Disclaimer: It's fiction of an completed series...
AN: Thanks for the wait and reviews! A shout out to "A random dude" to give me the kick in the arse to get to writing again! Hope you like this new chapter! As usual, let me know what you think and your views... every review is like a muse to me of new ideas and refreshing view points. It also keeps me in line to make sure I am telling the story properly.
Negi stifled a yawn. The recent late nights and shallow, fitful sleep due to the activities in the night before had left him lethargic and rather sore: so much that he had skipped his morning jog and head straight for a quick cold shower but it was barely effective to wake him fully. The combination of lack of sleep and yesterday's exertions were a horrible combination for a teacher managing a class of active teens. To make things worse, the symptoms of a cold began to...
He helped himself to a rather large cup of herbal tea and hope this does not develop to anything further.
Nonetheless, he went through his day acting as if nothing happened and took the effort to read Yuki's name during roll-call with the appropriate pause before moving to the next name. What was he to do? Ask the others if they knew she was tinkering with high tech machines or if she does magic? It will be best to keep those under wraps for now till he could figure what to do. Still, he could not help but wonder about her. When he referred to the class chart, there was quite literally nothing to suggest her affiliations as it remained blank. He will try to look into it during the break after homeroom, which was usually easy to handle as teachers would take a back seat.
But this homeroom was more interesting than usual: "we're not going to hold a French maid cafe for the festival!" Announced the class rep. Gasps of surprise and protest reverberated in the room, but the class rep was undaunted; instead, she looked rather smug. "We won't totally drop the idea for the cafe as we'll still get to dress up and serve tea but to keep in spirit of the mid-autumn festival, we'll be making this too." She held up a one and half inch tall brown cylindrical item that fits in her palm.
"Tea bowls for traditional tea ceremonies?"
"Nope, but good guess." Sekai reoriented the object to show it to the class more clearly. "This is a moon-cake! Let me explain..."
The traditional mooncakes were presented to a Chinese Tang dynasty emperor during the mid-autumn festival whom then shared the round cakes with his ministers. It was then the custom of sharing and giving them spread to the rest of the country. In later dynasties, there was a legend of the Han Chinese's uprising against the ruling Mongols at the end of the Yuan Dynasty where mooncakes were used to conceal the message that they were to rebel on Mid-Autumn Day. "We will bake these cakes to order, each with a parchment embedded in it. But rather than messages of rebellion, they will now contain messages of love!"
In near a near simultaneous action, the eyes of the students lit up at that, most shifted to look at the only male in the class. Negi would have sworn that he could feel the weight of his students' looks. "So, that's that...any objections?" With a unanimous "No" the decision was finalised.
Much to Negi's chagrin, Sekai did not stop there, "as part of a class activity, everyone will make one for practice," she turned to Negi, "so sensei should make one too, right?" The class cheered at that, "I wonder who he'll write one for?"
It took quite an effort to calm down the class with each voice requesting for him to write one to them. "Just one," he finally compromised with a weary smile which sated his class but excited chatter of who he would write it for filled the class. A glance at his watch told him that homeroom was almost over and he dismissed them before things went out of hand, eager for the break.
But that was not so easy.
"So, are you taking me to the mid-autumn festival?" A voice called out to him as he walked down the stairs to the staff room. He looked back to find Princess Ayame, huffing slightly as she must have ran to catch up with him, standing at the top of the stairs, arms crossed and fully vulnerable...in that her panties were visible due to the height difference but a slight smirk suggested she intended it to be that way.
"Most defiantly not," He grumbled under his breath, though knowing to keep his composure in this situation but his fatigue was getting the better of him. Not wanting to be rude, he shrugged, "I'm already occupied that day, sorry."
"Maybe I should rephrase that." Undaunted, she marched down the steps right into his personal space, looking level to his eyes, "you ARE bringing me to the mid-autumn festival." She reached into her shirt pocket to fish out something which made Negi off balanced a little: they were photos of both of them during their ad hoc date, many with her arm wrapped around his.
"Oh, if you are wondering, those are your copies: It's better to make some extra because those are precious memories, aren't they?"
Glancing through the photos, he sighed, "Are you blackmailing me?"
At that, her demeanour immediately fell, "I won't dream of doing that...I don't wish our relationship to be defined by such an ugly word." She looked up into his eyes, tearing a little, "I never thought you'd think of me that way!"
His panicked, perhaps he should have used such a harsh word. Her attics had drawn the attention of other students in the area who were now whispering amongst themselves. "Alright, alright," vexed, he ran a hand through his hair, "but this will the only time I'll give in to this. We won't have this kind of discussion, will we?"
