Disclaimer: I do not own Negima or any of it's vibrant characters...
Fang Vice Addiction: "By Your Enrapture"
Chapter One: As if Nothing Changed
Negi Springfield, a young man who was hired at the all female school of Mahora campus was a popular teacher among the young women who attended and even the upperclassmen of Ursula campus whom always worked hard to find ways to steal him and have him transfer over to their campus. He was a compassionate young man with a welcoming, charismatic presence wherever he went, however, he was also an enigma to those who knew him. He had the burden of many secrets that made it difficult for him to get close to others easily, though that may have been an exception for Evangeline McDowell who seemed to hold even deeper secrets than he did, being the reason for his vampirism. Their relationship was quite complicated given the nature of how it all began or rather what lead to the feelings that had developed between them. Unfortunately, despite the time that had passed since they really had started to break the walls between them, there still appeared to be something that kept them from actually bonding any further than the master-disciple relationship that gradually developed into the complex friendship that they presently shared. Fate would only know what trials they would have to face before it was able to venture any further. (As in "fate", not the character.)
Life had been fairly calm for Negi since the unforgettable, final two days he spent at the Mahora fesitval two years ago. The experiences that he had gone through on those heart pounding days always served as a reminder to him of how dark and powerful the abilities Evangeline endowed him with were, and just how devastating the consequences could be if they weren't properly kept in check. It also served to motivate him to become stronger because of what had transpired between him and a woman that somehow managed to find a place in his heart by the name of Dorothy Summers. Everytime he looked back on that night, the only image he could remember was the final look on her face as she sighed out her last breath. It would haunt him forever. Since the girl's exposure to magic, he had been able to forge deeper bonds with them, as well as form bonds with those girls who weren't as close before. Chisame Hasegawa was proof of that, remaining true to her self, however, her lacking effort in the young magi's class had suddenly taken a change, becoming a noticable driving force during his lessons. The introvert young woman started to make appearances at the afterschool sessions that he held after classes, though her classmates doubted her ever needing the extra help, and even went so far as to encourage Negi to accompany her to some of the cosplay conventions that she attended. The girls weren't sure what was the root of their sudden closeness, however, it didn't strike them nearly as much as the unexpected friendship that had blossomed between the young magi and Mana Tatsumiya.
The lovely marksman had gradually developed an unexpected relationship with Negi that vexed the other girls and made them boil with feelings of jealousy. It wasn't that they saw the chilling young woman as an outsider to their tightly knit class, but they just couldn't understand how a girl as frightening as herself could ever become so close to Negi. Sure, it was apparent that he had "grown" and matured a bit from before, but they still couldn't help but feel protective of him, if not just slightly possessive if one were to use the term ever so lightly. It wasn't as if they scowled at the new freshman students that tried to move in on their precious teacher, no, that wasn't how it was at all...honest to gawd. Mana's bond with Negi was something that didn't sit well, though. The both of them met with each other after classes almost everyday, including the late afternoons that followed after Negi's afterschool sessions, and Kaede and Setsuna once reported seeing them together on the steps of the Tatsumiya shrine. Questions to the young teacher only got innocent responses regarding the matter no matter how hard the girls pressed in hopes of unvieling more to his mysterious friendship with the lovely marksman. Negi was not completely oblivious to the negative attention he recieved from the other girls by being close to Mana, however, there was something about the lovely Tatsumiya that told him that if he ever showed any indications of discomfort about their friendship, there would be a rubber bullet with his name on it. His time with her told him that much about the young woman. She had feeling too, after all.
Any attachment from me might not be healthy for you, she says. Negi thought to himself, recalling one of his many conversations with the mysterious young woman as his hand glided along the blackboard with his white stick of chalk. Those were words that he could have sworn he heard from her before they even began their odd friendship, not long after the festival had ended. It was a full moon that night, and the experience was one that he would always look back on as the night he truly realized how dark the secrets of a womans heart could be compared to the darkness of night. The moon and the twinkling stars of the evening sky could not even illuminate the dark depths that concealed the secrets Mana kept hidden from the world. Negi could only imagine how deep Evangeline's heart could go. He would probably never find a way out after he got in too deep. He tired his best to ignore the whispering behind his back since his supernatural hearing kept any of his student's conversations from getting past his ears. All they ever spoke about now were the typical issues that all growing young women spoke and gossiped about; college plans, novel romances, and his 'odd activities' as of lately. The development of his vampiric abililities over the years were something more of a curse now that they had gone a bit beyond his control again. Evangeline was doing her best not to punish Negi for the tea cups he had mistakenly shattered in the past with his inability to control his inhuman strength. He could picture the look of murder Chachazero possibly directed at him when he mistakenly bent one of her favorite blades upon curious inspection of one of them. The puppet didn't look his way for about a week afterwards.
