White Haired Reaper

by Lacrow

Chapter One

-The Reaper-

Shadows of children at play danced along the walls of a building as a young woman passed by it, making her way towards the local grocer. She kept mostly to herself, only breaking her determined walk to politely wave to the children. They smiled, then went back to their games. She smiled for a moment as well, but quickly refocused on the task at hand. The store would be closing at eight, which left her only twenty minutes to make it half way across the small town. Her pace quickened, leaving the sounds of the little ones far behind as they continued their games. The song they sang was still crisp on her ears.

Beware the man whose hair is white,

His evil eyes will give you fright.

He wants your soul, he wants your life,

So watch out for the Reaper's scythe!

Face bathed in twilight, the woman shook her head as she rounded the corner. It was a rhyme everyone in town knew growing up. An old legend that no one was sure as to how exactly it had started. All anyone ever agreed on was that it made for a good ghost story to tell the children when they acted up, although from her perspective it seemed to have the opposite effect. The little ones would sing the song as they went about their business, and tease others that the Reaper was coming for them later that night. It was more of a joke than anything else, but still the older folks seemed to perpetuate the idea.

Too busy to continue dwelling on the subject however, the plain clothed blonde navigated her way across a beaten road that had seen one too many years. Loose rocks and pebbles slid underneath her as she avoided holes in the aging stone, causing her to almost trip over herself more than once. Making her way to the other side unscathed, the woman again shook her head. Yet another subject of her town others tended to avoid; it was dying. Buildings and roads had remained untreated for years. People still went along their merry ways, but neglected the one place that many had called home for generations. It was a new age, but the town's inhabitants didn't seem to be keeping up with the times.

"Are you alright, Maka?" an older gentleman approached her, the latter still standing there thinking to herself. "You know, the crosswalk's still good. It would've been a lot easier just to use that instead."

The young blonde snapped herself back at his words and smiled politely at him. "I'm fine, Mr. Camp. Just need to get to get some things before the store closes, I'm in a bit of a rush."

"Well, just don't hurt yourself getting there!" the man chuckled, waving her off as he continued on his way.

Nodding, Maka went the opposite way and picked back up with her fast walk. At least the people were still nice in that little town of her's, and there wasn't a soul walking through there that she couldn't name or place. Granted half of them were over age fifty and most had never been outside the town gates before, but at least they were familiar to her.

She rounded yet another corner, fast approaching her destination that appeared not too far off. A clock tower just off in the distance caught her attention; ten till eight. Relief washed through her, knowing that she would be in and out in no time. Maybe even make it home before dark? Perhaps that was stretching it, what with the sun quickly waning and new stars continuously replacing the void it left behind. Still, Maka found herself a little chipper at the prospect of making it on time and decided to ease up on her pace. The grocer wasn't even a hundred feet away at this point, so why rush?

Too complacent to notice where she was going however, the force of someone bumping into her sent Maka reeling. She fell soundly to the floor on her rear, clutching the bump on her head as she looked warily up to see who she had collided with. His face was familiar, but it wasn't until she heard his harsh words that the girl instantly knew who it was.

"The fuck do you think you're going, brat?" he barked, clutching his forehead as well.

Maka's eyes narrowed at the sleek haired boy standing in front of her. "In case you didn't notice Lyle, I've got a good three years on you."

His face scrunched up. It always did when he was at a loss for words. "You didn't answer my question!"

Lyle Noah, though everyone in town just called him Gopher for short. He was a rodent that no one in town wanted anything to do with, mostly because of his sour attitude and the rude way he addressed people. For some reason he had a thing for attacking her verbally, but in most instances she was usually the one to switch it around on him. That face he was making was just another sign that he was fighting a losing battle of words, and their conversation had just barely started.

"I'm going to the grocer's, Gopher." Maka said flatly as she picked herself up from the floor, dusting her rear end off conservatively.

The black haired pest gave a half amused snort. "Too caught up in your novels again to remember to cook? No wonder you haven't found a man yet. If he isn't written in a book, you won't touch him!"

"Well, even a fake one's better than you." the confident blonde replied coarsely with a hand on her hip. "Paper and words are a lot more pleasant to look at than that stupid look on your face."

Maka smiled at his ever drooping frown, a clear sign that the conversation was already over. With a huff and a grunt, the Gopher quickly stomped his way past her and made a sharp turn around the corner. Smugly, the young woman looked back at the now empty spot on the sidewalk and patted herself on the back. How many times had she beaten him like that? Too many to count.

