorry.” she said with a psychotic smirk on her face. Twilight worried about the mental stability of the company she kept sometimes.

“If you want to damage the other ship you have to ram them in the middle!” Kid reprimanded her.

“You’re mad because she didn’t aim for the center?” Liz asked from where she was lying on the boat’s floor.

“Pretty sure that’s not the issue here.” Twilight said as she healed the collection of scrapes and bruises she’d received, shortly followed by Kid’s nose.

“Now do it again!” Kid said, pointing to a different spot on the larger ship.

“Okay!” Patty agreed.

“Wait, what?” Liz and Twilight said at the same time.

“Row!” Patty yelled gleefully as she pulled the ship back, rowed towards the spot Kid had indicated and built up speed. Twilight resigned herself to their current course of action, and simply cast Protect on everyone. What followed was pretty much the same as their first ramming, though the trail of blood Kid left behind was smaller.

“Okay, let’s board.” Kid said, muffled by the ship again.

“You two are insane!” Patty declared blearily from the bottom of the boat.

“Or you just have a death wish.” Twilight said with a deadpan inflection, healing everyone’s injuries again.

“No, it’s worse than that! You’re crazy insane jerks with death wishes!” Liz complained, not noticing Twilight teleporting everyone onboard by using the the locations of the souls to fill out the rough dimensions of the ship, filling in the blanks of what she couldn’t see. Liz immediately started freaking out when she realized what had happened.

“It seems the souls are all being kept inside the ship somewhere. In we go.” Kid said.

“KAY!” Patty said, not particularly exuberant for once.

“I’m pretty sure they’re all just floating around in there. I don’t think this guy much cares about someone sneaking in.” Twilight said, studiously ignoring the skeletons tied up around the mast who seemed to be dressed as tourists. That suggested that this ship was either commandeered by it’s current captain, or that someone had been lucky (or unlucky) enough to survive getting this close before the four of them, though it seemed the ship’s captain had taken exception to the trespassers if that was the case.

“Hey, guys, I have a better idea, how about we stay out here where there aren’t any ghosts? Besides, it’s a lot harder to ambush us out her in the open, right?” Liz rationalized. Twilight had to admit she had a point there.

“Sorry, Liz but we need to find and secure the souls or else our target might decide to eat them himself to ensure his survival.” Twilight said as she followed Kid. Even if he was nothing special now that they were on the ship with him (which she doubted) the power boost he’d get from eating hundreds of souls would make the fight a lot harder.

“Aw man, I hate this place already.” Liz said, walking jerkily due to her nerves. She and Twilight turned back a few seconds later, the former because she thought she heard something, the latter because she thought she sensed something bloodthirsty behind her, but there was nothing there when they looked.

“Come on you two.” Kid called. The girls glanced at each other, then made their way inside the ship, a bit more wary now. As they went inside, a head rose from the deck, which rippled as if it were water.

The Kishin Egg wore a flat-topped hat and had a permanent insane grin on it’s face. He chuckled evilly. “What do you know? A fresh quartet of souls made their way to me all on their own, and these are some strong ones.” His smiled widened very slightly. “Lord Kishin will be pleased if I get him some strong souls. Quality trumps quantity after all.” he sank back into the ship’s hull, planning to ambush his new… guests.

A few minutes of walking, with Liz hiding behind Patty and in front of Twilight, led them to a door. Kid’s Shinigami powers and Twilight’s Soul Perception allowed them to pinpoint the location with the highest concentration of souls, though it seemed that they were mostly just sealed off from open-air, as if the Kishin Egg were afraid they’d escape. They were stored at least a floor below the ship’s deck, and there was likely a pretty solid door between them and any routes to the surface, but they went all the way down to the bottom of the ship. Several thousand souls would give even a normal human a pretty good start on becoming a new Kishin, and there were at least 3000 here.

Kid opened the door, and they found at least a hundred souls floating around in this first room alone. Even if there was no blood on the walls or anything, Twilight felt disgusted at the number of people that this thing must have killed in hopes of satisfying it’s ‘master’ or hunger. “No normal Kishin Egg would be able to gather this many souls and resist the temptation to devour them, so it can’t be planning anything good with them. If I had to make a theory, I’d say something along the lines of that Kishin-worshiper idea you had earlier is most likely. Though some kind of gluttonous Kishin that wants to feast on as many souls as possible at once isn’t impossible.” he said before entering the room and heading towards the center. The souls seemed to twitch in reaction to his presence.

“So, can we have these souls since they don’t belong to anybody?” Patty asked innocently.

“NO! Do you want to end up a Kishin Egg?!” Twilight emphatically denied.

“She’s right. Anyway, I need to safeguard these souls, regardless of their captor’s intentions.” Kid said, reaching the center of the room and making an odd sign with his fingers. It appeared he was about to put the souls to rest, that, or send them to his father. He was interrupted by a figure pulling itself out of the wooden floor as if it weren’t a solid obstacle, and sticking a large gun barrel in his face.

The Kishin Egg was bending his head back just a little too far for a human skeleton to be able to accommodate, and wearing a sweater vest with a red collar over a white shirt. He had tan trousers and a mop of orange hair, an almost literal mop because that was honestly what it looked like. “What have we here? I was sure you were a strong soul, but a Grim Reaper? I must have gone a little overboard with the gathering.” he commented while firing the gun several times as Kid dodged. He sank back into the floorboards as Twilight returned fire.

“Okay, we found him. Now what do-” Twilight was interrupted by the Kishin Egg rearing up and shouting “NIDHOGG!” Then the floorboards caved in beneath her. “Ah son of a-” she began in exasperation before falling about a story, the hole sealing behind her. She attempted to teleport back up, but ended up upside down on the ceiling of the level she was on before falling again. “Note to self,” she said through gritted teeth as she healed the broken hand she’d gotten from landing on said hand. She was careful to set it in it’s proper position first, but that was merely a precaution and the healing spell healed the bone just fine. “do not try to teleport through walls when they are connected to something’s soul.”

Kid, Liz, and Patty were having their own problems. Kid had Liz and Patty transform into their weapon forms as soon as Twilight fell… or he would have if it weren’t for one thing. Their opponent did the same thing to Liz that he’d done to Twilight. Liz, predictably, screamed as she fell into darkness.

“Liz, no!” Kid yelled worriedly. Twilight was a friend, but had more experience with direct combat, as well as healing and protection abilities. Demon Weapons were somewhat tougher than normal humans even in human form, but Liz would be in deep trouble were she unlucky enough to injure herself while landing. Besides which, Liz was one of his weapon partners so if push came to shove he would prioritize her unless he knew she was fine, and he himself was at a distinct disadvantage with Liz out of the picture.

Patty, on the other hand, laughed and said “She fell! She fell!” in a childlike manner while slapping the boards where her sister fell.

“She’s your sister! How can you laugh at a time like this?!” Kid scolded her, before the two of them paused as their opponent began to chuckle.

“This ship is my body and my body is the ship. I can control it like one of my limbs.” he grinned with dark humor. “All I have to do is outlast you. I seriously doubt you can damage the ship badly enough to permanently hurt me, and don’t bother looking for explosives to try it that way. I make a point of not keeping much of that sort of thing around. You can cut me to pieces or punch more holes in me than Swiss cheese, but I’ll keep coming back together as long as the ship is intact.” his smile widened beyond the point of sanity. “I don’t think you have the same luxury.” he aimed the gun barrel at Kid, who tensed, but then relaxed as the Kishin Egg didn’t fire.

“My companions and I believe that you’re planning to offer up these souls to the Kishin, is that correct?” Kid asked, hoping to buy a little time for the missing girls to regroup with them.

The Kishin Egg chuckled. “I don’t see any point in not telling you. We’re going to try to kill each other either way, so I might as well give you my motivation. You got it in one. It gets more difficult to operate out here by the day, so I’m going to present the Kishin with these souls, he’ll surely reward me for that. He might even let me join him, but I won’t get my hopes up.” the Kishin Egg shrugged.

“Kishin? Are you referring to Ragnarok?” Kid asked. Hey, if he was answering questions for free, might as well take advantage.

The Kishin Egg looked almost insulted. “Him? He’s a pathetic weakling compared to the real deal. I’d expect someone who lives so close to know that.” he responded.

“Close? What are you talking about?” Kid asked, his eyes narrowing. Twilight and some of the DWMA faculty made up about 95% of the people who were supposed to know Asura’s location. Which begged the question of how this guy knew. Lord Death had thought it best to at least try to keep the number of people who knew the Kishin’s location as low as possible. Though it was heavily suspected that the Witches knew the Mad God’s location, it was likely they wouldn’t try anything, as the release of the Kishin wouldn’t particularly benefit anyone besides the Kishin.

The Kishin Egg tilted his head slightly. “You really don’t know, huh? Well, there isn’t much point telling you. This ship and I have places to see, things to do, souls to swallow. There are plenty of people in the world who’ll fall under the sway of the Kishin’s madness, seal or no seal. They’re just like this ship and myself, hungry for power, so consumed by our lust for it that earthly power will never satisfy. Personally, I think the reason so many Kishin Eggs are feral is that they’re so consumed by their hunger they can’t think of anything but devouring souls.” the Kishin Egg reached out and grabbed one of the souls, licking it. “Everyone who desires the kind of power that can finally satisfy that craving seeks the Kishin in their own way, whether that’s becoming one themselves like Ragnarok, or by reaching out to the original like me. These things are my ticket into my God’s good graces, and I won’t be handing them over to you!” the Kishin Egg yelled, suddenly firing the remainder of his gun’s loaded ammo at Kid.

Kid dodged backwards, to his right, then his left, shedding his cloak in the process as a smokescreen. “Hey Kid,” Patty began, a rare semi-serious expression on her face. “I’m gonna transform now.”

“No.” Kid denied. Patty gave him a confused look. A nervous sweat broke out on his face. “I can’t.”

*** Meanwhile With Twilight ***

“Okay, I’m back on the deck despite not having taken enough stairs to get back up here from the level I was at before falling through the floor. Clearly this place does not conform to Euclidean geometry, or the Kishin Egg has scary levels of control over this place. I’m not entirely sure which would be worse.” Twilight talked to herself. It was habit she had whenever she was alone, or thought she was alone.

“Oh no, there wasn’t supposed to be anybody from the DWMA here, and it’s that girl who fought me before and didn’t get very hurt. I don’t know how to deal with this.” Crona said as he and Ragnarok touched down on the ship’s deck.

The hulking figure of Ragnarok emerged from Crona’s body briefly. “I say we stick to the plan, except we add another soul to the menu!” Ragnarok turned itself into it’s weapon form, a broadsword which she couldn’t help but notice was about twice as thick as her own sword.

Crona’s grin reminded her a great deal of Arcana in her worst moments. “That sounds like a great idea.” he blocked the pistol fire from Twilight without much trouble as he rushed her. Twilight didn’t dare use any of the higher-tier magic she knew while she didn’t know her allies locations. Instead, she kept things at the first tier and Enfired weapons. Her buffing spells were perfectly fine though. For some reason, her debuffs were just sliding off of Crona. They’d done the same during her first encounter with him, but that had been due to the Witch being nearby… or so she thought. Maybe his prolonged contact with a Witch had made him resistant to magic? Spells that were meant to do damage directly had more effect, but Fire was the only one that he couldn’t ignore after a few seconds, so maybe that was only part of it. Even her affinity and his weakness working together weren’t enough to make first-tier spells particularly dangerous to him. Perhaps the snake circling his soul was actively repelling magic, in addition to the resistance Crona had built up through what was likely months of exposure at minimum, due to the Witch controlling him wanting her minion in decent fighting form.

She was left to engage him in close-combat, which was also not a fun place to be, as he seemed to have been practicing and/or eating a lot of souls since they last met. She was barely stronger than him, and she could feel the floorboards buckling underneath her from the strain of the contest. He, on the other hand, was a lot faster than she was. She had to dodge at least a dozen blood-based attacks within the first 5 minutes, and it was only getting worse. The problem with using physical attacks on him was that cutting attacks didn’t penetrate past his circulatory system, and the cut gave him a new opening to attack her with his blood. She wasn’t particularly keen on getting any more of that stuff in her system and even less so on dying.

What was worse, he seemed to learned his lesson from before and started dodging when she tried to hit him with Soul Force. She nearly lost a hand from his retaliatory strike just now. She could probably grow it back or reattach it if she was quick enough with a lot of healing magic, but that wasn’t the point here.

‘You know, you could always draw on the Black Blood in your body, this fight would probably be over in less than 5 minutes if you weren’t stuck barely fending off his attacks. That’s plenty of time to spare.’ Arcana said reasonably. The worst part was that she almost agreed. She, at the moment, was PRETTY sure that if she died, then Arcana would too, but there was a chance her dark half would manage to survive, and then there’d be a very smart, very dangerous soul-eating maniac running around in this world and others thanks to the spell she’d made to travel between them. Of course, if Arcana broke free thanks to the Black Blood, the result would be much the same. However, she’d prefer not to die if at all possible, and it was looking increasingly likely she’d have to use the Black Blood if she wanted to survive. Still…

‘Yeah, no deal. I’m not quite on the ropes enough to risk an omnicidal maniac being released to kill people and eat their souls.’ Twilight responded, barely avoiding being skewered. As Arcana could tell she was wavering, she felt a psychotic smirk spreading across her counterpart’s face. Ever since the Black Blood had entered her system, she’d been more sensitive to Arcana’s moods and thoughts, especially in combat, though her addition to the seal had mitigated it somewhat. She could only hope the others were doing better in general.

*** Meanwhile With Liz ***

“Ican’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’t do this!” Liz borderline screamed as she hugged herself and tears of terror streamed down her face. She moved in a jerky fashion, as if she couldn’t decide whether to run like a scared little girl or be stealthy. “Patty? Kid? Where are you?” she asked, almost, but not quite whispering. “I hope the ghost didn’t eat them.” she muttered, starting to calm down. She’d seen Twilight fall, so she was slightly less surprised than she would have been normally when the same thing happened to her, and managed to avoid injuring herself when she landed.

“Kid can’t use Patty because he can’t hold her weapon form properly if he tries to make it symmetrical, and he’ll get a nasty nosebleed and pass out if he doesn’t make it symmetrical. I have to get back up there, and quickly.” She felt a surge of panic and started ranting in an attempt to drive it off. “I’m not the least bit scared of this stupid ghost ship, no way is this scary to me! I’m one of the legendary Thompson Sisters, the Devils of Brooklyn! Nobody wants to run into me in a dark alley! I’m not scared of anything!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. She was aware that if she didn’t believe herself, then anything that could hear her probably didn’t either.

“How did I end up on this freaky ship anyway?” she moaned. “We must have had a whole litter of black cats cross our paths to be unlucky enough to have the guy we mugged turn out to be a Grim Reaper! There’s literally only 2!” she sighed as her rant ran out of steam. “I don’t even know if I’m going the right way.”

“Yes,” a cheerful and youthful voice began. “this is the right way.”

“Gee thanks. That’s nice of you but how do you kn-” she paused and did a quick 180 degree turn. “Who said that?!” she demanded, only to find nothing but empty air behind her. “Okay… either I’m hearing things or…” she trailed off and slowly turned back around, only to freeze at the sight that greeted her.

“You’re doing well, just keep heading this way and you’ll meet up with your friends.” said a nearly transparent girl in a pink dress and red shoes with blond shoulder-length hair with a ribbon on the top holding it out of her face said. Where normal eyes would be on a living human, there was a pair of glowing blue orbs, the size of a marble each. These faded to a pair of dull and unhappy eyes

Liz closed her eyes and turned away. “Iwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlook! If I don’t look she’ll go away!” She shook her head vigorously as she said this.

“Come on, just a little further this way!” the ghost girl said cheerfully, apparently not caring about the panic Liz was in, and also suddenly right in front of her. Liz turned her head upward and stared at the ghost for a few seconds, then scrambled a good ten feet away. “I’m the spirit of a girl who was eaten by this ship. Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you.” the ghost attempted to calm Liz down. It didn’t work.

“Nope! Do I look stupid to you?! I’ve seen how this story goes and I’m not doing it! Ghosts are restless souls, and ‘restless’ almost always means bitter and angry! You’re mad because you got eaten, so now you’re going to eat me!” Liz accused.

“I have no reason to eat you, and I don’t think I could if I wanted to. Just follow me, and you’ll be able to get back to your friends.” the ghost countered.

“I can see through you! You just want me to let my guard down so I’ll be easier to eat!” Liz continued to panic.

“No, you just have to trust me.” the ghost replied patiently.

“I might have big boobs, but I’m all skin and bones, I’ll be all tough and stringy!” Liz responded, still panicking.

“Just trust me.” the ghost repeated, a flash of annoyance briefly visible on her face.

“I’ll taste terrible too! I promise!” Liz cried out.

The ghost’s right eye visibly twitched as she repeated “Just trust me.” clearly at the end of her patience.

As Liz continued to wail in terror, the ghost girl finally lost patience with her. “Alright, that’s it! Quit blubbering like a five-year-old and follow me, or I’ll scare you to death!” she yelled, causing the teenager to freeze, then slide to the ground with a groan.

“Yes ma’am, I’ll follow you anywhere.” she responded meekly.

“Good! Glad we got that straightened out. Now get moving!” The ghost started to float down the hallway in the direction she’d indicated was correct, with Liz crawling after her. “I don’t know what you’re so upset about, I didn’t even live long enough to get a body like that.” the ghost muttered irritably.

“Oh, right. Sorry for rubbing it in.” Liz apologized. ‘Patty, your big sis ain’t doing so well.’ Liz thought to herself.

*** With Kid and Patty ***

The Kishin Egg fired at them as they ran away, until they passed through the door to the room, at which point he chuckled. “Guess they weren’t paying attention earlier. Running away won’t do any good.”

Kid on the other hand, was worried about something else, which he considered much more important. ‘I specifically partnered with these two to avoid exactly this sort of situation! My father tried to pick out a good partner for me, but no! I had to have symmetry! Stubborn idiot! So when I found a pair of weapons that happened to be the exact same type and model, I picked them almost without thinking about it! I mean, come on! When was I going to have opportunity like that again, right?

Less than 0.1% of the population manifests the ability to turn into Demon Weapons. The likelihood of getting 2 that look exactly the same is abysmally low, so I took the chance! All I cared about… All I wanted… was symmetry! Is that really so much to ask? Now all my efforts have been completely and utterly wasted! DAAAAAMMMMIIIITTTTT!!!’ Kid ranted internally.

They nearly ran into a hail of bullets as the Kishin Egg emerged ahead of them. Said being smirked. “Weren’t you paying attention? If the ship is my body, what makes you think you’re safe anywhere inside it?” he asked rhetorically. He began to slowly emerge from the ceiling as he continued. “I’m honestly kind of disappointed. I was expecting a Grim Reaper to at least be strong enough to put up a fight. What, can’t fight without your friends?” he asked snidely.

“You haven’t seen anything yet! I don’t need a weapon to kill you and put a stop to your acts of evil.” Kid shot back.

“What you call evil, I call the food-chain. If I kill you here, then that means I was stronger, and I can do as I wish with your soul. If you’re stronger, you’ll use my soul to empower one of your weapons, yes? The only difference between those that serve Death and those that serve the Kishin is who they prey on. Death’s minions prey on those that serve the Kishin and Witches who cause chaos, while we prey on those unfortunate enough to cross paths with us. What makes you so much better?” the Kishin Egg asked.

“Some of what you said is valid, but there’s a distinct difference between carrying out judgement on those who treat the lives of others as meaningless beyond the benefit it provides them, and committing mass-murder to snack on your victims’ souls for a power boost. There is no problem with free will, but killing just because you want to is a line no one should be allowed to cross.” Kid rebuked the Kishin Egg

` “Oh? Where exactly is the line between what is allowed and what isn’t? Just because you say ‘here’ doesn’t mean everyone else will agree.” the Kishin Egg replied, eyes narrowing as he pointed his gun at Kid.

Kid shifted his stance slightly. “That doesn’t matter! Evil and Good must be in balance, too much of one or the other will lead to stagnation at best and rampant chaos at worst. Therefore, I will continue to fight until the world is in balance and then fight to keep it so. Balance is key, and while I’m fine with freedom in general, as a Grim Reaper I refuse to grant anyone the freedom to kill.” he responded.

His response was followed with gunfire and having to dodge spikes coming out of the walls that were made out of said walls as he and Patty ran.

*** With Twilight ***

Things were steadily getting worse for her. She’d gotten a bunch of cuts and while she’d left the small ones for a few seconds to minimize risk of getting more Black Blood in her system, she’d immediately healed any larger ones and she was absolutely sure the amount of Black Blood in her system was a lot higher than before. She was becoming convinced that using it was the only way she would be able to win. She was about to ask Arcana how to activate it, though she had an idea already, when Liz showed up from one of the entrances to the ship’s interior, but not the one they’d entered.

“Oh hey Liz, feel free to jump in any time!” Twilight called. Huh, what was with the ghost girl?

“Wha- Twilight?! Who’s that?” Liz asked a moment before Kid and Patty burst out of a sudden hole in the deck. Like all of it’s smaller brethren, this one closed immediately afterward.

“Normally I’d give you a dressing-down for making it so I couldn’t use Patty, but this isn’t the time. Liz! Patty! Transform!” Kid called, hands outstretched.

“Kay!” Patty responded, fist-pumping as usual before transforming.

“You say that like it’s my fault you’re neurotic.” Liz deadpanned before following suit.

“Hold it! We’re not done yet!” the Kishin Egg emerged on the stern-end of the boat.

Seeing him, Crona disengaged from Twilight by swinging so hard into her guard he knocked her into the opposite wall, then jumped over to the Kishin Egg and hit him with 3 slashes in what looked like a z-pattern turned 45 degrees. She got the distinct impression Crona had not been going all-out on her for some reason. Perhaps the witch he served wanted to test her or Crona. Regardless, she felt like this was about to go badly.

Crona flopped around bonelessly for a few seconds before saying “Ragnarok, Scream Resonance.” in a monotone voice. A pair of red lips appeared on the large black broadsword Crona wielded, and began to scream loudly enough to cause pain. Crona joined in as he embedded Ragnarok in the deck, which began to glow with a blue-green light.

“What? How is this possible?” Kid asked as the souls that had been stored inside the ship all began to come out and float above the deck.

“You know how I’m like a sponge for spiritual energy? I think this is a weaponized form of that.” Twilight replied. The air was too saturated from the spiritual energy of the Demon Sword and the souls he was bent on absorbing for a teleport. Besides which, she hadn’t quite recovered her breath from getting soundly beaten, so she didn’t think she’d make it. She started forward anyway.

“Wait, then-” Liz began as Ragnarok let out a final scream and the souls began to stream into the sword, which Crona raised aloft.

Twilight raised her gun to fire Enfired bullets with one hand and a Firaga with the other, but the sheer number of souls between her attacks and the sword, who absorbed energy from or otherwise sapped the attacks in desperate attempts to save themselves, killed their force.

The ghost girl from before briefly appeared next to Liz’s Weapon form. “Sorry stupid scaredy-cat, but I’ve got to go now. Goodbye.” she said sadly, before following the other souls into Ragnarok’s maw.

Liz gasped in horror as the ghost girl was the last of the souls to be devoured. “Bastard.” she growled, though it was unclear if she meant Crona, Ragnarok, or both.

For his/her part, Crona screamed briefly as Ragnarok’s Weapon form retreated back into his Meister, then burst out of Crona’s back.

“That’s Ragnarok’s true form.” Twilight informed them, backing away from the hulking figure made out of Black Blood.

“That? But there’s barely anything human about him besides general shape!” Liz responded.

Patty voiced her opinion more crudely. “You’re all icky and gross!” she laughed. She was… not wrong.

Ragnarok began to twist and shift in ways a solid object or living thing could and should not. The spike on his shoulders grew as long as a human’s arms, his arms twisted into wings, and his neck became out-and-out serpentine. “Remember that legend we came across earlier?” Kid asked.

“The Black Dragon?” Twilight asked, preemptively buffing everyone.

“Yeah. I think we’re dealing with a modern-day Black Dragon.” he replied.

“Hey, my blood is black you know.” Crona commented absently, as if he hadn’t just committed an atrocity against both humanity and nature.

“Yeah,” Twilight said, reloading her gun without taking her eyes of Crona by teleporting the old clip out and the new one in. “we noticed.” she deadpanned.

“I judge you.” Kid said, shifting his stance into one that looked odd, but was surprisingly solid for how silly it looked. “Reaper Combat Art. Mortal Sin Stance.” he paused for a moment as Ragnarok reverted to his Weapon form, which was noticeably bigger. “It’s time to die.” Kid said with narrowed eyes.

“I’m afraid… of everyone.” Crona began. “Hell isn’t some place you go, it’s hiding right here,” He tapped his forehead. “inside your head.” he was silent for a few seconds. “I need to learn to deal with people better, but to do that, I need to get enough power so no one can hurt me.” Crona continued, before staring directly at Kid, presumably because he’d issued that ultimatum. “If you get in my way, I’ll have to kill you.” he finished in a monotone.

“Oh will you now?” Kid asked, before blurring over to Crona and smashing a leg into his face, followed by firing Liz and Patty into his abdomen from point-blank range and forcing him into the air. Twilight teleported over and joined in, though her Enfired bullets were having less effect than before. Considering how many souls had just been absorbed by these two, that made sense.

“Power isn’t going to free you from fear, supreme domination won’t chase your inner demons away. Trust me when I say that getting stronger doesn’t help. If my life had gone a little differently, I might not be much different from you, so if anyone can relate to your predicament, I can. What you’re doing won’t solve anything though. I deal with fear by powering through it and the emotional support of my friends.” Twilight spoke over the barrage. Crona seemed more shocked at the number of hits he was taking than hurt, and a Firaga would hit them too at this range. “Cowering from it only makes it worse.” she finished as she kept up the barrage while Kid paused to leap into the air and land on Crona.

As he made an arc to the powerful Kishin Egg, Kid chimed in. “She’s right. Committing acts of evil like these will not help you.” he pushed Liz and Patty’s Weapon forms against Crona’s face. “Strengthen your spirit if you want to be free from fear.” he added as he fired another barrage on Crona, sending him crashing through at least one level of the ship. “Always keep good and evil in balance.” Kid finished as he landed on the main deck.

“Did we get him?” Liz asked.

“Doubt it, stay on guard.” Twilight answered. He didn’t really look like their attacks had bothered him much, and the Black Blood granted the user minor healing abilities, and that was ignoring the boost he’d gotten from all those souls. She wouldn’t be very surprised if he offered as much resistance as titanium at this point.

Kid tensed and then jumped away as his instincts screamed out in warning a moment before a blade of purple energy slashed through the space he’d occupied a moment before. “Screech Beta!” Crona cried out, before the dust he’d kicked up cleared to reveal he was flying with wings made of Black Blood.

“I wasn’t really expecting that to finish him after all the souls he just took, but it’s like he wasn’t hit with enough attacks to give a 3-star Meister pause.” Kid noted.

“You don’t understand. You aren’t me, so how can you understand what it’s like? Even the little one can’t understand.” Crona countered. His eyes slid to his left in a slow manner that made it feel like he had to force them to do so. “If the little one can’t understand, how can any of you? I don’t know why I’m surprised.” his eyes moved to the right. “If the little one doesn’t understand my feelings, how could members of the DWMA?” Crona asked no one.

“Hey sis, does that thing look like…?” Patty trailed off.

“Yeah, that’s what we used to be like before we met Kid.” Liz responded. “We loved the power we had from being born as Weapons, we walked around Brooklyn like we owned the place. No one ever seemed to notice that our lives weren’t all that great once you got past the fact that we could just take what we wanted from most people. No friends, no family, we only had each other.”

“Oh.” Patty was silent for a moment. “…Yeah, but actually I was asking if that looked like a boy or girl, ’cause I can’t tell.” Patty said, following a rare serious moment with her usual carefree attitude. “And you’re always telling me off for daydreaming.” she chuckled.

“Seriously? That’s what you want to know right now.” Liz asked. Patty focused on the weirdest things in the middle of a fight.

The Kishin Egg Crona’d cut to pieces twitched, then his head started hopping towards the bow of the ship. The damage dealt to the ship thus far began to slowly mend. “I’m not done yet, you fools! As long as this ship is intact, I can’t be killed!” he hopped onto a cannon near the middle of the group of them.

“I can’t believe he’s still alive.” Kid commented, bracing himself for incoming cannon-fire. Twilight was a bit more proactive and raised a small shield to cover them.

Crona responded with a dull “Oh no.” Since he didn’t tend to put much emotion into his voice, it was hard to tell if he was worried or not.

“I spent ages collecting all those souls! I’ll be taking yours by way of reimbursement! The Flying Dutchman won’t be letting some brat ruin all his hard work!” the Kishin Egg proclaimed. Huh, so that was his name.

“Ready…” the cannons moved into a line. “Aim…” the cannons adjusted their trajectories to hit Crona, the current object of the Dutchman’s ire. The Dutchman hopped away to the nearest railing then shouted “Fire at will!” The canons fired the first round in unison, but a cacophonous 2 minutes of irregular fire followed. She wasn’t sure how he was reloading, but she suspected he was using his influence over the ship to do so. When he finally stopped firing to see his handiwork (that or he just ran out of cannon balls, he’d definitely shot at least 50 at Crona, and nearly all of them had exploded) he chuckled.

However, when the dust cleared Twilight wasn’t even particularly drained by keeping the shield up, and she doubted Crona was harmed. “H-How are you still alive? That would’ve brought a ship down!” the Dutchman muttered.

“Damn you’re annoying.” Kid replied in, well, annoyance. He paused and turned to look behind him. Twilight followed suit, and decided to boost her barrier a bit further at the sight of Crona’s soul swelling. The red orb already dwarfed Stein’s, now it was approaching the size of a building. “Crap, I think he’s building up for an attack!” Kid commented.

“Probably.” Twilight agreed, putting pretty much everything into her shield. They were probably not going to be attacked directly, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t get hit by the blast so common in powerful soul-based attacks.

“I hate, hate, hate everyone.” Crona said, slowly raising Ragnarok. “That’s okay though. I can blow them all away with my screams.” He positioned Ragnarok at 9’o’clock. “I know how to deal with dead people.” he said. Ragnarok began to scream again, joined by Crona moments later. Crona rapidly spun Ragnarok above himself as black lightning briefly danced inside the orb of their linked souls, then the wings of blood and orb of spiritual power were absorbed by their owners, who gained a purple aura as they spun. “Screech…” Crona began, halting his spinning and pointing Ragnarok at the ship below him. “Alpha!” he shouted, sending a wave of purple energy with a mouth of blocky teeth at the ship. A thin line was carved across the deck, and for a moment it seemed like nothing happened. Then the ship began to thrash before a titanic blast of purple energy cut the ship in half. The Dutchman screamed, then his body split in half vertically.

“It looks like that did it for the Dutchman. That sword is strong.” Kid observed.

“Less being impressed, more leaving!” Twilight reclaimed her power from the shield, ripped up some floorboards with telekinesis, fashioned them into a raft, then teleported the group and raft some distance away from the ship in the span of 10 seconds. Desperation was a good motivater.

“Even with how long he had to charge first, you have to admit it’s impressive that he destroyed that ship in one shot.” Kid commented.

“Yes, but he’s getting away!” Twilight pointed to Crona, who was flying away as the ship sank.

“It’s over now, Reaper boy.” Crona said as the bloody wings flew him overhead.

“Oh no you don’t! Beelzebub!” A small sphere of black energy appeared in Kid’s hand, which he threw ahead of him and hopped on as it resolved itself into a skateboard with jets coming out of the bottom which allowed flight.

Twilight left one of her charms to mark the raft’s location, then followed him by teleporting up and towards Crona. She’d discovered that teleporting upside-down didn’t change the direction of her momentum relative to herself, so she could let gravity kill her momentum by teleporting into a different orientation and having gravity drain the momentum it had been giving her not a moment beforehand. Of course, fighting upside-down took some getting used to and her aim suffered a bit, but she could join in on aerial battles at least for a little while. Being able to renew the buffs on Kid, Liz, and Patty was a nice bonus too.

“What did the Dutchman mean? Did he know about Asura’s location? The number of people who don’t report to my father and know about that should be in the single digits! How did he know? Is someone feeding information to Kishin Eggs?” Kid wondered and worried aloud, but put it aside and started firing at the Demon Sword in hopes bringing him down. Twilight joined in intermittently, having to pause to teleport to a different spot to avoid plunging into the ocean or falling too far behind.

“Listen up Crona!” Ragnarok began authoritatively. “If those two catch up, you won’t be getting any dinner tonight!” he threatened.

“Hey, no fair! You’re the one flying, and I can’t lose any more weight, I don’t know how to deal with being any skinnier than I already am!” Crona protested.

“Just give up!” Kid called. They kept landing hits, but Crona seemed fairly unbothered by them beyond cries of pain. Maybe they could wear him down gradually, but it didn’t seem like they were doing much beyond being an inconvenience.

“Dammit!” Ragnarok cried when he noticed the Meisters were gaining on them. Of course, Ragnarok was probably going to have trouble maintaining solidity if he took many more soul-based attacks, and then Crona would be vulnerable to physical strikes. That was probably Ragnarok’s concern.

They continued to fire on the pair of fugitives for about a minute, then the fog began to lift just as they neared the distance where they could launch physical attacks on their targets. “Hm, it looks like Nidhogg was causing the fog this whole time.” Kid noted. With the ship destroyed, the fog was rapidly dispersing.

“Nice to see the sun again.” Twilight commented from the apex of one of her teleport-precipitated falls.

“We can sunbathe later!” Liz reprimanded them.

Kid gasped then stopped. Twilight conjured a small piece of wood to sit on as she joined him. “What is it? Do you see something?” she asked him.

“Yes! It’s amazing!” Kid responded, staring in awe.

“Well, what is it?” Liz asked impatiently.

“The sky! Look at the clouds! They way they’re flowing towards the sun! They’re perfectly symmetrical!” he announced to the world.

“…I cannot believe he stopped in the middle of a chase over this.” Twilight deadpanned. It was nice, but it wasn’t that nice.

“Seriously? You wackjob.” Liz accused.

“This is truly beautiful! Oh how I love you symmetry!” Kid shouted before racing off in the direction of the sun.

“No wait! Kid! We need to- and… he’s gone. Oh look at that, Crona and Ragnarok got away while we were distracted.” She cupped her hands to her mouth and shouted “Fine! I’ll head back ahead of you guys!” A thought occurred to her and she used her charm to grab the raft she’d made earlier with a teleport. As she’d expected, the Dutchman was on it. The raft was made of his ship after all. It made sense. She smashed a Soul Force into each section of his body, which was apparently too much for him with how much damage his ship had taken, causing him to dissolve into his soul, which she absorbed. “Well, at least we managed to complete the mission we were assigned, but the Demon Sword is getting dangerously powerful.” she said as she lay down to rest for a couple minutes and let her magic recover a bit.

“Still, I don’t like the idea that we might have a leak. I’ll have to ask Lord Death about it when I get back.” She sat up and started rowing with a pair of conjured oars. She suspected the others hadn’t used Beelzebub before because there wasn’t room for her to ride with them. She grabbed a Potion and gulped it down so she had enough energy to wreathe the oars in magical energy to increase the amount of push they gave her. She didn’t have the kind of power to teleport to the nearest landmass with an airport or harbor that wasn’t deserted, and she was confident that the trio could take care of themselves. Now to get back to the DWMA.

Twilight The Traveler

Twilight The Traveler Chapter 20 – Souls, Bonds, and Blood

// Souls, Bonds, and Blood// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

As it turned out, Lord Death’s decision did indeed extend to Witch’s Souls. When she absorbed it, she could literally feel the power boost, especially to her magic. She was pretty sure the others noticed the power boost almost immediately, especially Maka, who told her that her soul had visibly grown. That was the problem with Soul Perception or whatever she was using as she wasn’t convinced that was what it was, it was difficult to look at your own soul as ordinary mirrors did not reflect souls. Lord Death’s was an exception, but she didn’t want to bother him over something so trivial.

At any rate, she decided to explain her story to them on Sunday (the day after tomorrow). Soul getting hurt like that had gotten her thinking. Next time something went bad on a mission, one of her friends might die. She needed to tell them before something happened.

Besides, she was getting close to completing medicine that applied the effects of her buff spells, and it would be difficult to explain about those without revealing something that would inevitably lead to more questions about her past. Though the effects only lasted 3 minutes as opposed to the 5 they lasted when she cast the spells, and the pill needed a few seconds for the effects to kick in. She was having trouble with the Bar and En buffs, as well as making slow progress transferring her Cure spell into medicine form. Still, if she was successful, then the DWMA could provide it’s operatives, including her friends, with medicine that doubled their combat abilities and was the ultimate battlefield medicine.

