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Fang Vice Addiction: Pureblood Edition
Chapter One: Into Darkness
Evangeline McDowell had been lounging on the couch in the parlor of her cottage, sipping on a glass of dark red wine when she received the announcement from Chachamaru that there was a visitor at the door. The little vampire didn't bother asking the gynoid maid just who it was because this was a visit that she had personally set into motion from an earlier point in time, a visit she had seen coming from the night she had journeyed to Kyoto with her maid to bail a certain foolish boy from some great manners of danger that had escalated way beyond what he could ever hope to control with his meager abilities. Negi Springfield had experienced his first actual close encounter with death, and because of that he now understood just how unforgiving the real world of magical affairs could be to the weak and uninspired. He had become too comfortable with his teaching position in Mahora Campus, among the fun loving girls that had become the friends and family that he had once thought irreplaceable the night his town had been reduced to a wasteland of cinder, and with that comfort Evangeline had seen the once brilliant stars that burned in his sharp eyes become cold and tame like white dwarves.
She didn't care for what he had become under Takamichi's authority; she wanted to see the young magister become restless again–to struggle against his father's memory as he had when he first arrived on campus with impossibly high goals set for himself, and she knew that by showing off her nebulous powers to him he would see himself cast in the 'Thousand Master's' shadow and feel that hunger in his heart once more. That hunger would draw him into her shadow, and she would give him the drive to reach greater heights again.
"Hey, boy." The platinum haired shinso greeted Negi with a wide, wicked grin when he stepped into the parlor escorted by the lovely Chachamaru. It didn't remain as wide when, not long afterward, Setsuna and Konoka came in through the parlor entryway together like two accompanying advisers to a treaty signing. This was already painting a different scene from how she had envisioned this meeting proceeding in her head. These two girls couldn't be with him if she wanted her conversation with the boy to follow the designs she had in mind; she needed him alone and free of any nagging tendrils of reason that could keep him from following his reckless desires right into her awaiting palms. That, and just being near the headmaster's granddaughter was like standing in the line of direct sunlight; her cheeriness could make flowers bloom in the darkest caverns.
Going for an alternate approach, Evangeline's attitude took an abrupt change in tone, putting on a scowl to discourage the boy and his companions with a question of, "What brought you brats to my home anyway? Don't think that just because I saved your sorry butts in Kyoto that you can get cozy with me, because I don't take naivety very well."
Her statement caused Chachamaru to blink, which was usually a clear indication to any attentive observer that something just hadn't clicked well with her with what she just heard, and the gynoid had every reason to be bothered. After hearing her mistress go on excitedly the night they returned from Kyoto about how her timely rescue of the young magister might enchant him with her and therefor make it much easier for her to sink her teeth into him, the way she was going about making him feel unwelcome in her home would have been taking deliberate steps backwards, would it not?
Negi swallowed hard, the healthy tone of his skin draining further the longer he stood in Evangeline's overbearing presence. "Actually, McDowell...that's exactly the reason why I wanted to meet with you today." He was so nervous that his legs were barely doing an adequate job of supporting his weight under the sinister wizard's unsettling scrutiny. Konoka and Chachamaru were ever at the ready to catch him if he chose that very moment to collapse, even exchanging private looks with each other in a silent dispute over which of them would be the one to have the honors. Setsuna maintained a convincing poker face to conceal her concern for the little teacher's conscious state, eyes straying to his legs every now and again when she caught a slight wobble in his knees.
Here it comes. The diminutive vampire thought to herself, sticking to her script with the inquiry of, "Came here to offer a generous means of compensation, I hope?" She wet her lips with a deliberate pass of her tongue, setting her eyes to the tantalizing crook of his delicate looking neck where her heightened sense of hearing could faintly pick up his racing pulse. It was a delightful thrum that tingled her all over with frightening anticipation. Had she less self control she wouldn't have been able to keep herself from salivating at the sight of the boy. "I mean, if that was your aim from the beginning then you could have left the two girls behind and just brought yourself along instead. You could serve as my breakfast and afternoon tea for starters..." She traced the rim of her wineglass ponderously after trailing off in her suggestions, baring her pearly white fangs for him to see in the most predatory fashion that a girl of her size could afford. "And with time you could be my nightcap."
Negi shook his head stiffly, feeling very much like a fine cut of meat on display with the way she licked at his skin with her hungry gaze. "I apologize, but this visit is for something else entirely."
"Then you've got some nerve showing your face uninvited, boy." Curiously, she didn't sound displeased when she said this, and the contradictory nature of her tone and words did not slip past Setsuna's ears unnoticed.
