Behold, the approach of the mighty Chapter Four!
Excalibur: EXCAAALLLIBUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRR !
Me: Okay, I've seriously had enough of random characters popping into my introductions. I'm going to have to put up a sign or something...
"And then I beat Mifune to a pulp! That should show him for messing with a god like me!"
Celeste nodded and stifled a yawn in her hand. She'd only been with Black Star and Tsubaki for about a day, and yet somehow she'd heard the story of how Black Star had beaten Mifune at least twenty different times. Every time he told it, it got a little more impressive, until in the latest retelling, Mifune had become Kishin and tried to steal Black Star's soul, and the boy proceeded to tear him apart.
"Mifune's our teacher, you know," Aia said, "And I'm pretty sure he's not a Kishin."
Black Star shrugged. "Details," he said, cracking his knuckles. "The point is, Mifune never knew what hit him!"
"Cool," Celeste said, to maintain the peace. "You know, once I…"
"YAHOOO!" Black Star yelled, leaping onto the top of a nearby house. "LISTEN UP, PEOPLE OF THIS TOWN! I'M BLACK STAR, AND I'M HERE TO MAKE YOUR BORING LIVES A LITTLE MORE INTERESTING! WITH A BIG GUY LIKE ME AROUND HERE, YOU CAN REJOICE, AND DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIVES! I'LL CARRY YOU ALL ALONG ON MY WAVE OF AWESOMENESS! I'LL- what is it, Tsubaki?"
"Why don't you come down from there, Black Star?" The demon weapon called. "You could slip and fall, and then we'd never find Amaya's mother!"
"I wouldn't slip," Black Star said, but he hopped off the roof and came back to his partner. "But you're right- without me these two would have approximately zero chance of succeeding."
"Hey!" Celeste said. "We were doing just fine without you!"
"Yeah right," Black Star yawned. "Defeating Genghis Khan is one thing, but destroying the Kishin Asura is a bazillion times better! With me around, you'll become a better meister automatically!"
"Alright," Celeste sighed. It was no use arguing with Black Star; every time she tried he'd somehow managed to turn the conversation back to himself and how amazing he was. When she'd first met him it had seemed only mildly annoying, but by now it felt as though a second, more conceited Garo had popped out of the ground and was following her everywhere. And the idea of two Garos was simply horrifying.
"So…" Aia said. "What do you think we should say when we meet Amaya's mother?"
"I'll explain the situation," Black Star said immediately. "It should be easier on her if a big star breaks the news to her that her daughter's a nutcase."
"Maybe you should phrase it a bit differently, okay?" Tsubaki asked nervously. Black Star nodded.
"You're right," he said. "She's more of a psycho." Tsubaki sighed.
"According to the address we got from the villagers, Suki Ess should live in… this house," Aia said, pointing at a flaking green door. "I guess we should knock or something." Celeste nodded, strode up to the door, and knocked on it once, hard. There was no reply.
"Hello?" She called, knocking again. Nothing.
"HEY LADY!" Black Star roared into the door, pounding at it with his fist. "OPEN UP!" When there was no response, he stared at the door with a quizzical expression on his face. "Huh. Guess no one's home."
"She could just be ignoring us," Celeste said, and grinned. "Let's break down the door."
"Celeste!" Aia exclaimed, looking horrified. "That's totally illegal!"
"So? I've kinda always wanted to break down a door… Admit it, it would be fun."
Aia shook her head stubbornly. "Oh, no," she said. "If you're going in that house, I'm staying out here and keeping guard. There's no way I'm going to be caught doing something illegal."
"I'm going in too," Black Star said immediately. "Tsubaki- Chain Scythe mode! If somebody hurt this lady, they're going to regret it."
Celeste rubbed her hands together. "Take this, door!" She yelled, and leapt into the air, twisting until her foot was directly in front of the door. She shoved outwards as hard as she could and was rewarded with a sharp cracking sound as her foot went through the wood completely. She drew it out and twisted again, landing on her hands and feet like a cat.