Apparently Kazumi and Haruna were keeping tabs of his activities as well since they were presently a popular subject among the girls of his class. Besides his well known hang outs with the dorming "Gun-for-hire", he had been making daily visits to the library late at night. Being that Yue usually took the night shift after Haruna was done with the afternoon shift, having nothing better to do around that time on a regular school night, some rumors began to fly around in regard to her and Negi much to the short librarian's embarassment and gradually building frustration since the young magi wouldn't even consider acting upon the temptations that her classmates thought up. She had been open about her feelings to him already, once sharing a kiss with him that effectively kept him from looking at her the same way again and yet she still sensed a lingering hesitation in him. By now, she had grown annoyed with Nodoka's indecision to pick her relationship with the young magi up a notch. The short librarian inwardly hoped that another guy would soon take an interest in her friend and relieve her of the weight that found itself on her shoulders whenever she shared a moment with Negi. She had her suspicions about Haruna taking an interest in him as well. It wasn't nearly as easy to pick up as most of the other girls in the class, but ever since Negi began to show signs of clear maturity in his bodily appearance, a flame had began burning. This was not to say that Nodoka had not become a little more forward in her pursuits than before. Negi's meetings with her were probably much more awkward than others with the quiet girl's indecision to ask him a direct question in regard to his situation with Mana. Living with Asuna and Konoka did not serve to help matters much either. The bubbly young woman was pretty blunt whenever certain things came to her mind, while the red-head had her own methods in tormenting him about her suspicions.
Negi's only means of escape from all of his bothersome students was to run to his master, Evangeline McDowell, who he personally felt, enjoyed finding him at her door, pleading for her protection. Chachamaru, however, seemed to be suffering from the same symptoms of jealousy that the other girls were undergoing. His cooking lessons under her tutelage, behind the dark mistress's back had it's moments when the lovely gynoid seemed to favor conversation over instructing him on how to boil water the proper way, which no matter how insignificant it appeared to be, was an important part in the success of a gourmet dish. As for "Her deep darkness" as Negi 'affectionately' labeled her, she did not seem to care what the young magi was up to while he wasn't in her company, as long as he was not late for their evening training sessions and joined her for a drink afterwards. Any divergence from their traditional get togethers brought upon an interrogation, which, coming from Evangeline, was something that could leave any person traumatized afterwards unless, of course, they were familiar with her, in which case, they would be left with plaguing nightmares that sung melodies of impending doom. Negi reminded himself never to skip out on a drink with Evangeline again, lest he crave anymore of the late night episodes that left him bitterly, shivering it their wake.
Chachazero remained as loyal to Negi as she ever had been, refusing to leave his side under any condition that so foolishly dared to come between them. That was with the exception of showers, which even then she would attempt to stay close, sitting just outside the shower chamber. She also remained loyal to hersel, never willing to change her morbid ways, regardless of how hard her master tried to shake her free from them. When Negi finally came to the realization that his efforts would never cause the puppet to waver in her nature, he submitted to her and accepted it, even presenting her with a new set of blades for "Familiar Aprreciation Month". She was beginning to show a side of herself that worked on his nerves, however, getting very restless from the lack of adventure, and Negi was seriously feeling worn out from her whining. As much as he treasured his familiar, he was gradually beginning to understand why Evangeline couldn't stand the puppet. His undying tolerance and compassion kept him from being as expressive about his irritation though.
Two years did a lot to campus life, but with the absence of Gandolfini and his squadron of mages, there was really no cause for chaos, and with Takane and Mei neglecting their visit, Negi found that he could breathe easily. The blonde magistress took Negi up on his offer for her to visit more than willingly and always did her best to make up for the lost time between them whenver she decided to show up, causing major headaches for the young magi since Evangeline's mood tended to become rather unpredictable during the period of those visits. On one instance, Takane decided to come to Mahora without Mei. The days that followed were simply restless. Naturally, Takane's hidden infatuation with the young man was not the only factor the kept Negi on his toes. Ako played another factor in the young magi's quick paced life. Her affections for his false identity, "Nagi", provided him with the duty of keeping her from falling into deep deppressions. Once, he believed that the rocker had forgotten all about her relationship with the strapping bishonen, and tossed the alter persona away. What he didn't count on was the lack of interaction from "Nagi" causing Ako to lock herself in her room with nothing, but a box of tissues to keep her company. The emails that flooded his account the following week were enough to make a man fear the wrath of women, and question their loyalty, seeing as how some of the emails questioned the possibilities of new blossoming relationships. Such times of sadness also caused another side to rise from the normally timid young woman causing Negi to question whether his days from the past were still catching up with him.
(Ako chatting: "Ako")
(Dark Ako chatting: "D. Ako")
-Dekopin-zumi: Nagi, OMG. I didn't kno that u were signed on! It's always so hard 2 get a hold of u but I guess that's to b expected since I'm sure ur always busy coming to the service of needy civillians. So what's new?
Negi looked around to check if Konoka was still around before typing back...
-Nagi.: Me and the others are currently stationed in Brazil. The sun is beating down on us so hard that I'm getting a tan.
Chachazero offered Negi a thumbs up from her seat on his lap...
-Dekopin-zumi: lol. Must be pretty hot down there. Are you wearing a shirt right now?
