Chapter One:

Blood On The Money


Long fingers danced across the ivory keys, pounding away the fear, and the pain. Drops of red, increasing in number followed the fingers as they hit the pristine white below them, leaving a morbid guide to playing his song.

The last song.

The show was over.

All because he won.

The melody, which has started scared, and broken, was now drenched in insanity, a gleeful run towards the death ahead, everything that he didn't know, everything that waited for him. Whatever it may be.

You know what waits for you. The voice in his head whispered, the red man, the creature that hid in the dark corner of thoughts, memories. The fire, the blood, the screams and the gnashing of teeth.

The idea made him sick, made his stomach roil against his skin, made the sweat break out and his heart beat faster, making the blood dripping from his wrist flow quicker. Fear would drive him there quicker, much quicker than he thought.

Still, being found dead by his own hand was preferable to being found by the Kishin's men.

The black and white keys blurred to grey in his unsteady eyes, and his hand twitched, wanting to stop moving, wanting to just relax. He wouldn't let it though, it was the last song, and he was going to finish it.

"Beautiful." A voice complimented, followed by clapping hands. He jumped, and turned to face the voice. It was a man, tall, with vibrant red hair, and a snarky smirk on his face. He had on a grey shirt, with a heavy black jacket over it. His skin tight jeans and boots were black as well, which had probably granted him shelter in the shadows while he'd been playing. The piano player clenched his fists, annoyed that he hadn't sensed the man come in.

And now it was over.

"Oh." The man stood on his tiptoes and looked at the red splattered over the keys. "You've made quite the mess there though. Did you think about the poor custodial staff that would undoubtedly find you? After all, a church is a pretty gruesome place for a suicide."

"Pretty gruesome place for a murder too." He answered the tall man, surprised by how his voice slurred as he answered. He was tired now, and cold, adrenaline no longer keeping him going.

"Yes, I suppose you have a point. Who's getting murdered though?" A red eyebrow quirked up at his question, and the man at the piano frowned.

"I don't much care for games, if you're here to kill me, hurry up and do it. Although, it's hardly a victory, I've done most the work for you."

"Oh, we've run into a misunderstanding somewhere. I'm not here to kill you."

"…What do you want then?"

"You're the fighter from tonight right? 'Eater'? That's your name isn't it." The man tilted his head. "Huh, you're younger than I thought you'd be. The mask really threw me off."

"Who wants to know?" The piano man slurred, and the red eyebrows furrowed.

"Say, why don't you let me add some pressure to that cut, get your standing back, and then we can talk."

"You give me a name, now. I told you, I don't like games."

"I'm the Reaper kid, you should show some respect." The red haired man gave a cocky grin, and the other scowled.

"You expect me to believe that?"

Reaper shrugged, and removed his jacket, leaving him in the short sleeved grey shirt, and he pushed the sleeve up slightly. Tattooed on his fair skin was the distorted image of a skull, warped to the point where it was almost unrecognizable. Underneath the skull, was the word 'reaper', with a line drawn through it. The man at the piano froze, mouth agape as he realized the man in front of him was actually the famed Reaper.

"Fuck." He whispered as Reaper returned his jacket to where it belonged. "Why are you here? I didn't do anything to Death's men."

"I know. I watched that last fight, now, if you don't mind, I'd like to talk. Could you be bothered to put off your suicide a little longer?"

Sharp teeth dug into his bottom lip as the musician considered his options. This was the highest ranking member of the two syndicates that inhabited the small Nevada city, nicknamed Death City for the amount of pure violence the two crime families managed to produce between the two. Shibusen, run by a man only known as 'Lord Death', wasn't something to mess with, on death's door or not. Slowly, the man offered his bleeding arm out and shrugged. "Didn't exactly bring anything to stop the bleeding. Didn't expect to need it."

The Reaper approached him slowly, taking out a handkerchief from his pocket. He knelt down in front of the bleeding man and wrapped the fabric around the cut, and applied pressure. The man at the piano was surprised by how gentle the Reaper, the most feared fighter to have ever graced the circuit, was being. "How did you find me here?"

"I followed you from the fight. I figured from the response that happened after you threw that last punch…you weren't supposed to win that, were you."

"The Kishin's men highly suggested I throw the fight."

"Why didn't you?"

"Because I need the money…didn't think I was going to pay for my win with my death."

"So you decided to take your own life?"

"Better than dying another thug in some alley somewhere."

"Well, I'm glad I caught you. You're good, better than I was at your age. It would've been a waste…but…this is as high in the fights as you can go, isn't it? You don't have a Meister."

"I'm no one's weapon." The musician snarled, resting his elbows on the keys, the resounding smash of notes echoing through the small church.

"You can only fight at the bottom so long."

"If it's what I have to do." The sharp toothed man answered as his head regained a little bit of clarity and the Reaper tightened his grip on the wound again.

"Why?"

"Why does anyone get into the fights? The cash."

