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 Akamitsu Ken.
Twelve: Field Trip
Skuld stepped into the bathroom of the Resort, and undid her robe. Every muscle she owned was on fire, and she had bruises in places that she didn't even know she had places. She sighed in relief as the hot water went to work on her aches and pains.
It had been a rough three weeks.
Aside from herself, no member of the Ala Alba had ventured outside the Resort for twenty-four real-time hours. Only Skuld, and only for one real-time hour for every six spent within, and she always returned with more ice cream. It meant that she'd lost four days of training, but the odds were good that if she missed three weeks of power, she'd lose her connection to Midgard.
Anya had not been half pleased to learn of Negi's Pactios.
It had come out innocently enough; Yue and Nodoka had decided that Anya was a worthwhile friend, and had told her of their Pactios. Things had escalated. Anya had gone off on a terrible rant, which only grew worse when she learned that he had seven Pactios.
She chuckled at the memory, then looked up as Yue came in. "Hi!"
"Make room," grumbled Yue. "Your training might be rougher than mine, but you're in better shape." She dropped her robe, and slipped into the water. "What were you laughing about?"
"That Anya twit," said Skuld. "I can't tell why she was mad at Negi; because she was jealous that he has seven Pactios, and she has none, or because it means he's kissed seven girls." Skuld shook her head. "That girl—"
"—is insecure because of her age," said Yue. "She might not be romatically interested in Negi, but she probably feels like she's losing his friendship."
"I guess," admitted Skuld.
"Nodoka and I like her well enough," said Yue. "But you're always so mean to her."
Skuld shrugged. "I dunno. I just...there's something about her I don't like."
"I think Nodoka and I have more reason to dislike her," pointed out Yue. "Unless you really are interested in Negi—"
"Let's don't start that again," growled Skuld.
"So what about her bugs you?"
"Maybe it's the fact that she always acts so certain of herself," mused Skuld. "No, worse than that: She's right, and anyone who disagrees with her is automatically wrong. Plus, she's constantly accusing Negi of doing perverted stuff, even though usually he's just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And she never listens to him, just immediately resorts to violence if she—" Skuld broke off, and paled. "Oh, my."
"She's just like I was, before I met Sentaro." She shook her head. "No, I'd better tell the truth; I was worse." She sighed, and smacked her forehead into the palm of her hand. "Now I feel like an idiot."
"I guess even Goddesses aren't perfect," said Yue. "Just try not to think of the fact that tomorrow, we're going to be stuck on a plane with her for thirteen hours."
"You really know how to cheer someone up, don't you, Yue?"
"This is fantastic!"
Skuld stood on Westminster Bridge, looking down the Thames.
"Last time I was in London, it was 1138, and there was this dreadful war going on." She grinned. "Looks like it all worked out in the end."
"You're the Goddess of the Future," said Yue. "Didn't you know it was going to work out?"
Skuld shook her head. "I can't see the future. I can only sense when a paradox is going to happen, and straighten it out."
"According to the Eddas, you have access to a pool at the base of Yggdrasil that lets you see the future," said Nodoka.
"You know the Eddas?"
She shrugged. "I read up on you, after you started going to our school. It also said you were a Valkyrie."
"That was a thousand years ago," said Skuld. "The mission of the Valkyries has changed. And as to the pool, yeah, it's there, but I can't use it."
"Because you have to poke out an eye and drop it in the pool to be able to see the future." Skuld grinned. "In the first place, I think I look better with two eyes. In the second, if I could see the future, there would be Bugs running around like you wouldn't believe."
"It would have been good if you could see the future." Asuna's voice was acid. Skuld looked up.
"There they are!" It was Makie, pointing at their group. She dashed forwards and grabbed Asuna's wrist. "I'm not gonna let you go again, Asuna!"
Yuuna and Ayaka were hot on her heels. Ayaka grabbed Negi and swung him around in a bear hug. "We managed to meet up with you."
"You guys actually came?" Konoka looked pleased. This was more than a bit surprising, given how badly the presence of the other girls messed up their plans.
"Yep." Makie nodded. "And now we can all tour London together."
"Well, that's great and all—"
Makie cut Asuna off. "Where are you going to right now? The Tower?"
