A Wizard's Fate: Chapter 3 – Memories of Days Gone By

By Leitbur

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As dawn approached over the wooded mountains that overlooked Mahora Academy, a pair of voices conversed hidden from within the trees. "So, it's finally time to return to Mahora?"

"Yes, it's time. You seem enthusiastic."

"Of course. I've been waiting to show Negi what pain feels like. Now he'll feel my power after all these years of my only being on the receiving end. I can't wait to kick his ass."

Without a sound the pair vanished, nothing left to prove that they had ever been there before.

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The tunnel seemed to go on forever. As Negi walked along, looking about at the walls lit dimly by magical torchlight, he wondered where he was. Then once again the voice arose out of the darkness ahead. "Neeeeegiiiii. Neeeeegiiiii."

It was actually rather spooky, and a younger him might have needed a fresh change in his wizard's undergarments, but time and experience had erased such fears. If only he knew who it was that was calling him.

Moving ahead, Negi spotted a light ahead, and as the voice continued to call to him, he quickened his pace. As he reached the light, he found that it merely marked a split in the tunnel. One to the right, one to the left, and no directions. Now what?

"Neeeeegiiiii, Neeeeegiiiii." It had come from the left, he was certain of it. Turning left, Negi pointed his staff forward and marched on bravely. The voice was getting louder now, easier to make out. It sounded so familiar. While he was certain it was a woman's voice, he just couldn't place it. Onward he moved, and the voice only grew louder as he did so.

Another turn and another, and finally he stopped. Ahead of him some twenty meters away was a door with a bright light shining from underneath it. This was it, and the voice once again called to him, as if confirming it. This time though, the voice registered, and Negi's face paled. No, it couldn't be, she couldn't be here, could she? He had to know. Stepping towards the door, there was a resistance as if a wind had picked up to push against him. The voice called out again as he struggled towards the door, "Neeeeegiiiii!"

His fingers reaching, fighting as the wind picked up, trying to push him back. He had to know, was it her? "Neeeeegiiiii!"

Finally his fingers touched the handle of the door, and with a great effort Negi braced his footing and pulled back opening the door and staring into the light of the room beyond. Was it…?

"NEGI!"

Negi awoke with a start; sweat sliding down his face as he stared up into a fair-sized bosom that was quickly replaced by Asuna's face. "Negi, will you get up already! Or do you plan on being late for class today?"

Comprehension dawning on him, Negi leapt from his bed and ran towards the shower room, doing his best to remove his pajama shirt on the way. Watching him in action for a moment before rolling her eyes in frustration, Asuna, wearing nothing herself save a laced pink bra and panties turned and walked back out of Negi's bedroom. As she reached the door, the water turned on and she heard a voice call out, "Asuna, do me a favor and grab my clothes for today. The suit's hanging in the closet, the socks and-"

"I know where you keep them Negi! Damn, why do I always have to take care of you? After all the things we've gone through, survived together and so on, you'd think that you could get by for at least a day without me, but nooooo."

She then leaned over to open up the dresser drawer. As she did so Negi, having since stripped, stuck out his head smiling and said, "Sorry, but you know that I…" His voice failed him as he found himself unexpectedly staring across the room at Asuna's pantied posterior, which also just so happened to be sticking out at him. Blushing profusely, Negi swung his head back into the shower room and took a deep breath. No no, I must not look at such things. It's wrong, I can't look at Asuna's rear, especially when she's only wearing… NO, it's WRONG, I can't think like that!

From the other room he heard Asuna call back, "What was that?"

"Oh, I just said that I really appreciate it."

Sighing, Asuna laid his clothes down on the bed muttering, "I know I know." She then turned and walked out of the room.

Ten minutes later Negi emerged from his room showered and dressed in record time. Entering the kitchen, he spotted Asuna, who was now fully dressed herself in one of her usual skirts and blouses, slaving over the stove in a vain attempt to make eggs sunny side up as he usually had them. The result would be of course yet another set of crispy eggs. Glancing at the table, he noticed that the toast sitting next to the marmalade was hardly better off. At least she'd used the toaster for that. Reaching for a cup of earl gray, something Asuna had actually mastered in the kitchen since she'd quit her newspaper route all those years back and moved in with him to this off-dorm housing, he took a sip, then said, "You really don't have to make those today Asuna, I won't have time to eat them before class."

