By the time Soul and Maka reached the Infirmary, having been jogging at the same pace, Liz and Patty were already stationed next to the chair Crona had apparently either found or been given, Stein spinning in a lazy circle on his chair at the foot of the cot. Maka crossed over to lean over Crona and wrap her arms around him in a reassuring hug; he hadn’t looked very steady to begin with, and in a glance, Soul knew it was probably something he needed.
“Alright,” the professor sighed, his hand almost twitching as if he were going to reach for the cigarette that he didn’t even have in his mouth at the time. “It’s high time I tell you all what’s really going on.”
Soul’s eyes pinched slightly at the corners, his hands dangling at his sides rather than taking refuge in his pockets. How long had he known what was going on, and kept it hidden?
“Everyone that’s been infected contracted this illness on their missions, which would explain why you all aren’t sick. Maka, Soul, you haven’t been on any missions lately, and Liz and Patty are distance weapons, so wherever you went, you probably didn’t get close enough to the source to get sucked in. From my understanding, it effects weapons first, due to how they make more direct contact.”
“But contact with what?” Soul asked, his lip curling at the mention of how easily he could have fallen victim to this, too. “What the hell is causing all this?”
“Kishins,” Stein replied, “and it’s unknown exactly which ones are a danger.”
“I don’t understand, though,” Maka interjected, “I thought Kid couldn’t get sick. He’s a reaper, isn’t he immune to all that stuff?”
“Precisely,” Stein told her, rocking his heels on the ground to push the chair forward and back. “Until this happened, my hypothesis had been just that; a hypothesis. But, now, I’m positive.”
Liz and Patty fidgeted, glancing over at their unconscious meister with clear worry on their faces. They knew more about him than anyone here did, too, and Soul assumed that the situation only confused and hurt them more.
“It’s a kishin sickness,” Stein continued, “controlled by a central one I believe to be called Kevorkian.”
“It’s infecting other kishins,” Maka said, seemingly fighting the urge to straighten up out of habit, though she kept her arms wound around Crona, even when her cheek lifted from the top of his head where it had come to rest.
“Correct,” sighed Stein.
“Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” Soul asked, “We could have been doing something about it this whole time!”
“Until now, I wasn’t certain of what the origin of this sickness was,” he explained, “I still don’t know Kevorkian’s motives. But, now I’m sure that it’s not an entirely physical thing; it effects the wavelength. It explains why everyone who’s sick has different symptoms. I’ve been looking after Tsubaki and Black☆Star since last night. It seems Black☆Star’s come down with something that left him losing his voice, something which we all know is one of the worst things he can probably imagine. As for Kid, I’m sure he experienced a wave of powerful vertigo before he collapsed, is that right, Crona?”
Soul didn’t look over to see Crona’s reaction, having pieced it together in his own head.
“It took his balance.”
“Yep.” Stein crossed his arms over the back of his chair, resting his mouth and chin against the top of his wrist.
“But that still doesn’t explain how Kid could have gotten sick, even if we knock out the reaper immune system thing,” Liz said, shaking her head. “You said weapons would get it first, and if we didn’t come into contact with whatever kishins would cause this, then he couldn’t have.”
Footsteps caught Crona’s attention, and he turned to see Liz and Patty practically sprinting into the infirmary to join Crona at Kid’s bedside.
“He’s okay, right?” Liz questioned immediately.
“He’ll be fine,” Stein assured her. “I’m sure he’ll be awake in no time.”
Crona was relieved not to have to speak, to have to try to explain what he still felt unsure and anxious about.
“So what’s going on, then?” she continued. “Why is this such a big deal that you want us all here?”
“I’ll explain everything when the other two get here.”
The remaining moments in waiting for Soul and Maka to arrive were spent in an awkward silence, all gazing with different levels of concern at the unconscious body of the young reaper until the professor finally began to explain the truth behind the sickness that was spreading through the school.
