// 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.