Negi stared at the screen for a few seconds before turning to Chachazero and asking, "How do I respond to that?"
"Act natural." Chachazero replied with a shrug of her shoulders.
-Nagi.: I couldn't keep it on. It was just blazing.
"Hmm?" Negi looked at her last response, quirking an eyebrow before typing slowly.
-Nagi.: Huh? Are you eating something right now?
-Dekopin-zumi: No, but I am craving something special now that you mention it.
"Uh...master Negi..." Chachazero mumbled after reading Ako's response on the screen.
"Yeah?" Negi looked down at her innocently, clearly misunderstanding te course of his current chat. Despite all of the questionable experiences he'd already been through with the opposite sex, Negi still retained a sense of naivety that Chachazero wasn't sure to classify as charming or downright dangerous. When she realized that her message wasn't going to reach him anytime soon, she merely shook her head and responded, "Never mind."
"Are you alright."
"Nothing is bothering me." Chachazero replied quickly, breaking eye contact with her master.
"Hey, don't keep her waiting." The puppet cut him off before he could get any more worried about her. She found that was something about him that she liked, yet was annoyed by as well. Evangeline had shown similar feelings towards his compassionate nature as well, however, she was the type to express her annoyance in frightening ways.
"Oh, you're right." Negi snapped back towards the business at hand.
-Nagi.: What's that?
-Dekopin-zumi: Why don't you guess?
-Nagi.: We're talking about food, right?
Most of their online conversations usually had an odd tendency to end off topic, or at least that is what Negi personally felt. Sure, he wasn't nearly as naive as he once was, but sometimes he wasn't sure if he and Ako were ever on the same page whenever they spoke to each other. On their last conversation, Ako tried her hardest to convince him to visit the following week so he had some planning to do. "Dark Ako" happened to only be one piece of a very complex puzzle, however. It wasn't long ago that Makie started to show signs of succumbing to her own sinister side. Falling into a trap she laid for him through an invitation to see her after the end of one of her gymnastic events was an experience that taught him quite a bit about how mischievous the girl can get when under the wrong influence. It was probably only Makie's playfulness that allowed Negi to escape from that encounter without as much trouble as he expected. Since then, she had not been as active, giving Negi the impression that she had somehow regained a sense of control over her dark ego. Madoka almost lost herself as well, sharing an awkward experience with him in the past that they promised to keep between themselves. Ah, life was a hassle, but it goes on...
Negi turned away from the board, sighing at finally having written down the explanation of Hamlet's soliloquy in regard to death. Yue, Chachamaru, and Sayo were the three most attentive girls of the group, while the others seemed to be either on the verge of falling asleep or merely engaged in their own personal activities. Evangeline had her attention directed towards the window as usual with her cheek resting against a closed fist. Negi didn't mind her attention being elsewhere, however, since having her eyes on him didn't give him such a pleasing feeling. She only did that whenever she wanted something from him or when she was planning something simply evil, or mischievous. Chachamaru on the other hand gave off the impression that she wanted him to know that he had her attention, her eyes following, much like she was just awaiting some sudden move from him. The gynoid did have a history of being caught doing otherwise though. This came to his attention when he called he to read during a previous lesson, only to find her "sleeping" with her eyes open. The other girls did their best not to look blank when he had his eyes on them, but he already knew who was really paying attention while he had his back turned to them. Regardless, he feigned ignorance and offered them all an innocent smile, asking, "So does anyone want to give me their view on the explanation?" His eyes did a cursory of the room to find all of his students with the exception of Yue and Sayo, looking eagerly to catch his eyes...or at least as eager as the short librarian could make herself seem in that situation. Chachamaru raised her hand, but eagerness was an emotion Negi had yet to see from her in all of his time knowing her.
"Alright then..." Negi briefly rolled his eyes when he heard his faithful familiar cackle to herself from her seat on his desk. His eyes fell on Yue, getting an odd reaction out of Nodoka as she flinched and muttered he even couldn't make out. "Would you like to give it a a shot, Yue?" He asked the librarian, quickly sending an apologizing look in the cute ghost's direction when she deflated from his selection. Yue nodded at his words, a soft blush gracing her cheeks from the attention she was getting from all the other girls for obvious reasons before she went on, saying, "He is unaware of what awaits him beyond death, which would explain why he refers to the state of dying as some 'unknown country'."
"Nice observation." Negi said with a nod.
"Um...wait." Konoka's voice got Negi's attention. "He was thinking about committing suicide?"
"Weren't you paying any attention?" Asuna questioned her friend sarcastically.
"Traitor." Ayaka chuckled at the red-head, leaning back in her seat to look at her with a cocky grin.
"Shut up." She snapped back at the blonde.
"You didn't let her finish." Setsuna silenced both girls. The swordsman turned her attention back to Konoka when the young woman looked back at her and nodded for her to go on.
