Acquired Taste

Chapter 23

2 years later

Black Star preferred dogs.

They were loud, loyal, and everything he could want for in a servant for a god like him.

Cats were a different story.

It was not that he hated the creatures, after all what god would stoop so low as to show hatred towards a flea-ridden, puny cat? So he held a godly tolerance for them like one would to a particular food they didn't like. It didn't matter that all they did was scratch his beautiful face, hiss at him, and annoy the living hell out of him. He would remain indifferent to their ignorant, mortal lives.

However, this cat was pushing it.

"Black Star!" Tsubaki cried when the cat-like Kishin's unusually weighted paw rammed the Meister through another already crumbling building.

Tsubaki felt a sharp ache at the back of her skull that sent her pummeling back down to the ground, the force of which split the concrete in several directions. She looked up to see a blurry tail loom over her to shorten back to its original length behind the Kishin.

'It can extend its limbs. Figures..'

It pounced, giving a wild yowl, ready to swallow her whole when Black Star appeared stop the Kishin's head, slicing at its neck with his sword. It gave a bone-splitting shriek before falling to the ground.

Black Star landed next to Tsubaki, examining her head, "Ouch."

Tsubaki closed her eyes, "Yeah."

"You're not gonna sleep are you? You might have a percussion."

"...A what?"

"You know, that thing with the brain. Stein mentioned it in class."

How Black Star managed to retain anything while on school premises baffled Tsubaki, though she simply said, "I think you mean concussion, Black Star."

"Yeah that, whatever-"

Black Star grabbed Tsubaki and jumped before that damned tail whisked horizontally at them. "Dammit, it's not dead yet?" she heard him mutter as they landed on a nearby roof. Tsubaki took a peek at the Kishin, who was already almost as tall as the telephone pole it stood by from all the souls it had eaten.

"High speed regeneration?"

"Looks like," Black Star frowned, "You stay here, I'll finish this."

"I'm fine-" Tsubaki began as she started to get up. Black Star put a hand in front of her face and she looked up at him in confusion.

"Don't steal my show." he told her sternly and disappeared. Tsubaki caught a glimpse of his blue hair finding shelter behind an abandoned vehicle before sighing in defeat, a small smile played on her lips. If he was worried about her, he could have just said so. Black Star was always so subtle about some things.


And other times he was as subtle as a fist in someone's face.

Black Star glanced to make sure the Kishin's attention had moved back to him from the smell of Tsubaki's blood in the air before skidding under its grotesque belly and slashing at its tail.

It gave another shriek before the severed tail began to bubble and grow back. Black Star cursed and rolled out of the way of the Kishin's stomping feet. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised when a clawed hand grew out of the Kishin's multi-tasked tail and grabbed him around the throat, but he swore all the same.

There was a flash of metal and Black Star felt the sensation of falling. He managed to land on his feet and looked up to see Soul, scythe poised over his shoulder, looking down on his fallen friend.

"I had that," Black Star immediately presented.

"Yeah, yeah." Soul waved off when his Meister landed by him.

Maka flipped her bangs out of the way with her free hand that wasn't holding a gun before her gaze settled on Black Star.


"What do you mean 'ew'?" Black Star demanded but their conversation was cut short when the Kishin charged at them.

Soul grabbed Maka around the waist and jumped out of the way as she was already firing relentlessly at the beast. It crashed in to the space where they once were, roaring in pain as its bullet wounds closed up.

Black Star appeared atop the Kishin's head and ran his sword through its skull. It trembled for a moment before shaking its head violently.

Black Star jumped off before a paw could reach him and landed next to his recent allies, "Dammit, how many times do I need to kill this thing?"

"Once would suffice." Soul offered.

"Shut up!"

"Not the time," Maka said curtly as she reloaded, "Finish this before 'Avid Hearts' starts or I chop you so hard you won't wake up until next month."

She paused, peering at Soul warningly, "Or do I need to remind you I can do that?"


She was never going to drop that was she.

"Avid Hearts?" Black Star questioned after a tense silence.

Soul rolled his eyes, dog ears flat atop his skull, "Her new drama-"

"Thriller series!"

"-that she's been hooked on."

"...Right. Tsubaki's been hit pretty bad, she needs to go."

This got both of his friends' attention, "How bad?"

Black Star recalled the unfocused look in his Guardian's eyes, "Bad."

The two traded a look before Soul said, "Gotcha, we'll finish this up."

For once Black Star only nodded and disappeared again.

Maka stared at the spot where the Blueberry once was, "How does he do that anyway?"

"Uh," Soul said uncommitted as he watched the Kishin begin to claw its way up to the roof they currently resided on, "Used to be an assassin. I think he calls it Shadow Step or something.."

"He's pretty loud for an assassin don't you think?"

