// A Pleasant Stroll… Or Not// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//
She had happened upon a library while wandering in search of something to eat the next morning. She’d gotten some jewels on Pulse thanks to the jewel-finding spell that she learned from Rarity. Jewels were far less common in every place she’d been besides Equestria, so she was able to trade them for a fairly large quantity of money at a jeweler’s that she discovered using the same spell to find the largest nearby concentration of jewels. It occurred to her that a jeweler that would accept jewels from a six-year-old without any questions was probably crooked and had almost certainly underpaid, but she didn’t have any other real options at the moment. She decided to visit the library to research her current world before getting some food since her stomach could wait. She’d like to know beforehand if she was going to be hunted like an animal for using magic or something.
She learned of the conflict between Lord Death and those serving him, and the Witches, an apparently all-female sub-species of humans who could use magic naturally and who had committed numerous atrocities over the centuries, ranging from human experimentation to soul experimentation. Souls were apparently the source of power in this world. The strength of one’s soul determined your power. There were two ways to gain soul-based strength.
The first was through training, and was how those under Lord Death mainly did so. The second way was utilized by both Kishin Eggs and Demon Weapons. They ate the souls of others, absorbing their power and adding it onto their own.
The difference between them was that Kishin Eggs ate human souls out of some sort of fear or similarly negative emotion and were corrupted by doing so, while Demon Weapons, people who could transform into various magic weapons that were effective against Kishin Eggs and Witches, ate the souls of Kishin Eggs in order to prevent their taking more lives in the pursuit of power. Both ate Witches souls for the exact same reasons as they ate their usual meals. For the Kishin Eggs, they provided a major power boost if you could kill one and eat her soul, and for Lord Death’s subordinates, they were trying to keep any further losses from occurring due to the Witches and their experiments, as well as the Kishin Eggs’ reason.
Meisters partnered with Demon Weapons in order to help them bring out their full potential, the ultimate goal being turning the weapon into a Death Scythe, one of Lord Death’s personal weapons, and an immensely powerful Demon Weapon that could only be created through the devouring of at least 100 hundred souls. 99 souls from Kishin Eggs, and 1 soul from a Witch. She didn’t like the idea of eating other people’s souls, but so far as she could tell, Lord Death seemed like the good guy here, or at least the lesser evil. She’d like to meet him if possible.
After a little more research to familiarize herself with historical events, she learned of what the Kishin Eggs aspired to be. The Kishin, the God of Madness who’s mere presence spread insanity, even sealed as he was. Those prone to fear and paranoia were especially susceptible to his influence, this usually manifested as a magnification of the usual symptoms of paranoia, as well as nightmares and violent tendencies.
Wait a minute, she was paranoia-prone! That meant she’d have to be fighting off the Madness Wavelength all the time. Something that brought out the worst in someone and tried to break their mind sounded like exactly the sort of thing that would prompt the seal restraining Arcana to break down. She did not need this! However, she needed time to research the spell for inter-world travel some more, since clearly something was wrong if she was once again not in Equestria, and perhaps a stronger seal for Arcana. Frankly, she didn’t like the thought of the seal having even the slightest chance of being broken. That thing shouldn’t be allowed to roam free under any circumstances. If she went to another world, then the circumstances might be even worse. Thus, she had to stay in this world until she managed to reinforce the seal some more, or the Madness Wavelength was dealt with.
While she was having these thoughts, she suddenly felt a spike of hostile intent, a gift she’d received thanks to her short possession. Her theory was that since Arcana was, on some level, her, the ability to unleash that much hostile intent had allowed them both to also sense hostility directed at them.
A humanoid creature burst through the window and attacked her, screaming about eating her soul. She could only assume this thing was a Kishin Egg. She had instinctively teleported out of the way of the first strike, and then stabbed the thing in where the heart could be assumed to be while shooting it in the head three times. It, amazingly, didn’t die from that, so she Enthundered the sword, and electrocuted it, that finished it, and it dissolved into a black spiral that resolved itself into a red orb with black, tarry patches. The corrupted soul of a Kishin Egg.