"Sneering, Asuna replied as she struggled to keep the eggs from burning, "And whose fault is that for oversleeping?" An evil glint in her eye, Asuna then turned her head and said, "Speaking of that, I didn't hear you come home last night. You and Konoka must have been out all night long. I wonder what sort of things the two of you must have been doing that late to make you tired enough to oversleep?"

Negi jumped for a second before realizing the game she was playing. Deciding to play along, he replied, "Well wouldn't you like to know? I must say though, Konoka certainly is an amazing woman. Still, she sure has energy too. I mean, she just grabs you and then off you go before you even know it. Kind of wild really."

Her face blushing as red as her hair, Asuna stuttered to speak for a moment, then said, "W-wild? Y-you mean t-that… you and Konok-ka really, um that…"

Unable to resist any longer, Negi began to laugh and replied, "Gotcha! My goodness, you are so gulli-" Negi ducked in time to dodge the frying pan flying his way. Getting up and reaching out towards his wand, which flew to his hand, Negi then froze in place the pair of dirty dishes that Asuna had grabbed next. "Calm down, I'm sorry!" The laughter in his voice however was not as convincing, but apparently enough to calm Asuna for at least a moment. Magically lowering the frying pan and the plates back down, the pan of course onto the stove so as not to burn the place down, Negi then said, "Nothing like that happened last night. We simply went to a movie, and for a walk after. Do you want me to swear a wizard's oath on that?"

Glaring angrily at him for a moment, Asuna's expression then softened and she smiled. "Nah, I'm sure that's all that happened. Besides, I don' think you have the guts to do something like that with a woman."

Smiling back, Negi simply chuckled. Then taking another sip of his tea, he reached for a piece of toast, summoned his briefcase to him, then flung his staff over his back and headed for the door. Sliding on his shoes and waving his wand to magically tie them as his hands were full and he was in a hurry, Negi opened the door, turned and said, "Ok then, have a good day sis!" Moments later the door shut and he was gone.

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Smiling weakly as five or six young girls, many in the age range between late elementary school through junior high, although one looked to be in high school, stood surrounding her, Mei Sakura tried to be polite. This, given many of the girl's demands and questions, stars in their eyes as they asked, was difficult.

"Mei-sempai, please sign this for me. Oh, and I have eight cousins and a sick aunt who would just die if you'd autograph these too!"

"Mei-sempai, are you currently dating anyone?"

"Is it true that you fought in the war alongside the Crimson Master?"

"Come on Mei-sempai, pleeeeease sign these for me too!

"Is it true that you and the Crimson Master are dating Mei-sempai?"

"Is the Crimson Master really as cute as they say? If you're dating, then you know how good he is in bed right? Well?"

Unsure of what to do, the thought that Mei had herself once been like these young girls made her reluctantly sign whatever they put in front of her. As for the questions, she simply declined comment. Previous encounters of this kind had caused even bigger problems for her when she had tried to answer each question as best she could. People rarely, it seemed, wanted to know the truth, but rather to have whatever version of it they most enjoyed confirmed, even if it meant twisting around something she said. Granted, a lack of reply only caused other thoughts to fly, as she was sure the whole bit about her dating the Crimson Master had come from her not commenting on questions, but then if he was interested… well she really didn't mind.

Growing up, she had idolized the Crimson Wing and its members as if they were gods, heroes so brave and strong that it would take a lifetime to reach them, if that were even possible. At that time admiring them on a pedestal of her own making was the best she could do, but then the war had broken out.

Mei shuddered, then excused herself. The war… it brought up such scary memories. True, so many of them had fought together in the Neo Crimson Wing back then, she'd never had time to think about the legends they might create. Whether or not they'd survive had been more pressing, and it wasn't until the dust had settled that there'd even been time to think about heroism. While the rest of the magical world certainly thought of her and the rest of the Neo Crimson Wing as heroes, she didn't think that way. Heroism, it wasn't something that any of them had asked for, it sort of just happened. There had been no glory sought, just action that had to be taken, and the price that action had cost. Friends that had fallen…

Shaking herself out of that thought, Mei looked up to see Nodoka and Yue walking towards her down the road. Smiling, she said, "Hello Nodoka-san, Yue-san."

