When Ayumi woke up the next day it took her a moment to remember why she felt so sad and why her pillow was still wet with tears. Then she remembered her epiphany from the night before. She looked down at the cat doll still lying in her hands and gave it a gentle squeeze. Then she hugged it to her, curling up into a little ball and wishing again that she still have one last chance to change.
To anyone who was not familiar with the Magikano witches it may have appeared to have been an unusual day at the local middle school, although, to anyone who was familiar with them, it would have appeared to be only slightly unusual. Maika was still hanging off her big brother's arm every moment she around him, Yuri kept spouting more nonsense about school policy and her position as class president, and Marin was preaching about her faith to the lord and her holly duties again. What was unusual was that Ayumi, who was usually fighting tooth and nail to be the center of attention, was behaving more like an audience member then an active participant in the day's insanity. She seemed quite content with merely being next to Haruo most of the day, not close enough to set off any of her rivals tirades, but close enough to still be considered part of the Magikano group. Her strange and distinctly unAyumi like behavior that day was not lost on Haruo. Usually she flew off the handle at the slightest upset, but today she was relatively calm. When one of the other girls insulted her or accused her of plotting anything she would take a deep breath and change the subject. Haruo could tell this was extremely difficult for her, and while she did mess up once or twice, (like kicking Marin into the pond for calling her an "evil witch" twenty three times in a two minute conversation,) he could tell she was really doing her best to behave.
For Ayumi's part, she didn't think she could take another day of her new lifestyle. She had never really noticed just how much crap and death threats she yelled everyday, but after stopping herself from trying to incinerate Maika five times before they had even arrived at school, she truly realized just how much of a bitch she had been and strengthened her resolve to change, and although she had thrown Marin into the pond during lunch, and she had shot an occasional death glare at Yuri and Maika before she could stop herself, she had managed to keep herself mostly under control. Mostly.
After school let out for the day Ayumi went strait to her room and collapsed on the bed. Changing her life was harder then she had thought it would be. The amount of concentration it took to cast even her most difficult spell was nothing to amount of focus it took to monitor herself like this. How was it that she had been able to scream and flirt almost nonstop for months without breaking a sweat, but being calm and modest for just a few hours had her completely drained?
She gowned as someone knocked on her door.
Probably Maika coming to tell me to get to work on my chores.
To her surprise however, it was Haruo's voice that called through the door.
"Mamiya? Are you okay?" He asked through the door.
Her mind froze, she wasn't ready to talk to him yet.
"Ohm, yes! I'm fine!" She stammered back, though not sure if the words had sounded honest.
"Oh… Can I come in?"
Damn, she really wasn't ready to talk to him, but with any luck (or rather misfortune) Maika or one of the other Magikanos would burst into the room and break them up before things could get to awkward.
"Sure." She said, sitting up on the bed and trying hard not to look as tired as she felt.
Haruo opened the door slowly and peeked his head inside. Once he was certain she wasn't going to attack (which caused another pang of guilt to shoot through Ayumi's heart) he stepped inside and closed the door behind him.
For a moment they just looked at each other, then Haruo directed his gaze to the floor and spoke.
"I wanted to thank you for being so… calm today." He said. Ayumi's breath caught in her throat.
He noticed me?
"I know it was hard for you, but I just wanted you to know that… I appreciate it, and…" He seemed to be trying to find the right words. "And you looked really …cute."
Ayumi's heart skipped a beat. Never before had she been so happy, or so confused. She had tried for so long to get his attention, tried every trick she new to get him to look at just her, but as soon as she stopped trying he had come to her room and told her she was cute? Tears of joy and frustration began to form in her eyes as she looked at her window, the floor, her lap, anywhere but Haruo. The feelings welling up in her were too strong! Too honest! She was afraid of them.
Unfortunately, Haruo misread her slightly trembling body as a sign that she was angry with him.
"Ah, I-I mean, you look cute all the time! It's just when you were all calm and stuff you looked really… Ohm, well…"
Don't say it, please! It's to strong already!
"Beautiful?" Haruo said uncertainly.
Before he could say or do anything more a strange sensation of falling overtook him. A moment later he realized that Ayumi had launched herself off of the bed and had wrapped her arms around his neck in a full hug. Caught completely by surprise, he fell backwards and slid down the door behind him until he landed painfully on his rear and Ayumi fell onto his lap. She was crying again, her head buried into the crook of his neck.
"Ayumi! I.." He stammered, completely caught off guard by her sudden actions.
