You all are not going to be happy hearing this, but I was not satisfied with my last chapter at all. I looked at one paragraph when I uploaded it, and I saw a dreadful typo. I fixed it, but it ruined my mood. If that was the first thing I saw, just from a random look, how does the rest of it look?

I am missing things in that chapter... and I've no time for editing. What I can do is do better this time around. I don't enjoy seeing myself slip backwards every time I take a few steps forward. I believe I finally have a face to put to this madness, the kind of style I want to aim for.

You ready to see me make an attempt at it? Well...I can only try. As always, I enjoy reviews. They motivate me to get out there and type. Of course, I do not own Negima...I have a new poll. (Again, I know.)

Personally speaking, the action begins with Negi and Tusukuyomi...and that's the end.

O+-+X

+-YN-+

Chapter Fifty Seven: Waiting...

+-AAA-+

"Status Report."

Theodora spoke quietly as she stood in front of the screen, a stock still figure of what some would call perfection, calm, yet; her word was law. Upon her simple request, information was provided by way of an officer at the helm, his voice was confident, yet the princess saw past his guise to the worry within.

"Our fleet stands at eighty five percent in terms of our original numbers. We've taken a beating from those summoned beasts, but our generals have pulled back and reworked our strategy, we are now as solid as can be. The numbers of beasts is still indeterminate, but we've obviously dented them, your Highness...there has been a recent lull in their persistence."

Crisp, firm, professional, he was a good cadet, but not much in the ways of being a proper man. Her smile disarmed him completely. A chime took her eyes from him however, bidding them to focus upon the screen in front of her once more as Kurt Godel appeared upon the screen, looking even worse for wear than before.

It was obvious he had been sweating bullets, but he had attempted to wipe the moisture away before he called her...It was no good, that effort, as the nervous sweat was still there, reforming along the line of his hair, and to wipe it now would be to admit it's presence. Poor man, he was so hopelessly enslaved in his own game, his quest for power. He couldn't admit human weakness, not even for the heat of war.

"Theodora. My forces aren't faring well... The summoned beasts are getting tougher, and there are a few larger ones out here now that look ready to swallow some ships whole...My scouts tell me that Negi and his party have stationed two scouts out here to help, and one of them is confirmed to be Nagi...but I can't reach him..."

I still remember Kurt...I still remember those days...those beautiful days when you were so kind, caring... those that you had still called me Thea...

In other words, he wanted, needed, her to reach him. Kurt could never say anything straight out. Not anymore...not since then...she shook her head, looking around at her bridge. This was her central command station on her ship, an aegis class behemoth of modern technology. According to the information Godel was relaying, Nagi was closer to her, and she had a backup he didn't have...royal magic.

Arika was supposed to be with Nagi. Just like old times...It had been so long since Theodora had spoken to her...she had thought her dead for too long, Nagi too, for that matter. She tuned out Kurt as he came back on the screen, continuing his version of a helpless plea. Reaching…it was so far. It had been so long since she had done this...she touched upon a mind, one that grabbed her and held her tight in fingers so cold.

Who the hell is this?

Wrong mind. Theodora had reached for a royal presence, and she had caught one, but it was not the one she had hoped for. Her long "lost" friend Arika was not the one who held her in such a cold, powerful grip... No, this was her half sister, Asuna. Theodora managed to yank herself away, pulling free from the clutches of the other, only so feel her lunge outwards, trying to recapture her. She failed, but Theodora kept the connection on.

Theodora. Your sister. It's...nice to see you again, Asuna...

The link strengthened, So much so that the darkness became a reality, a field filled with grass, the wind blowing, soft, feather touching, upon a face. A whisper of running water, the air hinted at a stream, beds of flowers...empty promises. This was but a representation, a meeting plain for the soul.

Theodora looked to the side, feeling the rays of a nonexistent sun. The rays played upon her, but a sound from behind her bade her to turn. The clearing of a throat, coming from none other than Asuna herself, who stood, battle ready, in the royal's finest. She gave a twisted smile.

You never were a good liar, Theodora...You'd rather see a flaming snake tied to a bomb than me right now.
...This is supposed to be a bad thing?
Not particularly, no...but in this case, we both know that answer... You're terrified of what I can do to you, aren't you?

Asuna turned he head to view that same sun that Theodora had been taken by. She looked upon her visage sidelong while that smirk still played upon her face. The other was composed, however delicately, in the face of her though, and made no comment. In that sun, Asuna, a woman who might be viewed as promiscuous in her current attire...

...Am I?

That sun made those clothes show what their true purpose was for. A show of superiority, of strength... In battle, one who wore that knew what they were, and reveled in it, thus striking fear in the hearts of ordinary men. The king entering into battle. Neither of them had actually opened their mouths as of yet, but Asuna was the first, breaking her smirk into a tooth filled, feral grin, looking upon Theodora full on.

Of course you are Thea. ...I have royal abilities just like any other, dear sister. Or did you forget that I can feel your emotions?

A shiver then, a final break in that strong, practiced visage. Every member of a royal family was born with an inert royal power, and an ability. For Asuna, that power was magical cancelation, and her ability...it was in her eyes. One is said that they can see into your soul through those windows, your very eyes...she could tell exactly what you were feeling with just a glance, Asuna could...if she so wished...she could also expand certain emotions in you, driving you the way she wished you, a carrot to dangle in front of the horse...

Theodora had a more practical "ability", hers stemming from the heart. She could tell a person's affinity, their alignment. Her power...was magical dilution. With enough focus, she could do the same thing Asuna did, but her power didn't simply cancel the magic, it spread it out, made it ideal for absorption, or mixing...that was Arika's power actually. Magical manipulation.

She could change the composition of a spell, essentially change its entire purpose, but keeping the same amount of energy there...it could be a simple as changing a magical arrow of fire into one of wind, or perhaps, ultimately, an end of the world class into a grand healing.

