The moment Maka sees the crowd around the arena she knows she's not going to enjoy this particular assignment. Her partner, Death the Kid, held a scowl proving his disdain for the place as well.
The very idea disgusts her. Weapons pitted against each other in some twisted imitation of the Roman gladiatorial rings. The fact that it had once been an underground and illegal sport was bad enough, but many years ago it was finally declared legal, given a league, became heavily commercialized, and sanctioned many different national leagues and tournaments. Each of which were televised worldwide. There were a few human rights groups who had protested them at first, but they had given up years ago when it was clear that no one would listen to them.
Maka scowled. As usual, money had won over reason.
She sits in the audience of a particularly gruesome match, watching like one watches a train wreck and the resulting carnage. Disgusted and horrified, but unable to look away. Both weapons are of the bladed variety, and are clearly injured, bleeding heavily, but doggedly fighting on. Kid had insisted they watched the fights in the bladed division.
She was still somewhat in the dark about this mission, which was also unusual. Kid was very professional and not one to have his investigative partners uninformed. His father, the grim reaper himself, had sent for her for the mission, as Kid had requested her specifically. When she had arrived, Shinigami had informed her that they were leaving immediately and Kid would give her the details.
Only he hadn't, and that worried her. Kid hadn't given much of any details except that they were investigating a weapons arena, and while he hadn't said anything, Maka could see that he was also taking this mission rather personally. That scared her more than anything. Kid did not involve himself too deeply in his missions. It was dangerous, and could lead to mistakes. Adding to her concern was the fact that Kid had left his weapons, two sisters who had the forms of twin pistols, behind for their own safety. She herself was unarmed as well, but that wasn't a concern, as she didn't have a weapon partner to begin with. Not that no one had requested her, she just preferred the work with Kid to the soul gathering most weapons and meisters were committed to.
She chanced a sideways glance at the young shinigami beside her. He was watching the arena matches with an intensity she easily attributed to his immense anger at the entire situation. Outside of Death City, where she and Kid were stationed, weapons were barely considered human, thanks to this blood sport, and while she was no more pleased about it than he was, Kid had been around for many more years than she, despite his apparent age being the same as hers, and could remember a time when things were different. He watched each match closely with the same intensity. Maka could feel the anger radiating from his soul, but there was something else. He was looking for something.
The announcer gave running blow-by-blow commentary on each fight, but she had long since tuned him out, so she wasn't paying attention when he announced the two new weapons for the match, which had apparently ended when Maka was studying Kid. She didn't know who won, and she didn't care to. She paled and would have dropped to her knees if she wasn't already sitting down when she saw one of them being hauled off the battlefield on a stretcher covered completely by a blood spattered blanket. That was apparently the loser... Blinking back tears for the weapon, she looked up at the screen hovering over the arena, pushing down a wave of nausea when she saw "FATALITY" flashing over one of the portraits of the two combatants.
The crowd erupted into cheers, and Maka had to take a deep breath and center herself to keep from lashing out at everyone within her reach.
Disgusting, ignorant, bloodthirsty, inhuman... "This is horrible," she can't stop the horrified rasp. Kid glanced at her from the corner of his eyes. "How could this have even..."
"It was over twenty years ago when the legislation went through," Kid replied almost robotically. "There was much opposition in the beginning, but as you can see, it won out in the end." He sighed. "It slowly grew in popularity to what it is now, and sadly I don't see an end to it anytime soon. Father doesn't like it any more than you or I, but there is only so much he can do. Which is why we're here."
"Why are we here, Kid?" Maka groaned. "And why do we have to watch the matches? I don't think I can stand to see another one. Not the way the last one ended..." her voice broke and she stopped to clear her throat.
Kid grimaced at the pain in her voice, but looked back to the now empty arena as it changed terrain for the next match, going from rocky, uneven terrain to something resembling a mock city, with metal pylons set up in place of buildings. "Not all weapons win by killing. One of which Father has taken interest in. And one which I once knew personally. I do not know his alias, but I do know his weapon type, which is why we're watching the fights in this division."
Maka blinked. That would apparently explain his unusually personal nature to this mission. "Alias?"
Kid glanced at her before looking back to the screen above the arena as it finished the terrain change, waiting for the two new combatants to be announced. "Weapons are not referred to in arenas with their real names. They are often given one, or they choose one of their own liking. They are mostly meant to intimidate, but are also officially used as a means of identification."
"Who is he?" Maka asked, half out of curiosity and half out of needing to know for the mission.
Kid scowled down at the arena. "I once could have told you, but now, given his record, I'm not so sure."
Maka would have asked more, but at that point the announcer spoke up again, and the crowd erupted once more in response. Kid wouldn't have been able to hear her inquiry anyway, despite sitting right next to her. Maka tuned out the announcer, opting instead to look down at the arena, where two holes were dilating open in the floor on opposite ends, raising the combatants through small elevated platforms. She didn't bother watching anymore, and opted instead to look around at the crowd in disgust, but was promptly jolted out of her thoughts when Kid shot out of his seat and stared intently at the combatant nearest their side of the arena. Maka blinked, and looked down at him. He was difficult to see against the gunmetal gray of all the obstacles in the arena, as his outfit was nearly the same color, which he was taking full advantage of by blending in with his surroundings as he searched for his opponent through the many pillars between them. She never would have found him at all if not for the shock white of his hair.