Cure could replace entire lost limbs with enough power behind it, albeit with scars if large areas were replaced. Sure, it didn’t work on poisons or genetic issues (like cancer) but there was plenty of damage that could be repaired by her newly dubbed ‘Potion.’ Certainly not a very original name, but people without actual knowledge of the topic wouldn’t be able to follow the conversations about it well. Wouldn’t want the Witches getting their hands on universal healing magic, or worse, magic that temporarily doubled a person’s magical power.

Part of the reason it was taking so long was that she was making sure that people could create the medicines with Soul Wavelength rather than magic. Using magic to create the medicines only took a couple weeks to figure out with the materials Lord Death was giving her for the research she was conducting. Of course, she was storing the paper research in a section of the vault in the DWMA building for restricted or dangerous materials, while keeping the Datalog (and another copy of her notes) she’d gotten from Cocoon that had the information stored on it in a vault inside of her personal pocket dimension, which she had with her at all times, being inside of her purple backpack.

Datalogs normally stored information in encyclopedia form automatically, but she’d gotten one that let her personalize the entries she made and edit them as she wished. It also had far more memory than a normal Datalog would be expected to as this was for long-term research and storage. She was hesitant to tinker with it beyond maintenance as she only had 2 of these left, and if she messed-up, she wouldn’t particularly have a second chance. Still, the computer in here was a lot more advanced than the ones currently used by this world’s branch of humanity, and she saw no reason not to give them a sample. She’d ended up giving Lord Death the third one to see if it could be used to update the computer tech of the local branch of humanity, and while an exact duplicate was not feasible with today’s resources, a much more powerful processor was, and a number of supercomputers had at universities and research facilities that had more than double the processing and memory of their predecessors had been made thanks to the tech she’d provided. She was offered a hefty sum for it, but she turned it down. She wasn’t doing this for money. She just wanted to help people.

Lord Death wasn’t keen on the idea of Witches getting their hands on the research either, though he was going to allow the Potion’s recipe to be released as the benefits of a medicine that could restore entire lost limbs with sufficient use outweighed the risks of a Witch reverse-engineering the original spell. She’d decided to put some effort into simplifying the process upon learning that, since she’d been intending to avoid doing so to keep it from being too simple and thus easily-copied before then.

Her next project was the manadrives. She’d gotten a few of each type, and was planning to see if she could get an alternate way of casting spells out of them. Of course, since she didn’t have any anti-matter on hand, she couldn’t use that. It was exceedingly dangerous anyway. She was going to examine the basic principles to see if it was possible to create ‘batteries’ of a sort that could fire off spells as long as they had charge. That would come later though.

Anyway, she started to compile her journals of what had happened ever since she’d left Equestria. She’d started keeping them since shortly after arriving in this world. She’d realized the details of her escapades would start to escape her over time, so she’d written down everything she could remember of her journey up to that point, and everything she’d deemed of any importance since. Partially to chronicle her adventures, partially as a precaution against memory wipes. She’d be letting them read these to tell her story to them beyond a brief explanation of her origins.

Since today was Friday, and the party was over with, leading to everyone leaving to do as they chose over the weekend, she decided to try and crack that last obstacle in making the Potion. She’d made it possible to make the Potions with Soul Wavelength, but it was exorbitantly draining as you were trying to infuse medicine with enough energy to regenerate lost flesh, which was even more exponentially costly than the spell itself. Normally this wouldn’t be too bad, but it was to the point that Lord Death himself couldn’t make more than a dozen before it started negatively affecting him. She’d nearly blacked-out making one, and it was hours before she was able to cast properly again. It simply wasn’t feasible to have them this costly, so she was trying to make the process more efficient.

After 30 hours, several cups of coffee, and a couple hallucinations (Note to self: Black Blood definitely exacerbating personal vulnerability to the Madness Wavelength) she managed to get the process 25% more efficient. That would have to do for now, she’d been sticking her hand into the Soul-Sapping water when she was doing pure calculations, so she’d managed some training too.

She got her usual 6 hours of sleep, waking up at about 6:30. She went to the DWMA building to tell Lord Death about her breakthrough and wait for the others. The meeting had been arranged for 8 AM, which gave her enough time to grab breakfast, teleport her way to an alleyway near school, and present her progress.

She’d only herself to blame for not being able to directly teleport inside the school. She’d helped set up some wards for the school that prevented direct teleportation into the building. Someone on Lord Death’s Level would be able to ignore them, though teleporting inside would be more draining, but anyone weaker than about twice Professor Stein’s level wouldn’t be able to bypass them from the outside. The perimeter of the wards matched the perimeter of the building itself. Considering the deliberately confusing internal structure, that had taken some effort.

At any rate, Lord Death said that being able to make 15 a day himself would do for the DWMA’s needs, though he would appreciate it if she could get it any less draining. Stein could make a few at this point, and if she wanted she could make one, but other than that only Death Scythes had the kind of power you’d need to make one without completely exhausting yourself, even with the improvements she’d managed. Thanks to the Wavelength component, they also restored your Wavelength, though it was all from the same energy, so it tended to focus on the one (of your body or soul) that was in worse shape.

At any rate, she’d ironed out the last few bugs in her Haste, Protect, Shell, Vigilance, Auto-Esuna (a spell that set Esuna to use itself as soon as some kind of negative effect was inflicted on the target), Faith, and Bravery medicine, though that only took a couple hours. Those took about 1% of the effort of a Potion. That meant that they could be mass-produced by the students who could understand the theory. Granted it wasn’t that complicated, but somehow she didn’t think Blackstar or Soul would be making any anytime soon.

Since she had nothing better to do, she made a Potion with the new formula. Since it was 25% less costly and she was significantly stronger than when she’d tried to make a Potion the first time (A Witch’s Soul would do that.) she was just ‘pretty drained’ by making it, as opposed to ‘about to collapse’. She put it in her backpack/personal pocket dimension, then started making a piece of the buff-medicine for each of them. Since each piece was all the buff spells besides the Bar/En spells, that meant 7 not counting herself, or about a tenth of a Potion in total.

Not long after she finished, the others arrived. “Hey Tara, what’s this about?” Soul asked.

“I think it’s time I told you guys a few things about myself.” Tara said.

“Hm, you know, now that I think about it, I really don’t know much about you beyond your name and some of your personal preferences.” Kid noted. They didn’t really know much about Tara’s personal history. It wasn’t really something you asked about unless there was something obviously wrong or they opened up to you. Plenty of people at the DWMA had troublesome pasts.

“Huh, he’s right, you’ve never really told us about yourself.” Black Star said after blinking in confusion.

“Well that’s all about to change. First off, a question. Have you ever heard of Parallel Worlds?” Tara asked.

“What now?” Black Star asked, even more confused.

“Parallel Worlds are supposed to be various versions of reality that exist ‘next to’ ours. They don’t have different laws of physics or anything, but history would be completely different, or even the dominant species, or the Earth might just be devoid of life, or not exist at all. They haven’t been proven to exist yet though.” Maka explained.

“Yes, well, I can confirm their existence, not being a native of this world myself.” Tara said, deciding to drop one of the real bombshells now so that the others wouldn’t cause a total freak-out.

“Wait. What?” Liz asked, summing up the others thought processes.

“Yeah, this is actually the second one besides my home world I’ve visited. Helped save the other one, but that can wait.” she explained. “Another thing I should mention is that I wasn’t originally human, apparently crossing worlds changes you to match the dominant species. How willing the travel is doesn’t seem to matter.” Tara mentioned.

“Is there anything else we should know?!” Soul asked, exasperated.

“A few things actually, first, I changed my name from Twilight Sparkle because I’d garnered a reputation as a Witch before I joined the DWMA. As for the second… well, I have a bit of a… problem with my soul.” she said, bracing herself to explain.

“Perhaps I should take over here. As you know, the most common way of becoming a Kishin Egg is to devour a human soul. However, those who commit sufficiently horrific crimes and especially those who do so repeatedly such as rapists and serial killers can become Kishin Eggs as their morals decay. Twilight is a special case in that while she killed hundreds of people, almost all of them were trying to kill her first. Thus she is one of the only unwilling mass murderers to ever live. This resulted in a portion of her soul Kishinizing and splitting off from the rest into a distinct personality, formed of all her worst traits.

Twilight named it Arcana, and it would like nothing more than to kill every living thing in existence. Twilight managed to seal it away before it managed to gain the power to take over permanently, but it’s not gone forever.” Death explained, causing horror to flit across his listener’s faces.

“So what? It’s not anything special then. Kishin eat souls and they usually have to kill people to do that right?” Black Star asked obliviously.

“There are several reasons why Arcana is more dangerous than Twilight, as she possesses all of Twilight’s abilities, only she’s stronger. First off, Twilight’s never gone all-out against you. As a non-native, she can use magic despite not being a Witch, and she can double her physical and spiritual abilities in addition to attacking with flame, ice, electricity, water, wind, earth, or non-elemental magic, and she can do the reverse for her opponents. She has never once used magic in your spars beyond enchanting her weapons with elemental magic. Want to fight her when you’re half as strong as normal and she’s twice as strong as she usually is?” Death asked, cocking his head. Black Star lost his usual confident expression.

“Not only that, but she can conjure objects into existence and direct them with levitation.” Death said as Twilight demonstrated by conjuring up a pen and making it dance in midair. She would admit to having thought of conjuring a storm of knives, though if the target wasn’t ludicrously resistant to direct magic, then it was unlikely to be worth it to do so over throwing a higher-tier spell at them. “Besides, she knows quite a lot about physics and can create pocket dimensions to store objects inside, how did you think she fits so much into that one backpack?” he asked as Twilight pulled out a pole that couldn’t possibly have fit inside her backpack. She’d put it inside that morning specifically so she could demonstrate her pocket dimension.

Maka perked up. “So that’s how you do that.” she said, thumping a fist into her open palm.

Twilight nodded and turned her hands towards them, palms up. “Yeah, there’s something else too. You know how I’m always wearing these gloves? Well there’s a reason for that. Arcana’s influence, among other things, turned me into a sponge for Soul-Wavelength, and when I touch people with my bare hands I involuntarily start sucking out their Soul Wavelength, like soul-sapping water in person form. I enchanted these gloves to prevent that, while still letting me use Soul Force.

Soul Force doesn’t work as well on me either because of my absorption abilities, which is why Stein needed to go all-out on me with his Soul Force attacks, and even then he needed three attacks to completely short me out, it usually takes you 5 to significantly weaken me Black Star. The worst part is that Arcana said what happened to me is a common mechanism for dealing with trauma which means any sufficiently traumatized being can develop one of her.” Twilight explained.

They were starting to look a little freaked-out. “Don’t worry, it took hundreds of deaths and… murders to even create Arcana, and hundreds more for her to get strong enough to take over even temporarily. Besides, with my origins, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was significantly easier for these things to appear in my species.” Twilight said, attempting to ease them.

“What do you mean?” Kid asked.

“Well, I’ll need to give you a bit of a history lesson to explain. I started out as an equine, and about 2500 years ago, we were extremely paranoid and violent. Like, anything larger than three family groups would end up killing each other in less than a month. By the standards of that time, I would be considered one of the most well-balanced of my species to ever live by anyone who didn’t know about Arcana, despite my neurosis. That should give you a pretty good idea how bad it was.

Eventually, the other races got so fed up with or frightened by us, they formed an alliance and attempted to exterminate the pony races. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, having been beating the crap out of each other since before they were capable of forming intelligent thoughts made said ponies really good at war, causing the alliance to suffer hideous losses relative to them. It was to the point where despite the fact that they were fighting each other half the time, the minute forces from the alliance showed up, the ponies would curbstomp them, then likely as not go back to what they were doing beforehand. A few races were pushed to the point of extinction before they managed to appease the violent maniacs they’d managed to annoy.” At this point the others were wearing genuinely horrified expressions.

“There were some good effects though. The ponies with clearer heads were horrified by what they’d done. A few decades of research went into a spell that would permanently curb their tendencies towards paranoia, violence, and psychopathy. They were able to successfully use it on themselves, but they had difficulties with the vast majority of the population, who were understandably suspicious of a spell that modified behavior. Though finally being able to build a proper civilization now that they wouldn’t start killing each other was tempting.

It took 5 centuries to completely administer the cure, but it’s used with every birth now. When genetics came along it was discovered that the spell worked by turning off a number of genes that led to the violence and mental disorders, while increasing emphasis on their opposites. Of course, it tended to have reduced effectiveness on powerful mages, and dark magic tended to ‘repair’ the changes and that was disastrous on people who weren’t used to suppressing their violent urges, so there was the occasional evil overlord over the years. Hence the outlawing of dark magic.

However, it paved the way for the ponies to more or less unite into three tribes, divided along sub-species lines, so it was a good thing overall. Granted, it would be roughly another millennium before they merged into a cohesive nation, but they were not nearly as bad then as they were before that point.

The point I’m trying to make is that my species’ basic genetics tend towards ‘completely insane and very violent’ being the gist of a psychological profile, and I’m pretty sure that carried over as a human. Which means that Arcana is probably what I’d be like if I’d gone through my life without those modifications to my genes. I’m not saying that’s exactly what I’d be like, but I probably wouldn’t be all that different.” Twilight explained, somewhat unnerved by the thought.

“If you were trying to make us feel better it didn’t work.” Kid said, calmer than the others, but still disturbed.

She nodded sheepishly. “Yeah, in retrospect I don’t know why I thought that would be reassuring, but there’s more. You may remember me mentioning trouble sleeping, that’s because I’m more vulnerable than most to the Madness Wavelength and it causes some pretty nasty nightmares. It’s gotten worse recently too.” she said, she had yet to mention the Black Blood, as she didn’t want to guilt-trip Maka on top of all the other things she was dropping on the group. She’d just started to recover from her guilt over Soul.

“These tell my story up to now if you want to look them over.” she said, pulling copies of her journals out and handing them out. She’d been careful to edit the most recent version, giving them one that had been sanitized slightly while her real one sat in her pocket dimension with the rest of the set of originals. “I’ve also managed to make medicines that have the same effects as my buffing spells and Cure. These little pills here double your abilities across the board for 3 minutes and having a decaying effect for the next minute or so. It takes a couple seconds to take effect though.

The method for making the Potion will be released shortly, since we’re confident we can get plenty of use out of it even if it gets copied by Witches. It’s simply too useful for us not to use it. Of course, it requires imbuing it with magic or Soul Wavelength, so it’s not something ordinary militaries or the vast majority of Kishin Eggs could do.” she said as she pulled out the pills, then the Potion.

“This thing heals wounds and restores your Soul Wavelength, though it tends to focus on the one in worse shape. Keep that in mind before you use it.” she warned, holding the Potion up.

“Are there any side effects?” Kid asked, examining the pills.

“Not unless you use enough of them to get a straight hour’s worth of use out of them or more than one at a time, but don’t try and push it beyond double your normal abilities when you make them. Not only does the cost increase exponentially, but any more than twice your baseline is really hard on your body. Trust me, I’ve checked.” she had the barest hint of a healing factor thanks to Arcana and all the souls she’d absorbed, so it was slightly safer to experiment on herself. Even if one of her experiments drove her unconscious, she’d be in better shape than almost anyone else who wasn’t a Shinigami.

“You should really stop experimenting on yourself. One of these days you’re gonna get hurt.” Soul said with some concern.

“I’ll be fine. Anyone want to test your E.P. out with a spar?” she asked.

“E.P.?” Maka asked, glancing between the pill in her hand and Twilight.

“Enhancement Pill, it was the best name I could come up with, I’m not very good with naming things. It’s pretty hit-and-miss.” Twilight said, shrugging. Spike was one of the exceptions.

“I’ll do it!” Blackstar said, before popping the pill. Tsubaki followed suit as they readied themselves. Twilight decided to go all-out this time, starting with removing her gloves, then teleporting next to the pair of ninja.

Blackstar would barely have had time to deflect the Soul Force normally, but having effectively had Haste cast on himself he was able to smoothly avoid the blow. Since Haste doubled movement speed and halved the speed of his perception of time, it more or less cut reaction time to one quarter of the norm, and with double speed that made dodging a relatively slow fighter like Twilight rather easy.

On the other hand, Twilight went in knowing the effects the pill would have, so she was prepared to teleport away from him, not trusting her normal speed in this situation. She dodged several blows this way, before slashing at him with the flat of her sword. He ducked under it, but that left him open to a straight punch from her other hand which just barely connected, followed by a Fire spell that he dodged hastily.

‘Jeez, she wasn’t kidding about draining people, she barely touched me but I could feel her sucking out my Wavelength.’ Blackstar thought, a grin spreading across his face despite himself.

‘I was right, absorbing that Witch’s soul seems to have strengthened the absorption ability.’ Twilight noted, the barest hint of a feral grin on her own face. That entire exchange had taken all of ten seconds after Twilight’s first teleport.

They flew back into the fight. Twilight relying on teleportation to avoid Blackstar’s temporarily boosted speed, and Blackstar avoiding direct contact as much as possible. Tsubaki’s weapon form was resistant to the draining effects, and Twilight’s sword had never had any such ability. Plus since she wasn’t using her pistol, as it was nearly impossible to avoid causing injuries with it, she could use both arms to swing her sword. That contributed a great deal of extra speed and strength to her swings.

Still, she was alright with sending low-end spells at him, mainly Water to avoid causing overt amounts of harm, that Fire had been an accident. She tended to default to the Fire-chain if she wasn’t paying enough attention. She had a theory about that, but she wasn’t really sure.

She’d noticed that her Fire spells seemed stronger than her other spells, and her Blizzard spells were a bit weaker. The stronger her magic got, the more obvious the difference became. She also seemed to have much more of a problem with cold than she used to, while heat bothered her much less. If she was right, she had a Fire Affinity, and her strengthening magic was causing it to manifest to a degree.

Affinities for elements allowed for the casting of spells not normally possible, and provided a boost to power of the same type of spell, while weakening spells of the opposite element. They would also make you more resistant to spells of your Affinity. Of course, opposing spells would be more effective.

Considering it would give her a major weakness and any significant strength to her Affinity would take months to build up, even after the l’cie brand made her immensely more powerful, it hadn’t ever seemed like it was worth the effort. Then again, she didn’t use Blizzard all that often, and she had yet to encounter a being that could use much ice magic that wasn’t a fal’cie or l’cie. Maybe she ought to give some thought to training up the Affinity.

3 minutes later, the effects started wearing off, Blackstar noticeably beginning to slow down. She gave him a shallow cut as his speed abruptly started to fall, then backed off as she was not keen on fighting him while his speed, toughness, and reaction time were all falling like rocks. He’d hit her with a Soul Force just before the effects started wearing off and she was still recovering, so her control was rather off right now.

“Did you get faster for a second there, or did I get slower?” he asked with a confused look on his face. From his perspective, it must have looked like she sped up all of a sudden. Haste allowed him to talk normally despite the speed boost and temporal manipulation as part of the spell.

“You got slower, the pill’s wearing off. Watch out for that. It can really throw you off if your abilities are weakening mid-fight. I’ve gotten used to it after using these a few dozen times, but you aren’t.” she explained. She’d tested these on herself as soon as she’d made sure they were safe for human consumption, and gotten used to their effects. How else would she know how many you could take in a row before negative side effects started showing up?

“Still, that was an impressive display. These pills will be useful, and using your magic against us will help us get practice in for fighting Witches.” Kid noted. Blackstar had reacted to attacks he’d normally have had trouble following.

“That’s really impressive, but why didn’t you tell us about this stuff sooner?” Liz asked.

“Well, one, it didn’t seem like it was all that important when Arcana is the only thing that could end up involving anyone else and I told Lord Death everything pretty much the moment I met him, and Maka and Soul already knew about my magic, so it’s not like I didn’t tell anyone.” she explained.

“Do you mind explaining more about the pills, and that other vial you pulled out?” Maka asked. She was curious as to the pill’s exact effects.

“It needs roughly 5 seconds after you swallow it for the effects to take hold, so keep that in mind when you start using it. It mimics the effects of several spells. Protect, which halves the physical damage you receive. Shell, which halves magic and energy-based damage. Haste, which doubles movement speed while halving the rate one perceives time. That one is why Blackstar’s reaction speed got so high. There’s also Faith, which doubles spiritual power, Bravery, which doubles physical power, Vigilance, which doubles the power and range of your senses, and Auto-Esuna, which will automatically dispel any negative effects used on you. To be specific, most poisons and spells that cause negative effects will be removed. The pills are different from the spells in that the latter immediately wears off after 5 minutes have passed. Unlike it’s healing-related counterpart, the E.P. takes far less energy to create, so it’s going to be fairly easy to mass-produce.” she explained before pulling out said vial with red liquid inside, the Potion.

“As for this vial, I call it the Potion. Yes, yes, I know. Not a good name, but it’s pretty hit-or-miss with me. Basically, it’s portable healing in a bottle. It can restore physical wounds, or an exhausted Soul Wavelength, though it’s all from the same energy, so it tends to work on whatever’s in worst shape. It can heal up to losing a finger, but that’s the limit per bottle, and I wouldn’t recommend more than 2 or 3 over an hour since we’re not sure how multiple uses over a short time would affect a person. It’s derived from my Cure spell, which has the same effect.

It’s harder to tell if this has side effects since it’s so much more draining to make. I can literally only make one at a time, so testing if multiple uses cause side effects is kind of hard. Granted Lord Death can make 15 of these things before he starts feeling drained, but we’re kind of saving them. These things should improve mission survival and casualty rates by a lot, you’d be surprised how much a little less blood loss can help.” she noted. She’d learned more than she ever wanted to know about how much damage the human body could take before it gave out while researching these things. She also didn’t really want to know the exact figures for casualties during missions, but now she did.

It wasn’t like there were a whole lot of deaths during missions, but injuries were common, what with the targets generally being homicidal at the best of times. There was a good reason most students weren’t allowed on missions until they graduated. The EAT Class (Especially Advantaged Talent) was the exception, and represented the talented combatants of the school. The NOT Class (Normally Overcome Target) was ostensibly for those who simply wanted enough control over their powers to avoid hurting others, but about half of them would either become teachers or end up serving under Death in some other capacity, usually as adult hunters. On the occasions where there were epidemics of Kishin Eggs, it was not unheard of for more talented members of the NOT Class to participate in hunting them down.

“These really will be useful, but what about your pocket dimensions? Those sound like they’d be useful for holding these in the first place.” Maka asked. She was very interested in the idea of personal storage spaces that were bigger on the inside. Since it wasn’t in this reality, the weight wouldn’t transfer to the object that served as the door between the pocket dimension and their universe. You could carry heavy gear in a pack you could normally barely lift without problems.

Twilight scratched her head sheepishly. “Yeah, I’m not able to make these things very often, because doing so makes me pass out for the next couple hours. I basically have to create a miniature universe, which is incredibly draining. Even after I wake up, it’s hours before I can cast again at all.” she said with an embarrassed shrug. She supposed that that may not be an accurate assessment of how much it drained her since she hadn’t tried since absorbing the Witch’s soul, and for some time before. She doubted it made a massive difference, but she’d probably be out a bit less time.

“Oh, so much for that idea.” Maka sighed.

“Actually, I’ve been working on getting some for you guys for a couple weeks, usually just before bed when passing out is what I’m supposed to do. I’ve got a duffel bag that’s smaller on the outside than the inside for each of you.” Twilight responded cheerfully, causing Maka to do a complete 180.

“Really?! Let’s see!” she said eagerly. They might not look like much, but they’d be so useful. “I’ve also enchanted them for increased durability. Still, be careful with them. Severe damage to the outside makes the pocket dimension collapse and spew it’s contents into the environment around them.” Specifically, she’d enchanted them with the l’cie spell. That provided a base boost to durability, which increased over time. They wouldn’t block bullets, but they would survive things that would rip giant holes in a normal duffel bag. The red one was for Soul, the green for Maka, the yellow for Tsubaki, the blue for Blackstar, a black one for Kid, and a light brown and dark brown one for Patty and Liz.

“I’ll finally have a place to put our mission supplies!” Maka said happily as she took hers. She usually traveled light because heavy supplies would slow her down, which could be fatal in a fight, but now it didn’t matter.

“Symmetrical, I approve.” Kid commented, looking his over. Yeah, she’d been expecting him to say that. She’d specifically gotten duffel bags with 2 smaller straps parallel to each other, because she knew that Kid would start to freak out over it if she got the normal single strap ones. Of course, the fact that one of straps getting torn would still leave the other one available to grab the bag with, preventing it from being overly awkward to carry, was a nice bonus.

“That should be everything. You guys can keep those copies of my journals, I have 2 other sets just in case.” Twilight announced.

“Ah, Stein’s waiting for you two. Best get going.” Death told Maka and Soul as they all started to leave. Twilight was planning to talk to Kid about the mission she was going on with him in a few days. Ever since the incident with the Demon Sword, involving Soul nearly dying, and Stein and herself being minorly injured, Lord Death had required that students take missions in groups of at least three, or 2 teams. Whichever was more convenient. After that, she was planning to do some training in a new pocket dimension she’d made for that purpose. The ‘walls’ of a pocket dimension were nearly indestructible from the inside, and even if she broke it down somehow, she’d just be ejected. Things were looking up.

Twilight The Traveler

Twilight The Traveler Chapter 19 – Omake: Alternate Worlds

// Omake: Alternate Worlds// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

Twilight Sparkle had gone to bed intent on getting up early tomorrow to help the others with the raft, but was starting to wonder if that was the best idea. This was a very strange dream, and she hadn’t eaten anything that she knew gave her weird dreams. She’d found herself on a stained-glass pillar of some kind, depicting herself working with a chemistry set. She didn’t look particularly happy or unhappy, but it felt more like something was missing than that anything was particularly wrong.

Yeah, that was basically how she’d been before some investigations into the supernatural in her world involving a strange triangular being that resembled the one on the dollar bill. She found versions of it scattered across history with a little digging. One thing led to another, and here she was, in a parallel world. She’d been kind of obsessed with getting back at first, but she’d realized she didn’t have the materials or power necessary to do so after a couple years. Getting de-aged and being gotten through to by Sora, Riku, and Kairi might have had something to do with that.

She’d never had friends before, so she was a bit overeager to do what they were doing or planning, which got her in trouble before she managed to reel herself in enough to be something of a voice of reason to the others. Not to say the others weren’t able to figure things out on their own, but Sora and Kairi were very optimistic, and Riku wanted some kind of adventure, finding living in Destiny Islands stifling.

“So much to do… So little time… Take your time, don’t be afraid.” a soothing voice said from everywhere and nowhere at once. A translucent door appeared. “The door cannot be opened for now.” the voice explained.

“So… what do I do to get it open?” she asked. It was a dream, so she should follow it to it’s conclusion to wake up.

A staircase of crates appeared in pulses of light, leading to a pair of chests. “Climb up and pick a chest. The left contains a Potion, for healing your wounds. The right contains a Protect Chain, an enchanted accessory which reduces the effectiveness of attacks used on you. You may only pick one.” the voice explained. Well it was a dream, magic wasn’t that far-fetched.

Hm, it sounded like she’d be expected to fight soon. Potions were useful if they accidentally got too rough with their sparring, but reducing incoming damage sounded better. She chose the Protect Chain, then slipped it on her wrist. She didn’t really feel different, but it might just be because you weren’t supposed to feel the difference. The door slowly solidified from the edges inward, so she climbed down and pulled it slightly open.

Bright light shot out, momentarily blinding her, but she adjusted. The light felt warm and friendly, and she started to walk towards it. The light grew brighter and brighter, then abruptly faded, leaving her on the smaller sub-island connected to the smaller of the two islands that made up Destiny Islands by a wooden bridge. The island kids used this island for playing on after school and on weekends. The sub-island had a Papou tree that they picked sometimes.

She noticed Sora, Riku, and Kairi in a sort of circle around her. The dream must have been using people familiar to her as liaisons of a sort. As if to confirm this, the voice spoke up. “Hold on a moment, would you mind telling me more about yourself?” it asked.

Approaching Sora, she stopped when he asked her. “What do you think is most important?”

“Friendship.” she answered. She couldn’t believe how much of a hole not-having other people in her life had left. Her family was nice and all, but Shining Armor was off at college, and her parents were usually busy with work, author and night guard respectively. Her mother would have a couple hours for spending time with her a week thanks to her deadlines, and her father was often asleep during the day so he didn’t fall asleep on the job, so she only ever saw him awake for his breakfast and dinner, the reverse of her own. Her surrogate family of the islanders felt more like a family in that they were there nearly all the time.

“Is friendship really so important?” he asked, before fading away. Okay, definitely not the real Sora. That was not something he’d ever say.

She went towards Kairi next. Kairi asked “What do you want out of life?”

She had to think about that for a few seconds. She hadn’t really thought about what she wanted to do with her life ever since discovering she almost certainly couldn’t get back to her home world. She studied at the library if no one was around to hang out with, and did activities with them if someone was available, but she never put much thought into her future. She wasn’t really sure what she could do. The islands didn’t have a ton of research opportunities, and she didn’t think she’d find being a librarian very fulfilling. Now that she thought about it… “I’d like to expand my horizons.” Making friends or learning new things weren’t enough by themselves. Neither fully captured her interest alone.

“Is expanding your horizons really what you want?” Kairi asked before fading away.

Riku was the last one. “What are you afraid of?” he asked.

This was another easy one. “Losing my friends.” She’d admit she’d gotten a bit of an abandonment complex, but she’d been ripped out of her old life by what she believed to be a demon (after being tricked into nearly allowing him into her world, which she intentionally botched at the last second, leading to her being sent to another world instead) and she’d been somewhat paranoid before that happened!

“Losing your friends. Does that really frighten you so much?” Riku asked before fading away.

The voice began to speak again. “So, you value friendship. You wish to expand your horizons. You fear losing your friends. Your journey shall begin in the dead of night. It will be long and difficult, but don’t give up, and you’ll come through stronger than before.” it said.

Light obscured her surroundings again, and this time she found herself on another stained-glass platform. This one of Sora with a strange key-shaped sword surrounded by shadowy creatures. Was it some kind of warning?

“Power sleeps within you. Give it form and it shall give you strength.” the voice said. Three stone pillars rose from the platform beneath her feet. An object appeared and began to float over each. A broadsword, a shield, and a staff.

“The power of the warrior, invincible courage, a sword of terrible destruction. The power of the guardian, kindness to aid friends, a shield that repels both good and evil. The power of the mystic, inner strength, a staff of both wonder and ruin. Choose wisely, because in order to obtain, something must be lost.” the voice warned.

Hm, she’d like to pick the staff, but she didn’t think she’d be able to change her mind after picking one, so she really needed to think this through. She didn’t really want the sword of terrible destruction as that sounded fairly indiscriminate, but she wanted to push people away even less, so she’d choose the staff and give up the shield. Besides, defense was well and good, but sometimes sheer power was necessary. You couldn’t always avoid or negotiate with your problems. Inner strength was also good, as power was useless without the will to wield it, and worse than useless without the proper direction to use it for the right reasons.

She chose the staff, which disappeared into sparks of light, and gave up the shield, which was consumed by shadows.

“You’ve chosen the staff and given up the shield. Your path is that of the black mage. One who wields magic for destruction. This does not make you evil, but be careful not to cause harm without meaning to.” the voice said.

Suddenly little shadowy creatures appeared around her, the same as those that had been surrounding Sora. They had yellow eyes, but were entirely black beyond that. Their antennae and clawed hands twitched at random. They sort of looked like dogs and were roughly the same size, though there was definite insect influence in their forms. The staff reappeared in her hands. Luckily she was familiar with this type of weapon as it was what she used in the spars the islanders got up to for fun.

“You’ve gained the power to fight the shadows. Beware the forces of Darkness, they would see your light snuffed out. Keep it burning strong.” the voice warned.

She had developed decent combat reflexes and was reasonably skilled with the weapon in her hands, so they wouldn’t have been that tough if they weren’t able to sink into the ground and become temporarily invincible. Besides, there were only five of them, nothing she couldn’t handle. She was almost as fast as Riku, so it usually took at least two of the others to fight evenly with her. Though she was physically the second-weakest of the quartet that made up the core group of her friends otherwise. Death by a thousand cuts was her preferred combat strategy.

Kairi didn’t spar often, or even do much physical work. She sort of served as the group’s leader or at least organizer. Then again, Kairi’s slingshot tended to be a pain to fight if someone else was keeping her opponent occupied, so having one of the others as a partner gave her a bigger advantage than just their fighting ability.

Anyway, the shadows got destroyed one by one, until she was alone on the pillar again. She didn’t relax though. If they could sink into the ground and act like normal shadows, who knows what else they could do?

“Watch out for sneak attacks, the shadows are fond of those.” the voice warned as a batch of 7 shadows appeared in their shadow forms. She was forced to jump out of the way of an attack from behind, but another shadow clawed her leg. She felt a spike of pain, but there was no wound.

“Okay, definitely not a normal dream.” she muttered. She fought off the shadows, and then took a closer look at her leg where she got scratched. It looked none the worse for wear, but she felt a little bit off. Like some of her energy was sapped against her will.

9 shadows appeared this time, and she was getting a little bit concerned. How long would this go on? She’d start getting tired soon if she didn’t get a break that lasted more than a minute, and while the shadows weren’t any stronger individually, there were a couple more each time she beat a round.

Once she beat them, she stopped and thought things over. She’d felt a strange power boost about halfway through the second round, and it was abruptly a little easier to dodge the shadows and to destroy them. What was that? No seriously, what the hell was that!? Killing weird shadow things gave her a sudden power boost? How did that work?

Her internal rant was interrupted by the arrival of 11 more shadows. Seriously, where were they even coming from? For that matter, if this wasn’t really a dream, then was this going to affect the real world? She wasn’t sure how she felt about getting power-ups she didn’t understand.

One of the shadows dropped a Potion, but 13 more showed up seconds later. She was starting to think that they’d keep coming after her until they overwhelmed her through weight of numbers. Worse, it was starting to work. Speed was an advantage sure, but the more enemies there were, the more numbers ate at it. Plus, she was starting to get tired from fighting almost non-stop and that was making her slow down. Now she had two of the power-ups to worry about too.

The next batch had 15 of them, and they were stronger. Like, a lot stronger. Then she got another power boost while she was fighting them and they weren’t quite as hard to beat. Still, if they got any stronger or more numerous then she might not be able to take them on alone.

Of course, exactly that happened with the next batch. They piled onto her and started clawing at her. A pool of shadowy ooze spread beneath her and started dragging her down as the shadows kept her from trying to escape. Just as she got completely submerged, she found herself on a different pillar with a picture of four symbols. She felt strangely… refreshed. What was going on? Shaking her head and resolving to look into this once the dream was over, she examined the symbols.

One looked like a crossed-out heart with a cross sprouting from the bottom, while the second appeared to be the bottom of the first turned upside-down and turned off-white. The third looked like a stylized heart, and the fourth was a black, pointed version of a heart. What did they mean?

“The forces of Light and Darkness have been clashing ever since both came into existence. You will be at the center of the latest struggles. Remember that Darkness is no more evil than Light is good, it all depends on the user. Still, users of Darkness tend to leave shadows in their wake…” the voice explained.

Twilight noticed that her shadow looked darker than it should. What was really weird was that since the pillar was the only source of illumination, her shadow shouldn’t show up on it in the first place, and until now it hadn’t. However, it was not only there, but getting darker. It started to look like the shadows from before, until a small pool of shadow ooze appeared, and it clawed into the three dimensional world. She took a defensive stance. This one felt different from the other shadows.

The others had only beaten her with numbers and by exhausting her. She’d have wiped out individual shadows twice as strong as that final group with little trouble if she was fresh, but there were 17 of them and she was exhausted, which left her unable to fight them off. This thing felt strong though.

Her shadow rushed forward, almost seeming to teleport. She barely blocked the extremely fast attack. It was stronger than her too. She deflected the strike, feinted to the right, then struck from the left. Okay, it fell for that, so she was smarter than it. She pulled double-feints when she could, but it seemed to be getting faster and stronger as she dealt damage, and she had no idea how much more it could take. It also seemed to be starting to learn how she fought, as it was falling for feints less and less.

One hit had left her on the ground, momentarily-dazed. She recovered just in time to avoid the follow-up and land a combo attack. It threw her off after that, and did teleport this time. She dodged the first strike, but it teleported again and she barely blocked, which left her open from behind when it attacked again. She rolled with the hit, but still felt woozy. She hurriedly used the Potion she’d gotten off one of the shadows. They could be swallowed, or poured on a wound to heal it, though she used the former since she didn’t have any visible wounds.