The crow demon's right ear twitched accordingly to the peculiarity, and she found the guardian within her coming close to advising her teacher to hold this meeting off for another day, preferably when he wasn't in a psychologically susceptible state to Evangeline's villainous power of suggestion. The vampire's next words confirmed the suspicions brewing in Setsuna's mind when she said, "But seeing you show a little back bone every now and then doesn't displease me. Why don't you just come out with what's on your mind, boy? While I'm still willing to hear you out, that is."
"Negi-sensei," The lovely swordsman could hold her tongue no longer, stepping close to bring her lips to his right ear with a whisper of, "Perhaps you should take the time to think this one through before you proceed further." She studied Evangeline's expression from the corner of her eye for the bluff she had been suspecting and caught it in the form of an annoyed twitch in her left eye. That bluff became slightly more pronounced when she continued, "You're not calm enough to make a rational decision right now. You're more likely to take any terms that she lays down to fulfill your request." And the boy almost looked as though he was going to accept her monitory advice until–
"Don't be ridiculous, Sakurazaki." Evangeline stuck her foot in the door before Setsuna could prematurely close on the deal. "The boy mustered up enough courage to come this far. Why let it go to waste by allowing him to back away now like a coward?" And she knew exactly which words to employ in order to bait Negi further into her trap because he then felt compelled to take a step forward, away from his crow adviser and that much closer to the couch she was lounging on.
Vampire,one; Crow, zero.
"Evangeline," the young magister addressed her by her first name to show how serious he was about the request he was going to make. "Please take me as your disciple!" He bowed his head to her in total surrender of her passing judgement.
The pleading tone in his voice made Setsuna avert her eyes from her teacher as though she had done him a great injustice by not physically dragging him away from the vampire before he could open his mouth to seal his fate. Chachamaru, for her part, almost appeared fearful for the boy. Konoka tilted her head slightly to the side with a questioning look when she heard what sounded like an evil cackle come from further within the house up above.
"Well, well." Evangeline was pleased by the need in his voice, standing from the couch with her glass of wine like a noblewoman in her black, low cut pajamas. "Were you so enthralled by that little display of power in Kyoto that you wanted a taste of it for yourself?"
"When you came to the rescue of me and my students with your dark powers, I knew that I wanted to follow you as my master!" Negi confessed, unabashed and full of sincerity in his confession. "I knew then that I could trust you with my future development as a magister."
"Eh..." His praise actually brought her to pause, tinging her pale cheeks with a blush while her mouth hung open for her brain to boot up again. It took her longer than she was frankly comfortable with, but she eventually shook the feeling off and recomposed herself. "Surely you realize what you're asking of me."
"I'm asking you to train me in the dark arts." Negi answered her with a cool clarity he hadn't possessed a moment ago before he made his request. "That doesn't bother me. The nature of the magic wielded by a wizard does not and should not necessarily decide the nature of their deeds." That statement brought something of an open smile to Setsuna's face. Chachamaru felt her admiration for him grow stronger for it.
"You're going to take the arts I teach you and use it for the good of the world, then?" Evangeline sounded most amused by his righteous words. "What a noble little wizard you are. Still, if you're looking to make a dark wizard your master then you're doing this all the wrong way, boy."
"Huh?" Negi regarded her with uncertainty, a feeling that was shared amongst the three other girls in the parlor when the short blonde pointed at her feet with one hand. "What is it that you want me to do?" The boy asked her, the message not getting through to him.
"Plead for me to become your master after you throw yourself at my feet." Evangeline looked like she was really enjoying the moment when she issued the sadistic order. "Maybe then I'll seriously consider taking you as my disciple."
Setsuna was at the young magister's side faster than he could react to the dark wizard's command, grasping him firmly by the arm in a near vice grip. She wouldn't stand around while this villain continued to disrespect him in front of her. "Negi-sensei, you needn't take it this far. As a former member of the Ala Rubra, Takahata-sensei would vastly qualify as a worthy mentor for your training. In fact, he would be the proper man to go to, as a former companion of the Thousand Master."
"That girl has a good head on her shoulders." Evangeline needled him with a cackle. "You're just not made for the dark side of town, kid. That goody two shoes, Takamichi, would be the perfect master for the son of Nagi, but I wonder if you really want that for yourself."
"Setsuna-san." Negi spoke to her in a low tone, looking to her from the corner of his eye. "Please let go of my arm."
The crow demon narrowed her eyes at him incredulously. "You can't honestly mean to do as she says!" She told him, but he was already looking to Evangeline before she finished getting the words out of her mouth.
