A/N: FALL WITH ME is a story that draws on elements of the Madoka Magica universe without necessarily being a crossover. Knowledge of that canon is helpful, but by no means required to understand and appreciate this story as long as you have some passing notion of what a magical girl/boy is XD I hope you all enjoy it...
"Hey, Hakuryuu, you did a really good job today!" Alibaba exclaimed, clapping Hakuryuu on the back with a warm hand. He smiled with the radiance of a summer sun, and Hakuryuu awkwardly mirrored it.
"Really, it wasn't that impressive. My spear just makes it easier for me to hit things that fly than your sword or Miss Morgiana's kicks. Aladdin is the one who really deserves your praise. He's the one who defeated the witch."
"No way," Aladdin said with a smile. "You did a good job. You're really getting the hang of this. None of us would guess that you'd only just begun to actually use your powers."
Alibaba nodded along. "At this rate, you're gonna be better than me!" He reached out trying to grab Hakuryuu's spear. "Hey… so what's your secret, anyway, huh?"
Hakuryuu gave Alibaba a smug little smile. "Eh? Who knows. Maybe I'm just better?"
"Wha?" Alibaba looked shocked and appalled and jumped at Hakuryuu a little. "Come on, don't be like that!"
Morgiana took a few steps back, slowly turning around on her heels and looking around the room. Her nose twitched. "Something's not right. The labyrinth should have started to break down by now…" She scanned the echoing chambers above their tiny platform, and a flash of static motion caught her eye. "Hakuryuu, look out!"
Hakuryuu blinked, looking up from his horseplay with Alibaba. "What?"
The witch's lingering familiar gave a high-pitched giggle as it dove down to take out the pair with its claws shrouded in a thick black miasma. They sprang apart, but Hakuryuu's ankle caved on the landing, and he went down, hard, sprawling on the floor. A rush of adrenaline rendered him impotent with directionless terror, and he squeezed his eyes shut.
The sound of ringing bells filled the air, and a rush of black birds surged between Hakuryuu and the lingering familiar. Hakuryuu peeked an eye open, trying to figure out where the birds had come from. They were not the product of a witches magic but something else. Hakuryuu felt his heart swell with hope as a dark figure appeared above, silhouetted against a pitch black sunburst.
The figure's lips moved in wordless incantation, and scores of pitch black icicles emerged from the echoing caverns of the labyrinth, driving down into the familiar's body. The creature screamed, almost human, and fizzled to static and then nothingness. Hakuryuu watched in awe as the boy drifted down before him and the sound of birds and bells softened to a gentle murmur. He glanced at Hakuryuu, bright red eyes boring straight into him.
"I..." Hakuryuu said. "I mean, thank yo-"
The boy smirked and turned, springing off for the labyrinth's exit.
"Judal!" Aladdin called after him, and the boy paused.
"Ehh… that reminds me," he turned and back and looked at the group. "Mini Magi, you seen a rogue familiar running around your city? I came out here cuz I thought maybe this prey was my girl turned witch, but the symbols are all wrong."
All eyes turned to Aladdin, and he slowly shook his head. The boy, Judal, scoffed and shrugged.
"Figures." He flipped a rude gesture Aladdin's way and turned back around, disappearing into the labyrinth's shimmering disintegration.
Hakuryuu shakily dusted himself off and glanced at Aladdin. "You know him?"
Aladdin was still staring after the fleeting shadow of Judal. "Not really. He's a legend among Puer Magi though... He moves around all over the place, never staying in one spot for too long. He's pretty notorious for stealing grief seeds out from other people's noses, and I've also heard a lot of stories of him getting in Kyuubey's way when he tries to get new people to make contracts. He says he's the strongest Magi, and he intends to keep it that way."
Alibaba stuck his tongue out at the fleeting figure. "I hate guys like that. You know, people who think they can just bully other people into doing whatever they want."
Hakuryuu nodded. "He sounds like a troublesome person." Yet Hakuryuu couldn't stave off one question in his mind- If Judal wanted to get rid of any of his competition, why not just let the familiar take him out? "We should head back out of here before the labyrinth gets too unstable."
"Alright class, listen up. We have a new student joining us today." The teacher stepped aside, gesturing to a blond boy with bright eyes. "This is Titus, and he'll be part of your class starting today."
Titus bowed to everyone. "Hello!" His voice was clear, with only the faintest hint of an accent. "I'm new to this country, and I hope you'll all be kind to me!"
"Hakuryuu is our class representative. If you have questions, feel free to ask him." The teacher gestured to Hakuryuu with his workbook. Hakuryuu tried to smile at Titus, but he just felt… awkward. He never knew what to do when put in the social spotlight like this.
Titus turned his nose up and strode to his seat without saying a word to Hakuryuu.
