Chapter Fifty-Five

So Much For That Happy Ending…

Negi lay awake, staring at the ceiling. Silently he rolled out of bed and climbed down the ladder leading to his loft, taking care not to awake his students. He walked over to the window and gazed out at Mahora Campus. It looked exactly the same as it always had, the World Tree illuminated by the rising sun. The ten year old couldn't help but marvel at how many repairs had been done in such a short amount of time. Anyone looking at the cityscape would be none the wiser as to what had occurred barely a month ago.

The child prodigy stared outside silently, lost in thought. He knew he would have to explain to his class why one of their number was gone. He knew he couldn't tell them the truth. Yet that didn't make lying to them any easier. Of course his partners knew what really happened, knew what he was going through. The young mage smiled despite himself. His students could always be counted on lifting his spirits, though their means could be more than questionable. And he had a duty to them, to make sure they did not worry. This was his burden to bear.

"What's wrong Negi?"

The young boy started slightly at this interruption to his thoughts, but retained his composure. "Nothing Asuna. Nothing at all."

There was a snort. "Yeah right. Spill it. It's not like you not to be worrying over something."

"I was just thinking of the incident…"

"That was a month ago Negi. Such things happen," replied the girl with a softer tone. "I know she wasn't exactly a friend, but…"

"She was one of my students, she was my responsibility," countered Negi, still watching the sunrise.

"No one could have predicted what happened Negi. Don't beat yourself up over it."

"Chao was my responsibility…" repeated the boy, staring into nothingness.

Kaede Nagase watched the sunrise from her favourite spot, high in the mountains. It provided a particularly amazing view of the campus when the sun rose. And the climb was a great way of exercising in the morning. The twins had been left sleeping soundly in their bed, none the wiser to her excursions. She preferred it that way. Even a kunoichi needed some time alone.

And there had been a lot of reasons for thought lately, which was always best done alone. The carnage that had occurred lately…it was a miracle no one had been hurt in retrospect. Kaede smiled slightly, remembering the times leading up to that occurrence. And how quickly life returned to normal, how quickly some members of her class accepted the explanation given by the teachers. It was for the best she supposed. A full explanation would involve revealing magic and they had all seen what that could lead to.

Yes, it was for the best that most remained ignorant of the Mahorafest's true significance.

It was late morning when it happened. A tiny tear in reality forced its way into existence over Mahora silently, invisible to the untrained eye. Unfortunately, the accompanying brief scream was easily detectable for several miles before it was cut off by a loud thud.

"Why does this always happen to me?" groaned the blonde youth, picking himself up from the ground groggily. Wiping a trickle of blood from his bruised nose, he looked around blearily, dazed and more than slightly confused. "Hang on, did I miss something…?" Then it came flooding back as a voice uttered behind him.

"You took your time."

Luke wheeled around, looking at a stranger blue robed humanoid with glowing yellow eyes and an ochre wizard hat.

"Erm…what happened?" Luke asked tentatively, fighting to control his panic.

The figure looked at him disapprovingly as it replied. "You just screwed up, that's what."

"Eh?! What did I do?! And who are you?"

"You got the watch destroyed. My name is Darkside."

The youth looked at him in shock. "Excuse me, Mr. Darkside, but exactly how am I to be held responsible for the watch being…wait, it's destroyed?!"

Darkside nodded. Luke was still for a moment before breaking into a smile and laughing exultantly. "It's gone…That's…BRILLIANT!"

The Talon of Fate sighed as the boy danced about, singing "No more Clockwork, No more Ezekyle" to himself.

After about five minutes Darkside's patience ran out. "Actually, its not that simple."

"What?" asked Luke, freezing in place.

"Come on, we're late!" shouted Asuna as she charged towards the tram station.

"I'm coming!" cried Negi, chasing after her. Konoka, skating just in front of him, giggled as he redoubled his efforts to catch up. With seconds to spare, they made it to the tram. As the doors closed behind them, Negi sat down, panting slightly.

"That…was…surprisingly…hard." He gasped out.

Konoka smiled. "What's wrong? Out of shape?"

"Nice example you're setting," added Asuna. "What happened? You were in peak condition during training…"

"I'm…just…slightly tired," answered Negi.

"Sure you are," teased Konoka. Asuna just laughed whilst Negi finally caught his breath.

"Wait, why do I have to hunt them down?! Out of the two of us, you are the one with phenomenal cosmic powers!"

Darkside rubbed the bridge of his nose in annoyance. "It's complicated. Simply put, high level beings like me and Ezekyle cannot face each other directly. However, by using you, I can circumvent this rule."

"Oh. So you won't be leaving me to fend for myself?"

"Not this time. A weak little creature like you wouldn't stand a chance against a Dahaka without my help."

"Thanks for the ego-boost…" muttered Luke, rolling his eyes. "And what makes you think I'll agree to this?"

"What would a gentleman do?"

That's it! Next time, screw the nice attitude!

Luke glared at the magician, clenching his fists. "But what about-"

"What, explaining your absence? Not particularly an issue. Take a look," said Darkisde motioning at a bulletin board. Luke quickly scanned it, his eyes falling on the current date.

"Oh. Well….that explains a lot…so that's what happened when Kaede broke the watch?"

Darkside nodded. Luke felt sadness fill him momentarily. Ironic how he regained his memories, but in turn was left with only memories of his time at Mahora. Then again, considering his alter-ego had done a pretty good job of tearing up the place and…killing…one…of…

Oh God.

Luke looked at Darkside, who sighed in boredom before answering. "Everything is as it was on this day. So everything you did has been undone."

Oh. In that case, thank God!

"So there's no need to hang around here for tearful good byes, last minute farewells etc, etc," finished Darkside, pointing at the approaching tram as a bell rang in the distance. "So I suggest you head off now, and stop wasting time. We have a lot of work to do."

"We? What we? What will you be doing whilst I'm running around risking my neck trying to catch a creature older than time itself!?"

"You'll find out soon enough," answered Darkside, fading away. "I'll be waiting for you."

"Wait, where?" queried Luke, waving his arms as the apparition vanished. There was a snigger.

"You'll know it when you get there."

"That is even less than unhelpful you…you…" Luke trailed off and stopped shaking his fist at empty air as he realized that it would be best not to antagonize some eccentric magic user. He slowly lowered his fist and reined in his frustration. It would do no good. After all, he knew himself well enough to summarize that going after Ezekyle would be the right thing to do. Especially if it was his fault the creature had been released. And as for Mahora…well, nothing happened in the end, and he had his memories, grim as they were. He'd done what he had come to do and…

…alright, he was slightly disappointed in the turn of event which left him virtually unknown to those living on the campus, but then again, if such was his fate, so be it.

Luke sighed slightly. For all the trouble he'd endured, his time at the academy had been fun…even though it never happened. He grimaced. This would take some getting used to.

The tram stopped, the doors opened. Lost in thought, Luke stepped forward…

And was flattened as thirty girls burst out and ran towards the academy, gossiping all the way.

This brings back a lot of memories he thought wryly, being crushed beneath the stampede. He lay perfectly still until everyone had gone, wincing in pain now and again. Once it was safe to stand up he picked himself off the ground and dusted off. Looking after the departing mob, he noted with a chuckle the miniature form of Professor Springfield and his two students, Konoka and Asuna. Well, his encounter had now been avoided, so no chance of getting caught up with all the madness of Mahora for a while. Though it would be most interesting to rejoin all that hectic activity in the future.

And who knew, perhaps he'd become close with Kaede again…

He cleared his head as he boarded the tram, taking his memories with him.