"Actually," said Konoka, "we were planning to head to Negi-kun's home town—"
"Konoka!" hissed Asuna. "Don't tell—"
Ayaka carefully set down Negi, and turned to face Konoka. "Negi-sensei's...home town?"
Skuld rolled her eyes, and turned to Yue. "Lemme guess. She's got a thing for Sensei, too?"
"I don't." Skuld sniffed.
"Give it time." Yue pursed her lips. "Though, to tell the truth, I think that the Class Rep is more interested in him as a little brother...unlike most of the rest of the girls."
She'd forgotten her mirror. And she really felt that she should give Belldandy a call to let her know that everything was proceeding according to plan. At least, on her end.
She dug into her pockets, extracting a thousand-yen note, and subvocalized a spell as she did so. The thousand-yen was the largest bill she had on her at the moment, and the simple exchange spell could only turn it into an equivelant piece of local money; what she drew out turned out to be a five-pound note. She set it on the counter, and spoke to the merchant.
"Of course. Earl Grey, or Breakfast?"
"Either will do."
A hand fell on her shoulder. "Good choice."
Skuld jumped, and turned to see Urd standing behind her. "Don't do that to me!"
"Calm down, kiddo." Urd smirked. "Let me guess. You were going to give Belldandy a call?"
"Yes." Skuld nodded. "I just wanted to let her know we got here safely."
"Well, Belldandy sent me to talk to you. You won't be able to call her just now; she's gone back to Asgard for a bit."
"Oh?" Skuld frowned. "Why?"
Urd glanced around, then looked back at Skuld. When she spoke again, it was in German. "Word came down from Yggdrasil. You have a Demon in your group."
"What?" Skuld blinked, then switched to German herself. "How did you know?"
"You already knew?"
"We've got two of them. Kotarou and Setsuna—"
Urd waved a hand. "Not the hanyu. We knew about them, so we screened them out. This is another demon, and a fairly high level one."
"We're talking about Yggdrasil here," said Urd. "It can tell a Demon from a Goddess. There are two Immortal presences in your party. The hanyu aren't Immortal, so we can rule them out." She sighed. "Sadly, without me to operate it, it cannot be set finely enough to tell which individuals in your party are Immortal. So Belldandy sent me here to warn you."
"Can you help me to—"
"No, I can't," said Urd angrily. "You'd think that with a Norn travelling around in the group, the Council might take enough notice to release my powers, so I could help you. But no!" Her voice turned bitter. "Fifty years, they said. Even though they were willing to test me for First Class—"
"If you'd taken the promotion," pointed out Skuld, "you'd have your powers back already."
"Rub it in, why don't you?" But Skuld could tell that Urd wasn't really angry about that. "You're going to have to figure out which person in your party is the Demon. Use what you've learned at the school—"
"Which hasn't been much," muttered Skuld.
"And use what Belldandy and I have taught you," continued Urd. If the Demon is using a Glamerie, it can be forced to resume its normal form if you touch it with a good luck charm—"
"And if it hasn't?"
Urd sighed. "Demon hunting was never my field. When Belldandy gets back, I'll have her give Lind a call."
"More demons?" Negi seemed to be taking the news in stride.
The train clattered along the English countryside. Privately, Skuld thought that this must be the oldest segment of track in the United Kingdom. The ride was rough, or more so than the Japanese trains that she was used to. Add to that the revelation that a demon was loose in their party...
Or perhaps, given the power level of said being, it would be more proper to refer to it as the Demon. As in, capitalized.
"It would help if we knew what the Demon wanted." Skuld sighed. "I've asked for the relevant files from Yggdrasil, but they haven't arrived yet, and I can't say when they will. My sister can't reach me while I'm on the train."
"There are mirrors—"
"My other sister, Urd," clarified Skuld. "I could jump back to Asgard, and get the files myself, but that would leave you without my protection while I'm gone. If the Demon should choose that moment to do something nasty—"
"I have Asuna, Setsuna and Ku Fei with me," pointed out Negi. "We've handled demons before."
"Urd told me that this Demon is a First- or Second-Class entity," said Skuld. "You've never dealt with something that powerful." She paused, then added, "Well, once, but you didn't precisely win."
Negi pondered this, then asked, "Fate?"
"I can't tell you anything more about him, save that he's enormously more powerful than you think," said Skuld. "If it's him, I might be able to stop him, but only because I'm a Goddess."
