Ah! Megami-Sama was created by Fujishima Kosuke, and while I might wish I owned the series, I don't.

I wouldn't mind owning Negima, either, but I don't. It belongs to Akametsu Ken.

Exchange Student

One: Chance Meeting

Ayase Yue stared at the card in her hand, and sighed. One week of enforced nothing. Her mother, in a fit of parent-type logic, had decreed that she was not to touch a book for the entire week. Not even fiction! As though her grades could handle such a hit. She might be the smartest member of the Baka Rangers, but the fact that she was one at all...!

She couldn't even practice her magic! Aside from the fact that using magic was likely to disturb her decidedly normal parents, her Pactio artifact was a book. Forbidden. She sighed again, and tucked the card back into her pocket.

The school property had suffered some damage in the chaos that was the school festival. Twenty-five hundred combat robots versus six thousand magically augmented humans...humans that were still convinced it was all just a game. So after the festival, they'd declared a week off, and Yue had come back home. Only to find herself under the iron thumb of her mother.

If her father hadn't been so busy teaching materials engineering - he taught at the nearby Nekomi Technical Institute - he might have acted as a brake on her mother's silliness. But no. With their own midterms coming up, he was busier than a Tokyo subway at four PM during Golden Week, on opening night of Star Wars Episode VII.

She sighed once more, then stood up and walked out of her room. The entire apartment was unbearably stuffy - it always was, in the summer, because her parents were too cheap to unpocket for air conditioning.


Her mother looked up from her book - the ban, of course, didn't apply to parents. "Yes, Yue-chan."

"I'm going to go out and see if I can find something to do. Can I have some pocket money?"

"As long as you're not going to the library or bookstore."

Yue rolled her eyes. "No, Mom. I was thinking of the sundae shop."

Her mother narrowed her eyes, as she usually did while thinking. One could almost smell the smoke. But eventually, she must have come to the decision that going to a sundae shop was a perfectly acceptable option for a fifteen-year-old girl.

"All right, dear. Have fun." She pulled a banknote out of her pocket and passed it over absently. Yue took it, and almost ran from the apartment.

Once I'm far enough away, she thought, I can pull out may Pactio card, and maybe get some training in. She paused, and looked down at the banknote.

Her mother had given her a five thousand yen note.

That would buy one hell of a lot of ice cream...and I dare not show up back home without change. So I need to spend some of it, and not on books. She grinned wryly. Guess I'm going to the ice cream shop after all.

The chilled air of the ice cream parlor hit her like a wall, and she shivered, wishing she'd worn something heavier than the light sundress. But she knew that she'd adjust quickly enough. Aside from herself and the counterman, there was only one other person in the store, a girl a year or so younger than her, with a book propped up in front of her.

Lucky bitch.

She walked up to the counter.

"Hello, little girl." The counterman was abysmally cheerful. "What can I get you?"

"Sundae, please."

"What flavour?"


"Certainly. Chocolate sauce, too? Or would you like to mix it up a bit more?"

"Chocolate is fine."

"Any toppings?"

Was ice cream always this difficult? She couldn't honestly remember. "No, thank you."


Yue blinked, and looked over at the girl. "Excuse me?"

"It's almost a sin, to eat ice cream with such lack of enthusiasm," said the girl. She'd set her book down, and was looking at Yue with disdain. "Don't you like ice cream?"

"Yes," said Yue. "But I'm not a person with complicated tastes."

"Not everyone is an ice cream fanatic like you, Skuld." The counterman chuckled. "Besides, I've seen you eat a full litre of vanilla in one sitting, so I think you don't have room to criticize another's tastes in ice cream."

"That was different," the girl - Skuld, apparently - objected. "I really really needed ice cream that day. But when I'm just out for a treat, I treat myself." She turned back to Yue. "If you like ice cream at all, I can put something together for you that you'd kill to have again."

"Chocolate is fine," said Yue. "I don't need any more obsessions in my life." She craned her neck, to try to see the title of the book, but it was written in some language that she wasn't familiar with. "What's the book?"

"Oh, a book on magic." Skuld scoffed. "My older sisters decided I should read it."

Yue felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise. "Did you say magic?"


"As in, sleight of hand? Card tricks? That sort of magic?"

"No." Skuld shook her head. "Magic as in summoning spirits and making people do what you want."

Yue took a moment to look at the girl properly. Pale skin, long black hair, green skirt and vest over a white top. And three tattoos, one on each cheek and one on her forehead. The girl looked to be a year or two younger than her, but could be her own age, or as young as eleven.

"Aren't you a bit young for tattoos?"

The girl blinked. "You can see those?" She rubbed her forehead absently.

"They're just a bit obvious."

Skuld scowled. No, that wasn't quite right. She was studying Yue rather closely.

"You're a Mage, aren't you?"