The princess brightened, smirking behind her tears, "Of course...I'm glad you finally agreed; I was getting out of ideas."
There we go. Negi sort of expected this but for whatever reason, he was not mad at her. "Right, just know that I'll be part of the martial arts demonstration, so we won't get to meet till after that. Keep in contact over the phone then." He allowed a slight smile and turned to his original destination, looking forward to his break to catch a short nap.
Negi sat down heavily at his desk with a light sigh, feeling light fatigue in his muscles. Recent late nights with early mornings and a jumble of pressures weighed on his shoulders. On top of that, his injuries from last night were still recovering. But as the saying goes, there is no rest for the weary.
"Everything alright?" It was the person he was supposed to speak with, Makino-san.
I've a student who attacked me, another stuck on me, maybe a problem to get someone out of a marriage and...Let's not talk about my relationships too. But he could not tell that to her, so he just simply replied, "yeh" as he leaned back to get some shut eye.
He felt her presence above him shadow over his face to which made him open us, eyes to come face to face with Makino looking down at him. "I don't think so, you're lying,"
Negi sat up startled; perhaps it was the shading that created the look of her eyes to be a tad...psychotic. "Negi-kun, it's not good to lie, you know," she said with a thin-lipped smile, "especially since you're a teacher."
He was taken-aback, mind racing for something to sate her current mood...anything. "Perhaps I might have overexerted myself while preparing for the mid-autumn festival martial arts demonstration."
"That's not good to hear, Negi-kun, it's one thing to practice while it's another to stress yourself." She shifted closer to him, "it won't do to have you ill, would it?".
Negi drew back, consciously keeping a distance. "Ye...yeh."
Was this why the students were weary of her?
Her demeanour then changed like a flick of a switch, "good" she beamed, "because we will need you to be in good health for the up-coming school sports day! Guess who your partner is?"
It took him a moment to put the information together which ended with an "eh?"
"We will be partners for the games!" She placed a document in front of him, "here are the events we are to organise; seems we will be seeing each other quite often!"
In light of her recent scary behaviour, Negi's first thoughts were flight responses. Then an idea struck him, "I'm a little new to this so I'm not sure I'm the best man for the job...what about Rui? He should be more familiar with the programs." Negi should feel bad for Rui being the fall guy for this predicament but surprisingly, he wasn't. Besides, Rui should jump at this chance.
"It's because he is familiar with the games that he's been assigned to be a judge," the blonde teacher chuckled. She stood up to make a move, "no worries, I'll glide you though it...oh and Negi," she turn to glance back at him, her eyes turned into that scary look again, "take care of yourself."
Disturbed, Negi watched her walk away then flipped through the document and baulked at the amount of work needed to be done. "Seeing that you got that assignment, guess I should say welcome to the 'event planning' committee" a voice piqued up to which Negi turned to see Kentaro, the busiest teacher in the staff room, shrugging his shoulders and pointed to his sticky note covered calendar, "hope you have a calendar that will fit everything,"
Meanwhile, under the teachers' dormitory, the manager Mrs Chidori was doing some cleaning. Not that much was needed to be done as her husband, military discipline ingrained in him, had kept the place in inspection-ready condition. Though the room she's tidying was not frequented by the guests, it would certainly count as the most interesting one of all.
She was used to the weird symbols plastered on a crate here and manuals in foreign languages there; there was once a live tank shell in the middle of the room (she had skipped asking how he got it there and immediately whacked him in the head while loudly telling him to take it away). But what she did not expect was the small silver square ridged box placed neatly in the middle of the work desk with the words "K.C. -S." in her husband's script. Looking at the initials, she would guess it was meant for her.
Gingerly opening the box, least he bobby trapped it again knowing his nature, she found a solid platinum ring with a considerable sized diamond perched between the cushion folds. Her joy and excitement were, however, short lived: she recalled the last time he gifted her something was when she received a pair of flash-bang earrings and a location tracker bracelet...to make it even less sentimental, they were not actually a personal gift from him. But if she could live with those two items on her now, there shouldn't be a problem adding one more to the list.
She lifted the velvet cushion and sure enough, instead of the certification of authenticity for the "diamond", there was a folded note on top of a small relatively thick booklet. She rolled her eyes at his predictability and read the note:
Personal protection equipment built with B.T. Holds single pulse charge to deflect rounds at or below .45 calibre (generally handguns). Refer to manual for operation and maintenance.
Short, to the point military speak: that was typical of him. But perhaps that was the reason why she liked him in the first place. But it would not hurt to word things more personally, would it?