Hakuryuu supposed someone else might have found it rude, but to him, it was a relief. Hakuryuu turned his face back down to his notes, and went on with the rest of his day. Classes, lunch, then classes again all blended together into the same, reassuring mental smudge of school life. After that was clubs, student council today, and he sat there mostly silently as he did his duties. Hakuryuu was good at school- mature, studious, and skillful. He had every intention of making his brothers proud and doing right by his dead parents, and to that end he had resolved to keep his head down, work hard, and get into a good school. Being a Puer Magi and a witch hunter would always be second to that.
"Hey, new kid," called an almost familiar voice.
Hakuryuu looked up from the sidewalk as he exited the school's gates. No sign of who… He glanced around, confused.
"Up here," the voice called again from a nearby tree.
Hakuryuu looked up to see Judal perched in the branches, a smile on his face and a half-eaten peach in his hand. He waved at Hakuryuu before taking another bite.
"Ah." Hakuryuu nodded to him. "Hello. Can I… help you?"
Judal shrugged. "Maybe. Whatcha doing? You going somewhere fun now that you're done with school?"
Hakuryuu eyed Judal suspiciously. Aladdin had warned him this man was dangerous, but he was another Puer Magi. In theory, their goals were similar. "I was just... going to meet up with Aladdin and the others. We tend to patrol the city for a little after school and our clubs let out to make sure there are no witches about."
"Cool, cool." Judal took another sloppy bite of his peach, juice and bits of fruit falling on his rumpled clothes. What did this man do during the day? He didn't look to be much older than Hakuryuu himself. "Say, you see a witch with this symbol, you let me know. That one's mine." He tossed a crumpled piece of paper at Hakuryuu.
Hakuryuu uncrumpled the piece of paper, staring at the messy pen sketch of a witch's symbol within. Even knowing it was just a facsimile, it still sent a chill down his spine to see a mark like that in broad daylight. He folded the paper back up with twice the care Judal had given it and tucked it into his wallet. Judal nodded in approval, jumping down from the tree.
"Awesome, thanks." Judal began to walk down the road in the opposite direction from Hakuryuu.
"Do you want to join us?" Hakuryuu asked. "We'd be happy to have an extra set of eyes to watch out for trouble, and if you think there's a possibility the witch you've been pursu-"
"It's a familiar," Judal corrected, "I don't know if it's turned into a witch yet. And I'm more of a lone wolf."
Hakuryuu frowned, crossing his arms. "You know that many of the early ideas about wolf behaviour, such as alphas, betas, and lone wolves, are factually inaccurate and based on studies done on captive wolves from different packs, not-"
Judal blew a raspberry, not bothering to turn around and respond properly. Hakuryuu uncrossed his arms with a huff. What a contrary man. There were more important things to worry about than just keeping his own glory in line by getting rid of a familiar. Fine then, Hakuryuu wouldn't waste any more effort trying to recruit Judal to their cause. A glance at his watch said he'd be late if he didn't get on the way soon, anyway. Hakuryuu jogged down the road to reach the park between his and the other Magi's schools.
Alibaba and Morgiana were already waiting there, but Aladdin had yet to arrive. At least he wasn't the last. Alibaba waved when he saw Hakuryuu approaching.
"Hey! Did your archery club go well today?"
Hakuryuu shook his head with a smile. "I actually have Student Council today, not archery."
Alibaba sighed heavily. "Maaan, you work so hard. If I didn't get along with so many of my club mates I think I'd just drop out and join the go-home-early club."
"How would you get into a good college, then, Alibaba? They look at all your extra curriculars." Hakuryuu took a seat across from Morgiana, and she passed him a bottle of juice with a wordless smile. Their hands touched briefly, and Hakuryuu felt his own smile grow a little wider.
Alibaba playfully smacked at Hakuryuu's arm. "Yeah, yeah, I know... You think my mom and old man don't remind me about that, too?"
Hakuryuu grinned. "Well if you're having so much trouble being a Puer Magi, maybe being a good student would be more your speed."
The two began another round of playful horseplay when a strange voice called out to Hakuryuu.
"Excuse me," it said, and all three of them turned to look.
From the way that Hakuryuu had come stood the new transfer student, and he stared at them with his sparkling, light eyes. Hakuryuu couldn't tell if it was a look of fear or wonder. "Are you... did you say Puer Magi?"
"I..." Alibaba glanced at Hakuryuu, who glanced back at Alibaba as well.
The transfer student apparently didn't feel like waiting for a response when it seemed he wouldn't get one, and so he strode forward, head held in a haughty tilt. He looked the group up and down, and after a bit nodded. "Very well." He held out his hand. "I am Titus Alexius, and I would like to join your little group of witch hunters."
Aladdin finally came jogging up, hair bouncing as he ran. "Sorry I'm late! I got caught up with-" He stopped short, staring at Titus. "Who's this?"