The clock tower rang off in the distance and Maka immediately threw her head in it's direction. Very clearly in the hands of the white faced tower, it read eight o'clock. It took a second for it to sink into her that she was suddenly late, but when it did, Maka smug smile was replaced with a horrified gape. Immediately she took off in a sprint towards the tiny store at the opposite end of the street, desperately hoping that it wasn't already closed. By the time she arrived, the owner was already at the door, flipping over the sign that read 'Open' on one side and 'Closed' on the other.

"Mr. Sid! Please, wait!" she huffed, catching the man's attention as she hunched over to catch her breath. "I need to buy a few things before you close!"

He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Maka. You know I leave at eight sharp every day, so why didn't you come sooner?"

"Please sir! I got lost in one of my novels and I forgot to come earlier!"

"What's the big deal, anyway? Don't you have anything to eat at home?" he asked warily, hand still clutching the 'Closed' sign.

Maka took a deep breath to calm her beating heart. "No. And if I don't get anything now, I'll have to wait till you open tomorrow. Which means no dinner or breakfast."

Mr. Sid closed his eyes for a moment and contemplated what to do. Maka let her pulse finally die down and stood herself straight, waiting for a reply that would ultimately decide if she was going to eat or not. It didn't take long for an answer. With a sigh and a smile, the grocer flipped the sign back to 'Open'.

"I'm not the kind of man to let a young lady go hungry."

Smiling at his generosity, Maka continually thanked him as he unlocked the door to his store. The two filed in one after the other, with one going through out the store to search for ingredients while the other went behind the counter to ring her up. Mr. Sid chuckled at the speed he found the young lady running at, stopping only to look at the freshness of vegetables or to compare prices between two things.

It didn't take long for her to round everything she needed. In under two minutes she had an armful of groceries, carefully placing them on the counter top for Mr. Sid to begin ringing up. It was a hefty load, and quite frankly the store keeper was surprised Maka could carry all of it. Still, he merely smiled as he began sorting through the mess of food, and casually began to make idle conversation.

"You seemed like you were in quite the rush, Maka." he mentioned offhandedly, examining a head of lettuce.

The girl in question wiped a beat of sweat from her forehead. "I was, until I bumped into Gopher. The little twerp cost me a whole ten minutes."

"Ah, well, that's Lyle for you." Sid replied casually, this time picking up a weighted can of beans. "He doesn't have many friends, if any. Though I can hardly blame anyone for not wanting to be."

Maka's face uncharacteristically soured. "His name's Gopher. A punk like that doesn't deserve a human name."

The grocer laughed at his client's snide remark and simply nodded in agreement. The blonde's face in turned soon melted, leaving behind a relieved smile as she realized that dinner would soon be on the table. Leaning over on the counter as Sid rung up her items, her tense body eased and she relaxed in the comfortable air of the grocery store. Nothing but a warm meal and good book to keep her company, it was going to be yet another perfect night by herself.

Both deep in contemplation, neither Mr. Sid nor Maka realized that yet another customer had walked into the store. It was past eight o'clock, and everyone in town knew that the grocer's closed at that time. And yet, sure enough, someone stood there in the doorway, letting the cool air rush past him into the darkened town outside. It wasn't until the man let the door close behind him in an audible bang did the man and woman at the counter lift their faces to greet him.

Sid's expression turned to a frown. "I'm sorry, sir, but we're closed now. Just ringing up my last customer here and after that I'm heading home."

Maka looked upon the newcomer and noticed his odd attire. A cloak hung over his head, which draped along his shoulders and hung loosely down on either side. His clothing underneath was dark, with his topcoat being striking shades of gray and black. Trousers and shoes matched, giving him a look that would've seemed suspicious if it weren't for that face of his. Calm, almost charming, he was definitely the looker. Still though, no one but traveler's and vagrants wore cloaks anymore, and even then they were a rare sight. So why then was this man wearing one?

"That's alright," the stranger said, furrowing a pleasant smile. "I'm just looking for information."

"What'cha need, sir?" Sid replied rather chipper, after placing Maka's things in a brown paper bag. The latter took it in her arms immediately.

Without any prompting, the man casually made his way towards the two. Stopping a few feet from Maka, he put his elbow up on the counter top and leaned sideways. The blonde watched as he continued to carry on with his conversation, only this time he seemed to be directing all of his attention towards her. His eyes told the story, though for some reason she didn't like the way they looked.

"I was wondering if you could tell me where I can find Lyle Noah."