She grabbed it, intending to put it int her backpack for future study, but it was simply absorbed into her through her hand. She shuddered, that had felt wrong. She hurried out, realizing that more Kishin Eggs would probably not be far behind, and that it would place innocents in danger if she fought them in the city. She was proven right when she came across another not five minutes later, this time she used enchanted gloves and put it’s soul in her backpack. She needed to study this phenomenon, but she was certain Arcana had something to do with it. Between Arcana and the l’cie brand, her magic was probably completely out of whack compared to pre-Cocoon Twilight.
She had realized during her reading that the Witches must have developed some method of concealing themselves since they had managed to stay relatively hidden for the past few centuries, the problem was that she had no idea how to do it, or even how to take a look at her own soul, which, it was several times implied, was a very, very, basic thing. She managed to jury-rig the technique after a few days of hit-and-run fighting. She ended up with 35 souls by the time she was able to sense her own. It took the better part of another day to figure out a crude solution to her Kishin Egg problem.
The spell reduced her bleedoff of energy a great deal, which it seemed was how they hunted, but also cut her power to 1% of her original amount, leaving her vulnerable. She did reach 40 souls total in that time, and the number of Kishin Eggs after her dropped to a negligible threat level, about one a day. She was forced to mostly rely on her physical abilities since her magic was effectively crippled. She spent some time in the wilderness, fine-tuning the spell until they were little more attracted to her than a normal human, though for some reason she still encountered Kishin Eggs fairly frequently. She was also closely examining the souls and herself, trying to figure out just what had happened when she absorbed that one soul.
It seemed that Arcana, her ties to the element of Magic, and the l’cie brand had interacted with each other and her soul, resulting in what could best be described as a soul-sponge. If she came into direct contact with a soul in a condensed form such as these orbs, it was absorbed. Presumably there was an upper limit to how many souls could be absorbed in a certain span of time, but she was unwilling to test for it. It was likely that highly condensed soul-based energy would be similarly affected, but she had no way of testing that. She also suspected that it would make her more vulnerable to the Madness Wavelength, but had no baseline to compare her symptoms with.
She had absorbed a total of 39 through various accidents and experiments. They had caused a small but noticeable increase in both her magical power and her body’s physical attributes. Apparently they did that second part. She couldn’t detect any negative effects from having absorbed them, but refrained from absorbing more out of a sense of disgust at the very idea of absorbing a being’s soul. So long as there wasn’t direct physical contact, she could interact with them normally. Well, as normally as one could when there were souls involved.
Twilight had been visiting nearby towns to research at the libraries, but they hadn’t been very helpful in figuring out how to use her soul itself as a weapon like it was said Meisters and weapons could. She’d made little progress beyond being able to check on her soul in terms of practical application either, and she really didn’t want to poke around her own soul in case she damaged something. That would be bad.
The nightmares she had to assume were from the Madness Wavelength weren’t pleasant, but she managed to adjust to the lack of good sleep. The violent tendencies/urges were as repressed as possible.
She had 65 souls in her backpack at this point, having more than gotten that 39 back from more fights with Kishin Eggs. She’d fine-tuned the spell that hid her presence so it was the best she could reasonably expect it to be. She’d created a second version she was planning to use for combat situations, it let her use 5% of her full abilities but still hid her reasonably well, the first version was for civilian life or stealth. She was using the second version for now, and she was back to a fight with a Kishin Egg a day instead of every other day, but they were usually no threat. She was hoping to give the souls to Death as a peace offering, since he’d probably need some form of a sign of goodwill from a magic user. She had fairly little respect for their souls since they had been trying to kill her and eat her soul, had probably killed a large number of people before trying their luck with her, and quite obviously weren’t going to any afterlife.
However, she first came into contact with some agents of the DWMA, Death’s Weapon and Meister Academy one of the rare times that she attracted two Kishin Eggs at once. A girl with blond hair in a black coat over a schoolgirl outfit, and a boy who appeared to be an albino in a black sweater with yellow sleeves and red pants and who was a scythe Demon Weapon were on a mission to investigate why Kishin Eggs were being drawn here and then disappearing.