At this rate, she was going to lose. She dodged another teleporting backstab and knocked her shadow away from her, it sprang back up like nothing happened and charged her. She dodged and managed a passing strike, but it turned on her and smashed an attack into her guard. If it got much stronger then she wouldn’t be able to block anymore. She decided to go on the offensive. Defending and attacking when the opportunity presented itself wasn’t going to work much longer.

She dodged the next strike, then started pounding away at her shadow. She got attacked in return, but she pushed on. She was barely conscious when she finished it. She collapsed to the floor as her shadow sank back into it’s pool of darkness. The pool began to spread, and she forced herself to her feet. She was only able to get up because beating her shadow gave her another 2 power-ups. Even so, she didn’t have the strength left to fend off the tentacles of shadow reaching from the expanding pool for long.

She did notice that when she destroyed a tentacle it made the pool shrink slightly, but she didn’t have the energy to destroy tentacles fast enough to slow the spread of the ooze by very much. Eventually she was backed to the edge of the pillar. There was nothing but an abyss down there, so she really didn’t want to fall off the pillar.

She got her feet caught in shadow and her staff was ripped from her hands by the tentacles, disappearing as it left her grasp. She struggled in the ooze, but she started sinking anyway. She instantly lost feeling in anything that sunk more than half a foot in the ooze, like it stopped existing. That hadn’t happened with the other pool of shadow. It was cold and somehow managed to convey darkness through her sense of touch, it was very uncomfortable and slightly disturbing.

“The Darkness seeks to smother the Light, while the Light seeks to extinguish the Darkness. Who’s to say either one is in the right? No matter which you side with, something will be hostile to you. In the end, the most powerful weapon of all, which neither Light nor Darkness can fully understand, is the Heart.” the voice explained as she sunk up to her waist.

“No matter what happens, remember that your Heart is the single greatest weapon in existence. Nothing is a suitable substitute or replacement. Nothing is worth trading it for. Nothing can equal a Heart in value. Remember that.” the voice finished as shadows consumed her.

She started awake, falling out of bed. She lived with Sora and his family, and if she was honest she might have a thing for him. She was more concerned about the dream right now though. She could tell that the power-ups were still there, and checking her wrist informed her that she still had the Protect Chain. That wasn’t just a dream, but what was she supposed to do about it?

She decided to do what she usually did when something confused or intrigued her. She got out a pen and paper.

‘Dream Report 1

Last night, I had a strange dream. It involved living shadows and strange symbols. I had to fight my own shadow after defeating roughly 60 smaller and weaker shadows. Normally I’d write it off as some sort of dream logic scenario for conquering my inner demons, but the events and objects I acquired in the dream have translated to the real world.

Assuming the events of the dream are real, I have a multitude of questions to answer. What was the identity of the mysterious voice I heard? Where did those events take place? How did I get there? What was the significance of choosing between the sword, shield, and staff? What were the shadows and how do they relate to my own shadow trying to kill me?

In addition, I acquired an item called a Protect Chain. It is enchanted to increase the wearer’s defensive abilities. If it exists and functions as it was explained to, then magic must exist, which explains a few things about Bill Cipher’s abilities, which I had previously assumed were either common to his type of being, or were a result of prolonged time spent in the Nightmare Dimension. Is it possible to travel to other worlds/dimensions using magic instead of specialized technology? Could I use magic to return to my home universe? I know that this is not my home reality because upon arrival I was de-aged to about 4 biologically. That would only happen if I ended up in a different reality. Specifically, parallel worlds. The same would not happen in alternate universes or other dimensions.

I have to wonder why this happened now as well. Is there something coming that I need to be prepared for? I can’t prepare for something if I don’t know what I’m supposed to be preparing for. All I can do is be on guard for strange circumstances. I don’t even have a timetable for when this supposed event might happen, so for all I know it could be today or in six months.

What’s more, I’m probably going to have to recalibrate all of my equipment if I want to experiment on the Protect Chain to discover the enchantment’s inner workings. I don’t have the time to prepare in such generalized terms when I’m also supposed to be working on the raft with my friends.

We’d like to see other worlds. Riku and Sora want to go on an adventure. Kairi wants to find her original world, not being from this one either, and that’s no small motivation for the rest of us. Myself, I just want to see other worlds for the sake of seeing other worlds.

My curiosity hasn’t dimmed in the slightest from the mishap that led to my getting displaced from my home reality. Rather, knowing that there are probably an infinity of worlds has increased it. I want to know. Facts, people, everything in between. I’m honestly concerned about how much it’s consumed my thoughts of late. It’s unhealthy to obsess, though I don’t think I’m quite at that point. Certainly I’m not a good person to judge my mental state, no one should try to do so really, but I doubt I’m a raving lunatic.

At any rate, I’ll finish this report here since I’m due to go to the smaller island to help the others with the raft. I’ll continue this later.’

Twilight The Traveler

Twilight The Traveler Chapter 18 – Talk With The Devil

// Talk With The Devil// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

Tara was back in the somewhat disturbing room to speak with Arcana about the Black Blood and the seal. “I can see you want to talk about something. Feel free to ask me whatever you want. Be aware that while I won’t outright lie to you, I may not always tell the whole truth. Now ask me a question if you wish.” Arcana said, trademark smile in place.

Tara was less than trusting of her darker counterpart, but had no one else to ask who fully understood the seal, the black blood’s effects, and their semi-shared biology. It was pretty clear that Arcana’s physical abilities, including healing, were far in excess of Tara’s. They’d spent a few of these sessions beating on each other before Tara managed to add a section to the seal that allowed her to have her regular dreams if she actively did not want to deal with Arcana, and their abilities weren’t much different from the outside world.

“I have two questions. If I were to use the Black Blood, how long could the seal hold, and how exactly would it affect me? We’re both aware that between my origins, you, my connection to one of the Elements, and of course the l’cie incident, I’m human in only loose terms.” Tara asked.

“Well, you would display many of the more basic abilities Crona and Ragnarok possessed such as a boost in your soul-based abilities, physical strength and durability, and a smaller boost to both speed and healing.” At the slightly impatient look on Tara’s face Arcana held up a hand.

“However, you know all of this already, so I assume you were asking about mental effects. Based on your mindset, I predict that you would approach everything with a calm and logical analysis that would probably come across as super-creepy to normal people if you were to use the Black Blood. Your sense of right and wrong would be more or less removed as well.

As for how long the seal will hold out under constant bombardment by insanity, about 15 minutes. You must be so glad you installed an auto-repair for when you have spare magic.” Arcana explained.

“You’re being awfully helpful. I can believe you’ve never told an outright lie to me since you clearly like the name I gave you if you’re still using it and either told a half-truth or something a dark reflection of myself would believe on the other occasions we spoke. Tell me why you aren’t simply refusing to answer or telling me something extremely vague.” Tara asked suspiciously.

Arcana held up three fingers. “Three reasons. First, you expect me to try something like that, so it would make you more suspicious if I didn’t. Seeing you get flustered and paranoid not only throws some negative energy my way, but it’s very entertaining. Second, I am a manifestation of all the darker emotions you buried. In a sense, I am the truth in regards to your negative emotions, what you’d be like if you never felt anything positive. Since I am a reflection of the truth, I have difficulty lying. Your own poor skills at lying compound it to the point that even lies of omission give me problems, which is the main reason I’m telling you all this, but I’d be a fairly poor liar even if you were a master. Also, I’m in a good mood today.” she shrugged. “That’s really it.”

“Hm, I guess I can accept that.” Tara said, then concentrated for a moment, and a chess table and set appeared. “I thought so. It’s my soul/mind-scape, so I should be able to influence it. We probably have some time to kill before I have to get up and I highly doubt you’d let me out of here without a fight unless I was waking up anyway. A fight I would probably lose.” Tara said, causing Arcana to nod in agreement.

“Would you like to play a game or three?” Tara asked, throwing Arcana for a loop and causing her grin to falter in surprise for a moment. “We have nothing better to do, and you have yet to threaten me since that first incident with Orphan, beating on me for the fun of it doesn’t count. I have no reason to be overly hostile. It wouldn’t get me anywhere anyway.” Tara explained.

“…What the hell, I literally have nothing better to do and I like being just functionally insane rather than ‘babbling-maniac’ insane.” Arcana said, smile returning full-force and then taking the white pieces. At first glance this was ironic, but white moved first, which implied aggression.

*** Hospital Room ***

Tara and Soul had managed to visit Nurse Medusa at around the same time so as to avoid making Maka more guilty by rubbing her perceived fault in her face. Tara was fairly simple, requiring little more than a blood sample, but Soul had more or less needed a full physical since his original wound was much more severe.

“How have you been feeling?” Medusa asked Soul as she took his vitals.

“About the same as usual. …Except for some weird dream that I’ve been having over and over.” Soul said.

“A strange dream you say?” Medusa asked. Tara felt her suspicions bubble up, but pushed them down. Now she was just being irrational, any doctor would ask that!

“Yeah, and it’s been bothering me because I can remember it so well. Like it really happened. I’m always in this dark room, like pitch-black, and there’s a record going. It keeps skipping like it has a big scratch on it, and it’s playing a jazz song I’m pretty sure I’ve heard before, but I can’t remember where.

After I’ve been sitting there listening to the music for a while, this little devil in a suit appears from the other side of the room and starts dancing out of time to the music.”

*** Soul’s Dream ***

Soul sat on a chair, wearing a suit, next to a record player that was trying to play jazz, but kept skipping every few seconds. A red demon with stubs for horns who was about two feet tall and wearing a suit was dancing swing. “Swing! Swing! Swing!” he commented gleefully.

“Dude, this isn’t swing music, it’s jazz.” Soul deadpanned.

“Ah, but jazz is so much more appropriate for night time.” the demon responded.

“I’m pretty sure music’s not picky about when it’s played. You get to decide, so why not listen to actual swing?” Soul asked.

“That’s right, the decision’s mine. Yes sir! You know, you can decide too, you’re eligible!” the demon threw in, pointing at Soul.

“When you got cut open like a fish being gutted, you must have been afraid. Am I right?” the demon asked as he shimmied behind Soul. “And wouldn’t it be nice to have a mind strong enough to get rid of the fear you’ve been feeling, right?” the demon asked, a giant toothy grin on it’s face.

“If you forget your fear, you’ll become reckless. That’s something they teach at the Academy.” Soul countered.

The demon put a hand on his chair. “Heh, are you some kind of idiot or are you just blind? Do you think you’re in Heaven where you can’t get hurt anymore? If you don’t want to die down here like a rat you’re going to need more power than you’ve got now. Power so overwhelmingly strong you can say goodbye to all your fears!” the demon said exultantly, trying to convince Soul.

Soul was pulled out of his chair by one arm as the demon tried to lead him somewhere. “You’re nothing without that power, now come on and get out there already!” the demon said exasperatedly.

Soul stopped the demon. “No wait, please, I don’t want to leave this room. Let me stay in this room until I wake up! I’ll even put up with the lame music!” Soul said desperately. The door on one side of the room opened to a black void.

“Seek out the power you need! Find a rule to break! It will make you stronger, stronger perhaps than you ever thought possible!” the demon said, his grin stretching into the realm of insanity.

*** Hospital Room ***

“Why are you so afraid of leaving the room Soul?” Medusa asked.

“Whenever I leave the room, the darkness looks like it keeps going forever. Then all of a sudden there’s a light. I go toward it, but when I go through… I’m coming out of Maka’s stomach.” Soul was left breathing heavily and sweating when he finished speaking.

‘Interesting, the Black Blood in his system seems to be affecting him even while dormant.’ Medusa thought, the slightest of smiles on her face.

“I’m suddenly so glad I didn’t go through the door.” Tara said, then realized she’d said that out loud.

“Wait, you too?” Soul asked.

Realizing she wouldn’t be able to get out of this without some kind of explanation, she elaborated. “Yeah, only I have a chess set where that record player in yours is, and my ‘demon’ is just me with red eyes and functionally insane. She wants me to do something or other, but she’s kinda roundabout. She tries to convince me over chess rather than send me out the door.” Tara explained, not wanting to have to explain that she had Black Blood from a minor injury she’d gotten, which would immediately cause Medusa to realize it was in Soul’s system too. She still didn’t trust Medusa completely, so she strung along partial truths.

Not wanting to explain the exact origins of Arcana was more of a secondary concern. She was planning on telling everyone in her circle of friends eventually anyway, along with the rest of her story since being thrown out of Equestria.

‘Well now, it doesn’t seem to vary all that much from person to person. The differences with Crona can be explained by the Black Blood in him having it’s own consciousness as well as how young he was when his normal blood was replaced, but I’d like to be more sure.’ Medusa noted with interest, keeping her dark glee carefully masked.

She’d run some tests on some samples she’d kept around since replacing Crona’s normal blood, and was a bit surprised to discover that fire was a weakness of the Black Blood. The compounds that allowed it to harden broke down in the presence of flame and extreme heat. It would be best to check for other weaknesses, but she had a limited supply of Black Blood, and Crona might die if hit with any new weaknesses. Why risk Crona when there were other test subjects available?

“I’m sure I’m fine though.” Tara said with a slight smile. Medusa was the only one who noticed, but Tara wasn’t actually looking directly at either of them as she said that. An inability to lie well was somewhat working against Tara.

Soul seemed to accept this, nodding. “So, other than that, how are we doing?” Soul asked.

Medusa looked at her clipboard. “Well, you have slight arrhythmia, but other than that, neither of you seem to have any other problems. I predict you’ll both make a full recovery.” she got out the pump for checking blood pressure.

“As for your strange dreams, it’s not unusual for traumatic events to cause recurring nightmares. Your counterparts probably symbolize your fears or something similar. I don’t think you need to worry about it. Was that all, or were you concerned about something else?” she asked.

“Well, I’m not sure concerned is the right word, but Maka’s been off ever since we left Italy. I think something’s bothering her.” Soul said, his voice laced with an emotion that was most definitely concern.

“Soul, you got cut down right in front of her, trying to defend her. Most people would feel guilty about it, and more than a little angry at themselves for ‘failing’ their partner. I’m sure that’s why Maka’s acting funny around you. As for me, I helped rescue you two and got hurt doing it. Professor Stein as well, but he is both a teacher and more distant that either of us. She’s probably ready to tear her hair out. The only reason I haven’t talked to her is because I believe she needs to talk to you more.” Tara reprimanded.

Soul nodded slowly. “I’ll talk to her about it soon.” he promised.

After Medusa finished checking Soul for problems, he started to change out of the clothes he’d been wearing for school. He didn’t have much of a scar, but there was a faint line of paler skin where he’d been cut with Ragnarok. Healing spells could repair damage, but there were limits, and this cut was nearly 2 inches wide and almost twice as deep.

There was knocking on the door, then Maka entered with a slightly muttered “‘Scuse me. Then she noticed Soul changing, somehow her eyes zeroed in on the mark that had been left despite Tara and Stein’s best efforts. A guilty look crossed her face. “I’m going home to get ready for the party, see you there.” Maka said quietly, before closing the door.

Medusa blinked. “That was guilt if I ever saw it.” she commented.

Soul scowled. “I must be an idiot! Of course she’d feel guilty about me getting hurt, that’s just like her!” he said. Demon Weapons were meant to serve as both sword and shield for their Meister. Demon Weapons were far hardier than normal weapons and the human body, which was kind of the point. It was their job to protect their partner, so if they got hurt in the process, they were doing their job. Of course, that was what logic said, and emotions rarely got along with logic.

*** Earlier That Day ***

They were staring at a rather odd brown jar. It was big enough to stick most of one’s arm in, decorated with faces that were all wearing surprised expressions, and filled with what looked like regular water.

“A jar?” Blackstar asked, voicing the obvious question on their minds.

“Yes, a jar.” Stein said. Stein had told them he had exercises planned to boost all of their abilities. For some reason, Maka had elected to bring a blushing cat with dark purple fur and a witch’s hat, who was called Blair. It was Blackstar’s turn first.

“Is it a special jar?” Blackstar asked.

“Nope, nothing special about it. The water, on the other hand, is very special. It’s called Soul-sapping Water because it sucks out your Soul Wavelength. Compared to that, the jar is extremely ordinary indeed. Go on, try sticking a finger inside it, just for a second.” Stein suggested.

“Alright, but I’m still a little iffy about this jar.” Blackstar complained as he stuck the ends of his non-thumb fingers inside the water, which prompted a flash of yellow light. Blackstar immediately felt like he was having all the strength drained from him. He dragged his hand out of the water and fell to the floor.

“What the hell was that?!” Blackstar gasped in shock. “I knew that jar was dangerous!”

“No, just the water. I did tell you to stick one finger in, not dunk your hand in it. Try to acclimate one finger at a time.” Stein deadpanned.

“So I just have to get to where I can stick my whole hand in there and I’ll be able to use Tsubaki’s Enchanted Sword Mode professor?” Blackstar asked.

“That’s the basic idea.” Stein said.

“Just don’t stick your whole arm in or you won’t be able to walk afterward.” Tara warned. Granted, she’d been fine after a few minutes, and she had an idea to use very low powered Thunder spells on herself to force her nervous system to make her body move, but that was only because her Soul Wavelength was stupidly powerful internally as self-doubt only affected one’s Wavelength when they tried to use it to affect the outside world.

On another note, her electricity idea required far finer control than she had and a much weaker electrical spell than even the weakest possible casting of Thunder. Besides, a partially paralyzed soul was not conducive to fine control either way.

Considering 35% of her supposed full power was about a match for Blackstar at full strength, she wasn’t willing to chance it. Come to think of it, maybe that was why Arcana was so powerful. She had no power limiter in the form of self-doubt, plus all the power she derived from negative emotions. That would make at least 3 times as powerful as Twilight was, which might explain why her magic had just done what she wanted rather than using spells for very specific effects. She’d practically be a demi-god compared to a normal human or Twilight herself.

“Alright! This’ll be a nice break. All I’ve been doing lately is muscle conditioning and it’s getting old!” Blacksar said, holding the jar over his head.

“Well, that seems completely unfair.” Maka deadpanned.

“Waddya mean?” Blackstar asked.

“You can get stronger by dunking your hand in water, how does that work?” Maka asked, an emotion somewhere between jealousy and exasperation in her voice.

“Isn’t it obvious? Because I’m the Great Blackstar! I beat Death! I’m not letting a jar beat me!” he proclaimed, psyching himself up.

“Professor Stein, can I have some of that water too?” Maka asked.

“I’m afraid not. The only students who could last long enough to get any real benefit from this type of training are Blackstar and Tara. Tara’s Soul Wavelength has an internal strength beyond that of most of the teachers, and Blackstar’s constant self-aggrandizement motivates him to try and live up to it. I doubt he even realizes it himself.

‘There’s no stage too big for me! I can do it.’ That’s his answer to everything.” Stein said as Blackstar dunked his fingers into the jar again, pulled them out as his strength waned, then stuck them back in as soon as he recovered over and over. “Thus, he doesn’t mind pushing himself in order to accomplish the goal. Once he’s said that, he’ll put as much effort as it takes into the task at hand. He’ll try as many times as it takes, because he’s already decided that he’ll succeed. He’s trying to surpass God. Of course he’ll become stronger.” Stein explained.

“Right.” Maka nodded.

“Of course, since that’s Blackstar’s way of making himself stronger it won’t work for everyone. You’ll have to find your own way of doing it, something that works for you.” Stein said

“My own way…” Maka muttered.

“Right now you’re certainly lacking something. A certain level of stress and anxiety is perfectly understandable, even normal under the circumstances, but you don’t want to take it too far.” he continued.

“Wait, what do you mean lacking something?” Maka asked.

“Once you figure out what it is, come see me and we’ll decide what to do about it.” Stein finished, then turned to Blackstar. “Didn’t I tell you to start with one finger?” he asked as Blackstar tried his hardest to weather the water’s effects with his whole hand dunked in the water. He seemed to be in great discomfort. “You can take the jar home, today’s lesson is over anyway.” he said, walking off exasperated. Tara followed him.

They were going to talk to Lord Death. She had to hurry as Maka was planning to throw a party for Blackstar, Tsubaki and Soul. They were celebrating the former 2 finally collecting a soul, and Soul getting permanently discharged from the hospital and being allowed on missions again.

When they got to the Death Room, she told Lord Death what had been happening with Arcana. “Hm, that is troubling. The seal is alright for the moment though, right?” Death asked, one hand on his mask’s chin.

“Yes, I examined it as soon as I woke up. I specifically designed it so that it would require that Arcana have outside help if she wanted out. She’s 4 times as strong as what I can muster to affect the outside world at best, but only 10% stronger than what I could use without being limited by my tendency for self-doubt. The seal would hold just fine even if she were 8 times stronger, so unless I voluntarily overclock the Black Blood’s influence it should be fine.” she answered.

“Speaking of the Black Blood, I think it’s aggravating my natural paranoia. I keep looking for ulterior motives in the school nurse’s actions. Granted, something about her’s rubbed me the wrong way since day one, but still, that’s unhealthy. It’s definitely making the nightmares worse.” she continued. She was barely getting the usual 6 hours now.

“Well, there was something else I wanted to talk to you about. I think that you should focus on getting stronger as your main method of keeping Arcana sealed. If the seal keeps her contained as long as she isn’t significantly stronger than you, then reducing the percentage difference in your strengths would be most effective.

As such, you have my permission to absorb the Kishin Eggs you gather on missions. Frankly, the only reason I hadn’t already given you permission was that you were very unlikely to voluntarily take any souls into yourself now that you know what happens.” Death said.

When a soul was devoured or otherwise absorbed, it was completely subsumed by the absorber, effectively ceasing to exist as a separate entity. Kishin Eggs were eaten by Demon Weapons partially because it made the Demon Weapons stronger, and partially because Lord Death was a firm believer that the punishment should fit the crime. There were exceptions to the rule if the soul was significantly more powerful than the absorber, or if they were similar enough. Thus when Maka and Soul had failed to get their Witch’s Soul, their count was reset to 0, but Soul kept all the souls he’d eaten.

Similar souls tended to ‘fool’ the soul that absorbed them, rather like how one’s immune system knew not to attack their own organs. Family members tended to be similar enough that they were ignored.

Tara hadn’t wanted to absorb the Kishin Eggs because she disliked the idea of stripping the identity of another being from it, even a monster had a right to a will of it’s own. She didn’t object to others doing so because she saw it as a necessary evil to keep the Kishin Eggs from hurting people, but she was already plenty strong compared to the average Kishin Egg, and her training regimen had gotten her to the point she could overpower them if it came to that.

Still, Arcana would try to kill everything that moved, breathed, or emitted heat if she got out and she’d eat their souls after doing so just to get stronger. Considering the alternative, she supposed eating Kishin Egg souls was the lesser evil.

“Alright. Next time I’ll absorb the soul, or souls if there’s more than one Kishin Egg.” she said neutrally. She wasn’t exactly happy about it, but she was going to do it.

“Right, in that case, there’s a mission I’d like you to accompany Kid on.” Death said, after pulling a piece of paper from… somewhere and handing it to her for her to look over. “Also, I think I should give you the soul you collected on your most recent mission. I’d been planning to tell you this for a while now, and it would be best for you to get the first one out of the way.” Death said handing her the red orb.

Reluctantly, she took off her gloves and absorbed it. She shuddered at the feeling. “That is never not going to feel weird, is it?” she asked as she put her gloves back on.

“Look on the bright side, at least you won’t start to like it.” Stein noted.

“Feel free to hit me repeatedly if I do.” she responded, only slightly sarcastically. She’d pick up her own jar of Soul-sapping Water later, she needed to hurry to get to the party. “I’ll be seeing you guys. I can’t keep everyone waiting!” she said, then hurried off to the nurse’s office after checking her new watch. She’d gone for a digital watch so she wouldn’t have to try to puzzle out the minute hand’s exact location. She tried very hard to ignore the feeling that she was just a bit faster than she was when she came in, as it was followed by a decidedly unpleasant feeling she couldn’t identify.

“It’s a good thing she’s on our side and she dislikes violence so much. Otherwise we’d have to deal with the equivalent of hostile Soul-sapping Water that can fight on a level with a Two-star Meister if push comes to shove. That’s ignoring her analytical mind and whatever power boost the Black Blood would give her.” Stein said.

“Not to mention that all of the enhancement spells she uses have counterparts that do the opposite, which she didn’t use during your last encounter because not everyone there was in the loop about her powers. Fancy fighting her when you’re moving half as fast as normal, and your attacks are having a quarter of the effect they had in that first fight, while the opposite is true for her?” Death asked.

“That would be problematic. Lucky she’s on our side. Incidentally, I’ve been having doubts about that nurse of ours myself.” Stein responded, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it.

“Hm, I have noticed a few odd things about her, and Tara has good instincts underneath the exacerbated paranoia. I’ll look into it.” Death promised.

*** Maka/Soul’s Apartment Approximately 2 Hours Later ***

Maka had made the food for the party, which had been devoured eagerly from the couches around the table. Blackstar patted his distended stomach. “Well it may not have been good, but it sure was filling!” he proclaimed.

“I’ve got an idea, why don’t you make it next time?” Maka asked, developing a tic mark.

“Oh don’t listen to him, it was great!” Tsubaki said.

“Tasted fine to me, besides which, he ate more than the rest of us.” Tara agreed, jerking a thumb at Blackstar.

“Yum yum!” Patty patted her stomach contentedly.

“Yeah, thanks for the snacks.” Liz agreed.

“You two have a nice place here. It’s so tidy! You must make a point of keeping it clean.” Kid commented as he looked around.

“It helps that Maka yells at me whenever I make a mess.” Soul responded.

“So is it just the two of you here?” Kid asked.

“Yoohoo!” a womanly voice called. A woman with yellow eyes and long purple hair walked up to the couch Kid and Soul were sitting on. Her figure was well-endowed, which was made obvious by the fact she was wearing nothing but a bath towel!

…Which she let fall. “Which one of you boys wants to come take a bath with me?” she asked, casually showing herself off. Tara was left feeling decidedly inadequate about her figure. Normally, she didn’t care since she was not originally a human/primate, but it was practically being rubbed in that she had a flat chest in this case.

“Is it always like this around here?” Kid asked, freaked-out.

Soul had gotten a massive nosebleed. “Yeah, anybody want the sexy kitty? She’s free.” he half-groaned in response.

*** Meanwhile Across Death City ***

Medusa was walking through some narrow, shadowy alleyways, a specific destination in mind. ‘Infiltrating the Academy was well-worth the risk. I’ll need to run some tests on those two.’ Medusa thought. She held up a brass key. ‘With this key it should be easy.’ She stopped walking as Eruka Frog stepped into her path and Mizune blocked the street behind her.

“Ah, Eruka Frog and Mizune, I was wondering when you’d reveal yourselves.” Medusa commented.

“Medusa. Do you know why we’re here, or would you like me to explain?” Eruka asked.

“Oh please, tell me.” Medusa said, acting as though there were nothing to worry about.

“Ribbit. Ribbit. Fine, I’ll tell you. We’re here to kill you.” Eruka said with a glint in her eye.

“Oh that’s terrible! Here I thought we were friends.” Medusa said in a false sweet voice.

“It’s nothing personal, we simply have no interest in attracting the attention of the Grim Reaper, nor do we care for whatever experiments you have going on at the Academy. You’ve become a liability.” Eruka explained.

“And liabilities must be silenced. I understand our policies, but before you do that let me give some advice. Soul Protect or not, your outfit is practically a big sign saying ‘I’m a Witch.’ There are plenty of young Meisters wandering the streets, and they know a Witch when they see one. Plus, living with the God of Madness under their feet, sealed away or not, makes everyone in this town a little paranoid, even if they’re resistant to his wavelength.” Medusa warned.

“Sweet of you to warn us, but we can always use our Transformation Magic to escape, which is a luxury you don’t have.” Eruka responded.

“I see, so that’s the plan.” Medusa said as the pieces came together.

“We know you have us completely outclassed, so a fair fight is out of the question. Using magic for anything but Soul Protect isn’t a good idea if you want to maintain your cover as a nurse, it’d be a dead giveaway. That makes this the perfect place to attack you.

If you keep your Soul Protect up, you can’t use magic. Without magic you’re effectively a normal human. We’ll defeat you easily, then escape in our animal forms. If you do release your Soul Protect to fight back, then we can still escape in our animal forms. Meanwhile, the Meisters will discover that you’re a Witch, and hunt you down. It’s a win-win for us no matter what you do. Not a bad plan, hm?

That’s the story of how the mouse and the frog beat the snake. Funny how the world works when you’ll be the one croaking tonight instead of me.” Eruka finished.

Medusa sighed. “If you’re going to kill me, then please get on with it and don’t make me listen to your bad jokes first. That’s just plain cruel.” Medusa commented dryly.

“Soul Protect Release!” Eruka said, which caused a gust of wind as pent-up magic was released, Mizune did the same, to the same effect. Both Eruka and Mizune were glowing purple very slightly.

*** Maka/Soul’s Apartment ***

Maka and Tara started as they sensed the Witches, though Maka had sensed and reacted to them a split second earlier. “Witch!” Maka said, raising her voice but not quite shouting.

“Huh? What’s going on Maka? You startled us.” Liz asked.

“There are Witches in Death City! No time for explaining!” Tara said, before opening the window, then jumping down while casting Protect to keep the fall from causing any harm.

“Wait, what the-” Blackstar was cut off as Maka spoke.

“I’ll be right back!” Maka said, leaving the more conventional way, through the door.

“Hey wait a minute Maka!” Soul called.

*** Meanwhile With The Witches ***

“While I would love nothing more than to drag this out, the Meisters will be here any minute, so we don’t have the time to make you scream in agony. Oh well, no one gets everything they want out of life.” Eruka mocked.

“Honestly, I’m insulted.” Medusa commented, disrupting the confidence Eruka and Mizune felt for a moment, which they quickly masked with anger. “You must have the brains of a frog and a mouse if you actually believe a tactic like this will work.” a sadistic expression overtook her face. “I’ll have to punish you. I can always use more test subjects. It’s too bad you aren’t even good enough for that.” Medusa said.

She was tempted to fight back, but her instincts were telling her to hold off for the moment. She was definitely going to keep her doctor’s coat on. Taking it off was asking for a random student to show up just when she started to use magic. …Perhaps she’d been reading a bit too much manga. Anyway, she had remained physically fit, unlike most Witches who relied almost exclusively on their powers, so she could probably simply outrun them, and she knew the city’s layout well enough to out-maneuver these two.

It would be best to wait until she was outside the city in case they decided to rush her when she revealed the nasty little secret, or rather, secrets she put inside them. That way she could use her magic if they decided to pull a ‘taking-you-with-me’ maneuver.

The two more junior Witches were getting increasingly nervous at the confidence their opponent was displaying. ‘This isn’t good. The longer we wait, the more likely a Meister is to show up. That must be why Medusa isn’t releasing her Soul Protect and slaughtering us.’ Eruka thought, but was unable to break the stand-off because her instincts were screaming at her that she would die if she pushed Medusa. Mizune finally panicked and fired a Whisker Beam at Medusa about 30 seconds after their stand-off began.

To all of their surprise, a DWMA Meister with long blue hair appeared in a flash of light, blocked the attack, then, moving almost too fast for either Eruka or Mizune to follow, let alone react, jumped up to where Mizune was floating, about 5 feet off the ground, and smashed her into the ground with a Soul Force to the face, before following her down and skewering her neatly in the heart. “Mizune!” Eruka called out in shock, watching helplessly as her friend dissolved into nothing but her soul.

Eruka ran into a nearby alley, transformed into her frog form, and slid through a sewer grate. She’d be killed if she stayed, so she had to at least get out of the city before she could risk human form again.

“Are you alright Nurse Medusa?” Tara asked, concerned, even as she casually stuck the Witch soul into her backpack. Any suspicions she had were crushed under a completely metaphorical foot and out of her mind. Medusa had been attacked by Witches on the street in the middle of Death City. That threw her being on their side into serious doubt. Therefore, she was to treated as an ally rather than a potential spy.

‘Well, I’ve certainly gotten something out of this, even if I don’t bother with Eruka later. From the look on her face, Tara seems to have lost her mistrust of me thanks to this little incident.’ Medusa thought. Out loud, she said “I’m fine, you arrived just in time. You have my gratitude.” Medusa bowed. It was of course an act, but she had to keep up her Nurse persona.

Tara sighed in relief. Still, she’d ask Lord Death if his decision extended to Witches’ souls. She’d barely been in time this time, and physical training was too slow to give a decent improvement in less than a month, and her Haste spell and it’s compatriot buffs boosted her based on her base abilities. That was their major flaw. Boosting oneself by more than one’s original ability was very taxing on the body and her reserves, so she couldn’t get around it that way. Running footsteps alerted them to Stein and Maka approaching.

‘That didn’t take long. I wonder how Tara got here even faster than they did though, she’s easily slower than Stein at very least, and a bit slower than Maka without her Weapon.’ Medusa filed that thought away for later. It was probably another spell, but she’d need to look into it more.

“Are you two okay?” Maka asked as she caught her breath.

Stein simply stood with his hands in his pockets, not the least bit drained from the exertion. “We detected two Witches in the area and came as quickly as we could. Although it seems someone else was faster.” Stein noted.

“We’re both fine. I managed to catch one of them by surprise, the other one left after her friend got killed.” Tara informed them stoically as she showed them the Witch soul before replacing it. Kishin Eggs were essentially serial killing abominations, but Witches were significantly more human. Several Witches had joined the DWMA side over the centuries, showing they didn’t have to be evil and/or destructive, which put more blood on her hands. “I suspect the fight would have been tougher if she’d been less surprised and I hadn’t hit her with a Soul Force almost in the same instant as when she saw me.” she explained.

“It wasn’t a fight so much as a one-sided extermination.” Medusa noted.

“True, but I also suspect she wasn’t all that powerful for a Witch. Nothing like the one controlling the Demon Sword.” she countered.

“Yes, that Witch was both powerful and cunning, she wouldn’t release Soul Protect in the middle of a crowded city without a reason. Especially this one. She certainly has an interest in Demon Weapons and Meisters, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she infiltrated the city to have a large number to study. She might even manage to take a position at the Academy.

Of course, that requires that she keep a low profile. One slip-up and she could find herself up against the Grim Reaper himself. Even a Witch of her caliber wouldn’t be able to stand against him, especially if he had a Death Scythe on hand. At any rate, it’s a relief you weren’t hurt by those Witches, Doctor Medusa. We only have one School Nurse, it would be trouble if something happened to you.” Stein said.

“Yes, thank you.” Medusa nodded, internally deeply suspicious. That was oddly specific. She had to assume he suspected.

“But still, if I see that sword or it’s Meister again…” Maka trailed off, a familiar guilty look on her face. ‘I promised I’d become stronger, but there’s no quick way to do that, and if we run into that Witch or that Meister again, we’ll lose. Dammit! I don’t know how much longer I can handle this!’ she thought.

“Hey! Maka!” Soul called from the other end of the alleyway. “You shouldn’t run off like that, it’s too dangerous.” Soul scolded.

“I’m fine Soul.” Maka reassured, still looking down on herself. She slowly placed a hand on his chest where he’d been cut. ‘I refuse to let him get hurt like that again. I wasn’t able to look at his injury, even when it was barely there. I won’t be controlled by fear anymore!’

“Look Maka, I chose to revert to human form to take the hit for you. It’s not your fault.” Soul said.

Maka nodded slowly, then walked over to Professor Stein. “Alright Professor, I’m ready. You told me to figure out what I was lacking, and I have.” Maka told him, full of determination.

Stein smiled. “Very good.” he said approvingly. ‘At last, Maka’s found the courage to fight her fear.’ “In that case, I’d like you and Soul to come to my office Sunday afternoon for a special lesson.

Tara smiled. Maka seemed to have started recovering from her guilt at last. She’d need to work on getting stronger too.

*** That Night. A Rocky Plateau. The Desert Surrounding Death City. ***

Eruka stopped, still in frog form. “I should be far enough, I can rest a bit now.” she said, relieved. “I’ll get that witch next time.” she growled, only for a foot to come down and partially squash her.

“Ah, that feels nice and cool on my feet. I could get used to this.” Medusa said, smiling pleasantly and applying just a bit more pressure.

“H-How did you find me!?” Eruka squeaked in terror.

“Remember when you stopped me at Witch’s Mass and I responded by shoving my hands down your throat and the late eldest-Mizune’s? I put some of the thousands of snakes in my body inside you both as insurance. The ones in Mizune escaped her body’s destruction and returned to me, but the ones in you are ready to tear you apart any time I want. They also let me track you wherever you go and use your various senses. You could literally be on the other side of the planet, and I’d still know exactly where you were. I believe I’ve made it clear you can’t outrun me.

