"It's no good!" Anya gasped loudly as everything crumbled down around them, large chunks of rock falling everywhere. "They've destroyed the gate's keystone… the link between the worlds is broken, with us caught in the middle!"
"The displacement magic is going out of control!" Negi observed. "Everyone stay together!" he commanded to his forces and the confused hangers-ons. "Join hands tightly, and-!"
Then everything surrounding him exploded in an onslaught of light, smoke, flying marble, rubble, shattered ice and, for some reason, the taste of a bell ringing and the sound of baby cologne (synesthesia was a bitch). His lungs were filled by dust, and a massive impact hit him in the chest and sent him flying back and away from the others as his whole world went black.
He still could hear Chisame's voice desperately crying, "Negi! Take my hand!" before losing his hearing in addition to his sight. And then everything became quiet.
Akamatsu Ken and Kodansha created and owned Mahou Sensei Negima!
Yamaguchi Noboru and Media Factory created Zero no Tsukaima.
Thanks to Shadow Crystal Mage for the proofreading and edits.
What Makes Us Human.
"I think I will call him…" announced the shapely and dark-skinned bespectacled young blonde with dog ears and a furry tail, as she lifted the small yellow animal in her hands, "… Jean-Luc!"
A slightly taller and bustier dog girl with longer blond hair, standing at a side of the summoning field behind the Academy, raised an eyebrow. "Jean-Luc?" she echoed dubiously.
"Pika-Pika?" added the yellow mouse-like creature (although more similar in size to a small cat) the dog female with glasses was holding, cocking its head aside, its lightning-shaped tail twitching.
The girl holding him nodded and smiled. "Doesn't he just look like a Jean-Luc? And I believe it's a lovely name!"
The gathered students standing behind the other dog-like student chuckled, giggled and chattered amongst themselves before the plump, short human woman in the dark purple robes and hat silenced them with naught but a calm gesture (proving this really was a fantasy world). "It is as valid a name as any other," she said. "Miss Farandole, if anything, I think you should be commended on managing to summon such a creature. There are no records of anything like it in any menagerie I ever remember seeing, so you will get points on reaching past the boundaries of this realm. However, that also means you will have to be extremely careful in handling it, as we don't know the extent of its powers or its moods…"
Collet Farandole laughed at that. "Oh, Miss Chevreusse! You worry far too much! Just look at how lovable Jean-Luc looks, and how friendly it acts! How could he possibly ever—"
"Pika! Pika!" Jean-Luc, after shaking his short legs desperately in an effort to be put down, clenched his teeth and then released a large electric discharge from his body, knocking Collet on her back on the grass, her eyes spiraling quickly.
Professor Chevreusse sighed. "Very well, I suppose now we all are done with… Oh, my apologies," she corrected herself, looking at a nervous, gulping pink haired little beauty the other girls had just stepped away from, as if to give her free berth for the sake of her shame. "I don't know how I could forget about you, My Lady. Louise Francoise Le Blanc De La Valliere, please step forward and summon your Familiar."
The girl she had just addressed nodded firmly, but then just stayed still where she was.
The middle aged teacher waited for a moment before gently adding, "Miss La Valliere, the summoning has to be performed at the middle of the ceremonial grounds."
"Not like it will help her any," whispered a tall, buxom, brown skinned redhead to a much shorter and smaller blue haired girl with glasses and a stoic bland expression standing at her side, holding a long wooden staff in one hand. A well-traveled and educated observer might be forgiven for wondering if a mass-produced angel had somehow shrunk in the washing machine. Louise stared fire and hissed poison in their general direction before reluctantly walking forward to stand before the teacher in the middle of the gathering.
"I know this might be difficult for you," Chevreusse said, greatly understating the situation, "but I'm confident you can do it if you just put your heart into it. We know you have certain problems… accessing magic, but you have a lot of spirit, and summoning a Familiar relies, more than anything, on willpower and drive. It should play to your strengths enough for it to work. Do you feel prepared?"
"As much as ever, I imagine," the girl sadly said, convinced by now she would fail no matter the time, so why keep stalling her ultimate defeat anymore? She had led a good… well, a moderately pleasant life, and she was sure she always could escape or throw herself off a bridge before being shipped back home a failure to face her mother and older sister's wrath.
"That's excellent!" smiled Chevreusse, who was much better at teaching students with any talent than at recognizing the signs from those who didn't. Either that or she was just a sadist rubbing in the failures of her students. It was hard to tell with teachers. "Well then, show us your majestic Familiar, My Lady!"