Black Star grinned. "Nice execution, but you should work on the way you balance the power of your kick. If you wanted to, you could've kicked it so that the energy was focused on the hinges of the door, and not the door itself. Watch this!" He jumped at the door and somersaulted in the air before landing on the door with both feet spread far apart. He kicked off, and as he landed on the stoop, the door groaned and fell in on itself in a cloud of dust. "And that's how you do it," Black Star grinned.
Celeste grinned back. Black Star was annoying, but he was good at what he did. Celeste had been learning martial arts under Mifune, and Black Star still knew more than she did. Clearly, the Reaper had been right; partnering up could be beneficial for Aia and her.
"YAHOO! HERE WE COME, MRS. ESS!"
Okay, maybe 'beneficial' is a strong word.
Celeste followed Black Star and Tsubaki through the empty doorframe. After clearing away the dust that was swirling around her, she took in the sight of a tidy kitchen that didn't look like the home of a crazy girl at all. There was a withered potted plant on the windowsill, and Celeste crossed over to it and picked up one of the leaves between her thumb and forefinger. The slightest pressure from her, and it withered into dust. "I don't think anyone's been here for a while," she called. There was no reply. "Hey, Black Star? Tsubaki? Guys?"
"Up here, Celeste!" She heard, followed by a distant 'yahoo,' from Black Star. Celeste turned to see a rickety wooden staircase which she climbed quickly, biting her lip at every creak. If Amaya ever did come home only to find that Celeste had broken her door and her stairs, she would be royally pissed.
"Where are you guys?" Celeste asked, finding herself on floor two of the Ess residence.
"In here!" Tsubaki called. "There's nothing here, so far. It's weird; I don't think Mrs. Ess is still here. I can't think of what might have happened."
"I can think of a lot of things," Celeste said darkly. "One of them being that Amaya's lying to us. Maybe Suki Ess never even existed."
"But the villagers, remember?" Tsubaki called. "They all knew about her."
"That's true," Celeste said, remembering. She walked towards the sound of Tsubaki's voice and entered a tidy bathroom. Black Star was peering behind the shower curtain suspiciously, but there was nothing there.
"I don't like this," he said, seeing Celeste. "I think there's something wrong here. And who better than me, the Almighty Black Star, to figure it out?" He puffed out his chest proudly.
"Oh Black Star," Tsubaki sighed, and Celeste had to smile at her tone. "Why don't we check the bedrooms next?"
Black Star nodded. "YAHOO!" He yelled, and shot past Celeste, turning the doorknob on one of the two remaining rooms and charging inside. Celeste followed him with a sigh and stopped when she realized that she was standing in Amaya's room. It was painted dark orange and was the kind of room Celeste had used to have before Aia had redecorated (Celeste was still trying to get her stuff back into a respectable mess, but every time she came home it was neatly put away. Damn that demon spear.) There were clothes stuffed in a hamper messily in the corner, and books everywhere. Celeste took a step forward and tripped over a particularly fat tome entitled, The Second Flight. It looked as though Amaya had read it a thousand times. Celeste brushed herself off and picked up the book.
"Hey Black Star," she said. He looked up from where he was checking under the bed. Celeste held up the book. "Do you want to take some of this stuff back for Amaya? She didn't have anything with her when we brought her back to the Academy and she must want it."
Black Star shrugged. "Sure, I guess," he said. He snatched a canvas bag from a hook on the wall and grabbed what looked like a stuffed Reaper off the floor. "I used to have one of these!" He tossed it in the bag. "Just fill it up with whatever a girl would want," he said, throwing the bag at Celeste. She nodded and caught it, heading over to the clothes immediately. She didn't know what exactly Amaya liked, and just grabbed a couple of handfuls and shoved them in. The book came next, and she swept the stuff off Amaya's bedside table into the bag as a final treat for the girl. She slung the bag over her shoulder and followed Black Star, who was already heading back to the hallway.
The boy walked towards the final room and grabbed the handle. As he twisted it, a tiny note of foreboding colored Celeste's mind, and she closed her eyes and opened them again, searching for any souls in the room. There was nothing, and she breathed a sigh of relief and followed Black Star into the room.