Honestly I was going to use them to kill one or both of you after that little stunt you pulled earlier, but my instincts told me not to. A good thing too, because I have an errand I need someone to run. So in return for not killing you here and now, I’ll ask you a little favor. I’ll even remove a snake from you if you’re successful.” Medusa proposed, dropping a bronze key in front of Eruka. Crona watched silently.

“A key?” Eruka asked, in pain from Medusa repeatedly squashing her just enough to be painful, but not actually cause harm.

“Yes, you’ll need it to release an inmate of the Witch’s Prison. That’s the favor I mentioned. He’s number 13 among the prisoners, unless you’re somehow even more stupid than I already thought, you know what that means.” Medusa said, smiling cruelly.

“Th-The man with the magic eye? Not him! He’s the one who took the Grand Witch’s left eye! I’d be banished forever if the Grand Witch even thinks I did that! Forget banishment! She’d probably just kill me!” Eruka’s increasingly panicked rambling was cut off by another round of squashing.

“Probably, but I’ll definitely kill you if you refuse. So, do you pick ‘Probably die’ or ‘Definitely die’ little frog?” Medusa asked.

“Fine! Fine! I’ll do it!” Eruka cried out.

“Good, I have an experiment planned with 13, there are some questions I have about Soul Eater.” Medusa said as Eruka reverted to human form.

“You’re going to use him in an experiment? He’s a criminal even by our standards! You must be out of your mind! Ribbit!” Eruka asked as Medusa continued to squash her face.

“You don’t feel as good on my feet anymore.” Medusa observed. “Change yourself back into a frog.” she ordered slightly petulantly. The moon chuckled darkly overhead.

“Okay.” Eruka moaned.

*** A Few Days Later ***

A guard sat on a chair next to a cell. Like all the others, he wore a helmet styled like a grey wolf’s head. He was getting annoyed with this particular inmate. He kept saying “1+2.” over and over and then asking how many times he’d multiplied. It would be creepy if it wasn’t so annoying. Normally he ignored the prisoner, but he was in a bad mood and this guy was wearing on his last nerve.

“There he goes again.” he muttered as the familiar addition problem became audible. “I’m getting plenty sick of this.”

Suddenly, the inmate grabbed the bars of his cell and asked “What’s the answer? Tell me, how many times did I multiply?”

The guard decided to answer him this time, if only to break the monotony. “You’ve been adding ones and twos since you got here, you haven’t multiplied anything.” he said, voice laced by annoyance.

A moment after he said that, a roar of such force it created a gust of wind sent the guard tumbling from his chair, and causing the prisoner next to him to cry out in fear.

Prisoner 13 sighed in his cell. “I can’t see. I can’t see anything but darkness. It’s been literal ages since I’ve seen a good comedy.” he noted. Like all the other prisoners, he wore a shirt and pants with green-and-white stripes. Unlike the others, his clothes were old enough that they’d gotten ripped and torn despite the fact that he’d barely moved from this spot since being imprisoned. Thanks to his sharp hearing and the extremely echoy and cavernous quality of the place, he could more or less tell what was going on in the prison, especially when he roared that loudly and used the sound for echolocation.

Later that night, the guard was fast asleep thanks to a drugged drink. Eruka hopped along in frog form, snickering at the sleeping guard, who had a 50-50 chance of living after letting a prisoner escape on his watch. Since he’d been drugged it would normally be given a pass, but the Grand Witch really knew how to hold a grudge against someone who caused her actual harm, some of which would fall on the unfortunate guard.

13 also had a strong sense of smell, and though Eruka was being careful to be quiet, he could still smell the approaching frog. Since animals never got in here, he assumed it was intelligent. “Who’s there?” he asked as Eruka reached the cell.

“I’m here on behalf of someone who wants to break you out of here.” Eruka said, key jingling a bit as she lifted it towards the lock.

“A free handout from the outside, huh? What kind of person do you think I am?” 13 asked, causing Eruka to break out in a nervous sweat.

*** About 5 Minutes Later ***

“THANK YOU!!!!” 13 yelled as he hopped along, hobbled by his arm and leg restraints, as well as the ball-and-chain on one leg. “It’s real easy to escape from a cell if there’s someone from the outside with a key! But you wanna know what I was gonna try before you showed up?” 13 continued, talking unnecessarily loudly. He’d been in that prison for so long, a different set of acoustics was messing with his hearing a bit.

“Never mind that! We have to get out of here before they catch us!” Eruka said, hopping along as well, but because she was still in frog form.

“See, I was planning to do that thing they do in the movies where they use a spoon to tunnel their way under the wall by working away at the ground! I always thought that was a really cool idea, so I thought I’d try it myself! ‘Course, not being able to see would’ve made that hard, but I get by just fine on sound, smell and touch.” he was talking more normally as he adjusted to being outside for the first time in a very long time. He’d never actually seen a movie, but he’d heard about them from the guards and the occasional semi-sane prisoner. Most of the inmates were those who had killed Witches, or done things despicable even by Witch standards. His attacking the Grand Witch was the equivalent of regicide, which normally would’ve gotten him executed. He wasn’t normal though.

“But they must’ve thought of that, because all I ever got was wooden chopsticks! You can’t dig with those, they break!” 13 said, yelling again, purely from emotion this time. “So I tried to think of another way out. I thought about it all the time, but I’m a fighter, not an idea-man, so I never came up with anything.” 13 commented.

“I suppose it really doesn’t matter now, but you could’ve peed on the bars everyday and gradually eaten away at them, right?” Eruka asked.

“Actually no. I’ve got a really strong sense of smell, and wearing a blindfold only sharpens it, so I wouldn’t have been able to stand the smell. Besides, the guards would’ve figured out something was up when I never used the bathroom and the bars smelled like that. They’re not morons. Which might explain how they managed to surround us.” 13 explained, at which point the guards came out from the snowed-on trees around the pair of fugitives.

“Oh no! You can’t fight with your arms and legs shackled like that, and I don’t have any magic that’s going to take out a big group like this!” Eruka said. Normally she wouldn’t have said that in front of the guards, but the guards would charge them if there was even a slight chance of recapturing the prisoner, and 13 didn’t know about her abilities, or rather, her lack of combat abilities.

“Listen up Prisoner 13, the man with the magic eye. If you resist we’ll show you no mercy!” one of the guards said, all of them leveling their spears at 13.

“I was locked inside that prison for over 200 years. I’m not going back there without a fight. You must be crazy to think I would.” 13 growled, before getting speared in the face and abdomen repeatedly in response, showering the area with blood.

Eruka stared for a good 3 seconds, then cried out “Oh no! This is really bad! I’ll end up dead too if I don’t get you out of here!” Medusa had been quite clear what failure would mean for her. Her jaw dropped as 13 crushed the spear that had been lodged in his mouth with his teeth. Many of the guards took an involuntary step back.

“Calm down. The only way to kill me is to chop off my head, and even that might not work. Plus, last time I checked, spears aren’t good at chopping. You should know that.” he said, an air of menace having replaced his rather carefree demeanor.

“Damn!” a guard cursed, drawing a flamethrower and sending an enormous gout of flame at 13, which had no effect beyond charring the shackles on his hands and feet to the point he snapped them like twigs.

“The Grand Witch wasn’t keeping me alive all this time for the fun of it. She couldn’t kill me, so she dumped me in that prison.” he removed the blindfold with one hand. He had short brown hair, almost buzz-cut, but the most striking thing was his eyes. One was brown, but the other, with a ‘NO FUTURE’ tattoo above it, had no pupil or iris, instead it had a series of red lines depicting a small circle inside a triangle, which was inside another triangle, which was inside a circle. “‘Course that would’ve been tough considering… I’m immortal.” he grinned a wolf’s grin.

The guards screamed as they were slaughtered.

Later, 13 and Eruka approached Medusa, with Eruka riding on his shoulder in frog form.

“I see you’ve done it.” Medusa observed.

“Yeah, I brought the guy.” Eruka reverted to human form in front of 13.

“Good work Eruka.” Medusa said.

“Alright, I did my part, now take all your snakes out of my body like you promised!” Eruka demanded.

“Oh dear, you seem to have misunderstood. I specifically said I’d remove 1 snake for completing the task, as I will do for all of the following.” Medusa said with false sweetness.

“Wait, how many of them are in me?!” Eruka asked.

“That’s on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t. Even if I did remove them all at once, your body would be ripped to shreds in the process. Be glad you’re useful alive.” Medusa responded.

“That’s awful! You Devil-woman!” Eruka said, crying helplessly. Like it or not, she was Medusa’s to do as she wished with until there weren’t any snakes in her body.

“So you’re the one who freed me? Wasn’t expecting it from a Witch.” 13 said with a note of bitterness.

“Yes, I’m Medusa Gorgon.” Medusa introduced herself, removing her hood. “It’s a pleasure to meet the man with the magic eye.” she said.

“Hm, even I can’t remember what my name was anymore. What else could you call me but ‘man with the magic eye?'” a smile slowly spread across his face. “I lost a lot of things as a prisoner, but now I’m free. I like the sound of that so much, I think I’ll make it my new name. I don’t think there’s gonna be anyone around who’ll tell me my real name, so I might as well take my pick.” the newly-named Free said.

“Very well then, pleased to meet you Free.” Medusa said. ‘Free huh?’ she thought, inwardly smirking. ‘We’ll see about that, now won’t we?’

“I owe you a favor. I’d like to repay it somehow.” Free said.

“Oh, no no. Don’t worry about it.” Medusa said in a false sweet voice.

“Please let me. I try to get all my debts settled. Besides, unlike most people, I have nothing but time.” Free explained.

“Well, there is something you could help with.” Medusa baited with a smile that was almost innocent, before becoming a cruel smirk. “There a certain Weapon and Meister pair I’d rather like to see crushed.” Medusa continued.

“You mean from the DWMA?” Free asked rhetorically. Who else even had Weapon and Meister teams?

“That’s right.” Medusa answered.

A grin broke out across Free’s face. “I don’t like Death or that school of his, and I especially don’t like all those damn rules. I’d be more than happy to do that for you. Just tell me where to find them.”

Twilight The Traveler

Twilight The Traveler Chapter 17 – The Enchanted Sword Masamune

// The Enchanted Sword Masamune// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

After her usual breakfast, Tara arrived to find that Professor Stein had cancelled classes for the day, so she simply started to read the textbook. Whenever she was bored, she would read the books, take notes, and do the assignments in them. She kept the assignments organized in her apartment, and had any assignments they received ready weeks beforehand. It was impossible to be tardy like this!

She concentrated on her book harder to shut out the urge to laugh like a maniac. With the exception of Maka, no one else was any where near this studious, and eventually, even Maka grew bored. This was probably why she asked “I wonder if something’s come up with Professor Stein canceling class like this, or maybe he’s just skipping so he can dissect something. What do you guys think?”

“Well, I wouldn’t put the latter past him, but it’s probably the former.” Tara answered.

“Who knows with that guy, but don’t worry about it! Today’ll be cool, especially without Sir Spaz-a-lot.” Soul responded.

“I’m guessing you mean Blackstar. Now that I look, Tsubaki isn’t here either.” Maka said, a trace of concern entering her voice.

“Hm, now that you mention it, could they be on a dangerous mission? That would explain the Professor.” Tara hypothesized.

“Oh, haven’t you guys heard? Someone overheard some teachers talking in the faculty room earlier. Apparently, they’re out to collect the soul of the Enchanted Sword.” a girl Tara didn’t know said. Tara was not well-acquainted with anyone beyond her established circle of friends and the faculty. Of course, that tended to translate to ‘Sorry, what’s your name again?’

“Enchanted Sword?” Maka asked.

“Sounds like Masamune, a katana.” Tara answered.

“I hope they’re okay. It’s gonna be tough, they say the sword is on the verge of becoming a Kishin.” the girl said, concern bleeding through.

Maka and Tara shared a glance, then looked at Soul. “Let’s try asking Lord Death.” Tara said. With a little coaxing, they got Soul moving and they started down to the Death Room.

When they got there, they went for the direct approach. “Lord Death, I want to know why you sent Blackstar and Tsubaki after Masamune!” Maka said.

Tara blinked. ‘Perhaps a bit too direct.’ she thought for a good three seconds before changing her mind.

Death sweat-dropped and put both hands out in the universal ‘stop’ position. “Woah there Meister! Who invited you to the Death Room in the first place?” he asked. Stein waved from behind them.

Maka and Tara stood straighter. “As the DWMA handbook states in the 118th rule, in the event of an emergency students are allowed to enter the Death Room without first obtaining permission!” Maka quoted.

“Really!? It does?!” Death asked surprised. Odd, hadn’t he written the thing?

“Yes.” Tara flipped through the handbook she kept in her backpack and showed him the rule in question. “See?” she asked.

“What type of enemy is this ‘Enchanted Sword’ father?” Kid asked as he, Liz, and Patty walked up.

“Kid? You’re joining in on the party too?” Death asked.

“The Enchanted Sword guy isn’t like the Demon Sword guy is he?” Soul asked.

“I hope not.” Maka responded.

“… Well there’s yet another image I’ll never get out of my head.” Tara shuddered. Blackstar acting like Crona and Tsubaki acting like Ragnarok. That was just weird and wrong.

“No, for starters, the Enchanted Sword doesn’t have a witch with him, though he might actually be less dangerous if he were under a witch’s supervision. The Enchanted Sword exploits the fear in people’s hearts. He uses fear in order to possess his targets and control their bodies like puppets. Once they have been completely brought under his control on the spiritual level as well, he consumes their souls.” Stein said, his expression was serious.

“Unless someone stops him, he will become a Kishin.” Stein said with an air of finality.

*** Meanwhile In Needlepoint Village ***

It was pouring rain outside, but a late teen was currently inside a small storehouse. “How could that Star Clan murderer dare show up here?!” he asked angrily as his hands trembled while gripping a sickle. He grabbed one hand with the other and forced the shaking to stop. “Will this sickle even work against someone like that?” he asked with a fearful quaver to his voice. “I’m old enough now to take revenge for my parents’ murders by those Star Clan bastards!” he said, trying to convince himself. Blackstar was the only surviving member of a powerful clan of assassins. The Star Clan had become obsessed with power and began taking human souls, after the DWMA took them out, Blackstar was spared as he was an infant at the time. He was taken in, and the rest was history.

Suddenly a deep, creepy voice said “You see I think… and therefore I am… and therefore I eat.” The teen turned to see a man with a wide-brimmed hat, a white traveling cloak, a set of good leather traveling boots, a pair of dull brown pants, and a shirt.

“Hey, who are you?” the teen asked, understandably suspicious.

“I think therefore I eat. You have fear hiding in your soul don’t you?” the man asked.

The teen immediately got defensive. “Fear? Why would you think that?” the teen asked, then noticed he was still holding the sickle from earlier and hid it behind his back. “No, I don’t have any fear.” the teen responded.

The man seemed indifferent. “We’ll see now won’t we?” he asked as one would discuss a normal day’s weather. “With my power, your fear could disappear permanently. Gone just like that.” the man said. “So, how about it?” he asked suddenly directly in front of the teen.

A minute or so later, a man in a green sweater and jeans who was middle-aged and balding walked in carrying a pile of short wooden poles. “Ah Ryoku, there you
are. I brought some stuff we can use as weapons if that assassin comes back.” he said, putting the poles down and began to sift through them. “13 years ago we put up those needles, in all that time we haven’t had a single thief come along.” the man had yet to notice the katanna Ryoku was holding and Ryuko had yet to react in any way, never mind turn around.

“Not that you have anything to worry about! I’ll protect the village like I did back in the old days! No one could take me!” he said, then paused. “Huh, that’s an unusual sword you’ve got. Where’d you get something that fancy? There shouldn’t have been anything like that in here.” the man commented. Unseen by him, the sword crackled with dark energy for a moment. “Uh Ryoku, are you okay?” he asked, concerned at still not getting a reaction from the teenager.

“…” Ryoku finally turned around and the man got a good look at his face. He had strange tattoos criss-crossing his face and each other, and his eyes had turned black while his irises had become red. The man screamed and ran, but the possessed teenager caught up to him without real effort.

Meanwhile, Tsubaki and Blackstar were waiting for Masamune to appear on a tree at the edge of town, when Blackstar heard the man’s screaming. “It’s him.” Blackstar said calmly. “Let’s go!” he said, jumping down.

“Right!” Tsubaki answered, and jumped down as well. They ran in the direction of the scream Blackstar had heard.

Back with the old man, he was sitting on the ground, terrified of the possessed teenager. “No… wait Ryoku… what’s gotten into you?!” the man yelled in fear.

“Ryoku…?” the sword the Ryoku was holding said using him, clearly responsible for the possession. “Who is this Ryoku? I am the Enchanted Sword Masamune. I think therefore I am hungry… for souls.” the sword said, using Ryoku to begin raising itself.

The man whimpered in terror, but Masamune paused as the sound of running feet became audible. Just as he managed to turn, Blackstar leaped into the air and kicked his possessed body in the face pushing him back. The man got up and ran off yelling.

“So you’re the Enchanted Sword, huh?” Blackstar said, then paused as he got a good look at the teen. “Wait a sec, you’re that kid from earlier, the one with the money. What’s hell’s going on?” he asked.

Tsubaki walked up. “It’s the Soul Possession technique… just one thing that sword can do.” she explained.

“I’ve never heard of that before. How’s it work?” he asked.

“You know how normally Meisters and Weapons synchronize their Soul Wavelengths to unify themselves…? That’s not what the Enchanted Sword does. Instead of matching he simply takes control of a person’s soul and uses them as a puppet. When he’s finished with the host, their soul is devoured.” she looked at the blade which was currently crackling with dark energy. ‘That’s the Enchanted Sword Masamune, it used to be so beautiful, but that beauty has become clouded by evil and darkness.’ she thought.

The sword glowed red briefly, as if in recognition. “Oh, it’s you, is it?” Masamune asked, before rushing at them.

“What now?” Blackstar asked as they moved back to avoid being skewered. They then jumped over and past a slash.

“He may be powerful, but he can’t control two Soul Wavelengths at the same time. Listen Blackstar… if you were to shoot your Wavelength into that boy, the Enchanted Sword would be forced to separate from him.” Tsubaki explained. They landed on their feet silently like the ninja they were. “After that, leave the rest to me.” she said, transforming into her Chain-scythe Mode.

*** Death Room ***

“Hm, that could work, but what do the plan to do with the sword afterward? Anyone who picks it up could be possessed, and wearing gloves isn’t going to cut it since Soul Wavelengths pretty much ignore most clothing.” Tara wondered. Her gloves were specially-made to keep her from draining people on accident.

“That’s a good point, but I think we can trust Tsubaki and Blackstar to come up with something.” Death said. They nodded, and watched their friends intently through the mirror.

*** With Tsubaki And Blackstar ***

“Just shoot my Soul Wavelength at them, right? That’s all you need me to do?” Blackstar asked.

“Yes.” Tsubaki answered seriously. Ryuko rushed at them again. “I joined the Academy in order to hunt down the Enchanted Sword.” Blackstar blocked a slash with Tsubaki’s chains. “This is my fight.” she said, uncharacteristically grim. “And I’m sorry… to put you in the middle Blackstar.” she apologized.

“Tsubaki… Come on, please tell me that’s not what you’re really thinking… You know better than that don’t you?” he said as he struggled to hold Masamune back with the chains. “Weapons and Meisters…” he forced Masamune away. “we depend on each other don’t we?!” he lunged at Masamune, forcing him further away. “You can lean on me Tsubaki… And you can do it a heck of a lot more than you do now, got it?” he asked.

“Yes.” she said with a smile.

Blackstar rushed at Masamune, who slashed at him. He ducked under it, and got behind Masamune, then blocked another slash. He was about to hit Masamune’s possessed body with Soul Force, when Masamune spoke. “Puppet Shadow.” a black thing reared up and slashed at Blackstar, cutting him along the shoulder.

“Blackstar!” Tsubaki called in concern.

“What the hell was that?!” Blackstar asked as he skidded back. He then got a good look at the wiry black creature coming out of the ground where Ryuko’s shadow lay. “You’ve gotta be kidding me! The Enchanted Sword can even control a possessed person’s shadow?! How does that even work!” he yelled. He had a point.

The shadow retreated into the ground, growling “Shadow!”

Masamune glowed red briefly as it ordered “Puppet, get him!” The shadow rushed across the ground, before emerging near Blackstar and slashing at him, the attack was blocked, but Masamune’s attack forced Blackstar to take a jump backwards.

“So it’s two against one, huh? I can handle that!” Blackstar said. The shadow stretched out it’s arm and tried to pierce Blackstar’s shoulder, only for him to duck
under the blow and back-flip out of the way. “Let’s shake him Tsubaki! Ninja Sword Mode!” Blackstar called out.

“Right!” Tsubaki responded, shifting to a Japanese short sword that was only a little longer than a knife.

A tentacle of shadow lunged for him, but he said “Speed Star!” and his speed increased to the point of blurring around the battlefield to avoid the strike and several more. It was really impressive that the shadow was so flexible, and even more so that Blackstar was dodging so easily. He appeared next to Masamune, but the slash at Blackstar swiped through an after-image. “You missed!” he began appearing in spots in a rough circle a few feet away from Masamune. “You can’t catch me! Hyahoo! I bet you can’t even see me, can you? Nope, you can’t! And do you know why? Because I’m one dude who’s way ahead of his time! You’ll be lucky to even see one hair on my head! Blink just one second and you’ll miss me! That’s how fast I am!” he called.

Unfortunately, he slipped on some mud and went sliding straight into a rather odd statue. It was an eclipse on the top, a rectangular body with a horned being on it, and two red fins sticking out. It was connected to the ground by a pedestal. It looked like it hurt too.

“Maybe you should save Speed Star for days when it’s not raining, huh?” Tsubaki asked.

“I’m just a dude who’s way ahead of his time, ya know? Does that mean I was born too early because time can’t keep up with me? Man… Speed Star… is way deep, huh?” he asked.

The shadow loomed over him, and he just barely dodged being impaled in the face. “Damn, I can’t hit him when I have to spend all my time dodging his attacks!” Blackstar growled. “I have to try something else.” he said.

The shadow formed a drill around the katana Ryuko was holding. “Playtime’s over, now we fight for real.” Masamune said.

“That stance…! Careful Blackstar, he’s going to shoot a beam from the sword!” Tsubaki warned. Blackstar braced himself.

“Now die. Puppet Thrust!” Masamune called out. The shadow was fired at Blackstar as a beam attack.

“I can see it.” Blackstar murmured. A huge cloud of dust was thrown up by the attack, but as it cleared, it became obvious that Blackstar had deflected the attack. He smirked a little.

Apparently insulted by this, Masamune said “Branch out Shadow!” spikes erupted from the shadow, stabbing Blackstar several times. He grunted in pain as the shadow removed itself from him and reformed in front of Blackstar, managing to give him a cut across the forehead.

He staggered back a step, but said “I’m not done with you yet!” through gritted teeth. Masamune charged at him, causing Blackstar to duck under a slash. He retaliated with a Soul Force attack, only for it to be deflected with Masamune’s blade, leaving Blackstar open to an attack from the shadow, opening a cut on his stomach. ‘Damn! I’m still ahead, it’s not my time yet!’ he thought.

The two combatants clashed swords. ‘C’mon… c’mon… come on!’ Blackstar thought. They passed each other, Blackstar landing near the statue again. Masamune rushed at him. ‘Is it my time now?’ he thought. Both Masamune and the shadow attacked, but Blackstar jumped over both. “Tsubaki! Chain-scythe Mode!” Blackstar said, causing Tsubaki to shift again. Masamune and the shadow gave it another try. “Now Tsubaki!” he said.

“Okay!” she agreed.

“Let’s go Soul Resonance!” they said in unison. Tsubaki’s chains rapidly formed a five-point star.

“Shield Star!” Blackstar called out, as a yellow star formed inside the chains. Masamune’s strike couldn’t get past the shield, only causing a sound similar to that of metal on metal as the sword contacted the yellow star.

“I’ll do anything it takes to stop you. You dive into destruction without considering what lies ahead, and now Blackstar has you.” Tsubaki said.

“Puppet!” Masamune called. The shadow lunged at Blackstar and extended both sets of fingers to try and impale him, but he dodged and jumped up.

“Your time is up! Mid-air combat is something I’m good at!” he readied his signature Soul Force technique. “Which makes this… MY TURF! Blackstar Big Wave!” he hit Ryuko with his Soul Wavelength, forcing Masamune to release him. “Now Tsubaki!” Blackstar called as he caught Ryuko.

“Right!” Tsubaki responded, catching Masamune by the hilt, and passing him in mid-air. No one watching missed the happy smile on her face. ‘Blackstar… thank you. I’ll be back.’

“Interesting. Coming inside was your plan all along, wasn’t it?” Masamune asked, a dark grin spreading across his face.

Tsubaki landed, kneeling, but still holding onto the sword. ‘From this point on, it really is my fight. I will stop the Enchanted Sword.’ she gasped as the same tattoos Ryoku had not a minute beforehand appeared on her. Apparently, they were a sign of Masamune’s influence. She then screamed as green energy crackled throughout her body and a blinding light appeared.

*** Death Room ***

“What just happened?” Soul asked.

“Tsubaki’s gone inside the Enchanted Sword.” Stein explained.

“Why would you do that Tsubaki?” Maka asked.

“What was she thinking? How’s she supposed to fight without a Meister?” Soul asked.

“It doesn’t make sense for her to fight him alone.” Tara said, concern etched on her face.

“You don’t get it, the fight is taking place inside their souls, anything could happen now.” Death reprimanded. “It had to come to this. You see, Tsubaki is the only one who can stand against the Enchanted Sword.” Death explained.

*** With Tsubaki And Blackstar ***

“Tsubaki, you’re in, now make sure you come back out.” Blackstar said.

*** Inside The Souls ***

The inside of Masamune was disturbing. Shadows, representing people’s souls which were absorbed into Masamune, were scattered about over blood-red water and a black sickly grinning moon with blood dripping down it’s face from both it’s mouth and eye looked down on it all with sadistic glee.

“This is the inside of the Enchanted Sword.” Tsubaki said aloud. “Where are you? I know you’ll be coming after my soul in order to possess it.” she asked.

“Soul Possession? No, not that. I think I’ll devour your soul just the way it is.” Masamune rested on the arm of one of the shadows as if it were a tree branch. “I have to admit it’s nice to see you again… Tsubaki.” he said.

“Hi brother.” Tsubaki said, scythes forming in her hands in a burst of yellow light. She could bring them out without transforming since this was also inside her soul. Masamune brought out his sword form in a burst of pinkish-red light.

“Ready?” they asked at the same time as they got into their respective stances.

*** Meanwhile In Needlepoint Village ***

“Ryoku?” a villager asked as they approached Blackstar and Tsubaki, intent on making them leave, but noticing the unconscious teenager.

“What happened? Is he okay?” another asked.

“This is the Star Clan’s fault! Look what they’ve done to Ryoku!” another answered.

“It’s terrible!” one said.

“Get out of our village, murderer!” one yelled as he started beating on Blackstar with a stick. Blackstar simply sat there and took it.

“Tsubaki.” he murmured.

“Did you hear me?! I said get out! Get out!” the villager stopped after a particularly brutal strike, panting for breath.

“Okay, just make sure you come back!” Blackstar said, smiling despite the blood running down his face.

*** Inside The Souls ***

Tsubaki charged at Masamune, screaming involuntarily. Masamune blocked effortlessly, knocked her away causing her to lose her balance, and then grabbed her by the face and lifted her up. “What’s the matter Tsubaki? I know you didn’t come to visit, so why isn’t there any force behind your attacks? You’re just like your namesake the Camellia Blossom.” he let go just long enough to grab Tsubaki by her hair and dunk her head under the water.

“A flower without fragrance. It proclaims nothing, blooming in pathetic silence. No scent, no voice of your own. When your petals scatter it is quietly tragic.” he kicked her away while cutting her along the waist. “Such a boring flower.” he said as Tsubaki struggled up. “You know what I think? If this was the outside world you’d be dead right now.” Tsubaki panted raggedly. “What’s the matter? Your soul’s trembling. What are you so afraid of? Is it death?” he asked.

“I may die today, but I will stop you!” Tsubaki said adamantly, her eyes narrowing.

Masamune started, then clutched at his face with one hand. “Stop it! Stop looking at me! Those eyes… you are the one who brought me here. The one who put me on the path to becoming the Enchanted Sword.” he accused.

*** Meanwhile In Needlepoint Village ***

The villagers continued to beat on Blackstar, who continued to sit there and take it.

*** Death Room ***

Death chuckled. “Blackstar’s showing more restraint with those two than I thought was possible for him.” he said.

“I still can’t believe Tsubaki and Masamune are brother and sister.” Maka said.

“But Blackstar has no idea about that does he?” Soul asked.

Death nodded. “He trusts her, and for now that’s all he needs to know.” Death responded.

“Tsubaki hasn’t moved since she screamed earlier, are you sure she’s alright?” Maka asked.

“Hm, if you don’t mind Tara? Don’t worry, everyone here is in the know.” Death asked.

“Alright.” an illusion began to form, but was cut off as she noticed Stein eating lunch.

“We brought snacks everybody!” Liz and Patty called out as they hefted 2 large bags.

“Snacks at a time like this?! Are you two dipsticks crazy?!” Maka yelled.

“Anyway, I’ll illustrate while Stein narrates.” Tara said, a pair of vacuum hoses connected to each other appeared, along with an image of Tsubaki and Masamune’s soul at each end. Tsubaki’s was yellow and seemed distressed, while Masamune’s was red and seemed almost arrogantly confident.

“Tsubaki and Masamune are trying to take over each other’s souls. Masamune is trying to possess Tsubaki’s while Tsubaki tries to absorb his.” Stein explained.

“Ah, turning his own technique against him. Nice.” Kid said as he snacked. “Still, do you think she can win?” Kid asked.

“It will certainly be difficult. She’s fighting Masamune in his soul, so he’s got the home court advantage, and he has far more experience with the Soul Possession technique as it is one of his trademarks. Yeah, her chances of winning are low altogether.” Stein ate a troublesome piece of food that he’d been trying to grab with his chopsticks for the last few minutes, before resorting to stabbing it.

“Still, that might be the best chance she’s got. Transporting him in sword form would be difficult, and it’s almost impossible to destroy a Demon Weapon while in their Weapon form, especially a Kishinized one.” Tara noted, looking at the situation logically.

“Brother and sister locked in a fight to the death! I can’t even imagine! I couldn’t go on living without you Patty!” Liz said, shaking her sister and crying.

“There, there.” Patty patted her sister on the back, seeming unconcerned.

“Those who start down the road to becoming a Kishin reveal their own weakness. The original Kishin sought escape from the fear of death. The question is, why did Tsubaki’s brother travel down this path? What does he seek to gain by becoming a Kishin?” Stein asked.

“The motivation tends to be fear, bitterness, or jealousy. Though a simple lust for power isn’t uncommon.” Tara added.

*** Inside The Souls ***

Tsubaki stood and rushed at her brother at speeds most humans couldn’t match or even follow. “You have so many other options. You could use your Smoke Bomb or Shuriken forms,” Tsubaki sent a scythe flying at him, only for it to be deflected effortlessly. “but you stick with that Chain-scythe instead.” Masamune said, seeming angry. Tsubaki reached him, but her attack was blocked. “Why are you holding back?” he growled even as he gave her a cut along the shoulder. “Pity? Do you pity me?!” he yelled, his face twisted in anger.

*** Death Room ***

“That’s not good.” Tara said with forced calm as Tsubaki’s soul started to get pulled into her end of the vacuum hose. Since Death’s mirror was not even close to ordinary, she could use Soul Perception through it and get the general idea of what was going on, which was reflected in her illusion.

“It’s not over yet.” Death said.

“Tsubaki and Masamune both come from the Nakatsukasa family. That clan possesses special Weapon abilities that are handed down through the generations. In theory, Masamune should have inherited the previous generation’s abilities, as he was the eldest child. However, Tsubaki inherited them instead. No one is sure of the reason.” Stein explained. Tara would simply put it down to the randomness of genetics. There was nothing guaranteeing a child would inherit a particular trait from their parents, so there was nothing stopping the younger child from inheriting the power.

*** Inside The Souls ***

“You inherited everything that should have been mine by birthright. This sword is the only thing I inherited. For the longest time, I was treated far more delicately than other children. I was babied and spoiled, getting whatever I asked for. One day I realized it was because everyone thought I was inferior. Ironically enough, you were the one who showed me that sad truth.” Masamune said, making an extremely shallow slice across Tsubaki’s cheek.

He grabbed at his face in apparent emotional pain. “The pity in your eyes when you looked at me because you thought you were the strong one. You hid it, but I could see it anyway. I’ll never forgive you for that!” Shadows rose up in a pillar surrounding him. “Tsubaki, dear sister, I’m going to kill you. I will become a Kishin…” he let go of his face and you could see the madness in his eyes. “And then I’m going to master this sword!” he proclaimed.

“…Puppet Rain.” he said softly. Shadows wrapped their arms around Tsubaki’s wrists, ankles, and neck, causing her to cry out in pain. Unbeknownst to her, the illusion showed her soul about halfway sucked into the hose.

*** Meanwhile In Needlepoint Village ***

The villagers continued to beat on Blackstar, who smiled as he remembered how he and Tsubaki had met during their first day as official students. One of the villagers noticed Tsubaki sitting there and (correctly) assumed that she was with Blackstar. He was about to bring the stick down on her, but Blackstar caught it effortlessly.

“Listen you snot-nosed brat, don’t even think about interrupting Tsubaki again or I’ll kill you!” he snapped the stick in half with one hand, sending the villager sprawling to the ground. “You got me?” he asked, the blood on his face making him terrifying. “Just sit there and keep your mouth shut.” Blackstar finished.

“Oh yeah? Well screw you Star Clan member!” the villager threw the stick at Blackstar’s face and ran off.

*** Death Room ***

“What the hell is wrong with these people?!” Soul asked.

“The Star Clan was responsible for killing hundreds of people, many of them for money or to eat their souls. It’s only natural they’d make enemies. Though I fail to see what attacking a boy who was a baby when the clan was slaughtered for their crimes does to help anyone.” Stein said.

*** Inside The Souls ***

“Any last words before I kill you Tsubaki?” Masamune asked. Tsubaki was silent. “You truly are a pathetic little Camellia blossom aren’t you? Nothing to say.” the shadows drew her right in front of him. “And now Tsubaki, your soul belongs to me.” he said, before impaling her. The illusory Tsubaki soul was completely sucked in.

*** Death Room ***

“What was Tsubaki thinking, taking him on all alone?” Maka asked.

“Tsubaki is a powerful, adaptable Weapon, but this time her opponent is too strong. I should have been the one to face the Enchanted Sword.” Stein said.

“I wouldn’t give up on her just yet.” Tara said. She had confidence in her friends. It would take more than this to stop one of them.

“She’s right. Tsubaki isn’t really alone. Blackstar’s right there with her, and he won’t budge. She wouldn’t be able to fight otherwise.” Soul agreed.

“That’s right.” Death said with a nod before placing a hand to his heart. “What’s important right now is what’s in here. We all know that Tsubaki is a powerful and adaptable Weapon with many modes of attack. But that’s not where her true strength lies. That’s in her soul.” Death said.

*** Inside The Souls ***

“What are you feeling right now little sister? Do you still look down on me? It must be nice to have such a sense of superiority over others. You just stand there, quiet and smug, taking care of everyone else because you’re the strong one. How can you deny it? That’s who you’ve always been.” Masamune accused.

“Please tell me that’s not what you’re actually thinking. You know better than that Tsubaki, don’t even listen to this guy!” Blackstar said, placing a hand on her shoulder after appearing from nowhere, then disappearing just as quickly.

Tsubaki opened her eyes as her soul began forcing it’s way back out of the hose. “You’re wrong.” she said, causing Masamune to kick her away. She landed in a sitting position, and stood without trouble. “You’re wrong!” she yelled. “You’re wrong! You’re Wrong! You’re Wrong!! YOU’RE WRONG!!” she yelled louder and louder, utterly denying Masamune’s accusation.

“I’m not taking care of you anymore! I’m going to stop you!” her Chain-scythes, changed into her Ninja Sword Mode. “Please, feel in your soul how serious I am! I’m begging you.” Tsubaki said, switching her hand to a reverse grip to increase her power.

“You don’t stand a chance!” Masamune growled. “You’re just a pathetic little Camellia Blossom! You might act brave, but in the end you have no scent or voice!” Masamune yelled, clearly losing it.

“You’re wrong! I won’t let you call me a pathetic flower anymore! I have a friend who’s helped me realize that a Camellia Blossom… does have a fragrance!” Tsubaki shouted back.