"McDowell..." Negi lowered himself to his knees against Setsuna's best advice, left arm still held in his student's vice grip. He turned his head to meet Setsuna's eyes in silent request and the swordsman grudgingly loosened her grip until his arm slipped through her fingertips, so that he could bow with his forehead to the floorboards before Evangeline's feet. "I ask again that you please accept me as your disciple!"
Evangeline set her wineglass on the coffee table beside her and crossed her arms, looking down on her prospective disciple, however, when Setsuna looked to see the condescending expression that she had expected to see on the vampire's face she was met with something else entirely. The dark wizard stared at the boy like he had just presented her with a hard earned trophy; like an exhausted olympian that had just received a gold medal after a long contested announcement from the judges, so it was surprising when the word out of her mouth was a whispered–
Negi raised himself from the floor on two unsteady legs, disheartened by what he just heard from her. "No?" His heart sank. "Did you just say...no?"
"I won't make my decision now. Come back to me tonight, alone." said Evangeline, returning to her lounging spot on the couch like the moment never came to pass. "I need one more thing from you before I accept you as my disciple. Come with anyone else and I'll personally throw you out on your face, got it?"
His spirit nearly brought to the point of exhaustion, Negi nodded his head obediently to her orders, relieved to know she hadn't outright rejected him. "I understand."
"You understand?" Asuna Kagurazaka ran a hand down her face, exasperated by what Negi and Konoka had just informed her. She paced back and forth in front of her two roommates, doing an admirable effort of keeping her hands off of the boy in light of his stupidity. Setsuna stood by the window with her arms crossed, observing without a word. "I really don't think you do understand, you little dork! That evil, pint sized sucker told you to come to her cottage in the middle of the woods, alone, on the night of a full moon and you just nodded your head and said you would?! Christ, man, why don't you just present yourself at her door with a bow tied around your neck when you go?"
"It's the only way she'll take me as her disciple!" Negi argued with the other redhead in the room like a quarreling younger sibling. "I had no choice but to take her terms!"
Asuna's nostrils flared wide at his confronting tone of voice, stopping short in her pacing to turn on him like a riled feline. "Who the heck are you taking that tone with, twerp?!" She poked him in the chest hard with one finger before getting in his face. "And why the hell do you want that vampire for your mentor when you have Takahata-sensei? Have you already forgotten that she holds a grudge against your father?"
"Could you support me on this, please?" Negi requested of her, dialing himself back in hopes that she would do the same. "Despite what you already believe, I've thought this through, alright? McDowell isn't the nicest girl, I know that. I also know that dealing with her probably won't be pleasant most of the time, but there is still some good in her heart. She came to save us from Fate Averruncus–that has to count for something, right?"
Asuna heaved a long sigh, releasing all of the hot air in her chest like an old steam engine. While she would never admit it out loud, she appreciated the fact that Negi wasn't afraid to argue his personal opinion with her. She felt closer to the boy for it, which was why she felt that much more obligated to keep him close, away from those that might take him from her. It was selfish in a way, but he was family to her now and she couldn't remember the last time she felt that way about anyone else.
"She could have just cut a deal with the headmaster in exchange for a little more freedom around the campus. You can't be sure what her reasons were for showing up to our rescue." Her sisterly instincts always got the best of her when he looked at her with those puppy dog eyes of his, but knowing that he was doing this to get closer to Evangeline McDowell of all people made her fiercely protective of him, even knowing that if the pint-sized powerhouse got serious she probably wouldn't stand much of a fighting chance against her. She placed a hand on his head and decided, "I'm going with you."
Negi ducked his head away from her hand to step out of her reach. "No you're not." He shot her down, getting a scowl for his outright refusal of her care. "Evangeline won't even bother with me if I take anyone along, and seeing you with me might actually make her angrier. You know how she feels about you."
"I wasn't asking for permission." Asuna snapped, furrowing her brows.
"You're not going to be helping me by forcing yourself along." Negi shot back, looking ready to start another argument with the older girl. If looks could kill then the glares that they were directing at each other could have possibly set the whole dorm building aflame with everyone still in it.
Konoka looked like she was about to break up Negi and Asuna before they could kick it into second gear again, but Setsuna beat her to the punch, pushing off the wall she had been leaning her back against, and stepping close enough to the two that they were forced to break eye contact and divert their attention to her presence.
"This is what he wants. Let him go to her." Setsuna told Asuna before looking to her sensei. "But I suggest that you go there ready for combat, sensei. It seems to me that McDowell is looking to gain something from this deal just as much as you are, and blood may be the least of what she desires."