"...Okay..." Konoka mumbled, a blush creeping up her neck as she turned back to Negi. "My question is, what would killing himself solve? I thought he was trying to avenge his father. Wouldn't ending his life just...prevent any of that? How does that help anything?" She asked, never expecting her answer to come from a certain vampiress in the back of the classroom. Negi felt some movement from his master, turning to her when she looked away from the window with that 'oh-so-evil' smirk on her face.
"Because he was looking for a means of escape." Evangeline answered her with a cynical giggle, though her expression betrayed none of her concealed thoughts as her emerald eyes swiveled to Negi in a fashion that could have possibly made his blood run dry under the tension. The way she regarded him...was she directing that laugh at him or was there something more to the way she was looking at him? Negi shifted way from those thoughts when she opened her mouth to speak again, "An easy way out for mortals..."
Mana smirked, sending cold vibes through her sensei as she leaned back in her seat slightly. "Suicide is for the weak of heart." Her eyes regarded Negi as if she was communicating to him with silent words as well. "Don't you think so, sensei?"
"Suicide..." Negi spoke the word curiously as though it was something completely foreign to him. The young magi looked away from his students with a distant look on his face, leaving Mana with silence for an answer. Mana chuckled softly at his reaction to her words, closing her eyes. Evangeline smirked at his response to the question and decided to leave a little impression.
What is death to an immortal? The vampiress chuckled darkly to herself when she saw Negi flinch at her telepathic message to him. Eventually we become so powerful that even our own natural weaknesses become nothing to us. The promised escape of death slips through our hands, and we are left with nothing but eternity. Say Negi...
Yes? Negi responded to her with a slight tremble in his thoughts.
Can you imagine what it would be like to never be able to sleep?
...It would be tiring...
What's your point?
Now imagine how it feels when everyone else around you can. They can escape reality in their sweet dreams, but you are chained to the hardships, pains, and sorrows of reality.
There are the pleasures of reality as well...aren't there? Negi asked, but she offered him no answer. "...An escape?" The young magi whispered in another approach to receive a response from the chibi-vampire, but before he could express his discomfort to his master, he felt her mind recede from his. The channel between them closed and the bell rang, snapping everyone out of their concentrated dazes. The girls started gathering their notebooks and other belongings into their bags with the exception of Mana, who probably had plans to invite him up to the shrine to meditate with her, however, Setsuna seemed to anticipate this, following Negi back to his desk when he went back to prepare his leave as well.
"Negi-kun," The swordsman dropped her bag with it's chocobo head key chain on his desk to get his attention, "Do you have any plans after school?"
"Um," The young magi's eyes glanced over her shoulder for a quick second to find that Mana had just left the room without a glance back at him. I guess she figured this canceled her plans. He thought, wondering how the marksman felt about this unforeseen intervention. Setsuna grew impatient when she realized that he had been looking over her shoulder for Mana, and she called his attention again with a slight edge in her voice. "Negi, well?"
"Sorry about that." He apologized sheepishly, realizing that he had been caught looking away from her. "No, I don't have any plans."
"Good to hear." Setsuna nodded with a grin. "Then that means that you wouldn't have a problem with squeezing in some time with me for the day, right?"
Negi massaged his right shoulder, unsure of what the young woman's motives were. "I guess not."
"Then let's be on our way."
"What are we exactly doing?"
"Training, of course." Setsuna replied, stopping for him at the doorway of the classroom. "And anything else afterwards if you want." Her expression bordered on stoic as she spoke, making it harder for Negi to read her then before. She was, however, one of the saner students in his class, so he felt that there really was no reason to fear anything getting out of control.
"Do you mind waiting for me outside then?" Negi requested, shifting to the side uncomfortably. Setsuna blinked curiously as his behavior, observing his odd body language. It wasn't until she reviewed her current position that she realized how silly it was for her to be so suspicious about his need for privacy. She nodded and took her leave, but not before sparing him a final look over her shoulder. Although he had his right to privacy, there was always an air of mystery about the young magi that piqued her curiosity.
"Thank you." Negi whispered quietly before crouching down under his desk to retrieve a duffel bag. He unzipped the side compartment to reach in for the cooling pack that was tucked inside and unclipped it to get his hands on to the blood pack that awaited him inside. I've been craving this all afternoon. The young vampire thought to himself with a sigh, opening the top desk drawer on the right to take out a wrapped straw. After getting it out of its plastic wrapper, he poked it into the pack to take a long, satisfying gulp of the crimson fluid. His issues with drinking blood had mellowed a bit. He still did not feel comfortable with drinking it straight from the flesh, much to Evangeline's embarrassment as a master. Sure, he explained to her that he felt it was like violating a person, which it was, but she still wasn't about to be very understanding about it.
"Hmm, with the way you gulp that down, you even make someone like me thirsty." Chachazero remarked as she stood up on the desk, getting her master's attention. "Eva-san would probably smile if she was here to witness this. Now all you've got to do is get over your phobia of breaking the skin."