For someone who was renowned as the smartest person in Shibusen, she really liked to state the obvious. Soul was about to mention this fact to her when the Kishin's claws could be seen sinking in to the roof's tiles.

They exchanged looks and immediately Soul's body began to emanate a light blue glow and begin to change shape. Maka caught Soul's scythe form before facing the Kishin whose large face began to rise over the building's roof. The tiles under her feet vibrated from the weight of the demon.

Maka could feel the familiar presence of Soul in her mind, "If you want to get back home so bad, no flashy moves this time."

She grinned.

"So how are you feeling, Tsubaki?" Maka asked, sitting at the foot of her best friend's bed as Patty had settled in the only chair in the room. The usual chatter of human traffic outside the nurse's office signaled lunch had ended though no one made a move to go back to class.

"Did Stein say when you could leave?" Liz asked, still patting Kid's back as her Meister sat in a broken heap over how uneven Tsubaki's bandages were.

"I'm fine really," Tsubaki said with a smile, "Stein said I could leave today after the tests come back. By the way, where is Soul and Black Star?"

"Not sure," Maka admitted, frowning, "Soul was called out of class today."

"Black Star wasn't allowed inside," Liz shrugged at Tsubaki's surprised look, "Said it would be bad for your health."

It wasn't like anyone disagreed.

"I...can't...stand it anymore!" Kid suddenly exploded, coming at Tsubaki with outstretched hands, "Just let me tie them properly-!"

Kid didn't even see Maka's foot coming as it shoved him down, "Don't even think about it, Psycho."

"Is it so wrong to want order?" he snapped, "Symmetry is perfection! To seek perfection is to save this world and all its inhabitants! Without symmetry we would all be lowly beings living off of scraps and sleeping in grime!"

So that's what his thought cycle was like. Maka was thinking of ways to shut Lord Death's son up when Liz pointed at Kid's back.

"There's a footprint on your shoulder."

Maka turned her attention on kid's back, indeed her boot marks were clear as day against his black suit. However it was off center, more on Kid's right shoulder blade and not as close to the left.

Kid seemed to notice this too, "Patty!"

"Right-O!" Patty roared with laughter as she bounded off her chair and slammed her foot full force into Kid's left shoulder, sending him sprawling across the room and through the wall. Maka gaped.

"I think you overdid it Patty." Liz sighed, "I don't' feel like getting him, either."

Maka peered out of the gaping hole to see a black dot way below, sprawled out in an unnatural fashion, as Patty chirped, "He'll be fine!"

Yikes. Is that what they'd call fine?

"You're really just Guardians in title only aren't you?" Maka asked them as the entrance door opened, admitting Stein inside. He only paused briefly to glance at the hole in the wall before moving to Tsubaki's side.

"Tests are in and it looks like you're all clear. You can take the bandages off when you go home. What have you done to my workplace?" the question was directed to all of them.

"Kid had a fit." Liz said simply, leaving out important details once more.

Stein only took out a cigarette, nonchalantly lighting it in the non-smoking area, "Maka. Lord Death summoned you."

Maka blinked, "Oh...kay."

"Wait!" Liz said, blocking the door before Maka could leave. She held out an expectant hand, "Let's see it."

Maka stared at her, "See what?"

But Patty had already grabbed her left wrist and held it at eye level.

Oh. That.

Three pairs of eyes took in the sight of the ring fitted around Maka's finger, the small diamond in the center glinting in the sun light thanks to the new crudely made window.

"Not too shabby," Liz admitted, "When's the big day?"

"We haven't decided yet," Maka said, retracting her hand defensively.

"Maka, may I see it?" Tsubaki asked from her bed and Maka reluctantly came over.

Stein was still busying himself with his paperwork though he still had the time to ask, "Has Spirit found out yet?"

"Do you want to tell him?" Maka challenged as Tsubaki squealed at her best friend's new accessory.

Stein hummed noncommittally as he flipped a page of his notes, "I suppose not. Nice ring."

"It's a little small though," Patty complained, "He should make it bigger."

The girl than proceeded to expand her arms to form the size of what Maka roughly guessed to be a large television. Maka turned her attention back to the ring, troubled now. She really had no complaints about it, than again she was renowned for being a cheap-ass.

Still, watching how the diamond twinkled, she couldn't help giving a small smile, "I don't know. I guess it's an acquired taste."

Maka power-walked down the hall, giving nods of acknowledgement to the few stragglers who waved at her. On her first day at Shibusen, she had been hopelessly lost in the maze of hallways and strange rooms.

Soul was a big help, though she'd rather die than admit it. He would always find her (eventually) before helping her back to class. He would even stay behind to wait for her as she took make-up classes. As Maka was immediately transferred to a fifth-year at Shibusen (1), she still had to take the basic freshman classes expected of any Shibusen student which happened to be combat, soul history, and wavelength control.