Crona didn’t know much about sickness, but that word he did know something about, and it frustrated him to think that they could have something to do with this. It seemed as if external forces were constantly trying to make him or his friends suffer. He supposed, though, that that was the sort of lives they lead, being meisters and weapons meant to fight against those evil souls…
It hadn’t really occurred to him that Kid couldn’t get sick, as he had put little thought into sickness itself, and he really hadn’t taken the time to care as soon as Kid started feeling badly, but now that Maka mentioned it, he supposed it made sense.
Individualized sicknesses based on soul wavelength… it was a scary thing to think of. What would he be sick with, he wondered? Something that made him even more useless, he supposed… He imagined if anything did to him what it did to Kid, it would be pretty effective.
When Liz spoke, though, he remembered a brief statement that Kid had made before collapsing, and he thought it might be prudent to mention it now.
“He said h-he had been looking into the sickness, but that was all,” Crona piped. “Maybe that was how?”
What? Is someone there?
[Senpai has failed to notice you.]
wait this ones better
don’t worry yogurt
i will still eat you
(Kiddo-kun gets all the really neat thought-provoking questions (｡◕︹◕｡) I AM JELURSS)
Soul remained by the door and watched for a few moments just to be sure it would be alright to turn around and dash for the cafeteria; screw it, if Nygus said no guests. Telling Crona that he was going to go and tell the others would be useless; Crona didn’t care about anything else but Kid, and that was blatantly obvious.
“Soul - could you go and find Professor Stein?”
Yeah… Getting Stein would probably make more sense.
“On it,” he said back to Nygus, raising a hand to toss her a thumb’s up, swiveling on a heel to make a break for Stein’s classroom. If Stein was needed, this was definitely more serious than just a wave of ick floating around.
When he reached the classroom, he slid inside and skidded on the rubber of his sneakers, reaching out a hand to grab the doorframe and stop himself. Stein turned his head from where he sat straddling his rolling chair, the ends of his chopsticks framed in his mouth as he paused mid-chew.
“Is there something I can help you with, Soul?”
“Nygus sent me,” he said, “Kid’s in the infirmary. She said he’s got what everybody else has.”
Stein seemed to chew on the ends of his chopsticks for a moment before withdrawing them from his mouth, setting his bento down. He kicked off from the ground to roll towards the door in his chair, his arms crossed over the back of it, and Soul took it as his cue to start walking back.
“You should go and get the rest of your team,” Stein instructed on a sigh, “I think it’s time I explain something to you all.”
Oh, awesome, his mind spat, despite being given actual direction to go and gather everybody else.
“Gosh, Soul,” Liz arched a brow at him as he reentered the cafeteria, ignorant to how he panted slightly from having been running all around the Academy.
“How long does it take you to pee? You were gone for a really long time.”
For once, Soul was glad Black☆Star wasn’t around to make a joke about crap and delay them.
“Get up, we have to go to the infirmary.”
“What?” Maka asked, pushing away from the table. “Why, what happened?”
“I ran into Crona in the hall,” he explained, “Kid collapsed, and we brought him to Nygus. Stein told me to get you guys, he’s got something to tell us. It’s probably about this bug that’s been going around — I don’t think it’s your usual case of the sniffles.”
By time he finished his sentence, Soul was really only talking to Maka, as Liz and Patty had stood from their chairs the second he mentioned their meister, Liz’s tipping back on two of its legs before she caught it and pushed it in so she could get around it and run.
Crona was aware of little else but Kid’s prone form on the infirmary mattress and the stark red trickle that was slowly drying on his face until he heard the scrape of metal against the floor beside him and jumped a little, glancing over to see Miss Nygus scooting a chair in his direction.
“Sit down.” He stared. “You look like you’re going to fall over.”
He did? Well, now that he lowered himself into the seat, he supposed he was shaking a bit, but it was hard not to shake when he felt worried like this.
He almost leaped out of the seat again when he saw her leaning over Kid with a wet washcloth, unsuitably paranoid, before he realized she was merely cleaning the blood from his face.