"Not so loud!" Yue glanced around. The girl hadn't really spoken very loudly at all, but they were the only patrons of the ice cream shop. The last thing Yue needed was a breach; she didn't know how long she might spend as an ermine, but she imagined it'd be rather longer for Negi-sensei, as she was his apprentice.

"Sorry." The girl frowned again. "But if I'm right about you...Aren't you a bit young for...well, that sort of hobby?"

"Oh, that sounds much better, doesn't it?" Yue sat down with a sigh, then waited until the counterman brought her ice cream. "Listen, I don't know what you know about...my hobby, but you do know about the Articles of Secrecy, don't you?"

"Yeah, but I also know that most people outside of this hobby are sorta conditioned to disbelieve." She snorted. "My friend Sentaro saw me pull off a trick or two, and he didn't even blink. Haven't you ever seen anything like that?"

"I certainly have," said Yue. She paused. "So you're trying to learn the same hobby, then?"

"Yes. And having no luck." Skuld slammed the book shut. "My sister told me that I can't exactly go to school to learn this--"

"Why not?" asked Yue. "I do."


"Yes. My teacher...he teaches an entire class in English, but on the side he...well, promotes the hobby."

"Talking around the subject is going to prove more difficult," observed Skuld. "Would you like to come over to my place, and we can talk more freely?"

Yue's eyes widened as she took in the girl's "home". The massive plot of land contained a large residence and a shrine. Two other small outbuildings served less obvious uses, though from the mechanical parts sitting in front of one, it seemed likely that it was a workshop.

"This place is huge!"

"Yeah. And with only my sisters and Keiichi to fill it up." Skuld rolled her eyes. "Though with the amount of traffic that goes through here, it's probably a good thing that we have so much space."

Yue nodded. "I know the feeling. I share a dorm with thirty other girls, and one boy, so--"

"A boy?" Skuld stopped and turned to face her. "You have to share a dorm with a boy? That must be awkward."

"It can be," she allowed. "But he lives with Konoka and Asuna. Asuna won't put up with anything from him, and besides, he's only ten."

"Oh, well...I guess that's different." Skuld shrugged. "Dunno if I could live with it, though."

"He's pretty easy to live with," said Yue. She pulled the straw from her juice box and jammed it through the hole in the top.

"But is it a co-ed dorm?"

"No." Yue paused to sip a mouthful of juice. "And that's one of the places where it might have been an issue. The Academy has huge baths, but they're not partitioned. No reason to; it's a girl's school. So he has to share a bath with us."


"He hates baths. But Asuna forces him to bathe. She warns us when it's going to happen, and drags him in there by his hair."

Skuld sniffed, and frowned. "What kind of juice is that?"


She blinked. "You're drinking garlic juice?"

"A friend of mine sent me a case of it from Texas."

"If you can drink that, no wonder you have no problems with a boy in your dorm." Skuld slid the door of the residence open. "Sis? We're home!"

"We?" The voice that responded was soft. "Did you bring a friend?"

"Yes. Met her at the ice cream shop." Skuld waved Yue towards the kitchen.

Yue stepped in, and glanced around. The kitchen was a bit odd. A hand pump took the place of taps, and the appliances were all more than a bit dated. Then her eyes fell on the kitchen's resident, and she blinked.

The woman was tall, and her age was completely impossible to guess - save that if she was over fifty, Yue would be very surprised. Her hair was long enough to be problematic, and she had an air of unworldly beauty that seemed completely out of place in such common - almost anachronistic - surroundings. And even more so in the plain green housedress and beige apron she was currently wearing.

"Pleased to meet you." The woman bowed. "I'm Belldandy."

"Ayase Yue."

"She's a Mage, Sis."

Yue rolled her eyes. "I'm an apprentice Mage. Still very much in training." She blinked. "You've got the same sort of tattoos as Skuld."

"Yes." Belldandy smiled. "I'm actually a bit surprised that you can see them."

"Yo, Bell." The young man who entered looked to be in his mid-twenties. "How did you make out on your test?"

"Oh, I passed. My license is secure."

"Ah, good." He noticed Yue. "And who is this?"

"A friend of Skuld's. A Mage."

Yue sighed. "Should've kept shut about that. Who knows how much trouble I could be getting into here?"

"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone." The young man bowed to her. "Morisato Keiichi."

"Ayase Yue." She returned the bow.

"Ayase. Any relation to Ayase-sensei?"

"My father."

"Tell him I should have passed his class," joked Keiichi.

Yue looked from Belldandy to Keiichi. "Forgive me for asking, but...Morisato-san, you've graduated?"

"Yep." Keiichi sat down and took the cold can of juice that Belldandy offered him. "Working at Whirlwind now."

"But Belldandy, you're still taking tests?"


"But you two are obviously..."

Keiichi raised his eyebrows. "Obviously?"

"...Well, living together."

"Yes." Belldandy smiled again.

