King Spirit Albarn sat on his throne, bored. There were several advisors and heads of guilds sitting at a table before him, bickering over policies and politics, and he hated it. It wasn't interesting.
The king was a taller man in his early 30's with a lean frame. His blood-red hair fell to just brush his shoulders and his green eyes sat half-lidded. He was dressed in kingly attire in the form of black pants made of cotton, a blue dress shirt, and a purple, fur-lined cape. A crown of gold with alternating rubies and sapphires rested on his head, said head resting on the palm on his left hand. The king sighed and glanced out the window on his left where he could see his knights training.
In the centermost ring far below, Spirit could make out Black*Star's distinctive hair color. He was facing another person around his height, both he and the unknown figure each holding a scythe. Spirit blinked. He didn't remember there being any new recruits in any of the reports he'd read over the past week, but that wasn't really surprising with the amount of reports that passed him on a daily basis. No, what was surprising was the choice of weapon. Few, if any, of his current knights used scythes because they needed open space to be effective, so fighting in halls would be difficult if not impossible.
Of course, he knew that Black*Star was proficient with scythes; the young Captain had mastered every weapon he could get his hands on simply because he wanted to be the best at everything. The other person, however, looked nothing like a knight now that the king thought about it. They were wearing what looked like a blue tunic from that distance and had soft brown hair. If he squinted, Spirit was able to make out pig... tails...
"Maka?!" The king's sudden gasp caught the debating men in the room off guard, bringing their discussion to a floundering halt. Spirit abandoned his seat and royal coat, rushing to the window and pressing his face against it. Down below, Maka mirrored Black*Star's movements, turning her bladed weapon in a slow circle.
What did she think she was doing?! Weapons are dangerous! Spirit had been sure that he'd told her to never pick up a weapon! And what the Hell was she doing outside the castle?!
His duties and expected mannerisms forgotten, King Spirit bolted from the room, leaving the door flapping on its hinges in his haste. The king ran the entire way down to the training grounds without pause. The door to the outside nearly busted as it disgourged the red-haired king at a flat-out sprint.
"Get down!" Black*Star yelled, everyone within hearing range following the order and flinging themselves away from the man's path. Maka, too, threw herself to the ground, barely avoiding the flying tackle/hug her father was trying to catch her with. The king's momentum carried him forward into a training dummy, straw and wood flying as the man collided with the poor object. The king and the dummy went down in a cloud of dust.
"What was that about?" Black*Star asked, eyeing the cloud as Maka and Tsubaki walked over to him, also watching the pile for movement.
"King Spirit does this whenever he believes that his daughter is in danger," Tsubaki offered. At her side, Maka grumbled something about flying birthday pastries. "And sometimes when she's not," Tsubaki added. The dust cloud shifted, clearing away to reveal the king covered in dust and straw, standing with his hands on his hips and a mix of anger, relief, and some other unknown emotion on his face.
"Maka?" the girl's father questioned. "What is the meaning of this? What are you doing outside of the castle with a scythe?"
"I am learning to defend myself," the princess answered stiffly, undeterred by the older man's sharp gaze.
"And why would you need to defend yourself?" Spirit asked. "We have knights for that."
Maka sighed. "Listen, Papa." Spirit seemed to melt, something that happened whenever his daughter used that name for him. Unfortunately, he still stood firm on matters when he believed them to influence Maka's safety. "Look, Papa, Sid called this thing a Soul Weapon. I'm the only one that can lift it."
"So," Maka continued, annoyed, "I am not just going to let it go and waste away up in my chambers. I want to learn."
"I will not let you," the king denied. "Weapons are too dangerous. And a person of your stature and state should not be training to be a warrior."
"You cannot stop me, Papa. I have made up my mind."
"I said no," Spirit reaffirmed, holding out his hand. "Give it here."
Maka smirked, having seen this situation twice before. She handed over her weapon and watched with stifled laughter as the king was dragged roughly to the dirt. There was scattered laughter from the knights, but that was quickly silenced by a general glare from the king. He pulled, trying to drag the bladed weapon away.