"What else could she possibly want out of the squirt?" Asuna asked the swordsman. "His blood is the only thing she ever talks about whenever his name comes up in a conversation." She looked to the side, with an addition of, "Well, that and his father."
"My guess would be that she wants Negi-sensei." Setsuna replied with a straight face.
Asuna jumped back as though Setsuna had splashed her with a bucket of hot water. "What?!" She alternated stares between Negi and the crow. "Are you implying that–"
"Not necessarily in the romantic sense," Setsuna stopped her before she could assume anything unfortunate, though she tacked on in a grumble, "Although even that possibility isn't all that far fetched." She continued at a volume everyone could hear, "No, I think McDowell sees potential in Negi-sensei, and she wants to be the person to nurture it."
"That sounds awfully caring of her." Konoka remarked pleasantly. "She did seem happy when Negi bowed at her–" In an instant Negi was beside her, cupping her mouth with one hand. "Mmph?" The young Konoe raised a brow in question at the intervention.
"I'm sorry..." Asuna began in a calm, collected voice, eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What did I just hear, 'cause that sounded like–"
"Nothing!" Negi denied with a rattled chuckle. "Konoka was standing behind Chachamaru at the time, so she must have misinterpreted what she saw."
"That aside," Setsuna brought Asuna's attention back to her. "Ojou-sama's observation is spot on. When Negi requested her guidance McDowell looked genuinely happy." That information made the young magister blink. "In fact, I would say she was overjoyed. Forgive the expression, but she was like a child opening gifts on Christmas."
"Really?" Negi asked before the other redhead could voice her doubts. "I hadn't noticed."
"She hid it before you could raise your head, but I saw it too." Setsuna looked to the window again. The moon had moved into a visible position. "You should go. The earlier you get there, the earlier you'll return."
"You're right." Negi agreed. He went for his staff in the bedroom before returning to say his farewells. Konoka hugged him before he could even think of walking past her, while Asuna crossed her arms with a humph and stubbornly looked the other way. All the same, he said, "Wish me luck!" And he was out the door, leaving the three girls standing there contemplating whether he would return in one piece. That, and one more thing...
"Setsuna-san," Asuna broke the silence. "Earlier you said something under your breath."
"Ah, you caught that, did you?" The swordsman said sheepishly. "I said that it wouldn't have been outside the realm of possibility for Evangeline to harbor some feelings for Negi-sensei. He resembles his father so much that, given her...feelings for the Thousand Master, I suspect it would be difficult for her not to project her feelings on to him."
"Hrmm." Asuna folded her arms, tapping one foot while she chewed that one over. "What do you think is going to happen tonight?"
"Think Eva-chan will make a move on Negi-kun?" Konoka questioned the possibility. "She looks like the straight forward kind of girl."
"Something is going to happen, no doubt." Setsuna assured them. "It may very well change their relationship."
Asuna sighed and took a seat on the couch, bringing both hands to the sides of her temples to massage them. "Yeah...that'll help me sleep tonight. Thanks!"
Leaving the dorm building was the easy part, Negi admitted to himself. Getting away from Asuna's suffocating, overprotective tendencies was a cakewalk compared to the actual walk to Evangeline's cottage, which, when he actually stopped to think about it, was a scary place all on its own. Who would willingly walk into the woods alone, on the night of a full moon, (Always associated with the occult and supernatural) to visit a solitary cottage, knowing that the person inside preyed on people in the literal sense? He was essentially playing the part of Evangeline's delivery boy, and he was the entree for the evening! It would have been easy for him to just hop onto his staff and sail all the way there to save time, but that would mean coming face to face with the chibi-vampire in less time, and quite frankly he wasn't mentally prepared for that yet.
Ironically, he was actually feeling pretty hungry, and that didn't just owe to the fact that he skipped lunch earlier from the pre-trip nausea of going to visit Evangeline in the afternoon. His yen for food at the moment had much more to do with that wonderful scent wafting through the air of boiling pork broth, grilled meats varying from distinguishing smells of beef, pork, duck, and shrimp, grilled and fried vegetables, and other succulent dishes that were driving him absolutely mad.