The day began normally enough and Twilight was actually considering going to Death City to join Death’s school beforehand, or at least go there and talk to him about some things. She had reached the physical age of ten, and she essentially felt like she was wasting her time doing nothing right now. One could only learn so much from another world’s texts on physics, and she was stuck for now on improving the spell to send her home. The problem was that she didn’t know the co-ordinates of home in the multiverse, so she was essentially shooting in the dark each time she used it. If nothing else, she’d like some help with the Madness Wavelength, she’d be happy to reciprocate in any way she could.
Anyway, she was pretty much just minding her own business when she got the usual warning of an approaching Kishin Egg except with two sources, meaning that there were two, which was rare ever since she got the spell for hiding her presence down. She almost didn’t notice the two people hiding behind a rock and watching her when the Kishin Eggs attacked.
She was unfortunate in that she was only able to sense those of hostile intent. Those with good intentions, or at least, who did not intend to cause her harm, could slip right past her. She was also unfortunate in that she’d already used magic by the time she noticed them. The small gasp from the girl being what had alerted her to their presence in the first place.
*** Maka’s Perspective ***
“Hey Maka, shouldn’t we help her out?” Soul asked, looking at the girl with dark blue hair about to square off against two Kishin Eggs.
“According to Lord Death, the one responsible for the strange behavior of the Kishin Eggs is almost certainly a Witch, so she should be able to handle herself. That said, be ready to help out if necessary. She hasn’t made it onto the DWMA’s wanted list, so we should treat her like any other human being unless she starts threatening us.” Maka answered.
The girl was surprisingly proficient with her sword, though it appeared to be glowing with heat as if it were just pulled out of the forge, which Maka could only assume was a spell. She was holding her own against the Kishin Eggs, and then she teleported behind one in a flash of light and stabbed it through the head, killing it and causing it to become a simple orb. Maka couldn’t stifle a gasp. That ability would be deadly in a fight, she could move out of any trap they might rig, and could strike from any direction at any time.
The girl glanced at them momentarily, holding off the remaining Kishin with only one hand on her sword. It was as if she didn’t even feel threatened now that there was only one of them. She soon finished the Kishin Egg by cutting it in half, then turned her attention back to them, calling out, “I know you’re there! Come on out!”
Maka and Soul cautiously stood up, and Maka asked. “I’m Maka Albarn, what’s your name?”
The girl answered. “Twilight Sparkle, and before you ask, yes, that was magic. I’d like to talk to Lord Death about my situation. As I understand it, most Witches don’t share my sentiment that killing should only be self-defense or when those close to you are threatened. As such the DWMA hunts virtually all Witches on principle. I’d like that to not apply to me.”
She pulled off the lavender backpack she was carrying and set it on the ground, then she rummaged inside and accidentally dropped something, causing it to echo cavernously. Maka and Soul stared. How was it even possible for such a small bag to echo? Twilight finally facepalmed and pulled some gloves out of her pockets and put them on, before she said. “I’ve got 64 Kishin Egg souls in here, not counting these two, and I’d at least like to hand them over since I have no authority to deal with them.” She pulled a couple out of the bag to demonstrate, before putting them back.
Maka was momentarily speechless, the girl in front of her had more than half the requirement for becoming a Death Scythe sitting in her backpack! She cleared her throat and said, “Well, our mission was to investigate the Kishin Eggs just disappearing like they’d been, so I think Lord Death won’t mind if we happen to bring the one responsible back to Death City. Though we should get in contact with him first. Follow us.” she said. It was common for small-fry Kishin Eggs to kill each other and absorb each other’s souls, but these Kishin Eggs had been drawn by a tempting soul, and not bothered fighting each other. There was a radius of at least 20 miles around this spot that Kishin Eggs had been drawn from. That rough circle of strange activity had been what clued the DWMA in on what was going on. Most murders were caused by Kishin Eggs, so they usually only lasted a couple days before mundane law enforcement killed them. The Meister-Weapon teams were only sent out to deal with the nasty ones with strange powers or who were too strong for normal soldiers to deal with.
“Are sure about this Maka? She is a Witch.” Soul asked, being the less trusting of the two.
“This from the guy who wanted to jump into the fight a minute ago?” Maka asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I want to talk to your headmaster, what could be less productive towards that than attacking his students?” Twilight deadpanned.