At that moment Masamune completely snapped. He roared in rage, and shadows lunged for Tsubaki as she ran at him. Tsubaki slashed and stabbed the shadows, cutting herself a path. She used the nearest shadow as a springboard to launch herself into the air and try a falcon slash on Masamune, who roared as he swung his sword at her. A shockwave rolled through the soulscape, destroying the shadows and momentarily causing the water to turn blue. They had impaled each other in the same instant.

*** Meanwhile In Needlepoint Village ***

Tsubaki’s body stirred, sitting up. Blackstar noticed immediately. “Tsubaki!” he called. Tsubaki turned into white smoke and was drawn into the sword.

“She’s going inside the Enchanted Sword? That can’t be… Did he beat Tsubaki? Does that mean it’s over?” Blackstar asked, falling to his knees.

*** Death Room ***

Both souls had disappeared into their ends of the hose. Tara could only stare. “Did they taken each other out?” she asked. Despair and disbelief warred for dominance in her voice and emotions.

“Tsubaki!” Maka called. “I can’t watch this, it can’t be real!” she said, closing her eyes.

*** Meanwhile In Needlepoint Village ***

Blackstar turned to the nearest villager, who happened to be the old man Ryuko had attacked while possessed. “Hey old man! Give me that stick!” he said, grabbing the stick and yanking it out of the man’s hands. He began to prod the sword with the stick.

“Hey Tsubaki! Come out of there already! You haven’t lost to him have you?” Blackstar asked. “You can put on a better show than that, come back out on stage!” he started to lightly hit the sword with the stick. “Encore! Encore! Encore!” with each ‘encore’ Blackstar hit the stick more often and with more force. “Tsubaki, encore! Give us an encore!” Blackstar said.

*** Inside The Souls ***

“At last… you’ve finally shown me what you’re feeling.” Masamune said as slowly began to fade away from the feet up. “I always thought that the Camellia Blossom was a boring flower. One without fragrance.” He was gone from the waist down now, and the soulscape had switched to Tsubaki’s. The moon was replaced with the sun, the water was a clear blue, and the shadows were replaced by Camellia petals.

“But I was wrong wasn’t I? I realized as soon as I touched your soul.” he said, his eyes having returned to those of a normal human.

“Masamune…” Tsubaki said sadly and weakly.

“It’s a nice fragrance.” he said, smiling as he vanished completely, leaving behind a Kishin Egg soul.

Tsubaki hugged it and shed tears. “Brother…”

*** Meanwhile In Needlepoint Village ***

“Encore! Encore! Encore! Encore! Come on Tsubaki! Encore!” Blackstar called as he jabbed the sword with the stick he was holding. “Encore dammit! Give us an encore! We want an encore!” he was yelling now.

The sword erupted into smoke, sending Blackstar flying back and causing his stick to be sent flying above him and back down on his head. Tsubaki became visible as the mist faded. “See? I told you I’d come back.” she said.

“Tsubaki?” Blackstar asked.

“I just had to pay a visit to my brother.” Tsubaki said.

“Oh, you did huh? Well welcome back. Are you alright?” Blackstar asked, seemingly unconcerned, but it was easy to tell it was an act.

“Oh yes.” Tsubaki said with a smile.

“Are you sure you’re really okay?” Blackstar asked seriously.

“Yes, I promise I’m okay.” Tsubaki answered.

Blackstar smiled widely. “Alright then, come over here.” Blackstar said. Tsubaki looked surprised. “Come on, Blackstar’s giving you a big hug.” he said.

Tsubaki teared up, then ran over and hugged Blackstar as she started crying. “I’m sorry! Look at you Blackstar, you’re all covered in blood! Are you alright?” she asked.

Blackstar patted her on the head. “Nevermind about me Tsubaki, I’m fine.” he said, only to get a whap on the head from one of the villagers. This was the last straw, and Blackstar said “Alright! That’s it, you asked for it!” then decked the villager in the face.

Ryuko finally woke up a few seconds later. “Oh, kid’s still alive? That’s good news.” Blackstar said, completely oblivious to the expressions on everyone’s faces.

“The Star Clan are all monsters!” a villager said.

“Beating up a little kid…” another said.

“Get out of here, now!” yet another growled.

“You ever notice how the smallest dogs bark the loudest?” Blackstar asked as he stretched. “Why don’t you mutts shut up?!” Blackstar yelled, apparently fed up with the physical abuse and name-calling. The villagers grew progressively angrier. “You’re scared of an enemy that doesn’t exist anymore, how lame are you?” he raised a finger to the sky. “What’s the point of worrying about the past? A real star always keeps moving forward!” Blackstar said.

“Don’t give us that!” one of the villagers yelled.

“Never come back!” Aggravated, the villagers formed an angry mob and chased Blackstar and Tsubaki out of town by throwing rocks and sticks.

“Who’d want to come back here anyway?” Blackstar called, sticking his tongue out at the villagers.

“I’m sorry! Once you get to know him, he’s not bad, really!” Tsubaki called.

“Even if he wasn’t a member of the Star Clan I still wouldn’t like that guy.” Ryuko was grinning despite what he’d just said.

*** The Death Room: Several Hours Later ***

Once Blackstar got treated for his injuries, the ninja duo headed to the Death Room. “So Tsubaki, now that we’ve taken care of the Enchanted Sword and you’ve dealt with some baggage from your past, you’re still gonna be my Weapon partner right?” Blackstar asked.

After a beat, Tsubaki said, “Of course!”

“Alright!” Blackstar said with a grin.

The two of them stepped into the Death Room proper, where everyone said “Welcome back!” in unison.

“Hey, what’d we miss?” Blackstar asked cheerfully.

Tsubaki bowed hurriedly. “I’m sorry we made you all worry.” she apologized.

“Hey, hey, good work you two!” Death praised them.

“You guys were amazing out there!” Maka agreed.

“And you finally bagged a soul.” Soul said.

“The problem child finally redeems himself.” Kid said.

“It sure took you long enough though!” Soul said.

“Well I’ve always been a little bit ahead of my time.” Blackstar said, giving them a thumbs-up.

“You did it Tsubaki!” Maka praised.

“I was kind of worried for a minute there, but everything turned out fine.” Tara said, smiling.

“This little baby cried you know.” Liz said, pointing at Patty.

“Nuh-uh! That was you sis!” Patty complained.

“You know Lord Death, I think I may have underestimated what those kids are capable of, they’re pretty good.” Stein said.

“They are still young after all, they’ve got plenty of growing up left to do.” Death said.

“Attention!” Blackstar called from on top of the mirror behind Death. “I hope you’re all ready, ’cause I’m about to show you something incredibly awesome!” he proclaimed loudly.

“Oh, this should be good.” Kid and Soul said at the same time.

“He went back to normal pretty quick.” Tara deadpanned.

Death ‘Hm?’ed.

“Listen up! Thanks to that soul we bagged, Tsubaki’s got a brand new Weapon form!” Blackstar announced. Those watching ‘Oooh!’ed. “Let’s show ’em Tsubaki!” Blackstar said.

“Right!” she agreed, dissolving into white smoke.

“Enchanted Sword Mode!” Blackstar called as Tsubaki reformed into a katana almost the same as the one Masamune had used, but a shade lighter. A single swing created enough air pressure to equal a gust of wind. Unfortunately, it seemed to be extremely draining as Blackstar collapsed onto the ground after a single swing, prompting sweatdrops from everyone else.

Tsubaki reverted to human form, and lifted Blackstar up. “Blackstar!” she called, concerned.

“My Soul Wavelength got taken away. I’m gonna miss it.” Blackstar groaned out.

“I don’t think that’s what Blackstar had planned. He might not be ready for that Mode yet. This is interesting though. It seems Tsubaki’s inherited her brother’s power.” Stein observed with a smile as he smoked a cigarette.

“He’s probably going to have to do some special training if he wants to use Enchanted Sword Mode for very long. I wonder if Tsubaki’s other forms got a boost too?” Tara noted.

“This settles it, I was born way too soon.” Blackstar said as Tsubaki fanned him. “The times are never able to keep up with me.”

“Then we’ll wait for them together, right Blackstar?” Tsubaki asked. Blackstar nodded weakly.

*** Meanwhile: A Witch Meeting. Unknown Location. ***

“Jouma… Jouma… Jouma, Jouma, Dabarasa!” the Grand Witch said. She had black witch’s clothes that covered virtually all of her skin, and her hat looked like some kind of monster that wanted to eat you. Bandages covered one eye, which she had lost decades before. “As Grand Witch, I declare this Witch’s Mass open. Let us begin.” she said. The witches repeated the words the Grand Witch had begun with, including Medusa, who was in the back with Crona and Ragnarok. Apparently it was a prayer or something similar.

After Witch’s Mass, Medusa said, “Come along Crona.” as she put her hood up.

“Yes ma’am Lady Medusa.” Crona said, complying.

They had barely taken three steps when a witch with orange pouches on her cheeks reminiscent of a frog, waist-length silver hair, a green and polka dot dress that ended at the knees, black pants, white boots with heels, and an orange frog hat stuck a stick out to bar their path. Next to her was a girl in a trenchcoat that covered the lower half of her face with a black rat head hat, and short pink hair. “Hold it.” she said.

“Oh dear.” Medusa said with mock worry.

“Ah! What’s going on, she won’t let us go! I don’t think I know how to deal with this situation!” Crona said looking at his/her hands.

Ragnarok grabbed Crona’s face. “You can deal with it by shutting up already!” he said.

“Good evening Erica Frog, did you need something?” Medusa asked cordially.

“Ribbit. I think you know why I’m stopping you.” Erica said.

“Well if it’s about Crona, then I’m not the only one who brought a non-witch to the gathering. That little witch over there brought a human with her, so I don’t see what the problem is.” Medusa said, turning her head towards a swordsman who was carrying the aforementioned witch on his back. The witch happened to be 5 or so, and her powers had yet to manifest strongly, so as long as the human in question was trustworthy, no one really made an issue of it.

“The security of the Witch’s Mass certainly has gone downhill, but that isn’t what I wanted to talk to you about tonight Medusa. I have some questions about what you’ve been doing. First, what were you doing stealing something from the Grand Witch’s room? Second, why on earth would you sneak yourself onto the staff of the DWMA? You’re practically asking to get killed.” Erica asked.

Medusa snapped her fingers. “Crona get me my coat.” she said, ignoring Erica.

“Yes, right away Lady Medusa.” Crona said, putting the snakeskin-patterned coat on Medusa’s back. Medusa put the coat on.

“My research at the Academy has been fully approved, as you well know. The Grand Witch herself is on my side Erica.” Medusa said, and started walking off.

“Just a minute.” Erica stopped Medusa again. “The Grand Witch’s eyesight is failing. She doesn’t see what a nuisance you’ve made of yourself lately. That Academy was built to hunt down Kishin Eggs and Witches. If you slip up just once, you’ll take all of us with you. You won’t be the only one in trouble.

Then there’s him.” Erica glanced at Crona and Ragnarok. “Why would you try to create a Kishin? They go after Witches as often as normal humans. You’ve taken this too far, it’s time for you to stop.” Erica said. Before she or the Mouse-Witch beside her could react, Medusa had her hands inside each of their mouths.

“You meddlesome little frog and mouse. I think I’m going to have to punish you.” Medusa said, a twisted smile on her face. Erica and the Mouse-Witch trembled, fully aware that Medusa could kill them whenever she wanted right now. “Maybe not right now though. The school nurse mustn’t be late with so many patients to care for.” Medusa pulled her hands out of their mouths, and waved the liquid off them, then started to walk off again. This time she was unmolested.

“I can’t stand that Witch.” Erica growled, eyes still teared up. The Mouse-Witch nodded her agreement.

Twilight The Traveler

Twilight The Traveler Chapter 16 – Hospital Hijinks And Excalibur The Annoying!

// Hospital Hijinks And Excalibur The Annoying!// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

Tara was leaning against a wall, reading a book, more or less simply here under observation at this point, when Maka came in. She took one look at the guilty expression on Maka’s face and said “It’s not your fault. Stein and Spirit working together had trouble with those two. You couldn’t possibly have known the who your opponents were before meeting them either.”

“But… Soul… he got hurt because I couldn’t just leave it alone! I have to become as strong as he is! I will! That’s a promise.” Maka was crying by the third word, and it was obvious the blame was permanently on her shoulders, at least in her own mind. Maka really did remind her of herself.

Suddenly the door burst open. “Soul! Tara! Are you okay?!” Blackstar ran in yelling. Noticing that Tara seemed fine, Blackstar turned his full attention to Soul. He grabbed Soul by the neck and started jerking him up and down yelling “You’re going to be alright! Blackstar is here for you now! Open your eyes!” he attempted to pry Soul’s eyes open. “One look at my big handsome face and you’ll be cured for sure!” Blackstar was now flinging Soul around like a rag doll.

“Blackstar! Noooo!” Maka screamed, before a Dual-Chop crashed down on his head. Maka had finally managed one in with both hands at the same time. Blackstar was sent flying into the nearby hospital bed, blood spurting from his mouth. Maka got a slightly sadistic smile in response.

“Good job on your Maka Chops, Maka, you can finally do two at once!” Tara said happily, more or less ignoring Blackstar. It wasn’t nearly as bad as when he’d been Reaper Chopped a couple weeks ago, and he’d been fine. Tsubaki simply stared. You’d think she would be used to the crazy by now.

“Sorry about that Maka!” Tsubaki apologized once she snapped out of it. “Maka?” she asked, concerned when Maka’s guilty expression resurfaced. Maka rubbed at her eyes furiously and chuckled artificially, returning to a more normal expression.

Some footsteps signaled the approach of Doctor Medusa. She’d referred to her as Nurse Medusa in relation to Spirit’s perverted fantasies.

There was something that had always felt off about the seemingly good-natured medic, but Tara had seen nothing wrong even with point-blank use of Soul Perception. She couldn’t go around accusing people just because of feelings either, especially not after what happened last time she hadn’t had proof to back up her finger-pointing. Besides, there was absolutely nothing concrete to suggest that she wasn’t as nice as she appeared.

“Oh my goodness, what happened to the door?” she asked. She had dirty-blond hair with a braid in the front, a classic doctor’s coat over a black and rather skintight suit, blue shoes, and yellow eyes. “It looks like things have been rather lively in here.” she said.

“Doctor Medusa.” Maka said, snapping out of her inner thoughts.

“Good Afternoon.” Tsubaki, Maka, and herself, said in unison, bowing. There was no point being impolite, and no reason at all to let Medusa know she was suspicious.

Blackstar had apparently recovered already, as he threw off the covers and asked “Hey Doc, what’s up? Are you here to check on Soul and Tara are doing?”

“Well I feel fine, just had a nasty dream and didn’t want to go back to sleep.” Tara said. The nightmares were worse than usual, she didn’t wake up in a cold sweat very often any more.

“Actually, Miss Maka?” Medusa asked.

“Yes?” Maka asked, hesitant. “What is it?”

Medusa was clearly embarrassed. “Can you do me a favor and help me out with your father? I can’t get him off my leg.” she said. This prompted them all to look and see that Spirit was indeed cuddling Medusa’s leg and saying perverted things. Maka responded in the usual way, A Maka Chop which left Spirit in the hospital bed this time. Maka’s expression was very satisfied at having done that.

“Soul had a difficult lesson didn’t he? It seems as though he was in bad shape.” Medusa was inwardly quite happy with what she’d found. ‘I recognize the after-effects of magical healing, and Tara’s magic was exactly the same as the magic in Soul. She’s definitely responsible.’ Witches whose talents lay in healing were generally shunned by the others, so that explained Tara’s presence. At least, it would if she hadn’t shown a talent for a variety of magic. Most Witches favored one type or theme, even the Grand Witch herself had a distinct predilection for space-time manipulation. She’d keep this to herself for now though.

“Yes, I’m sorry. It’s all my fault that he was hurt.” Maka apologized.

Medusa put her hands on Maka’s shoulders and said “I’m not placing any blame. What matters is that he’s okay now. As for you, this will only make you stronger in the long run.”

“Yeah.” Maka nodded, good cheer returning. Tara really didn’t understand why she was so suspicious of Medusa, but she did her best to keep it from affecting their interactions. For a split second, she thought she caught a hint of dark magic, but that shouldn’t have been possible since a point-blank Soul Perception had shown nothing. She’d literally been less than 2 feet away from Medusa. With that in mind, she put it down as her imagination.

Some time later, Tara dozed off and had an odd dream. She was in a library of sorts, but the books all had black covers, and there were 6 crystals on pedestals placed equidistant from each other around the room. She was sitting on a chair of sorts with a stiff back and a pen and blank book on a table in front of her. A black door on the opposite side of the room opened, and a figure that looked exactly like her stepped through. There was one difference in their appearance.

“No… it can’t be… I sealed you away, and you didn’t break the seal, so how are you here?!” she asked.

Her doppelganger grinned, though that only made the malice she oozed more terrifying. “Madness is illogical and unpredictable by nature. I can’t fully escape, but I can reach out when you’re defenses are lowest. That is to say, in sleep through your dreams.” Arcana said, smile widening with just a hint of insanity and letting her glimpse a bottomless pit of evil.

“So, you can’t actually force me into anything then.” Tara said guardedly.

“Ah, no, I’m afraid not. I can speak to you, but I am once again reduced to an advisory role. Although now I can also let you access a power boost in the form of the black blood you were infected with when you rushed in to prevent Stein being injured. You healed your hand before the trace of it could be bled out, and it’s infested the nearby bone marrow cells. Since it has a direct relationship with your soul, you won’t be getting rid of it when you head to the next world.” Arcana explained pleasantly.

“One, why would I listen to someone who will do their best to maneuver me into a position where she can take over my body and kill everything. Two, why would I willingly allow that stuff any more influence than possible after seeing what it did to Crona’s mental state. I’m not entirely stable as it is.” Tara countered.

“Even a broken clock is right twice a day. My being your enemy does not mean I don’t give good advice. Besides, I’m nothing more than the manifestation of the weakness in your heart. Were you to try and take on the darkness your own anger, fear, guilt, and despair forged, you would be driven insane or broken beyond repair. I am stopping that from happening simply by existing. You can still feel negative emotions, but they will be somewhat muted and you will recover more quickly. To that extent, we have a symbiotic relationship.

As for your second point, the black blood also provides a massive offensive power boost, and you saw for yourself how tough Crona was, being able to get right back up from being impaled. If you’re outmatched, you may have no other choice. Besides, even though I would love to be in control, you have it for the moment, and if you were to die, so would I. Since I have yet to seriously harm anyone you care about, I think it’s a safe gamble that you have the impression it’s possible to keep me under control.” Arcana answered.

“Hm, it’s a last resort nonetheless. I’m certain something like that would practically take a battering ram to the seal that’s keeping you in my head where you can’t hurt anyone. Possibly excluding me.” Tara said, arms crossed.

Arcana smiled. “Guilty as charged. You might be logical and intelligent, but you tend to place others before yourself. You’ll be more than willing to use the black blood when your friends are in trouble.” she looked up, presumably at the real world instead of the mental/soul-based construct they were talking in. “However, our time seems to be up. See you soon.” Arcana simply waved as the room faded from Tara’s sight.

“It seems Original has encountered a very interesting substance. I’m very curious how much mental and emotional havoc it will wreak,” Her smile rapidly approached the limits of what was anatomically possible. “and how much the seal can take before it crumbles.” she mused aloud.

Tara awoke to screaming. Specifically, Soul’s screaming his lungs out and thrashing in his bed roughly five feet away. “Gah! What’s wrong?!” she said, slightly drowsy.

“I don’t know, you were both muttering in your sleep, then Soul started screaming!” Maka answered.

“What’s the matter?” Doctor Medusa asked calmly, presumably used to screaming.

“Good! Doctor Medusa, it’s Soul!” Maka said. Soul continued to scream and thrash, Maka offered her hand, and he took it tightly.

Once Soul calmed down, he reassured them. “I’m alright, I’ll be okay. I just had a bad dream that’s all.” he said.

“That’s very good to hear Soul, but if anything does come up, call me right away, alright?” Medusa asked, before walking away, once she was behind the curtain, she paused. ‘Ragnarok’s black blood is mixed in with Soul Eater’s and Tara Strong’s.’ a dark grin spread across her face. ‘It seems I have new research subjects. Tara should prove especially interesting since she not only possesses magic, but from what I can tell, her DNA has undergone mutation. For some reason, her files are classified, which makes me that much more curious about her past.’ she thought, a snake of purple energy curled out of her mouth briefly before she recalled it.

‘I have to remember not to let my power show around Tara. She hides it well, but she’s suspicious of me and she possesses Soul Perception, albeit only a little above-average. She has good instincts too, although she’s hesitant to follow through on them.’ she thought, forcing her face back into her ‘Doctor Medusa’ personality.

*** Sunset ***

Maka was getting ready to leave. “Okay Soul, I’m heading home, unless you need something. Are you thirsty? Do you want me to get you a drink before I go?” she asked.

“Nah, don’t worry about it. What goes in must come out, and I don’t want to use the bathroom in these stupid bedpans.” Soul answered.

“Do you want me to bring anything when I come back besides a change of underwear?” she asked.

“Hm… nope I can’t think of anything.” he said, closing his eyes tiredly.

“Okay.” Maka said, eyes downcast.

“Hey Maka, I’m in this bed because of something I did, not because of you. Don’t get all worked up about it okay?” he asked.

“Sorry.” Maka apologized quietly, before leaving.

‘Crap. I think I made her feel even worse. Way to go Soul.’ he thought

“Well, I’ll be heading to the Death Room, I have to talk to Lord Death about something. I was told I’m just not supposed to leave the DWMA grounds, not stay put.” Tara said. “Be back soon.” she said.

She caught sight of Maka following her father just as she left Soul to his own devices. She really ought to talk to Lord Death about this, if only to inform him of her ‘condition.’

Several minutes later, she was telling him about what happened. “Hm, that certainly sounds troublesome. Unfortunately, we simply aren’t capable of removing something embedded in your bone marrow without amputating your whole hand, and I think we can agree that should be a last resort. Especially since there’s no guarantee that it would work given the nature of the black blood.

As much as it pains me to say it, you will simply have to do your best to keep your counterpart contained. I won’t forbid you from using the black blood, but I’m sure you’re aware that Arcana will take advantage of even a crack in the seal, from what you’ve told me about her anyway. Be sure to pull back before that happens.” Death advised.

“Yes, and if she was telling the truth, she literally came from my weakness, which makes anything she might do my fault as well. Considering the sheer glee she showed at the thought of killing millions, it’s safe to say she won’t be planning anything good.” Tara mused aloud.

“I don’t think you should blame yourself too much. If you weren’t traumatized by what you’ve been through, it would make me question your ability to feel emotion at all.” Death responded.

“Well, that doesn’t help my situation now and if you forge a sword you’re complicit in any killing done with it, regardless of your intention. If I had dealt with it better, Arcana would never even have appeared.” Tara said, still blaming herself.

“You are asking far too much of yourself.” Death said, a rare serious expression on his mask/face. He raised a hand. “At any rate, why don’t you sleep on it? We don’t seem to making much progress.” he suggested.

“I guess I probably should, I might be able to get some answers from Arcana actually.” Tara mused, walking away deep in thought.

Death watched her go, then sighed. “At times, she seems to almost be Asura’s anti-thesis. She refuses to give in to negativity to the point her soul split, and then she manages to resist even that. It’s very impressive, but if she keeps trying to handle everything herself she’ll be crushed by the weight of the world.” he put a hand to his chin. “What to do…?” he asked himself.

On Tara’s way back, she was commandeered by Sid and Blackstar, mainly Sid. She was headed to the library anyway, so she wasn’t all that inconvenienced. She was, however, horrified by the state the library was in when she got there. There were as many books on the floor in haphazard piles as on the shelves of the bookcases.

She just barely restrained herself from re-shelving, realizing that Blackstar was probably being made to clean the place.

Blackstar had a thoroughly bored expression on his face as he looked around. “Well, you wanted me to come here, so here I am. What am I supposed to do now?” he asked.

“Clean! Put the library back in order!” Sid ordered. “Tara knows the system better than most of the people who work here, so she’ll be able to explain it to you better than I can, but you’re not going to be getting any help from her cleaning up.” Sid said.

“Huh? No way, not me!” Blackstar objected.

“Listen you brat! On your last extracurricular lesson, you didn’t collect even one Kishin Egg soul!” Sid said.

“Yeah, well, that’s what remedial lessons are for, right? I’ve been doing enough of them lately. How is stacking a bunch of books going to help? Cleaning? No way! I’m too big for that! Stars don’t clean!” Tara was getting the distinct impression that he was sulking. “Isn’t there anything better for me to do? Why can’t I do something like when we fought you and the crazy professor?” Blackstar asked. He was definitely sulking.

“Listen up for once Blackstar! When it comes to raw power, you’re in the top three in your class, but here you are with nothing to show for it! It’s not fair to Tsubaki, she’s trying hard and you’re holding her back!” Sid had managed to get to the door while they weren’t looking somehow. “What you need right now is punishment! Something mind-numbingly tedious and boring to get you back on track!” Sid said between the half-closed wooden doors.

“This is a huge mess, aren’t you at least going to help me?” Blackstar asked.

“That would defeat the purpose of this whole exercise. I don’t spoil my students, that’s not the kind of man I was.” Sid said, waving his hand and slowly closing the door. “One more thing, Tara, resist your OCD and don’t put any of the books back. You’ll justify helping Blackstar with the rest before long.” Sid said, before closing the door and walking off.

Tara tried to explain the Duo Decimal system to Blackstar, but he’d already found a comic book/graphic novel/manga book (it was hard to tell from just the cover sometimes) and was laughing his head off at every other page. She sighed and picked out a book to read and tried very very hard not to notice the disorder around her.

Eventually, someone noticed Blackstar’s loud laughter, she was honestly rather surprised it took so long. “Hey, keep it down, would you? You’re in a library.” Kid complained.

“Whoops! Yeah, sorry.” Blackstar apologized then noticed who he was talking to. “What are you doing here Kid, are you being punished too?” Blackstar asked.

“No, I’m here to check out a book. I’m conducting some research into the symmetry of famous weapons. I’d actually like take the book your sitting on if you don’t mind moving for a second.” Kid said.

Tara was left wondering how this mess wasn’t leaving him going nuts, maybe he was less incensed because the books were fairly symmetrical individually? Hm, that was the opposite of her problem.

“Oh, right here?” Blackstar asked, moving over and grabbing the book in question before handing it over.

“What does the cover say?” Blackstar asked. “E-Ex-caly-bur?” he asked.

“Almost, Excalibur.” Kid corrected.

Tara took a closer look. The book was light green and had EXCALIBUR in golden letters as the title. She immediately got the universal expression of all who had met the current Excalibur. Based on what she’d learned from the fairies in his cave, the sad thing was that he used to be sensible and a force for good to rival Lord Death, but he hadn’t handled immortality well. His sanity had eroded over the eons until he was little more than a babbling fool with enough power to destroy a city.

“Yeah, what’s that?” Blackstar said.

“From what I’ve heard it’s a legendary Weapon pre-dating the human versions. It’s also known as the holy sword. They say he who draws the holy sword from the ground will be deemed a hero and shall receive ever-lasting glory and fame. I’ve heard that someone who obtained Excalibur in the past went on to become a mighty king.” Kid said.

“Yep, it was King Arthur he was the mightiest of the Knights of the Round Table and his reign was, for the most part, a time of peace and prosperity like the citizens of Britain had never seen. Although-” Tara was cut off from mentioning what happened to King Arthur or Ecalibur’s current state by Kid.

“I bet a sword as powerful as this one has absolutely flawless symmetry! Oh symmetry!” Kid said. Tara could have sworn she saw a sparkle in front of Kid.

“Hero? King? That sounds perfect to me!” Blackstar exclaimed, a similar sparkle in his eye.

“Oh, you mean Excalibur, huh?” Stein asked, freaking Tara out a little since he’d gotten so close without anyone noticing.

“Hey Professor, are you here for punishment too?” Blackstar asked.

“Punishment? What are you talking about Blackstar?” Stein asked.

“Do you know anything about the legend of Excalibur?” Kid asked.

“The Holy Sword Excalibur. It was too much even for me.” Stein said, turning away.

“Really?” Blackstar asked.

“Even you couldn’t draw the sword Professor?” Kid asked, before looking closer at the book. “The holy sword Excalibur…” Kid said.

“Now I’m really interested!” Blackstar said loudly.

“I’m not all that surprised Professor Stein couldn’t draw Excalibur.” Tara admitted. “He might be an exceedingly powerful Meister, but there’s no accounting for Excalibur’s current personality… and they’ve already left.” Tara sighed, noticing them not being there.

“I might as well clean up, they’re not coming back any time soon.” she rubbed at her head in annoyance. She started on the nearest pile, Tsubaki eventually came by and joined in. With the two of them working at it, the library was clean before Sid came back.

“Let’s see. Are you still hard at work like a good boy Blackstar?” he gasped at the sight of the library not only organized but even swept and mopped. “Ooh! See what you can do if you put your mind to it?” he asked.

“Oh, hey Professor Sid, we finished cleaning a while ago.” Tsubaki said, pausing in reading her book.

“Tsubaki! Tara! So that sneaky little brat dumped his punishment on them and took off did he? Back when I was still alive I hated it when dirty tricks like this were pulled!” Sid growled.

“It’s okay Professor, I like to clean.” Tsubaki said.

“And I like to organize.” Tara said.

“If you’re looking for Blackstar, he’s not here. He and Kid went to find the Holy Sword. Why, did he do something wrong?” Stein asked.

“The Holy Sword?” Sid asked taking a few steps closer.

“Yes. Excalibur.” Stein answered.

“The same sword that tears the air and shakes the very ground?” Sid asked.

“Yes, they’re after that Excalibur.” Tara said, her ‘Excalibur’ expression returning briefly.

Stein turned his face back to his book and gave his screw a few turns. “Let’s stop talking about it.” he said.

“I tried to tell them, but they’d already left.” Tara said, pinching the bridge of her nose.

Sid rubbed his head and sighed. “Yeah, in some ways this is the ultimate remedial lesson. I’ll let this one slide, that’s the kind of man I was. I have some tests that need grading anyway.” he said, leaving the way he came.

Tsubaki approached Stein. “Professor, I have a question. What kind of weapon is the Holy Sword?” she asked.

“Oh, that huh? Whoever draws the sword is said to be made a great king, given wings of light and granted the ability to soar through the sky. The sword can cut through the very fabric of space with a single swing. It is undoubtedly the most powerful weapon in the world.” Stein said.

“I see, but only a hero who’s been chosen can match Soul Wavelengths with it, right?” she asked.

“Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Surprisingly enough, Excalibur also has the most flexible wavelength in existence. It can match with anyone just fine.” Stein answered.

“The problem is his personality. Nobody can stand to be around him for more than half an hour.” Tara said, her Excalibur expression returning in full force. “I have never encountered anyone more annoying, and I once dealt with the literal spirit of chaos!” she finally gave in to her aggravation and threw her hands in the air.

*** The Next Morning ***

The 8 of them (Tara, Maka, Soul, Blackstar, Tsubaki, Kid, Liz, Patty) met outside their classroom. Kid and Blackstar shook hands. “We’ve both got fine partners already, huh?” Blackstar asked. Kid nodded.

“Looks like the gang is all here.” Soul said, trademark toothy grin on his face.

“Hey Soul.” everyone said in unison.

“So are you all fixed up now Soul?” Blackstar asked as the two of them fist bumped. “The real party can’t start without you around.” he said.

“Yeah, I’m a lot better now.” Soul answered.

A few girls giggled over some thing in the background. “Blackstar, I’m beginning to think other people have been laughing at us.” Kid said, leaning over a bit.

“Those two? They’re the ones?” one of the three asked.

“Yeah, it’s for them.” another answered, causing them all to giggle.

It was at that moment that Maka appeared from inside the classroom. “Hey Blackstar, Kid, c’mere I think you better see this.” Maka said.

They all followed her in, and discovered a strange shrine of sorts. It had a banner at the top with the words ‘I’ll always be waiting for you’ with the letter ‘f’ replaced with a cane with eyes. Below that were two pictures of Excalibur wreathed in pink flowers each having a banner below them with Kid and Blackstar’s names. The whole thing was tied down with rope in a candy-cane patter. Tara facepalmed. “Yep, this seems like the kind of thing he’d do.” she said, suppressing her urge to burn the thing.

“Is he serious?” Kid and Blackstar asked in unison.

“What is that?” Maka asked.

“Don’t know, but it’s intense.” Soul answered.

“Trust me. You don’t want to know.” Tara said, her Excalibur expression returned in all it’s glory.

“That freak.” Blackstar said in his Excalibut expression.

“Disgusting.” Kid said also in his Excalibur expression.

Twilight The Traveler

Twilight The Traveler Chapter 15 – Black Blood

// Black Blood// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

Tara was following Stein to the hospital wing of the DWMA for support in the form of Spirit. Stein had heard that the Demon Sword was spotted in Italy. Maka and Soul were over there for a spree of missions to recover some of the 99 Kishin Eggs they’d recently lost. Worse, it was spotted near their current location.

She’d heard of it during her time in this world. It was famous for slaughtering dozens of people at a time and eating their souls, then disappearing back into whatever shadows it came from. It was supposed to be on a level with a full-fledged three-star Meister. They’d beaten Sid only because there were three of them, and he hadn’t had a Demon Weapon.

Spirit had apparently been expecting Nurse Medusa, and grabbed Stein’s leg and began to say things that made her want to hit him, until he discovered it was Stein, causing him to freeze. “Hey there Spirit. I’ve been looking for you.” he said nonchalantly.

Spirit screamed like a little girl and jumped onto the nearest bed, facing away from Stein. “Gah! Not Stein!” He hid under the blankets. “I don’t know what you want with me, but all the scars from your experiments have finally healed! I’m not afraid of you anymore! I’m not afraid of anything! How do you like that Stein?” he said with surprising fierceness despite cowering under a blanket.

“Well, then you must have noticed that I switched the middle toes on your feet.” Stein commented as if talking about the weather, idly pushing his glasses up with one hand.

“What!?” Spirit hurriedly pulled off his socks and examined his feet. “Are you completely insane?! How could you do something like that to me?!”

“Made you look.” Stein said, amusement in his voice. Spirit gaped at him.

“You know that little daughter of yours sure has grown up quickly. I have to admit I was concerned when I heard you were getting married, but seeing how happy you and Kami were together reassured me. Although at first I’d been thinking ‘There’s no way this will work out.'” Stein said, causing Spirit to make some strangled attempts at speech. “Then I thought, ‘Those two have found a love that is sure to last forever.'” Stein added cheerfully.

“Um, about that. You might know this yet, but Maka’s mother and I divorced. It’s been more than a month now. It’s over for good between us.” Spirit said, downcast.

“Oh, I know.” Stein responded.

Spirit grabbed Stein by the collar and started shaking him. “Then why the hell did you talk about it like that you jerk?!” Spirit asked. “Dammit! I’m gonna kill you you heartless labrat freak!” Stein yelled, shaking him more vigorously.

“As jerky as that was of Stein, we came here for a reason and it wasn’t to tease you.” Tara interrupted. “We need your help with something.” Tara’s face took on a hard expression.

“Ah right.” Stein’s usual nonchalance disappeared. “The Demon Sword’s been spotted in the area Maka and Soul last reported from. I don’t think I need to explain to you what that might mean.” he said.

*** Meanwhile In An Italian Church ***

Maka and Soul were investigating a church where Maka had discovered a Meister and Demon Weapon pair. Until a few moments ago, there had been about 55 human souls in there as well. Then the humans simply vanished, far too quickly even if the pair inside were hostile.

Soul preemptively transformed as they neared the door. Maka got a very bad feeling, but shook it off. ‘I’m getting the feeling we should turn back, but as a member of the DWMA, I have to know what happened here.’ she reasoned, before pushing the door open with one hand.

“You see. I tried to tell you. That door only opens inwards.” A teenager with pink hair said. It was hard to tell if they were a boy or a girl, but they were wearing a half-dress, half-shirt in black.

“What the hell? He’s in here all by himself. Where’d his partner go?” Soul asked.

“No, that shouldn’t be possible.” Maka said, seeing something with her Soul Perception.

“Huh? What’s up?” Soul asked.

“Lady Medusa, it looks like two others have arrived.” a deep, masculine voice whose source could not be identified said.

“Keep it down Ragnarok. You need to be quiet now.” the Meister said, seemingly to himself.

“I’m seeing the soul of a Meiser and a Demon Weapon, both ten meters directly in front of us. Which means… that Meister has a Weapon inside his body.” Maka said, prompting a sudden shift in the disposition of the pink-haired Meister.

