I think this is where things will start to become bizarre from the crossover point-of-view. Expect some more foreshadowing, and if you haven't found it in the other chapters, you'll connect the dots very very soon. At least I hope you do.

. . .


4. Invitations- Us vs. Stein, who will win?

In my dream it was velvety black all around us. I was standing in a small room. What dim light there was glowed softly from a few tall candelabras around me as I stood, staring straight ahead. They were dark, twisted forms of ebony iron that held ghostly white candles with blue flames. Soul was directly across from me, sitting in a chair. I couldn't see his face clearly because his head was tilted forward in such a way that his bangs hid his features. The floor was covered in alternating black and red tiles.

A grim checkerboard.

Soul lifted his head to look at me. His eyes were grey, distant, and blank, but most of all they were dark and calculating.

"Your move," he said, flashing that incredibly sharp smile before lunging at me. His arm was transformed into his scythe's blade, and with one motion it sliced right through my torso. Blood splattered everywhere and I couldn't move, the pain was so crippling I wanted to cry out but couldn't.

Before I could do anything he laughed darkly and smiled.

"Checkmate," Soul whispered into my ear.

A shiver rattled through me and I woke up panting. Looking at my Lord Death alarm clock, I saw his large white hands pointing to the 2 and 6. It was 2:30.

After that, he was in my dreams nearly every night, and never in a positive light. I could sense there was something menacing about him, but I still couldn't pinpoint quite what it was.

The week after the accident wasn't too bad, actually. Soul didn't seem as stressed as he normally did around me, and we got through Combat class well enough. We didn't talk much, though, that was the only problem. Well, other than Ox.

Ox was being impossible over the whole thing, really. Following me around, talking to me all the time. I bet he somehow thought he was making it up to me by being so attentive, but it was bordering on stalkerish. I told him to forget all about it — since nothing terrible happened to us — but when it came to that he was holding the Idiot Ball if you ask me . He followed me between classes and occasionally sat at the lunch table with the rest of my new "friends". Kilik and Kid weren't even enthusiastic that I had gained another charm on my keyring of friends. They were less friendly toward him than they were to each other.

What concerned me most was that no one seemed at all worried about Soul. It was only when I realized the reason for that lied within my unhealthy preoccupation with the guy. Sure, he was cute; I never denied that. But why was I so hung up on him all the time? I bet the counselor would say it was a case of unresolved 'daddy issues'. At least, that's what they usually say on TV.

Soul was never, and I mean never hounded by the other students nearly as much as I had been since "the incident' as Soul and I refer to it. People just ignored him as usual, save for Maka and their two friends. They sat at the same table, eating, talking only with each other and no one else. None of them, but most notably Soul, bothered to look my way during lunch. Or at least when I bothered to check.

When he sat next to me in class he seemed wrapped up in his own thoughts. His arms were always folded within one another, and he seemed to sink into the table as if extremely exhausted. Always, he'd bite his bottom lip rather contemplatively, staring off into space. I wonder what he was thinking of in those times. Sometimes I would sneak a peek into his soul, and just speculate. I wished I could ask him about it, but he didn't seem like he should be disturbed. Soul just looked…tried and plain old sad. Maybe he wished I hadn't saved him from Ox's van — there was no other conclusion I could come to other than that painfully depressing thought.

Was he really that suicidal?

Maybe it was I was wishing it had killed us both.

I wanted to talk to him to straighten things out between us, and I just knew my cowardice was getting in the way of that. The time in the hallway when I spoke with him after the accident, I wanted…I, I really don't know what I wanted to say to him that day. I still was angry that I had so foolishly brandished my scythe in plain daylight. But somehow when I saw his face lying unconscious in the parking lot, the feelings of worry dissolved on the spot.

I must really be insane if he's affecting me this way.

He was already there by the time I arrived in sixth period. I sat down and unloaded my books. Evidently Mr. Sid was absent, because I hadn't seen him for Literature earlier that day, and he clearly wasn't late because he still wasn't here. This was the

"Hello, Soul," I said quietly.

"Hey," he said. To my surprise he cracked a small lopsided grin.

"What's up?" I asked him, noticing with a bit of chagrin that I was beginning to smile as well.

"Sid's gone," he said, suddenly frowning at the desk where the teacher usually sits. "I heard he died, actually."

"He WHAT?"

It was like the floor fell out from beneath me. Regaining my sanity, I shot him an incredulous look. Surely he was joking, but somehow I couldn't see him kidding about something like this.

Soul faced me fully and looked me in the eyes. His face was stone-still. Definitely not joking. "It's true, two days after…well you know."

"No one told me, I—," I said, searching for the right words.