"Yeowch!" he cried, dropping the weapon as it shocked him. He growled and stomped on the scythe only for another charge to jump through him. "This blade is cursed!" the king declared, his voice falling into a kingly tone. "I know not where you got this, Maka, but it is messing with your mind! I am locking it away."
"You can try," the princess responded, "but there is no one here that could lift it save for I."
"Impossible," Spirit denied. "No mere weapon could best a courtyard of knights."
"But this is no mere weapon, Papa," Maka replied. "Why don't we make a bet? I will give up learning to wield this scythe if any man here can carry it to the armory. But if they cannot, if no man can accomplish that, then you will not interfere in my practice."
The king seemed to think on it. His head tilted, weighing the risk, before he seemed to come to a decision.
"Fine," Spirit answered. "We will have this wager. Men!" The knights snapped to attention. "I will not force you to try and take part in our bet, but the person who manages to fulfill my end, that is to say, the one who carries this scythe to the armory, shall be allowed to purchase all new equipment without worry of cost. I will pay for their armor and weapon personally."
The knights, who had previously shied away from the argument between the royals, suddenly clambered forward, the promise of personal armor without price drawing them like moths to a flame. A minute of small arguments and scuffles resulted in a disorderly but recognizable line leading to the blade on the ground. Only a handful of knights, including Black*Star, did not join. They watched as each warrior attempted to lift the weapon, but the furthest any of the knights got was lifting the handle and dragging the blade a few inches before being shocked.
"Captain Black*Star?" the king questioned, knowing of both the boy's immense physical strength and his drive to be the best. "Will you not take part in this contest of strength? This is not like you."
"I already tried, Your Majesty," the man responded, his boisterous ego gone in the face of his king. "I could only hold it for a second, and that was because it was handed to me. I am not too big a man to deny that I failed." Spirit frowned. It seemed he would be losing this wager.
Near the end of the courtyard, a purple cat moved through an open window, jumping down onto the grass
"I do not like this," the king growled, the last of the knights having already failed in their quest. "An unliftable weapon reeks of magic. And you know of the sigma of Witches."
"But it is not unliftable," the princess rebuffed, reclaiming her weapon from the ground without problem. "As you can see, I am able to lift it."
"That does nothing but make it worse," Spirit muttered. "Very well. You have my permission to continue these," he grimaced, "training sessions, but I want you to speak to Stein at least once a week to be sure there are no negative effects."
He was, of course, speaking of the court physician Frankin Stein, a man who had been a doctor in a neighboring kingdom until they drove him out for experimenting on criminals. Spirit's father, the previous king, had welcomed him in for his expertise on the condition that he stave off his want of experimentation except for criminals bound for execution. Since then, crime rates had dropped dramatically, resulting in the good doctor experimenting on himself.
Maka scowled. She did not like Stein very much; he was rather creepy and a bit crazy, but if it was necessary...
"Fine," she relented. "I'll do it." A startled look came over Spirit's face. Apparently he didn't think that his daughter would accept that condition, but he quickly schooled his features.
"Good, but, ah, take a knight or two whenever you go." He nodded before walking off, glancing back every few steps. Finally, he left, allowing the princess to release a breath she didn't know she he been holding.
"Man!" Black*Star laughed. "You must really want this training if you're agreeing to go see that weirdo!"
"Whatever," the princess scowled. "Let's just-" There was a pawing at her leg. "Oh. Hello, Blair." She bent down, setting aside her weapon to pick the cat up. The feline glanced at the scythe as if in confusion before wiggling out of Maka's hold. Landing on all fours, Blair walked over to the blade and tapped on the metal. There was a shimmer, causing the cat to jump back. For only a moment, an outline of a human seemed to appear in the blade before the image faded. Cocking her head, the cat wearily approached and tapped the scythe again, but nothing happened.
"Oh dear, would you look at that?" Tsubaki announced quickly. "It's almost lunchtime! We should hurry, Princess. We don't want to miss getting the fresh ingredients!" Tsubaki swept up the purple animal, not letting go even though it struggled. She hurried off with Blair in her arms.
"Huh?" Black*Star grunted. "What's got her so riled up?"
"I don't know," Maka shrugged. "She's been acting funny since I found the scythe."
