“Now, make sure you complete your written report and submit it at the beginning of class next Monday after break. When the bell rings, you are excused,” Professor Stein informed indifferently, turning the back supporter of his green cushioned wheel chair in front of him as he scribbled on his lecture notes.
The students of the EAT course celebrated with sighs of relief, some even proclaimed their liberation with loud, obnoxious jubilee such as a certain ex-member of a star clan.
“Yahoo! This is great! We’re finally free from school!” Black*Star exclaimed ecstatically, then turning his attention to his albino best friend who returned with his trade mark, sharp grin in mutual agreement.
“You can say that again,” Soul concurred. He made his way towards Black*Star, his left hand tucked in his infamous red jeans while the other slapped five with his raised hand. “So what’s the plan, Black*Star?”
“We should go out and watch movies tonight at Kid’s place,” Black*Star suggested smugly.
“Going to people’s house without authorization is inconsiderate, Black*Star,” Death the Kid mumbled from the opposite end, crossing his arms over his chest with disapproval after overhearing the duo’s conversation. “You should really learn how to ask rather than barge in at your own pleasure.”
Black*Star made his way towards the reserved, young shinigami and hooked one arm around the boy’s neck and pulled him in, causing the boy to bend at an uncomfortable angle. He protested complaints about his imperfect posture, but Black*Star shrugged it off with his optimistic plans for the upcoming break. “C’mon Kid, it’s just us! After all, we’ve been friends for two years now.”
“Still,” Kid muttered disapprovingly, “Let go of me before I send you to your own grave, you stupid narcissist. You’re destroying my perfect sense of equilibrium!”
Black*Star shrugged, brushing off the tone he usually excused as an aggressive invitation for a fight, a surprise to the audience who witnessed their exchange. It’s hard to believe that the very same Black*Star was once a ruthless, violent meister who picked fights was now mature to be quite a leading example to his younger, power-lacking peers.
“You should know me by now, Kid. I’m the same old Black*Star you bet those years ago.”
“Heh,” Death the Kid closed his eyes as he smirked with amusement, “I highly doubt that, Black*Star.”
Black*Star responded to his comment with confusion with an accompanying, “Eh?”
“Personality wise, you still got it, but in physical and mentality, you’ve grown.”
Black*Star snorted approvingly of his acknowledgement and praises. “You’re not bad yourself, Kid. Just wait until the day I surpass you as god.”
“I’ll be looking forward,” Kid responded evenly, a tense atmosphere arising from the two competitive friends.
“Hang on minute, guys,” Soul interrupted, hoping to disrupt the thick tension by bringing them back to the former subject, “what happened to our plans?”
“Oh yeah!” Black*Star chirped thoughtfully, slapping a hand behind Soul’s back as a sign of gratitude, “What do you say, Kid?”
“Can’t you give me time to prepare?” he protested, “my home is a disorganized, horribly arranged, the pure embodiment of garbage.” He tugged at the hair that clung on to his forehead with desperation and shame.
“What’s wrong with your house? Isn’t it always clean?” Black*Star inquired.
“Today is spring cleaning,” Liz answered several seats away, painting her well polished cuticles with hot pink nail polish. Beside her sat the younger sibling, completely engrossed with her latest master piece with a blue crayon and a blank paper. “I don’t see why we have to go through with it when he’s always got everything at tip top shape.”
“Wee woo! Wee woo! Wee woo!” Patty sang off key as she continued to color.
“Besides, I just painted my nails too,” Liz sighed, “Kid, you’re on your own today.”
Returning their gaze back to the sisters’ meister, Death the Kid was found face planted on the ground, his body contorted in a strange, twitching way. His right arm stretched out in front of him, grasping out to Soul’s leg for assistance while the other hand was bent beside his neck. His legs were slight parted, his left bent, almost in a tucked in manner, while the other was outstretched and pointed. “I cannot go on like this,” he stated, the ground muffling his voice from coherence.
“What was that?” Black*Star asked.
Turning his head to the side, Kid responded in a fast, monotone voice, “I cannot go on like this. Living my life with an uncleanly home, that has not been cleaned for the last week. If I continue living in a home with dust building off in groups of micro-molecules without my consent then I would be living in an infested home of germs. Then those germs will spread about my home without my acknowledgement and I will catch the horrible flu that only humans can inherit. I don’t want to go on knowing that I could catch a pathetic excuse of a disease.”
