by. Poisoned Scarlett
"Kid—Kid, wait!" Tsubaki calls, shaking her hands of soapy dish water. She is wiping both hands on her apron when he steps out of the shadows, holding a flashlight in his hand. She startles, but smiles. "Flashlight? What happened to your candle holder?"
"Patty can be very... persuasive on the topic of catching up the ages," is all he says on that matter. He waits patiently for her to continue and she does with a fluster, realizing she had been staring at him for a few seconds.
"Oh! I wanted to tell you about witch Medusa," she begins.
"Has she made a move?"
"Well, they...they sent the Professor after her," Tsubaki reveals. Kid hums, intrigued. "He caught onto her trail—he attacked her a few days ago, but Nygus told me he isn't sure if she's really gone. She may have split her soul and escaped," Tsubaki explains. She looks troubled, however, not very familiar with the technicalities of witches and their powers. She scarcely knows of Soul's and she had been serving as his cook for over four years. "Can a witch do that?"
"Of course," Kid answers immediately. "It's very dark magic, but it is possible. Her sister had done it various times before. However, there are repercussions."
"Well," Kid turns the flashlight on and off, frowning at the device. "The soul never pieces itself back together quiet the same way after it is split. Every time one splits their soul, the soul retains the cracks from the split, and this can be particularly troublesome to those who wield power because it hampers their magical abilities. Weakens them," Kid adds, for simplicities sake. "The soul has cracks, and if one splits their soul too many times, it can break. They lose their soul completely—ugh," he winces when he shines the flashlight on his face accidentally. "This is quite bright. I prefer my candles."
"Isn't it a good thing, though?"
"Much too bright. Startles the souls," Kid mutters and Tsubaki doesn't ask further—he once frightened her terribly when he deadpanned that she was stepping on an old man's soul and he was wailing. Tsubaki does not quite understand how souls work and how Kid can see them (she suspects it is because he is a God of Death, but Soul sometimes wrinkles his nose at things that aren't there; sometimes even snaps at things, waves invisible objects off), but she knows that asking such questions is dangerous. Knowledge in fields like magic and death is never good, that had been what Black Star had told her when he first took her in as a weapon. "Moving on, why have you informed me of Medusa's current status? That witch has nothing to do with a God of Death. Her soul is not fit for harvest," he adds. He had once come face to face with the witch, her slit eyes and curling tongue a sight for sore eyes. He can see the similarities to her sisters, however, particularly in the madness that cracks on her grin and the clinical nature of her words.
But Medusa Gorgon's soul is so badly tainted, Kid would have no choice but to obliterate it if the soul ever came into his hands.
"Soul asked me the day after Thanksgiving to keep him informed of Medusa's whereabouts," Tsubaki says with a knowing smile. "I think he worries about Maka."
Kid does not reply to that, only turns away. He looks out of a tall window, pushes the heavy-set curtain aside to observe the glowing field of souls. Some coalesce out of existence, becoming nothing more than mist, and Kid can spot a reaper or two of his father's collecting the pure souls out of the bunch. He knows to others the expanse of land looks bare, with gnarled trees and grayed branches and dead earth, but the land is quite beautiful to him regardless.
"Her soul is special," Kid tells Tsubaki quietly.
"I heard!" Tsubaki brightens. She had told Maka this when she realized! Maka had been excited over it and they had giggled, too, since it was often dubbed an angel's soul and Tsubaki thought it was cute. "It's a Grigori soul, right?"
"Right. It is a cursed soul."
Tsubaki's smile falters. "What? I thought...I thought it was an angel's soul, a pure soul?"
"Soul has a right to be concerned, perhaps he should invite her to stay with him from now on," Kid says, offhandedly. "Medusa has split her soul two times. Once with Lady Maaba, and once with the Professor. It cannot withstand a third time. However, if she were to acquire a Grigori soul..." Kid looks down at his flashlight, turns it on and heads back into the comfort of the shadows. "Perhaps she can survive a fifth time."
"Ouch—dammit—Maka! That was not cool!" Soul barks, snapping his fingers and causing the tangle of Christmas lights to poof out of existence. "We aren't getting anywhere with these damn lights! Why are we even doing this...?" He mutters, ignoring her glare as he brings the tangle of wires back and attempts to straighten them out. Soul doesn't visit Maka to do jobs, he visits Maka to bury his nose in her hair and inhale her honeysuckle scent. He does not cater to little girls who whine about Christmas nor does he particularly care about Christmas—the holiday is a human holiday, it does not exist where he comes from. All of the holiday's save for Halloween do not exist in the Land of Witches so why should he care?