Sighing, she picked up the manual and saw a partially censored name of her husband's organisation "M████". On seeing the censor, she knew that her husband had gone through the book and should have probably censored everything but the main parts; a quick flip through the booklet confirmed her suspicions. It was a precaution against outsiders reading it but in this reinforced double redundancy secure room, the actions of her husband seemed unnecessary, especially when you consider that she was surrounded by crates containing questionable items.
It's times like these that she wished her husband had not cut short his week-long home leave for an emergency with the Captain so that she can smack him on the head in hopes of instilling romance into his programming.
Well, at least official shore leave for his ship maintenance has been scheduled. It would then be her turn to spend time with him.
It's been a long day leaving Negi quite mentally drained: Event Planning Committee member Kentaro had went through with him the jargons and main responsibilities of the sports day which were basically anything that were out of scope of the student council like road traffic planning, security and even the teachers' race event. Then, he had a pile of papers to grade and lesson plans to form... the usual mundane teacher stuff.
Despite his fatigue, he had to check on his student who was placed with his master. A mage unable to control their powers is like a kid with a loaded gun primed to misfire. Hopefully Dark Mistress Evangeline knew how to handle this without alarming the other mages in school.
A folder in an arm, walking down the stone road to her cottage in the early evening was a real treat as he admired the homely tranquil ambience. And within it lives the feared vampire who all but ruled the dark ages...It is quite ironic actually when one thinks about it.
Once again he was greeted with silence by the maid from yesterday night whom wordlessly lead him to a familiar room back in his younger days which was empty except for a large snow-globe like feature in the middle. This globe has been enchanted to dilate time of one hour into a day. Perhaps that is just what he needs to recover from his fatigue.
Stepping onto a rune circle, Negi was transported into the globe which happened to be at night with a high full moon and came face to face with the last thing he hoped to face: a hostile Chachazero.
He instinctively ward away a chop by her cleaver with a precision strike to the elbow ball joint which made an audible shattering Crack! His master may not be pleased that he did not hold back against her minion but he knew her parts were replaceable and he did not wish to draw out a long fight with one arm occupied.
There was a pause as she observed her broken arm, "You bastard!" She spat before throwing a fan of knives at him and sprung towards him, the other cleaver poised for a slash. The missiles bounced off the shield Negi threw up while he poised himself, ready to take her on.
He dodged strike after strike, though with ease from his trainings, her signature berserk attacks used with great effect in the massacres during Dark Evangel's heyday meant many a time the blade came so close to slicing into him and nearly ripped into his blazer. An opportunity then presented itself and he kicked forward and scored a hit right under her chin with another crack and she flew back, to the foot of the owner of the globe. When the puppet remained still, he knew that was the end of it.
"Good to see that you can still fight. I was getting concerned that you were getting soft," Evangeline stepped in from behind him and surveyed at the mess before gesturing a maid to retrieve the broken doll. She then walked up to him and brought her right palm across his face, her nails leaving three lines of scratches just breaking into this skin. "Never destroy my minions again."
Negi felt a thin stream of blood flowing down his cheek as he watched her walk back into her villa. Careful not to stain his folder, he took out a napkin and applied pressure on the wound while following her.
The villa was a sight to behold. High ceilings upon white columns create a spacious, airy atmosphere with the place large enough to house hundreds of guests comfortably. Generous rooms, polished marble surfaces with indoor pools and a small army of puppet maids made it clear it was not a place for the common people. The sweet saltiness of sea that stretched over the horizon far below added to the feeling of luxury while the property effectively had seaside views from all angles.
Negi followed Evangeline to the place where she once had dinner with him next to an indoor infinity pool looking out to the bright full moon. The ethereal effect of the moonlight on her milky white skin with a gentle breeze blew created an illusion of peace as her long flowing hair made it seem that her earlier aggression towards him did not happen at all. Not intending to antagonise her, he took a sit at the table and waited for a moment. Silence stretched till a maid came in and placed a tray with an envelope, a small ceramic container and a plate holding some very small items onto the table before smartly stepping back into a waiting position.
"Damn, you fool... Now I have to fix her up." He knew that she could have punctuated her line with another strike at him but she might have known that he would be there for the night and decided otherwise. "she was stationed there in case your student rouses and decides to make a run for it."
Negi apologised and said nothing else. Perhaps he just wanted to get some rest and did not want to argue with her now. He asked about her ward's well-being and found her still in relatively stable condition. However, with the random build up and expulsion of energy as a prospect, he knew that Evangeline was being prudent in her decision to place the untrained mage in an controlled environment albeit not long ago as Evangeline explained that there was something they had to do before allowing Yuki into the enchanted globe.
