"Got Ninety-nine souls, but a witch ain't one." Soul marches down the corridors to the crescent moon classroom whistling a merry tune until he gets to where professor Stein is teaching a lesson on soul repair. Obviously, if any more Asura-level Kishins appear, it's better to fix the soul rather than destroy it. Obviously. It took an entire city moving to take down one Kishin last time, and there's always new techniques being made to counter them.

Soul lets out a deep breath. The last three ideas hadn't panned out, and the classes were beginning to be a waste of time. All Soul wants to do is go and eat more Kishin eggs so he can become a Death Scythe.

Maka waits outside the door to the classroom, books held tightly to her chest, a panicked look in her eyes which stare at the floor, unmoving.

"Maka? What's wrong?" Soul and Maka had kind of separated after the Asura incident, only really talking to each other whenever they were on a mission together, and even then only about the task at hand. At home they ate in silence, trading turns to cook, and going to their own rooms without any words shared.

In fact, this is the first time they had spoken in a week. Almost a miracle, considering the close proximity.

"Didn't you hear? They said that there might be a witch on campus. Another one! I just... what happens if it's another Medusa?"

Souls bares his teeth. "Then I finally get a witch's soul to add to my collection! C'mon, you're the best fighter in the school! It'll be no problem for 'The Kishin Murderer'!"

"I told you not to call me that!" Maka pushes past Soul, heading for... Well, the girls bathrooms? Maybe just the teacher's area. Whatever.

Soul opens the door and prepares for another day of boring classes, sighing over the thought of Maka.

(O.O)
VVV

Maka was in fact heading for the girl's bathroom. Stupid, stuck-up, pointy tooth brat. It's not like that fight was something to joke about. Anyway, wasn't he unconscious for most of it? Pathetic.

Maka rubs her face with the water from the sink. Soul never understood anything she tried to tell him these days. What had her so worried was the second half of the news. The witch is supposedly a student, maybe even one in her class. She couldn't hunt down another student from the academy. She just couldn't. It would give her nightmares to kill a kid.

She slumps to the ground outside of the classroom a few minutes later. She had missed the bell, and Stein doesn't let students into class when they're late.

Oh well. She'd just have to get the scoop from Tsubaki once class ends.

Inside the classroom, there is a loud crash, a bunch of yelling (Did someone scream "fire"?) and above it all, Professor Stein raising his voice to call someone.

Maka throws open the door just in time to see Kim riding Jacqueline in broom form fly right past her into the hall.

Professor Stein pushes his glasses up his nose and looks at Maka.

"I was hoping not to get this reaction from her. Ah well. Maka, can you please fetch Sid?"

"Um, sure! I'll go right away." Maka had entered the room when Stein called her, and several students had rushed past and gone after the Kim.

When she tried to exit, Soul was blocking her path.

"What's you deal today? First the tantrum before class, now letting witches go free? You're sure on a roll today." Soul had that toothy grin Maka associates with condescension plastered across his face.

Maka grabs the nearest book (Ox's copy of "Shinigami studies III") and decks Soul with it, hard enough to give him a nosebleed and throw him against the opposite wall. The rest of the room was dead silent as Maka walked out.

(O.O)
VVV

Soul woke up in the infirmary with Death the Kid and BlackStar looking at his face.

Kid was saying something to BlackStar. "No, see, unless you make that side taller, it's asymmetrical."

"I still don't see any difference."

"That's because you strength is muscle, not mental. If you could apply your brains to this task, or any task at all, you would see-"

"HA! I don't care, I'm BlackStar!"

Then they notice Soul was awake.

"Hey buddy! That was hilarious! Whop!" BlackStar proceeds to swing an imaginary book at Soul's head.

"I believe he means, 'How are you feeling,' or 'Are you alright?'" Kid leaned over so he was just in view without soul turning his head.

Soul gave a weak grin. "Nah, he probably means whop."

BlackStar's smile fades, and he asks Soul "What going on between you and Maka? You two have a fight?"

"No, nothing like that. We're just having some trouble communicating." Soul sighs and lets his head drop to the side. There he sees himself in the mirror-

"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DRAW ON MY FACE?!"

"Well, Maka told us that you deserved it, and to draw pen-" Kid began, but just then Marie popped in with pain medication. She stopped opening the bottle halfway after getting a good look at Soul.

"Were you two drawing on Soul's face? If so, those better be dog bones."

BlackStar jumps onto the bed and yells "Yep! Would've been done too, if picky over here hadn't insisted that the right and the left match perfectly."

Marie hid her mouth behind her hand. Soul suspected she was smiling. "Well, you two better knock it off. Lord Death wants to see you, as well as your partners."

After they had both left to find their weapons, Marie got a washrag and wiped the ink from Soul's face. "I can't believe how hard Maka hit you, Soul. She actually cracked your skull and three of your ribs. I still can't figure out how hitting you on the head caused rib fractures, but Nygus said it isn't going to be too much of a problem. What did you say to her?"