“Then go home and clean up already!” Liz commanded irritated, “So much for changing.”
Ignoring Liz’s harsh tone, he continued in his monotone, “If I head home right now and succumb to my old ways then I will not be able to surpass my father and become the son he will be proud of.” He paused for breath, his voice shuddering with anxiety and volume as he continued, “If I succumb to my weakness then I will not be a good shinigami for this city. I will be pathetic! Weak! A poor excuse of a death god’s son! Trash! The embodiment of garbage! I don’t deserve to be a shinigami!”
“Hey Kid! Look! Look!” Patty called out, raising a realistic, pillow size, three dimentional whale towards him. “I made you a whale! See! It makes a sound like: weeeeooooohhhhhhhh wooooohhhh shhhh!”
Death the Kid didn’t bother looking up as tears slid down his cheeks and with a muffled wail, a puddle of tears formulated around his face.
“Ooh! You made an ocean for him! Good job, Kid!” Patty exclaimed with a childlike jubilee.
Moments later, the bell finally rang and a crowd of students immediately ran down the stairs and head out the door whilst saying their goodbyes to Professor Stein who waved them off.
In a heart beat, Death the Kid was back to standing and well composed as he walked down the stairs with Liz and Patty following closely behind him.
“Hey! What about the plan!” Black*Star exclaimed, unhappy that their idea had gotten lost within the last several minutes of class.
“Tomorrow,” Death the Kid responded without giving him a second look, “Basketball at four. We’ll discuss our plans later.”
“Sounds good,” Black*Star remarked, tucking his hands behind his head as he made his way down the stairs. He paused in his tracks, turning his head at his albino best friend. “Soul? Are you coming or what?”
“Yeah…” Soul answered, trailing down the stairs with his goofball partner in crime. “You don’t happen to know where Maka is, do you?’
Black*Star shrugged as both made their way down the bustling hallway, “Nope. Last time I saw her, she was talking with Tsubaki. Knowing Maka, she’s probably talking to her about the assignment.”
“Tch,” Soul snorted, “she probably was.”
“Now c’mon, I heard today’s lunch special is fish tacos! Let’s go get some before they’re all gone!” Black*Star nudged impatiently.
“You got it.” Without another word, the duo sprinted down the hallway; violently pushing through the crowd, uncaring that some had been tossed into the air like rag dolls as they raced towards into the mess hall.
He had been searching for Maka during lunch, asking people if they had seen his book worm of a meister going about, but no one had seen her. But to no avail, his search had turn up fruitless.
It was that afternoon at his locker did his meister finally appear before him, encouraging the young albino to return home without her. Before he could protest, she explained that it was her turn to do clean up duty with Tsubaki, and waiting for her will only bore and irritate him. Sighing with indifference, Soul informed Maka that he will hang out with Black*Star for the meantime at his place. After receiving her acknowledgment, Soul wished her a fun time before searching for his big-headed best friend.
Two hours later, Tsubaki returned home with satisfied exhaustion etched on her complexion as she glanced at Black*Star’s consideration to make dinner for the two of them. Sensing that he was overstaying his welcome, Soul drove home, hoping to be welcomed by his very own sight of dinner. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
“I’m home!” Soul called out into the empty flat, tossing his shoes to the side of the door in exchange for slippers. “Maka?”
There was no response to his surprise. The distance from the academy from their home was quite a long travel by foot,and Soul considered going to DWMA hoping to meet Maka halfway as she headed home. He was ready to walk back outside and make his way to the elevator, when he heard a tired call emanate from Maka’s bedroom.
“Soul? You’re back?”
“Yeah, I didn’t expect you to be back early,” he made his way to the baby pink door and opened it to talk to the owner properly, “I thought you have work today, Blair.”
Blair stretched in her kitten form, shaking off the stiff limbs and welcoming the tingling sensation as her blood circulation returned. “I took the morning shift today. I’ll be working late again tomorrow night.”
“I see,” Soul nodded. “By the way, have you seen Maka?”
“Maka?” Blair asked, as she jumped off the meister’s well made bed, “Nyah. She was here just a moment ago.”
“Where did she go?”
“I don’t know,” Blair shrugged, “she came in when I was in a middle of a nap and left quickly.”
Concern flashed in Soul’s eyes before turning his attention to the ground.
“Did you guys have a fight again?”
Soul shook his head, distraught, “Not that I know of. I mean it’s just the usual at school.” Soul dug a hand in his pocket, his fingers brushing against the cool silver ring that held his keys. Ducking out of the door he stated, “I’m going to look for her.”