The room was simple; just a bed and a bedside table along with a dresser. This was probably where Suki Ess had been until recently, because now the bed was empty. "Well, I guess that's it," Celeste said. "There really isn't anybody here."
Black Star looked disappointed. "I guess there's nobody to fight, then," he sighed, sitting on the bed. "What a waste of talent."
"Did you check under the bed, Black Star?" Tsubaki asked. Black Star shook his head and tossed the demon weapon on the bed, bending down to inspect the bottom of Suki Ess' bed. He went rigid suddenly.
"Oh my God," he whispered.
"What is it, Black Star?" Tsubaki yelled.
"Look at this," Black Star said, sounding choked. "It's awful!"
"What?" Tsubaki yelped, morphing into human form on the bed. "What is it, Black Star? Really!"
"It's… it's… There's a bra down here! Yuck! It's horrible!"
"… A bra?" Celeste asked dryly, kneeling next to Black Star and fishing it out. She inspected it. "Looks normal to me."
"I'm never going to get it out of my head," Black Star said in a hoarse whisper. "It was disgusting."
"It's okay, Black Star," Tsubaki said, sitting next to him and patting him on the shoulder. "It could have been worse. It could have been a tampon or something!" At that, Black Star gagged and curled up in a ball, making retching noises. Celeste rolled her eyes and flattened herself on the floor, pushing herself further under the bed with her hands. Her roving eyes immediately spotted something small and crumpled, and she reached out and snagged it.
"Somebody pull me out, okay?" She asked. No reply. "Guys? Hello?" There was still no reply, and then a far-away 'yahoo,' echoed through the house. "GUYS? Ugh, they must have left without me. Now I'm stuck. Typical." She tried to shove herself backwards, but only succeeded in getting her hands squashed under her chest. "Somebody? Anybody? Hello? Okay Celeste, just don't panic. Somebody will get you eventually. Aia wouldn't just abandon you here, right?" A metal picture of Aia popped into Celeste's head. Of course I wouldn't abandon you here, silly! She said. Although… I mean, if I just left you here I could finally redecorate our apartment to utter perfection without you throwing your stuff all over the place. Hmm. You know what? I wouldn't count on me. Sayonara! She disappeared.
"…SOMEBODY HELP ME!" Celeste wailed, kicking her feet. "I DON'T WANT TO DIE UNDER A BED; THAT'S JUST LAME!"
"Hey Celeste? What's taking you so long?" Black Star asked, reentering the room. Celeste groaned and flopped onto the floor.
"Just pull me out," she growled. "Now."
"Sure," Black Star said, grabbing her legs. He yanked once, hard, and she popped out from under the small space, arms aching.
"Ouch," she grumbled, stretching out like a cat. Her palm unfurled and the scrap of white paper she'd discovered fell onto the carpeting.
"Hey, what's that?" Tsubaki asked, bending down to pick it up.
"Something I found under the bed," Celeste said. Tsubaki smoothed it out on the floor and gasped.
"Black Star, Celeste, you have to see this! There's writing on it, and I think it's from Mrs. Ess to Amaya!"
Celeste and Black Star crowded next to Tsubaki on the carpet. Celeste looked at the paper on the ground. It was crumpled and the handwriting was messy, as though Suki had written it in a hurry. Dear Amaya, it said. I have a lot to tell you, but now I have no time to do it. There's a witch on the way; I can see her soul and she's here for me. She turned her Soul Protect off, and this leads me to believe that something terrible is going to happen. I don't think she'll kill me, but in all likelihood when you find this I'll be missing; she'll have kidnapped me. I'm sorry, darling. I sent you to Franken Stein, your father, to keep you safe, but I don't think you'll be able to get out of this mess. She's coming up the stairs now. Be good, try to forgive your father, and don't forget the Soulya story- it's going to be very important. Goodbye, darling, I love you. Suki.