"Yeah, well eighty minutes with the girls will do that to someone." Negi replied, pulling the straw away from his lips. He licked a drop that was on the verge of trickling down his chin and went on, "I remember how crazy they were in our earlier years together, but now I'm thinking that they're getting way too aggressive for me to handle. Did you see how Ayaka-san greeted me this morning?" He almost got shivers down his neck just thinking about it. "If her hand went down any further, she might have pinched me."
"Yeah..." Chachazero nodded her head slowly, crossing her arms. "...Hands go chop, chop."
"No. Her hands are staying where they belong."
"She's just doing what...most girls do...I think."
"Kagurazaka doesn't do it." Chachazero argued.
"She's in love with Takamichi-sensei. You know that."
"I've actually been thinking about that." Negi said, stroking his chin. "Shouldn't there be a way to cure that?"
"...Even if there was, any self respecting vampire wouldn't reveal that information." Chachazero replied. "I mean, don't you think Eva-san would have done that long ago if it was possible?"
"Sometimes I forget that she was even human once."
"Well, I wasn't around when she was either. She'd already gone "black in the heart" by the time she put me together."
"Black in the heart?" Negi raised an eyebrow curiously.
"Her expression for evil."
"Oh...do you think that happens to everyone?"
"Well, I'm not sure. I mean, the world wasn't exactly sunshine and flowers for your type back in the day. There were vampire hunters constantly on the move, and the inquisition wasn't too hot about sorcery and witchcraft either. You've heard of those witch trials, right?" The puppet asked Negi.
"She's had her share of burning and drowning." Chachazero cackled much to her master's growing disturbance. "Back when she was a weakling, playing dead was her thing."
Master playing dead? Negi couldn't possibly picture Evangeline floating like a dead body in a lake just to keep a bunch of paranoid psychos from wrangling her up with clubs to finish the job that the water failed to accomplish. She had more pride than that, and he didn't even want to think about how she looked like after being burned at the stakes. That must have been like...urgh. "I can't see Eva doing that sort of thing."
"Hmm, I guess not, but you've got to do what is necessary to survive."
"I guess." Negi decided to lighten the conversation a bit before he got sick from the horror. "Well, dealing with the girls is enough for me. I'd hate to experience a fourth of what she did."
"Can you blame them?" Chachazero asked, folding her hands behind her head.
Negi looked over his shoulder from his crouched position beside his duffel bag, "Who's them?"
"That suppressed group of vultur-"
"The girls?" Negi cut her off before she could finish.
"It's an all girl school, and you're their homeroom teacher. Besides the fact that you seem to have this mysterious grip on the female body with your vampiric abilities, some of them have had crushes on you since your first year teaching, which was weird enough. I mean, Eva-san had an excuse since she has, like this sick infatuation with your old man, and you two could pass for brothers more than father and son. When I saw you two in that ring years ago it was like watching the past fighting the future."
"Um, alright." Negi blushed from being compared to his father in such a way. "What is your point though?"
"A few years will turn those crushes into something else depending on who's the one being 'crushed' on. You've come a long way since before. I'll give it a year before you become the stud they all want to grab a chloroform dabbed hankercheif and-"
"Point taken." Negi stopped her again before looking down at himself. Sure, he looked older, but in reality, he didn't look all that much older than he did two years ago. It was the price of his immortality. "But this is all just a fake." He heaved a sigh, standing up and walking to the window. He watched as a large cloud in the sky gradually made it's way to blot out the sun from his angle. "I'm really no different from that person I was two years ago."
"Physically, anyway." His familiar corrected him. "I don't see the problem though. That illusion looks pretty genuine to me. It feels real too."
"It's still a form of deception." Negi retorted, walking back to th desk.
"Is it, really?" Chachazero asked, expressing her disagreement. "You're really supposed to look this way. If it wasn't for your vampirism, then you'd actually look the way you do now. What you're doing now is fitting in with normal society. Could you blame yourself for doing any differently?"
"Geez, master..." The sadistic puppet groaned. "Could you stop with the drama already? You're too young for this sort of crap."
"...Guess you're right." Negi finally submitted with a building grin.
"Whatever...so what are we doing now anyway?"
"Setsuna wants us to join her for training this afternoon." Negi answered her, tossing the strap of the duffel bag onto his shoulder. When she saw that her master was just about ready to get going, she walked to the edge of his desk and held our her hands for him to pick her up and perch her on his head. Negi did as she desired and got ready to lock up the classroom before feeling the puppet tug at his hair earlier than he anticipated. "Yeah?" He asked, pulling the strings for the shades to come down.
"What about the captain? Isn't this usually the time that you go to meditate with her?" Chachazero asked with a hint of disappointment. She probably favored Mana from all the other girls most for reasons that Negi was sure had something to do with her manner and skills.
Negi twisted the small plastic lever on the side of the shades to close them shut, and headed for the door with his keys out to lock up. "After seeing Setsuna approach me, she just kind of left."
"Oh." Chachazero cocked her head to the side curiously. She knew that the girls had some issues with how Negi's friendship with the lovely marksman had developed since the incident during the Mahora Festival, but Setsuna was one she found hard to read, perhaps even more so than the short librarian with the azure shade of hair. I guess even that crow demon can get a little jealous about her sensei, but...I was sure that she was into that bubbly Konoe girl. Well, I might be wrong about her after all.