"You're making it worse, give it to me!" Maka sighs impatiently, holding her hand out. She snatches the ball of Christmas lights from him, mumbling curses under her breath.
Soul only scowls and looks over to Tsugumi, who is happily dipping cookies into a glass of milk. A slew of opened gifts, shredded wrapping paper, surrounds the tree. The only thing that is missing is the damn Christmas lights, which had burnt out a few nights ago. Of course Maka had taken it upon herself to cater to the little girl who wanted new Christmas lights up and brought him along, too! If he had known this would happen, he wouldn't be spending this holiday with her, he would have stayed in his room!
"Can you hold this end."
Tsugumi dips another cookie in her milk, her cat curled up by her side, and Soul decides that after they finish he will—
"We can watch movies after this," Maka whispers, interrupting his petulant thoughts. She isn't looking at him but she is smiling. "There's a lot of really good Christmas movies on right now. We can buy out and then watch them," she looks at him and her smile is tentative. "You don't celebrate this holiday, right?"
"Yeah. It doesn't exist in the Land of Witches," he explains. "But I like the gifts."
"Everyone likes the gifts, Soul."
His lip curls up and his fingers tingle with devious magic. "I have a gift for you," he states and she whips her head to him, eyes wide.
"Yeah," he stands up, straightens out his jacket. He checks over to Tsugumi to ensure she wasn't paying attention.
"What is it? What it is?" Maka asks, excited.
"Maybe if we go to your apartment, I can show you," Soul smirks but it becomes an exasperated groan when Maka cheers and innocently goes back to untangling the Christmas lights, saying that she actually had a present for him, too, and she hoped he would like it because she wasn't sure of his tastes. He decides that perhaps trying to hint at a day spent in bed, without their clothes, is best said bluntly because Maka can be very dense when she likes. But she can also be a conniving little minx and it's what convinces him to surprise her when they walk back to her apartment.
Two hours later, that is, because two hours later Soul finds himself shivering in the cold, glaring at the snow that piles up on the side of the road. Maka is cheerfully bidding the cashier a happy holiday inside the grocery store. Soul hefts the bags of food in his hands, grimacing when the plastic digs into his fingers, but once they walk on more isolated roads, Soul merely breathes out deeply and the bags float beside him. He stuffs his hands back into his pocket and Maka watches the bags hover with wide, wide eyes.
"How do you do that?"
"Magic," he smirks. She scowls at him. "It's a really easy spell. It doesn't require much concentration."
"Really? What is it?" Maka asks innocently enough, but she notices how his shoulders become rigid. She realizes too late that warlocks and witches did not share their magic expertise, did not share their magical knowledge. It's taboo and Maka wants take her words back. But before she can, Soul does something that surprises her: he answers and his pliant mood gives her an idea.
"It's, uh...kinda' difficult to say," he mumbles. The bags waver in the air. "Since it's in a different language. It's the Old Tongue, and even I have issues with it. It's a pain in the ass, worse to read," he groans. "You could recite it except the spell might hurt you."
"If I wrote it out," Soul begins, "it'd just look like a bunch of symbols to you. If I said it and you recited it, it might hurt you. It's a simple spell, so you'd probably just get a head ache, but if it were more powerful, your soul can burst," he shrugs. He doesn't notice Maka's gaping expression. "Happens. Some warlocks think they've got enough magic to handle a difficult spell. They say it, soul bursts into flames. Or just cracks, whatever. Witches don't really have to deal with that since their magic usually resides in a Familiar."
"I've heard of Familiars," Maka brightens, happy she understands what Soul is talking about now. "Warlocks have them, too, right?"
"Some. They're annoying." He kicks snow off his shoe and turns the corner. "Plus, it's dangerous to keep a Familiar around. Since most of your magic is locked within them, if anything were to happen to them, or you, anyone can abuse the magic within a Familiar. Seen it happen, it's actually pretty brutal."
"I heard Familiars are often killed when the witch doesn't need them anymore."
"Yeah, witches get tired of Familiar's really fast, but it's a pain to remove your magic and transfer it into something else," Soul scratches the back of his head. "But having a Familiar makes using magic easier. They channel it," he explains, "and it comes out stronger."
"Have you ever had a Familiar?"