For a few minutes, there was silence. "Soulya," Celeste said. "She said something about Soulya to the Reaper and it seemed to upset him. We're going to have to ask her about it, but…" She reached out, folded the note tenderly, and put it in her pocket. "I think this proves that she's Stein's daughter, though. It also proves she didn't kill the villagers, because now there are two reports of a witch, one from each of them. She's innocent."
"All I know is that there's a witch involved in this." Black Star cracked his knuckles. "When I catch up to her, she's going to regret kidnapping Mrs. Ess."
"I wonder who's going to tell Amaya," Celeste sighed. Everyone looked up at each other.
"NOT ME." They said, at the exact same time.
"I'm too big of a guy to deliver bad news like that!" Black Star complained.
"Whenever I deliver bad news, I cry!" Tsubaki said.
"I said 'not me' a little bit before both of you…?" Celeste said. "Besides, wouldn't Amaya like to hear it from a big guy like you, Black Star?"
Black Star snorted. "Nah. She'd want to hear it from a small fry like you. She wouldn't know how to act in front of me, the one who surpassed god."
"Don't even try that with me!"
"Guys! Please don't fight!"
"WE'LL FIGHT IF WE WANT TO!"
"Okay, what the heck was that?" Black Star asked.
Celeste groaned. "That sounded like Aia trying to sound like a bird. Which would mean she's trying to warn us that somebody discovered the door." They all jumped at the sound of loud and furious footsteps stomping up the stairs. Celeste swallowed nervously. "Let's jump out a window."
"Let's." Black Star agreed.
Five seconds later, the room was empty, and each of the three windows had a hole in it that looked suspiciously like one a person jumping through the glass might make.
"… And then, Celeste discovered a note under Suki Ess' bed, and…"
"I'll read it out loud now!" Celeste said quickly; anything to shut Aia up. Her weapon partner was her best friend, but her reports were so mind-numbingly boring that Celeste had started to compose music in her head in time to Aia's ever-moving mouth. Of course, if she ever did anything with the music her reputation would be ruined, so she figured she'd just leave some sheet music in Aia's room and let the demon spear do with it what she would.
Celeste read the note to Lord Death quickly, her voice devoid of emotion. The Reaper looked stunned at the note's conclusion. "That's just terrible!" He said sympathetically. "Poor Amaya! I feel just terrible for having treated her so crudely."
"I'm sure she doesn't blame you, Lord Death," Tsubaki said. "Of course, she's not going to be happy, hearing about this."
"I know," the Reaper sighed, and then folded his hands in a business-like manner. "There's only one thing to do in this situation. Somebody's going to have to tell her."
"Whoa whoa whoa," Celeste said. "Somebody? Aren't you going to do it?"
Lord Death shifted uncomfortably. "Well… I could," he said. "But doesn't one of you want to do it? You could form a lasting bond with her!"
"By telling her that her mother's been kidnapped?" Celeste asked.
"Yup!" The Reaper said happily. "That's exactly how friendships are made! Tell you what," he continued. "The four of you can go down to Amaya's cell right now and let her out! Also, tell her what happened to her mother, and let her know that she can see Franken Stein now. Ciao!" He dropped the key to Amaya's cell in Celeste's hand and shooed them out of the Death Room, slamming the door.
Crap, Celeste thought. I forgot to ask him about Soulya. I suppose that I could ask Amaya, if she's not furiously angry with me. She probably is, though.
"Alright," she sighed. "I guess we should all go- Tsubaki; Black Star, where are you guys going?"
"Sorry, Celeste!" Black Star called. "We decided that this is one thing you're going to have to accomplish without our help. Good luck!" Tsubaki and Black Star rounded a corner and were gone.
"The jerks," Celeste muttered, turning to Aia. "You in?"
"Of course! I'm not going to ignore a direct order from Lord Death!"
Celeste grinned, starting to walk towards the stairs that would lead downstairs to Amaya's cell. "Glad to know I'll have a friend down there," she said. "You'll mop me up if Amaya dissects me, right?"
"I suppose I will," Aia said. "Hopefully she won't try."
