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Burning Bright

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He learns, through Marie, the only one, besides Kid, who cares enough to bring him at least a meal a day even if he hasn’t left the small indentation on the wall that he calls room in what feels like years, that Maka is getting her memories back today. Marie invites him to watch, but Soul reffuses, he doesn’t want to be near when her disappointment hits because it didn’t work. Marie looks sad at his answer, and he wonders if Maka had asked her to ask him, but quickly brushes it off. She certainly didn’t.

He shows up anyways, stands among the many other elves that have gathered, in a circle around the witch and the girl, who are sitting in front of the other, holding hands. Maka’s eyes search the crowd, but he hides, he doesn’t want her to see him, and she isn’t looking for him anyway. She looks nervous, like she should, but Kim looks nervous as well and he shivers at that, he’s certain that the witch isn’t sure about what she’s doing.

He thinks about stopping them, but decides that he shouldn’t, he’s nothing to Maka but someone who she was stuck with because there wasn’t anyone else, and besides, if Maka wants to do it, she should. But it pains him to stand there and wonder about the repercussions, he’s never liked magic and the spirits that witches call upon during spells are moody, and sometimes malicious. Maka knows that too, he reminds himself, or at least he hopes she does or someone’s told her, but he knows that she’s stubborn enough to try it, nonetheless.

They’re about to begin, silence falls upon the audience and he closes his eyes, he doesn’t want to watch, he wants to leave, but feels like he owes it to her, to be here if it goes right. Someone screams.

He turns on his heel, as do the other elves, to see a man, a human, the same human with the blue hair that had saved him, running towards them, a bleeding girl in his arms, and he can’t help but gasp. He’s seen her, she’s Kraigeri, she’s the one that came to his house in search of the mad and left with her hands empty, even if he was holed up in his room and reffused to see her. He takes an involuntary step forward, and Black*Star’s eyes lock on his. Soul instantly knows that the man was expecting to find him.

Black*Star slows down, holds the girl so they can see her, and then speaks. “She needs help.”

No one moves, and Soul looks back, at the elves who all stand still, and then at Maka, who is looking at him, almost like she wants him to do something. He tries to tell her that he’s unwelcome in the community, that they know he’s tainted, but she pleads and he looks away, takes another step forward. “Didn’t you hear the man? She’s bleeding. You have to help her.”

A woman amongst the crowd speaks, quietly, almost like she’s talking to herself. “She’s Kraigeri.”

“So what?” Soul asks, but he knows the answer.
The man with the cuts, Stein, he’s heard him be called, steps forward and speaks, like he’s tired, like he doesn’t want to say it. “She’s tainted.”

Soul sighs and looks him in the eye. “So am I. And you took me in.”

Some elves gasp, others step away from him, and he hears someone say “I knew it.” like he deserves a punishment. Stein is still looking at him, unreadable expression in place because the doctor is always unreadable.

Black*Star coughs, opens his mouth, but Maka beats him to it, cutting through the crowd and turning towards Stein. “What are you waiting for? She’s still bleeding and Soul is still here, despite being tainted. So in my opinion, you can damn well help her.”

Stein looks down at her curiously, like he’s amused, and then at the human. “Couldn’t have said it better, tiny tits.” Black*Star says, winking at Maka. Soul cringes, he’s sure she will not like the nickname, but despite a sour look thrown the human’s way, she keeps to herself.

Stein walks foward, takes the Kraigeri’s body and as soon as the girl is out of Black*Star’s arms, Maka punches him in the stomach. “Don’t call me that, ever again.” She says, and her voice is almost venomous, but Black*Star only laughs.

“Save that anger, will you girl? They’re coming.” He announces, turning towards the audience and projecting his voice. “Tsubaki.” He says, and points towards the girl who is now placed on a mat as Stein tends to her wounds. “She ran away from the army, at the expense of her own wellbeing, to find me and tell me that Medusa is coming.”

He’s managed to catch everyone’s attention, and even Stein, although working, seems to be keeping track with what he is saying. “How do you know she’s trustworthy?” Kid says, coming out of the shadows and eyeing both Tsubaki and the man. “How do we know you are trustworthy?”

An almost silent whisper of agreement sweeps through the crowd, and Black*Star smirks.