"You think it's something to do with that?"
"I'm not sure," Maka answered, "but I'm going to get to the bottom of it."
Tsubaki would answer none of her questions. Try as she might, Maka was never able to pry an actual response from her maid. She'd answer with shrugs, deflections, and "I don't know"s, none of which the princess believed for a second. Even so, Maka chose to drop the matter, but she never stopped watching the older girl whenever the scythe was involved, which was quite often since the princess had started carrying it whenever she wanted to go out. It was a combination of endless pestering and Black*Star's good reports that finally caused King Spirit to crack and allow Maka to go out into the town, but she was only allowed out if she had her weapon with her. And, of course, Tsubaki was expected to be at her side.
Despite the happiness of her newfound freedom, Maka was still wary of her maid's lies and redirections. The princess sometimes caught Tsubaki staring at the weapon when she thought no one was watching, a look of sad confusion on her face. And whenever a cat hissed at the scythe or light glinted off of it, the maid would flinch as if expecting it to explode.
Three months of this passed. Maka's skill in handling the scythe was prodigious and soon she was at a level capable of defeating nearly all of the knights around her. Only Black*Star maintained a perfect record against the young princess. She never went to see Stein and her father never mentioned it, so he probably hadn't checked it with the physician either, which was just as well. Still, Maka was convinced Tsubaki knew something about her weapon that she did not, so she set a trap...
"Princess," the maid called, opening the door to Maka's chamber at half past seven like she did every morning, and stepped into the room. The last three months had been some of the most stressful of her young life and she felt like that day would be no different. The maid lived in constant fear that the Scythe her mistress had found would awaken and transform at the most inopportune time, revealing the existence of Weapons to the common people after 300 years of hiding. She knew it would happen one day; Maka's soul and that of the Weapon would connect in a Resonance at some point, rousing the Weapon from its slumber. Not only would she not know what to tell her mistress, but what would she say to the Scythe, one of the royal line thought to have been killed off during the Weapons Purge? Shaking the thoughts from her mind, Tsubaki took another step into the room.
Maka's chamber was orderly as it always was, but the bedsheets were crumpled. The Scythe now rested at an angle over the head of the bed, supported by two arched bars set into the wall, one where the blade met the handle and the other a foot down to hold it in place. The tops of both bars were open to allow removal of the weapon. The princess, however, was not to be seen.
"Maka?" Tsubaki questioned. "Where are you?" The door creaked, closing behind her. The maid whirled around to find her friend and mistress leaning on the door, already fully clothed for the day in a short dress to allow free leg movement in a red color.
"Tsubaki," Maka stated, no room for denial in her tone. "You will answer my questions."
"I-I've already said I d-don't know anything."
"We both know that's a lie, Tsubaki. Now what's going on?"
"Please, Maka," Tsubaki begged, backing up a couple steps. "Don't ask this of me. You may not like the answers. Just forget that I know anything."
"Tsubaki..." Maka glared at her friend. "You know I don't like pulling the Royal card on my friends, but so help me..."
"Maka..." Tsubaki whimpered before relenting under her superior's stare. "Please. Promise me that what you learn won't affect things between us."
"I promise, Tsubaki," the princess agreed. "Does this have something to do with my scythe?"
The maid sighed. "Yes, it does. I take it you've asked Sid about the Soul Weapon Legends?"
"Some of them. I've heard about King Arthur and his sword Excalibur, Thor and his Thunder Hammer Miölnir, and Perseus and his sword Riptide. What do you know that everyone else doesn't?"
"I know where they came from. The Weapons, that is." Maka's eyes widened, but Tsubaki rushed forward before she could comment. "Long ago, Soul Weapons had another name. They were called Demon Weapons."
"Demon Weapons?" Maka parroted. "Why were they called that?"
"It's because they ate souls." Maka gasped, her eyes flashing to the still scythe over her bed. "No, no," Tsubaki denied before the girl could ask her question. "You're safe. They only eat corrupt souls. Oh, Death, I'm not explaining this very well."
"What are you trying to say?"
"Well, they, or maybe we? Souls haven't been very prominent in culture... ah... s-so Weapons... um. They're sort of... ah, mixes? Um..."