"Oh, this will be good," the short haired, elegant Tomoe Marguerite chuckled to herself under her breath, maliciously. The pony unicorn with light purple fur and a darker mane and tail standing on all fours at her side, wearing one of the Academy's official black capes, gave her an angry stink eye Tomoe pretended to ignore altogether. Stupid sexy ponies.
Louise gathered the deepest breath of her young life, raised the magical wand in her right hand, and chanted with a voice that tried its best to sound brave and not shaky, "Pentagon of the Five Elemental Powers! Heed my summoning! And bring forth my Familiar!"
Nothing… Nothing Happened.
Somewhere else in the Mundus Magicus, a certain green haired swordsman and pirate sneezed loudly, then rubbed the snot off his nose with the back of a solid hand.
"I knew it," Nina Wang shook her head in somber and disappointed dismay. "There was no way it could work…"
"Like, that is weird," the short duck girl with blond hair at her left blinked. "I was like sure my readings on today's events so totally said she'd do well for once…?"
"Sacred! Beautiful! Powerful Familiar!" Louise yelled as she waved the wand high. "Come to me already! For we are fated for great things together!"
"Now this is just sad…" Irina Woods, a brainy looking petite redhead, placed a hand on her own face, pushing her glasses up. She'd always found La Valliere standoffish, rude and unlikable, but seeing her at her most pathetic was still gut wrenching. And gut turning.
"Listen to the pledge radiating from my heart!" Louise called loudly. "SO WE CAN SHOW EVERYONE!"
"Oi," a tiny demoness from Venus began waving her small hands towards Louise, "don't you think that's enough now? Even a high maintenance student like you should realize by this point—"
Raspberyl's usual confused declarations on what made a good student and a delinquent or underachiever were interrupted this once when the skies suddenly grew much darker, almost as much as those back in her homeworld, making her step back as she took notice. So did the teacher and the rest of the students and their newly summoned Familiars, who instantly looked up in several different levels of alarm. One sensible soul drew out an umbrella and opened it. They were so greatly worried they failed to notice the blue pentagon starting to glow under Louise's feet, surrounding itself with a circle and runes until it became a fully fledged Pactio circle. Even Louise had failed to see it, as her head had snapped back and she gasped, staring in terror at the black clouds that had just appeared all over Mundus Magicus, shooting lightning at each other.
"Pika…" a fascinated Jean-Luc stared at the beautiful electric lights.
"Oh my gods!" Emily Sevensheep gasped. "Louise the Zero's ineptitude actually BROKE the Magic keeping the world together!"
"What the Hades?!" Louise snapped at her. "It's my fault now?! Wait, wouldn't that mean I'm just TOO GOOD at magic instead?!"
"Zero, you idiot!" Tomoe screamed while a fierce wind began blowing the skirts of Class 3-C's students. "What have you brought upon us?!"
"It, it it must be a total coincidence!" Louise cried, waving her stubby arms around now she had briefly transformed into a panicking Chibi. "I can't even make a Light spell right, how do you now believe me able of… this?!"
Shirley the duck, keeping her aloof coolness even now, simply frowned at the clouds. "Weird, right? Like I never saw this coming at all."
"Everyone regroup and head inside!" the teacher commanded. "Headmaster Seras will know what to do! I don't want anyone to-!"
"Miss Chevreusse! Look!" shouted Twilight Sparkle, pointing up, way up, with a fore hoof, while the purple and green baby dragon on her back squinted, following her gaze as best as it could. So did the others, and they saw a quickly approaching twinkle plummeting from the middle of the celestial extensions at a maddening speed, hurling down towards terra firma.
"It's a bird?" Arika Yumemiya asked.
"It's one of those flying machines from Vetus?" Jessica de Alkirk wondered.
"No! It's... It's… a boy!" the dark skinned and red haired Kirche said.
"Huh," the blond Montmorency huffed. "Well, you're the expert on boys here, so you should—GET DOWN!" she shrieked as the object from above gained even more speed, then slammed down brutally, right on the face of a paralyzed and utterly terrorized Louise.
In the split second that only Raspberyl's inhuman eyes could register next, she could get her first clear glimpse of what had just hit her unfortunate classmate, no doubt to smash her skull open in contact. Except because there wasn't any gore and fragments of skull flying and splattering all around, and in their place she could see, just for that most fleeting of moments, the face of the falling boy had just mashed against Louise's, their lips awkwardly coming together in a no doubt extremely painful collision course.