"If what you said about our young lady here working with weird technology was true, I suspected that she might be traced so right after you left I brought her around a few places to confuse her trackers while searching her and sure enough, I found this." Off the plate on the tray, Evangeline picked up what looked like half a thin pill no larger than a small coin, "this was at the base of her nape and had Chahazero to take it for a trip around town before breaking it; You got careless bringing her here without making sure of these things."
She let her words sink in and her lips twist into a small smirk when Negi realised the danger he unwittingly exposed his benefactor to with what she just said. "Fortunately for you, I managed to contact hacker girl to look into this and she told me that all that happened last night will be wiped out from all records." She then nodded to the envelope on the tray, "give her a call, I don't care for her jargons and work." Negi paused for a moment and realised who exactly Evangeline was referring to.
Damn. Negi turned away to look out to the horizon, ashamed that he had not thought of those precautions and mentally berate himself. It was such an amateur mistake and he should have thought of that! "You'll get over it." He heard right before he felt a sting at his fresh cheek wounds.
He tensed for a moment from the unexpected jolt before turning his attention to see his master reaching up to him with two out-stretched fingers covered in some balm. She was leaning forward and her eyes were resolute, "Hold still." It was a command and so he complied. She took her time to rub in the medicine into the wound, making Negi confused as to why she was doing it but appreciated the gesture either way. Satisfied with the fresh cuts, she dabbed her fingers for a little more balm and reached further in to treat an older scar...to which Negi drew away. She frowned at his action, "What?"
"I wish to leave it." His tone was firm. That scar was initially a reminder to him not to be caught up in the thoughts of his father and forget the people around him. However, he broke that promise when he dropped everything and left with the loss of Asuna. During his journeys, he would touch the uneven surface when things got rough and allowed the guilt of hypocrisy and failing his promise well up within him as a morbid reminder not to allow it to happen again.
Evangeline, however, saw it differently. "You got it during the tournament, didn't you?" She placed the balm aside and leaned in seriously her tone deepening into a growl, "She did that to you, didn't she? Is that what it is? A memento?"
Back then, if Negi had known what she was really concerned about, or what his answer will have caused, he may have answered differently.
In the deep underground bunker where a paramilitary organisation based their operations and research against subjects they deemed un-naturals, a Intel operative was preparing to archive new information they received 24 hours ago as per organisation policy.
The information gathered from worldwide were in terms of terabytes worth of data which were intricately networked with other files to allow convenient intel retrieval: from satellite imagery of resolution that could see the hairs on the back of a person's hand linking to the observations and calculations by teams of analysts. Once archived these data will be double-quadruple encrypted so that any unauthorised drawing of files will render them into gibberish. Then, as part of security protocols, the archives were isolated from internal and external networks making hacking next to impossible.
However, due to the huge amount of data, there was vulnerability during the uploading where there is a cross over from the network computer to isolation and it fell onto the operative to cross-check the sizes of each folder down to the smallest bit to ensure there were no parasite viruses riding on the data packets. It was his job to run through these packets through an in-house antivirus program before upload just to be safe and look into discrepancies. Boring as his job sounds, the operative was paid well, knowing every trick saboteurs and hackers might do. As his shift winded down, he rubbed his tired eyes and yawned.
As the operative went down the list of data packets, there was small twitch on one of the file sizes at the bottom of his secondary workstation screen that made him double take. He could have sworn the numbers went up. He immediately crossed referenced the folder size with his list and found the figures to be right.
He brought his full attention to the folder in question and scanned for discrepancies while his tracing program searched for recent accesses or modifications. None was found and the last modification made was by the lead researcher for archive approval. He dismissed his worry as a mistake on his part. Still, he ran the antivirus program just to be sure. The folder was eventually cleared and he dutifully uploaded the folder.
However, something was nagging at him that he just could not explain, so he decided to check the new addition to the archive by opening a random file titled "Operative Yuki movement". When it did open, it was not the map and routing that he expected and he was left staring in wide-eyed horror. That was when movement on the archive list secondary screen caught his attention where he noticed the thumbnail had changed...then the files above and below it on the list changed to the same thumbnail, then the other two files before and after followed, then two files before and after them and so on like a domino effect in accelerating speed.
"Uh oh," the operative swore under his breath and immediately vacated his seat to dig into the cables to pull the plug on the archive and workstation in a desperate attempt to salvage the situation.
The last thing on the screen that displayed the last opened file was a huge cartoonish paw mark with a signature at the end: "-Chiu"
AN: Hope you like it! Polls are still up and I'm thinking of doing a side story project like the 3 minutes series again. Oh muse, how you work in mysterious ways.