Shrugging, he rested his head in one of his palms.

"Well, the teachers were keeping it quiet. I heard it just yesterday myself."

"Then how'd you find out?"

"I was eavesdropping," said Soul simply.

After about a minute of explanation, we settled back into silence. Turns out Mr. Sid was found in his apartment with a statue of liberty figurine sticking out of his forehead. What a way to go, I mean, it obviously was a murder. What if that maniac was still on the loose?

As I thought this over, a loud bang interrupted my worries.

It echoed across the room, and everyone nearly leapt out of their seats into a battle stance. Everyone except Soul and I, actually.

Yeah, if it were an enemy Soul and I would be dead.

Instead of a substitute teacher, Uncle Spirit was standing in the doorway, all 6 feet of him. He strode over to the blackboard and slapped a thick folder onto the teacher's desk. It landed with a loud CRACK! and everyone started to murmur.

"All right, all right," he said darkly. "Settle down everyone. Class is about to start."

Inside my mind I was screaming. I knew that voice. It was his "tough" tone; the same voice he reserved for any boy that dared to even look Maka's way.

"I'm not going to bother taking attendance," he continued to keep up his tall dark and scary act, and I had to refrain from rolling my eyes, laughing, or both. "But I will tell you one thing right now. Anyone who thinks the bell decides when class is over is wrong, I do. Clear?" He jabbed his thumb toward his chest and held his face in an angry glare that scanned the whole classroom. I thought I heard some stifled 'oh's and 'ah's, and Soul looked annoyed and on the brink of hysterics. It was quite the interesting combination to see, actually.

"Hey, is it me or is that dumb uncle of yours making that goofy face right at us?"

Turning away from the 'I know I'm cool' look, I rest my head in my palms. Well, more like nearly gave myself a concussion with both my hands.

Facepalm, apply directly to face.

"I think it's just you," I said.

No, it wasn't true; he really did have that inane look pointed at us.

What Soul said next nearly killed me on the spot, considering he blurted it out for the whole class to hear. I wanted to staple his mouth shut, but it was too late.

"What's with this Death Scythe?" he said. (Very rudely, I might add.) " Are you supposed to be our new teacher or something?" Soul was leaning back in his chair, balancing his feet on the table in front of us, and I wondered how he'd gotten in that position while I was applying my Facepalm. Evidently Uncle Spirit was ignoring the tone of his question, because he replied in a very mild voice. Relief caused me to sigh. This was good. Maybe it was because I was sitting here, but that couldn't have been it, could it?

"For now I'm just a substitute," said my uncle. "And that's Professor Death Scythe to you." He took his clipboard from the desk and whipped out a pen. "Alright then, let's take attendance."

"I thought you weren't going to take attendance?" said Soul, who, frankly, was pushing his luck as of late.

Uncle Spirit didn't miss a beat. "I'm not going to take attendance for the guys," he said bluntly. Then his voice suddenly was playful. "But I think I will for all the ladies."

He winked in the general direction of the class and flashed a smile. I must say he didn't look all that bad, but at the time I was cringing too much to notice. From now on I'm going to pretend in the hallways that I don't see him.

'…oh this is embarrassing…'

"Quit being a creep," muttered Soul under his breath.

I thought I saw Uncle Spirit flinch after the statement. He marked something down on his clipboard rather haphazardly.

'What did he just write down?'

"Ah, that reminds me," said our 'suave' substitute. "Soul, Sarah, Lord Death wants to see you in the Death Room. You're excused from class."

At first we thought he was joking. When he saw we weren't moving he motioned with his clipboard that we really were required to leave.

"Go on, shoo shoo," he said, waving us away.

"He wants to see us?" said Soul and I at the same time.

After the phrase escaped from our mouths, we gave each other an awkward glance and got up to go.

So here we were in the Principal's office. To give him some credit, it looked slightly different than from when I first enrolled. The large mirror that had been off to the side before was now more central in relation to the giant white platform in the middle of the room. Well, at least when you first walk in. What surprised us most when we got there was that there were already people here.

Unfortunately it was my older cousin and her other two friends that she and Soul would often talk to at lunch. I never met the two of them before, but I wasn't too thrilled at seeing them at this moment.

"What exactly is this about?" said Soul. His hands were in his pockets, and I was about to snark about his bad posture, but Lord Death appeared just in time.

"Hello students!"

The dark, assymetrical figure of the personification of death faded into view from the mirror in front of us.

"Morning, Lord Death," we all said, like the polite children we should be.

"I'm sure you all are wondering why I've called you here," said Lord Death, bouncing as he did. We all nodded. "Well, none of you have captured any souls." He paused for effect. "Because of that, you do know that you are close to being expelled, right?"