Titus smiled and strode over to Aladdin. "I'm your new teammate. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Aladdin looked Titus up and down before breaking into a massive smile. "All right then! I'm happy to have you here then! I'm Aladdin!" He took Titus's hand and shook it warmly. Leave it to Aladdin to accept friendship without question. "It sure is nice to have another lovely lady join our team!"
Titus flushed an angry red. "I am not a lady!"
"Eh?" Aladdin looked baffled. "But you have such a lovely figure and a nice plump bu-"
"Titus is a classmate from my school," Hakuryuu interrupted, trying to save everyone from further embarrassment. "I didn't realize he was a Puer Magi until he followed me here."
Aladdin still looked a bit confused, but he smiled anyway. He took Titus's hand and shook it warmly. "I hope we can be friends, then! I'm Aladdin, and you already know Hakuryuu..." He turned and pointed. "And over there are Morg and Alibaba, too! All of us are Magi who work to protect this city from witches!"
Titus awkwardly straightened his uniform and coughed. "Of course. So. Are you heading off to hunt a witch now?"
"Sort of?" Alibaba said, hopping up. "We patrol around for a little while every day after school, just to make sure there's not any witch activity showing up in town. Most days it's pretty quiet here thankfully, but you never know when danger might strike!" He pantomimed the slash of a dagger, bouncing into his loose sword stance and dancing from foot to foot. "So, we all do our best to be ready!" He sprang forward at the group of other Magi, as though stabbing for the kill, but produced his soul gem with a big, goofy grin at the last moment. The golden stone pulsed to life, and Alibaba looked shocked. "Ah…"
Aladdin's eyes widened a little. "Looks like it's not just gonna be another boring day of patrol after all."
Alibaba nodded. "Come on then!" He charged through the group of the three of them, tucking his soul gem back into his fist. "Let's go!"
Morgiana sprang up from her seat and chased along after Alibaba, and Aladdin, Hakuryuu, and Titus followed in close pursuit. Alibaba lead them headlong down the street, laughing as he ducked around businessmen and shoppers. Hakuryuu and Aladdin mumbled apologies to all those who stared after Alibaba in indignant surprise.
"I ran into that boy," Hakuryuu said as the group followed after Alibaba, "Judal. He said he's here because he's chasing down a familiar that may have turned into a witch." He fumbled the paper out of his pocket and passed it to Aladdin.
Aladdin grabbed it and scanned it quickly. "Morg, have you seen anything like this around town?" He tossed it to her.
Morgiana took the paper and glanced over it before giving it a light sniff. "No. I don't recognize it. And it just smells like that other Magi." She turned around to hand it back to Hakuryuu, and he folded it away once more.
"Well, if that's the case, we might be snagging it out from under his nose then!" Alibaba laughed. "To the victor go the spoils!" He stopped suddenly, and everyone else had to backpedal and cartwheel their arms to keep from running past or crashing into him. "Let's check my gem again…." He pulled out his soul gem, eyeing the pulses. "Aaah, this one thinks she can outsmart us! It's really on the move!" Alibaba shoved Titus out of the way to charge down a side street. "You can't beat us, witch!"
Titus huffed and glanced at Aladdin. "Is he always like this?"
Aladdin smiled back. "It's part of his charm. Alibaba doesn't let anything keep him down!"
Morgiana pointed after Alibaba. "We should really get going before we lose him."
The group took to their heels again, chasing after Alibaba once more. Hakuryuu's heart was pounding, but not unpleasantly. It was nice, having this group around him, even if it was hard for him to find his way into conversation without feeling awkwar-
Alibaba came tearing back towards them, nearly knocking Hakuryuu and Aladdin over. Morgiana and Titus gracefully hopped to the side to avoid him. "It's a fast one this time! I can't tell where it's heading!"
Hakuryuu scowled as he straightened his jacket. "Are you sure your soul gem isn't malfunctioning?"
"What?" Alibaba frowned. "I'm sure it's around here somewhere! Or like. In this direction somewhere."
Hakuryuu sighed and conjured up his own soul gem. "If you went at a more manageable pace, we would be able to track the witch better." He gazed into the icy blue, patiently watching for movement. The light flickered and twisted, pulling after one direction and then another. Useless. "Ugh."
Aladdin sighed. "Looks like it's either going too fast for us to track, or there's more than one witch in the area."
Hakuryuu clenched his fist over the soul gem to return it to ring form. "In that case, I'm going to head home."
Alibaba looked up, stunned. "What? But what about the witch? Or witches?"
Hakuryuu sighed heavily. "I don't have time to run around playing hero all night. At the risk of sounding callous, I have a lot of other responsibilities outside of being a Puer Magi." He turned around and headed back for the main street.
"But what about-"
Hakuryuu paused and glanced back. "If it's running around, we'll never find it. Once it's settled down enough to set up a labyrinth, we'll be able to track it down without running ourselves ragged." He bowed to his friends. "Good night everyone. I'll see you tomorrow."