No one knew Arika's ability however...the only time that she had come close to controlling it, she had gasped, and ran out from her practice room, crying, or at least, that was what Theodora had been told. She had just been a little girl…as for Negi…she could only guess from reports…and he was the opposite of his mother.

His ability was known, but not his royal power….and this was mainly due to Arika's failure to train him…she had him believing that his "power" was the same as all royals, the ability to telepathically communicate…was she afraid, perhaps, of what it was? Indeed, a boy like Negi would most likely house a useful strength…just like Asuna with magical cancellation…

Yet, Theodora was pulled back to reality by Asuna's voice, and she took a hasty step back, for the other had come close enough to fill her vision with those piercing eyes. She gave her simple smile, that disarming yet disturbing, quirk of the lips.

Heh. You and your innocence… My dear older sister, you never knew how to hide anything from me, did you? Father did…Mother…well, I never got to know, didn't I? Even Arika does better than you…pathetically better, but better.
What of Negi? What do you read from him?

It was instinctual, a simple question, yet Asuna took it as a return fire, a jibe. She actually hissed mentally, eyes burning a fierce fire. How dare her! This was her stage, her platform! The sheep to the lion, had spat in her commanding face! Yet, she had turned away, showed submission, Theodora had stung her.

I get…nothing. Unless he lets me through…unless he is too vulnerable to help it... When he does, I can see…pain. Nothing but pain. No matter what he feels, everything is approached with the care a wounded animal approaches the next shadow. Besides pain…anger. So much anger. He is the second one to make me shiver when reading them…the second who tore me through with the sheer strength of feeling…

She couldn't help it. Slowly, her robe brushed by the grass as she took a single step, her hand outstretched to touch the other's face. Asuna felt to slap it away, but it was glued there, and she, frozen. One had trouble enough, feeling their own pain. Why was she the one gifted with the power to feel another's?

Another voice broke the stretching silence, one that was strangled, far away and weak. The two broke apart, watching and reaching together to bring the figure Theodora had been searching for, one that was warm and alive, wary, tired, but far better off than Thea had originally given her credit for…

Arika…
Ahh, the sister who's actually FUN to play with…

Back again. Perhaps, just perhaps, She had an excuse for the way she acted, the life she had lived, the memories she had seen…but Asuna over stepped her excuse for her actions a bit too much…perhaps that was just her genetics. Negi too, after all, went far enough. Unlike the two of them, she actually spoke.

"I can understand Thea, but you Asuna, I can't. To what do I owe the visit? I was busy…"
Busy with your husband, above the clouds no doubt. You have hardly moved since you were left in the spot you were, save for flying a little closer to the action…but that's not the only action, is there?

Ignoring the jibe, but none the less getting red, despite her innocence I might add, she turned to focus her attention on the other, one Theodora. Yet Asuna would not be denied, pushing in between her two sisters like the little one she was.

Best not to ignore me, dear sister. I am the one providing the platform here, and I can just as easily take it away…I'm the bridge between you two in this high magical interference. Remember that. Why haven't you and your husband been doing your job? If you had been, this conversation would not be necessary…Nagi would have been able to eliminate the threat these larger summoned demons pose, no?
"Nagi…Nagi wants to-"
Fight in the main spotlight, doesn't he? He wants to be the one to fight this battle, for so many reasons I can't even begin to number. One of which being his son's safety, no?

True, this was Nagi's excuse… Still, Arika felt there was more to his adamancy… such as the fact that he did not agree with how Negi planned on fighting this battle, what he planned to do. Arika understood why Negi had to do what he was, but Nagi…it was as said.

The man did not understand the need; only saw the loss of life. He did not understand that the loss was nonexistent, that all would be rebuilt. Destroying the world was sin number one in his book, no exceptions, not even for his son. That was the reason they did not move around…

Arika had been restraining him. That was the reason she looked so harried, so stress, disheveled. It was from the effort it took to keep him in one place…and this conversation would only take away from her ability to do that…she had to make it quick… already, she felt her grip loosen.

"I am trying to keep Nagi out of the fight best I can…he does not agree with Negi's participation…but the boy is the only one who can fight Fate now. Nagi would be killed. This…this isn't a battle of pure strength or magical power anymore…it's about skill, cunning."
So, you finally admit that your hubby is an idiot, acceptance is half the battle.
"Asuna, putting aside the fact that you are a sister for a moment, please…shut the hell up."
Oh ho ho…okay then…

Regardless of her tone, Asuna knew she had overstepped a boundary this time, regardless of her claim to be telling; "nothing but the truth", she took a few steps back from near Arika's face, where she had pushed herself earlier. Folding her arms, she took a backseat to the conversation.

Can you convince Nagi to help Kurt and his forces? The appearance of these larger demons has really put a damper upon our ability, and they are slowly crushing Kurt's forces into a pulp…
"Ahh, Thea…it's been a while…but I'm sorry. Nagi can't focus on those things right now…he's tough enough as it is…shit!"
What? Arika? Where are you going?

Asuna however, smiled as the scorned queen disappeared from view, and when Theodora whirled to her, she smiled a sinister smile. Of course, when Thea opened her mouth to begin berating her, Asuna held up her hands, shaking her head. This time, she decided word of mouth was better in this body of soul.

"I did nothing, dear sister. Nagi has broken free. He is now rushing into the sphere, no doubt going to stop his son from saving the world, not because he wants to save him from death, but because he wants' to do it himself…the wrong way."

Asuna laughed brilliantly, the sound akin to the knell of a bell, as she turned sharply around. Theodora was about to ask her what she meant by the wrong way, but the young woman disappeared, taking her spiritual assertion with her, and leaving Theodora to open her eyes, once again aboard her ship.

Just as in spirit, she opened her mouth, but this time, it wasn't hands that stopped her, but force. Her ship suddenly lurched to one side, racked by a powerful force as lights began springing up instantly with the sound of alarms.