“I thought the name was already a giveaway, but apparently, you didn’t get the hint.” He starts stripping his right arm of the bandages that cover it, to reveal a raised tattoo, a star, burned into the skin of his upper arm, Another whisper sweeps the crowd, and Soul mentally scolds himself for not associating the man with the infamous Star Clan.

“I trust you all know what the tattoo means?” He asks, crooked smile in place as he turns around, showing the scar to anyone who can see it.

Maka is staring at everyone, all staring at the man as if he’s grown another head, but she sees nothing but a star outline. “I don’t know what it means.” She pipes up, shrugging when some elves turn towards her.

Before Black*Star has a chance to reply, Soul answers her. “He can’t lie.”

The human laughs. “Grandpa over there is right.” His smile fades into something thin, almost forced. “You elves wary of everyone else, so suspicious of everything you don’t know, that when my ancestors came here, to your land, you forced them to take an oath, to be binded, through magic, to the truth. We were not to speak anything, but the truth.

And that oath, that tradition, the star you see in my arm, was passed down, through generations, so we could keep having your trust,”

Some of the elves look uncomfortable, like they’ve seen the accusation behind the man’s words, but he continues. “But your plan had a flaw. For centuries, we thought there was no land on our planet besides Skaldur and Jarnio, the land of the faeries. For centuries, our teachers, who had also been binded to the truth, taught us that. And when we found the Prad Islands, just South of here, the most attentive among us wondered, how could they have lied?”

Kid shakes his head, already aware of what had happened. “You could only tell the truth that you knew, even if it was a lie.” Kid explains to everyone, getting closer to the human.

“So your parents took advantage of that, and got an elf that would help you, someone who could lie, to teach a whole generation of children nothing but twisted ideals.”
Black*Star nods. “It was carnage when they attacked. The elf must have regretted it, once he saw the monsters that he had created, and he spilled, he told the Kraigeri what he had done.” He stops for a moment. “The elf was killed, as soon as he finished his confession. Our clan came next. They took our village and killed everyone.”

“How come are you alive then?” Stein asks, already up and near the front of the crowd. Soul looks back to see that Tsubaki’s bocy is covered in bandages, and the bleeding seems to have been stopped.

Black*Star’s chest rises. “Sid Barrett was part of the group that attacked my village. Upon rummaging through my parent’s house, he found a bundle, a baby, no more than a month whole but already branded as part of the clan.”

“Sid took you home.” Kid says, and it is not a question.

“He did. He raised me. And then he was taken to be part of her army.” He seems sad now, melancholic. “He was the one who sent Tsubaki to me. So since I have this tattoo that binds me to the truth, you know that the story I just told you is not a lie. Sid Barrett was my father. Trust me. Trust him. Trust her. She is coming.”

There seems to be a change in the atmosphere, with everyone feeling to their chambers, in preparation for the battle. Black*Star knows his mission has been accomplished, he’s delivered the message, but he decides to stay and fight.
And then somehow, Black*Star and Soul find themselves in a room covered in maps, a typical strategy room is Soul ever saw one, along with Maka, the witch Kim, Marie, Kid and Stein. The others are pouring over a map, discussing something, but Soul and Black*Star are staring at each other, unsure of what exactly they are doing there. Maka turns around and gestures to them to get closer, so they do, to see a map of Skaldur spread in front of them, a red circle in its upper left corner, labeled as Medusa’s Lair.

Kid speaks first. “Tell us what you know.” And all eyes turn to the only human in the room.

“She’s coming from the castle.” He points at the red circle. “And she knows you are somewhere around this area.” He continues, drawing a small circle around their area with his finger. Soul sees a black dot close to the middle of the circle Black*Star had drawn and realizes it marks their location.

“Why us?” Maka asks, and it seems like most other people in the room wanted to ask the same. “They told me there are other settlements, other safe places. Why is she coming towards us?”

Black*Star smiles sardonically. “Because of you, of course.” Maka looks offended. “You and grandpa over there.” He adds, poking Soul in the ribs.

Maka ignores his second statement. “That doesn’t make any sense! I am not the only light elf, there is no reason for her to come for me!” Her voice isn’t strong like it usually is, and

Soul wonders if she is trying to convince herself, as well as the others, that she is not at fault for Medusa’s attack.

“You’re right, you’re not the only light elf.” He reaches foward and pokes her in the nose, much to her confusion. “But you are the light elf, the only one who can bring her down.”
It’s not Maka, but Marie that speaks next. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
The human smiles. “It obviously mean that she’s the light that the prophecy talks about.”
They are silent, and little by little, all eyes set on Soul. No one needs to say it, but they all know: he’s the night.