“Point.” Soul said after thinking it over for a second.
*** Several Days Later : Twilight’s Perspective ***
Twilight was handcuffed before she met Lord Death, though she was assured it was entirely protocol. She thought there was a slight possibility that she might be able to break out of them with brute force, but had no reason to try. She’d already had the souls ‘confiscated’, though she wasn’t sure it could really be called confiscation if she willing gave them up and went out of her way to hand them over. Truth be told, she was actually kind of relieved not to have them anymore, there was no risk of accidentally absorbing any of them like that one that had been in her bag when she’d touched it without gloves. They’d provided her with a hooded cloak to cover her features, so whatever happened, no one would recognize her.
She was quite surprised when she entered the Death Room to talk to him. He was seven feet tall with a black cloak, and a cartoonish mask that resembled a ghost more than a skull. “Hiya!” he greeted her with a goofy, high-pitched voice.
“…Huh, I was kind of expecting you to be more intimidating.” was all Twi could say in response, before her mind caught up to her reaction and she blanched. “Sorry, sorry, my life’s been kind of weird, so I kind of have a skewed view of the world.” she apologized.
“Ah, yes, you’re the Witch who was attracting all those Kishin Eggs. Care to tell me why?” Death asked.
“Well, believe it or not, I didn’t know how to conceal my presence very well, so they were attracted to me like flies to honey.” Twilight explained. She suspected Arcana also had something to do with it, as they’d kept coming even after she managed to jury-rig a way to hide her soul.
“Hm, didn’t you have a teacher of some kind?” Death asked, cocking his head to one side.
“Well, yes, but…” she inwardly debated explaining her origins, then decided that she had to tell the truth if she expected him to trust her. She explained about her life and what had happened. Death didn’t interrupt beyond the occasional question, or request of clarification. Once she’d finished, after showing him a few things she took from Pulse and Cocoon to prove she had been there, although she’d been planning on using them to prove that she wasn’t crazy to the others in Equestria, she waited for his verdict. Death had spent a few moments in deep thought, before asking her if she would mind becoming a student here. He also advised that she come up with an alias, since Twilight Sparkle sort of stood out, making her easily identified when combined with her fairly unique appearance. Most people didn’t have purple eyes, or pink and indigo stripes in their hair for that matter.
She answered positively to his first request, that having been one of the reasons she was here in the first place. She grudgingly agreed to the second. She knew it was probably a bad idea to stand out since scrutiny could reveal that she used magic, and that wasn’t going to end well, even if she didn’t actually have a Witch’s soul. Death had been quite surprised when he found that little detail out. She picked the name Tara Strong, partially because it simply wasn’t already on the student roster, and partially because she personally liked the name for a reason she couldn’t discern.
She had the handcuffs removed, and then left to sort out her affairs. After she left, Death took on a thinking pose. “Hm, well, she gave me quite a bit to think about. Other worlds with entities like that… she may have opened the largest can of worms imaginable.” he said, thinking over what he’d been told. Her soul had a hint of something foul on a level he’d never encountered, but that was probably due to that Arcana creature she mentioned. She’d mentioned being affected by the Madness Wavelength, but she seemed to have it under control for the moment. Still, she needed to give it an outlet of some kind, or she’d end up like Stein.
She’d quickly advanced to the EAT class, despite not having a partner. That led to her taking on some missions, as they were always a bit under-staffed in that regard. She was told to hand over any souls from Kishin Eggs, since she didn’t have a weapon partner to feed them to. She was quite glad, absorbing souls simply felt wrong, though it seemed to be entirely psychological since no one else had that problem.
So her current situation was really no surprise. Tara was walking through a town in Japan on the way to take out a Kishin Egg that was of the more sentient variety. Kishin Eggs were unofficially divided into those who retained their minds, and those who became little more than semi-humanoid animals. This one fell into the former category. She was surprised when it started using throwing stars against her from the shadows though. It seemed to be very good at long-range fighting, but it’s attack had revealed it’s rough position, so she teleported up there, and barely avoided having her head taken off by a sword that reeked of bloodlust. She was hardier than a normal human, but being beheaded would kill just about anything complex enough to have a head in the first place.