There was an overpowering blue glow that swept all across the Academy grounds, and everybody was tossed around like pins.
Louise dropped like a dead weight and fell unconscious, the softly grunting boy landing on top of her lithe body.
In his dream (although he supposed it was rather a nightmare, since it felt like one) he was standing alone in a wide, white featureless space with no limits in sight. There was not a clear divide between the floor and the rest of the place either, no walls anywhere; and if he had to guess, he would have said what there was above him was a sky, but only because it seemed to lack the feeling of depth the boundaries marked by a ceiling should have had.
The boy walked in silence across that antiseptic, eerily silent field, until he reached an ice sculpture. It depicted a very pretty girl with glasses and two side braids, wearing an open lab coat over a high school uniform. Another ice statue of a happy looking girl holding two pom-poms and wearing a miniskirted cheerleading outfit stood close to it.
As the boy kept on walking, he saw more of such figures. Only a few were male, including a young man holding a steering wheel in his hands and a lanky man in a hakama and sandals, holding a hangman's noose in hand. There rest were all female, and rather attractive. They included a short haired girl in another hakama, a short girl with long hair and round facial markings, a long skirted innocent looking girl who looked pulled straight out of a John Tenniel illustration, and a busty girl with long hair carrying a gigantic spiked mace.
Then the air around him became suddenly cold, very cold, to the point just taking a breath felt like filling his lungs with cripplingly chilly vapor. An ethereal cold mist swept through the surroundings, enveloping the ice figures, and another girl stepped out from behind the sculpture of a freckled young woman riding a compact four wheeled vehicle. She had pale skin and very short gray hair, and dressed in a military fashion, almost boyish, golden buttons on a dark gray shirt and pants.
"Negi," she said, her voice low, even and toneless, her tranquil ice blue eyes fixed on him. "Aren't you ashamed? To fail your students, no, your partners, like this…"
"Who… Who are you?" he heard himself gasping, taking a step back in instinctive fear.
Instead of answering his query, she shook her head sadly. "The son of that great man, and such a disappointment. You got them all involved in your quest, when even you were not sure where it would take you. Look, now, at the results of your hubris. Their lives are all in your conscience, Negi."
"I, I don't know what are you talking about!" he said, shuddering. "Why are you—"
"No," she said, reaching over to grab the head of an ice girl with glasses and a ponytail, which brandished a heart-topped scepter of sorts. "Why are you here, Negi?" she asked.
And she crushed the head between her fingers, sending sharp shards everywhere. Negi screamed in pain as several of them sank into his left shoulder and chest, and then into his eyes, blinding him…
"AAAAAAHHHHHHH!" he screamed, bolting upright on the bed.
"Oh, good," said a beautiful mature woman with long light hair, sharply dressed in a white suit with tie, and sitting beside his bed. "I knew the medication would work eventually. You should lie down for now, however."
The startled young man with the wild, reddened eyes snapped his head aside to look at her, filled with dread and confusion. "Who, who are you?!" he asked. "And where am I?!"
The woman smiled softly and bowed her head. "I am," she said, "Headmaster Seras of Ariadne Academy. I came here as soon as I heard you had fallen from the skies during a sudden freak storm. How are you feeling?"
"Huh?" he moved his eyebrows before flinching, putting a hand to his lower left shoulder, feeling the fresh wound under his fingers, and shuddering while the closed gap itched and burned at his own touch. "What is this…?"
"Apparently," the woman said, "you had been grievously wounded before falling on us… well, rather, on Miss La Valliere. We think you had been healed and quite thoroughly right after that, but seemingly the drop and your... landing reopened the wound. We have treated it as best as we could, but it was difficult even for our medical team. Whoever did that to you should have, for all rights, murdered you, my boy."
"I am not your—" then he stopped, as he realized he did not truly know if that was correct or not. He looked all around, disoriented, and saw Chevreusse sitting by a nearby open window, with a moody, grumpy cute girl with pink hair sitting on the chair next to hers, arms folded over her flat chest. The room they were in was fairly simple but clean and well lit, and judging from the position of the sun in the sky, it was still early in the morning. "So this is… Ariadne Academy?" he weakly mused out.
Seras nodded. "And they are professor Chevreusse The Red Earth and Louise Francoise Le Blanc De La Valliere, the girl you fell on."