"We've been hit! Due south-east, a large summoned beast has taken out a side of our tail! It's leaking auxiliary fuel, but no injuries reported…shielding in that area has been brought down by the blow…we're wide open!"
"Shit! New readings, three more from south-west, coming in fast, it's like they can smell the fact we're bleeding! Frontal engines online, moving on full impulse…three hundred fifty kilometers and climbing, but they are still gaining!"
"Someone check on her highness, she was knocked down from the initial impact..."
"I'm fine! Bring her up as fast as you can, move this bucket before it gets kicked! Get someone working on those shields, Kingsley, you know the drill, gather some soldiers and man those cannons, send out one man fighters! Move!"

The man who had spoken first, a tall and sturdy Hellas officer, jumped up at her call and looked around, nodding at a few choice individuals, who shot out of their seats and bolted from the main bridge down an access hallway. He himself looked around at who was left before remembering his highnesses orders to them. He roared before turning his own tail to scramble from the bridge.

"You heard the princess, move your asses!"

+-1-+

In the damp cavern, very little noise could be heard. Or at least, one should say that little noise could escape. Yet there was plenty of a mighty ruckus going on in there, and of it, Rakkan played about fifty percent. Sure, Issac swung around his blade like a windmill, but, save for the times he almost killed himself when his blade bounced off his opponent's limbs, he was silent.

So too, was Kago, although he was far more forth coming with his blows, even if he was less successful. He might have magic, and his blows might be more powerful, but he was slower on the attack than a spinning blade, it was just a law of physics.

A single drop of water fell into the priest's eyes, but he paid it no mind as he shot in front, swerving to avoid Issac and his own prep charge. He came in deep territory, avoiding a long, heavily muscled limb when it struck down upon the ground, throwing up rocks…

He took that as an advantage, jumping up on top of one as Rakkan came into sight, slashing out his long blade to slice at the limb in front of him. It was close, but he missed, it retracted too quickly, but not before Kago managed to jump on top of it, clinging to it as it ripped through the upwards.

It was too fast, and he was ripped off, flying upwards, towards its head, but that was just fine for him, for he took aim at its eyes, his hands forming the shape for his blade, which, after a quick call, shot out, but the beast, the…overgrown dragon…whatever it was, dragon seemed close…swatted him and his attack met it's skin, useless.

He landed hard on the ground, coughing up was look suspiciously like blood...Issac jumped over him to charge in again and this time the weapon master's strike was fueled by more than need. It didn't bounce this time, but instead his blade stuck, not really making a dent, but staying there against the unyielding skin.

Rakkan however, used the beast's distraction to the mediocre sting as his opening and slammed down his blade on the beast's claw, which was, essentially where Issac had hit. The blade sliced through, almost completely, neat. The beast threw them off with a swipe to nurse the digit that had almost been cut off.

Oh come on, it's just a pinky you big baby! Yet that "pinky" was an appendage about five feet wide and extending maybe twenty feet in length. It was, indeed, one big pinky. Tough as nails, Issac could only assume its skin was harder than well crafted steel, and it's speed was unnatural…it was obviously a summoned beast…but…how did it even fit in here amongst other things?

Something so big, with proportionate toughness, was a real botheration for the two young men, but for Rakkan, he was in love. He almost could be imagined jumping up and down like a little boy that had been given a puppy…almost.

"It didn't even go all the way through! Impressive! It's just like fighting a dream! Fast, strong and durable, it's perfect, boys!"
"I hope you don't mind when I say that, personally, I beg to differ with you on that point, my friend."

Kago was back up, shakily, but back up. He eyed the red skinned beast in front of them as it filled up the cave in front of them, licking its claws again. At least it never attacked until they did. That was a saving grace. He looked to Issac, who had his blade in the ground, using it as a place to rest his hands and head, and to Rakkan, who was practically sparkling all over with joy and eager to charge forth again.

"We seriously need a plan before we try that again sire Rakkan…"
"Screw plans, charge!"

Issac wasn't vocal, but his face spoke for him, his ideas and thoughts of such a plan plain as day. Kago however, tried a more verbal approach, for he knew that behind all the legend and rumor of the man in front him; there was an actual sensible person there. Just because he was called the immortal fool didn't mean he actually was one. He just acted like it, he had a carefree approach that worked on brute strength, but there was tactics there…somewhere.

"Rakkan, my good sir, you might be able to charge into such a situation without a plan, but we need to formulate one. I am sure that even you would have extreme difficulty unless you help us in this one."

Like it or not, the man had to agree with him there. He would get his ass kicked if he went in alone...but it would be just so invigorating...no. He needed to get himself up and out. He put his blade down, staking it next to him to focus on Kago. If he was so intelligent, he'd have an idea of his own then, right? Lucky, for the priest nodded at the look, his eyes sparking with a glimmer, the beginnings of an idea...

Jasnin set herself down upon a dark plain. The ground was non-descript, a simple plain of darkness, a gelatinous goop that drew her in slightly, yet held enough resistance to keep her up. The sky above was dark, a deep, cloudy dusk. The sun shone brilliantly, what was visible above the horizon that was. Time didn't seem to exist here...the only thing on this endless plain was a tent. A tent that captivated her attention, for lack of anything to distract.

"You have got to be kidding me...a fricken circus in the middle of nowhere? That's the pactio? Of all the stupidity...whoa!"

The ground, ever so compliant before, now grabbed unto her ankles, completely covering her feet, eclipsing her shoes. Struggling was no use; the ground seemed to grow eyes and a mouth to smile at her with. Quickly, it dragged her away, or should one say zipped? She practically flew with the speed.

It was inside the ominous tent for her, its size seemed to double once inside, the space here was vast, expansive. The big top, so high, it was almost impossible to see the end, and indeed, it was made even more so by the sheer darkness, pinpoints of light only managing to knife through it at key times.