“What are you saying Maka? His partner is inside him?” Soul asked, glancing betwen her and the Meister in front of them. “How the hell is that even a thing?!” he asked

“Not for long. It’s about to come out.” Maka said warily.

The Meister with pink hair suddenly clutched at his head and cried out in agony, before letting go, but continuing to scream. A hulking figure made of black blood burst out of his back. It dwarfed the figure of it’s host, and it’s body merged with said host where it’s waistline was. It had 2 large arms ending in gloved hands, a white band around one shoulder, spikes on it’s shoulders and back, and a face consisting of a white X with a pair of white eyes with black X’s in the center.

Maka took a step back cautiously. The figure ignored her after a glance to bonk it’s host on the head. “That hurts me.” the Meister complained. The figure continued to chuckle as it proceeded to bonk, poke, and prod it’s host, eliciting complaints, until finally the Meister yelled “Stop it! I’ve had enough!” which made the figure back off a bit.

“Now, now, Crona. You’re scary when you’re stressed-out like this.” the figure, presumably Ragnarok, said.

“Okay, this is getting weird.” Maka said, then set her face determinedly. “You should know that the hunting of human souls is strictly forbidden. Are you students? I haven’t seen you at the Academy.” Maka said.

“The what? What Academy? She said it was okay to eat the humans’ souls, so I did. If she said it was okay, I don’t see what was wrong with it.” Crona said, while Ragnarok played with his head. He blushed a bit. “I’m uh… I’m not really good at talking to girls, they make me nervous.” he said nervously.

Ragnarok lowered his head down to be level with his host’s. “Never mind that Crona. Her soul looks tasty, and the other Weapon’s isn’t bad either.” Ragnarok said.

“Weapons and Meisters are not allowed to hunt and collect human souls for any reason. We hunt only those who have become Kishin Eggs.” Maka changed stances with Soul. “Now it’s our duty to put a stop to this. You will not hunt any more human souls, you hear me?” Maka asked.

“Let’s get her Crona.” Ragnarok said in a bored tone while poking his Meister. Crona nodded. Ragnarok turned into a cloud of black ooze, which Crona stuck a hand into and pulled out a black broadsword.

“It turned into a broadsword. What kind of blood is that?” Maka asked. Crona’s face was momentarily covered in shadow, before he swung his Weapon back and forth, before dragging it along the ground in front of him as he rushed at them.

“He’s going to strike from below!” Soul called out in warning.

Maka used Soul’s blade to block the attack, then while Crona was pausing, she called out “Stop this!” before punching him in the face.

“Are you going to start poking me too?” Crona asked, before dodging backwards from a stabbing attack. Maka used Soul to lever herself up, then drop-kick him from midair, sending him to the ground.

Maka raised Soul to deliver what she thought would be a finishing blow. “You’ve got him now!” Soul cheered her on. Maka’s swing connected with Crona’s back, but stopped abruptly after breaking the skin.

A witch in a green cloak, presumably this Lady Medusa, riding on a broomstick, was watching the fight with dark amusement, especially that last attack. “Did you think you could cut him in half?” she asked.

Maka was understandably shocked. “Oh no, not with a stroke like that one.” Crona said, droplets of black blood falling to the floor behind him.

“Black… Black Blood?” Maka breathed out the question.

Crona leaned in. “Yes, that’s right, my blood is black.” he responded in a whisper.

Maka backed off a bit. “What’s up with this guy? His body’s really freaky!” Soul said.

“I think I have an idea. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I think his Weapon and his blood itself are one and the same. I could cut through his skin without any problems, but as soon as I hit his blood vessels his blood hardened and the blade stopped completely.” Maka said.

“Well if you’re right then how do you propose we go about beating him?” Soul asked.

“Our normal attacks will be almost useless. I’m not sure even Witch Hunter will cut through that stuff. It’d be different if I could hit him with my Soul Wavelength directly like Blackstar, Tara, or Professor Stein. I might be able to do some internal damage that way. Otherwise, I have no idea what to do.” Maka reasoned.

Outside, Medusa was growing impatient. “Crona, why are you taking it so easily? Do something.” she ordered.

“She’s not like the ones before, those were boys. She’s a girl, I’m no good with girls! What am I supposed to do with her?” Crona responded.

Medusa chuckled. “How silly. Kill her and eat her soul of course.” the witch said.

“What’s with this guy?” Soul asked. “And who is he talking to anyway?”

A tiny grin made it’s way onto Crona’s face. “Oh okay, you’re saying I can kill the girl? I didn’t realize that. Maybe I could play with her hair first. Just for a little while. The doors here open inward. The only open one way.” Crona paused for a moment as he tilted his head back. “Ragnarok,” he held the broadsword perpendicular to the ground, “Scream Resonance.”

A pair of red lips appeared on the sword. They were split in what was unmistakably a grin. They inhaled, then screamed. The noise was loud enough to visibly affect the air. A wave of purple energy in the shape of a mouth rushed towards Maka and Soul, distracting them for long enough that Crona could rush at them and slash downwards, leaving a wave of purple energy there even as Maka dodged.

“He’s coming Maka! Guard now!” Soul warned. Maka use him to guard against the strike from Crona, but Ragnarok’s scream intensified and Soul started to take damage.

“Soul!” Maka cried out, forcing Crona away with a kick. “Stop it!” she called out. “Are you okay Soul? Talk to me.” Maka asked.

Soul grunted, a bit of blood oozing out of him, as all weapons who took damage did. “You don’t need to worry about me right now. I am your Weapon partner Maka! That means I am always prepared to die for my Meister!” he ground out through the pain.

Ragnarok began to scream again. ‘What do I do now? That screaming causes vibrations along his blade and because of those vibrations, each second of contact is like thousands of strikes. With his blood hardening so quickly, my attacks don’t work either. I can’t do any damage at all, and I can’t afford to guard against his hits or else Soul could die!’ Maka thought.

Crona swung Ragnarok in lazy circles, then rushed at them. Maka dodged to one side, and tried to kick Crona’s legs out from under him, but he simply used the momentum to attempt a strike. Maka dodged backwards, and tried to think of a way out. ‘I screwed up, I should’ve just left well enough alone.’ Crona began to attack with stabs, which Maka dodged, just barely.

“What’s the matter Maka? Quit dodging and start fighting back!” Soul yelled. Ragnarok continued to scream, and the attacks were starting to cut off strands of hair. “Maka!” he called.

‘If I attack, then the same problem as if I were to guard crops up. Soul’s tough, but he’s not that tough.’ Maka thought. ‘I can’t use Soul to block his sword or attack myself. The only thing I can do is run away or hope to outlast him.’ she reasoned, still dodging the stabbing attacks. Crona’s grin returned, considerably wider, as he slashed at her legs, forcing her clumsily back and into the doors. Doors which did not open outwards.

“We’re getting out of here!” Maka said, then tried to force the doors open. They wouldn’t budge. “Open up!” she called.

Crona raised Ragnarok. “It’s not going to work, you know? You need to pay more attention to what people say and your surroundings.” Crona said.

“Oh no…” Maka was literally backed against a wall right now. Since the door wouldn’t open, it might as well be.

“Those doors only open one way. Inwards.” Crona raised Ragnarok for a strike.

“Maka! Stop it now!” Soul cried out.

“But Soul! If I guard you’ll die!” she countered.

Crona brought Raganarok down. Soul returned to human form and used his body to shield his Meister. A massive amount of blood spurted out from the gaping wound this created. Soul collapsed. “SOULLLL!!!!” Maka screamed.

“Go on Crona. Finish them. No need to play with your food.” the witch ordered. “Kill them and eat their souls Crona.”

“I think I can deal with that.” Crona responded.

“Goody!” Raganarok agreed.

Maka pulled Soul’s head up. “Wake up. Please Soul, wake up!” Maka was on the verge of crying.

“You dumbass… Hurry… get out of here!” he ordered weakly.

“Okay.” Crona said as he approached.

Maka ducked her head. “Soul… Soul this is all my fault.” Maka apologized. Just as Crona was about to finish them, a black scythe-blade sliced through the door and into him.

“Ah! What’s happening? How did that get there?” Crona asked, surprisingly calm for someone who’d just been impaled. The door was kicked into splinters by 2 familiar faces. Professor Stein, and Tara, who proceeded to each smash a Soul Force into Crona, forcing him away to the other end of the building.

“Professor Stein! Tara!” Maka exclaimed. Both individuals in question had grim expressions on their faces.

“If the professor is here, then this Weapon must be…” Maka trailed off as the black scythe reverted to human form, revealing Spirit.

“Your papa has arrived.” Spirit said. ‘That’s right Maka, take a good look at how brave and selfless your father is.’ he thought, turning to see Stein and Tara treating Soul.

“Will Soul be alright?” Maka asked with great concern.

“My Cure-chain can restore wounds, but it doesn’t work on blood loss. His life’s not in immediate danger, but he’ll be out of commission for a while.” Tara explained.

“He lost a lot of blood in a very short period of time. He’s going into shock and if he doesn’t get treatment soon he might not make it.” Stein added, using his lab coat like a blanket for Soul.

‘She’s not even looking at me!’ Spirit thought. “I gotta say though, that was an easier fight than I expected.” Spirit said, watching Crona warily.

He got up, unnerved by all the damage he’d taken at once. “I hardened the blood around the wound as much as possible to stop the bleeding, and we’re mostly recovered from that Soul Wave attack since they were only trying to force us back. Do I get a thank you?” Ragnarok asked.

“Yeah. Thank you.” Crona said, not altogether very genuinely grateful.

“Hey! Thank you very much!” Ragnarok grabbed his Meister by the head. “Are you gonna make me hurt you?!” he yelled, pulling on Crona’s face.

“Professor Stein.” Maka said to get his attention. He turned his head towards her. “Who are those two?” she asked. “What are they? I’ve never seen anything like this.” she asked.

“What you see in front of you is the reason the Academy was created in the first place.” Stein said.

“The reason the Academy was created?” Maka asked, looking at the pink-haired Meister more intensely. “Does that mean he’s a Kishin?” Maka asked.

“Technically no. Not yet at least.” Stein answered.

“If he were a Kishin, you’d be exposed to what can effectively be summed up as contagious insanity simply by being in his presence. He’s only a step away right now though.” Tara explained.

*** Flashback: Death Room ***

“Listen to me Stein, take Death Scythe and Tara and do whatever it takes to stop the Demon Sword from fully awakening as a Kishin once you find it.” Death ordered him.

“That is the reason you called me back to the Academy in the first place, right?” Stein asked. “I’ll take care of the sword.” he accepted the mission.

Death nodded. “We cannot allow the Kishin to be reborn into the world. If another Kishin were to fully emerge, it would not only accelerate the development of more, but it’s wavelength could even strain the seal to the point that the original Kishin breaks free. We must avoid that at all costs. Otherwise, we’ll be trapped in a vicious cycle of madness that will end in the world’s destruction. It is no exaggeration to say that if there are ever 2 fully awakened Kishin wandering about, the world as we know it could end within the week.” he explained.

*** End Flashback ***

“Alright then, let’s take care of this, shall we?” Stein asked.

“Yeah.” Spirit agreed, transforming into his scythe form again.

Meanwhile, Ragnarok continued to torment his host. “Crona quit standing there staring into space like an idiot. If you don’t get it in gear we’ll go back to sleep deprivation therapy again.” Raganarok threatened. In what way could that benefit anyone?

“No! Don’t start waking me up every hour again! I don’t like it, the dark circles under my eyes will come back and I don’t know how to deal with the dark circles!” he tried and failed to get Ragnarok’s hands to stop abusing him, resulting in a surprised squawk as Ragnarok dug into his nose.

“The Grim Reaper has sent his greatest Meister armed with Death Scythe. This should be a good test of Crona’s progress. Let’s see how long he can last.” the witch said. ‘Crona…get them now.’ Medusa ordered, using a spell as a sort of telepathic link, if what Tara could see was correct.

Stein took a stance. “Spirit, can you stand against the Demon Sword?” Stein asked.

“Of course I can. What do you think I am, a rusty old dagger?” Spirit asked. “It’s been a long time since we were partnered like this, hasn’t it?” Spirit asked.

Stein laughed. “We’re not as young as we used to be, that’s for sure.” he said.

“Speak for yourself. I haven’t aged a bit!” Spirit responded.

“Would you attack already! Hurry up you idiot!” Ragnarok ordered, punching Crona on the head before retreating into Crona’s body.

“But I’ve never seen a man with a giant screw in his head! I don’t know how to deal with a guy like that!” Crona exclaimed as he rushed at Stein.

“You eat him! Swallow his soul!” Ragnarok responded. Crona tried to strike at Stein, but he blocked with Spirit, who was unaffected despite Ragnarok’s vibrations. Stein then used Spirit as a lever to throw Crona to the floor behind him, then blasted him with a Soul Force, causing some black blood to spatter on the ground.

“Professor Stein hit him with his soul wavelength…! This way he might actually be able to do some internal damage.” Maka said.

“That was the point.” Tara was keeping an eye on Maka and Soul to ensure no further harm came to them. “Since the black blood prevents blades from piercing Crona’s body, you have to use attacks that are blunt, bludgeoning, or energy-based. Soul Force or even a simple punch in the face are more effective than trying to stab him.” Tara explained.

“Have another.” Stein said, his hand crackling yellow. He gasped as a spike of blood pierced him from behind before it disintegrated back into liquid blood courtesy of a Fire from Tara targeting the puddle the spike came from. “That’s the blood from the wound we gave him. He can control it even when it’s outside his body?” Stein asked, then looked up as he realized Crona had also spat up some blood during his Soul Force, and Tara couldn’t hit them all with Fire. She couldn’t use a stronger Fire spell because she couldn’t dial up a Fire spell up enough to be worth it, or dial down a Fira to avoid catching Stein in the blast either.

The droplets of blood in the air were turning back to liquid upon being hit by Fire attacks, but they slowly reformed and there must have been a hundred at least. Eyes similar to Ragnarok’s appeared on them, and they spoke with Ragnarok’s voice in a higher pitch as they formed spikes on one end. “Bloody Needle!” The spikes elongated, and Stein jumped back just in time to avoid being made into a pincushion.

“Professor!” Maka called worriedly.

“Every drop of his blood is a weapon! How is that even possible?” Spirit asked.

“Most likely he’s using his soul wavelength to control the blood, regardless of whether it’s in his body. We have to stop him here and now, or he’ll definitely become a Kishin with all the souls he’s been eating.” Stein explained. “What’s more, the balance of power between these two is very uneven. The weapon’s soul is easily the dominant of the pair, ruling over the Meister’s more introverted soul like a king, confining it. At the moment, the Meister still has some strength left to fight back against the weapon. Though he will be swallowed eventually, and that’s when things will get dangerous.” Stein observed.

“There’s also some kind of spell on him.” Tara reported, discovering this thanks to her own experience with magic and a little Soul Perception.

“Ah, so that’s what that snake is. I was wondering why there was a snake coiled around him. That probably means he’s under a witch’s control.” Stein surmised.

Medusa was surprised. “She knew it was a spell? Either she’s had extensive dealings with witches in the past, or I’ve discovered an out-and-out traitor to our side.” she noted. “Either way, tonight has proven quite interesting.” the witch said, the darkly amused grin on her face widening slightly.

“If you let him hit you with that technique again, I’m going to stick thumbtacks in your shoes. Got it Crona?”

“No! Thumbtacks in my shoes would stick in my feet whenever I tried to walk! It would hurt, I don’t think I could deal with that, really.” Crona whined.

“Careful Stein. Injuring him only makes him more dangerous!” Spirit said. Stein nodded, then started to rush towards Crona.

Ragnarok noticed this and responded by having the remaining blood droplets in the air, roughly half having been permanently reverted to liquid after the fifth shoot-down by Tara, send spikes at Stein. Stein dodged and Crona stuck out Ragnarok to block Stein’s attack, then tried to attack himself, only to be blocked aggressively by Spirit’s scythe.

“Oh, I see, Professor Stein has a specific fighting style. He uses my father only to guard like a shield, then attacks with his Soul Force.” Maka observed. Stein smashed a Soul Force into Crona, sending him flying out the church doorway. “Oh wow!” she exclaimed, awed.

Stein dodged more Bloody Needle spikes, then ran out after Crona. He was not counting on a drop of blood appearing in the air around him. “Damn, a time lag attack!” Stein said.

“Goobeeyah! It’s time to die Screwhead!” Raganarok said, apparently having taken full control if Crona’s vacant expression was anything to go by.

Stein was unable to move properly with his earlier injury, and so Tara teleported over and deflected the attack, though she got a small cut on her hand for her trouble. She hoped the blood wound she’s gotten from that wasn’t going to get infected by whatever this stuff was, but Stein seemed fine and Soul was in much worse shape than she was when they found him, so she said nothing.

She moved out of the way as Stein recovered. “I think I’d like to dissect you now.” Stein said. He was clearly annoyed.

“Goobeeyah! Screw yourself! You won’t live that long!” Ragnarok yelled foully as more droplets surrounded Stein.

“You ready?” Stein asked Spirit.

“Yep!” Spirit said confidently. Stein began to spin Spirit around him fast enough that he blurred, and the drops began to rapidly circle him, attempting to get past his defense. For some reason, he stopped spinning Spirit. Tara had to trust him since even if she raised a shield around Stein, it wouldn’t last against concentrated attacks from those spikes and she couldn’t possibly deflect them all herself.

“Bloody Needle!” the spikes said triumphantly.

Stein jabbed Spirit’s handle into the ground and said “Spirit Body!” prompting a white doll-like creature with a screw through it’s head and each arm to form around them. It’s nose resembled a carrot.

“Oh dear, this might be too much for me!” it said as several needles punctured it and the rest were deflected into the ground in a circle around it. Tara couldn’t tell whether it was trying to be mocking or genuinely concerned, and she had no idea why it had a personality.

Ragnarok seemed to take it as mocking him and got angry. “Goobee! Let’s see you stop all these!” he seemed to blink as he noticed that Spirit’s scythe form was by itself. “Huh? Where’d the screw-head freak go?” he started to look around. “I don’t see him. Where the hell is he, dammit?!” he looked up just as Stein came back down to earth, kicking Crona on his way down, and making the boy/girl dizzy.

“Damn! He scrambled what little brains you have left! Hurry up and snap out of it before he uses his Soul Wavelength again!” Ragnarok said, grabbing his Meister by the face once again.

“There are stars and birds and planets floating around me… I don’t know how to deal with that. I can’t handle astronomy and ornithology at the same time!” Crona moaned.

“Those two are easier to deal with than death, you moron! Suck it up and come to your senses already!” Ragnarok ordered.

Stein rushed at them. “Double-palm Soul Force! Twin Spears!” he said, smashing the attack into them. The Meister and Weapon cried out, spraying blood behind them.

“More needles?” Maka asked, but the blood stayed liquid and on the ground.

“No, it’s over now.” Stein said.

“He’s been hit by Soul Force too many times, his wavelength is too badly disrupted for him to control the blood outside his body anymore.” Tara explained.

“I hate to say it, but you’re finished.” Stein said.

“So much for round one. It looks like the black blood has a weakness to fire, or perhaps heat. That should be looked into. It looks like I have some more experimenting to do.” Medusa said.

Suddenly, Crona and Ragnarok started to scream in unison as spikes of black blood erupted from Crona’s body and retracted over and over. “What’s happening to him?” Spirit asked a bit disturbed.

“They’re going through Soul Rejection.” Stein explained. Soul Rejection was what happened when two incompatible Soul Wavelengths tried to work together. The side-effects of trying to wield a Demon Weapon while you own Soul Wavelength was not adjusted to match were a lesser form of this. If one tried to force their wavelengths to try and work together, then… bad things happened. This was just one example. It looked like Crona’s blood and body were turning on each other.

“Their Soul Wavelengths were united but they’re falling apart now.” Maka said.

“It makes sense. Rangarok would blame Crona for their loss, and Crona would resent him for it. One’s emotional state has a huge effect on their ability to sync with their partner. Or so I’ve heard. I can only tell so much with my new Soul Perception, and I’ve only had it for a few weeks.” Tara said.

The witch above them noticed Crona and Ragnarok’s predicament. “It seems I’ve found his limit. Oh well, Soul Protect, Release.” she said.

Stein, Maka, and Tara looked up as they half-sensed, half-saw a powerful witch’s soul. “It’s another soul! I don’t know where it came from, but I can sense it!” Maka said, terrified of the evil backed by power she was feeling. She’d encountered powerful souls, but none of them this clearly evil and with this kind of power behind said evil.

“I feel it too, it’s a witch.” Stein said.

“She’s above us!” Tara pointed at a figure above them on a broomstick.

Medusa chuckled, then laughed. Her soul resolved itself into a massive purple orb with arrows surrounding it like beams of light from the sun. “A witch, huh?” Spirit asked.

“Yes, and a very powerful one. She has a strong soul. My guess is that she’s the one who put that Weapon inside the kid’s body, and that she’s been pushing him to become a Kishin.” Stein answered.

“That’s the witch’s soul? But how? One of us should have seen a soul like that before now…” Maka wondered aloud as she half-hid behind the church wall. “It’s incredibly strong!” she said.

“Soul Protect.” Stein said.

“Huh? What is that?” Maka asked, confused.

“Soul Protect is an advanced spell that all-but blocks off a witch’s magic in return for hiding their souls even from Meisters with anything below exceptional Soul Perception, having been specifically designed to counter it. Even then, they’d have to be trying and very close to the witch in question in order to discover the witch is not a normal human.” Tara explained.

“The techniques isn’t all that complicated, but it needs a fine degree of control. The witch’s soul is enclosed by magic. This blocks the wavelength. The witch is camouflaged and her soul appears no different from a normal human.” Stein elaborated.

“So that’s the soul of a real witch? Mama defeated something like that in order to turn Papa into a Death Scythe?” Maka asked.

“Not necessarily. From what I’ve heard, witches are not usually this strong. Of course, there’s a good reason there have never been more than 13 Death Scythes in the world at any given time.” Tara answered.

“Pathetic. Crona is such a weakling. I’ll have to punish him later.” Medusa said. “Nake… Snake… Cobra… Cobra…” the witch was now in plain view. Black arrows squirmed around her. Her green cloak had white markings on the hood that resembled snake eyes, and her arms were not covered by the cloak but were covered in tattoos resembling snakes. “Nake… Snake… Cobra… Cobra… But before we go, I’ll punish you too.” a twisted smile spread across her face. “Won’t that be fun?” She gestured with her hands and said “Vector Arrows!” causing the arrows to shoot down at them, twisting and turning in midair in ways that real arrows could never have.

Tara raised a barrier in front of the church doorway, but need not have worried. Stein and Spirit said “Let’s go Soul Resonance!” and prepared an almost instant Witch Hunter, destroying ever last arrow.

Medusa was not the least bit perturbed by this, in fact she seemed almost pleased. “Most impressive.” one of the snake tattoos on her arm peeled off and flew down, transforming into a very large snake. A real one at that. The snake grabbed Crona and took him back to it’s master.

“I just dropped by on a little errand, but who’d have thought I’d encounter the DWMA’s best Meister and Death Scythe. What an unexpected pleasure. I’d love to stay and play with you kids, but perhaps another time.” Medusa said before flying away.

“Hey Lady-!” Spirit called.

“Let’s leave her for now. I’m more worried about Soul.” Stein said. Tara had healed the cut she’d gotten earlier almost as soon as it happened, but for some reason she felt off. She ignored it to focus on the now.

Maka was staring at Soul with a guilt-ridden expression. Spirit put a comforting hand on her shoulder, recognizing that expression. Her mother had looked almost the same whenever he got hurt during a fight. “Papa…” Maka said, her defenses down.

“Come on, let’s go home.” Spirit said.

The Death Room. 1 Day Later.

“Interesting. Those two had a pretty rough time of it it seems. How’s Soul holding up?” Death asked.

“Stein’s operating on him now, he was hurt pretty bad, but I think he’ll be alright.” Spirit said. “Still, it was weird seeing magic used to help people. Tara seemed upset healing his wounds was all she could do.”

“She might not look it, but Tara is something I’ve never seen before. She is not a Witch or a normal human, yet she can use magic and recovers both health and stamina faster than she should. Still, that’s beside the point.

The Demon Sword has arisen, and it’s working with a Meister. Embedded in him no less from your reports. Behind it all is a powerful Witch. Hm…” he thought for a moment, then raised his blocky hands. “Goodness, it’s getting pretty crazy around here, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Aren’t you taking this a bit too lightly?” Spirit asked, sweatdropping.

“Oh?” Death asked.

Meanwhile, Maka sat outside the hospital wing’s door with a guilty expression on her face as Soul was operated on and Tara’s blood was examined for contamination. Considering how Crona had cut into bone, contamination was pretty much a given for Soul, though she didn’t know their blood was being examined.

The door opened and Stein came out. “Oh, professor.” Maka called.

He paused as he noticed Maka. “Have you been here this whole time?” He scratched at his head. “Why didn’t you take a nap or eat or something?” he asked.

“I have to know how Soul is!” Maka almost shouted.

Stein grinned and made a peace sign. “The operation was a complete success!” Stein said happily. “Once he rests up, he’ll be as good as new.” Stein said.

“He’s okay.” Maka said quietly and in relief. “Oh thank you Professor Stein!” Maka thanked him. “Is Tara alright?” she asked.

“I haven’t been able to find anything unusual.” Stein answered nonchalantly.

“Um, Professor, is it alright if I go in to check on them now?” Maka asked.

“Yes, that’s fine.” Stein said with a smile. Maka ran inside.

“That’s a nice fake smile you’ve got there. Now why don’t you tell me what you couldn’t tell Maka, how are they really?” Spirit asked.

Stein lit a cigarette and took a smoke. “Neither of them have any injuries that are permanent, beyond some slight scarring, it’s almost as if Soul were never injured. Something’s been bothering me about the black blood Ragnarok is composed of though.” Stein said.

“What’s up?” Spirit asked.

“We have encountered substances similar to the black blood before, though this version is a far cry from the primitive attempts of other witches. One of the more dangerous aspects of these substances which they all share is that they can be passed along.

As you’re aware, there is normally little chance of contamination as any wound would immediately begin to bleed, removing any trace of the black blood. However, if the wound is rapidly closed or hits bone marrow, this is not the case.

Soul was more or less guaranteed to be infected from the moment he got that wound, it hit the bone marrow of several ribs. Tara might have been fine, but her Cure spell sealed the wound before the trace of black blood left her system. The end result is that they both have traces black blood in their circulatory systems. Worse, Tara’s vulnerability to the Madness Wavelength is being amplified by her infection.

It’s only slight because their black blood is dormant for now, but they’ll both be more susceptible to it’s influence. Permanently. They’re in no real danger as long as a Kishin doesn’t appear and the blood remains dormant though.” Stein said. “Well no more than usual anyway.” he added.

Twilight The Traveler

Twilight The Traveler Chapter 14 – Death The Kid, Or, You Have OCD Too?!

// Death The Kid, Or, You Have OCD Too?!// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

Death the Kid began the day as usual. The toilet paper was folded neatly into a triangle, every picture frame was aligned exactly parallel to the ground, and the candles had all been burned down to the same height as the ones on those opposite them. “Absolutely perfect.” Kid commented contentedly.

“Balance between the two sides. Perfect symmetry. That is the most important thing in this world. Now it’s off to school.” he said, walking out his front door. His mansion was quite possibly the most symmetrical building on the planet, except perhaps the DWMA building.

“Liz! Patty!” he called. The two of them were already outside, having been waiting for him.

“Now you’re in a big hurry? Why bother going if we’re already 3 hours late?” Liz asked.

*** At The Crescent Moon Schoolroom ***

“Alright class, I’ve got something interesting planned for today. We’re doing another dissection lab.” Stein said.

“Excuse me Mr. Stein, if I could point something out? Ever since you became our teacher, we haven’t done anything but dissect animals every day.” Maka half-complained. Tara had suppressed the madness-induced urges seeing things get dissected brought on by doing her best to read the textbooks over watching the dissection. She hoped the Madness was creating her urge to join in, rather than merely exaggerating an existing desire.

“Oh? But you see Maka, today is going to be different. Today’s subject is almost unimaginably more interesting than a mouse or a frog.” Stein responded, prompting questioning looks from the students. “Are you ready for it? Today we’ll be poking around inside of this little guy here.” he gestured to a white bird with a red face in a cage next to him. “It’s a very rare species of cuckoo. I believe it’s endangered.” he said calmly but with a slightly gleeful smile.

As one might expect, the class responded almost as one with a resounding “Dissect an endangered species?!” Tara caught herself considering the pros and cons of the act for a moment, before crushing the thought down into the murky depths of her mind. “Um, isn’t that illegal?” she asked.

“Yeah, I don’t think we can dissect that. An endangered species is really rare and almost extinct pretty much by definition.” Maka said.

This, unfortunately, only seemed to encourage Stein. His face was partially covered by shadows. “All the more reason to dissect this one before the whole species dies out.” he said, his dark glee rising. The bird was immediately nervous, and rightly so.

“H-He’s seriously crazy. He must be insane.” Maka said, freaking out a bit.

“He’s even crazier than I am!” Tara said, almost as freaked out as Maka. She was well-aware that the Madness Wavelength was slowly eating away at her sanity, but she was nowhere near this bad! Was she going to end up like that?

Maka snapped out of it after noticing a downcast Tsubaki to her right. “Hm? Maka? Tsubaki? Why don’t I see Soul or Blackstar up there with you?” Stein asked, curious. Tara would also admit to a polite interest. “Are they planning to come to class today?” he asked.

“They’re probably skipping.” Maka answered. “Again.” she added more quietly.

“Knowing those two, they’re probably going to fight someone or eating. Possibly both.” Tara added, not missing the sad look on Tsubaki’s face.

“Those two idiots are hopeless.” Maka said quietly.

“Well, they are the only boys out of the five of us. There are some things guys don’t feel comfortable doing/talking about with girls.” Tara commented.

“Geez, if they want to get together so much, maybe they should just be partners.” Maka said sarcastically. “Huh, what do you guys think?” Maka asked.

Tsubaki grabbed Maka by the shirt and started shaking her. “No! That would never happen! Do you hear me?! Never! Never! Never!” she denied vehemently as Maka’s face took on a bland expression.

“Uh, Tsubaki? Maka was being sarcastic.” Tara said, becoming concerned that Tsubaki knew something they didn’t and it was tearing apart her peace of mind. Also, Maka seemed to be having trouble breathing while being thrown around like a ragdoll.

“Then I guess they’ll be missing out on the excitement.” Stein said, his chair slowly rolling across the floor as he became serious. “I’m sure you’re all aware by now that there’s a new student coming today, Though he’s running a bit late.” Stein noted.

Tara had not, in fact, heard that. “Huh, and I can usually put together what’s been going on from the classroom gossip.” she blinked. “Wait… they’re three hours tardy on their first day?” Tara asked. Was he alright? Ten minutes would not be unusual. The school was a labyrinth and new-comers could easily get lost. Three hours was a different story.

*** Meanwhile At The Entrance To The DWMA ***

“Yaaaah! Listen up! There’s someone who needs to be assassinated by the great Blackstar! Right here! Right now, at Death’s Weapon and Meister Academy, one rumor stands above the rest! The son of Lord Death himself has enrolled! Everyone’s talking about the new kid instead of me. I’ll have to kill him!” Blackstar announced/monologued loudly.

“Clearly, I guess it’s a good thing you’ve got your priorities straight.” Soul deadpanned with more than a hint of sarcasm.

“When the hell is that damn kid getting here anyway!? I’ve been waiting here for 3 hours!” Blackstar ranted. Though he had a point.

Meanwhile, several flights down the stairs to the DWMA, Liz, Patty, and Kid were almost at the building in question. “Well look at us now, raised on the streets but here we are about to start at the academy. We’ve come a long way huh Patty?” Liz asked her sister.

“Yeah! It’s gonna be so freaking awesome!” Patty responded excitedly.

As they started up the last flight of stairs, Kid commented on the school. “Have you ever seen such a beautiful building? My father’s school is magnificent! Perfectly balanced. Perfectly symmetrical.”

As they finally reached the top of the stairs, they encountered Soul laying against the pillars. “Hey. Are you the new kid we’ve been hearing so much about?” he asked the trio.

“Yes, this is my first day. Are you here to show me around?” Kid asked.

Soul chuckled. “You showed up 3 hours late and you think I’m here to show you around? If you’d been here at 7 like you were supposed to you could’ve looked around yourself.” he countered.

“What’s that? Did you say 7?” Kid asked coldly, before having a minor freak-out. “It can’t be 7! Change it to 8 dammit! 8 is better!” he yelled. Soul’s expression could be best described as ‘What the hell is this guy talking about?’ “It isn’t physically possible to cut the number 7 in half symmetrically! That’s why 8 is better! With 8, it doesn’t matter if you cut it vertically or horizontally or even diagonally, it’s perfectly symmetrical!” Kid said, backing his statement up with some… odd logic.

“Take it back. Please, I’m begging you! Just say 8! Please!” Kid groveled.

“Uh, dude, is there something wrong with you?” Soul asked, he’d seen Tara have a few OCD episodes when she found a heavily disorganized bookshelf or room in general, but never anything this bad.

Patty simply laughed at the display, while Liz responded. “Yes. He’s completely insane.”

Blackstar had somehow gotten onto one of the 3 giant red spikes sprouting from the academy building. “Yahoo! Nobody’s gonna be taking attention away from me!” the rest of Blackstar’s rant was drowned out by Liz.

“What is that? A monkey?” she asked. “Yeah, it’s definitely a monkey.” she decided. “Look up there Kid. That thing is yelling something at you… I think. Not sure what though.” Liz said. Kid looked up with a slight groan.

Blackstar continued to rant, and somehow broke the end of the spike he was on, causing both himself and a few feet of the spike to fall. Kid was horrified, the symmetry was ruined! Blackstar landed in a crouch and was miraculously unharmed. “Face it Kid, I’m much too big a guy for you to handle and you know it. See how the very ground shakes beneath my feet?” he asked.

“Look what you did, it’s not symmetrical anymore you jerk!” Kid growled angrily.

“Ugh, nice. Now you’ve done it.” Liz groaned in exasperation. Patty ‘Oooohhhh’ed.

“Are you ready for this? I’m gonna give you a taste of my Blackstar assassin’s skills!” Blackstar said, hopping in place.

“It’s not an assassination anymore if you’ve been seen, idiot.” Soul commented.

“You are a disgusting pig!” Kid said, throwing the other two boys for a loop momentarily. “Are you so willing to risk the loss of your soul that you’d pick a fight with a Grim Reaper? Liz, Patty, weapon forms.” he ordered.

“Riiiiiight!” Patty saluted cheerfully.

“We’ve done nothing but fight since we got off the streets, I could use a break.” Liz commented a moment before the sisters turned into a pair of twin pistols in a burst of pink light.

“If you want a fight, come and get it! Come on Soul!” Blackstar yelled.

“You’re the one who wants to pick a fight Blackstar, not me. That being said, I’ll play along this time. I’ll warn you just once new guy, if we do this you’ll
lose.” Soul said quietly as Kid eyed them warily.

“Damn straight! We’re going to make one badass team together!” Blackstar exclaimed, before becoming serious. ‘He’s got to have some guts to try and outshine me of all people.’ he thought.

‘We’ll have to be careful, this guy was strong enough to defeat Anubis.’ Soul thought.

‘These 2 punks might not be perfect, but they were able to fend off Stein’s attacks and even defeat Sid. I can’t let my guard down.’ Kid thought. “Let’s go.” he whispered, then pointed a pistol at each of them. He opened with a hail of gunfire.

*** Back In The Crescent Moon Classroom ***

Maka and Tsubaki sighed wearily, before looking around in confusion as gunfire became audible. “Sounds like a hand-pistol, maybe two.” Tara noted.

“Professor Stein, it’s Soul and Blackstar. They’re fighting someone outside.” a random classmate who’s name Tara did not know said. This immediately made Maka and Tsubaki concerned for their partners, and Tara because of it being her friends, and there was a good chance they were fighting the new student who was supposed to be Lord Death’s son. Reapers were very powerful, and they were in serious danger if that was the case.

‘Soul, you idiot, what is it now?’ Maka thought before standing. “Excuse me Professor Stein, there’s a rule about students dueling on campus. It states that in order for the duel to continue a teacher must be there to witness it.” Maka said.

“See? It’s right here on page 3 about halfway down.” Tara said, pointing to it in the rule book she’d pulled from her bag. She’d memorized the book, as had Maka. For some reason, this tended to throw people for a loop.