"Make good money?"

"Make enough to get by."

"Seems like a waste, someone with your talents, and your skill level, you could be something much more."

"Yeah, well I'm not."

"Would you like to be?" Reaper asked, with a knowing grin on his face. The man flexed the hand that's wrist was sliced, and was shocked by how well it moved.

"What are you offering?"

"I'm not as tough as I used to be," Reaper started out, and the piano man scoffed. He highly doubted that. The Reaper couldn't be any older than his early thirties, he was still plenty tough, enough so to be used as a threat on the streets, the threat that the Shibusen turned to in times of desperation. "And I can't be everywhere at once. Not efficiently."

"What is it you want exactly?"

"This is hardly common knowledge, but I have a daughter. She means the world to me, she's smart, strong brilliant, and pretty much perfect. But, she's getting older too, and she doesn't exactly enjoy having her father hovering over her shoulder for every little thing. But…this city…I can't leave her to fend for herself, now can I?"

"So…you're looking for a babysitter?"

"No, absolutely not. I'm looking for a bona fide guardian here. This is my only child, my pride and joy, and I refuse to lose her to this city." The cordial tone his voice had held previously and adopted a type of malice the musician had only herd in the final whispers of men who died at his fists. Such an intense desperation and screaming from the soul.

It sent shivers down his spine.

"And…you think I want this job?"

"The money you make on this job will be more than enough for you to retire from the fights, completely, and then some. Not to mention and upgrade in housing, food, and…" Reaper glanced down at his blood soaked handkerchief. "Healthcare."

"That much for one girl? How often is she targeted exactly?"

"Enough for this to become a necessity. This is an evil city kid, and there are plenty of ways to get to the top. The easiest would be to go for the children, don't you agree?"

"I guess…why would you trust your kid to some low circuit fighter then? What makes you think I wouldn't turn on you, and use your kid against you?"

"You wouldn't be that stupid. I've seen you face. That's as good as knowing your name for me." The Reaper absentmindedly scratched his face with his free hand. "Speaking of, what is your name?"

"You threaten my life, then ask my name?"

"Welcome to Death City, kid." Carefully, he pulled the fabric from the musicians wrist, which was stained in red, but was no longer leaking the sticky liquid. "And, not that I'm keeping track, but I just saved your life. Want me to stitch it up too?"

The kid on the piano bench only shrugged, and Reaper pulled out a needle and some thread that he'd snagged from his daughter before he'd gone off to the fights, in case any of their fighters needed patched up. He pulled out his lighter, and lit the tip of the needle, making sure it was as sterilized as he could get it in this situation.

"So, what's your name?"

"Eater."

"Ah, ah, ah. That's your fight name. I want the name on your birth certificate."

"Why?"

"To run a background check. This is my daughter."

"I never agreed to this job."

"You never disagreed either. I mean, you're still listening, and you could've walked away whenever."

"…She's a daughter of Shibusen?"

"Yes."

"Which means…"

"You'd become one of us kid, and we look out for our own."

"My insult to the Kishin…"

"You'd be one of us. The Kishin and his men would be stupid to try and go for you." Reaper removed his hands from the pianist's wrist and looked down at his work. "Little crooked, and it'll scar…but you should be alright." He watched as the kid looked down at his wrist, still covered in dried blood and clenched his fist.

"Just the one girl?"

"Just her. And she's a good kid, won't cause you any trouble at all. Bit uptight, like her mother, but she's a good kid. It'll be an easy gig."

"And I'll have Shibusen backing me?"

"One hundred percent."

A shark-like grin stretched across the younger man's face, and he met the Reaper's eyes with his own vibrant red ones. "Sounds cool."

Reaper smiled at him, and leaned back on his heels. "So, name?"

"Yours first, I want security, if this ends up being a trap."

"Smart kid." Reaper chuckled. "Spirit. Spirit Albarn."

"…Like Police Commissioner Albarn?"

"Lord Death has eyes everywhere." Commissioner Albarn grinned. "And you? Aside from Eater?"

"Soul. Soul Evans."

"So, Soul. You in?"

"Yeah…I'm in."


The sweat of the crowds made the small abandoned home humid, a deep contrast to the chill in the Nevada air. Underneath the mask, beads of sweat gathered on the forehead of the girl underneath. Around her, masks depicting all different animals and emotions mingled, discussing the current fights, but each conversation seemed to dwell on one fight in perticualr.

Eater vs. Rasputin

She had heard the words trickling down from the surrounding bodies since she had walked in.

All bets on Rasputin

He's a sure thing.

Eater's strong, but he's still just a kid

I heard from a Kishin foot soldier that it's fixed.

But, she'd been watching the lower level fights for a long time now. They were the only ones she could sneak into without anyone really checking the fake ID she handed over to the bouncer, who only glanced down at it before blowing out smoke from his cigarette and continuing to stitch up his own skin.