"Where is it coming from?" Negi's nose directed his eyes to the source of his torment, and he spotted a familiar food kiosk set up along the path already teeming with hungry students; some already dining at the outdoor tables set up on the lawn, others squeezed elbow to elbow at the bar, and the rest anxiously waiting in line at the takeout window to the left side of the cart. "Its the Chao Boa Zi." The name of Chao Lingshen's privately owned restaurant rolled off his tongue, with perfect pronunciation one might add, like the name of a treasured lover. Anxiously looking forward to yet another hot, steamy love affair with the delicious dishes of the colorfully decorated establishment, the young magister's stomach compelled his legs to take him toward the food cart's general direction. Being an adorable redhead boy in black sweat pants, a muscle shirt under a hoodie, and a magical staff (This item in particular) slung over his back, it wasn't hard to spot him from a distance, as Ku-Fei immediately did in the middle of serving a table of customers hot tea.
"Ah, disciple!" The tanned Chinese girl exclaimed happily at the sight of him. "Very odd seeing you out at this time without Asuna-san, or Konoka-chan!"
"Master Ku!" The boy acknowledged her cheerfully. Somehow seeing her cheery face made him a little less nervous about the meeting he was going to be having soon. "You look busy."
"Yes! No time to train you tonight!" She informed him apologetically. "Still on the clock! Many customers here tonight after all."
Hearing that made Negi curious. "So Chao pays you hourly?" He asked innocently, getting a quizzical stare from the chairman in return like the concept went right over her head.
"Hourly?" She looked concerned. "I never pay much mind to that." Now she crossed her arms, tea kettle still held in one hand and hummed to herself. "Interesting, this."
Two arms draped over Negi's shoulders from behind and a chin came to rest upon his head with an accompanying question of, "Hey, you get free meals and snacks, right?" This question was apparently directed at Ku-Fei because she nodded in response. "And you'd just use the money I pay you on food and snacks anyway, right?" Ku-Fei nodded again, and at the point Negi realized it was Chao Lingshen leaning against him from behind. "So paying you would be meaningless since that's already taken care of by me, right?"
Ku-Fei nodded affirmatively, once again in high spirits with the restaurant owner's help. "That right, Lingshen!"
"Then off to work!" Lingshen sent her off on her happy way before getting off of Negi so that he could turn and face her. "What are you, with the general union or something?" She joked with a professional smile. "If all of the representatives that they send are as cute as you, I'll be in trouble!"
Negi chuckled, not sure how else to react.
"No, seriously." The humor in her voice melted away quickly. "Don't kill the morale of my girls. I'm running a business here."
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Negi flinched and apologized, but by then the girl was already laughing at him, slapping a hand on his shoulder with a smile on her face; this one far more genuine than the one that showed on her face earlier.
"I'm kidding, Negi-chan!" She told him affectionately, pulling him close so that he could pick up the faint hint of perfume on her skin. "You're welcome here anytime you want! Please, stay and have something to eat!"
"Definitely!" He didn't need to be told. "I was actually pretty hungry. The smell of your food was so good that I couldn't help myself."
"Hee, hee! Aren't you the sweet talker?" Lingshen blushed at his praise, strangely enough. Negi figured that the compliments she received for her delicious meals were already so plentiful that by this point they sounded stale to her ears, but with the way she reacted it was like seeing a little girl receive praise from one of her admired elders. He had to admit that it made her look cute. "Just for that you get a free bag of my pork buns to take home with you! I'm sure Asuna-san and Konoka-san would like that."
"If they make the trip back home." Negi said with a mischievous grin, following his student across the lawn, past the occupied tables, toward the large food cart. When she led him around the back to the door he regarded her curiously. "Where are we going? Shouldn't I stand in line with the others?"
"Don't be absurd." She told him, opening the door. "I have a table set up inside where you can eat in private. You only get the best treatment, Negi-chan. I wouldn't allow any less!" She waved him in with one hand. "Unless you're in that much of a rush."
Negi shook his head. "Not at all." Anything to prolong getting to what was ahead of him. "Thanks!" He walked up the short flight of steps and entered through the door. He walked into a back room behind the kitchen of the cart, and was met with a cozy little set up. With the comfortable looking cot set up against the left wall, two duffel bags left beside it and another door that likely led to a small washroom, Negi figured that Lingshen spent a lot of time here on the really busy schedules. There was also a medium sized table set up against the right wall with three open ends for people to sit at.
One of the ends were already taken, and by a young woman that Negi had never laid eyes upon before. She was an attractive girl with western features much like Evangeline McDowell, of honey blonde, wavy hair that fell over her shoulders, bushy eyebrows and down turned inky, black eyes that gave her a perpetually tired looking expression. She was in the middle of scarfing up a large bowl of thick, juicy pork cuts and ramen noodles, and with the way she voraciously slurped the noodles up from the bowl without heeding their presence, she looked to be enjoying her meal immensely with no indications of stopping for breath until the bowl was barren.