Stein had by this point strapped the bird down and removed the feathers on it’s chest in preparation for cutting it open. He was actually about 10 seconds from cutting into his unfortunate victim when he was interrupted. “I hate to stop here, but it can’t be helped.” he said, sticking his pair of knives into the table near the bird’s head and feet, causing it to tense then visibly relax. He began to move to his chair. “We’ll have to postpone the dissection for now. As Soul and Blackstar’s partners, I would like Maka and Tsubaki to come with me. Tara as well to help break up the fight if need be since she is one of the only people who can use Soul Force besides myself. Everyone else, study something until we get back.” he said, beginning to roll towards the DWMA’s entrance.

*** Meanwhile At The Entrance To The DWMA ***

Soul and Blackstar dodged the first volley of pink shots. “We can’t even get close to the guy!” Blackstar said in aggravation.

“What was that? You’re looking for a more up-close and personal fight? Fine by me!” Kid jumped the moment he finished speaking, and ax-kicked at Blackstar on his way down, which Blackstar blocked with crossed arms.

Soul rushed at him from behind as Kid landed fully, one arm transformed into a scythe. Demon Weapons did not have to transform completely, but were only able to wield themselves so well under most circumstances. Meisters were not the only ones who benefited from partnerships. As Soul slashed down at Kid, he was blocked by one of the twin pistols. “Dammit!” Soul cursed. Kid moved the other pistol to Soul’s chest.

“What the hell?!” Blackstar exclaimed. Kid fired, leaving Soul lying on the ground for a moment.

Then he started to writhe around, screaming bloody murder. “Oh God that hurts! What the hell kind of guns are those!?” Soul yelled.

Patty giggled. “Did you think a pair of normal pistols would be enough for a Grim Reaper? We’re not normal guns that shoot bullets. We shoot a compressed version of our Meister’s soul wavelength when fired.” Liz explained.

‘Dammit!’ Soul thought.

‘How dare he go easy on us!’ Blackstar thought.

It was at this point that Stein and the girls arrived. “Oh my, they probably shouldn’t have picked a fight with this opponent.” he noted.

“Dr. Stein, is that the boy? The one with the guns, is he the one we’ve been hearing about?” Maka asked.

“Well, he’s wearing a pin of Lord Death’s mask, but that’s not exactly rare around here.” Tara commented. Death wasn’t held in the same regard as, say, God, but he was a highly influential figure. He literally had his own line of merchandise.

Stein nodded. “Death the Kid, son of Lord Death himself. It was his own decision to attend, but he won’t be a normal student. On a one-on-one basis, his abilities are far greater than anyone else’s here.” Stein expanded.

Tsubaki looked most concerned by the fight unfolding before them. She sighed. “Tsubaki? Is something wrong?” Maka asked.

“You’ve been a little off today.” Tara commented with some concern.

“Oh no, it’s nothing.” Tsubaki answered, though the expression on her face was one she was told she used whenever she had a problem she didn’t want to bother anyone with.

“My dear soul-seeing young Meisters, can I borrow you both for a moment?” Stein asked.

“Uh, yeah?” they both responded nervously. Tara was pretty sure he got a kick out of being creepy whether or not he freaked anyone out.

“I have a special lesson in mind for you both today.” Stein said.

“Which would be what… exactly?” Tara asked.

“No need to be nervous. All I’m going to do is ask you a simple question. Watch the duel closely. Pay close attention to the souls of Kid and the two Demon Pistols as they fight. Pay especially close attention to their wavelengths.” Stein said.

Meanwhile, Blackstar jumped up and lashed out at Kid with a powerful kick. Kid dodged backwards towards a charging Soul with his arm once again transformed into a blade, which he used to block Kid’s shots, but was unable to continue the attack.

The two girls activated their Soul Perception, or whatever it was that Tara had which was similar, and concentrated because they were still unused to it enough that they couldn’t keep it active subconsciously.

“Well, this is unusual.” Tara commented. From what she’d seen, her Soul Perception was not as advanced as Stein’s or even Maka’s, but she was able to tell that the three of them, despite their differing personalities, were well-synced.

“Yeah, usually matching three different wavelengths to each other is almost impossible, but their connection is strong and very stable.” Maka said.

“The weapons also seem to… respect him? I can’t get a good enough read to be sure, but that doesn’t seem right.” Tara added.

“No, that’s not it. Admiration’s a better word.” Maka corrected, somewhat surprised that she was able to discern the nature of what she was seeing that much better than her blue-haired counterpart.

“A good effort, and a good observation. Those two weapons are siblings and are known as the Thompson sisters. Their lives were much harder before they met him, as they lived on the streets. It’s natural that they would admire him. Kid benefits as well.

It’s a good influence on him to be around such different people. Their laid-back attitudes help keep him calm and fend off the worst of his neurotic tendencies.” Stein explained.

“Plus their teamwork is phenomenally better than those two.” Tara commented as Blackstar and Soul more-or-less dodged all of Kid’s shots, but failed to even try to make a plan or attack together.

“They do make a really good team.” Maka agreed.

“Don’t they.” Stein agreed.

“Our two idiots don’t even compare.” Maka said with annoyance at her partner and friend’s antics.

Soul and Blackstar finally got together. “Alright Soul, let’s hurry up and finish this guy off.” Blackstar said.

“It’s about time.” Soul said with a smirk.

“For what?” Kid asked.

“You should quake with fear of your impending death!” Blackstar exclaimed.

“You know who you’re talking to right? I am literally Death’s son. That jibe was so lame it makes me want to laugh.” Kid sent back.

“You won’t be laughing when you taste our power of friendship!” Blackstar shot back.

“That’s right, it’ll blow you away. The power is beyond belief.” Soul said confidently.

“What?” Kid asked, warier than ever.

“Let’s do it.” Soul said calmly, but confidently. “Transform!” Soul called out, doing some faintly ridiculous poses before becoming his scythe form in a flash of blue light, before disappearing above them.

“How did he even get that high?” Tara asked.

Kid was awed. “That’s so cool!” Patty exclaimed.

“I don’t think they’re taking this very seriously.” Liz commented in an ‘Ugh, again?’ sort of tone.

“Come on Soul!” Blackstar called as Soul came back down and he reached his hands up. Unfortunately, when Soul came to earth, he landed with his handle next to Blackstar and his blade on Blackstar’s head. This split one of his hair-spikes and caused him to scream as blood spurted from his head.

“Why the hell did you catch me with your head, moron?!” Soul yelled.

“I don’t know!” Blackstar responded.

Tara facepalmed. “Everyone who just saw that is now dumber for it.” she sighed.

“Do it right this time idiot!” Soul yelled.

Blackstar tried to lift Soul, but failed. He strained as if trying to lift a truck, but Soul’s scythe didn’t budge. “You’re freaking heavy! I can’t pick you up!” he grunted as he continued to fail to budge Soul.

“What are you talking about? I’m not heavy. Maka swings me around without breaking a sweat.” Soul said, genuinely confused, as Blackstar reopened his
head wound. It was very simple actually, Demon Weapons caused several things to happen depending on how poorly their would-be Meister resonated with their soul. It ranged from light burning, to, as seen before them, the weapon being impossible to pick up in the first place.

“Blackstar and Soul are definitely lacking in the compatible wavelength department.” Maka commented.

“So it seems.” Stein said, slightly amused by the spectacle in front of him.

“Their personalities simply don’t mesh well. You might argue with Soul a lot Maka, but you’re there for each other when push comes to shove. Similarly, Tsubaki is probably the only one who could consistently tolerate Blackstar’s God complex. Thus, those 2 can’t resonate very well.” Tara commented, completely missing the slightest of blushes on Maka and Tsubaki’s faces, which rapidly faded.

“I’m just trying to lift you up!” Blackstar said through gritted teeth, before pushing some of his wavelength into Soul, causing him to untransform his head and choke out some blood.

“Why the hell are you hitting me with your Soul Wavelength?! That hurts you idiot!” Soul yelled angrily.

“Oh. My bad.” Blackstar apologized. Tsubaki simply stared open-mouthed.

“I would have been very surprised if that actually worked.” Tara said, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“It’s almost hard to watch. These idiots can’t even seem to sense each other’s wavelengths.” Maka observed dryly.

“Whenever a Meister and his/her weapon fight together, they need to adjust their wavelengths so that they match. Otherwise, well, the show in front of us is a good example.” Stein explained.

Soul turned away from Blackstar. “Blackstar it’s over between us.” he said.

“What exactly are you saying Soul?” Blackstar asked.

“If we try to stay together like this, I’ll only end up hating you.” Soul explained, slightly choked up.”It’s for the best.” he added.

“Huh?” Maka asked. Tsubaki, Maka, and even Stein had similar confused expressions on their faces.

“…Is he crying?” Tara asked.

“So can I shoot them yet?” Kid asked, deciding not to question what just happened.

“Let’s wait. I haven’t seen any good soap operas recently, and this is just starting to get good.” Liz answered.

“Oh. I understand, but even though it’s over, would it be okay if we stayed friend?” Blackstar asked, surprisingly bashfully.

“You idiot! Of course we’re still friends! We’ll be friends forever!” Soul responded, running towards Blackstar in slow-motion.

This was followed by a somewhat odd volleyball of saying each other’s names. “These two definitely need professional help.” Maka deadpanned as they finally reached and hugged each other.

Kid finally shot them, sending them flying a few feet. “Oops, sorry, my fingers slipped.” he apologized. He did not sound all together very sincere.

“Dude! You completely ruined the moment!” Tara called. She had a relatively higher tolerance for corniness than the others.

“We can’t just quit in the middle of a fight!” Soul said determinedly as he got back up.

“Right! We’re not giving up ’til we beat him!” Blackstar proclaimed.

“Okay. We’ll see how well that goes.” Kid responded.

Soul and Blackstar rushed at Kid again, yelling involuntarily. Soul’s arm transformed into a blade once again. “Let’s see how you handle my Soul Wave attack!” Blackstar said, one hand crackling with yellow soul energy. He tried to hit Kid with a direct Soul Force, but Kid dodged and kicked Blackstar’s legs out from under him before knocking him upwards.

“Martial arts is Blackstar’s specialty, but Kid is just playing with him!” Maka observed with some awe.

“Reapers have above-average strength and speed, and being Lord Death’s son and a Meister, we have to assume he’s had at least some training. You can overcome superior speed and strength with skill, but the opposite is also true.” Tara explained.

“And the way he’s been fighting today, Soul doesn’t stand a chance either.” Maka added, slightly worried.

Soul slashed at Kid with his transformed arm, only for Kid to block him and send him flying. “You’re as slow as you are stupid.” he commented.

“You’re going down!” Blackstar called, rushing at Kid again as Soul tried another rush. Kid shot them both almost point-blank, but was unprepared to have a gray piece of cloth wrap around one leg, courtesy of Blackstar. Blackstar smirked. “You idiot, you fell for it!” Blackstar said as he pulled Kid’s legs out from under him, and to the ground.

“Gotcha!” Soul called as he transformed in mid-air and landed less than an inch from doing serious harm to Kid, though he did cut off a few wisps of hair. Kid backed off, pulling Blackstar face-first into Soul’s blade and causing him to let go of his impromptu rope.

“Okay. Now I really want to kill that guy.” Blackstar said weakly.

“Our partners are pretty useless huh?” Maka commented.

“Thus, we see how I can manage to perform well enough to defeat Kishin Eggs on missions without a partner.” Tara said. That was about as melodramatic as she got… when not freaking out from a lack of organization.

“And now it’s time… to see the power of a Grim Reaper.” Kid said. Dust was forced away and circled Kid. He, Liz, and Patty, said in unison “Let’s go Soul Resonance!” Prompting a powerful soul to manifest visibly to those with Soul Perception. It was roughly the size of Stein’s last night, only instead of a giant yellow orb with a screw and glasses, this one was blue with three white lines on it’s left side.

“Are their souls… expanding?” Maka asked, confused.

“Now they’re showing off their full strength.” Stein commented.

“Well those two are officially doomed.” Tara said as the Soul Resonance caused Kid and his weapons to nearly triple in strength.

“Okay! Let’s do this!” Soul egged their opponent on.

“Reaper Schmeaper! Bring it on!” Blackstar said.

A black ghost flew across the soul, coming back and forth, as a trio of black spikes sprouted from each of Kid’s arms, and he crouched as Liz and Patty turned into guns the size of medium-sized dogs. “Execution Mode Ready. Prepare to die.” Kid said, before standing up again. Dark energy surrounded him as he began to charge up his attack.

“Uh, I don’t like the looks of that.” Soul said, having second thoughts. He didn’t have anything like Blackstar’s ego to back up his confidence.

“Come on, what are gonna do little man?! I’ve swatted flies scarier than you! So there!” Blackstar said with a cocky laugh.

“Resonance Stable. Noise Level at 0.3%.” Liz intoned.

“Black Needle Soul Wavelength fully charged!” Patty said cheerfully as pink energy encircled the giant guns, coalescencing into an orb of the same at each of the gun’s barrels.

“Preparing to fire.” Liz said as skulls of dark purple energy formed around Kid. “Feedback in 4 seconds.” One could see pink energy flowing into the barrels as Liz and Patty began to countdown. “3.” Liz said.

“2!” Patty said.

“1.” Liz said.

“Firing now!” Patty said cheerfully.

“Death Cannon!” Kid said, before firing two powerful blast of soul energy.

“This doesn’t look good! We should run!” Soul said as the blast approached.

“Hah! Don’t be ridiculous! No way something like that’s going to hurt me! I’m the great Blackstar!” he finished just as the attacks reached them and created a huge could of black smoke with skulls formed in it. Kid turned away and Liz and Patty reverted to their original forms. Soul and Blackstar were revealed to be lying on the ground after the smoke cleared. Motionless, but still breathing and without visible injuries.

“Blackstar!” Tsubaki ran out to help her Meister.

“I’ll go take care of the worst of their injuries.” Tara said calmly, walking towards the pair.

Maka sighed. “Aw man. What were those idiots thinking?” she asked.

Stein lit a cigarette and placed it in his mouth. “It looks like total defeat.” Stein said casually. “Although you can hardly expect any less of the son of the Grim Reaper. His potential is great and already far above that of any other Meister at the academy. Besides, I get the impression he hasn’t shown us his limit.” one of his eyebrows began to twitch. “Lord Death’s very own flesh and blood. What I wouldn’t give to study that one.” a dark grin formed on his face.

Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, Kid spit up blood, got a massive nosebleed, and collapsed. Liz and Patty returned to human form and crouched down next to him, though their faces suggested this sort of thing happened often. Soul and Blackstar had gotten up by this point thanks to Tara’s Cure spells, which, while able to heal wounds, could not cure illnesses, exhaustion, or allergies, and noticed Kid’s state.

Patty giggled as Kid continued to lie there. “Oh great. Here we go again.” Liz said wearily.

“What happened to him?” Stein asked curiously as he rolled over in his chair.

“Not much, it’s just a little cut.” Liz answered.

“So what got cut?” Stein asked.

Maka answered him this time. “I think I might have an idea what it was.” Stein looked over at her. “I’m pretty sure his hair got cut off just a little when Soul
attacked him that last time. Once the explosion happened and everything calmed down, Kid finally noticed his bangs weren’t symmetrical any more, since one side was shorter than the other, so he spit up blood and fell over.” Maka explained.

“Makes perfect sense to me.” Tara nodded, to odd looks from the others.

“He’s the one bleeding, not us, so that means we actually won the fight huh?” Soul asked.

“Yeah, right. We won and I Blackstar have defeated the Reaper.” Blackstar said and laughed. “I knew it! Who’s gonna be talking about this guy now?” Blackstar continued to laugh.

“Are you sure you’re alright Blackstar?” Tsubaki asked her Meister in concern.

“Of course I’m alright! I beat Death today! I’m one step closer to surpassing God!” Blackstar answered.

“Yeah, it was amazing.” Tsuabki commented, playing along.

“Hey.” Maka addressed Soul.

“Hey.” Soul responded.

“Don’t let yourself get involved in stupid fights, alright?” Maka asked. “Come on. You used to tell me the exact same thing Soul.” she reprimanded him.

Soul stared at her for a moment, then broke out in chuckles, which rapidly devolved into full-blown laughter. “Yeah, I guess I was the uncool one of us today, huh?” Soul asked.

“Please try not to do anything to crazy from now on?” Tsubaki asked.

“Yeah right! Nothing’s too crazy for me now!” Blackstar was bending his spine backwards at a nearly-impossible angle. “I’ve beaten up a Reaper after all! What’s crazier than that?” he asked, laughing.

“Well technically, you got a double KO with Death’s son.” Tara said, but was largely ignored. “Or would that be a triple KO?” she mused aloud.

“Tsubaki’s the only one for him.” Maka said. “I don’t think anyone else could handle Blackstar.” Maka added.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Soul agreed. He rubbed his head sheepishly, and Maka smiled and offered him her hand.

“Come on, let’s go home.” she said.

“Yeah.” Soul nodded. “Sorry.” he apologized. They both pulled, and Soul stood up with ease.

“Let’s stay cool, okay?” Maka asked.

“You got it.” Soul answered, and they high-fived each other.

“Well, I’m going to fix the school. The broken spike is starting to bug me. It’ll probably help snap Kid out of it too.” Tara said, walking off to the broken spire. She kept spares in her bag since this was the twentieth time something similar had happened.

Patty poked Kid, who was being carried by Liz. Thanks to the fact that nobody was paying attention. Twilight was able to teleport up to the spike. Her practice at doing this allowed her to repair it easily. So she was back down with the others in time to witness Lord Death’s arrival. “Wassup! Wassup! Wassup!” he said, raising a blocky hand in greeting after appearing from seemingly nowhere. Most likely he had simply used a nearby mirror.

“Hi Lord Death!” Almost everyone chorused. Stein and Kid were silent, though Kid was still out of it, and Stein still raised a hand in greeting like the others.

“So, I heard my son had a rather eventful first day at school. Kid can be difficult sometimes. I hope no one was hurt too badly.~” he said cheerfully.

Tara had a thought, and whispered to Maka. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Maka nodded, and they attempted to see the soul of the Grim Reaper from sheer curiosity.

“Huh, I can’t see it. Maybe he doesn’t have a soul? No, that doesn’t make sense, Kid has a soul, and he’s Lord Death’s son.” Maka muttered as Lord Death turned to them. Tara tapped her on the shoulder, and pointed wordlessly to the city limits, which prompted a strangled gasp from Maka as she discovered that Lord Death’s soul encompassed the entire city!

“Yes. I’d say he has a soul.” Tara muttered. She knew that she’d be screwed if she fought him one-on-one, but she hadn’t thought she’d be that badly outmatched.

“Alright everyone. I’m going to go ahead and take Kid home now. He could use a little rest. ~Bye!~” he singsoned as he waved a blocky hand at them.

“Right, see ya later!” Blackstar said.

“Hey Maka, Tara, what are you two doing staring off into space like that? Let’s go back inside.” Soul said.

Maka shook off the sight she’d just seen, while Tara started towards the entrance, deep in thought. “Yeah, okay.” she said, following him. ‘Well, I guess that’s actually kind of comforting. Lord Death can handle anything that might come at us.’

*** Meanwhile In Europe ***

A bell tolled the hour as a pink-haired teenager of indeterminate gender walked down an alley. A witch in a hooded cloak flew on a broomstick over the city, as the sadistically grinning moon had some blood run down it’s face. This occurred whenever a particularly violent scene played out. Wars had been known to turn the moon completely blood-red during large battles. “Good. Eat all you can.” she whispered. “Then eat more. And more. Eat as much as you need to. Consume everyone and everything in your path. Until you become the ultimate evil.” she finished as a mass of black blood erupted from the child’s back.

Twilight The Traveler

Twilight The Traveler Chapter 13 – Professor Stein

// Professor Stein// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

The day started off as usual. She woke up, got dressed, had milk, cereal, and an apple for breakfast, took a quick shower, and made it to her first class about ten minutes early. As usual, she got out a book while she waited for everyone else to show up. According to what information she sifted out of the usual class dramas and kishin egg kill counts from the classroom gossip, some weirdo was coming after DWMA students recently. He was apparently a zombie with a hole in his forehead.

The thing was, their previous teacher, Sid, had been killed by getting a Statue of Liberty through the head. (She didn’t know either.) The connection was clearly implied. She didn’t doubt the existence of zombies after all the weird stuff she’d seen, but the question was, who had made him into a zombie? It was unlikely that anyone with less than expert level knowledge of the body and soul would be able to do such a thing. She briefly considered the possibility that it was just a rumor, but dismissed the thought. Life was never that simple. Certainly, her life wasn’t, besides, it came from several sources. Even school rumors didn’t spread that fast unless it was on purpose.

“Hey! Quiet down, class is starting!” a man with medium-length red hair, a tuxedo with a cross-shaped tie, and black shoes entered. This was Maka’s father, Spirit, better known as Death Scythe. He was the only Death Scythe in the world who was actually a Death Scythe, as the others were other types of weapons. He was also the only one currently stationed in Death City. The others were scattered all over the world, usually in the vicinity of where they were born, in order to help keep the peace.

He was divorced with Maka’s mother as of a month ago, and Maka was strangely proud of the memory. He was a womanizer, and had lost Maka’s mother because of it. Maka was now distrustful of all men due to that. Her mother traveled the world now, sending Maka postcards with a fair amount of regularity. Spirit tried to win back favor with Maka whenever he could, but his attempts were generally unsuccessful to the point of a sort of pitiful hilarity.

“Attendance is a pain, so I’m not going to take it.” he stated, putting down a clipboard presumably for attendance on the teacher’s desk. “I’d like to say something right upfront as well. The bell doesn’t decide when class is over.” he jerked a thumb at himself. “I do.” Most of the class was impressed. The exceptions were Maka, Soul, herself, and some girl who was barely awake enough to be considered so. Tara was fairly sure that he was just doing this to impress Maka, Maka had a generally low opinion of Spirit and was unimpressed by his efforts most of the time, and Soul’s opinion of Spirit was colored heavily by Maka’s

After a few seconds, Soul asked, “Hey, Death Scythe, are you going to be teaching us from now on?”

“I’m only the substitute. I’m here until we find a replacement for Sid, who died a couple days ago. Also, I may be a substitute, but for the time being, I’m in charge of this class. So, as long as I’m here, you’ll refer to me as Professor Death Scythe.” Spirit growled in annoyance. “Now let’s take attendance.” his mood suddenly shifted to cheery. Most likely he just buried the annoyance.

“I thought you said you weren’t going to take attendance!” Soul called out in annoyance.

“I’m only taking attendance for the girls, not the guys.” he said, a slightly perverted look on his face.

Soul stamped his hand on his desk. “Dammit! Quit acting like a creep!” he yelled. Tara privately agreed with the sentiment.

“Oh please.” Maka said, being fairly sure that there was zero chance of that working on Spirit.

“He doesn’t know when to quit, this one.” Spirit growled in annoyance, before licking his pen, searching for and finding the name Soul Eater on the sheet of paper on the clipboard, and writing the worst possible grade for Soul down for that day. E, for some reason.

“Okay, let’s get this class started now.” Spirit said, clapping his hands twice.

“Hey old man, what’d you write down just now?!” Soul yelled, half getting out of his seat.

“Ah, that reminds me.” Spirit said, turning his back to the students.

“What now?” Soul asked suspiciously.

“Maka, Soul, Tara. Lord Death wants to see you in the Death Room. You’re excused from classes for the day, so get going!” he made shooing motions with his clipboard.

“He wants to see us?” the three of them asked. Maka, Soul, and herself glanced at each other curiously, before filing out to get to the Death Room.

Once they navigated the veritable maze that was the DWMA building, Maka knocked on the metal door with a cartoonish skull at the top that honestly resembled a ghost more. “Hello?” the door opened, seemingly on it’s own.

“Well, I guess that’s an invitation.” Soul noted, scratching his head.

“Somehow, I have a bad feeling about this.” Tara thought aloud as they started down the path of guillotines towards their headmaster. …Dear heavens she’d just realized how wrong that sounded.

“I wonder what Lord Death wants to see us about.” Maka thought aloud.

“Who knows?” Soul responded disinterestedly.

Tara was aware of Blackstar above them with Tsubaki in her weapon form, but did nothing as he didn’t really mean any harm. “Look at them down there. Think they can show their backs to me, do they? Tsubaki…let’s go.” Blackstar said.

“Right.” Tsubaki agreed, before Blackstar struck a pose with her weapon form.

“Assassin’s rule number 1! Dissolve in the darkness and erase your breath, wait for an opening to attack your target!” he called, getting Maka and Soul’s attention.

“Oh look, it’s Blackstar.” Maka said as if talking about the weather.

“Why are you standing up there yelling like an idiot?” Soul asked.

“He’s right you know, brag about assassin rules after you kill the guy.” Tara advised. She’d tried telling him that before, but his head was thicker than the academy’s walls. She was hoping that if she repeated herself enough, it would eventually get through to him. He would be a great assassin if he could just be quiet until the job was done. He had the talent and the skillset, but he just wasn’t able to contain himself.

Tsubaki partially reverted to human form, one of the scythes at each end of the chains became her head in a glowing yellow light. “They found us pretty easily.” she sighed.

Blackstar smiled good-naturedly. “It can be real difficult to hide when you’re as big a star as I am. Oh well, that’s a disadvantage I think I can handle. After all, I wouldn’t want surpassing God to be easy, that would take all the fun out of it! Pretty big of me, huh Tsubaki?” Blackstar asked his partner. Odd, that third sentence was surprisingly deep for one of Blackstar’s rants.

Tsubaki giggled. “Oh yes.”

“Seriously?” Maka asked.

“It is Blackstar, you should be used to it by now.” Tara reminded her friend. Blackstar’s God Complex was annoying, but he was a friend, so Tara put up with it since it didn’t seem to be overly harmful. Besides, she didn’t want him to doubt himself, self-doubt paralyzed the soul. She had a ‘tolerance’ for lack of a better word, since she had to live with fear, paranoia, and self-doubt for pretty much her whole life thanks to her psychological makeup. It didn’t prevent her from casting, but she was told that her power was more than cut in half. If that was the case, then she was actually kind of glad. She had to restrain herself to avoid blowing up buildings as it was, she’d rather not have to restrain herself from blowing up city blocks.

Blackstar and Tsubaki joined the three of them heading towards Lord Death. “Hey Blackstar, what are you doing here? Were you guys called in to see Lord Death too?” Soul asked.

“What if we were?” Blackstar asked. They stopped at a mirror with the ghost-like skull and three candles on three little candlestick-holders on a small platform in the rough center of the Death Room. The Death Room looked like it was outside in the middle of the day at all times, complete with clouds. The number of iron crosses waxed and waned, but never became overwhelming enough to make it difficult to fight in here. That was probably on purpose.

“Here, I’ll call him.” Maka said before fogging up the glass and writing the numbers, muttering the little rhyme under her breath. “42- 42- 564, whenever you want to knock on Death’s door.” A tone sounded several times as the numbers disappeared and ripples washed out across the glass surface. She’d asked him once how this worked, and, long story short, it was an ability specific to full-fledged Shinigami, the ability to travel by and communicate through mirrors. Studying it had improved her ability to create pocket dimensions like the one in her backpack, and she had worked a couple kinks out of her spell to get home. She would not be able to replicate it, however. “Lord Death, are you there?” Maka asked as the mirror turned white.

“Ya, Ya!” Death answered as the mirror turned black with him in a blue area in the middle that was triangle-shaped, although the corners were outside of the field of view provided by the mirror. “Hi! Hello! What’s up…? Thanks for coming.” he said.

“Scythe Meister Maka reporting in.” Maka said cheerfully.

“Yeah and Dark Arm Meister Blackstar, too.” Blackstar added.

“And Tsubaki, I’m his partner.” Tsubaki said.

“Unassigned Meister Tara reporting.” Tara said. She didn’t have a partner, so she couldn’t be assigned a type. The others had given her strange looks when they found out that she didn’t have a partner, especially since that meant she fought with a ‘normal’ sword and pistol. Of course, they didn’t realize that these were not ordinary weapons anymore. Seriously, her pistol had the kind of power you’d expect from a low-end sniper rifle and her sword was unnaturally sharp and almost seemed to cut the air if she swung it as hard and fast as she could.

“Well, what did you want with us?” Soul asked.

“Right… I have a little assignment for the five of you to take on.” Death said.

“Assignment?” everyone in the room besides Death asked.

“Some extra lessons.” Death said.

“Huh?! Those extra lessons that stupid people get?” Maka asked, horrified. “Those lessons?”

“Well to hell with that…” Soul said, turning to walk away. “I’m gonna be a Death Scythe! I’m way too cool for extra lessons.” Soul said.

“Do you remember your duty as meisters and weapons?” Death asked.

“Yes, our duty as meisters is to feed our weapons 99 Kishin souls and one witch soul. We collect evil souls in order to keep the world at peace. We work to create a Death Scythe, a weapon of the Grim Reaper, Death.” Maka said, practically copying the textbook.

“You are absolutely right! But do you know how many souls all of you have managed to collect?” Death asked. He raised his hands and formed a zero with the thumb and pointer finger of each. “Exactly zero!” he said, leaving everyone but Blackstar and Tara with their jaws dropped and noticeably paler, as if they were on the verge of fainting.

Tara was too busy frantically apologizing to be left shell-shocked, while Blackstar just laughed for some reason. This earned him a Reaper Chop, which could very well be what Maka’s Maka Chop was based on, except she used a book to make up for the fact that she lacked the overly large hands that Death possessed. Though it was odd to see someone in a mirror do that… Wait how in the actual hell did that work? Could he pass part of the way through the mirror if he wanted?

“It isn’t something to laugh about, Chuckles. Anyway, are you ready to learn what your extra lessons will entail?” Death asked, getting their attention squarely back on him rather than their downed and only semi-conscious friend. “Maybe you’ve already heard the rumors. About Sid, who taught here at the Academy until recently.” Death said.

“See…? I was right. It wasn’t just a story.” Soul said, he and Maka still kind of out of it, along with Tsubaki. Blackstar was now surrounded by a small pool of his own blood. Tara’s instincts seemed to have been spot on.

“Yeah, but a zombie? I always thought he was a really good teacher.” Maka said.

“I remember learning a lot in those lessons he gave us.” Tara said, starting to calm down a bit.

“You’re right, when he was alive, Sid was regarded as an excellent teacher. However, when he became a zombie he changed. He has been released from the fear of death. Now he wants others to have the same freedom he does. He is attempting to train students to free themselves as well, but when a student won’t listen, which is the case for every one he’s contacted so far, Sid attacks. Another difficulty is the one who made Sid a zombie in the first place. We still don’t know who it was, or their motive. It could be a witch, or a more lucid Kishin Egg, or perhaps even a member of the DWMA.” Death explained.

Blackstar suddenly stood up like nothing happened, despite the obvious mark on his head. “Alright, leave it all to me sir! For our extra lesson we just have to eliminate these guys?” Blackstar asked.

“Yep, that’s pretty much it. Now I don’t want to put too much pressure on you, but if you fail to complete this mission you all be expelled.” he said seriously.

“What!? You’re gonna kick us out?!” everyone but Blackstar yelled.

“There’s nothing to worry about, I can take care of guys like this in my sleep!” Blackstar said, trying to be reassuring in his own way.

“We’re all doomed!” Tara said miserably.

“Come on! Let’s go!” Blackstar said, dragging the rest of them along.

*** 2 Hours Later ***

They were at the Hook Cemetery, where Sid had been buried. It was seemingly purposefully creepy. There were hooks everywhere, on the fence enclosing the cemetery, on the trees, there were even some on the gravestones. It took them a few minutes to find Sid’s oddly shaped gravestone, which had a circular hole in the center by design, and minuses turned on their sides on either side. The top was pointed like a sword as well. It was almost like someone had designed this gravestone as weapon.

“Come out zombie! Nap time’s over!” Soul yelled.

“Hey Tsubaki, this is Sid’s grave, right? Are you sure this is where we want to start looking?” Blackstar asked. “I thought zombies got up and moved around a lot.” he said. He had a point. If she were a zombie, she certainly wouldn’t stay near her grave if she didn’t have to.

“We might as well check this place first, if only to make sure he’s not here.” Tsubaki answered.

“I’m not gonna let myself be expelled over some zombie! Come out already!” Soul ranted.

“Looks like an ordinary grave to me.” Blackstar said.

“I never even listened to your lessons, so there!” Soul continued to rant. He began to laugh dementedly.

“Soul seems… a bit disturbed.” Tsubaki commented.

Maka was drooping onto the ground next to a tree. “I can’t believe I’m going to be expelled just like that. I always thought I was a great scythe meister like my mother was.” she drooped lower, until only her head and arms were actually on the tree. She made a pitiful little noise.

“What’s wrong with Maka?” Blackstar asked.

“Where are you, huh?! It’s like you’re afraid!” Soul continued to rant in the background.

“Blackstar, aren’t you the least bit worried about all this?” Tsubaki asked him. Blackstar just looked confused.

“Hee hee, we’ll pass even if it’s over all our dead bodies.” Tara said, giggling madly with more than a few hairs out of place. The functioning members of the group backed a few steps off from her.

“Where the hell are you hiding?!” Soul yelled.

“Hey Soul, let’s deface Sid’s grave. If that doesn’t get him out here, nothing will!” Blackstar suggested.

“Yeah, and while we’re at it let’s insult his teaching methods too!” Soul agreed instantly.

They started yelling insults and demanding he come out. “Okay, you guys can stop now.” Tsubaki said.

Maka and Tara snapped out of it, sensing hostile intent an instant before their zombified quarry burst out of the ground and grabbed Maka in the same movement. “Maka!” Soul called.

“Are you scared girl?” Sid asked, holding a knife-like branch from a tree with a metal blade attached. “I think you are.” He let go as he nearly took an Enfired bullet in the arm courtesy of Tara and jumped away as a scythe was launched at him. Soul had thrown himself at Sid while transforming. Soul stuck in the ground point-down.

“That’s what Sid’s become?” Maka asked.

“Guess so.” Soul said.

“On the bright side, he doesn’t seem to have begun eating souls, so he’s not that far gone at least.” Tara noted, drawing her sword as well.

“Maka, Soul, Blackstar, Tsubaki, Tara, good morning, good afternoon, good night.” He grabbed his gravestone, grunted from the effort, then pulled it out of the ground. “How have you been, and all that.” He brandished his improvised weapon, before putting it under one arm. “I always tried to remember my manners, that’s the kind of man I was.” Sid said.

“Tsubaki, let’s get ready to end this guy.” Blackstar said.

“Right.” Tsubaki responded before turning into her chain-scythe form. Her weapon form was special in that it had several different forms besides the base one.

Meanwhile, Death was using his mirror to observe them, along with his son Death the Kid, who was sitting in a yellow chair with just a touch of ornamentation that just so happened to be symmetrical. Death the Kid, usually called Kid, had black hair with three white stripes on one side. He wore a suit with a pin like the mask his father wore. He wore black shoes and utilized two Demon Pistols of identical make and model because of his OCD which he was in denial about, despite the fact that it was obvious and caused him to obsess over symmetry to the point of barely being able to function.

“So Sid…” Tara began, Enthundering her sword and causing it to crackle with electricity.

“Tell us why you’re doing this.” Maka said, putting one hand on Soul’s weapon form and spinning him around to get him in a proper position for her stance.

“Ding-dong! Dong-Ding! Being a zombie’s amazing! There’s so many things I can get away with now that I could never have when I was alive. Class is in session, I always was a man who started class right with the bell, punctuality is important after all.” Sid said.

“We agree on that much at least.” Tara said. Sorting through what spells she could disguise as abilities of her weapons. She would only be able to use the spells that matched what she’d cloaked her weapons in. Of course, if the others were in danger, she would throw hiding her magic out of a window on the fiftieth floor onto an angry mob.

“This’ll be fun, I get to teach you a lesson now teacher.” Blackstar said smirking. “Since it’s coming from me, you know it’ll be a big one.” Blackstar said moving into a ready stance.

“We don’t want to be expelled, so we’ll take your extra lesson!” Soul said, his voice modulated by his weapon form. “But I gotta say that I don’t know what we could learn from a decaying piece of flesh.” Soul said.

“If you become a zombie, death no longer looms over you. You can escape from fear and be free!” Sid said.

“You sound like a Kishin.” Tara said sadly.

“That’s wrong and you know it! You were never the type of man who would say that.” Maka said in an attempt to get through to him.

“You’ll understand once you die!” Sid said, twirling his weapon as he jumped. He landed and was about to attack her when Tsubaki’s chain wrapped around the gravestone through the hole in it’s center.

“Blackstar!” Maka said in realization.

“There’ll be no need to thank me for the lesson, it’s on the house!” Blakcstar said as he struggled to pull the gravestone back.