Almost six months she'd been sneaking into these fights, and in each one she saw the fighter 'Eater' in, she saw desperation around him. This wasn't fun for him, it wasn't a game. No, the man in the demon mask took down each opponent with a kind of final determination that told her he needed to win, not for pride, just to survive. He only lived so long as he won.

That's why she bet on him.

That was also why she knew that there was no way Eater would throw a fight.

Ever.

Especially not to a fat fuck like Rasputin. The gargantuan man had only survived this long because once he managed to get ahold of his opponent, he'd crush them with his body, suffocating them between the hard ground and his body fat.

The Kishin men wanted him to continue on, so he did. That was the only reason.

That week, just like every other week she bet what she had brought on Eater. And she knew, just like every other week, she'd walk away with more money than she had arrived with. She knew her Papa was suspicious about where she managed to get her money, but she brushed it off to working at a coffee shop for the last few months, but even her father, greatest idiot of them all, had to know that she was making way too much for a barista.

But it wasn't enough to deter her from coming, not even slightly. It wasn't just the money that her anonymous prize fighter had managed to bring in for her week after week, it was the thrill. Of course it was, there was a reason that it was impossible to stay out of the fights. Directly, or indirectly, everyone in Death City were connected to the circuit. It was how someone supported their habit, how a single mother fed her kids, or how an over privileged college kid found her kicks.

Once again, the weekly fight was over, with most the people slumping out of there losers, as their lovely little bets had fallen through. It didn't surprise her, Rasputin was expected to beat Eater at a 6 to 1 odd. Because though, she had bet on Eater, and she had bet 200, everything she had saved up from the last two weeks, she was walking out of there with a cool twelve hundred dollars in her pocket. Careful to keep her mask secure, she made her way up to the window, and the man working there smiled at her.

"I regret calling you a little idiot for betting on the Demon Kid."

"There's something to be said about creatures of habit." She smiled under her mask, but she was sure he could hear it in her voice. "I'm in the habit of betting on Eater, and he's in the habit of winning."

The man snorted as he pushed her winnings beneath the glass plate that separated them. "Wouldn't count on that next week."

"How do you figure?" She asked, counting the bills passed over to her.

"Eater won't be back to fight."

"Why?"

"Why? Maybe you are a little idiot. He went against a direct order from the Kishin. Men that do that? They don't live long enough to regret it. He'll be dead before sunrise."

"W-what?!" Her head shot up and the man behind the glass nodded.

"This is the lower circuit. You don't make your own rules here. It's the Demon Kid's own fault. If he had just swallowed that pride and gotten himself a Meister, he could've been out of this circuit and making some real money. His own stupid choice." He shook his head. "Now move along little idiot, I've got people waiting."

She moved out of the way, money clenched in her hand, but it wasn't a win for her anymore.

She knew this world was ugly, she knew it wasn't safe, and no one was guaranteed to make it out…but it still shocked her. Her first fight, it was one of Eater's, the first fight she'd bet on, one of Eater's and the first bet she'd won, it had been on Eater.

Life in Death City was different, the fights, the fights were the Super Bowl, World Series and everything else rolled up into one. You knew the fighters up in the big leagues, you knew how they operated, and you knew their Meister. Even down in the pits, it was like college teams, you knew who worked, and who you liked, and you stuck by them, wins or losses.

Refusing to believe she felt this much sorrow over a person she only knew by a painted mask and a white head of hair, she took off briskly, wanting to get out of this part of town before it got especially dangerous, before the losers of tonight took to drinking their anger away, and took it out on her. She kept her head down until she passed through the unfinished houses, to the bus stop, and she pulled off her mask.

The cool air kissed her skin as she reveled in the feeling of being freed from the confining plastic she molded over her face. It wasn't anything special. A stereotypical angel face, that stood out enough at the fights, but it kept her face covered, and that was all that mattered. Once she was sure the pink was no longer staining her cheeks, she released her hair from the loose pigtails she had them up in, and was slightly surprised when the hair that framed her face was black as night.

Oh…right…that last fight with Papa.

She sighed at tugged at the new color. She shouldn't be acting like a child, openly rebelling at every chance she got, but there was something annoying about the way her father still insisted on trying to raise her, as if he'd been there, as if he'd done any raising at all in the last 19 years, as if he'd tried at all before her mother had left after she started college, leaving her with her father as her only support system in one of the most dangerous places in the United States.

If you asked her to be completely honest, Maka Albarn would admit to hating both of her parents, and she wouldn't sound the least bit guilty about that fact. But, she'd ask in return, could you blame her?

Waiting for the bus, she recounted her money, and tried to ignore the unjustifiable sadness that followed her.

Is Eater actually dead?


Author's Note:

Rated for violence, language, and anything else that may pop up.

Well, here it is. It's a Soma, for sure, but to be honest, I'm not sure where this is going exactly...but I don't know if it will be a happy journey. Either way, I hope you enjoy!

Let me know what you think?

Thanks!

-Eris.