“Soul, wait!” Blair cried.
Soul stopped in his tracks, peeking his head back into his meister’s bedroom to face the trotting purple kitten on the floor. “What, Blair?”
“Bu-tan’s hungry,” she whined.
“Go make dinner for yourself,” the albino shrugged off.
“No! I don’t know how, Soul! Please! Feed Bu-tan!”
“For crying out loud, Blair, you’re a full grown woman. Cook for yourself!”
“But Bu-tan’s hungry!”
“I need to go look for--”
“I can hear you guys from outside,” a soprano firm voice stated.
“Maka!” Blair exclaimed, “Bu-tan’s hungry and Soul’s not making me food. He wants me to die!”
“Soul,” Maka chastised, “it’s your night too. Why do you think I sent you home early? Did you over stay at Black*Star’s again?”
“I thought today is your turn,” Soul responded. “It’s Friday after all.”
“Oh!” Maka sighed, smacking a palm to her forehead, “Crap, you’re right. It’s my turn. Sorry.” Maka made her way to the kitchen, snatching an orange apron off the hook and wrapping it hurriedly around her petite waist. “What do you want for dinner?”
With an excited squeal, Blair jumped on the counter and on to Maka’s shoulder, purring against her cheek to show her gratitude.
“Where were you?” Soul interrogated.
“I was cleaning up,” Maka answered, then turning her attention to the kitten, “so pasta tonight?” Maka received another purr from Blair for her approval.
“After that, Maka,” Soul continued, “why did you come home early?”
Maka froze for a split second before shrouding it with a shrug. She allowed the silence to loom for several seconds before she finally answered, “I went back to the academy.”
“Why didn’t you wait for me, Maka? Do you know how dangerous it is for a girl to roam the streets at night?”
“I’m trained, Soul,” Maka retorted evenly, “I’m a meister.”
“You weren’t armed, if you haven’t recalled.”
“I can handle it,” the sandy haired girl retorted harshly, turning her attention to the counter that held the ingredients as Blair jumped off her shoulder, scampering off to Maka’s bedroom, waiting for the premature storm to pass.
With a swift movement, Soul held Maka at her spot, both hands planted on the counter either side of her waist. “Don’t lie to me, Maka.”
The meister flinched at his menacing tone, but met his eyes with a determined stare, one that she always used upon her opponents during countless battles on extracurricular missions. With an even tone she bluntly stated, “You trust me, right Soul?”
Soul stared into her emerald eyes evenly, probing her eyes for other emotions other than her irritation. For a moment, he saw them waiver and a brief glimpse of pain clouded the surface. The weapon continued to hold his position, trying his best to maintain unaffected by Maka’s emerald orbs, but failed miserably. With his head slightly hung forward and a sigh, he responded, “I do.”
The flash of pain remained in her eyes, no matter how much she tried to cover it up with determination. She closed her eyes, sighing with growing irritation and stated, “For the third time, if you don’t back away from me, I swear I will pour that pot over your head.” Soul immediately pulled back, unaware that he had zoned out from hearing her threat.
He didn’t feel like playing good cop and bad cop anymore, for he feared that his interrogation will only bring back that glimmer of pain in her green eyes, and that’s the last thing he ever wanted to do to Maka. With a quiet request to be called for dinner and a silent nod from his meister, Soul returned to his room, frazzled and unsure.
“Kid and I will be captains!” Black*Star volunteered.
“Don’t go around claiming things without my permission!” Death the Kid exclaimed.
“Lighten up, Kid,” Soul punched his shoulder in a friendly manner, “today’s bets aren’t bad.” Kid’s face brightened up to a hopeful glow.
“Except rearranging your home according to my taste!” Black*Star jerked a thumb to himself triumphantly while the shinigami’s face contorted into the infamous scream painting, shattering his hope. “Oh? Are you giving up before you even try, Kid?” Black*Star taunted, “Are you that lowly of a god?”
The taunt caused Death the Kid to sneer at the ninja with an irritated nature. “I’ll make you eat your words.”
“Heh, like that’s ever going to happen,” the narcissist ninja scoffed.
“Now teams,” Soul continued.
“Soul,” Black*Star claimed.
“Patty,” Kid answered.
“Tsubaki.” His partner weapon skipped to her meister’s side.
“Nope,” the tall brunette rejected in a beat.