"Spit it out, Tsubaki!" Maka ordered.
"They're hybrids!" the maid all but shouted. "Magical hybrids! Weapons are people who can turn into weapons!" Maka gaped, allowing the older girl to push ahead. "300 years ago, there were powerful clans of Weapons, with a capital W. Each family could turn into a particular form. There were Bow-and-Arrows, Swords, Hammers, Gauntlets, and more. The ruling family, the Evans, they were Scythes." Tsubaki trailed off, turning to look at the Weapon over the princess' bed with a sad look. "They were renowned for their musical ability and latent strength. It's said that only those with the strongest of souls could wield them."
"But 300 years would place them near the end of the Lost Century," Maka whispered. "What happened?"
(The Lost Century, despite its name, was actually a much longer time period. No one really knows when it began, though scholars argue about whether it began 600 or 700 years ago, but its end was just under 300 years ago. This leaves a period of 300 to 400 years where all written history was lost to the masses of the world. It is rumored that there are sects and cults that know the true history, but none have come forward.)
"They were slaughtered," Tsubaki responded in an equally quiet voice. "The clans were slaughtered. The common people, they feared the Weapons and the meisters that used them. There are things that you need to know about the world then to understand why the Weapons were so important. The Weapons, they worshipped the god of death and believed that he had bestowed their bloodline powers on them for the purpose of protecting the souls of humanity. Souls are the essence of a person that passes on when they die, but there are methods to keep a soul in the realm of the living.
"There were monsters known as Kishins, people who strayed from the path of humanity and ate human souls for power. The Weapons and their meisters would track down the Kishins and slay them, saving lives and eating the Kishins' souls to become stronger in return. It was believed that if a Weapon ate enough Kishin Eggs, or the souls of weaker Kishins, then they would become powerful enough to be wielded by Death himself and become one of his Holy Weapons when they passed. If their soul wasn't eaten by a Kishin before then, that is. It was the dream of all Weapons to be wielded by Death and it brought glory, fame, and riches to the meister that made them that powerful. Death cannot wield all of his Holy Weapons at once, so the meisters were said to become his lieutenants upon their passing.
"But like I said, the common people feared the Weapons. They were afraid that the Weapon families would be corrupted and attack them, so they struck first. To be honest, it wasn't a completely unfounded fear, the stories mention maybe a half-dozen Weapons that became some of the most dangerous Kishins after going rouge. Still, the common people the Weapons at large had sworn to protect rebelled against them suddenly. The kingdom of Weapons was razed to the ground. It was believed that all of the royal family was assassinated and most of the warriors were killed. Those that survived went into hiding, passing on their bloodline and the lesson to stay hidden, lest the people fear and kill them, too."
"Tsubaki?" Maka questioned. "How do you know all this?"
In response, the maid hesitantly reached back to take hold of her ponytail, bringing it around so it flowed over her shoulder. The hair began to glow, glimmering for only a second before the light faded to reveal one end of a chainscythe, the chains gradually turning into hair as they went up.
"I know because I'm a Dark Arm Weapon like my father before me. I can become a chainscythe, a fuuma shuriken, a ninja sword, and a smoke bomb."
Maka stared, her hand reaching out of its own accord to grasp the steel hanging from her maid's hair. She lifted it, inspecting the metal. It shimmered in the morning light, allowing the princess to see her own shocked reflection on the blade. Maka blinked, realization seeming to dawn on her.
"Wait. You said that all of the Scythes were killed 300 years ago."
"No," Tsubaki denied, taking her hair-turned-weapon back and undoing the transformation. "I said they were believed to have been killed. Weapons like me, we don't age when in our other forms. We don't need food or water or sleep. We can't move on our own without a Soul Partner, but we can pause death until we can get help. The royal there, they've been in their weapon form for almost 300 years if my theory is correct, waiting."
"But why?" the younger girl asked. "Why would someone wait that long."
"I don't think they know. Weapons can talk by vibrating their metal instinctively and can project an image of their soul in the reflection of the blade. The Scythe hasn't done any of that, so it may be that they're in a coma or heavily wounded."