"There seems to be a bit of age difference. I think."

"People often misjudge my age," admitted Belldandy. "But I'm older than I look."

"So nobody...says anything to you about it?"

"Why should they?" Belldandy looked a bit puzzled. "As long as we are happy together, isn't that all that matters?"

Yue nodded. "Yes. Isn't it?"

"There's someone you like, isn't there?" Belldandy picked up the kettle from the stove and started preparing tea. "Someone of a different age than you?"

"Yes." Yue sighed. "But, there's another problem. My best friend likes him, too."

"Ouch." Keiichi sipped his juice. "I can see the problem."

"I see no problem."

"Hm?" Keiichi glanced over at Belldandy. "You don't?"

"Well, I can see how it can be a problem. But it does not need to be." She looked down at Yue. "Do you love him?"

"I think so." She looked down. "I've never been in love before, so..."

"And does she love him?"

"Yes. Without question."

"Then it stands to reason that neither of you will hurt him. Do you think it likely that you will hurt her?"

"I don't know!" She threw up her hands. "It doesn't help anything, either, that he's our teacher! Not to mention, the Master Mage who's training both of us!"

"Would she hurt you?" Bell continued inexorably.

"Nodoka?" Yue snorted. "She encourages me to...to tell him how I feel." She looked down, mildly surprised to find a cup of hot tea before her. "But I don't want to...to get in her way." She shook her head. "Why am I telling you all of this?"

"Belldandy has that effect on people," chuckled Keiichi.

Yue picked up the teacup, blew across it to cool it. "But I still don't see a way out of the problem. One of us - at least one of us - is going to get hurt."

"All three of you could be happy together."

Half her tea went flying across the table at high velocity. She wiped her chin, set down the cup, and chuckled. "Nodoka suggested that, too. Didn't think she had it in her."

"Would it be a bad thing?"

"I guess not." She shook her head. "But it's a moot point, really. Negi-sensei is adamant about not getting involved with his students. Not to mention, the age gap..."

"It should not be a barrier, if your hearts are true." Belldandy paused. "Actually, if I recall, you said that he was a Master Mage in addition to being your schoolteacher?"

"Yes. He is training me, Nodoka, and Konoka."

"Is there room in your class for one more person?"

"Hey, whoa!" Skuld stood up angrily. "I told you, I don't need any more training! I need practice, that's all!"

"Certainly, you'd get that at the school." Yue paused. "We do have one free spot in class. One of our classmates...well, she transferred." Better not to get into the sort of chaos that was caused by Chao Rin Shen's departure.

"Sis, their school is way out on the other side of Tokyo!"

"You know fully well that such a distance is meaningless to us," said Belldandy.

"And they have a boy living in their dorm! And only one bathroom!"

"Oh." Belldandy considered that. "Well, I suppose that shouldn't be too difficult for you. After all, you've been sharing this house with Keiichi-san."

"And how many times has he flashed me?"

Keiichi rubbed his head. "As many times as you've teleported into the bathroom when I've been using it."

"You know I need hot water to teleport!" retorted Skuld. "Why don't you just stay out when I'm 'porting in?"

"Perhaps if you sent warning ahead?"

Yue shook her head in disbelief. "She is going to fit right in at Mahora."

Skuld turned on her angrily. "This is all your fault!"

"I don't think so," said Yue. "It seems that if it's anybody's fault, it's your sister's."

"Don't talk about Sis that way!" Skuld slammed her fists into the table, which would have been more impressive if she weighed more than forty kilograms.

"Perhaps the best course would be for me to speak to your teacher," said Belldandy. "From him, I could learn how well Skuld may fit into your school. Can you contact him?"

Yue nodded, and pulled out her Pactio card. She touched it to her forehead.

Negi-sensei? I am sorry for disturbing you.

Hello? Yue-san? Is that you?

Yes. I am at the Tairiki Hongan Temple in Nekomi. There is a woman who would like to meet with you, if it is convenient.

Sure. Give me five minutes to finish up this dratted paperwork, and it'll take me fifteen minutes to fly there.

She drew the card from her forehead. "He tells me he will be here in twenty minutes."

"Oh! I shall have to make more tea." She jumped up and flitted over to the stove.

"Sorry, but I did mean to ask about the tattoos." Yue carefully picked up her teacup. "Both you and Skuld seemed surprised that I could see them. Do they identify you to other Mages?"

"No. They are energy channels. They provide a link from Yggdrasil, giving us power on Midgard. We are Goddesses."

"Excuse me?"

"She means--"

"It's all right, Keiichi. She is a Mage, not a normal Mortal." Belldandy turned, and her clothing blurred, to be replaced by ornate blue and white robes. "Skuld and I are Goddesses of Fate."

There was a pause, followed by a thump and the sound of shattering pottery. Belldandy looked a touch disappointed.

"Oh. I did so like that cup."