After dodging that, she engaged it with her own sword, Enthundered to hit the Kishin Egg with electricity using it’s own sword as a conductor. However, the Kishin Egg, a Kishinized traditional samurai who’d managed to eat enough souls to get to about the first quarter of the way to being a full Kishin, dodged, and counter-attacked, before being forced to deflect the bullets from her gun. She suspected that his sword was special, as those bullets had a spell that increased the force behind them precast, and her gun had had that l’cie spell variant on it that made it stronger with combat and over time for over 8 years.
Her gun was more than three times as powerful as it had started out as, making the pistol’s appearance deceptive of it’s true power, especially since she’d been learning to simply teleport bullets into the chamber recently allowing for seemingly endless fire. Her sword was similarly enhanced by the spell on it, the metal was strong enough to carve through concrete like a hot knife through butter. The Kishin Egg was repeatedly dodging her slashes, and blocking her pistol-fire. It wasn’t a problem of technique, she’d had plenty of practice and was something of a prodigy with swords. The problem was that she simply wasn’t fast enough to get around her enemy’s guard. Her speed was always her weak point, and that appeared to be hurting her now. She’d always had plenty of magical power, and she was far stronger than any normal human, but her speed was subpar compared to her other attributes. Even some of her fellow classmates were faster than her. Blackstar came to mind, though since speed was his strong point that wasn’t really a fair comparison.
Death by a thousand cuts didn’t sound fun, so she decided that she was going to have to pull out some of her l’cie spells. Only up to the second tier though, the third or fourth tier would destroy the surrounding houses and quite possibly kill people. She sent a Fira at the Kishin Egg at close-range, only for him to dodge, despite the spell’s targeting ability that let it alter it’s course mid-flight. However, she’d been expecting that, and there were a trio of Ruin spells waiting for him. He took a direct hit, but as these were only the first tier spells, albeit overpowered versions of them, he took little damage, and nothing outright debilitating, but he certainly wasn’t going to move as fast after that.
“Tougher than I thought.” he said, the first words spoken since their fight started. She didn’t respond beyond calling a Thundara down on him.
He was indeed moving more slowly, but he wasn’t that affected. Certainly less than she’d been expecting, though healing abilities weren’t uncommon among Kishin Eggs, especially as they got closer to being a Kishin. She didn’t think she’d be able to break through his defenses at this point however. She managed to block the first strike, but he was fighting much more aggressively now, apparently having been testing her defenses before. She had Enthundered her sword again when the first wore off, locking him into dodging her attacks, and then he used more throwing stars, along with a few metal needles, and a few knives, to force her to block. However, she merely took hold of them with her magic, and redirected them back at their thrower. To his credit, he managed to block almost all 15 thrown weapons.
He pulled the needle that got past his guard out of his shoulder, but his wounded arm wasn’t holding onto his sword quite as tightly as before. She took advantage, pressing him hard. He was having far more trouble blocking with a semi-debilitated arm. She managed to slice an arm off, shocking him with electricity in the process, and took advantage of his momentary pause to cast Fira at his head at point-blank range. He dissolved into the usual red orb with black, tarry patches. She carefully placed the soul in her backpack. She habitually wore her gloves now. It was easier than putting them on and taking them off all the time.
“And that’s another mission completed.” Tara said. She technically had a 100% mission success rate, but since she didn’t have a weapon partner, she simply gave the souls to Death. As such, she hadn’t collected a single soul by the academy tally. She had one of the best and worst track records at the same time.
She started off towards an inn to stay for the night. If she left first thing in the morning, she should be able to make it back to Death City by noon on Saturday. She had gotten a fair amount out of the courses at the Academy. She could even use the Soul Force technique. Soul Force was essentially just forcing your soul wavelength into your opponent, reducing their ability to use soul-based powers. Easy in theory, difficult in practice. Your soul wasn’t supposed to leave your body until you were dead. However, if you weren’t used to the technique, it caused backlash as using it left your own soul exposed to your enemy’s wavelength. An experienced user was able to block this, while making their own attack more damaging. It had once been described to her as headbutting your opponents soul. If their ‘head’ was harder, you were only hurting yourself.