“But Liz,” Kid whined.
“I just re-did my nails this morning after I helped you out yesterday, Kid,” Liz answered. “Nothing will get met to play.”
Black*Star muffled his guffaw as Kid sighed with irritation, “Ma--”
“No,” she replied.
“But the team will be asymmetrical!” Kid exclaimed, “Maka you must play, for my sake.”
“I know you don’t want me on your team anyways,” Maka answered from her book, “just play two on three like you usually do.” A second later, the book she was reading was tossed aside and she was dragged onto the court. “No! No! No! No! No! Soul! Stop! I don’t want to play!” she protested.
“You need more exercise, bookworm. It’s not healthy to read all day.”
“How many times do I have to tell you that I can’t play basketball?”
“You’ll learn,” he sneered.
With a sigh of defeat, Maka crossed her arms as she stood beside Kid’s team.
“Who’ll toss the ball?” Kid asked.
“Tsubaki will,” Soul answered.
“On a count of three,” Black*Star finished. “One… two… three!”
“Hah! How do you like that, Kid?! I told you I will surpass you!” Black*Star guffawed, a thumb thrust forward to proudly boast his achievement. Meanwhile, Kid was on the ground on all four, his head hung forward as tears trickled down his cheeks.
Maka carefully approached the broken shinigami, a hand shook as she carefully guided it on the young boy’s shoulder. “Kid? I’m sorry…”
The young shinigami turned to his teammate, his lower teeth bit into his upper lip, forming a pointed ‘n’ as more tears streamed down his face. “I-it’s alright,” he comforted in a high pitch squeak, cracking on the last word “I-it’s not your fault.” He fell flat on his face, both hands clutched to his asymmetrical hair as he continued to wail about his incompetence.
“Shut up will ya?” Black*Star snapped, folding his arms over his chest in a disappointed manner, “Besides the punishment ain’t bad.”
“Really?” A spark of hope returned to Kid’s gold eyes.
“Yeah, yeah,” Black*Star brushed off.
“You’re treating all of us for Death Bucks Café,” Soul smirked approvingly, “that shouldn’t be bad for you.”
“You’re serious? That’s my punishment?” Kid asked, emotionless.
“Unless you want your home to be--”
“No complaints here!” Kid exclaimed, cutting Black*Star from sharing horrible imaginations that would inflict on his beloved home, “Let’s go! My treat!”
Soul and Black*Star slapped five while the others nodded, ecstatic with the treatment. It was a good deal after all.
“Sho ish gray tuh ee ow like—gulp—this, huh, Soul?”
The ruby eyed albino stared at his dinner inattentively, stabbing his fork in the juicy strawberry. He enjoyed the sweet taste of victory while it lasted, but his mind was set elsewhere within the room rather than the delectable slice of strawberry cheese cake set before him. He was staring at his plate idling, although his true motives were sneaking sly glimpses at his occupied meister. Maka was enjoying herself as she conversed about ambiguous subjects with her friends. But from time to time, she often paused to glance at a clock replica of Lord Death’s mask set above the small bar. She was relaxed for the most part, a wave or relief washed through her eyes as she continued her conversation with Tsubaki and Liz. But now that the time was nearing a quarter to nine, her body began to tense in a way that Soul recognized as her panic mode.
Before Soul could interrogate Maka, a sharp jab pulled his attention to his concerned best friend.
“What?” Soul inquired blankly.
“I was just saying that it’s great to be treated like this every once in a while.”
“Yeah,” Soul nodded, connecting a fist bump with his ninja best friend. After the short exchange, Maka rose from her seat with a napkin to clean her stained fingers as she announced her departure.
“Leaving already?” Death the Kid questioned.
“You shouldn’t push yourself too much, Maka,” Tsubaki advised, concerned.
“Yeah,” her meister added, “You should relax! It’s break after all! It’s not like Stein will show up at your place with a pop quiz!”
“Huh. Funny, Black*Star,” Maka retorted as she tucked her chair back in. “It’s not studying, so don’t worry. It’s just a little errand I have to do before I go home tonight.”
Soul stood up, ready to follow suit when Maka interrupted his actions with a hand to his shoulder, “You can stay, Soul. You don’t really wanna go home now, do you?”
“It’s just a short errand,” Maka cut off, “I’ll see you in the morning.” With a thank you to Kid for the treat and a wave to the others, Maka headed out into the cool night.