[ A look at Setsuna's training session ]
The leaves that were on the ground whipped up with the swift velocity of an upper slash of Setsuna's shinai, forcing Negi to back away from her quickly before she could follow up with a few finishing strikes. The swordsman brought the wooden, training sword to her side when the slash missed and she attempted to make up for error with a quick thrust directed at the young magi's mid-section. He dodged to the side in time to avoid the painful jab from the end of her sword, lifting his shinai over his head to bring down with a clean slice that came in contact with nothing but the blowing wind. He caught a glimpse of Setsuna's rolling form from the corner of his eye, turning to face her just as she stood up to receive a roundhouse to the side of his face. Since he had about a split second to try and react, the kick did nothing more than stun him for a fleeting moment rather than dealing the full force that the swordsman intended to put behind it, so when she went in for a diagonal slash, he had enough time to recover and parry the blow from the young woman.
"Your reflexes with the blade are much quicker." Setsuna remarked at his progress with a grin, deflecting a horizontal slash from Negi before answering his attack by using the force in her arms to guide his wooden blade in a quick circle and to the side, almost throwing him off balance, giving her the opportunity to go in for another diagonal slash. Negi moved to the open spot left by the slash, ducking so his head wouldn't be caught in a collision with the swishing blade, and attempted to surprise her with a drawn slash that would have surely made a clear cut to her mid-section if she wasn't so quick to execute a mid-air cartwheel, jumping just out of reach of his attack. She saw an opening as he pulled back from his slash and whipped her sword in a circular fashion before bending her knees slightly to jump up with a rising slash that whipped up chunks of soft soil and rock in the line of her attack. Negi was momentarily blinded by the unexpected strategy, finding himself being launched into the air by the explosion of the air pocket that the ferocity of her swing created. Setsuna jumped up after him immediately, rising over him like a hawk to come down with an overhead strike. There was a loud crack from the connection of both their swords as the young magi attempted to defend against her, gripping the hilt of his own blade tightly to keep it from flying back into his face from the force Setsuna put behind her swing.
Incredible! Negi had to resist allowing the amazement he felt to wash over his face at the display of Setsuna's display of awe inspiring ability. He managed to force her off of him to put some distance between them, giving him the chance to counter, but she was quick to return with a flurry of slashes that nearly ended any chance of Negi defending against them. If it wasn't for the extraordinary reflexes that his vampiric side endowed him with, the duel would have ended in an instant in the face of her intensity. He did his best, parrying blow for blow in a blinding display of sheer luck, but in the end he lost his grip on the shinai and it went twirling out of his hands, plunging into the ground below like a large, standing blade of grass. "Cripes!" Negi cursed under his breath at the predicament he found himself in, not daring to take his eyes away from Setsuna since she would clock him with her blade if he was foolish enough to do so.
Setsuna held the hand with the blade back in preparation to strike while using the other to hold before his eyes, effectively obscuring his vision from any moveshe was about to make. She shifted her weight forward with a slash from her shinai, rolling in the air dangerously close to Negi's face. Negi did the first thing that came to mind and shifted his weight backwards while placing his arms at his sides to allow him to fall faster, and put a safe distance between him and the rolling slash that the swordsman had coming his way. He managed to plant his hands on the ground when he was close enough to make contact and pushed away hard to flip backwards just as Setsuna slammed her blade on the spot where he was seconds ago. He looked over his shoulder after her landed on his feet to see the swordsman wasting no time in pursuing him while he had no sword to defend against her with, and rolled to the side just as she slashed at him, but she reacted to his maneuver swiftly, kicking off from the ground to twirl in the air with a sideways, axe kick directed at him.
"Sheesh!" Negi hissed, finding the will to fall back onto the ground in time to let her foot slam just inches away from him. He placed his hands on the floor and twisted his hips to execute a leg sweep that took her off her feet, but she prepared for such a counter, responding by shifting her weight in his direction so she could fall on him with an elbow drop. "Hah!" Negi's eyes went wide in alert before he rolled to the side, causing Setsuna to land just beside him, face to face. They blushed for a moment at how close they were to just about giving each other an Eskimo kiss, however, the awkward momst between them was short lived as Setsuna came to her senses and came after him on the floor, managing to hook her arms over his shoulders and bring the shinai across his neck to press his back against her chest in a submission hold.
"Had this been a real blade, your neck would have experienced an unpleasant end." Setsuna's hot breath left a tingling sensation on his ear.
"Unless..." Negi trailed off, gripping the shinai before jerking forward to land on his knees. He felt Setsuna keep a firm hold on the wooden sword even as he dragged her off the ground. Using this to this advantage, he sent her flying over his head with another forceful jerk forward, still gripping her blade. He flipped the shinai in the air, catching it by the hilt when it came back down, and pointed the end of the wooden sword at her chest, saying, "Better now?"