"I fell on—Oh my!" he gasped. "I, I, I'm so sorry!" he stuttered. Now he seemed to remember dropping directly on someone before falling unconscious. "Did I hurt—"
"DON'T MOVE ANY FURTHER, YOU FILTHY DOG!" the pink haired beauty shrieked, and Negi halted his rise from the bed to realize he was naked under the bedsheet that right now only covered him up to his waist. Yelping in embarrassment, he sat back and covered himself further up, placing his knees right under his chin.
"I'm sorry…" he timidly mumbled, averting his gaze from them.
The Headmaster chuckled for a moment, faintly amused, before regaining a serious expression. "Don't worry about her. Her injuries were much less serious than yours, and we have fully healed her back by now. What is your name?" she asked him.
"Negi," he said. He remembered that much, at least.
"Negi what?" the young girl growled.
"I can't remember," he admitted.
The girl slapped herself on a knee, clearly frustrated. "Just my luck! Not only a commoner, not only not a majestic and powerful beast, but an amnesiac to boot!"
"My Lady, please, let us not misjudge before knowing every fact…" the plump woman said.
"My apologies, you are right," she replied. "Who knows, he might be a spy playing the amnesia card to fool us!"
"That, that is not exactly what I meant…"
Seras kept on looking at Negi. "Around the same time you showed up among us, there were reports of Gateports to Mundus Vetus exploding or shutting down all over Mundus Magicus. Would you happen to know anything about that?"
"No, Ma'am," he shook his head, which felt like it was going to explode from the inside any moment now.
" I see," Seras said. "Who injured you, then, and why?"
"I don't know that either, sorry!" he lamented, taking a hand to his forehead.
"What do you know, then? What do you remember about yourself?" the Headmaster pressed on.
"W-Well… My name is Negi… and… I… I think, no, I KNOW… I know I like… I like…"
The three women edged closer, curiously, as the boy seemed to have a dawning epiphany that lit up his face.
"I love tea!" he brought his hands together. "And dinosaurs! And collecting antiques!"
The three women all facefaulted on the wooden floor.
"You idiot! That…that's not relevant at all!" Louise yelled at him while springing back to her feet.
Negi blinked. "I suppose it's not, but… it's all I can remember. Didn't I have anything on me? Documents that prove my identity? A cellphone? I seem to remember I might have one, or was that my roommate? Wait, I had a roommate? I guess so, but I can't place their face…"
"What is a cellphone?" Louise grumbled.
"A personal communication device used by many across Mundus Vetus," Seras answered. "Well, I suppose that answers our first question about your place of origins, at the very least, Negi. And judging from your accent, I would say you hail from the hills of Wales. Curious and curiouser…" she rubbed her chin in deep thought before asking, "What do you know about Evangeline A.K. McDowell?" she asked.
At the mention of that forbidden name, Louise and Chevreusse both recoiled in fear, their skins crawling. They had not been expecting that, but Negi only blinked cluelessly, oblivious to their terror. "… who?" he innocently asked.
Louise swallowed, pointed a finger at him, and waved it irritably. "D-D-Don't play the fool now, you, you fiend! As if anyone could be ignorant about Evangeline McDowell, the Mistress of Darkness, the Queen of Puppets, the-!"
"Miss La Valliere, please!" a horrified Chevreuesse asked.
Louise realized what she was saying and bit her tongue, then blocked her mouth with both hands. "Ah, that's right! I'm so sorry!"
Negi blinked slowly and thought it over. Finally, he answered, "That… sounds like she's some sort of mean person? I guess it should ring some bells, but it doesn't. My apologies…"
"Then please see if this jolts your memory back," Seras said, pulling a card out of her breast pocket and showing it to Negi. Louise and Chevreusse were close enough to look at it too, and once again they almost fell on their backs, scared out of their wits. "We found this in the pockets of your pants, along these ones," she began to pull one card after another, in a quick succession, dropping them on the sheet covering Negi's modesty until all sixteen of them were on display before them. The boy's jaw loosened considerably. "Are those bells ringing yet?"
Negi gulped the thick knot in his throat and moved his head from a side to another reluctantly. He recognized a few of the girls in those cards as the ice sculptures from his nightmare, but as much as he tried, he could not remember their names, or what did any of them mean for him. "Are all of these… mine?" he asked. "Who knows, maybe I was holding them for someone else…!"