The students watched as Maka strode away with her hands folded behind her back through the large, narrow, elliptical window. Once she was out of view, they turned their attention to the puzzled weapon with one thought imprinted on their thoughts.
“Did you guys fight again?” Tsubaki inquired, speaking on behalf of their colleagues.
Soul kept a composed posture when his mind was also mystified by Maka’s strange behavior. “I don’t know.”
“Well, did you guys have a fight yesterday?” Liz rephrased.
That, he nodded. “It was brief.”
“Care to explain?” Death the Kid encouraged.
Soul shrugged once more as a hand made its way through the back of his long, unruly snow locks of hair. “Yesterday, I hung out with Black*Star while our partners worked on their chore assignments at DWMA. When Tsubaki showed up, I decided to meet Maka at home, but she wasn’t there when I arrived. After twenty minutes, she finally showed up.”
“Huh…” the young shinigami mused, a hand scratching his pale chin.
“Hmm…” Black*Star replicated a similar action, intrigued with the problem.
“When I asked about it, she replied if I trusted her. Afterwards she threatened to dump hot water on me. I didn’t press her after that.”
“Sounds fishy,” Black*Star answered while his lips pursed obnoxiously, mirroring a certain cartoon of a mob boss’s lips. His mind unintentionally played the annoying nasal answer, nyerh say, nyerh, as his mind’s way of agreeing with the assassin’s statement.
Liz folded her arms, as a foot bounced impatiently, waiting for something to happen. Her younger sibling, on the other hand, grinned smugly as she tugged on Tsubaki’s arm to whisper a furtive idea.
“It does, doesn’t it?” Death the Kid wondered.
With a frustrated sigh, Liz declared, “Hello? Don’t you think she’s sneaking out to meet someone?”
Black*Star and Soul shared a side glance before bursting into several rounds of guffaws. “Nice joke, Liz! You almost had me there!”
“It’s Maka we’re talking about. That will never happen!”
“No, think about it,” Liz persuaded, “what’s with her late night disappearance. I mean, that’s not normal, right Soul?”
After the amusement died down and a finger to wipe a euphoric tear from the edges of his eyes, Soul answered, “Not really.” Liz blinked several times to express her puzzlement. “Every year at the beginning of break, Maka disappears for majority of the day and returns home late. I never really thought about it until recently.”
“But what for?” Tsubaki asked.
“I’m not sure myself,” Soul shrugged. “She used to tell me that it was because of her assignment, but I'm sure that's just a cover up. Has she made plans with you of Professor Stein's project, Tsubaki?" The dark haired weapon shook her head.I see..., Soul nodded to his accurate assumption. "And in any case, that wouldn't explain why she would return home flustered, her hair down, and smelling like she came straight from one of those fancy parties.”
Liz and Tsubaki shared a mirror of alarming disbelief before turning their attention to Soul.
“Doesn’t that tell you something?” Liz interrogated, astonished by his dense observation.
“What?” Black*Star replied in Soul’s stead, “I’m just as confused as he is.”
“You can’t seriously come up with an explanation for her disappearance?” Liz continued, turning to Death the Kid for any hints to offer the two idiots, “Kid?”
“Ah,” Death the Kid exclaimed, a fist landing on top of the palm of his other hand. “It all makes sense.”
Liz glowed with hope, “Go for it.”
“Ahem,” Kid cleared his throat whilst Tsubaki and Liz huddled behind him, their upper body leaning towards the young shinigami as a preparation for a big hug for grasping the correct answer. “She secretly hangs out with those rich, popular cliques behind our back.”
“Ugh,” Tsubaki and Liz groaned, tumbling from behind due to having their hope shot down along with their rewarding gesture. With a palm to her face, Liz called out to her sister to exclaim their shared thoughts.
“Maka has a boyfriend! Maka has a boyfriend! Maka has a boyfriend!” Patty exclaimed ecstatically.
“We just went over that, Liz,” Black*Star sighed, “It’s Maka--”
“It’s been three years, Black*Star. Maka has been growing to be quite a catch in school. I can assume that you haven’t been paying attention lately,” Liz sighed.
“You know what they say: the late blooming become the most beautiful of all,” Tsubaki added.
Liz nodded before exclaiming, “Wait! So how long has it been going on like this, Soul?”
“Since I’ve met her?” Soul answered hesitantly.
“What if it’s a secret lover she’s been hiding from us all along!” Liz proclaimed, “I can see it now.”
