Soundtrack: Raise Your Weapon (Madeon Remix) Artist: Deadmau5
Vlad the Impaler leaped back as Maka attacked with a yell. His thick fur cloak flapped slowly as he jumped in an impossibly high, slow arc, soaring over her head as lightly as a dandelion seed. Maka spun and darted for his projected landing place, intending to slice him as he came down.
"Watch out!" Soul barked, and Maka looked up to see Vlad fling one of his stakes at her like a spear. For a single moment, she panicked. Her mind went utterly blank as she tried to figure out how to escape, dithering between diving left or right. Soul, sensing this, abruptly shifted back to human form. Not even trying break his fall, he bore Maka down by sheer weight. They crashed to the cobblestones together as the stake missed her head by inches and stuck itself, quivering, into the solid stone. Obviously these stakes were not your average impaling implement.
"Sorry," she gasped, as Soul flashed back to a scythe again in her grip.
"Just keep your eyes open, meister," he told her, voice tense. Vlad lit gently on the curling post of a streetlight and immediately pushed off again, speeding low over the ground towards Maka with stakes bristling from both hands.
She braced herself for his attack, twirling Soul in her hands twice until the weight of his blade was poised for defense. With a hiss, Vlad was upon her. Stakes struck at her and she knocked them aside, sparks flying from the scythe. For what felt like simultaneously a very long and a very short time, Maka was filled with nothing but ferocious concentration as she matched her opponent slash for stab. His rank, old-blood musk curled at the back of her panting mouth and made her wish she had the breath to cough it out.
Abruptly, both of them were arrested in their flow of motion, Vlad's crossed stakes striving against the shaft of the scythe as the two locked wills and strength. Maka gritted her teeth as she was slowly driven back, but she didn't dare disengage for fear of the opening it would give her enemy. Vlad's face was barely inches away from hers and this close, the illusion of humanity crumbled. His eyes were utterly crazed. His skin, too, was inhuman, waxy and weirdly poreless. Even his hair looked more like it was carved than grown, since each curl was as smooth as his skin, without any evidence of individual hairs.
"I will eat your soul, little girl," he panted, lips stretching into an open-mouthed grin and revealing rows of perfect, tiny fangs. "I wonder how it will taste? Soft and tender, like you?"
To Maka's absolute, skin-chilling horror, his tongue slid out like a snake's and gave her a leisurely lick on the cheek. She shrieked, disengaged, and pivoted as fast and hard on her left foot as she could. Soul's blade came around in a deadly arc, whistling as the air rushed past his edges, and sliced into Vlad the Impaler's back. For a moment, he seemed to bend backwards over the scythe, arms flying up with an expression of complete surprise on his face, giving Maka a moment of panic as she considered the idea that Soul's blade couldn't cut him. But then, to her enormous relief, he exploded into hundreds of swirling black ribbons that quickly condensed into a floating sphere with a dull red glow.
Maka stood in place, panting from the adrenaline rush. She'd actually killed her first evil soul! The first one ever and she'd beaten him as a meister! All was definitely not hopeless.
"We did it, Soul!" she said, giving the scythe shaft a companionable squeeze.
There was a zig-zag flash of light and Soul slid down to the cobbles with a sigh of relief. "I thought you'd be killed any moment," he grumbled. "Honestly, woman, do you have a death wish?
Maka laughed and, dizzy with happiness, ruffled Soul's crazy white hair. "Oi," he protested, getting up to avoid her hand. This brought him to stand right in front of the floating red sphere of the former Vlad the Impaler. He took its little tail between two fingers experimentally. "Oi, what are we supposed to do with this?"
"Eat it, of course," Maka said, puzzled. "It'll get rid of the evil soul for good."
"Eat it?" Soul sputtered, releasing the evil soul with a look of revulsion on his face. It bobbed like an apple in water, its dim red aura flickering. "You trying to poison me?"
"Didn't you pay any attention in class?" Maka asked. "That's what weapons do. It stops the souls from regenerating. Kishin Prevention 101. Here, my textbook's in my bag somewhere-"
"Bullshit," Soul said flatly. "I am not putting that in my mouth. And for your information, Miss Smartypants, I haven't been to any Shibusen classes yet."
"Darn it, I forgot my bag," Maka complained. "I hope Harvar picked it up." Then her brain caught up with her ears. "What? You haven't taken any classes?"
"Yeah. I was on my way back from an interview with Death when you knocked us down the stairs."
"That was an accident! And anyway, we can't leave that thing floating around or else it might turn into Vlad again."
"So, then, you eat it," Soul said with (to her mind) over-exaggerated patience.
"I'm a meister, stupid. Only weapons can eat those…" Maka flinched and her voice trailed away.
"…Nothing," she muttered, and made an effort to regain her pique. "Fine, don't believe me. You can fight Vlad by yourself when he turns back. I'm going home." She turned and marched away indignantly.
"Hey, wait! That's my bike! You can't just take it- oi, do you even know how to ride it?"
"I've read about it."
"Ugggh," Soul groaned, sticking a hand into his hair and making it even wilder than it was.
"Why do I have the bad karma to bump into the stubbornest person in the whole Death City?" he asked the sky, apparently addressing whatever gods were listening.
"Is the ignition this little slot here?" Maka asked, poking uncertainly at the slot in question with the keys Soul had left on the seat.
"Uggggggh," he groaned again. "Fine, I'll eat the stupid soul! I'm warning you, though: you have to pay the funeral bill. This is so uncool."