"Eh, I guess I was just being a jerk. Lately, she and I have been drifting apart. Something to do with what happened with the Kishin, I think. It's been getting harder to synchronize soul wavelengths, and we don't talk to each other."

"Oh dear. Well, I'd recommend patching things up as soon as possible! You two are just so cute together, I wouldn't want to see anything happen to that!"

Soul rolls his eyes. "Yeah, thanks professor." What a hopeless romantic.

Marie fussed over him for a good fifteen minutes before she left, scrubbing his face gently to little effect (though she didn't tell him that), then telling him to ring a bell on the side table if he needed anything. What she didn't do was make sure the bell within his reach.

Soul lay there in the darkness for at least an hour, wondering what exactly he had done to earn Maka's scorn. Yeah, he teased her. Same as always. Nothing new about that. For the past three months, he had cooked every other night, and hadn't screwed up at all. Well, maybe once or twice, but still. Much better track record than before.

Soul convinces himself that the differing resonance is an effect, and not the cause of the gap between the two of them.

At the end of the hour, Soul hears Maka outside the door, talking to the nurse in charge. Soul quickly gets into a comfortable position and feigns sleep. Actually talking to Maka seems like a bad idea all of a sudden.

Maka eventually walking into the room and sits on the edge of the bed.

"I-I'm s-sorry, Soul," her words were half lost in tears "I've j-just been under a lot of s-stress lately, and I was wrong to hit you with the book."

Soul opens his eyes a crack and sees Maka staring at the ceiling. A small half-hearted smile on her lips. "The nearest book was Ox's copy of Shinigami studies III. I swung the book hard enough to shake the pages out, believe it or not. I just spent the last hour gluing it back together." The smile fades away from her face.

Maka sits there on the edge of the bed for a few more minutes, then lies down next to Soul on the bed.

"I'm sorry for being a bad partner," Maka starts to choke up, so Soul decides that he better "wake up" before she embarrasses herself further.

He smacks his lips and opens his eyes slowly, looking around in different directions before settling on Maka. "Oh, hello. What's up?"

Maka startles, and sits back up on the bed. "Soul! You're awake!" she leans down and hugs him, squeezing Soul's broken ribs.

"Ouch! My ribs..."

"Sorry! Sorry. Oh. Um, are you okay? I'm, really sorry about earlier-"

"Nah, it's my fault. I've been kind of a jerk lately, not considering what you went through recently."

"Yeah, but we should be able to do this together still, right?" Maka's eyes glaze over. "I really don't know what to do without you. We've come so far, almost twice already, and we've been a good team and-"

Soul attempts to turn his head unsuccessfully. "Don't worry about it. We're partners, right?"

Maka returns his smile and squeezes his hand. Funny, Soul couldn't remember grabbing Maka's hand.

"Wait a sec, is there ink on your forehead?" Maka leans in real close, reminding Soul of Blair, without the suffocation. "Are those... Did BlackStar visit you while you were asleep?"

"Yeah. I guess Marie wasn't able to get them off."

"I'm going to find him and draw things on his face for you, okay?"

"Sure. Just make sure Kid's not around. He'll want you to draw them symmetrical."

"Really? Was he there when BlackStar did this?"

Soul nods. Painfully.

"I'll draw on his face too then. Asymmetrically."

Then she got up and left with a much happier demeanor.

Despite himself, Soul also felt better already.

(O.O)
VVV

"Unfortunately, we cannot continue with our previous lesson until Kim and Jacqueline are... retrieved, so for now we are going to have a completely unrelated lesson. You will all separate into either the meister group or the weapon group, and we will have a contest." Professor Stein draws the word contest on the blackboard. "After you all split into your designated groups, further instructions will given."

Soul and Maka head to the opposite ends of the hall, Soul and the rest of the weapons nearest the door, Maka and the meisters against the bleachers across the room.

Stein swivels his chair around a few times. "Alright, everyone to the front entrance to the school. Stay in your groups please."

Once everyone had made it outside (Kid had gotten distracted by a small candle sconce that was slightly crooked) Stein proceeded to explain his experiment to the kids. Each meister would try out each weapon, and whoever was the most versatile wins. Simple, right?

Soul kept having a problem where as soon as anyone touched him, they screamed and threw him aside. He was getting pretty battered up by the time BlackStar got to him.

"Hey Soul. You ready?"

"Hey, can't go worse than last time, right?"

BlackStar jumps high in the air, does a flip and swoops down to grab Soul, who had also jumped, just much less high, and transformed midair.

As soon as BlackStar touched the hilt, Soul knew something was off but BlackStar held on stubbornly.

They landed with a large thud, and BlackStar swings Soul back into a stance imitating Maka's. "See? I, the amazing BlackStar, can master any weapon!"

Tsubaki was the first to see it.

BlackStar was beginning to get the stripes that usually show up when he wields the demon sword, and Soul is leaking black blood, which is then crawling up BlackStar...