"S-stop!" She sobbed into his shoulder, "Please, s-stop! I can't t-take any more, I can't!" She tightened her arms around his back and shoulders, as if frightened he would leave her. "It's too st-strong, i-it hurts! I c-can't.." Her plea was cut short when she felt his arms wrap around her back and hold her to him. Her grip relaxed as the pain and longing in her chest melted away and was replaced by a warm glowing feeling. For a moment she was her mind was blank as it tried to understand this new feeling, it was so strange and alien to her. Then it was like someone else was controlling her body. She grabbed on to him again and pressed her chest and the warm glow into him as hard as possible. He responded in kind and pulled her to him tighter. The feeling seemed to spread through her, getting stronger and strong until it reached the very tip of her figures and toes with a warmth as strong as the summer sun. Then it died down and slowly receded back into her chest, leaving a warm fuzzy feeling though out her body as it went. Her will was her own again, but all strength had left her and she collapsed, completely exhausted. Her head and arms were still draped over Haruo, but when she breathed in she found her chest was looser, and that Haruo's sent was quite comforting.
For his part, Haruo had felt everything she had. The warmth had radiated from his chest as well and when it finished it left him feeling… different. It was as if the warmth had melted away some barrier he had only been dimly aware of. Something dark that had been buried deep with in. For a moment he had felt as though he had discovered some strange power with in him. Then the power was drained away leaving him feeling almost as exhausted as Ayumi. He looked down at the girl who was now nearly unconscious in his lap. What ever had happened between them seemed to have been quite an ordeal for them both. Summoning his remaining strength he adjusted him self slightly on the floor so they were in a more comfortable position and began gently stroking her back as they both drifted off.
It was understandable that they were so tiered. The removal of such a powerful curses took quite a lot energy.
Meanwhile, back at the middle school the teacher of first year class B, Miss Hongō Tetsuko, was grading the tests her class had taken earlier that day. It only took her 3.29 seconds to grade the entire stack of twenty three papers, and she allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction that enough of her students had paid enough attention to earn a B + class average. Her moment of pride was cut short however when she received a transmission from her superiors. Switching to internal operations she opened the channel.
"Hongō Tetsuko number 207 reporting sir." She broadcasted, as the face of Professor Hatsugawa, head of the research and development division of the department of magic appeared on her internal monitor.
"Hello 207, how's my little girl doing?" Professor Hatsugawa asked cheerfully, causing Miss Hongō to give an embarrassed sweet drop.
"Professor, I'm programmed with all the past knowledge of my predecessors right up the moment of they fused with the great demon lord, I'm collectively over two hundred and ten years old."
"Maybe, but you're always be my little girl." Hatsugawa said, trailing off to fond memories. "Ah, I remember back when you used to still leak bio-lubricant on your recharging table…"
"DAD!" Miss Hongō's embarrassment circuits went into overload. Desperate to change the subject (and praying that no one had over heard her father) she checked the audio signal and was able to make out a faint voice pattern in the back ground and amplified it. She could just make out a female voice shouting and screaming, who ever it was they sounded furious.
"What to do you mean the curse is broken! It can't be! I was supposed to become head of the Mamiya family! Me! Not that stupid bitch Ayumi!"
"Professor is that true!" Miss Hongō asked in shock. "Has the curse really been lifted?"
"Yes it has." The Professor said, straitening his glasses to indicate that now was the time to be serious. "After the unforeseen problems that arose in the last time loop, we set up an advanced magical security system to monitor the mirror in hopes of preventing another early release of the demon lord's powers. Preventing young Michiru from enticing Haruo's demonic side into awakening was also a new security measure." The professor gave his glasses another small adjustment as Michiru continued to cry and whine in the background. "It would appear that these two additions, as well as the addition of introducing Rika during the previous loop, made enough of an impact in the time line as to finally allow Ayumi and Haruo to confess their feelings for each other and lift the curse."
Miss Hongō closed her eyes and breathed in a deep sigh. It was over. The time loop that had imprisoned all of reality for over two decades was finally broken. Broken by…
"Professor?" Miss Hongō asked, struck by a sudden thougth.
"Yes, Honhon?" The professor replied happily.
After suppressing another sweet drop at the use of her old nickname she continued.
"Sir if I may point out, we have been monitoring and adjusting the time loop in hopes of breaking the curse for more than two hundred years, adding and subtracting different variables each time. However, this loop began differently from the others almost immediately. If you remember I reported that Ayumi did not disappear immediately after seeing Haruo for the first time, nor has she been as openly flirtatious as she was in any previous loop."
"You don't believe that the measures implicated by the Department of Magic were responsible for this do you?" Professor Hatsugawa summarized with a mischievous smile.
"No sir." Miss Hongō replied quickly, "The Department's safety measures undoubtedly contributed to this success. However I do not believe that they were the main reason."