"Dorothy?" Lingshen called the attention of the girl.
The one named 'Dorothy' severed the thick lock of noodles protruding from between her lips with her teeth, letting it all collapse back into the bowl and looked up to regard the Chinese girl questioningly, broth dripping from her chin. "Yes?" Her voice carried a melancholic melody, like every word was the beginning of a sad song.
"Visitor." Lingshen replied, tossing her head toward Negi discreetly.
"Hmm?" At first it appeared as though Dorothy didn't particularly care that there was a third person in the room, however, within seconds of laying her eyes upon Negi, the dead look in her eyes came alive with what could only be described as recognition; as if Negi had come in wearing a fake mustache and she had been momentarily stumped over who he was before the other features of his face clued her in on his actual identity. The problem with all that was that Negi couldn't recall who she was even if someone had held him at gunpoint questioning him about it repeatedly.
"Interesting." She mused, eyes studying him in the way a scientist did a rare and valuable specimen. In that regard her next words were almost comical. "Somehow I expected you to be taller."
Taking slight offense to her statement, he said, "I'm eleven years old. Should I be any taller for my age?"
Dorothy fixed him a long, quiet stare, giving him the impression that she was really investing some intellectual thought into his rhetorical question, however, in the end all she said was, "Probably not." And now she simply came off as odd. Negi had the sneaking suspicion that some nefarious character was detaining all of the normal girls somewhere. He needed to find out where so he could set them free to frolic the earth again.
Negi looked to his lovely student inquiringly. "Um, Chao-san?" He asked her, whispering, "Who is she?" He heard the girl at the table chuckle at his question, as if she heard his whisper and derived a delicious sense of irony from it.
Lingshen, for a moment, looked visibly annoyed by something, but when she turned to him she was as accommodating as could be to his curiosity, answering him with, "Well, just in case you didn't catch her name earlier, this would be Dorothy, a friend of mine that attends at the Ursula Campus. She took an interest in my little business and is helping out as my personal coordinator."
"For the experience." Dorothy threw in, pointing to Negi with her chopsticks. "Lingshen here has a few projects lined up for the upcoming festival, so I'll be assisting her with those as well. She's a very busy girl."
"She definitely makes organizing everything easier." Lingshen remarked. "In return for her services she takes advantage of the free meals." She waved a hand over to where Dorothy sat with her bowl of pork ramen. "As you can see."
"Much better than that instant garbage." said Dorothy, raising a cut of pork from the bowl before popping it into her mouth. When she swallowed the meat she exclaimed, "I doubt I'll ever be able to go back."
"But, anyway, take a seat, Negi-chan." Lingshen directed him to the table and walked over to the door of the kitchen. "I'll have Satsuki prepare you a bowl as well."
Negi placed a hand at the back of the chair that Lingshen left him to, hesitant to take a seat without her to accompany him at the table. Something about this Dorothy girl bothered him. "Alright." But he resolved to sit down anyway since standing around like a socially awkward fool would serve no point. When he settled his chair close enough to the edge of the table he stole a glance to his side at the Ursula student to find her looking at him.
"...Is this about me being a teacher?" He asked her, assuming that to be the reason for why she appeared to be amused at the sight of him. "It's always a hot subject, so I'm used to being asked about it."
"Well, you are young." said Dorothy, bowl pushed away so she could rest her cheek in one hand to behold him. "I just can't help but think that this is what greatness looks like in the earlier stages. Fitting that it's not always what you expect."
"Huh?" Negi felt the skin on his face rise in temperature. "You flatter me. I'm not so great. I still have so much to improve on before I can actually accept compliments like that."
"I happen to have some good foresight." Dorothy told him, though her tone made it hard for him to tell whether she was being serious, or playful in her words. "You're going to become someone unimaginably great. Just don't force yourself too hard."
"When you get carried away with growing strong you tend to take shortcuts whenever they're available." She told him, sounding less like a high school student and more like a world weary adult. "True greatness is earned, otherwise there are drawbacks and consequences. There always are."
Her delivery was so eerie that he had to suppress his bodily urge to shiver at how the hairs on his arms stood at end. "How often do you make a habit of telling people this?" He asked, hoping to lighten the mood a little.
Dorothy shook her head, and smiled, but her response was downright perplexing. "I hate humans on principle, so everyone else is out of luck."
Negi slightly leaned toward her in his chair with both eyes narrowed, thoroughly intrigued. He honestly wanted to believe he was just hearing things. "Wait, what?" A bowl of ramen was placed on the table in front of him before he could give himself the trouble of finding out.