"What?" we all shouted. Nothing but shock was on our faces; he couldn't have been joking, could he?

"So, I've got mission for you six to redeem yourselves!"

"…"

Hook Cemetery…

Maka was like our master general, directing us in the direction to which we should walk. She was 100% optimistic that we would achieve our goal and return to the academy without being expelled. "Everyone, on your toes," she ordered. "There's no knowing where he could be."

Unfortunately I was born a realist. "Yeah, o-ok," I droned.

"Right," said Soul, staring at the grave in front of him.

The blue-haired ninja was beside him, examining the headstone as well. "You sure he's even here? Don't zombies, like, walk around?"

Tsubaki tried to calm the boys down. "Well, we should check his grave to be sure, right?"

Truth is that we searched the entire graveyard. Twice. Zip, Zero, nothing but dead bodies and stuff. Even if Sid was a zombie and we by some miracle found him, wouldn't he try to eat our brains or something?

I sat against a tree, knees folded to my chest. "We're getting expelled for sure…" My anger flared up, exasperation permeating my every thought. "Grrr, where are you hiding?"

Soul looked in my direction and shot me a Look. "Hey, calm down. I'm sure he's here somewhere." He focused on the grave again and scratched the back of his head. "But to make us wait like this is so uncool. I mean, come out and fight us already." He stomped the ground like an irritated horse.

"D'ythink he could be somewhere in Death City?" suggested Black*Star.

Soul looked like he was going to explode from that terrible idea. "So what, we gotta search the whole city?"

I was too busy paying attention to the content of the boys' discussion to notice, but now that I think about it, I could have prevented it. Something was off. There was a weird aura about this place, but I couldn't figure out why. All I could hear was this pinging noise, like in those movies when the characters are in a submarine, and there's the sonar? It was getting louder and louder, and it was starting to hurt because of the intensity, but—

An arm shot up from the ground and grabbed me by the ankle.

I was too freaked out to do anything but scream. I didn't even get a chance to hold my skirt over my legs.

"Sarah!" said Maka and Soul.

A stinking corpse of blue flesh was facing me as I hung upside down. My eyes immediately welled up with tears. The

"Are you afraid to die, girl?" asked the zombie as his rank moldy breath wafted into my face.

Well to be honest, of course I was scared. If a reanimated corpse were to grab you by the ankle without warning, wouldn't you be a little bothered?

But then a scythe came spinning toward us—separating me from our former teacher. Soul's face was reflected in the blade.

"You okay?" he asked, probably noting the tearstains that already were on my cheeks.

I wiped away the water on my face, standing upright. "Just peachy."

"So you finally showed up," Maka said, stepping forward. Her greatcoat flapped in the breeze like one of those action heroines you see in movies.

However, jealousy wasn't on my mind at the moment. Instead, I yanked Soul out of the ground, his blade making a small clink as it separated from the dirt.

What was once out teacher Mr. Sid stood upright, slightly slouched over and with his finger loosely curled. "Maka, Soul, Black*Star, Tsubaki, nice to see you. How have you been?"

What about me? No hellos? I narrowed my eyes, and Maka did the same from what I noticed.

My cousin cracked her knuckles. "We've come to stop you."

Mr. Sid didn't seem to care at all. In fact, he was grinning very widely. "Don't you realize what you're giving up? If you become like me, the fear of Death no longer looms over you."

Become a reanimated corpse? Um…no way—far too gross. I'd rather swim in a sewer than that. I'm sure Maka was thinking the same, because she told him just how twisted that idea was.

"That's wrong and you know it," said Maka, sneering.

Black*Star was tired of talking. Tsubaki had transformed while I had been distracted, and she was in his hands already. She was an interesting weapon to look at, even more captivating than her human body. Two small handheld scythes, connected by a long silver chain—each of the bladed weapons gripped within the blue-haired boy's fists.

"Enough of this, lets fight!" shouted Black*Star.

"Just what I was thinking," said Soul.

'Me too.'

Maka attacked first. She launched herself off the ground and swung her left leg towards Sid. Black*Star followed up by throwing one of the scythes. He dodged both attacks by simply leaning to the right. But it was long enough to distract him from Soul and I.

I swung the blade downwards, not quite missing his left arm. With a clank the scythe contacted with the ground, rattling the bones in my arms. However it had grazed the Air Force blue skin, and to my surprise a thin line of red leaked from the surface. To defend himself Mr. Sid aimed a kick at my face so I had to lean back and try to tug at Soul to dislodge him from the ground.

Unfortunately he grabbed my ankle again.