Soul grew awkward as the conversation progressed between the two women, until he finally decided to excuse himself to find her. With a short good luck, Soul headed out of the café shop, his hands shoved into his dark jeans.
As Soul’s figure disappeared into the night, Black*Star nudged the gold eyed boy, “Hey I bet you that something’s going on with the two of them and this whole thing was Maka’s idea to lure him out.”
“I don’t think Maka’s the type of person to do that,” Death the Kid answered.
“Well you never know. After all, Soul’s feelings are pretty transparent when he’s around her,” Black*Star grinned smugly. “There could be something going on at their home.”
Tsubaki flushed furiously at Black*Star’s suggestion, stuttering, “T-t-that’s l-lecherous of you, Black*Star! I-I-I can’t imagine Maka t-to do such a t-thing!”
“Oh? But that’s where you’re wrong, Tsubaki,” Black*Star pointed out. Tsubaki arched an eye with inquiry, “See, I know you thought about it. No need to hide it. After all you were the last one to transform during the book of Eibon.”
A painful slap raked across the blue haired ninja’s face, winding air from his lungs, and ultimately landing on the hard ground with a moaning, “Ow…”
Patty stood in front of him, her hands poised on her hips disapprovingly as she states, “That’s mean, Black*Star! Apologize to Tsubaki!”
Rising up from the floor with a hand to rub the throbbing bruise forming at the back of his head and from his cheek, Black*Star called his partner’s name to meet her flustered, hurt expression. “I deserved that. I should really watch what I say, sometimes. I’m sorry, Tsubaki.”
The atmosphere between the two thickened as the silence loomed for several seconds, before subsiding to its usual neutral state. After several more moments, the pain in Tsubaki’s eyes reverted to their original, glowing shine, a hand offered to help her meister.
Death the Kid shook his head disappointedly as he watched the exchange, but his lips betrayed him with a small smile. “Well, let’s just leave it at that for now. I’m sure they’ll tell us when they get to it.”
They could be right, he thought to himself. Why hadn’t he noticed before? Perhaps Maka had a lover and hid it from him on purpose. Did he already lose her trust? He never really thought about her peculiar behavior, but lately he’s been growing worried with her disappearance, especially since the Kishin’s revival. He didn’t like the thought that Maka was roaming the streets without him, nor the secrets she hid from him. He deserved to know too, right?
Looking back, he recalled Maka was out working on something—she informed him during class—important, and the albino would shrug it off as her usual late night shopping for supplies for the upcoming projects. Now that he thought of it thoroughly, he didn’t recall Maka carrying home supplies let alone her project when ever she returned late. She was still dressed in her usual school attire, her hair down, expression a bit flustered, and a sweet fragrance always clung to her, one that reminded him of something his mother or other women would wear at fancy restaurants. Liz was right, something peculiar was definitely going on and whatever it was, he intends to find out.
His footstep echoed the eerie, dark streets of Death City as he roamed idly for the last several minutes. Because he believed that Maka’s errand would be short, Soul headed home to check if she had arrived. With a call of her name, Soul waited for her soft response, but alas another feminine voice replied to the call.
“Why are you still here, Blair? Aren’t you late?” Soul hollered.
“I’m just about to go, Soul!” Blair waltzed into the living room, dressed up in her usual short, black dress. Soul couldn't help but compare the attire to an upside down umbrella whenever she wore it. “Nyah? I thought Maka was with you.”
“She said she would do a short errand. I didn’t expect her to take this long… I even took the long route home,” Soul commented.
“Could it be because of yesterday’s fight?” Blair considered.
Soul shook his head rigorously before making his way to the coat hanger that held his black jacket. He tugged the article off and hurriedly wore it to shake off the cool breeze that clung to his shivering body. With a hand jabbed into one of its coat pocket, Soul fished out his keys stating, “Lock the door before you leave. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
With a questioning, “Nyah?” Soul slammed the door, made a beeline to the elevator, and to his parked vehicle.
“Have you seen a girl with sandy hair tied up into pigtails—like this” Soul’s hands gripped a handful of his hair above his ears and scrunched them into a messy replica of his meisters, “green eyes and light skin?”
The worker behind the cashier stared at the young albino with a hard stare, his mind reeling the faces of all his customers of the day. He tapped his chin thoughtfully for several seconds before snapping his fingers. “Yeah, I think I know who you’re talking about.”
“She goes by Maka Albarn.”