"Maybe-" Setsuna kicked the sword out of his hand from the ground and swung both legs into the air before jerking forward to get back on her feet. She assumed a fighting stance, lunging forward with a palm directed at his chest, but he side stepped the attack, gripping her forearm with one hand and gripping her shirt with the other to send her crashing back to the floor with a throw. She tried to pull back quickly, sending him off his equilibrium and causing Negi to fall back down to the ground with her. He coughed from the dust cloud that whipped up from the fall, opening his eyes to find himself looking down on Setsuna. A queasy sensation passed through his stomach.
"Sorry..." Negi stood up from her quickly, offering her his hand for some assistance as he did his best not to stammer an blush. "Sorry about that." He used his other hand to massage the back of his neck sheepishly out of habit. "I guess I got a little carried away there with this session, huh?"
"I can say the same." Setsuna grinned at him, patting the dirt off of her clothes. "I'm really amazed at the progress you've made in such short time."
"Short time?" Negi raised an eyebrow. "We've been at this for two and a half years." I think it's almost a half by now...
"That isn't nearly enough time to be a full fledged swordsman. That is just about chipping the iceberg."
"You don't even know the secret techniques yet." Setsuna explained, before turning her attention to a large rock in the distance. "For instance..." She trailed off before Negi felt a quick rush of wind blow past the both of them. Seconds later the rock exploded into bits as though an invisible hammer came down on it with ridiculous force.
"...Huh?" Negi said again with a dumbfounded look on his face.
"Don't hurt yourself thinking too hard about it." Setsuna told him with a pat on the shoulder.
"Um...ok." Negi nodded, feeling that it was best to just accept what he just saw...or rather, what he didn't see.
"Ahh." Setsuna sighed, sitting down on a large rock near the lake. There was enough room for the both of them to sit down so she patted the spot beside her, asking, "Don't you want to rest a bit after all of that?"
"Sure." Negi replied before he proceeded over to where she sat to join her. Hmm...I hope Chachazero doesn't mind staying alone for a little while longer. The young magi thought, thinking back on his familiar. He left her on the deck of the shrine house so she wouldn't get caught in the midst of their training. Setsuna could possibly be trying to live up to Evangeline's rough expectations when it came to training. He stole a glance at his friend for a moment, realizing how pretty she was for the first time in a while. Most of the time he spent with her usually required him to move quickly so time never really stood still long enough for him to really admire her as much as it did when he wasn't training with her.
"So?" Setsuna started off, making Negi blink curiously.
"Yeah?" Negi looked back at her, waiting for some sort of response.
"Is there anything that you'd like to talk about, sensei?"
"Oh, I see..." Negi mumbled, rolling his eyes briefly. "Did Asuna and Konoka put you up to this?"
"Well, I would be lying if I said they didn't have a hand in this." Setsuna admitted before holding a hand up to keep him from speaking. "However, all they really did was mention some odd behavior in regard to you. I set up this entire meeting of my own accord."
"I knew it was weird that you asked me to join you." Negi mused. "We usually don't have training on Wednesdays."
"So?" Setsuna began again.
"There's really nothing to talk about." Negi said stubbornly.
"Of course there is." Setsuna persisted, turning slightly so she could face him better. "You usually have this whole new routine set up for everyday now. You plan after school sessions so that the others won't start complaining about your neglect towards them before you disappear with the captain somewhere. Then depending on the day, you come to me for training before heading off to the library to tend to your mysterious activities." The swordsman put an emphasis on the word mysterious, more in a mocking fasion than anything else. Probably because she felt that the girls gossip concerning him was bordering on silly. "Yue always happens to be out of touch around that time so it's safe to assume that she lends you a hand in whatever research you're doing there. Any questions to her naturally gets nothing in return. It's only natural that she would want to keep her private life a secret. Oh," Setsuna tapped her chin before she went on, "And you end the night by heading to Evangeline's residence."
"...Whoa...you girls sure are scary." Negi said, feeling slightly uncomfortable.
"When you have Kazumi, and Sayo on the case, there is nothing to hide." Setsuna shifted in her seat. "That is beside the point though. What I've been noticing is that there seems to be a weight on your shoulders, heavier than the burden you carried when you first came here. It caught my attention when you started training under Kaede and I, but I figured it was natural considering who you were. Now it's beginning to bother me a bit. What are you keeping from us, sensei?"
"...Erm..." Negi hesitated.
"I'm sure it would be easier on you if you let someone else know."
"..." Negi looked the other way for a long time, but Setsuna seemed to be determined to know, showing enough patience to unnerve her teacher. He finally looked back at her when he came to a decision. "...This is just between you and me..."
"-And Mana, right?" She threw in unexpectedly.
"Uh..." Gah-you too, Setsuna?
"I find it so odd how you can confide in her, and yet it has taken you so long to come to me and the others." Setsuna seemed to be genuinely disturbed, but she pushed those thoughts aside and kept on the present matter. She didn't want to make him close up again when she was so close to getting the facts out of him.