The light was focused on only one figure, and that figure was not Jasnin, oh no. It's focus was, of course, Zazie. Her smile was wide, but her eyes were ever wider, in this dim light, indeed, she looked to be the epiphany of the ever elusive, Cheshire cat.

Darkness pooled about her, and that darkness too, had piercing eyes. Laughter echoed from no mouth Jasnin could see, and what was worse, it was Zazie's own cackle. Eyes, all over the place...Jasnin had never been comfortable when all eyes were on her...now the effect was redoubled.

"My pact allows me control over the darkness. Shadow puppetry. I take it further with my own personal villa... This is my stage, and you...you are on it."

Jumping down, she soared, and it was only when she had already fallen halfway did Jasnin realize that the "mime's" aim was not on the ground, but at her own silver head. She spun quickly away, just as the other's feet hit the dirt.

Zazie spun, her hands dancing out, tendrils of darkness dancing from them, making Jasnin duck, yet the darkness stuck to the air, growing, becoming shadowy forms. Eyes wide, the girl spun away from their outstretched limbs, cutting them apart at the joints...

Useless, they were shadows, cutting those arms only allowed them to grow back. She spun, striking out at Zazie, and when she ducked, Jasnin's knee struck out into her face, making the other reel away.

Her friends, minions of darkness, grabbed on Jasnin's hair, prompting her to let out an angry squawk. It was long, that hair, long enough to allow her to spin on the spot and slice her captors apart, diluting them into the slithers of darkness they were.

Still, they could only reform. Jasnin refocused on Zazie, ducking under a high kick and sweeping her blade at Zazie's feet, but she launched herself up, jumping over Jasnin and palmed her in the back, making her stumble to the ground. Even the ground grabbed her!

It tried to hold her down, but she ripped herself from it, rolling away from Zazie as her foot came down and grabbing her ankle, making her overbalance and fall on her face. Jasnin spun her blade as she shot up, striking it down, impale style, but she missed, getting a foot in the mouth for trying.

Taking the kick at face value, she grabbed the other's foot before she could retract it, and tried to twist it, but Zazie spun her body with it, and grabbed Jasnin's own ankle, taking her off her feet. Still, the silver head had not come into this without a plan...her blade hand swung out, and sliced the other from shoulder to mid-back.

Zazie made no sound, but she let Jasnin loose, landing softly a few feet away. Her hand twisted to feel the blood drip from that long stripe. Her opponent's eyes were cold as she watched. There was no sorrow in her face when she spoke.

"It hurts, doesn't it?"

Her eyes came up, brown meeting a kind of colorless silver. She shot forward, wordlessly bringing out her hand, which became ringed with the shadowy darkness that seemed to permeate everything here. Jasnin waited...

Her blade came out to meet the others, solid darkness. Jasnin was stronger here, pushing the other off, and when Zazie stabbed in, she twisted away, pushing up her blade to offset the others and kicking her in the gut.

Skidding away, eyes burning, she held out her hands, that same darkness liquefying, striking out to wrap her opponent up in a cage, assaulting her with those same eyes, smiles, snickers. She shrunk back...damn, she hated mind games! Slowly, the other approached, her own smile eclipsing all others.

"...Still just a child. Your power...pathetic."

Closer still, she came, she was slandering her, shooting her down, her abilities, all this power...but, power didn't matter to her! This should be a piece of cake! What was she missing, what skill had she overlooked? Was there actually something more to her art that it's dreadful ability to crush and control a soul?

...You have a curious power. Yet, your grasp of it is clumsy...

Zazie watched her, a mildly interesting pet trapped in its cage. Her fingers danced out, and Jasnin felt her hand jerk. Staring down, she could only watch as her very own limb reached out and grabbed her blade, tossing it outside the cage.

"Puppets. A circus has many acts...illusion, magic, acrobatics...all these dance to the turn of the ringmaster, he is the master, the one who pulls the strings...your strings."

Eyes burning, she could only watch, unable to move...not even a single centimeter! Zazie watched her hand as it pivoted slowly upon it's wrist, moving to her will. She felt anger from the other, understandable anger...but she had to be careful.

That power of hers was deep. She held her abilities in contempt, and so she held them clumsily, like one would hold a gun in a game of roulette. If she ever decided to grasp it like she should, as a part of herself...Zazie would hold no chance...

Her race was famed for having grace, anger hammered into a cool, cold tool, one that was swung with frightening precision. A...a beautiful monster. She stepped closer, feeling the other's anger radiate stronger. Snow-walkers...they were like dragons. Dangerous things. The knowledge of the entire species lay in the mind of every specimen.

This being the sole and final specimen. The execution of one needed to be done carefully, lest control was lost. It took only a single second, a simple slip of control...Her hands danced out, capturing both of Jasnin's now.

...Let me through, or you dance to my tune, with limbs that no longer belong to you...

She couldn't move, her own hands coming up to clasp around her throat. Hardly able to speak, inwardly, she screamed. Screaming, feverishly reaching for something, anything to strike back with. Now, now she knew fear. Intimidation...one who thought themselves a god now saw that power could touch them...

She was fallible. Able to be destroyed, her anger could not always save her...that terrible power that she feared so much...had limits. This was fear, this was silence, and as her own nails dug into her skin, she knew pain...

Outside, another power found that, they too, were fallible. This power, thankfully, did not come from the same side. Rakkan swung his blade down upon the sinewy joints of their opponent, those that were vital to hold its leathery wings. Roaring, it tossed the man off, only to see a streak of white, and a voice bellow out impending doom.

"Balore kobushi!"

Glowing brilliant white, Kago landed hard upon the collar of the beast and his fist struck out, the power from the punch practically eclipsing his entire body as he zeroed in on the cavity between throat and collar. The power was enough to make it take a step back, sending dust from the ceiling cascading down, but Kago jumped off.