"Or both," Maka agreed. She seemed to be taking the news rather well. "Why am I the only one that can pick them up?"
"Meister and Weapon bonds were special," Tsubaki answered. "The souls of the two had to be compatible for a person to even hold a weapon, so it could take a Weapon years to find the right meister depending on their personality and soul wavelength. My mother, she had the ability to see souls and she told me that I could be wielded by almost anyone because of my gentle nature, but the Scythe..."
"How do we figure out what gender they are? It's getting annoying not knowing if they're a boy or girl. Is there a way to find out without forcing them to change?"
"I suppose," Tsubaki thought aloud. "I may be able to run a Soul Charge through the blade to show the soul within, but I have only the most basic knowledge, so it might not work."
"Do it," Maka ordered. She rushed over to the Weapon and lifted it off of the pegs, carrying it over to her apparently-not-fully-human maid. Tsubaki reached out, a small amount of blue sparks starting to dance over the fingers of her right hand. She placed it on the blade, light bouncing off the surface before vanishing to show the person within.
It was a boy with wild white hair and pale skin. His eyes were closed and he seemed to hang limp in a black void. He was without clothing, revealing his toned torso and the gash he had from his left shoulder to right hip that dwarfed the puncture wound in his side. He would twitch every few seconds, but he was not conscious. Tsubaki removed her hand, letting the image vanish.
"So he is injured," Maka muttered. "We should take him to Stein."
"What?!" Tsubaki cried. "Are you crazy? Stein would dissect him before healing him! This Scythe is an Evans, the last Prince of Weapons! We have to save him." She stopped, a single tear coming from her eyes. "At least I do; it's my duty as a Weapon to care for our royal family, even if there is only one."
"Hey," Maka responded, setting a hand on the older girl's shoulder. "Look at it this way: Stein would see him as more use alive than dead, right? That'd be more than enough reason for the man to heal him."
"Dear Lord Death, I hope you're right." A plan of action formed, the duo exited the princess' chambers with the Scythe, their course set for the west wing and the physician's room therein. The journey took about ten minutes, but soon the girls were standing in front of a plain wooden door with a dead snake nailed to it. Glancing at each other, Maka raised her hand and knocked. There was some sort of swearing on the other side before the sound of movement. The door opened.
Standing in the doorway was a tall, grumpy man with grey hair that hung past his ears. He wore a grey shirt and tan pants under a brown, wool robe and medical scars littered his visible skin. Dark eyes stared down at the duo, but the most intimidating thing about the physician was the large screw going through his head.
"Can I help you?" Frankin Stein asked, his left hand reaching up to twist the screw until there was a loud clunk. Maka and Tsubaki shivered at the sound, but the princess steeled her nerves and met the man's gaze.
"We have a patient for you."
"Oh?" the doctor questioned, raising an eyebrow. "And where is this patient?"
"That's a secret until you let us in." Stein stared at the smaller of the duo.
"Very well," he muttered, opening the door a little wider. "Bring this mysterious patient in." The two girls shuffled inside. The room was rather small with tables and shelves along the walls and stacked with jars of plants, various liquids, and the occasional pickled body part of some animal. A bed was shoved into one corner and a wooden chair that the man had managed to attach wheels to was pushed under one desk. An operating table sat at the center of the room. Seeing that, Maka strode forward and placed the Scythe on the table.
Stein's eyes seemed to light up.
"Oh, don't tell me!" he all but exclaimed, a smile growing on his face. "Were you able to find a legendary Demon Weapon?"
"You know about them?" Tsubaki gasped.
Stein nodded. "I don't need it often, but I'm well-versed in several Soul-Style martial arts, so I know about their origins." He reached out and grabbed the Scythe's handle with a grin on his face. The Weapon sparked twice before calming down, allowing the mad doctor to lift it, much to the girls' shock. "The soul of the person inside is off balance," he commented, inspecting the Weapon. "Both his mind and body are damaged. The fact he managed to transform was probably an accident and the fact that you can lift them, Princess, is a sign. Either way, the transformation saved their life. Now!" He smirked. "Let's start the operation!"
End of Chapter 2