"Your referring to what happened at the end of the last loop again aren't you? Your theory that if the time reversal spell hadn't been activated the demon lord would have relinquished hold on Haruo and returned to his dormant state." The professor replied, still smiling. He loved it when new theories were put forth, especially ones that could never be proven or disproven. It added to the great mystery of life.
"While it dose seem improbably that the demon lord would just give up so easily after finally awakening, not to mention the massive amounts of memory erasure that would need to be done after the humans had see the effect of such a near catastrophe in their world, I do agree with the third part of your theory." He adjusted his glasses again and continued.
"I see it as extremely probably that Ayumi and Haruo shared some mutual connection just before the reversal spell took effect that carried over into the present time line. It is true that the power of that spell has never before been duplicated in all of magical history. Not even you my dear, the most magicaly resistant cybernetic organism the department has ever built, was able to escape its effects. A subspace pocket outside of the normal fabric of reality had to be made to store your consciousness before the start each new loop. However, as powerful as that magic is the power of the human sprit may have proven to be stronger. Although it is clear that Ayumi and Haruo have no memory of any past time loop it is, to us, beyond probable that they still felt the bond they had formed from that loop, however faintly. That bond, as well as our work to remove any major obstacles between them, has finally resulted in a future that will continue. Continue beyond New Year's Day, and on to next New Year's Day, and the next, and the next. On and on into an eternity of progression!"
Unfortunately, most of the dramatic effect of the professor's inspirational speech was lost due to Michiru's jealous screams, and what sounded like someone sobbing.
"For Merlin's sake Mr. Mamiya!" Professor Hatsugawa yelled, rounding on someone off screen. "The time loop has been broken! Your daughter has finally been united with her true love, or reunited depending on how you look at it, and will retain her magic until the day she dies! This is a time of celebration!"
Mr. Mamiya only continued to whimper to himself, playing with his fingers and mumbling what sound like, "my little girl, my little girl," over and over again.
Professor Hatsugawa shook his head. "He's been like that ever since he heard the news."
More of Michiru's vows of vengeance and hatred echoed over Miss Hongō's receiver.
"Of course he maybe taking it better than some." The professor added dryly.
"Sir, perhaps he in distraught at what breaking the curse entails."
The professor blinked and Miss Hongō. "Please elaborate."
"Mr. Mamiya has always been very protective of his daughters, it took the Department's best negotiators to convince him to send Miss Ayumi to the human world in the first place, and he only agreed to allow her to, ahem, make Mr. Haruo a "real man" after he the full magnitude of the problem was explained."
"All the more reason for him to be happy that she has finally found to happiness with the man she was destined for."
At the professor's words Mr. Mamiya's sobbing developed into fountains of tears and his moans of despair rose to match that of Michiru's.
"Sir, Perhaps the idea of his daughter and Mr. Haruo ascending into adulthood together is not the most… comforting image for him as parent." Miss Hongō said as delicately as possible. Professor Hatsugawa only blinked at her again, her meaning entirely lost upon him. "What I mean is, it's often very hard for a protective father like Mr. Mamiya to allow his daughter to, ohm, "get it on?"
"Merlin's name 207! Do you mean to imply that young Ayumi and Haruo have had sexual relations!? They're only in junior high!"
Their was an uncomfortable silence as the Miss Hongō and the two Mamiyas processed what the Professor had just said.
"You mean," Mr. Mamiya began hesitantly, "that my daughter is still… undeflowered?"
"If you wish to think of it in terms of double negatives, yes." The professor said drily.
"Wait," Michiru spoke up form somewhere off screen, "I thought the curse could only be broken by Haruo power once he became a real man?"
"Merlin's name," the professor mumbled rubbing his forehead as if to ease some on coming headache, "The curse was broken when both Haruo and Ayumi became a real man and woman and acknowledged the feelings of love they felt for one another. Such feelings are dangerous to the Demon lord who is the embodiment of wanton destruction. The curse was designed to insure that when the Demon lord awoke he would be forced into the body of true love of who ever looked into the mirror. In this way the Demon Lord's evil would be given what it saw as a chance for escape, when in fact it was only playing to the trap set for it eons ago." He looked around as if for some sign to continue. "The only way the trap could fail is if the fated lovers refused to acknowledge their feelings to each other before time ran out and the demon lord awoke, or if one or both of them were more focused upon a 'less pure' relationship."
It took a moment for all this to sink in. The gist of it was that all of eternity had been repeating itself for more then two centuries because no one had bothered to clarify their own personal definition of what it meant to be a "real man." For some reason an old proverb connected to the present situation in Miss Hongō's cybernetic brain. She found it so fitting that she decided to share it with her father and the others on the line.
"The devil's in the details." She quipped.