She glanced over at Kid to make sure he was the one the shinigami was staring at. When she followed his line of vision to the same weapon she'd just found, she glanced up at the screen out of curiosity to find at least one name of the weapon they had come for. She matched up the white hair to one of the portraits on the screen of a boy who couldn't be more than a year older than her at the most, with piercing blood red eyes glaring at the camera from under wild white hair, unusually pointed teeth slightly bared in a snarl. She looked down at the reading under the portrait and grimaced, slightly regretting even wanting to know what to call him.
She looked back down to the match, deciding since this 'Soul Eater' was the weapon they had come for, she might as well see his abilities. The two combatants hadn't found each other yet. Soul Eater was currently stalking through the pillars very slowly and carefully, clearly alert of his surroundings. She caught a glimpse of his opponent darting between a couple obstacles. He did too, and a long curved blade drew slowly from the crook of his right arm. He held it in front of him defensively at a slight angle, and she admired the foresight. The location of the blade, deep in the bend of his elbow, would offer much more stability and strength than if he'd drawn it from the top of his forearm, as most blade weapons seemed to prefer doing.
She had seen that his opponent was clearly armored, and wondered why he wasn't. She squinted and realized that at a closer look, he was actually wearing light leather armor, and wondered at the choice. Leather wasn't the best armor to hold up to a sharp blade. He continued to prowl through the arena, when he suddenly stopped. In one swift movement almost too fast for Maka to see, he drew a blade from his left wrist, whirled, cleanly sliced the pillar behind him, withdrew both blades, and kicked the sliced pillar over.
His opponent barely dodged the falling pylon, but wasn't given a chance to do much else as Soul Eater lunged forward faster than Maka could follow, blades drawn on both wrists. His opponent barely blocked with his own blade, which appeared to be a large sword, in time, but Soul Eater didn't give him a chance to recover, withdrawing both blades to slide around to his opponent's side and drawing another just long enough to swipe through a chink in his opponent's armor. His opponent faltered from the attack, and Maka saw some blood drop to the floor, but he swung wide for Soul Eater with the blade protruding from his wrist that he had used to block the initial lunge. Soul Eater ducked the blade easily and darted behind him, drawing a blade from the back of his right knee and kicking out with it at the backs of his opponent's knees, another opening in his armor from the joints.
There was much more blood this time, and the sword weapon dropped to one knee. Even from the distance, Maka could tell Soul Eater had sliced at least one of his opponent's tendons. Crippled as such, there wasn't much he could do to fight back, but when Soul Eater cautiously approached, blade drawn from the inside of his elbow again to defend with should he need to, the sword weapon swung wildly, still trying to fight. The blade only met with Soul Eater's, and he quickly raised his arm, taking his opponent's blade, and arm, with it, before slicing through the underarm joint of the armor with a quick kick and a blade on his ankle. His opponent's arm fell uselessly to the ground, blade withdrawn. Maka could only stare. Every move Soul Eater made was almost too fast for her to follow. The light armor suddenly made sense. He kicked off his opponent's helmet and crossed his arms in front of the other weapon's head, blades protruding from both elbows to hold his neck in a scissor grip.
Neither of them moved, and Maka wondered what was going to happen, when a horn blared and the screen flashed under Soul Eater's portrait, and his opponent's portrait dimmed slightly. Maka assumed that declared Soul Eater the winner, and saw that this seemed to be the case, as Soul Eater withdrew both arms, blades already retracted, and offered a hand to his opponent. Despite the situation, Maka found herself somewhat touched by the action.
"Not all weapons win by killing."
The other weapon didn't seem to share her sentiment, and knocked his hand away with his good arm before getting up and hobbling off the battlefield. Soul Eater winced and shook his hand out before scowling, picking up the other weapon's helmet, and jogging after him off the field, which was already in the process of changing terrain for the next match.
Kid immediately got up from his seat and started moving toward the aisle. Maka yelped and quickly rose to stagger after him. "Kid, wait!" The shinigami paused only long enough for her to catch up with him in the aisle before continuing on his way with long driven strides. She had to jog to keep up with him. "Where are we going?"
He didn't even turn to her in his response. "We're going to find him."
Maka remembered something she'd read on the schedule when they'd first arrived as she'd been trying to get her bearings. Fans were allowed to see their favorite weapons after matches most days, but... "There's no visitor hours today, how are we going to-"
She ran right into Kid's back as he came to a sudden stop... in front of a maintenance shaft.
"No. No way. How the hell is that going to help?"
Kid turned back to her nonchalantly, as if he wasn't asking her to follow him down a several story drop. "I've studied the blueprints for this arena before we arrived. These shafts cross directly with the living areas under the arena where the weapons are kept. We should be able to find him there."
Maka shook her head furiously. "It's a sheer several story drop! Assuming we can get down there, how are we going to do it safely?!"
"Beelzebub," Kid replied with a shrug, summoning a flying skateboard from the palm of his hand.
Maka sighed, not for the first time somewhat regretting the fact that she was the only one who could work well with Kid. It wasn't that he was difficult to work with, but Maka was one of very few people who were able to deal with his frequent symmetry fits. He was currently focused fully on his mission, which thankfully pushed most thoughts of symmetry out of his head, though she had caught him trying to fix loose threads in the seat in front of them more than once when they were watching the matches. It was his occasional bouts of total disregard for sanity that she hated. Like now, when he gallantly held his hand out to her as if he wasn't asking her to cling to him on a small skateboard over nothing and hope to God that he knew what he was doing.
Briefly pondering the irony that the son of the grim reaper was one day going to be the death of her, she took his hand and got herself as stable as she could behind him on the board, unable to keep in a small squeak of trepidation as Kid's will rose it from the floor, moved forward, and began their descent down the wide shaft.