"Don't try to sneak out of it now, you filthy commoner! Casanova! Cheap Don Juan and ally of darkness!" a livid Louise cried to him, pulling out a black riding crop and threatening Negi with it. "It disgusts me so much, knowing I've become your latest intended victim…!"
"Whu-What?" Negi said, growing very scared of this girl. He had the sensation she would have started whipping him with the crop long ago if only the two adults had not been with them. "I have no idea what are you talking about! I fell on you, yes, but it could have killed me, so I'm sure I didn't intend to do it! And what does that have to do with these cards, please?"
"Oh dear," Seras said. "Do you mean you don't remember HOW exactly you fell on Miss La Valliere?"
"Well, to be honest, no, I don't know that either," the boy had to say.
Seras half sighed. "Miss La Valliere, please show it to him."
Louise cringed. "But, Headmaster…!"
"It's an order," the woman coldly said, and with a shudder of fear, Louise nodded and reluctantly pulled another card from a pocket on her cape. Then she held it before Negi, hands trembling, as she tilted her head aside, making as if she wanted to suck in and eat her own lips, eyes tightly squeezed.
Negi paled as he saw the card. It showed a standing figure of that girl in her student uniform, stretching a hand ahead in a dynamic, arrogant action pose, a leg slightly flexed up, cape frozen in mid-flow around her. And it read as thus.
Louise Franciscae Le Blanc De La Valliere
"I have no idea why I keep doing this so often," Negi pondered aloud, "but I think I should start thinking about how to stop it?"
Now, before the women could act fast enough as to stop her, Louise angrily bashed her crop between Negi's eyes.
A small, panting figure moved swiftly between the trees and bushes, stopping only occasionally to regain some breath.
She thought she had, somehow, escaped her pursuers for the time being. Although she had no idea how, in all honesty. She had only started running and then never stopped, using every trick and stratagem learned in Library Exploration to move across the treacherous woodlands, following an erratic path as to throw them and their hounds off her scent. Good thing she had not lost her memory after landing pretty much on her head, or anything like that. She would have been lost in every sense, had she lacked her survival skills in this strange, inhospitable world where apparently she had been branded some kind of outlaw almost immediately after her arrival.
After crossing two narrow rivers, she had started growing seriously tired, but forged on ahead drawing strength from sheer drive. Oh, if only she had listened to Haruna for once and made a Pactio with Negi-sensei, or even Inugami-kun. That way she could contact Nodoka and the others even from a long distance! Damn her stupid, stubborn shyness, if she escaped out of that one with her life, she wouldn't keep on doubting and act on her romantic impulses like Haruna kept on babbling about. She had just truly realized how short life was…
No, she couldn't and wouldn't think negatively. This had to be some sort of mass misunderstanding, but soon the cameras at the Gateport would prove they had been the victims back there, and they would be cleared up, and now, if only she could keep herself out of trouble until everything settled down, then maybe she could just—
Ayase Yue stopped after reaching the end of the woods, halting before a steep hillside and looking down at a majestic castle of stone built at the valley below. She breathed in, impressed, and drank on the fascinating sight of the massive building stretching over several blocks' worth of ground. It looked like a civilized fortress inhabited by reasonable people, not barbarians or warlords. Maybe, if she approached them and asked nicely, making clear her intentions were peaceful, they could help her to…
Then she saw a smirking blonde with dog ears and a tail swooping down towards her on a witch's broom, her intense blue eyes squarely focused on her.
"Well, so here we have another one!" the stranger said triumphantly. "You are under arrest in the name of Ariadne Academy, intruder! I am Emily Sevensheep, Cadet in Training, and you have just violated our academic boundaries!"
Yes, well, sorry. I know I haven't even finished the Mahorafest saga already (it's in the middle of a rewrite to make it less of a confusing mess, believe me. I wanted to capture and boost the 'Anything Goes' Sense of wackiness the original Mahorafest had, with many things happening at once, but... I really overdid it. Yes, I read the reviews. The burning white hot knife through my heart reviews, even if I kinda deserved them). I know there are even a few pre-Mahorafest holes left to fill (working on those as well, I swear).
But I might not have much time. The situation here in Venezuela is very dire, and I might lose literally everything any time now. I at least wanted to leave everything I've got written posted in the worst case scenario. I'm literally afraid for my life and future, or likely lack of one.
In the event things go well, look for a full compilation of the Unequally saga from start to finish eventually, rewritten sections included, so the whole epic can be read as a single mega fanfic. If not, well, it's been a pleasure, everybody. And sorry about everything.