“Yup, she’s a regular customer here,” the cashier nodded. “She purchased a book here half an hour ago.”
A book of all the time of the world… “Do you know where she went?”
“I’m not sure,” the cashier responded despondently, “but it looks like she was heading to the academy.”
“Alright, thanks.” Without wasting another second, Soul ran back to his motorcycle and drove straight to the academy.
“Maka?!” Soul hollered. “Maka!”
It was strange to visit the school at night when students and staffs were nowhere in sight. From where he stood, Soul noticed how the city’s gothic architecture along with the grinning moon’s rays gave off an eerie, bone chilling atmosphere; it’s almost as if the entire setting came straight out of a horror movie. At times like this, Soul wished that he acquired Maka’s soul perception instead of running amuck in a wild goose chase. But on a positive note, at least he still had their bond, the only connection that linked the duo together. Suddenly an epiphany struck him: the bond. Yes, he could search for her that way. With a palm to his face he chastised himself, why hadn’t I thought of this before?
Brushing his mini disappointing event aside, Soul concentrated on their link, allowing it to guide him straight to his meister as if they were attracting magnets. He walked for several moments in silence as the bond led him to the back of the school, one he wasn’t very familiar with. As his eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he could make out the outline of a flat, glass shaped shack. Curious, the boy abandoned the bond and approached the unfamiliar building of his own accord. He made his way to what appeared to be the entrance cautiously, turning his head sideways in case a staff decided to pop out of nowhere; it was their style after all. He approached the doors more confidently when a couple minutes passed. It was then he realized that the doors were open with a small crack—possibly forgotten to be closed all the way, he assumed. Soul placed a hand on the door and gently swung it open, peering into the room with narrowed slits. He noticed one spot in particular, where the moon’s beam poured from the dark, night sky like a ray of light and into a bed of budding flowers. What caught his eyes was a familiar, sandy haired girl sitting with a pot of the same plant beside her. Without bothering to hide his presence, Soul approached her with shuffling footsteps.
The girl whipped around, astonished and embarrassed by his presence. “Soul…”
“I didn’t know DWMA had a green house,” Soul commented, taking his seat beside his meister underneath the moonlight. “Is this some sort of secret garden?”
Maka nod her head, a small smile making its way to her lips. With a soft whisper her voice shuddered, “It was.”
Soul glanced at Maka, his face approaching hers in an uncomfortable manner. “Hey what are you--”
“What’s wrong, Maka? Why are you crying?”
“What are you talking about?” Maka attempted to rub her eyes with her dusty gloves when Soul held her wrists mid way. Maka struggled to release herself from his grip, but it was no use, shaking his hold would be just as futile as to remove iron shackles without a key. Soul bunched her hands together in her lap, while his free hand wiped away the tears from her eyes. He held one of the droplets in front of her, to emphasize his observation. “No! No! I wasn’t crying. I was yawning! You see, it’s pretty late and I’m usually not the type to stay out this--”
“Liar,” Soul stated.
“I-It’s the truth! I-I swear!”
“You can’t hide it from me, Maka. I know you,” Soul sighed upset, “but if you intend to hide it from me, then fine. I won’t ask.”
Guiltily, Maka stared into Soul’s wounded scarlet orbs before chewing on her lips. For several moments, the silence continued to loom in the peaceful atmosphere. Soul waited patiently for her reply, but sighed once more before releasing her grip. He was getting ready to leave when Maka’s soft tone stopped him.
“It’s my parents.” Touchy subject.
Soul turned to Maka, hesitantly, his ruby eyes connected with her emeralds without words, imploring if it was okay to stay and listen. Maka nodded and Soul responded by turning towards her. When she sensed that Soul was giving her his complete, undivided attention, she began her tale.