Well, that was… nice…
Another indistinct amount of time passed before the sound of rolling wheels grew in volume — a sound that Crona had long become accustomed to, as his teacher had never entered the classroom any other way — that indicated the imminent arrival of the professor.
He slid as quietly as it was possible for one in a rolling chair to do so into the infirmary, greeting the other two awake persons with a nod of his head. “Nygus. Crona.” The young boy’s name, he thought, had been uttered with the tiniest hint of curiosity, but the professor said nothing else on the matter, instead turning his gaze somewhat, his next question directed to the nurse. “How’s he holding up?”
“Everything seems fine right now, but with as unusual as this is, I figured you should be the first one to know.”
“Yeah.” Stein rolled his chair closer to where Crona was seated beside the bed, pausing inches away. “How are you holding up?”
Everything was silent for a moment before Crona stuttered, “M-Me?”
“I-I… I don’t know.” His own well-being really hadn’t been the focus of his attention, and trying to decipher it now was just tiresome. He wasn’t feeling very well, but that hardly mattered in the scheme of things. Besides, now wasn’t the time to talk about it. It was easier to pretend he didn’t know than venturing for a more detailed answer.
He nearly jumped again when he felt the professor’s hand on his shoulder, briefly, in a pat. “Try not to worry too much.”
Crona curled in on himself a little at the reassurance, even the slightest kindness urging tears he’d locked inside his eyes, but he sucked in a breath and battled them back — he didn’t want to cry. He didn’t want to. Not now, just because someone had noticed him, not when Kid’s well being was the most important thing here.
He couldn’t cry. He just couldn’t.
“Crona, you should let me help you—” he started to say, not because he doubted his ability to carry the reaper on his own — face it, the guy looked like he weighed about as much as a bag of dried up leaves on the sidewalk in October, — but because how long it took him to even notice the presence of the scythe was worrisome, aside from the obvious matter at hand and the the hint of hysteria in his voice when he denied help the first time.
Soul’s hands fell to his sides and balled into fists as he walked backwards to watch Crona as he continued down the hall without stopping, clearly headed for the nurse’s office. His gaze flicked down to Kid’s face every few steps, registering the blood that trickled from his nose in a stream halfway down his cheek from how his head was tilted back, and he had to wonder if this was what had happened to Tsubaki and the rest of the kids that never showed back up for school.
It had felt like something was off when the first batch of people were absent, but now, someone who “couldn’t get sick” turning up bleeding and unconscious with no warning? Something wasn’t right.
The thought that he should go and get Maka was at the forefront of his mind, but most importantly, Liz and Patty. They needed to know about this, didn’t they? There was really no question about it, Kid was their meister.
But Soul wouldn’t go back to the cafeteria until he knew they’d made it to the nurse.
By time he thought to insist Crona let him help again, they’d rounded a corner that took them down the hall that the infirmary resided in, and instead, Soul took it upon himself and jog forward to open the door, stepping inside and holding it open as he turned his head to scan the room for Nygus.
Crona wanted to shake his head, but it was too much effort; instead, he focused on walking, on keep his pace, and he was grateful when Soul finally moved out from in front of him to dart ahead to their destination and make the way for the them.
He maneuvered Kid inside the room as quickly as he could, cautious to make sure that he didn’t hit anything on the doorway, and his somewhat frantic gaze darted around for sign of the person he was searching for until it alighted — gratefully — on Miss Nygus’s bandaged form.
He thought the look in her eyes might have been of surprise, but he hardly cared about that, latching instead on her order of “Lay him there,” and the gesture that led him to an empty bed where he finally rested Kid down.
She walked around to the other side of the cot, reaching out a hand to press against his neck, and her gaze turned up to Crona again as she addressed him with a question. “What happened?”
Crona shook his head. “I-I don’t know. He said he had a headache, then he got a nosebleed, then he fell over—”
Only then did he become aware of his own panicked breaths that shuddered in and out of his lungs, and he attempted to do just that, focusing on the inhale and exhale for several moments while she looked over the reaper.
“Do you know if he ate anything today?”