“I never was the kind of man” he pulled on his gravestone and smashed it into Maka while pulling Blackstar along and into Maka. Tara kept him from following through on that with three gunshots and some swordplay. She really needed a non-lethal fighting style. Her current one was pretty much ‘kill it until it dies’ and they needed to disable him, not kill him. They needed him to tell them who made him a zombie.

She fell back as the others would make disabling him much easier. “I’d recommend you give up. Even three-to-one, one star meisters like you don’t stand a chance of beating me.” Sid said.

“I’m hungry! Can we kill this guy so I can eat his zombie soul already?!” Soul yelled.

“We have to capture him if we want to find the one who made a zombie.” Tara told him.

“Sid’s right, he is very strong. One star meisters like us can’t compete with him. When he was alive he was designated a three star meister.” Maka said.

“Yeah, yeah. Hey Sid, if you keep swinging your tombstone around like that, you might break it, then what’ll you fight with, your hands?” Soul asked. “If you’re not careful you’ll up and die again.” he continued.

“It’s my tombstone I can use it however I want, can’t I? Anyway it’s time for second period.” Sid said.

“Doesn’t a tombstone require an actual tomb, making that just a gravestone?” Tara asked in deadpan.

Sid ignored her question. “Ding-dong! Dong-ding! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, when this lesson is over, you’re all gonna die.” Sid said, adjusting his hold on his gravestone.

“Then I guess I’m cutting class today. I think I’ll go home and take a nice hot bath.” Maka sent back, before launching herself at Sid, only for him to deflect her attack, and send her skidding back.

“What’s wrong? Why aren’t you working together?” Sid asked. “You have to establish a connection between the souls of weapon and meister!” he reprimanded.

“You’re giving advice to the enemy?” Blackstar asked incredulously as he began to swing Tsubaki mid-flight.

“I’ve always been an enthusiastic educator!” he yelled, swinging his own weapon around, which was met by Blackstar’s foot. “That’s the kind of guy I was!” he said as flung Blackstar away. “And now I’ll teach you how to die!” he followed Blackstar up with enough speed to render him a blur. Twilight teleported up and raised a shield and her own weapons to block as Sid performed a special move. “The Living End!” he yelled, a pink, cross-shaped explosion smashing right through her hastily-constructed shield and into her guard, most of the force was absorbed by her shield and guard, but there was enough left over for the two of them to make an imprint in the ground when they smashed into it.

“Are you guys alright?” Maka called as a dust cloud from the impact obscured them. Sid turned on her, running out of the smoke. He stopped and crouched as the dust cleared. He was originally partnered with a knife Demon Weapon, but he only needed his gravestone to fight at this level… he certainly deserved the ranking of three star meister.

“Maka! Keep him occupied for a minute! I have an idea!” Tara called.

“Ding-dong! Dong-ding! Looks like class is over, are you ready to die yet?” Sid asked. “Well, whaddya say? Aren’t you afraid of dying?” Sid asked. “If you become a zombie, then you’ll be free of that fear of death forever!” he said.

Blackstar groaned as he rubbed the spot he landed on. “So what’s the plan?” he asked.

“I attack Sid in tandem with Maka, and you take the opening we provide to use Trapstar to, well, trap him.” Tara said, before racing out to engage Sid. She shot him in the foot, then smashed the blunt side of her sword into Sid’s solar plexus. The solar plexus was one of the body’s weakest points. The sheer force she used made the attack strong enough to cause internal bleeding, despite only using the blunt side of her sword. She may be one of the slower members of the EAT class, but she was one of the strongest in terms of physical strength.

“Hm, that was an impressive attack, just what you’d expect from someone with as much combat experience as Tara. Of all the students at my Academy she has the most by far, due to an unusual series of events. As such she’s gained a certain knack for hitting the weak points of her enemies.” Death commented.

“Well, I’m not going to sit back and let you two hog all the fighting! Besides, I’m getting tired of this guy’s lectures, who’d listen to a lump of rotting flesh anyway?” Blackstar yelled as he sent Tsubaki’s chain around one of Sid’s arms, drew him in and struck him in the solar plexus again, compounding the damage she’d already done. “Especially when there’s a big star like me around!” She supposed that the plan wasn’t completely thrown out the window, but it was certainly going to be harder to give him the necessary opening with Blackstar in the midst of the fighting.

“Hm, with that kind of damage, Sid won’t be able to keep fighting at full strength much longer.” Death noted.

“Tsubaki, Shuriken mode!” Blackstar ordered. Tsubaki shifted from her chain-scythe form to a giant shuriken with five points, forming a star.

Tara shot Enfired bullets at Sid to keep him in the shuriken’s path, but he merely blocked with his gravestone and jumped up, although it appeared that Tsubaki could influence her flight path, since the shuriken moved to intercept him. “You can’t run away!” Blackstar yelled.

“Like I’d even try!” Sid said, jumping on top of the shuriken, before using it as a springboard to turn to Maka.

“Maka, he’s coming!” Soul said.

“I can see him!” Maka responded, moving into a defensive stance.

“The Living End!” Sid said, the barrier Tara raised falling to the attack, which was stronger this time, as if Sid had been holding back before and increased his power, accounting for the shield this time. Sid chuckled, before noticing that Maka was unharmed because she had just barely avoided the attack, leaving Sid open to her counter-attack. ‘She avoided it with such a minor margin for error?’ he thought, perplexed.

“People need fear to survive, we experience it so we can grow stronger!” Maka said, before smashing her foot into his face, her foot which was in a steel-toed combat boot.

“If she wasn’t afraid in this situation, I’d call that reckless. However, Maka has the courage to fight in spite of her fear.” Death said.

Maka continued the attack, smashing Sid into the ground with enough force to leave an imprint. She then used his face as a springboard to jump past him.

“Maka… let’s do what he said, see if you can match my soul’s wavelength.” Soul said.

“But that hasn’t worked for us a single time before.” Maka objected.

“So what? This is us, we can do it.” Soul reassured.

Maka nodded slightly. She twirled Soul above her head, then they both cried out. “Let’s go, Soul Resonance!” They screamed involuntarily as Soul’s blade began to glow blue. The others paused, feeling the rising power the two were emanating. “The legendary superskill of the scythemester, Witch Hunter!” Maka said, as Soul’s blade became a crescent moon-shaped blade with a toothy mouth three times it’s original size. Maka started to run towards Sid, but began to lose her balance as she found herself unable to properly control the power she was currently wielding and accidentally fired it off as a blast of energy that almost hit Blackstar. Luckily he dodged in time to avoid it. It did create a small trench in the direction it went, and caused the fence where it passed through to be outright obliterated.

“Are you trying to kill us?! What the hell Maka?!” Blackstar yelled.

“Oh that’s nice, this is all your fault, do it right idiot!” Maka yelled at Soul.

“What!? You’ve got it backwards! How is this my fault? You’re the idiot!” Soul yelled back. “Getting mad at me for nothing… Die!” he jerked his blade at his Meister.

“Die!? How can you say that?!” Maka yelled at him, warding off the blade.

“Such incredible power!” Sid said awed, and slightly nervous when he realized that could easily have hit him instead.

“I wanted to do this without the superskill.” the ground under Sid’s feet was crushed. “I wanted to do things the simple way.” Maka said as she swung her scythe at Sid while Tara fired (or at least appeared to) a trio of Fire spells from her still Enfired gun. Sid disappeared.

“Huh? He’s gone.” Maka said, confused.

“No, he’s just hiding underground.” Soul responded. Blackstar’s eyes narrowed. Tara paused momentarily to reload her gun. She still preferred to do it the normal way if she wasn’t in the middle of a fight, as teleportation was costly enough that a hundred or so bullets would noticeably drain her reserves. Not a lot, but conserving as much energy for later as she could would be best since they still had another fight on their hands.

“He’s down there?” Maka asked.

The ground behind Maka cracked, unfortunately, Maka’s body blocked it from her companions’ view. Sid burst out of the ground and tried to hit Maka, only to be stopped by the combined efforts of Tara and Blackstar. Tara was blocking his gravestone with her sword, and Blackstar was holding Sid’s arm back with Tsubaki’s chains again. Unfortunately, Tsubaki’s chains were not as secure this time, and Sid was able to slip out of them in time to dodge their counter-attacks, slipping underground.

“Damn, he dodged our attack again.” Soul said.

“Now Blackstar.” Tsubaki said.

“Yeah, I got it.” Blackstar responded. “What Sid’s doing now is using the first of the assassin’s rules.” he said.

“Dissolve in the darkness and erase your breath. Wait for an opening to attack your target.” Tsubaki continued his speech. The three the still-human members of the group formed a triangle, leaving only a tiny blind spot directly above them and between them.

Tsubaki, let’s get a headstart on this guy.” Blackstar said as Tsubaki’s chains encircled the them.

“Right.” Tsubaki said as her chains halted.

The chains slowly crossed the ground around them like metal detectors of some kind. ‘That zombie bastard’s not upstaging me in this performance.’ Blackstar thought.

‘Blackstar’s movements are different from how they normally are.’ Maka noticed.

‘He’s finally taking this fight seriously.’ Tara thought.

‘Only one man’s gonna die in this graveyard.’ Blackstar thought, he grinned as the chains finished forming a five-point star. ‘And it’s not gonna be me.’ he thought. “Trapstar.” he said aloud. “Assassin’s rule number two: Concentrate on the target… If I listen carefully I can hear his soul’s Wavelength.” he muttered as he used the Wavelength from the chains as a sort of soul echolocation. ‘I can pick it up through Tsubaki.’ he continued in his mind.

‘His breathing stopped.’ Maka noticed, slightly concerned as he’d never done this in front of her.

‘He’s just about there.’ Tara thought confidently.

“And now…” Death said, leaning in.

Sid came halfway out of the ground, wielding his knife-like branch with the small piece of metal on the end. Blackstar was on him in an instant. “Trap Star activate!” he said as Tsubaki’s chains encircled Sid. “I think that it’s about time I sent you back to the grave… You really stink.” the chains looped around Sid tightly… accidentally dragging Maka, Soul, and Tara in too. Blackstar laughed.

“What are you doing tying us up along with this guy?!” Maka, and Tara asked in unison.

“Well I wouldn’t have to if you hadn’t gotten in my way.” Blackstar answered nonchalantly.

“Hey let us outta here!” Soul yelled at him. Blackstar just continued to laugh.

“When I’m done with you you’re gonna be so dead!” Maka yelled.

“Seriously! Let us out of here!” Tara yelled at him.

“So far so good. Maybe it’s time to take a break from this.” Death said, turning the mirror off like a TV.

“So now they just have to find the person who made Sid into a zombie, right?” Kid asked.

“That’s right.” Death answered.

Liz and Patty stood next to Kid, on his right. They were his Demon Pistols in human form. Liz was the more serious of the two, and the taller and elder sibling of the pair. Her brown hair was chest length, and like Patty, she wore a sort of cowgirl outfit. However, Liz’s hat, while white like her sister’s, was bent upwards in a slightly different place. Both wore red vests with white ties. Liz wore jeans, while Patty wore baggy shorts.

Patty had chin-length blonde hair, and a bubbly personality, especially compared to her more grounded sister.

“Do you know who’s responsible?” Kid asked.

“…” Death said nothing, essentially confirming Kid’s suspicions.

“He’s no ordinary enemy is he?” Kid asked.

“You’re familiar with my current weapon, Death Scythe, correct? If so, then you should also know of the meister who trained him.” Death explained.

“Yeah, it was Maka’s mother, wasn’t it? What about her?” Kid asked.

“Actually that’s not exactly right. Maka’s mother was the one who made Spirit into a Death Scythe, but he had another partner before her.” Death continued to explain.

“So that means… the one responsible was his first?” Kid asked.

“Yes, Dr. Franken Stein is the man behind all this. Not only was he Death Scythe’s first partner, but he was also the single greatest meister to ever graduate from the academy. He’s a tough one.” Death answered.

Meanwhile, in a house not far from the Hook Cemetary, a man with stitches all over his body and a giant screw through his head typed at a computer while smoking a cigarette. He had grey hair, though it was natural, rather from old age, and wore a lab coat over a literal patchwork shirt and black pants. He sighed, “Can’t seem to get my head on straight.” He paused in his work to tighten the screw by a few turns. He pushed back on his rolling chair a bit, laying his arms behind his head. “I give up. Too tired.” he said wearily.

“So this meister was your weapon Death Scythe’s first partner…” Kid mused.

“And you sent a group of students to collect his soul?” Liz asked.

“He should send you big sis, you could do it!” Patty said enthusiastically.

“Only if I really felt like dying that day.” Liz deadpanned. “You’re overestimating me a little bit, Patty. I wouldn’t last two seconds.” Liz responded.

“Why are you sending students on a suicide mission for remedial lessons?” Kid asked. Death hummed. “You know what’s going to happen, don’t you? They’ll die.” Kid said with the tone of one discussing the weather.

The group found themselves outside a building with stitches and arrows all over the place. Sid had directed them here after they’d captured him… after Blackstar had let the rest of them out of Tsubaki’s chains.

“So this is where we’ll find Stein.” Soul said, looking at the building. “Let’s hurry and finish this guy off, I’m ready for these lessons to be over.” Soul said. “I’ve gotta say, this is one of the weirder buildings I’ve seen. He even put zigzag stitches on his laboratory.” he said, before looking down at his feet to see some kind of clockwork mouse with patches acting much like a real one would. He narrowed his eyes as it slowly moved away.

“Interesting architecture, I wonder what kind of guy this Stein is.” Maka said.

“Well, he’ll likely be a scientist of some kind. An analytical fighter seems likely.” Tara said, pretending not to notice the nervous sweat on Maka’s face. This guy was strong, they could sense his presence all the way out here without any special abilities.

Stein had been typing at his computer, while screwing in the screw, until he suddenly kicked off from his desk, causing his chair to roll back at a decent speed. They all readied themselves as they heard the sound of said chair rolling towards them after the door opened with a creak. “Something’s coming out of there.” Soul stated. Tara Enfired her pistol, and Enthundered her sword in preparation.

Stein, or a scientist who happened to be in the building with him, yelped as the rolling computer chair tilted over as it hit the doorstop, sending him to the ground with it. They all stared. Stein, she assumed it was him for the moment, dusted himself off, then reseated himself. “Damn it… Still doesn’t feel quite right.” he said, adjusting the giant screw in his head.

‘How is that even possible? That clearly goes through his brain since the other end is sticking out.’ Tara wondered.

“Hmm… Maybe that’ll take care of it.” Stein said as he stopped turning the screw. “Okay.” he said, getting up from the chair and pulling it along, giving them a view that showed even it was stitched. “I’m going to try that again. I think I know what I did wrong.” he said, going back inside.

“Um… Shouldn’t one of us stop him?” Soul asked.

“But we just met him. Isn’t that rude?” Maka countered.

“I would, but I kind of want to know what he’s gonna do next.” Blackstar said.

“Me too.” Tsubaki agreed.

“Ah, why not?” Tara said finally.

The exact same thing happened. Stein rolled towards them facing backwards, and fell over as his chair hit the doorstop, yelping as he did so. The group of DWMA students all had the same thought. ‘Is this guy for real?’

“Was there something you kids needed me for?” Stein asked from the ground.

That comment snapped them out of it, causing them to remember why they were here in the first place. “Yeah, if you’re really Dr. Stein.” Soul answered.

“You did this.” Maka pointed at Sid. “You’re the one who turned Sid into a zombie.” she said accusingly.

“Oh… so that’s it… I’m guessing you guys are all students from the academy then?” Stein asked.

“Of course, you didn’t think you could just undo death without Lord Death noticing eventually, did you?” Tara asked.

“Why did you do this? Do you have some sort of grudge?” Maka asked.

Stein put himself back on the chair and crossed his arms over the headrest. “No, nothing of that kind. My motive is simpler.” Stein moved one arm into a ten’o clock position. “Experimentation and observation. Basically, I just wanted to see what would happen. Really that’s all a true scientist cares about. And, I am a scientist.” he put the arm back on the headrest. “Everything in the world is a test subject. That includes myself of course.” Stein said, suddenly, his expression changed, and Tara got the strangest feeling he was looking at her soul.

“Hey, do you feel that Soul? I think that something strange is happening.” Maka whispered to her partner.

“Huh? Like what?” Soul asked.

“Your souls’ Wavelengths aren’t very stable.” Stein stated, garnering their attention. “What’s more, they’re quite different from each other. I see one that is careless and arrogant, and another that is earnest and strong-willed. They appear to be in resonance, but they aren’t.” Stein said.

“What the hell? You mean you can see our souls, even though we’re still alive?” Soul asked. “In that case, you must be a Meister.” Soul deduced.

“He was able to read the character of the souls too… Only the best Meisters can do that.” Maka added.

“So what? Maka, you can see souls clearly like that too, right?” Soul asked.

“Oh… y-yes, of course I can!” Maka said a little too quickly.

“Your soul seems confused by that last statement. How cute.” Stein stated.

“Shut up! Quit it! Stop looking at my soul you creep!” Maka said covering her chest with her arms.

“Yeah, shut up little doctor man… No one wants to hear you talk anymore. Hya-hoo…! How about we change the subject to a more interesting conversation topic?” Blackstar asked from the roof of Stein’s lab.

“You mean like how the hell you got up there without anyone noticing?” Soul asked.

“Close, I meant me.” Blackstar replied without missing a beat.

“When did he…?” Tsubaki asked, especially confused since she’d been standing right next to him and, as his partner and the one who spent the most time around him, she should’ve noticed.

“Who cares if you can see souls? What does that matter, huh? Not like you’re gonna see anything interesting. Far as I’m concerned, the only soul worth looking at is mine!” Blackstar said, jumping down from the roof and landing in a crouch.

Stein chuckled. “Yours is an interesting one. Your soul is extremely self-centered and more than a little wild. It must be rather difficult to find a partner with a soul compatible with yours, isn’t it?” Stein asked.

“No more talking.” Blackstar said, before launching himself into the air, and aiming a kick at Stein, who blocked, allowing the chair to twirl, absorbing the momentum. He blocked the follow-up from Blackstar’s other leg, then punched Blackstar hard enough to draw blood, sending him flying.

“Blackstar!” Tsubaki called worriedly.

“Hm? Ah yes I see it now. You must be the wild one’s partner. You’re always willing to compromise, and possess a very accepting nature. It makes sense that you’re the one who’s able to cooperate with his soul’s wavelength.” Stein said.

He turned to Tara. “You do not seem to have a partner, as those are not Demon Weapons. Your soul combines the earnest, hard-working aspect of the blond girl with a tendency to place the needs of others before your own like the raven-haired one, and a certain protectiveness. You’re willing to get your hands dirty to protect your friends. However, there’s a trace of something darker in the depths. It seems to have been restrained, much like how your soul is only functioning at roughly 40% capacity due to a cloud of self-doubt and paranoia that appears as black chains around your soul. I must say your soul’s a puzzle wrapped in a riddle.” Stein said, looking at her in much the same as one does a frog they’re about to dissect.

“Who do you think you are old man?” Soul asked, using aggression to mask his unease. CQC was Blackstar’s specialty, but this guy had all but swatted him aside.

“Now that I’ve collected the necessary initial data from all of you. I think we’re ready to begin our experiment.” Stein said, with a smile that reminded Tara of Arcana.

Soul transformed into his scythe form, and Maka grabbed him before rushing at Stein. Stein dodged her attacks with ease, even with Tara firing Enfired bullets and the occasional Fire spell at him. “You must be Scythe Meister Maka.” Stein said, smashing his legs into her, while sending his chair into Blackstar’s face, causing him to fall back down to the ground.

“Ow, my face!” Blackstar said, grabbing at it.

‘He hasn’t even gotten up from his chair until now, how much combat experience does this guy have?’ Tara thought as she rushed at the rogue doctor. She was getting a weird impression, as if she was on the verge of grasping something, but not quite getting it. She didn’t have Soul Perception, it was genetic as much as a technique, though her DNA was already quite different after the l’cie incident, and her soul had effectively been mutated, so something similar wasn’t out of the question.

“Hm, let’s see, Scythe Meister Maka…” Stein said, adjusting his screw, while catching Tara’s arm with one of his own and throwing her at the building behind him, using his own momentum against her. “Something’s familiar about that name. If I could just put my finger on it…” he hit his palm with his other hand closed into a fist. “Ah! Your mother was a meister as well, and your Spirit’s little daughter aren’t you?” Stein asked.

“Who’s Spirit?” Soul asked.

“That’s what my father was called before he became a Death Scythe.” Maka answered him, before raising her voice. “But I want to know how you knew about that!” she said to Stein.

“I can still remember even now. He looked so peaceful in his sleep. He must be the deepest sleeper I’ve ever met too, to not wake up when I injected him with anesthetic even momentarily. So you are indeed Spirit’s darling little daughter. And the daughter of the woman who ended my greatest experiment.” Stein said.

“Wait, are you saying you experimented on your weapon? That’s horrible!” Tara said.

“I have to wonder what kind of test subject you’d make.” Stein said, ignoring her as she struggled to pull her gun out of the house and her sword out of the concrete. It would be another twenty seconds before she had them out. Her sword could slice through concrete, but she needed to build some momentum first.

Stein pushed himself towards Maka and Soul, a hand outstretched. “It’s just a tap, we can block it.” Soul said.

“Okay.” Maka agreed, tightening her grip.

Stein smashed into Soul hard enough to create a small shockwave, but Maka held firm, the tell-tale sparks from a Soul Force attack appeared, however, and she was knocked her back.

“What… What did he…?” Maka asked.

“What the hell did he do to me?” Soul asked.

“He seems to be able to attack with his wavelength directly, without a weapon to enhance it, of course, he won’t be able to reach his full power without a weapon of some kind. Still, don’t let him hit you with that too many times. Soul Force can deal internal damage to a human, but it’s real purpose it to disrupt a person’s wavelength and weaken soul-based abilities.” Tara explained, walking over to the pair with a wary eye on Stein.

“I don’t believe this…” Kid began, apparently Death had decided to watch the fight. “Sure, Demon Weapons have valuable physical attack properties, but their primary purpose is to magnify their meister’s soul wavelength since they normally can’t channel it on their own. But that man, he can attack with his soul directly, without the need of a weapon to access his power.” Kid said, a note of wonder in his voice. Soul Force was a rare ability, usually five or fewer in a generation could use it’s completed form.

“Yup. The relationship between a meister and their weapon partner is comparable to the one between a guitar and an amplifier. On it’s own, an electric guitar is only capable of emitting so much noise. However, if you hook it up to an amplifier, you enhance the sound waves, and the result is much more powerful than before.” Death explained.

“Witch Hunter. The technique Maka used in the battle with Sid is a perfect example of this. Even if she did fail with it in the end. But in
Stein’s case, he can use the guitar to make a huge noise without an amplifier, to continue the metaphor.” Death explained.

“That’s incredible. I can only imagine how strong he must be when he does use a weapon.” Kid said as they watched Stein stand and push the chair away.

“Let’s see here, now how shall I begin my experiment?” Stein said, moving his pointer and index finger like scissors.

Maka suddenly stiffened. “What’s wrong Maka? Chill out. Your soul waves are completely chaotic!” Soul said. Tara stiffened as well when she turned to Stein, she’d just unlocked Soul Perception it seemed, and what she was facing said they were quite doomed if she didn’t start using third-tier spells on this guy. His soul was easily three times as powerful as Maka and Soul’s put together.

Maka yelled as she rushed at Stein, only to get a Soul Force attack that knocked Soul out of her grasp as he said, “That was a dumb move!” Stein grabbed Maka by one of her pigtails and lifted her up so that her feet barely touched the ground. Soul turned back to human and groaned out “Maka.” from the ground, apparently still recovering from the injury.

Stein lifted Maka’s shirt up to reveal her stomach. “Ah, you have lovely skin. Simply lovely.” he took a marker out of his pocket. “Where do you think I should insert the knife first?” he asked before he started to draw on her stomach. “Let’s see if I can turn your smooth skin into sandpaper.”

Tara couldn’t shoot her gun or a spell for risk of hitting Maka, nor could she use her sword as it would take too long to get it out of the cement if he redirected her again. She put her weapons down as quietly as she she could, then rushed at him to use Soul Force.

“You’re about to need a new pair of glasses, bastard!” Blackstar said running at him from behind while Tara rushed at Stein from the front. “How could you already have forgotten that I’m here?” Blackstar asked.

“Easily.” Stein said disinterestedly.

“You’re not the only one who can attack with soul waves without a weapon!” Blackstar said as his hand sparked blue.

“Your talent isn’t even that rare.” Tara said, her own hand sparking purple.

“What?” Stein asked, momentarily surprised. That moment was all they needed. The two students stopped on one foot, pivoting to throw their entire body’s momentum behind the strike, and smashed their hands into Stein. The chest for Twilight, and the back for Blackstar. This caused three things to occur simultaneously. A blue wave of soul energy, intermingling with a purple one, swept out from Stein. Stein was forced to let go of Maka, who was flung away.

“Amazing!” Soul said, still struggling to stand.

“They can both do that too?” Kid asked.

“He may appear to be a child, but Blackstar’s soul wavelength is incredibly large, and for his age, he’s a genius at using the direct soul attack against an opponent. Tara is similarly gifted.” Death explained. “Still, it won’t do them much good against Stein.” Death said ominously.

Sure enough, Stein remained standing, almost unharmed. Blackstar backed off a few steps, as did Tara. “Those attacks should have done a lot more damage.” Tara said worriedly.

“A surprise indeed. The wild one and the one without a partner can use Soul Force. I suppose that it makes sense for the latter, but both at once is unexpected.” Stein noted.

“What the hell is going on?” Soul asked. “This is useless.”

“You deflected my soul attack.” Blackstar said.

“Yes, you may remember how I checked your soul data just before the fight began? When I did that, I familiarized myself with your soul’s wavelength. Now I can adjust mine so they match. When the wavelengths are the same they cancel each other out, so your attack is powerless. You see, in the exact moment you attacked, we temporarily bonded. Much like the connection between a meister and their weapon. It’s impossible to match two different wavelengths at once, so I merely matched yours, and let your attack take the brunt of your friend’s.” Stein said.

Tara gaped. That was terrifying! He could completely get around Soul Force!

“A human can actually accomplish all that?” Kid asked.

“It’s only possible if the person in question has an extremely flexible wavelength. Stein does. That’s one of the reasons that he is so difficult to defeat in a fight.” Death explained.

“That experiment was fun, but now it’s my turn.” Stein said, before almost casually smashing a Soul Force attack in Tara’s face and sending her flying, then rushing at Blackstar. He grinned an instant before he used both hands to channel his wavelength at Blackstar, causing Blackstar to scream.

“Blackstar!” Tsubaki screamed. Stein kept on smiling as he continued to hit Blackstar with his wavelength.

“Leave him alone!” Soul yelled. Stein ignored him.

Tara fired a shot at Stein, but missed since she was still dizzy from hitting the nearby wall. Stein finally stopped, and Blackstar fell to the ground, blood trailing from his mouth and eyes, and a fair amount from his head when he hit the ground.

Maka, Soul, Tsubaki, and Tara called out, “Blackstar!”

“This is too much for them to handle. They need help. Let’s go.” Kid said.

“Okay, sure.” Liz agreed.

“Let’s go!” Patty said childishly.

“Kid, you can’t gt involved. This is a test for them to complete on their own. Besides, you’re a Grim Reaper, you aren’t a student here.” Death said.

“Alright. Then in that case, consider me enrolled as of this moment. Dad, I would appreciate it if you would register me for classes.” Kid responded. “Liz, Patty.” Kid addressed them.

“Yes, Kid.” they said at the same time.

“Hey! All of you! Come back here!” Death called.

Soul had moved over and examined Blackstar. “What did he do?” Soul asked.

“Tsubaki, you know that I was never a man to run away, but you shouldn’t fight an unwinnable battle. You should go.” Sid said.

“Damn you Stein! You won’t get away with this. I’ll kill you!” Soul moved over to Maka. “Right, let’s go and get him, Maka.” Soul said.

Maka was staring at Stein with wide eyes. “No way.” she said, slumping to the ground.

“What’s wrong?” Soul asked.

“This is impossible.” Maka said.

“Hm, the little girl can see my soul, huh?” Stein muttered.

“We can’t, the difference in power is too great.” Maka said.

“Hey, come on, what’s wrong with you Maka?” Soul asked.

“I can’t… he’ll defeat me.” Maka said.

“What’s the matter with you Maka? Why are you just sitting there?! Get up!” Soul told her, putting an arm on her shoulder.

“She must be able to see his soul.” Tara said, walking over. The dizziness had faded, and cold rage was putting her mind to order.

“You wouldn’t be acting so tough if you could see the shape of his soul like I can!” Maka said, proving Tara right. She readied her
weapons, which she’d had to retrieve after she recovered, in case Stein made a move, but for the moment, he simply stood there, his grin still present from blasting Blackstar.

“You’re wrong! I wouldn’t care, Maka! All you saw was a single soul, right? You didn’t see your future. You can’t give up before you even
fight!” Soul shook Maka a bit. “You’re supposed to turn me into the greatest Death Scythe ever! You don’t want that idiot father of yours to outshine us, do you? Look up and listen to me! Do you hear me Maka? I’m talking to you!” Soul yelled. Maka raised her head.

Soul smirked. “Okay. Now look over there and tell me what you see. He’s been standing there waiting patiently for you to finish your temper tantrum. Isn’t that nice of the good Doctor Stein?” Soul asked.

“Come on, if we die, we die cool.” Soul said.

“Sorry about that, I’m better now.” Maka apologized, smiling as she stood.

“No problem.” Soul said.

“I’ve taken down opponents stronger than me before. If you don’t mind some help, I’m happy to offer.” Tara said, grinning.

“Keep him in one spot so we can hit him with Witch Hunter.” Maka said. Tara nodded. She moved into the path Stein and Maka would
have to take to reach each other.

“Now let’s try this again.” Maka said.

“Let’s go, Soul Resonance!” Maka and Soul said in unison. Stein simply stood in one spot, under Tara’s watchful eye.

‘The resonance of the souls. Meister and Weapon harmonize, the meister passes the soul waves to the Weapon, the Weapon then
magnifies the waves and passes them back. They repeat this process until they create a soul wave greater than the sum of it’s parts.’ Stein thought, watching them.

Maka and Soul screamed involuntarily as they began to glow blue. “Let’s keep this up until we reach our limit!” Soul said.

“Yeah, let’s do it!” Maka agreed.

‘I’m impressed, she can use Witch Hunter at such a young age.’ Stein thought. “You’re putting everything into one hit?” he asked
aloud. “Come on! Let’s see how much your souls can handle!” Stein challenged.

“The legendary superskill of the Scythemeister,” Tara got out of the way, as it was clear that Stein was not going to doge. “Witch Hunter!” Maka yelled, before swinging Soul at Stein from the ground up at him. Stein caught it with his bare hands.

Maka screamed involuntarily as she put her all into the attack. “You can control the Witch Hunter too.” Stein noted as his glasses
cracked, repelling the force with his own wavelength. “But I’m afraid your skills are too rough!” Witch Hunter shattered. Maka was left sparking with Stein’s yellow wavelength as Maka and Soul were sent flying away from each other.

Stein started forward, until Tara got in his way. “You’ll have to go through me first.” she said, then ducked under a Soul Force attack, but was hit by the other, only for nothing to happen. “Funny thing, the idea to cancel attacks like this has occurred to me, but this is the first time I knew my opponents wavelength well enough to do it.

‘Her soul is flexible enough to do this?’ Stein wondered.

“I’ve unlocked Soul Perception as well, while it’s not as advanced as yours getting hit by your wavelength directly supplied what else I needed to know, I know it well enough to match it now.” Tara explained, trying to buy time for Maka and Soul to recover.

“I see, she’s just delaying Stein, rather than seeking to defeat him. While it’s impressive that she managed that trick, she really should have gone on the offensive, Stein’s nothing if not adaptable.” Death said.

“I see,” she dodged one Soul Force, only for another to smash into her stomach, affecting her this time, and then a dual Soul Force to smash into her chest. “then I’ll just have to adjust my wavelength so it’s different from what you know.” Stein said as that second attack sent her flying. Her soul wavelength was too disrupted for her to cast magic right now, and she could barely move, let alone stand and fight. Stein continued to Maka unopposed. Tsubaki was holding Blackstar, and couldn’t fight effectively without a meister and keeping Sid chained up anyway.

“You managed to remain conscious.” Stein noted, dully impressed. A blue light streaked over Maka, and resolved into Soul, who resorted to using his body to shield his meister.

“Back off. I won’t let you touch my meister.” Soul said.

Stein raised a hand. “In that case, I’ll start with you.” Soul growled as Stein moved his hand to Soul’s head. “You earned a passing grade, good job.” Stein said.

“Huh?” Tara, Maka, and Soul asked at the same time, completely confused.

“Your extra lessons have been completed.” Stein said, removing his hand from Soul’s head. “You gave up your own body to protect your meister, that’s all you need to earn a pass from me.” Stein said, smiling.

“Sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear the first time, I’ll say it again. Huh?” Soul asked.

“Oh. This was all planned out by Lord Death. He asked me to do him a favor. He wanted me to help you wanted me with these extra lessons.” Stein explained.

“But if you were in on it, why did you kill Blackstar?!” Soul asked pointing, only to see Blackstar being supported by Tsubaki, but sitting up.

“I bet you think you’re a funny guy, huh? As if I’d die from an attack like that!” Blackstar said weakly.

“He’s still alive?” Soul asked.

“Are you even human? That would have killed a normal person!” Tara asked, dumbfounded. Did he have Demon Weapon ancestry? Come to think of it, she didn’t know much about Blackstar or Tsubaki’s families. She knew what they’d done in Blackstar’s case, but she didn’t even know his mother’s name.

“Yeah! And what about Sid the zombie?” Soul asked.

“Oh, right, sorry about all this. I was never the kind of man to tell a lie back when I was alive, but a lot of things have changed since then.” Sid said sheepishly.

“Oh, you don’t say. Then what the hell was the point of all this, to see if you could scare us to death?!” Soul asked angrily.

“Seriously?” Maka asked, she’d thought she and Soul were going to die!

“Look on the bright side, Maka can see souls now, and you two can actually use Witch Hunter too.” Tara said. “You also didn’t get hit with his wavelength three times in quick succession.” she added, struggling to rise from the ground even after a couple Cure spells. “I swear I’m not making Lord Death tea tomorrow.” she added bitterly.

Death chuckled. “You’re better now than before aren’t you? Too bad about the tea though, she’s quite good at making it.” Death said.

“It was just a test, but I confess it was fun scaring you kids like that! You should have seen your faces!” Stein laughed heartily.

Maka, Soul, and Tara all had the same thought in reaction to that. ‘This man is seriously sadistic.’

Stein got back on his chair, spun around on it at speeds that would make you dizzy just watching, then abruptly came to a halt. “Hey everyone, I’m sure you’re all tired. Why don’t you spend the night in my laboratory.

Everyone under 18 except Tsubaki said, “That’s a big fat no!” in unison.

*** The Next Day: First Period At School. ***

“I’m still worn out from last night.” Soul said.

“I dreamt Stein was using me in his experiments.” Maka moaned.

“I don’t even want to talk about my dreams.” Tara said, sitting next to Maka. She usually didn’t want to talk about her dreams, but tonight’s had been worse than usual. She hadn’t even been able to get her usual 6 hours of sleep. She was really glad her body had adjusted thanks to her lingering changes from her l’cie powers. She wouldn’t be able to function if it hadn’t.

“Tsubaki, was Stein a bigger star than me yesterday?!” Blackstar asked, horrified by the thought.

“Seriously?” Tsubaki asked. Even she had a limit to how much of that she’d put up with.

“I wonder if they’ve hired a new teacher to replace Sid yet. Hey maybe your father will be our new teacher.” Soul said.

“No, anyone but him!” Maka groaned. Huh, that was weird, that rolling sound seemed famil- Oh Death, no.

Stein’s chair fell over the doorstop, skidded into the room with him on it, and stopped roughly five feet from where the teacher’s desk was. “Alright class, are we ready to get started?” he asked opening his book and speaking as nonchalantly as if he were at the desk, despite the fact that almost every student in the class was staring at him open-mouthed.

“This isn’t even funny.” Soul spoke as if he had a stomachache.

“This might be the first time… I’ve actually wanted to see my father.” Maka said, horrified. Considering how low Maka’s opinion was of her father, that spoke volumes of how she felt about this situation.

“What possessed Lord Death to make him our teacher?!” Tara asked.

“Damn, that guy sure knows how to get attention.” Blackstar said bitterly.

“We’re gonna start by dissecting some frogs. It should be pretty exciting.” Stein said as he adjusted his screw.

Twilight The Traveler