"Nah," he shakes his head. He thinks about the hellhounds and how they thirst for his magic, paw at the ground and fight each other to be his rightful Familiar. He has thought of adopting one since he already has power over them thanks to Kid, but hellhounds are too vicious to control. He can scarcely control Black Star when he visits, he doubts he can control a hellhound with a natural thirst for gore and violence. "Never found one cool enough for me," he grins.
Maka sighs. "Idiot." Maka slows her walk when she realizes where they are, tugging Soul's sleeve. Before he can ask, she points down the alley. "This is the alley where you saved me from those hellhounds," she tells him.
"Maka, we always walk through here to get to your apartment."
Maka smacks him, irritated he ruined another moment. For all his thoughtfulness, he could be really dense sometimes. "I know! But today's Christmas. We officially met when I was taking Blair home, remember? I was running through here..." Maka jumps into a pile of snow, some of it sliding down her boots. But it doesn't stop her. Soul watches with mild amusement as his lover hops down the alley, her arms stretched out for balance. A warm grin graces her face and he can't help his own small one as she shouts, "and you came out of nowhere with your scythe and saved me!" She stops suddenly, turning to him. "Your scythe! Does it have anything to do with the tattoo on your chest?"
"Eh? Who told you," he cocks his head.
"I figured it out on my own!" Maka states, proudly.
Soul snorts. "Tsubaki told you, didn't she?"
Maka deflates. "She might have mentioned it once. But not the tattoo! So, does it?"
Soul rubs his chest. "Well, yeah. I pull it out from there."
"Pull...it out? You mean that scythe is inside of you?" Maka gasps, wide-eyed.
"No, you idiot! It's in another...er, dimension? I created a space," he scowls, annoyed with his own incoherency. "It's like reaching into your pocket and pulling out something."
"So your chest is a purse?"
Soul glares while Maka stifles her giggles. "No, it's a spell. I activate it and I can pull the scythe out from the space I created. It's so no one can take it. It's a magical item so it isn't bound to me."
"If it was, you wouldn't need that space, would you?"
"Nope." He kicks snow at Maka, smirking when she squeals and tells him to watch it. "I know you know about magical spaces, dork, I saw the books you were reading in my study. So what do you really want?" He draws closer, grabbing a lock of her blonde hair. Maka pinks a little but doesn't move away. She mumbles something, pouting, but he catches the words and despite the danger in her curiosity, he smiles. "What'd I tell you about sticking your nose where it doesn't belong?" He hums, dipping his head and sliding his mouth over hers. He takes his other hand out of his pocket and places it against her throat, feeling her pulse beneath his palm. It's fast and when he presses her against the wall, it's impossible to ignore.
"I just wanted to know," Maka pants when they part, her cheeks hot. Her entire body feels too hot for her coat. "I heard Tsubaki talking about it, about being able to transfer your soul into objects or things like Familiars. There's a name for that, right?"
"That's called Soul Splitting," he murmurs, pressing another kiss on her waiting lips. She makes him want to tell her everything, want to tell her even his own deepest secrets. She has a dangerous power over him but he can't quite find it in himself to stop her before it's too late. "And it's dangerous to practice."
"Because soul's are fragile," Maka finishes for him with a knowing smile. "They're easily corrupted, so splitting one's soul can break it?"
"Not the first time, if you do it right."
"But no more than that, right?"
"Depends. I know the furthest one's split their soul is five times before it weakened again and it disappeared."
"Again?" Maka opens her eyes, her lashes tickling his cheek. He presses his forehead against hers and wraps his arms around her waist while her hands clutch his jacket. "What do you mean by again?"
"There's ways to strengthen a soul," he shrugs. "You can eat a Death God's soul, for instance. But that's pretty much impossible. They'd kill you before you even tried."
He parts his lips then stops, flickering his eyes to her. Maka looks at him curiously but he can hear her shallow breath, like she's holding it. She's looking for confirmation, he realizes, and he pulls back a little more. Just how much had Maka already known of his world? Just what had...she been reading? He feels his stomach drop because there are very old books in his study, dangerous books, books of knowledge that others with magic in their veins would slaughter for. And if Maka had that knowledge in her big brain, if she knew—
"What have you been reading, Maka?" he asks, staring at her. He wasn't careful enough; he let her have her way too much. He wants to step back, flinch away, because he's horrified by the easy way he bends to her will. He's not used to such adoration, to pressing his hands against her cheeks and breathing her in so easily. Affection is hard and love is even harder, but she makes it feel easy and nice and warm and kind—but at what cost?