In mid air, he met Issac, who had been sent up by Rakkan when the beast shook him off, by way of his blade like a baseball. Kago provided the platform, and Issac took it, jumping off his hands and swinging his blade high.

Magic-less he may be, but chi was still the force that beat through his veins. It glowed along his blade now as he landed on the beast's face, and he impaled one of the beast's eyes. Roaring painfully, the blood fell, medicine ball sized drops from the sky.

Rakkan and Kago both jumped forwards to take the feet as Issac leapt off, using his blade to direct the air and landing hear the ear, or at least what he thought was an ear. He darted away from a swipe the beast gave, it's claws digging into its own skin.

Behind the ear, he stabbed his blade out again, catching another cavity and prompting another earsplitting roar. Rakkan swung his blade with all his might down below, and just when it might have bounced off the thing's ankle, Kago darted forth with another one of his Balore Fist's, adding more power to the thrust and digging deep.

So much red, just like its iridescent skin in the dim light. Yet still, all three jumped away when it roared once more. They had done some damage, but still, they were only flies to it. The three landed together after retreating some and Kago nodded.

Kanka flowed around him still, Rakkan still had his pactio blade, along with some odd armor...Issac was silent, but the priest knew he could call up a shine upon his blade when needed...together.

The area at the base of the neck, that cavity he had punched earlier...it was a direct channel to the heart on a dragon. Direct enough force, together, they could breach it and literally break this monster's heart...if it even was a dragon...

They could only assume, it was too big to tell, literally. Kago shot off first, making one heck of a din with his mouth, if only to draw attention to himself, while Rakkan sent Issac flying up to where he was supposed to with a well placed slap of his blade.

As for the man himself, well, he was famous for gravity defying feats, among other things...he leapt up, and kicked off a jointed knee to get where he had to go. Kago did a similar movement, but he had to avoid swipes and used the crook of the thing's arm as extra leverage along the way.

"San kan ken!"
"Kigen Ten!"
"Pendulum Shaft."

Rakkan may have formed a dozy with his incredible blade, it's purely...well, there was no word for it besides huge, blade, but the other two would not be outdone, even by a legendary hero. Kago took it upon himself to bring his training out to run along Issac's blade, combining his holy beam with his most powerful attack, the genesis.

Together with Issac's chi, the blade struck forth into the power Rakkan put forth, all into that single cavity along their opponent's neck, an explosion that rocked the whole cavern, knocking chunks of it loose to crash upon the floor.

Their opponent did not move. A squawk might be the best approximation of the sound it made, but it did not even blink otherwise. It seemed that it had turned back into the stone it had originated form, and it was only when the color began to fade from it did they realize the truth of that growing thought.

Issac however, had no time for celebration, as he felt an extreme heat pierce his heart. Fire licked along his neck, and he hissed, grabbing that burning area, delicate lines, the shape of familiar fingers. His sister...where was she?

She was about to die...

A finely tuned sensor, as only one who shared a soul could act as, the boy scanned the area, and locked unto a patch of darkness. There, there was the unrest, and the opponent. He had ignored the distress before, but now...he could no longer stay still, not as the screams echoed in his head.

He jumped, regardless of the consequences, he jumped, yelling to his comrades the next battle cry, now for the sake of an ally.

Fear, anger, desperation... these were the keys. The keys to unlocking the depth of one's heart. One is not judged by their actions in everyday life, not so much as they are in times of strife. What makes a hero is not what brand of coffee they buy at a store. It is not even how early they submit their taxes...no.

What makes a hero is the ability not to ignore, or feel, any fear… but to do what they believe is right, regardless of that fear, regardless of their anger, their sorrow, regardless of even their hurt. When one overcomes their fear, even if that fear is of themselves, you take the step, the step out of your very own way.

Zazie made that one mistake. She paused at a crucial moment, she showed weakness when nothing but strength should have radiated. She gasped as the point of an incredible blade threatened to rip her apart.

She was forced to break off, growling as shadow formed about her, an attempt to cover the wounds. The combined voices of priest and gladiator echoed in the darkness, bringing earth shaking light to the darkness.

"Se Dissolvant Circumstantia, Falsa!"

Through that light, the shadow of a man stepped through, blade glistening to match a pair of burning eyes...it was true, in that battle light, that the plain brown hue could show to be pure gold...

Zazie wasted no time in striking at him, wrapping him in her web, tangling him with literal strands of darkness, it didn't matter how many he tried to cut, only more would spill from their wounds...she began to reach her hands out, tendrils drawing upon his own throat, but a literal roar made her spin around.

Never take your eyes off the lion, even if it is to step on the fire ant. The statement is always recited opposite that form...but it should be noted that it works both ways...Zazie had taken the last wrong step in attacking the magic-less brother...hands outstretched, her captive had eyes of literal red, a single hand outstretched beyond the boundaries of her cage.

She made no real sound, but her voice still permeated her mind. A single, soft call, like the siren calling to the fishermen to jump into the seas...the sound was above language, a lilt that captivated the soul.

It was the soul she wanted after all. The knowledge was simple, and it rose in her...you don't need to rip a soul from someone. You don't need to force yourself into another's mind to control them...you could make them come to you...

A snow-walker was a truly conniving species, dealing in tricks. Their magic went beyond words, as they were born, and had fallen, long before the seal of Gramyre had even been thought of. They could make lightning strike upon the ground, sticking there, fire dance an unearthly jig, convince a man to kill his brother...

Their ability was even enough to make an entire village join them in the soul world... convincing them to leave their bodies and dance among the clouds, never to return. They were the one species that was said to be able to create life with their spells...if a crude, rudimentary version of life...

Jasnin's face was blank, her smile slack, almost as if she were a sinister doll, eyes aglow. Her arm was still outstretched, reaching, drawing the other closer, bidding Zazie to come and dance with her, bidding her to void herself of the soul...she crooned.