"Here you are!" Lingshen announced, walking around his chair to take her seat on his left. "This is currently the top rated dish on our menu right now. Enjoy!"
"Thank you." Negi stammered, caught off guard by her unannounced presentment of his food.
"Hey," Lingshen called Dorothy's attention, sensing something amiss. "You weren't being weird to him, were you?" She asked as though it was fully expected.
"No." The western girl answered with a roll of her eyes.
Lingshen let her eyes linger on Dorothy a moment. "Yeah, alright." Negi couldn't help, but notice that her tone was less than friendly when she said that. It was very unlike the attitude he was used to seeing her with, and the unusual tension between both girls at the table didn't seem to ease up any more as he dug into his bowl. All in all, it was an interesting dinner–free though, and you really couldn't beat that. Then again, how fitting that this bowl of ramen would be so delicious, because Evangeline McDowell could very well ensure that it was his final supper.
During the course of his walk to Evangeline's cottage, in the middle of the woods, Negi discovered something about himself that never occurred to him before; he ate in excess whenever he was nervous. Chao Lingshen generously sent him off from her food kiosk with a bag of six of her world famous pork buns (Claimed that her father came up with the recipe for the pork, and that her mother prepared the perfect dough to lock the juices in tight.), and at some point between him receiving the bag from her and him venturing into the woods that number quickly fell to a meager two buns. With the light of the dark wizard's cottage still faint in the distance between the trees, he wondered if Asuna and Konoka would know anything about them by the end of the night.
Eventually the cottage, in its entirety, came into view at the clearing of the forest and the young magister was left with an empty crumpled bag in his left hand and not enough food in the world to settle the knots in his stomach. Chachamaru stood at the porch of the cottage in her maid uniform, waiting patiently without a word as though she had been fully expecting him to arrive ahead of time, in spite of the fact that her mistress had not given him a set time to make himself present.
"Good evening, Negi-sensei." The gynoid greeted him with a low bow, raising herself upright again with a surprisingly cordial smile, however small it was on her lovely face. It gave him the impression that he had done something noteworthy. "I am pleased that you resolved yourself to come. I had faith in your bravery."
"Thanks, Chachamaru-san." Negi scratched at the back of his head with a forced chuckle. Now he felt like he had to put on a brave face to meet her expectations, or he'd feel like he failed her. "I brought myself to her with the request. It would be cowardly not to see it through."
"Masters of the magical arts, and world renown heroes have turned away at the thought of facing the mistress on a full moon. Even the Thousand Master remained wary of her in all of their encounters." Chachamaru informed the young magister in an attempt to commend him for his courage further, but–
Oh, you just keep going, Chachamaru. You just say one more thing and I'm done! I'll turn around right now and head back home! Negi wasn't receiving her words in the way they were intended. He knew she meant well, but this talk of greater men just wasn't working out for him.
"I'll not hold this off any longer." The lovely maid placed a hand on the door and pressed it open for him before offering a bow of respect, sending him off with, "Proceed forward, Negi-sensei. I have faith that you will pull through."
"Of course." The young magister accepted her kind words and proceeded into the cottage. It was dark when he stepped in and the door slammed shut behind him so quick that he nearly jumped four feet in the air.
Without the moonlight from outside pouring in he was plunged into absolute darkness, far too dark for his eyes to adjust. He felt a cold breeze coming through from up ahead; at first quite faint, but with time so strong that it blew his hair back. When he finally summoned the nerve to venture forward through the darkness he saw a crack of fire come alive in the far distance, diagonally above him. Two flames appeared there, followed by two more down the diagonal path in a chain, trailing down the left and right stone walls of a long stone carved stairway until it was fully lit with torches to the foot of the stairs just a few paces ahead of him.
"I'm not in the cottage anymore..." Negi noted to himself. He didn't recall seeing a set of stairs that lead that high up in his last visit, and certainly not carved from stone. Right now he felt like he had come into an old castle judging from the worn brick work of the stair tunnel.
Even with the light from the stairway nearby he couldn't see a floor beneath his feet, or any walls to the left or right of him. Even the door that he had come through had vanished, replaced by a wall of darkness. The stairway in front of him was the only tangible looking object at present so with no other options to choose from he decided to take it wherever it lead him, stopping six steps up from the bottom to peer through one of the gothic, windows that lined the stairwell to the top. He was met with a view of the moon and stars above a carpet of dark clouds that stretched out as far as the eyes could see. Here and there he could make out the ice encased spires of tall towers poking out from below, some decorated with winged gargoyles sitting atop of them with spears gripped in hand like sentries of a long forgotten fortress.