This time I was sent barreling into a tombstone. My lungs collapsed on themselves, the air pushed out of them from the impact.

Mr. Sid laughed at us, folding his arms and glancing at the injury we had given him. I saw Maka and Black*Star exchange wary looks before standing their ground, ready for another one of his attacks.

"You two seem to work well together, but there's something missing."

Just what in hell was this zombified teacher talking about?

"Oh yeah? What?" Soul appeared on the blade's surface, and looked at Sid, baring his teeth. "I'm hungry. We should just get his damn soul already."

"…"

Maka and the others were silent, holding their positions for now. Our former teacher had picked up his tombstone, probably to use it against us. Sid shrugged and tilted his head to the side like a confused dog. Maybe it was obvious to everyone else, but certainly not us.

"The only way to unlock your true potential is to resonate your souls," he said, taking on his lecture-hall voice.

"You're giving the enemy advice?" Black*Star threw one of Tsubaki's blades toward Sid, and when the man dodged, he tried to kick his stomach in, but instead Sid grabbed his leg and threw him aside the same way I had been tossed earlier.

"That's the stupidest thing I ever heard!" Maka agreed, thrusting both palms upwards to his face. With a well-aimed kick he swept her feet from under her and my cousin tumbled backward.

"I always was an enthusiastic educator!"

Faster than I could think possible, he picked up the fallen tombtone beside him and swung it downwards.

"Living End!"

"MAKA!" We all cried out as the tombstone fell, and a gust of air erupted from the impact. I had to shield my eyes from the dust that arose and exploded in every direction. When the debris cleared I had expected the worst, maybe some blood.

We were all pretty shocked to see her uninjured. Maka was upside down, with her legs in the air and parallel to her torso. Her arms were propping her up, and she was looking up at

The tombstone was wedged into the ground again, this time between her thighs. It had missed her skull by only a fraction of a centimeter.

"Well, you may not want fear, but we need it to survive, and grow stronger!"

The black and white boots slammed into Sid's face. Her legs thrust downwards and she was standing on his face for a few seconds before she launched off and landed beside me.

"You okay?" I asked.

She nodded in response. "And you?"

"Could be better." I ignored the slight pain in my ribs and held Soul out in a defensive position.

Soul appeared again before us in the blade. "Quick, Sarah, while he's distracted, we should try it."

"What are you saying? Resonance?" His idea had to be crazy. Obviously it had been a trap, he wouldn't have mentioned it otherwise.

My soul and his? No, no, even if we were compatible there was just no way.

"It looks like we have no choice," he said grimly.

I snorted. Not very refined for a lady, but I'm sure he was right. "Fine."

I twirled him over my head, like I'd seen hundreds of times before when Mama and Papa would practice sparring against Will and Danny. The hum from before was growing louder in my ears. It's time, Sarah, said the voice in my head.

"Let's go, Soul Resonance!"

To resonate your souls, concentration is key. I felt a part of me reach out, and connect with Soul, a fluttering in my chest from anxiety. I could feel that tingling sensation from before. I could hear that strange noise from before. A thumping, like the beat of a heart, it was a deep pounding noise—a bass drum. A steady even beat, and I could hear the tinkling of light, fanciful notes—definitely from a piano.

"They're—!" Maka had stood back, but the spiritual pressure was probably very great from where she was standing.

"Woah, cool," Black*Star shouted.

"Move out of the way, guys." Soul warned the others.

"The Ancient Super-Skill of the Sythemiesther!" I lifted Soul up, a light glowing from his blade and it morphed from a normal scythe to a moon-shaped form.

The power that had suddenly rushed into me…it was intoxicating.

My eyes were focused on Sid this entire time, and I thought I had imagined it, but in the back of my mind there was a maddening laughter.

My feet, as always, had to mess things up. When I swung the attack in Sid's direction I twisted my torso to put some power into it. Below me, my converses slipped in the mud, and Soul went flying. In his wake a trench of pure destruction was carved into the ground where his blade met the earth. My head felt dizzy, but I ran to pick him up.

"Idiot, what were you thinking? You're too careless."

He had nerve, telling me that. Careless? I should really strangle him for saying that.

"Careless? I'm just a bit clumsy," I corrected him. Hopefully he would get the message and shut his mouth. We had bigger things to worry about, like getting expelled.

Unfortunately he can't take a hint. "It was stupid." The impudent scythe began to shake in my hands. It was like he was having a tantrum. "You put too much power into that swing. No wonder it failed. Die!"

My heart clenched. "How could you say that? YOU die! Burn to death, you jerk."

Tsubaki was the one to eventually break us up. "Guys? Sid's gone."

Oh no, not again. "Where'd he go?"

"Underground."