A nameless call, a tune you wished you could put a name too, the song you would search the ends of the earth to find... A sound that made you complete. Yet, in this complete alien, there was control. Jasnin could practically see the other's body fail, shrink back...but Issac stopped it…stopped her, from going any further.

With one sound thwack form his blade to her skull, the girl crumpled, and Jasnin let loose her power, with difficulty of course, but she managed to let go. Zazie would keep her soul today...but she, Jasnin, was exhausted. Yet, unlike the other times, she managed to stay awake and able, if only to give a weak smile.

"...You disobeyed my will...I wanted...I wanted so badly to crush her..."

A smile, knowing, yet not without that tell tale sparkle, that flicker of a trapped soul held tight. He shook his head. Did he really defy her will? Or was he simply obeying a higher order, her conscious? He didn't even know. All he knew was that he had done what he knew was right. The girl should not die...

"...Are you so sure that it was your will I was disobeying...?"

+-2-+

Among the ruined pillars, in the open air, the sound of two warriors, crossing blades, echoed in the open skies. On this level of the ruins, the air was clear, dancing with magic, apparent in every breath. Negi could feel it in his bones...and he knew that soon, he would face this power, this overwhelming, giddy power.

All of it would stem from one being, and as he ducked under the sharp swing of a blade, he shouted out order to his comrades, for Alma had risen her hands. He wanted this to be for him, and him alone. Canceling his earth form, he berated Alma.

"Alma, take care of Anya! You've done your piece, leave the Gumby to me! Get outta here, retreat to the ship, await further orders! Don't let that girl out of your sight, take care of her in my absence!"
"Fu fu fu~ Sensei cares about his girls. How nice..."

He didn't wait for Alma to answer, and he, frankly, had no time to. Tsukuyomi was upon him, her hair a sheet in front of his eyes. He jumped backwards, his short sword coming out to block her dagger, Altra coming in close to clash against her main blade.

Stronger than before, oh joy. He will know this day, no mercy… I'll eat him whole~…!

Devilishly, she grinned at him behind her spectacles. He knew that to try and knock those off this time would mean certain doom for him, and honestly, he wasn't focused on those overlarge things. Tsukuyomi swung out her leg and he ducked under it, grabbed her other foot and ripped it from the ground.

"Ahh! Head over heels, sensei~!"

She smiled, her blades flashing out at his exposed back as she curled up, but momentum won out, sending her away to land on her hands and feet, where she jumped to the side, just in time to avoid Negi's charge.

She ducked under a swing and stabbed her blade out, but he shot up his short sword to stave it off and ducked under her dagger when she decided to swing. He swept his foot to catch hers, but she danced away, flashing out her blades. Both of his came up in a similar dance, once more making steel meet steel.

Delicious…let's see if he can handle techniques now!

They broke off, striking again, but when Tsukuyomi smiled, Negi wisely broke, off, and just in time too, for the girl struck out with her blade, aiming for his head, it had been a feint, but it was double played as her foot caught his, upsetting him and tossing him into the air. Her own sword came out again, now aiming to slice him in half.

"Zankūsen!"
"Deflixio!"

It was said out of habit, but the magic had already come to him before the words ever left his lips. Her attack cut through his shield flawlessly, but it was slowed, slowed enough and weakened enough that his short sword could clash against it. The blow forced him to the ground with its force.

This only served his will however, for he shot into Tsukuyomi's middle with a handspring, his blades only barely staved off by her skill. She was sent skidding backwards, but she kept her composure, and met his next charge eagerly.

"Check."
"Ahh, so sensei wants to play that~ game! I suppose that makes me the queen?"

She broke off from the confrontation quickly, and aimed at Negi's feet, and when he jumped over it, she released her pent up energy upon that very ground, upsetting him and throwing him skywards. He landed on his feet, but she kept near him, striking out again.

"Shin Raikōken!"

Negi ducked quickly, and the pillar behind him took the damage, exploding into an actual mist, throwing sparks everywhere, seeking ground… His foot swept out, tripping her up and bringing her face close and allowing him to viciously punch her in the face. He jumped with the punch, sending her soaring upwards, but behind that very attack, she could only smile.

Caught you ~.

Flipping over in the air, she pushed him down, so that she was over him, and grabbed his head with her legs. Her smile only widened as she forced him downwards, flipping him backwards in the air. Negi braced himself for impact as the girl had the gall to reveal it was a technique.

"Ukigumo - Sakura Sanka!"

Landing in an undignified fashion, Negi brutally hit his head upon the hard stone of his current arena, but he still rolled away from Tsukuyomi as she landed and jumped off the ground quickly to meet her blades again in the air. She jumped away from him, calling out another attack, one that made him gain distance on the other side of the platform from.

"Sensei's without a gun! Zankūshō - San!"

Gun...holy crap, he had forgotten he even owned one of those things...it seemed so obsolete now, didn't it? The gun, the ninja stars, the knives...but the training was still there, and he grinned as he shot in, just as Tsukuyomi jumped forwards.

They met in the middle of the platform again, both sets of weapons crashing against each other, and throwing sparks against their eyes. Tsukuyomi slid her blade across his, and he shot up his short sword to meet it. He broke off his main blade and stabbed at her, but she twisted away, slashing her dagger up to break its path.

Ahh, it's like battling with sempai…hmm, let's get faster then~, shall we?

Palm out, Negi rushed in past her guard and caught her middle with a powerful blast of condensed ki, but she held on, keeping close, and her own palm came out. Negi only had time to bring up his short sword to block.

"Sorry, sensei~... Ōrō Gekka!"

It hit dead on upon his blade, and Negi watched in apparent slow motion as his short sword, his faithful short sword...shattered in his hands from the blow. That blade...had killed the murderer of his village...that blade had saved him countless times from demons, from mages...