Maka huffed at the question, folding her arms across the grocery back resting against her chest. "What, you mean Gopher?"

A smirk found its way across the man's lips. "Yeah. Where can I find Gopher?"

Maka shifted in her spot. She looked towards Sid, who in turn gave her a blank stare back. In her mind she wondered why on earth someone would be looking for that miscreant, being that he had no friends or family. He was just some loner who lived out back by the only church in town, keeping to himself most of the time doing god know's what. He only came into town to buy something or cause trouble, and Gopher rarely went shopping for anything.

The young lady clutched her groceries tightly. "Why do you wanna know?"

"The bastard owes me something." he replied rather harshly, mustering a hollow snort. "I'm just here to collect what's mine, and be on my way."

"So you're a lone shark?" Maka asked hesitantly, shuddering at the idea of someone shaking down another person for money.

Quiet for a moment, the man seemed to think. The answer quickly came to him. "No, I'm more of a debt collector."

Looking again towards the grocer for support, she found that the only thing he could offer her was a shrug. Warily she turned her attention back towards the stranger, whose gaze still bore into her as if reading her every thought. His face remained pleasant, except for his eyes. Words couldn't describe them, with strange being a category to broad to place them in. Could she trust this man, even though she'd never met him before in her life? And why exactly did she suddenly care for Gopher's well being? Certainly she never had before.

Ultimately, Maka came to a conclusion. She would tell him whatever she knew, then leave it at that and carry on with her life. No blood would be on her hands, and she could walk away with a clean conscious.

"So, can you tell me where he is? Or should I go ask someone else for help?"

She took a deep breath, then warily nodded. "He lives out behind the church near Hook Cemetery. Last I saw he was heading home, just follow the road up north."

A smile immediately spread across the man's face as he lifted himself up from the counter. Maka watched him cautiously as he came closer, his hand prying away one of her's that clasped around the brown bag in her arms. She tensed at his grasp, fearing that he was trying to pull something funny. Instead, the man simply placed a single kiss on her hand and looked up at her with a wide, toothy grin.

"Thanks, beautiful. That's all I needed to know."

She felt the red flush across her cheeks and quickly retracted her hand from his. Sid watched from behind his spot at the counter as the strange customer of his took a step back and pivoted with his heels to face the opposite direction, making his way back to the door he had come from. Thankful at the thought of him leaving for good, Maka just stood there and watched the stranger walk away, her confused expression telling of the jumbled thoughts flying through her head.

Who was he? Why did he want Gopher? And most importantly, why did he come here? The door was closed, with a sign that showed it and everything. He had no idea that people were in here, and yet the man walked in anyway. Did he know that people were inside? There was no way, unless of course he was watching them walk in. Was he a stalker? A mugger?...A murderer-?

"-Oh, and Maka..."

Immediately thrust back into reality, the troubled woman looked on with Sid at the man as he stood in the doorway yet again. His exit thrust open, cold air and wind poured into the tiny grocery store as he faced them stoically. Maka held back her hair as it whipped from the turbulence, at the same time waiting for him to get on with whatever it was he was going to say next. For a few moments the man was silent, simply staring at her with a cool face and powerful eyes. The blonde again became confused, wondering why all of a sudden he said nothing. But as she continued to look back at him and search his features for any sort of clues, Maka's eyes grew wide at a terrifying revelation.

She had never told him her name. How on earth did he know who she was?

In an instant her stomach began churning as the smile returned to the man's face, as if knowing of her new found horror. Energy quickly left her, causing Maka to grab onto the counter in support. Sid clamored at the sight, immediately rushing around the counter to keep the poor girl from falling over herself. The man in the doorway simply watched in amusement as the girl nearly fainted at his presence, almost laughing at the way she fell so easily to him.

"...You should probably stay inside tonight. Read a book. I don't want you getting nightmares."

Stifling his grin, the man backed up into the darkness of the night and let it consume him. No lights outside, he disappeared as quickly as he came. That left only a confused Sid and rattled Maka to themselves, both unsure of what to say or do next. All the young blonde could do was shudder at the heart stopping thought running through her head.

It was about whether or not she had just seen what she thought she saw. A fleeting image as the man disappeared into the cover of shadows. Almost is if he changed in the night's presence, his features seemed different. His strange eyes became more powerful, piercing. But it was the other thing that caught Maka's attention, making her think back to the children from earlier that day. The song they sang, that second verse; His evil eyes will give you fright.

She could've sworn the stranger's eyes flashed red