"I've got her bag with me, anyway," Celeste said. "That should appease her."
"Don't tease her, Celeste," Aia said sternly. "Her mother's missing."
"Right, sorry," Celeste said, feeling momentarily abashed. Aia was the only one whose rebukes she listened to. That part of Celeste's nature had been formed on her first day at the Academy, actually. Celeste had been playing around with a rubber ball, and Aia had warned her to put it away. Celeste snorted, turned, and accidentally shot the ball through a window. Just then, Franken Stein had turned the corner, and Aia immediately said that Celeste had tripped and dropped the ball reflexively. Stein grudgingly accepted the story, and as soon as he left, Celeste had asked Aia if she wanted to be partners. Ever since, she listened to what the demon spear had to say.
Celeste blinked, realizing that they'd made it to Amaya's cell while she'd been daydreaming. She frowned and stared at the door, inserting the key. "Hey Amaya!" She yelled, knocking. "I have some good news for you!"
"I'm coming in, okay?" Celeste asked. She opened the door and was treated to the sight of Amaya, Death the Kid, Liz and Patti sitting on the floor in a circle. There was what looked like a giraffe made out of napkins in front of them, and they were all staring at it unblinkingly, eyes narrowed.
Celeste stared. "Hi…" She said. No one looked up. "What're you guys doing?"
"Ssh!" Patti said, still staring at the giraffe. "You're messing up my concentration!"
Now Celeste was really confused. "Okay, what the hell's going on?" She snapped.
"Patti seems to think that if we stare at this giraffe long enough, it will burst into flames," Kid said. "And we decided to see if she was right."
"It's been three hours," Amaya said in a choked voice. "Three. Hours." None of their eyes moved from the giraffe.
"This is… incredibly creepy," Celeste admitted, sitting beside Amaya and staring at the giraffe. Whoever had made it clearly had skill- it was a very elegant giraffe; colored in nicely. She narrowed her eyes and concentrated. Nothing happened.
There was silence in the room as everyone stared as hard as they could at the giraffe. Celeste realized that Aia wasn't in the circle, but wasn't about to look away from the giraffe to see where she went. Forget about my mission! I'll just sit here and watch the giraffe for a while. It's actually kinda relaxing… What the hell?
Everyone in the circle stared forlornly at the crushed giraffe. "That was mean," Patti sniffled, rubbing her nose with the back of her hand.
"It was indeed," Aia said, sitting on the other side of Amaya. "Anyway," she said uncomfortably. "How's your hand, by the way? I'm sorry I had to slash it."
"It's fine," Amaya said, holding it up. "I'm sorry for trying to kill you."
"Apology accepted," Aia said, and Celeste slapped Amaya's back so hard she fell over. The girl sat back up, but she was grinning.
"So, did you guys just come down here to make up with me? Not that that's a problem- I'm really grateful."
"Well, no," Celeste said. "We also came down here to give you some news. The Reaper has decided to release you!"
"Really? That's great!" Neither of them smiled, and Amaya's excitement seemed to dull. "What's the matter?"
"We went to your house," Celeste said. "We were trying to find your mother."
"Trying…?" Amaya asked nervously. Her face went completely white. "Oh my god! She's dead, isn't she?"
"No, no," Aia said quickly. "Well, we don't think so…" She trailed off and Celeste tossed the note to Amaya. The girl's eyes flitted through the words, biting her lip. By the time she made it to the end of the letter, she was in tears, shoulders shaking. She released the note and it fluttered to the floor; the cell was so quiet that there was an audible sound.
"I can't believe this…" Amaya whispered. "No. NO!" She slammed her fist against the stone floor, tears flooding her eyes. "My mother's sick!" She sobbed. "This witch will kill her without even knowing it!" Everyone in the room was at her side in an instant; even Celeste, although she barely knew Amaya. She found herself patting Amaya's back rhythmically as the others tried to comfort her.
"I'm so sorry, Amaya," Liz said.
"Me too," Aia said. "I'm also sorry that Celeste trespassed in your house…"
"We'll catch this nasty ole witch, so don't worry!" Patti said, giving her a thumb's-up.