“Papa pursued so many women when he was younger, especially when he was Mama’s partner. Mama used to tell me that she hated Papa for blowing off during training. He would always apologize to her later that day and promised to make it up to her.” A small smile tugged at her lips, “She did. She held him accountable for working five hours a day. He would go through hell.” Soul winced at Maka’s sadistic charisma, but uttered nothing for fear of his very own life. Back to a soft volume Maka continued, “It didn’t matter how many times he would go through hell. Papa would never learn his lesson... One day, Mama received a love letter in her locker from a mysterious person and he told her to meet her here late at night. At the time, the green house was brand new.” Maka tapped the cold floor gently. “It wasn’t signed, and Mama was tempted to rip the paper and ignore the message, but her curiosity got the best of her. Since Papa wasn’t home to stop her, she was free to leave their home. And so, Mama came here that night and found a dark silhouette of a man. But because it was dark, she couldn’t make out who it was, except for the white plant in his arms. The stranger activated that switch,” Maka gestured to a glass that covered a red button, “and the roof began to move, allowing the moon’s light to wash in. It was then Mama saw Papa, holding the plant.” Maka paused to reach for her own bulb plant. “He told her that he saved a lot of money just to buy her this flower, a Lilium Casablanca. ‘It’s a special lily that symbolizes purity of the heart, happiness, serenity, innocence, and sweetness,’ he told Mama. And according to the book, the flower is very expensive for its cultivation and is often used in weddings and other special occasions because of its elegance appearance and fragrance.”
“Really…” Soul mused.
Maka nodded, “Mama showed me this place when I was three. She said Papa made this from his own two hands in order for the Casablancas to survive the desert’s extreme temperature. Because these flowers are part of the lilies family, they can withstand against the weather’s fluctuation against certain high extent, but require an eight week period in order to store up nutrients and energy, like the winter… they should have bloomed last night, but they didn’t.”
“Wait, so they bloom at night?” Soul gaped, “I thought all flowers bloomed in the sunlight.”
“I thought so too,” Maka agreed, “but it wasn’t until I saw these.” Maka’s eyes gleamed with awe as she stared at the bulb, “Mama used to tell me that they bloomed because of magic…” with a soft chuckle she added, “but as of now, it doesn’t seem like I own as much of the magic I used to own.”
“It’s the weather,” Soul repeated, staring at the lily idling. “Back home, my family owned a garden too. When I was watching one of our gardeners tending the flowers, they told me the flowers usually bloom when the temperature is warmer.” With a smirk, he met Maka’s intrigued orbs, “You didn’t happen to check the weather today, have you?” Maka shook her head, entranced. “Tch, silly girl,” Soul clucked as he ruffled Maka’s flowing, tangled hair, “tonight’s supposed to be warmer.”
An eye closed from Soul’s contact while the other stared at him questioningly and flustered, but Maka didn’t bother brushing his touch aside. A quick sneeze interrupted Maka before she could utter a protest. Afterwards, a second one followed, and then another one.
“Geeze, how long have you been out here, anyways?” Soul inquired, noting how cold Maka’s hair felt against his warm hands. He shrugged off his black jacket without consenting his meister for his actions.
“An hour,” she sniffled, unaware of his doing. But when she felt those familiar hands tuck his warm jacket over her shivering frame, she muttered a soft gratitude. “What time is it?”
“Ten thirty,” Soul replied.
“It should be blooming soon,” Maka yawned.
“You should be sleeping by now, Maka,” Soul commented, “Do you want to lean on my shoulder for a bit?”
“Is it okay with you?” his meister beseeched. Soul nodded, scooting closer to his meister so she would be able to rest comfortably and still remain underneath the moon’s soft illumination. Now that he was close to her, Soul finally noticed what Liz and Tsubaki were pointing out. Maka had grown more mature, her face was a lovely heart shape, her cheeks were coated with a crimson tint, and her lips were molding into a beautiful shape resembling to Cupid’s bow. She was, indeed growing up to beautiful young lady.
“Soul!” she whispered alarmingly, “Soul! Look!” At her command, Soul watched as the small bulb slowly reacted to the moon’s light. The petals slowly opened, to reveal several stamens and pistols poking from the center. With breathtaking awe, Soul continued to watch the flower take its sweet time to search about the room for the source of light and turning to face the sky within its process. This was the first time Soul had ever experienced watching a flower bloom, and indeed, it was an amazing sight to behold.
“Wow…” he whispered underneath his breath. It was then he was enveloped in a whirlwind of rich, sweet fragrance. The albino was used to inhaling several brands of perfume from fancy parties he participated as a child, but never had he ever smelled something purely organic. “So this is why you smelled so… appealing.”
He waited for Maka to question him for his diction, but instead, she replied with soft, deep breaths as she slept peacefully into his arms. With a tender smile, Soul wrapped an arm around her body protectively, while the other lifted a hand to play with Maka’s soft, long tresses with appreciation before turning his attention back to the fully bloomed Lilium Casablanca.
With a smirk he whispered to the air, “Not bad, old man.” Then with a soft chuckle he added, “Thanks for these beautiful flowers.”