Once he reached the top of the stairway the tunnel opened up into a large circular chamber with an arched ceiling from which a large, multi-tier torch lit chandelier hung suspended by a system of thick chains. The floor was covered in elegantly patterned tiles of black and blue flowers against a curtain of flames, chipped with age, and the walls were ornately carved with painstaking detail to depict a furious struggle between companies of knights and hordes of demonic, hulking beasts taking on many at a time. There were six alcoves, three each to the left and right sides of the chamber. In them were large, painted portraits of six different women fitted with uniquely crafted suits of armor; one of a woman whom resembled a fully matured Evangeline McDowell far too much to pass off as mere coincidence.
"Is this supposed to be a memorial?" Negi thought aloud to no one in particular, stopping in front of the portrait of the Evangeline look alike to study her. He looked over his shoulder at the portrait in the alcove diagonally across from it to see a smiling woman with long, silver hair and grey eyes. It was a contrasting expression from the five other knight portraits, with their stoic expressions and the hardened look in their eyes. "Are these women related to McDowell in some way?"
"Don't linger around there too long, Springfield." Evangeline's disembodied voice filled the room, having Negi whip his around head in every direction to determine where it came from. "I'm not that much further away." The tall, red, stained glass double doors at the opposite end of the room from where he entered opened by the power of an unseen force, no longer locking out the cold blistering winds from outside.
"I'd feel right at home here with a whip..." Negi quipped, taking one last look at the chamber before taking his leave through the newly opened passage. This time he found himself standing on a guard railed, outdoor platform half encased in ice with sharp icicles jutting out dangerously in some areas from cracks in the floor. It was held up by two icicle covered, large stone hands likely belonging to a statue mounted beneath it, and considering how high up above the clouds he was at the moment, he really began to question the bizarre architecture that was going on around him. At the end of the frozen platform awaited a long, carpeted stairway left in a similar frozen state, leading toward an ominous looking keep encased in large icicles from the bottom of the black tower to the very top. From Negi's point of view the full moon was angled just behind the keep's spire in such a way that the whole situation felt like a grand set up for a confrontation between good and evil.
He made his way to the stop, taking great care not to slip and fall, lest he desired a gruesome impalement upon one of the thick icicles poking through jagged cracks in the steps, and when he pushed open one of the heavy, iron double doors to enter the keep he was met with a cloaked Evangeline McDowell, sitting on the floor at the center of the chamber with her back to a double staircase that lead to a raised platform where the throne sat desecrated and in shambles. In the alcove beneath the platform stood a statue of a short haired female knight, gripping sword and shield, a scarf around her neck that fell to her feet. At the base there were inscriptions, but they were too small for him to make out from where he stood.
"Welcome, boy." The vampire greeted him, rising to stand at full height with the glamor of her fully grown form and as intimidating as can be in a coat of armor that resembled that of the woman in the portrait he'd seen before. Seeing her stand proudly, a few things began to fall into place in Negi's mind though more questions arose than anything else.
"Your first step into the darkness begins here," She waved both of her arms out as if she intended to take him into her embrace. "Ready yourself. I don't plan on being gentle."
To Be Continued...
Alright, I got this out in under a week, right? I'm making good time here!
So right off the bat I've already made a few changes. Let me check them off right here...
1. Different vampire initiation story? Check.
2. Early introduction of Dorothy Summers? Check.
3. More Negi and Lingshen interaction? Check.
4. References to the sisterhood? Check.
I'm going to retain some events from the original story (Flying lessons are staying), but overall there's going to be a major overhaul on things. Not to worry, Chachazero will still be Negi's familiar in this one; that's not ever going to change, but I'm going to shake things up further. Some readers were worried about Chisame and Takane getting less focus; that's not happening for two reasons:
The first reason is that "Fang Vice Addiction" has always kind of been Takane's story with Negi as much as it is Evangeline's story. I intend to make that bond between them more of a theme in this rendition. The second reason is that Chisame has interesting chemistry with Negi, and that doesn't get enough attention around here.
Expect to see a lot more of Mana in this series as well.
EDIT: Carlem told me about UQ Holder a little while back; I think around the time the first chapter was released, and I read up to the second chapter when Touta has his transformation. I thought it was pretty cool. Looks like Ken is going to be delving into some really dark territory now, as opposed to his usual harem hijinks.
Will that affect the story in any way? Nah...