"It'll be alright, Amaya," Kid said, kneeling beside her. "We've dealt with witches before, and I swear to you that we'll find and destroy this one and save your mother."
Celeste gently placed Amaya's bag in front of the sobbing girl. Amaya looked at it questioningly. "It's from your room," Celeste offered, and a tiny smile flashed across Amaya's face.
"Thanks," she whispered. "I left all my luggage in that village." Her face clouded over, and she bit her lip again, harder than before. "Oh god," she whispered, and collapsed, curling in on herself. Everyone jumped, and Celeste placed her hand to Amaya's neck.
"She's alive," Celeste said quickly. "I think she fainted, though."
Kid sighed and scooped her up, tossing her lightly on her bed. "This is terrible," he said quietly, sitting on the edge. "The poor girl's had nothing but trauma since she came to the Academy." He put his head in his hands. "We have to find the witch," he said darkly. "I've only known Amaya for a few days, and it's obvious how much she cares about her mother. Worrying about her mother is going to drive her…"
"Insane," Aia finished, looking disturbed.
"Not necessarily," Liz said. "I think Amaya will be able to resist the Madness inside her."
"Perhaps," Kid said, looking forlornly at the figure on the bed. He got to his feet. "Come on Liz; Patti. We have to get started." Liz and Patti immediately walked to Kid's side.
"What are you going to do?" Aia asked.
"We're going to the library," Kid answered. "I'm going to try and find some information on this Soulya character and any witches she got tangled up with. It might lead to something." Aia nodded her approval.
"Should we just leave her here, then?" Celeste asked.
"No; bring her to Nygus or Dr. Stein." Kid, Liz and Patti walked through the open door and were gone. Celeste looked dubiously at Amaya.
"She's pretty thin, but she's also pretty tall. Carrying her might be tricky."
Aia snorted. "Fighting a Kishin is tricky. Carrying a teenager is easy."
"Okay…" Celeste said; crossing over and hoisting her up by the shoulders. "Urk… she's heavy."
"Don't be insulting!" Aia said, grabbing her by the legs and swinging her up. She winced. "Wow. For such a skinny waist, she's remarkably hard to hold up- NOT THAT I'M SAYING SHE'S FAT. FAR FROM IT! HEH HEH…"
Together, the pair shuffled to the door and slipped out. Kid, Liz and Patti were long gone; the corridor was empty. Celeste was glad; she had to admit that someone seeing this without knowing what was going on would likely be very freaked out. They managed to get to the stairs without any major incident, but Celeste and Aia nearly lost their courage right there. "Stairs…" Celeste moaned. It was a short flight to the main level of the Academy, but then there was another, taller flight to get to the nurse's office.
Celeste took a deep breath and crab-walked onto the first step. Aia did the same. Both girls fell to their knees simultaneously.
"I CAN'T DO IT!" Celeste wailed.
"AND WE THOUGHT WE WERE SO POWERFUL!" Aia sobbed.
"Did I hear the unmistakable sound of two females in distress?" Celeste looked up to see Garo winking down at her.
"Garo…" She said, through gritted teeth. "Remember what I said about not being into you? That hasn't changed." Garo looked disappointed.
"I thought it might," he said, sitting down next to them. "Where've you guys been? Do you know how boring things can get when your only company is Fey?"
"We were on a mission for Lord Death, remember?" Aia said. "Lord Death told us about it right in front of you."
"I forgot," Garo said, unabashed. Aia sighed.
"Anyway, we went to Amaya's house. Her mother's been kidnapped, and when she found out the news she fainted. We're taking her to the nurse's office right now."
"About that…" Garo said, laughing uncomfortably. "Nygus kind of has her hands full right now."
Aia narrowed her eyes. "What did you do, Garo?"
"Nothing!" Garo said immediately. "Well… mostly nothing."
"Spit it out, Garo," Celeste said, gently laying Amaya on the step and glaring up at her friend with a dangerous expression.