Without waiting for an answer, he grasped the soul's tail between thumb and forefinger again, inspecting it dubiously.
"Go on," Maka said encouragingly, slipping off the bike's seat to watch.
Soul gave her a look out of corner of his eye, but he brought the soul closer to his mouth and gave it a lick. One of his eyebrows lifted.
"Hey, it doesn't taste too bad. Not like poison, anyway." Soul lifted the soul in the air, opened his mouth widely, and dropped it in. Maka waited while he chewed slowly and swallowed.
Then, Soul's eyes opened wide with surprise. Suddenly there was a noise like a heartbeat plugged into the world's loudest amplifier and for an instant, everything was highlighted in a flash of light that turned the world into a Technicolor photo negative. Maka had to blink rapidly to get rid of the purple spots it left behind, and when she did, she saw Soul making the air hum with the slashes of a blade he'd materialized from his forearm. On his face was a grin that would make most people look stupid, but with his shark teeth, it was actually more than a bit frightening.
"Soul?" she asked.
He turned to her with that scary grin, but when he met her eyes it changed and become merely goofy. "You were right!" he announced. "I can totally feel the power increase. This is so cool. I've got to sign up for some more classes."
"Signing up doesn't help you learn, it's actually taking them that helps," Maka said pointedly. "And actually, speaking of taking things-" she poked at the key slot again. "could you get this thing to take me home? Without running in to more evil souls on the- ah, it started."
Soul yelped and leaped across the distance to regain control of his purring bike. "Don't start it if you're not sitting on it! Actually, don't start it if you don't even have the slightest clue how to drive it!"
"Well, if some people would actually..."
Maka trailed off into a yawn, saving her from having to compose a snappy comeback. The adrenaline of the fight had begun to fade, leaving her all too aware of her growing collection of bruises, cuts, and pulled muscles. Surprisingly, Soul noticed and became a bit more contrite, giving her a hand up onto the seat of the bike and asking the number of her apartment without any sarcastic comments.
As they sped down cobbled roads, gas streetlights flickering with the wind of their passage, Maka felt herself growing drowsy despite the early hour. Her head drooped forward until her cheek brushed the black leather of Soul's jacket. She jerked back up, blinking hard. Falling asleep on a motorcycle did not sound like the safest course of action, especially with the way Soul took corners.
"How'd you get a motorcycle?" she asked, more to keep herself awake than from any true curiosity. She felt him shrug.
"Went to South Dakota for the license a couple years ago and bought it there."
"Is that even legal?"
"Nah, not really."
"What'll happen if you get caught?"
"By what, the hundreds of cops in Death City?" Maka heard the amusement in his voice and had to agree with the sentiment. Though Death City was many things, including dangerous, anachronistic, and idiosyncratic, one thing it was definitely short on was any sort of organized police force. This was probably because Shibusen students kept a sort of order among those evil enough to turn into Kishins, and the petty criminals avoided the place because of the monsters on the streets and the way that outside-manufactured technology tended to go haywire in the presence of the constant soul waves from Shibusen.
The bike coasted to a stop, Soul adding a little skid to back wheel. "Ride's over," he told her. Maka slid slowly off the seat, groaning a little. "You okay?"
"Yeah, thank you. Just a little stiff." She turned to the door and pulled her keys out of her skirt pocket, very grateful that she had thought to button the little flap that morning so that they wouldn't fall out.
Pausing in the opened door, Maka turned to Soul. He was waiting on the idling motorcycle. "Thanks for everything, Soul. And sorry for falling on top of you earlier."
He made a "it's nothing" gesture. "Thanks for saving our butts earlier from that creepy dude."
"Oh, that was mostly you," Maka protested, blushing a little at the praise.
"A weapon can't do a thing without a meister," he argued. "Call it even at least."
"Okay," Maka yawned. She was way too tired to press the issue. "See you at Shibusen tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow's the weekend," Soul said blankly.
"The partnering ball?" Maka reminded him, one eyebrow raised.
"Ohhhshit I forgot!" Soul clutched at his hair, muttering, "Uncool, uncool."
"Relax, it's not such a big deal," Maka advised. "It's just getting dressed up and standing around talking. You don't have to dance if you don't want to."
"Yeah, but it's the 'dressing up' that's the problem. I forgot to pick up my tuxedo and the cleaner doesn't work tomorrow and closes in, like-" Soul checked his wristwatch "-ohshit fifteen minutes!" He gunned the accelerator and fishtailed wildly for a second, but then the tires got a grip on the cobbles and Soul sped away in a cloud of dust. As he turned the corner, he lifted one hand in a wave to her.
Maka looked after him for a moment, reliving again the way he had felt in her hands as they sliced through her first evil soul. As a human, he wasn't the most cheerful or openly friendly person she'd ever met...but as a scythe, there was something there that connected with her meister blood in a way that no one before had done. Even her best friend Tsubaki Nakatsukasa, who was a multi-talented weapon and with whom Maka had spent her longest time partnered, hadn't felt so good to wield. The overwhelming conviction that this, at last, could be her weapon was impossible to ignore. She smiled a bit ruefully.
Just my luck that even though I've spent so much time running away from the scythe, it finds me in the end.
Sorry about the delay, guys! I had this chapter almost entirely written, but then I got grounded. :( Next chapter will certainly be up in less time.
Thanks for reading, reviewing, favoriting, and alerting! It means a lot to me that people enjoy my writing. Don't forget to give concrit if you can! ^.^