The two nodded, and Nodoka replied, "Hello Mei-san. Were you just being attacked by fans again?"

Mei nodded, and Yue replied, "You know Mei-san, they only do that because you keep letting them. I never see them trying to ask Setsuna-san for autographs."

Smiling weakly, Nodoka replied, "That's because Setsuna-san looks scary when they do that."

"Exactly. If you don't want them ask anymore, then you just have to make them think that it wouldn't be smart to keep asking."

Smiling back, Mei replied, "No, that's all right. I really don't mind all that much. Besides, doing this keeps them off the rest of the group." Glancing at the books the pair were carrying, Mei then says, "I see you're both still studying magic diligently. Who knows, soon maybe you can even get a few missions with the Neo Crimson Wing."

"Oh," Nodoka replied, "but we're not really members of the Neo Crimson Wing and all. I mean I know that, during the war we… but we weren't…"

Surprised at this statement, Mei interjected, "But of course you two were part of the Neo Crimson Wing. I mean, just because you weren't with us all the time and acted from the rear doesn't mean you weren't one of us. I mean, remember that time in China, when we found out the true range of that book of yours, or in Istanbul when Yue-san caught saved Kotaro when he fell down that cliff? We needed you then, after all, that was when…"

Mei paused as memories flooded back, and a tear slid down her cheek. Sniffing back more, Nodoka reached out and placed a hand on Mei's shoulder. "I'm sorry Mei, I didn't mean to remind you of that. I just meant that no one else thinks of us as being in the group so-"

Raising her voice slightly, Mei interjected, "WHO CARES what they think? I was there; we all were, not them! It doesn't matter what the others think, magic, no magic, it doesn't matter. Not what they think." Voice fading by the end, tears had also begun to flow freely down Mei's cheeks, eliciting the same from Yue and Nodoka. They then tried to catch her as Mei sank slowly to her knees. They had indeed been there, even if sparingly, and knew Mei's pain. War certainly wasn't a pretty thing, not by a long shot. Of all of them, Mei had probably taken that day the hardest. Still, all that they could do was to sit her down and help dry their friend, teacher and part-time comrade's tears.

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"Well done Nami, a wonderful translation. Now, for the next passage, who can…" The sounding of the school bell ended that thought, as it signaled the end of class. Pausing a moment, Negi then said, "All right then, read the next chapter before class, and then be ready next week when we begin the past tense."

The class rose, bowed, and then took off out the door as Negi gathered up his materials. Another fine class, like so many before. If only it hadn't been for that dream this morning, it might have been a perfect day. That voice…

Shaking the thought away, Negi checked to see that the room was empty and exited. It was best not to think back on such things; it only brought gloom. Still, if he'd just been able to act sooner…

Exiting the building now, Negi, wand now in hand, began to cross the campus grounds on his way back home. Asuna would still be at her job for another hour or two, although why she'd decided to get a job after quitting her newspaper route never made much sense to him. It wasn't like they were lacking in money or anything. Still, she had insisted and Negi was hardly going to tell his older sister what she could and could not do.

Sister, it was kind of strange, even now after all this time, thinking of Asuna that way. There had certainly been surprise amongst the entire group once it had been discovered, but he supposed that any big change in perception like that would take getting used to. Still, he'd thought that he would have by now. I wonder if Asuna is having these kinds of thoughts too? Maybe when she gets home I should-

Negi's thoughts however were interrupted as he sensed a magical presence and moments later a voice cried out, "There you are Negi! Prepare to lose!"

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Author's Notes:

Well, I know that this is coming out a few days later than I said I would get these out. Sadly, the two days I had set aside to work on this found me bedridden with some nasty virus. However, I have since recovered, and obviously I have gotten it out.

Yes, a little darker than the previous two, but it can't be all fun and games. While I will not be going into detail as of yet on what occurred in the magic war that has been alluded to in this chapter and the last, I'm sure you can see that it's had an effect on many of those who participated in it. I will say this, the war and what happened in it has an impact on what is occurring, and what will occur.

Hopefully I'll get the next chapter out on time, as I have begun to get a true feel on how this story will advance. I hope you've enjoyed the story so far, and I look forward to reading your reviews. Enjoy. R&R.