“He was— he was eating w-when it happened.” Crona’s hands, now that they were empty, had taken to wrestling with each other without his knowledge, his gaze now stuck to his friend. “I-Is he okay?”
She hummed, reaching behind Kid’s head to lift him slightly away from the bed’s surface, inspecting him. “If I had to guess, he’s probably come down with the same sickness that’s getting everyone lately, but I can’t say for sure right now. He’ll be fine for right now. His pulse and breathing are normal, and it doesn’t look like he took any injuries from the fall.”
Crona breathed a sigh of relief, his fingers lacing to press his palms together in one tight squeeze — a strangely cathartic gesture.
“We’ll see how he’s feeling whenever he wakes up,” she continued, “then we’ll go from there.”
The lunch table was too empty.
With Black☆Star and Tsubaki gone, there was too much room there, and it may have only been as noticable as it was because Soul knew that something was wrong with them. Even Crona’s absence made him feel somewhat different, having unconsciously gotten used to his presence.
“I’m gonna go take a whiz,” he said eventually, sighing as he pushed back from the table to stand.
Maka’s fork clinked against her plate as her hand fell to accentuate a roll of her eyes. “That’s charming, Soul. Thanks for sharing.”
He flashed her a sharp smile, slipping his hands into his jacket pockets as he headed for the cafeteria door, though one soon rose to pick at his teeth with a single nail for a moment. His jaw unhinged on a yawn born from boredom, mostly because Black☆Star was gone, and he leaned to push the door open with his shoulder, sauntering to the men’s room down the hall.
By time he stepped back out, he’d tucked his hands away again, glancing around lazily as he loped back towards the cafeteria. The sight of shadows moving at the far end of the hall caught his attention, however, and he stood still to narrow crimson eyes in scrutiny of the shapes, leaning in a backwards bow to peer at them.
Soul’s hands fell from his pockets as he took off down the hall to reach who he recognized now as Crona… who was carrying someone in his arms — Kid? Oh, crap.
“What happened?” He asked, skidding to a stop beside them as his gaze fell to the reaper, who was obviously out cold, his head lolled backwards and his limbs dangling like a ragdoll’s. If there wasn’t a damn epidemic going on in the Academy, he might have automatically pegged it as the result of another one of his stupid symmetry freak outs, but judging by the look on Crona’s face, Soul had no choice but to assume it was something else. Even he had to be used to the symmetry thing by now, especially with how much time they’d been spending together, according to Maka. But could Kid even get sick? He was a reaper, always going on about how he was immune to crap like this…
“Hold on, stop, let me help you,” he tried to offer, holding up his hands to get Crona to stop walking so they could maneuver an easier way to carry Kid. Crona didn’t stop, though, and Soul was left walking backwards, his eyes jumping between both of their faces in desperate questioning.
Whatever it was that was going on, it sure as hell wasn’t cool at all. Not even a little bit.
His steps down the stairs were the worst.
Crona was fighting not to look down at the bloody, unconscious face of the person he cared about in his arms, but he was afraid to slip, taking each stair with a carefulness that merely slowed his venture to a painful drag, so that by the time he had reached the bottom of the staircase, his arms were trembling not only with the burden he carried but with the anxiety he felt at having taken so long.
His legs hastened on the even ground with an energy fed by fear, and he was hardly aware of Soul’s presence until he was right in front of him, staring at him with worry as they continued to move down the hallway.
All he really cared about was getting Kid to the nurse as quickly as possible, and nothing else.
“No! I—I can’t,” he replied to Soul, his thoughts a racing jumble moving too quickly to unravel. Stopping would take longer. They couldn’t do it. Crona could do it. He would do it.
It wasn’t terribly far now. Everything would be all right, it would be. Wouldn’t it? It was just a sickness. He wasn’t going to stay this way.
Even though Crona had never seen him this way, and he didn’t know of anything that made people do that, and Kid was bleeding—
No, no, no, he was going to help him. He was going to take care of him.
As if to prove this to himself, he reaffirmed his grip on the reaper boy, clutching him minutely tighter.