Death the Kid, wielding the little twin pots fire and lightning, knocks BlackStar over. The black blood all falls to the ground, and Soul changes back to human form, dripping red and black blood from various tears in his body.

Stein quickly scoops up Soul and rushes towards the medical section, calling back over his shoulder "Please continue practicing. We only have until class ends before Lord Death shows." only a few student heard him mutter "Twice in two days. This kid's on a roll."

After a few seconds of shock, mostly everyone had returned to trying out new weapons. Death the Kid was showing remarkable ability to resonate with anyone, but he won't try it unless the weapon is symmetrical. The twin pots were good candidates, but after Kid realized that they had different words on them, he creeped himself out enough that had to stop. Tsubaki could go with almost anyone, but the meisters had a hard time utilizing her form changes, since nobody had experience with a weapon that could change. BlackStar used everyone, even though he never could resonate, and as a consequence was almost passed out from the strain of lifting weapons too heavy even for him. The Thompson twins couldn't resonate with anyone else, so they resorted to switching off holding each other and firing at Blair, who had inexplicably shown up. Blair seemed to be enjoying herself, dodging pink balls of energy while simultaneously causing nosebleeds in every male she stepped in front of. It didn't help that she had only a bikini on. In December.

Maka was having a bit of luck with the other weapons. Anyone who had a rigid personality seemed to work well. Interestingly, she could wield Harvar quite well, despite him being the weapon of her school rival.

After half an hour had passed, Death came out of the building and clapped his massive angular palms together.

"Alright everyone. Line up please. Except you Maka, Stein wants you in the infirmary."

Maka quickly grabs her stuff and races towards the infirmary.

Death's voice fades away as Maka retreats into the school. "Now, the goal of the exercise was to resonate with weapons other than you own. BlackStar, you managed to wield every weapon, but you resonated with none of them..."

(O.O)
VVV

Soul is in bad shape. His eyes are peeled back and unblinking. His face is set in a grimace of pain. Nygus meets Maka at the door.

"Soul has been completely unresponsive, and his soul is fading, Stein said that you were able to do something for him during the fight with the Kishin, so he asked Lord Death to fetch you." Nygus sighs. "I don't know what happened, but it seems that Soul is chemically changing all his blood into the black blood. At least he's breathing, for now."

Maka has yet to look away from the corpse-like Soul.

"I'll do my best."

She moves over to Soul, sits down on the bed beside him. He looks so disturbing with his face contorted. She shifts herself right next to his head and presses her forehead against his. Before she could attempt to pull Soul from the shadows, she had a fleeting thought about just how often Soul had saved her.

"So you're willing to die for your meister, huh Soul? Well, if you ever do, I'm going to get Death to give you back." Maka barely breathes the words. Then she attempts to connect soul wavelengths, and is dragged into the darkness.

(O.O)
VVV

Inside of Soul is the ballroom that she had seen twice so far. The first time had been when she was fighting Crona over the Kishin. Then, she had almost been pulled into the madness. This time Soul sits in front of a piano slumped over, unmoving. Maka barely registers that she is wearing a black dress before rushing over and shaking him by the shoulder.

"Soul! Wake up! Wake up Soul!"

He is completely unresponsive.

"Looking for me?" A second Soul appears out of the shadows, looking disdainfully down at her. He had somehow gained an extra foot since she last saw him, which was absurd. "I don't know why. I'm perfectly fine down here, without you around."

"That's a lie. You're completely unresponsive!"

"Maybe my physical body is, but down here, I'm perfectly content to sit here and play my piano. Without you."

"What?"

"For all of your so-called smarts, you seem pretty dim to me. Let me state it clearly. You are a horrible meister. I've done everything I could for you, almost died multiple times, and for what? All I got from the bargain was a scar, black blood, and pain. Since we defeated the Kishin, you've been off in you own little world. Look up Maka! Se the world progressing around you?"

"Soul, I-"

The Soul vocalizing starts to get distraught. "NO! You have talked enough! You and your perfect grades, high and mighty attitude. You are the dumbest meister ever! You don't even care what happens to me, just that I become a death scythe so you can displace your father!"

Maka is visibly crying now. "Soul, I didn't mean it like that! You know that! I do care about you!"

"LIES! You never have, and never will! Even BlackStar would be a better partner, and he sucks!"

"You don't mean that! You can't mean that! He's the one who put you in here!"

"And until you barged in, I was enjoying myself!"

Behind Maka, the first Soul straightens up and raises his hands ready to play, but his face remains locked in place.

"Now, I want you to leave. I want to play." the second Soul says from behind her.

Maka turns around, the frills on her dress making a faint swishing noise. "And what if I don't?"

"Then I'll force you out."

The standing Soul reaches out to the side and turns his arm into the blade now so familiar to Maka. Then he charges her.

She steps around his initial attack, and catches a glimpse of his eyes. The pupils have been replaced with the three vertical eyes of the Kishin Asura.