Maka doesn’t talk to him, and he doesn’t search her, instead goes to Kilik, a strong elf with a talent for molding metal, to ask for an armor, like he’s been instructed. The elf apologizes, that he wasn’t expecting a need for armors to arise, that he has none. At first, Soul thinks he’s only denying him the safety that an armor would provide him in a fight because he’s tainted, but the man is genuinely sorry, and Soul turns to leave when he calls him.
“Night elf.” Soul turns to him again.
“I can’t give you an armor, but I can give you something to fight with.” Soul raises an eyebrow at him and he unsheathes a sword, blood red and curvy. It takes Soul’s breath away. “Be careful. Those who have wielded her say that she has a mind of its own.”
He should have been wary. Instead he takes the sword and leaves. He finds that most people are ready, equiped, but very few have armors, even if they all wield some kind of weapon. Marie has an hammer, Kid holds a bow, and Stein checks his belt, where Soul can see at least three small daggers. Upon further inspection, he sees that they are coated in a greenish substance. Stein catches him looking and puts his index finger to his lips, winking at him,
Soul is moving towards Kid, when someone takes hold of his ankle and he almost trips. He turns back, ready to attack, when he sees Tsubaki, still laying down, looking at him with pleading eyes.
“Let me come, as well.” She says, quietly. “I want to fight.”
He sees her desperation and almost concedes, but a peek at the way she’s lying on the groung, fragile and worn out, he shakes his head. “I’m sorry. You’re still wounded.”
The girl tries to get up and Soul goes to kneel down in front of her, because she seems like she’ll lose her strenght at any moment, but Black*Star beats him to it, placing Tsubaki’s arm on his shoulders and helping her up. “Easy there, fighter.” He says, steadying the girl. Soul eyes the human up and down, to see what he’s armed with, and realizes that the man is a walking weapon. He has daggers, he has a sword, he has a bow, and he has a little pouch, secured around his waist, and he can see a metal spike coming out of it. Black*Star catches him looking and smirks, taking a metal star, pointy and deadly-looking out of the pouch. “I’d lend you one, but you’d hurt yourself before hurting anyone else.”
Soul gives him a nod of acknowledgement, sardonic smile in place. He gestures towards Tsubaki. “She’s not okay to fight.”
Black*Star looks at him, like he has a secret she isn’t willing to share. “She will be.”
Soul thinks about staying, finding out how Black*Star is going to get the shaken girl ready to fight, but he shrugs instead and starts walking towards his friend, who looks ready to leave. He’s going to ask exactly that, when are they leaving, when he catches sight of her.
He doesn’t want to say it, he doesn’t want to be sappy, but he can’t describe it any other way. Maka is shining, resplendent, filling him with hope and strenght. She carries a scythe, a monstruous thing, something he’d say was too heavy for her to lift if he hadn’t known how strong she was. He gravitates towards her, and his feet seem to have a plan of their own. She notices him approaching and to his surprise, smiles, gently.
“You look…” He says, once he nears her, and he knows she doesn’t want him to talk about her beauty.
“Beautiful?” She asks, looking down.
“That too, but I was going to say powerful.” He says, smiling, and when she looks up at him, she’s smiling too, and blushing.
“Are you ready?” She asks, looking for a weapon and finding his sheathed sword, propped on his hip.
“Is anyone ever ready for what could be their end?” He asks, shrugging, and she hits him in the chest.
“Don’t say that. We’re going to win. We need to win.” She says, and once again, Soul feels like she’s convincing herself, more than she’s convincing him.
“How can you be so sure?” He asks, and he wants her to answer because he wants to be hopeful as well. “There are so much more of them.”
She shrugs and looks away, the tips of her ears pink. “The prophecy says we will win.”
They sart walking, Kid at the front, and he stays in place for a bit, as Maka marches forward in time with the other. He ends up falling into place, finding himself next to Black*Star and Tsubaki, looking much more lively. He throws her a questioning look and she simply smiles, while Black*Star sports a smug smirk. Soul decides not to probe, and his thoughts go to Maka’s word. If she believed the prophecy predicted the outcome of the battle, had she come to terms with what it meant for them?
His thoughts drown out everything else, but the demon whistles a happy song and waits for his opportunity to strike.