"Well...I made a promise to Evangeline a while back." Negi started off, piquing the swordsman's interest from the very get go. Now that was an interesting way to start an answer. She knew this had to be big if it involved someone as mysterious as the dark mistress herself. "I promised her that I would set her free from the curse that my father placed on her."
"Really?" Setsuna quirked an eyebrow. "...Is that really something you should make a promise to?"
"...I don't understand." Negi almost sounded offended by her words. "Why do you say that?"
"Because, Eva-san, isn't exactly safe...you know?"
"Sure she is!" Negi assured her confidently. The way he replied reminded Setsuna of the young spark he arrived with at Mahora years ago. She wasn't sure why, but it wasn't with him as much as is used to be. There was something about him now that felt slightly worn. While she felt that he behaved like an adult most of the time, now it was so dominant over his youthful personality that she almost felt as though she was younger than him rather than the other way around.
"But if you think about it, isn't she just behaving now because she doesn't have much of a choice?"
"You make it sound as if she's holding back another side of herself."
"Isn't she, Negi-kun?" Setsuna suddenly sounded very serious when she asked her question. "You of all people should know that more than anyone. If anything, the only reason she's mellowed down now is because she's been confined her so long. I mean..." Setsuna paused for a moment, wrinkling her brow. "...Don't you think that your father resorted to something so drastic for a reason?"
"He just wanted her off his back." Negi retorted. "He wanted her to reform herself."
"And, hasn't she?" Negi asked before she could get his name out of her mouth.
Setsuna looked to the side, recalling her last confrontation with Evangeline...no, "Dark Evangel" was more like it when she found herself against the dark mistress during the Mahora Budokai. The vampiress was willing to do something horrible to her if she didn't prove herself that afternoon. Her acceptance of her own true nature was the only thing that kept her alive during that engagement. But what of your true nature Evangeline McDowell? Centuries of the life you lived can't be erased so easily in just fifteen short years...probably nothing but months or days compared to how long you've lived. The crow demon looked back at Negi and offered him a small smile as she placed a hand on his head. She resisted the urge in her to ruffle his hair like she used to. For some reason it didn't feel acceptable anymore. Or maybe this extraordinary young man was all that was needed to open up a new world for you. Heh, does this mean that stealing him from you might spell the end for us all?
"Negi?" Setsuna finally spoke up.
"Yes?" Negi was caught off guard by her voice.
"So what will happen when you don't find the key to her freedom here?"
"...Ah..." Negi's mind blanked out at her question. He never considered that happening. He was sure that there had to be some kind of book in library island that held the secrets to ending the scholasticus curse. "...No way. It has to be here somewhere."
"Of course." Setsuna agreed with him, but there was a doubt in her mind.
But what if it's not?
To Be Continued...
Well, I'm back, but I must admit that I probably didn't come with the fireworks that you all had in mind. Reasons for that is because I wanted to leave the first chapter as something to inform the readers on what has changed since the last volume. I also mentioned that a few things happened in between, but don't worry, I'll throw in those mishaps on flashbacks. Let's see...vague ending...yeah, I'm right where I want to be. Now, chances are, the further we go with this plot, the darker some elements will become. There will still be that Negima feel though (Taking that away would be criminal, I'm sure.) There will be the harem formula, and comedy, but expect some "I know he didn't just end the chapter like that!" in the future. Heh, let's have fun.
Oh yeah, my writing buddy, Spiritblade will be making a huge contribution to this volume.
Rights to Spiritblade:
1) Characters in the Mage council. (If you're reading this, when are you going to send the next group in? We haven't been in touch for...three week?)
2)A certain Shizuna theory that might happen. (I can't promise you anything.)
3)Basically I'll add on when I receive more.
P.S: What is up with the document manager?
Alter Egos: Non-spoiler ones anyway...
Dark Ako (Half-Vampire)...Dark Makie (Half-Vampire)
Dark Akira (Half Vampire)...Dark Yuna (Half- Vampire)
New Characters: So far...
Lucinda McVicar (Vampire)...Seras Temptus (Lycan)
Alice Dalziel (Vampire)...Lillith Tribal (Lycan)
Seraphina Elman (Vampire)...Veran Belcomt (Lycan)
Lucifera Augustus (Vampire)...Olivia Locke (Lycan)
Morrigan Slade (Vampire)...Eve Iscariot (Lycan)
Dorothy Summers (Chibi Vampire)...Adel Rayhart (Lycan)
Eliza Une (Vampire)...Esther Vermillion (Lycan)
Milan Une (Vampire)...Katherine Rosenthal (Human)
Chao Xue (Human)...Camilla ? (Vampire)
Adrian Mortis (Lycan)...Melchiah Clementine (Vampire)
Eilis Ackhart (Vampire)...Igen Qualia (Doppelganger)
Mage Council Characters: (Spirit Blade) So far...
Bayard Kell (Human)...Sammael Trueflight (Night Elf)
Selenia Darla Armisael (Blood Elf)...Therese Wellworth (Human)
Astameer Laâ€™felle (Human)