"Alright!" He said. "Jeez, you two, there's no need to be so pushy. I told Fey I didn't think she'd be able to do a perfect jump off one of the Academy spires. You can guess what happened after that."
"Oh my god!" Aia gasped. "Is she okay?"
"Pretty much," Garo said. "Her jump was excellent, but when she landed she sort of wobbled. I pointed it out and she started chasing me for insulting her. And then we accidentally ran into the middle of the school mascots practicing."
"What school mascots?" Celeste asked.
"You've never met them? I don't know all of them, but it's like a cheerleading squad led by this great girl named Blair. I'll introduce you some time. Anyway, I managed to get through them with only a couple of minor scrapes, but right when Fey was in the middle of them they started the high kicks." He shuddered. "It's a miracle she got out alive."
Celeste winced appreciatively. "Ouch," she said. "Did she break anything?"
"No, but she got stabbed in about a million places with stilettos. Nygus says she's not going to scar, but she's still probably going to try and kill the mascots as soon as she gets out of bed."
"Oh, Fey," Aia sighed. "We'd better get her to change her mind."
"We'd better," Garo agreed. He looked down at Amaya. "Anyway, we should take her to Dr. Stein instead. If I show up with another injured person today, Nygus will eat my soul." He bent down and scooped Amaya up easily, tossing her over his shoulder. Aia and Celeste stared.
"How…" Celeste whispered, eye twitching.
"This is not fair…" Aia moaned, lips trembling. Garo shrugged, and Amaya's prone limbs flopped a little.
"I can't help being so awesome," he started, but Aia and Celeste finished the conversation for him by marching past him.
"Come on, Mr. Awesome," Celeste called back, and heard him walking up the stairs behind her. He probably thought I was being serious, she thought, and grinned. I really have the weirdest friends.
Celeste knocked on the door to Dr. Stein's office and waited.
She didn't know him very well, as he wasn't her teacher. Secretly, she thought he was very creepy-looking, with the weird giant cog in his head and the crazy eyes. Amaya wasn't half as weird looking, although her eyes were very similar to his.
Celeste swallowed. Maybe I should tell Dr. Stein about Amaya being his daughter now, she thought. I mean; we know it's true, so there's no reason I shouldn't do it. Her hand hovered at the door for a moment and settled softly on the wood. What's taking him so long?
"… Come on, Spirit."
Celeste blinked. Apparently, Stein was having a conversation with Death Scythe in there. "He's talking to Spirit," she whispered to Garo and Aia. "I don't think he heard me."
"Why are you whispering?" Garo whispered.
"I don't know," Celeste whispered back. "It seemed appropriate." She grinned evilly. "I'm going to eavesdrop."
"You shouldn't do that!" Aia whispered. "Stein will kill you if he finds out!"
"He won't," Celeste whispered confidently, turning to Garo. "You in?"
"Of course," he responded. Together, they pressed their ears to the wood and closed their eyes.
It sounded as though Spirit were laughing nervously. "Why would I be keeping anything from you?" He asked, sounding uncomfortable. "Typical Stein, always jumping to conclusions."
"We both know I'm not jumping to conclusions, Spirit. There's something about Amaya that you're not telling me. What is it?"
"Fine, alright? There is something I'm not telling you, but the Reaper ordered me to keep my mouth shut and I'm not about to defy him."
"Very well, Spirit," Stein said quietly. Celeste heard a metallic clink, and then a gasp from Spirit. "I'll simply have to dissect your head and find out the answer for myself."
"AMAYA'S YOUR DAUGHTER!" Spirit choked. Celeste heard something clatter to the floor, and assumed that Stein had dropped whatever he'd been holding.
"What?" He asked quietly.
"You heard me," Spirit said, sounding irritable. "We don't know for sure, but we're fairly positive."
There was heavy breathing from the other side of the door. "That can't be," Stein said simply. "It's not possible."
"Look at her! She looks just like you, and she acts like you too. Seriously, you two are the only ones on the planet obsessed with dissection. Also, I feel like now's a good time to add that Suki never hated you. That was just a lie I made up so you wouldn't ask Amaya who her father was."