Sometimes, just simply from the grim hands of death. Most would look at it as a simple piece of steel, but not him...no. To Negi, it meant far, far more than that. It was an old friend, something he could always rely on, even when everything else failed...and now...with a single blow, Tsukuyomi had shattered it...

"Oopsie~, looks like I broke it...hmm?"
"Yeah, look at that, yeah? You broke it...yeah...that's it...broke it..."

He was shaking. With anger, with sorrow, with pain, with effort, the boy was shaking as he stood there, and Tsukuyomi was oblivious to the obvious warning signals flying in the air. The girl was air headed yes, but this would be the final time...her love of battle would kill her here...he was laughing now, his maniacal side shining through for just a second...

"Ahhh, yes! Yes! You broke it you b*tch! You wanna play, right? Well...now we're gonna PLAY!"
"Ohh, whee…now I can play? You've got more for me? Ohh, naughty boy!"

Negi was upon her already, palming her in the middle. It wasn't strong enough to send her back, yet, as he swung out his foot into her kidney, and sprung up off his one foot to slam his skull into her chin, it became apparent that this was only what he wanted.

Oh my~! He's faster now! Maybe I can give him a good Ougi!

He jumped back when she recovered and shot back in past her guard to elbow her dagger away, his blade taking a bit of her sleeve as a souvenir, but he didn't care for that, it was the blood he cared for, and it flowed free from the shallow cut he had made. She struck out at him, but he shifted away as mist upon a river, impossible; yet true.

"Zantetsusen!"

The distance between them made the spiral release of power all the more difficult to dodge, but Negi had his smaller size to bank on, and he jumped at her, slimming himself into a near arrow shape in the air, going right into the "eye" of her attack. She met him head on with another technique when he came close however, fist meeting sword.

"Gurenken! …Ehh? Ahh!"
"Take this, Gumby!"

Negi had used the moment in which she had dropped her spiral attack to swing out her fist as time to ground himself, shooting his feet to make contact. His blade met hers, but his body had been flying over her with his jump and now he was behind her, his blade swung viciously out upon her back, infused with Chi.

Ahh! He…he… caught me?

She twisted, but he still managed to swipe her there, drawing a thin line of blood and a hiss from her. Coolly, she stood face to face with him, her hold upon her blades no less confident, but perhaps a tad more wary. She was moving faster than ever before, but he still matched her, and more.

His reflexes and prowess were inhuman…just like hers. For once, the ever prevalent smile, the playful dance, fell from her face, replaced by narrowed eyes. His form was perfect…his timing was impeccable…was it possible that he could match her sempai in full form?

No, no, no! Sempai is the only opponent worthy of…no, he can't be this fast...I've gotten lazy. Bad girl. Lazy…slow and sloth, not good!

No. After all, he was still only human. Only…human. As long as he was human, he would not defeat her…human meant weak, and weak meant useless. Her sword shone, the condensation of ki increasing, and she stabbed it forwards, an accusative finger to the boy's air.

"I am sorry sensei…but playtime's over~… Messatsu… Messatsu Zankū Zanmasen!"

She shot forth, her blade striking out, but Negi sidestepped her quickly, too quickly, his fist coming out to break her glasses with the force he used to punch her face. Blood flew from her; this time her nose took the bruise. Her attack hit another pillar, decimating it like a cannonball would a film of glass.

He… he dodged the ougi…

"Oh no, Tsukuyomi. I told you I'd show you how I invented this game. It isn't over…"

Negi shot up his knee, sending her upwards as he jumped up after her, his fist ringed with chi, he shot it upwards into her gut just as her hands, came out, blades crossed in an attempt to block. It did no good though, she was to slow to respond, and his fist hit bone, sending a wet crack through the air.

"…until I say it is!"

Lucky for Tsukuyomi, he let her land on her own; a crash that the boy could have sworn reverberated throughout the whole area. Still, even if his back had been turned to her undignified landing, he spun about now, for he knew her…

He can't be a worthy opponent, no one is worthy…no one matches me; my very name speaks my power!

Knew her better than he thought anyone else did. He knew that her guile, her lovely, beautiful act of strength and play, was a guise. Negi read people. He always had. Sometimes he forgot the gift, but others he used it to such a deadly edge, he could easily slip and cut himself.

Through the dust, she came, slowly, more of a march than anything else. She was a mess. Yet she held her head high. Regardless of the torn dress, the missing sleeve, the long stripe that laid fire upon her back, making her feel alive…she would fight him until she could move no more.

"Ahh, sensei…that was good…better than I had hoped, sensei…ahh…he he…I never expected you wanted to play so rough~."
"You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were one screwball of a girl. Nothing's broken on you, isn't it?"
"Hah…ha...you give yourself too much credit sensei."
"Then we continue to play."

Negi spared no more words on that bout, just shot at her, and she likewise kicked off the ground, meeting him in the middle again, blades clashing against the now dying sun. She smiled as she watched his eyes focus not only on her, but that sun behind her. The time…he was running out of time god damnit!

"Focus on me sensei, or you just might get burned… Kakusan Zankōsen!"

Spinning, the boy landed the ground before jumping backwards; gaining distance on the swordswoman as she practically became a Christmas tree, shooting off energy in all different directions. He had to brave it however, and shot through the mess of energy to slice her right along the neck, making her shrink and drop her attack.

Her hand came up to massage her neck, pulling away blood. Yet that same red only made her more ecstatic, even if Negi could sense the inner worry, that small part of her that held concern. He could only shake his head at that small part of her…why did she have to put up such a guise…?

"He heh…shallow. Nice try sensei, but you missed me…wanna try my lips instead?"

He didn't answer, just kicked off the ground, attacking her, attacking her inner worry. He met her blade and ducked under her dagger, shooting up his foot to kick her between the legs. Now, most would only due this to a male, but regardless of what, a kick is still a kick, and it still can hurt you know, and it produced a similar effect, namely, the attempt to block that area.