"N-nothing! I promise, I...I can't read some of the books," Maka says, guiltily. He narrows his eyes. "But some of them I...I just...There was this article," Maka begins, fessing up. "It was stuck between the pages of a book like a bookmark, but it talked about Arachne Gorgon and her sisters. It talked about how Arachne was persecuted because she was conducting an illegal experiment, something about children's souls and metal weapons 800 hundred years ago," she wets her lips and Soul gazes back coolly. "Arachne split her soul to escape being reaped various times, but..."
"She was never found again," Soul states. "Her soul disappeared. She's dead."
"Are you sure?"
"It's been over 800 years and no one's found a trace of her, not even her sisters. The only one that's causing trouble right now is Medusa, but she's not even in America. Last I heard she was in Rome," he shrugs.
"But she...Arachne was the only one to have split her soul five times," Maka hesitates but goes through with her question. "How? The soul breaks the more times you split it. I assume that every time it splits, some of the breaks within the soul cannot be repaired so the more one does it, the more it breaks until it shatters. Like glass."
Soul does step away this time.
"What did she do to be able to split her soul five times?"
"...She devoured a pure soul."
Soul's lip twists, jaw tight. "Grigori." He looks at her. "Was that your question?"
Maka clasps her hands over her chest. "...Yeah. I read about Grigori souls, or more like the different types of soul's. Kid gave me that book...he said it was his favorite." She looks up at him and smiles a little. "It's interesting, but I read that my soul is very rare and there isn't much research on it. But it holds a lot of magical qualities, right?"
"More like it's a useful ingredient," Soul reveals grimly. Maka swallows, suddenly feeling not so lucky. "You wanna' know why there isn't much research on that soul? It's coz sick fucks like Arachne harvest them and devour them for power."
Maka presses a hand to her chest and Soul reads her like one of her books.
"...Yeah." She clutches her chest. "Kid told me."
He sighs. What had he expected? She would have figured it out eventually and Kid did have a fixation with soul types. "Y'know, you're pretty lucky to own a soul like that and still be alive right now. People with Grigori souls die early, but because you lived under my jurisdiction and I didn't let anything too powerful through, you've lived longer than most"
"But if you hadn't?"
Soul doesn't reply. Snow crunches beneath his boots and he faces the alley, the very one he had chased her down to save her. The girl with the Grigori soul, such a rare soul. The first time he felt it, greed had rooted in his heart. Who was he kidding, scolding Kid like that when he had been thinking about taking her soul, too? He lowers his eyes when he remembers the thought that with a soul like hers, he could be rid of such a shitty protector job. He could join the stronger warlocks instead of being put on reserve like some dummy solider. He can't fathom reaping her soul now; he is absolutely horrified by the idea of devouring such a pure and beautiful soul like hers.
He holds his hand out. He won't let anything happen her to. "C'mon, it's cold. You're gonna' catch something if you stay out any longer."
Maka beams at him and he truly, truly can't imagine what he had been thinking that day—to take away such a beautiful soul, rob it of its light, he would never allow anyone to do such a thing to his Maka.
"Thanks for answering my questions, though! I know that...it's taboo to ask about these things."
"It's taboo to ask about my magic, not those things. That's common knowledge," he says haughtily, hissing when she smacks him hard over the head.
"Thanks a lot, Soul," she growls. "I'll just ask someone else next time, then, maybe Ox!"
At the name, Soul twitches and a deep scowl mars his face. "What the hell do you gotta' ask him for stuff when you got me—Maka!" He catches up with her, side-glancing her. She's angry with him again. He sighs and he digs his hands deeper into his pockeys, muttering out: "And stop digging around my study, too, you're gonna' end up reading something that'll seriously mess you up!"
"Oh, please! You even told me anything dangerous is in another language, I can't even read it!"
"It's a magical language, idiot, you could read something or touch something magical and the words can be made comprehensible to you! You fucking know that, you and that weirdo Ox were talking about it!"
"We were discussing Eibon's teachings!"
"Are you angry?"
"Are you angry because I spent that day with Ox—wha, Soul, wait up!"
From beneath the snow, a white cobra slithers its head out. Its beady, yellow, eyes stare at their retreating backs, focus on how their hands link together before the warlock's arm goes around her shoulders, before the snake burrows beneath the snow again.