Much to her surprise and Soul's displeasure, she had excelled in each course. ("It took me three fucking years to finish that shit and you fly through it in three months!"). She did have to give some credit to her dad though, albeit grudgingly. He was the one who had signed her up for self-defense training and shooting practice; it only took her witches, demons, and her life to be turned upside-down to finally realize why.

Maybe she should tell him...

Though maybe her father, Soul, and the word marriage shouldn't exist in the same room with each other.


"Gah!" Maka jumped, when she nearly ran in to Soul who was lurking around the corner, because that's what Soul does, he lurks, "Don't do that!"

He stared down at her with an eyebrow raised, "In a hurry?"

"Yeah, Lord Death summoned me. What have you been doing all day, anyway? You better not be skipping class." Maka added the last part sternly but Soul ignored it.

"You don't need to hurry, he sent me to get you. He's got a new freshman he wants you to show around."

Maka stared at him, surprised, "Me?"

"Yeah," Soul said, automatically reaching for her hand as they began to walk in the same direction, "Apparently she's really shy or something."

"So sticking her with a hostile, anti-social girl with a gun is the solution?"

"His idea, not mine." Soul shrugged, "You forgot to add spiteful- OW, ow, ow don't pinch me, Woman!"

"Sorry! Too spiteful to comply."

"Ooowww,I was just joking! Easy, come on!"

"And it's not like you're one to talk."

Soul rubbed his arm, glaring at her, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Maka gave him a look that spoke of very obvious reasons, "I would ask if you've looked in a mirror, but since you spent two hours in the bathroom this morning-"

"I had a bad hair day alright? And my hair and eye color aren't that bad."

"And you look like some sort of cannibal with those teeth." Maka finished as they began to descend another staircase.

"...I thought you liked my teeth."

"I thought you established the fact that I'm a weirdo."

"Touché. Ah geez, I think I'm bleeding."

"What?" Maka exclaimed, and turned to check his arm only to see him grinning at her. She scowled, "Not funny."

"What's this? Worried about me?"

"You won't die from being pinched."

"How could you say that?" Soul demanded in mock-anger, "This is why I'm the Guardian of this duo."

"And you're doing such a swell job," Maka drawled, voice dripping with sarcasm as they finally approached the large double doors of the Death Room, "Finally."

"Wait," Soul said, tugging her around to grab her other hand. Before she could demand what the hell he wanted he kissed her full on the mouth.

"Alright, let's go." he said and grinned at her red face before opening the doors.

"Whatever.." Maka mumbled, eyes glued to the floor as they walked down the pathway of guillotines, "So what's the new kids name anyway?"

"You'll find out when we get there." Soul answered. Maka turned to him, confused. Usually he'd answer her straight out. From his face it didn't look to be anything bad but... fact he looked quite excited.

"What's going on?" she demanded but Soul just put a finger to his lips, smug smirk still gracing his features. Before she could punch him in his absurdly good-looking, arrogant face they stopped.

She turned to the circular platform well Lord Death sat, drinking tea calmly with one other occupant. Her breath caught and she could feel Soul's hands grip her shoulders as he whispered in her ear, "I told you so."

For once, Maka had no come back. She could simply stare as shock and happiness and everything she signed up for when she boarded this crazy train swell up inside her chest.

Very slowly, the pink-haired new girl turned to face her new mentor.


+(1) I figured it would take more than four measly years to gain the skills necessary to battle monsters -_-; Assume fifth-years are like college level or something.

+RESPONSE (From earliest CH22 comments to latest)

Per usual all comments are separated by the very not-lazy period.

Woman, you are one of my reasons for joining the fandom (just thought I'd let you know). Sorry, will try to stay more committed to my longer fics x_x. Thank you, and if you baked me cookies I'll become your anything o_o. Sorry it took so long xD. My paper cut is nice and healed now, thank you. WHERE?. Thank you :3. Black Star's greetings shall always be bizarre and thanks ^^. It takes 10 hours to read the whole story o_o?. Such is the fate of all stories : and thank you for the support. It's a vicious cycle of updating and waiting and I'm not even sorry 8D. Thanks ^^. I updated 8D (Captain Obvious).

+Well, this story is done gone finished. (Cheesy Outro Mode) Thanks to you guys for sticking with me and my very slow, barely worth it updates and bad grammar. I honestly don't believe this story would have ever been completed without your support and your comments have really helped me improve my writing style (I think). There will be no epilogue because this technically is the epilogue but I might think about a sequel sometime later. Way, way later.

Aaaaaaaand. Time to work on Glasgow Smile (Cross-promo!). x.x;

See ya!