This brought her face closer, and loosened her grip on those blades. He crashed his elbow into her face, the still bloody face gaining another spurt from a renewed injury. His fist shot out too, punching her in the gut hard enough to make her skid, coughing.

"Tsukuyomi. I am willing to stop here. Of course, I know you. Better than you know yourself maybe. You won't go quietly like those other girls will you? …I can't just knock you out. I even know what will happen if I say this, but frankly, I don't care. Stop fighting me. You continue, and you'll die…that's all."

Eyes burning, she looked up at him, meeting those pools of fire he held. From her position on the ground, she watched as her hands shook, holding her blades tight. She could see the tendons move under that skin…such was her anger, she fancies she could trace the veins all the way to the heart.

How dare he…baby her! She was the master here! She stood up quickly. He hadn't finished her yet, not even close to it! A grim snarl played upon her face now, a true contrast to her normal banter, and indeed, it was a scary one, that change.

Rushing at him, she swung out both her blades in an "x" fashion, aiming to take off his head, but he stepped back, raising his single blade and forcing her to break off, or have her blades trapped between the two of them.

He shot in when she broke her blades off, and quickly sent her in the air with an upwards palm thrust, slashing his blade out to slice her thigh, she blocked the attempt, but Negi withdrew his blade quickly, stabbing it back out under her block to stab the muscle instead.

She landed awkwardly, her back towards him, allowing her eyes to settle upon Alma, who was bent over Anya, who seemed to be out cold. She smiled. Ahh, here was the weakness! She could attack them! Kicking off the ground, she rushed at them, but she was stopped short when something entered her field of vision form the side, slamming into her and sending her flying.

His voice permeated her vision, so close he was. It that was even remotely possible…but to her, right now, it was. He had tackled her into a wall and now, he lifted her from it, holding tight, his hand around her neck. He burned. Now she knew fear, finally, her disbelief faded into that well known fear.

"What…"

He let her go and punched her hard in the middle, his fist like stone and making her cough blood this time. She dropped to her hands and knees, and grabbed his ankles, pulling him down, but his fist struck her in the back this time as he fell, knocking her face first into the ruined ground.

"…the hell…"

He used the fist that was in her back as a means to get up, pushing her back into the ground when she tried to stand, and kicked her to roll over. She shot up with that kick, her blade, slack in her hands, flashing out, but he met them head on, and with the force her held his one, he knocked the dagger free to skid away, spinning.

"…did I say…"

Bearing in now, he stabbed continuously, forcing Tsukuyomi back, away from her dagger, forcing her to block with only one blade. His sword finally caught her shoulder joint, making her yelp, but she refused to drop her blade. She shot past him and grabbed her dagger before he could stop her, swinging to slash at his back, but he twisted, blocking the attack before it could even truly start.

"…about laying a finger on Anya?"

He shot forwards and his blade flashed out, faster than ever before, as he finally decided to show just what his style of fighting was. He had given Asuna some of the art, but no one ever said his techniques stopped with the Aerial Disc or the Leaf Shield, no. What kind of sword style would it be if it did not have more?

"Bestial Atrophy…good bye, my Gumby."

The technique was almost like a half completed second strike of the stone cutter, the ability to cut an object behind the person in front. Negi's blade passed right through her front, but it's tip solidified, practically liquefying the nerves along her spine as it ripped through them, so much confetti…the entire attack would leave a person permanently paralyzed, completely immobile…but he started it low and ended it short.

Tsukuyomi fell, her blade finally falling from her numbed hand. She could only stare at him, her head and eyes…they were the only things that seemed to obey her will…he shook his head as he saw her, the growing terror as she tried and failed, to move her own legs, a prisoner in her own flesh…

"Ahh…your arms should begin to respond to you in about five minutes or so…but your legs…that's your own fault. You'll never move those again, and believe me, that technique completely obliterated them. You're not healing those in…ohh, I'd say…ever. Alma, please look after her, see if you can move her before she throws a fit. To the ship might be nice if you can manage…"

Alma looked up at his statement, but she couldn't meet his eyes. He was too kind to do that…bring them to their ship…he could simply just leave her here…but Negi wasn't one to simply leave people hanging…even though he did not say it, she knew he also meant to put the other girls in his ship too, if only to provide them some kind of…dignity.

Yet that wasn't her real problem. Her real problem was how he stood, wiping his forehead and staring at the steps that would lead him to the top, the very "cathedral" of this place…where Fate lie in wait…he was tired, and Fate would be fresh…fresh and deadly.

Negi didn't even take a glance back as his first foot connected with the case. It wasn't his job to look back. He had to move forward…no matter what, he had to move forwards…his final battle awaited him behind these stairs, and he would not shrink from it…

He never had.

+-E-+

My, it looks like I over did it again…this one is exactly sixty kilobytes...yikes. It is almost as if this story wants to break that mark I set for it, the mark I thought impossible, that five hundred thousand…anywho, no matter. I am impressed and the extreme jump in reviews… Arct1cfox, I thank you for your reviews, glad you enjoy the story. I now have, incredibly, more favorites for this story than I have reviews for the other version.

How's this chapter for yah?

Anyway, I've nothing to say anymore…I don't think I need to put to many notes, but…

Pendulum Shaft – A move in which the user swings their blade high before pointing it straight out at an angle, forcing their strength into it before striving it forwards, similar to a pendulum swinging and falling from its hold.

Kigen Ten! – A combination of Kago's Genesis upwards strike and his ripping beam, currently his most powerful singular beam.

Bestial Atrophy – Blade technique in which the entire blade becomes insubstantial, slashing into the body and then losing its power along the tip, causing the metal to rip upwards and damage internal organs, liquefying the spine in many cases and leaving the opponent permanently paralyzed and possibly bleeding internally. This move can also be used to burst open the heart or puncture the lungs.

~Finalage out!