She briefly contacted Lord Death to inform him of a mission success. He secretly worried about all his students when they went out. Missions were always a roll of the dice, because very few factors were absolute. There might be more Kishin Eggs than had been thought, drawn by whatever drew the target of the mission, or the Kishin Egg might have suddenly gained a large amount of power by absorbing a large number of souls or multiple powerful souls such as other Kishin Eggs, and then there was blind luck.
She fogged up some glass, and muttered, “42-42-564, whenever you want to knock on Death’s door.” under her breath as she wrote the numbers down. This was how you contacted Death, who was able to use mirrors for transportation and communication. Though he was only able to move throughout Death CIty. This was due to the seal on the first and only full Kishin that required him to anchor it. She was fairly sure she could figure out a way around it for him eventually, but she wasn’t touching the only thing preventing the Kishin from being unleashed on the world. If the Kishin was freed, then she’d devote some time to releasing Death from his bindings. That was unlikely since he’d been sealed for centuries, but weird stuff happened around her.
“Hiya! How ya doing Tara?” Death asked with his usual high-pitched voice.
“Very well, I managed to defeat the Kishin Egg and collect its soul without a scratch.” she responded.
“Ah good. When can I expect you back?” Death asked.
“Tomorrow at about noon.” Tara answered.
“Alright, you know, maybe you should take a break from missions for a while, you spend all your weekends on them and after classes you barely leave the library beyond a few excursions with Maka and Soul.” Death suggested. He was right, she hadn’t really been making any progress on what she was studying anyway. She spent time with Maka and Soul the most because they were the only ones besides Death who knew she could perform magic.
She’d encountered Black Star and Tsubaki during one of these excursions with the pair’s mutual friends. Black Star was a boy Meister with spiky blue hair, a set of black clothes, and arrogant to the point of a god complex, while Tsubaki was a tall girl with black hair and a yellow dress who was the Demon Weapon of the pair. She reminded Tara a lot of Fluttershy in that she was very kind and was rather acquiescing to others. She was the only one the group knew who was able to put up with Black Star to the degree that would be required to resonate with him.
On the surface Soul and Maka didn’t have personalities that would mesh well, but it seemed to be a case of opposites attracting. Maka reminded Tara a lot of herself. She was bookish and despite having a great deal of talent with her soul resonance, a special move that could only be performed by those whose souls were linked, was modest and actually a little under-confident. Though Maka was certainly more athletic than Tara had been pre-Cocoon. Soul was brash, and a little self-centered. However, he was an extremely loyal friend. Like Rainbow Dash.
She had a feeling that something big was about to go down, but had nothing concrete to back it up, so she had simply prepped a few extra rounds of bullets, and put some work into improving her Soul Force. She was pleasantly surprised to discover Soul, Maka, Black Star and Tsubaki waiting for her.
“Hey you guys, nice to see you all, how have you been?” Tara asked.
“Well, Soul and I tried to get a Witch’s soul, but…” Maka said glumly.
“I beat a swordsman guy who beat ninety-nine Kishin Eggs!” Black Star said loudly. He was actually a good assassin when he put his mind to it, but he was too loud and showy to get the job done a lot of the time. An unfortunate side effect of the kind of arrogance that led one to declare that they would defeat the Creator. You couldn’t expect to beat someone powerful enough to create a universe unless you could do something rivaling that. She didn’t bother trying to tell him this though. The odds of him ever actually meeting the Creator in person were pretty low, so she didn’t see the point. Besides, he was fairly harmless.
“Well, I beat a ninja Kishin Egg. He was good, but I was better.” Tara said. He honestly acted more like a ninja than a samurai, what with the sneak attack and the ranged attacks.
“Who votes we go grab something to eat?” Soul asked.
“I could go for some tea.” Tsubaki said.
“Well, let’s go then. I’m buying!” Tara offered. She didn’t exactly do much with her money from missions and the allowance every student in the DWMA received. She didn’t exactly go shopping for new sets of clothes with any frequency. Nor did she usually go out for dinner. As such, most of her money ended up sitting in her bank account collecting interest. They went to the usual cafe and had a group lunch.
Little did they know, Death had a certain… ‘special’ assignment for them the next day.