"Oh god," Stein groaned. "What am I going to tell Marie? She's coming home from Oceania any day now. She's not going to be happy."
"I'm sure Marie won't judge. She's not the problem right now, anyway. What are you going to do with Amaya?" There was a silence from Stein.
"I don't know," he admitted. "Something like this has never happened to me before. What would you do, Spirit?"
"I'd invite her to live with me," Spirit said. "And I'd spend a lot of time with her, so she knew I cared."
"Maybe I shouldn't be taking advice from you," Stein said. "Look how the relationship with your daughter turned out!"
"MAKA LOVES ME!" Spirit roared. "WE MADE UP, YOU INSENSITIVE MONSTER!"
"Sorry," Stein said, sounding more amused than sorry. He sighed heavily. "Alright," he said. "I suppose I could spend some quality time with her." He groaned again. "I barely know the girl!" He said. "If Suki had only told me… I could have helped somehow; I could have…"
"It's not your fault, Stein," Spirit said seriously. "And I'm sure Amaya doesn't think so either. But you have to start making a relationship with her now, before it's too late."
"I don't know a thing about father-daughter relationships," Stein said. "I suppose if I think of it as an experiment…"
"No," Spirit said. "Do not think of it as an experiment. Although I bet Amaya could prevent herself from being dissected by you, if it comes down to that."
"Probably," Stein said, sounding thoughtful. "That's another thing I could teach her how to do- fight."
"What a great way to bond!" Spirit said sarcastically. "But that's probably the only way either of you two could bond…"
Celeste jumped as she felt Aia frantically tapping her back. She snatched Garo by the neck and straightened him up just as Sid walked down the corridor. He peered at them suspiciously. "When I was alive, I was a careful man," he said. "It seems to me that you three were eavesdropping."
"No we weren't!" Aia gasped, smiling pathetically.
Celeste grinned at Sid; he wasn't her teacher but practically every kid in the DWMA knew him. "We were just leaning against the wood. We were tired for lugging Amaya up all those stairs."
"Sure," Sid said, still sounding suspicious. "I'll be watching you, Attenborough," he said, but he was smiling in spite of himself as he walked away.
"I don't know how you manage that," Aia said enviously.
All three of them jumped as the door to Stein's office opened. They smiled weakly as he stared at them with bloodshot eyes. "Can I help you…?" He started testily, and trailed off when he noticed Amaya. His face went very white.
"All three of them know your little secret, Stein," Spirit said, coming up behind his former meister. "They were the ones who brought Amaya here in the first place. Fey Chaius knows too."
Stein sighed and rubbed his head. "What happened?" He asked.
"Amaya fainted," Celeste said helpfully.
"She found out that her mother was kidnapped," Aia added.
"Yeah…" Said Garo, apparently not wanting to be left out.
Stein leaned heavily against the door. "Alright," he said. "Come inside- I'll do my best to wake her up."
All three of them trooped into the office. Like Nygus', it had a couple of beds against one of the walls. Garo laid Amaya in one of these, while Celeste and Aia took a seat on the second bed. Garo joined them, and they watched as Stein rummaged in the cupboards. He pulled out a small object and met their questioning gazes. "Smelling salts," he explained; crossing over to Amaya's bed. He bent over her and put the salts under her nose. She breathed in easily, and suddenly snorted in a deep breath of air. Her eyelids fluttered, and she opened them completely to find Dr. Stein looming over her.
"Dr. Frien?" She asked; voice husky.
Stein swallowed nervously and took a deep breath. "No," he said. "That's not my name." Her eyes widened, and her face turned whiter than the last time she'd fainted. He gave her a tiny half smile. "My name is…"
"Franken Stein," she finished, and fainted again.
I hope Chapter Four was as awesome as Black Star. Is that possible? Probably not...
Many thank-you's to TheManintheHat for reviewing!
And sorry for the sort-of-cliffhanger; I couldn't resist!
See you later, alligator!
Blair: In a while, pum-pumkin!