"We've got some powerful magic on our side," said Negi. "No offense, but we've got way more firepower than you can deliver. So what is it about being a Goddess that would let you help us?"
"The Doublet System," said Skuld. "Each God or Goddess has a Demon Doublet. If either member of a Doublet pair dies, so does the other. It's helped keep peace between Asgard and Niflheim for the last two thousand years."
"And Fate is your Doublet?"
Skuld shook her head. "No being, Divine or Infernal, knows his or her Doublet; that would undermine the entire system. But any Demon in our party cannot be certain that I am not his Doublet...or that one of his allies is."
Negi considered this, then said, "If that's true, then if you left, we wouldn't dare kill the Demon."
Skuld chuckled. "You might be able to defeat a Demon, but don't kid yourself. You could never kill one. There's a reason we're called Immortals. And even if the Demon is only a Class Two, you'd still lose most of the group doing it. And they would die."
Negi sighed. "Okay, so I guess you can't leave. What can we do in the meantime?"
"If the Demon's cover is blown," said Skuld, "he will most likely leave. A good luck charm will cause the Demon to revert to normal." She unfastened the Ala Alba badge at her throat, and passed it over to him. "Can you turn all of these into good luck charms?"
Negi considered the badge, then nodded. "I think I can."
Setsuna gasped, then tore her Ala Alba badge from her lapel, tossing it to the floor of the compartment.
Konoka blinked. "What? What is it?"
"The badge—it burned me." She undid her top button and pulled her shirt open. "Right here." She indicated a spot just below her collarbone.
Konoka blinked, then leaned in for a closer look. "It doesn't look burned."
"It sure felt burned."
"No sign of any harm..." She glanced up and grinned. "Are you sure you didn't just want an excuse to show off your body?"
Setsuna blushed, and hastily re-buttoned her shirt. "Quite sure."
Konoka picked up the badge. "It's not bothering me." She held it out to Setsuna, who cautiously extended a finger and touched it.
"Ow!" She snatched her hand back, and stuck the finger in her mouth.
Konoka frowned, then looked down at the badge. "I think we had better talk to Negi-sensei about this."
Setsuna nodded, and followed Konoka from the compartment. Unlike Japanese trains, this one was divided into multiple compartments, with room for up to four people in any one room. Negi was in the rear-most compartment, which he had to himself.
Another compartment opened, and Kotaro and Chisame stepped out. Setsuna glanced over at Kotaro.
"Let me guess. The badge burned you."
"Yeah," said Kotaro. "Damnedest thing. Chisame can touch it safely, but—"
"It must be something about us two," said Setsuna. "Perhaps our...lineage."
Negi's compartment opened, and Skuld and the child teacher stepped out. Skuld's face fell.
Setsuna glanced over at the Goddess. "Did you do this?"
"Well, Negi-sensei did, but I asked him to," admitted Skuld. "It should have made the badges uncomfortable—"
"It made them burn," said Setsuna with a scowl. "It was a bit more than merely uncomfortable."
"But only you two were affected?"
Kotaro turned on Skuld angrily. "Were you trying to scorch the entire club?"
"No." Skuld shook her head. "I got a warning from my sister. There's a Demon in our group. A full-fledged Demon, not a hanyu, probably disguised as one of our classmates."
"So you enchanted the badges to hurt Demons." Setsuna was certain that her anger was visible, as the Norn looked quite nervous.
"A Demon who touches a good-luck charm loses their powers," said Skuld. "If one of our group was a disguised Demon, they would have reverted to their normal form."
"So you turned the badges into good luck charms?" asked Chisame.
"Rather more than that," admitted Negi. "A good luck charm doesn't really bring good luck; it attracts positive energy, which leads the person wearing it to perform at a slightly higher level. I enchanted Skuld's badge to emit large amounts of positive energy, and used a sympathetic effect so that all such badges would do the same."
Setsuna nodded. "I understand. And that amount of positive energy is very damaging to Demons. It felt like it was burning us, but because our bodies are mostly Human, the burn was not actual physical damage, but an...allergic reaction to the positive energy."
"I didn't think that through," admitted Skuld.
"Well, no harm done," said Konoka brightly.
"Except that we still don't know who the Demon is." Setsuna indicated the rest of the car. "We're the only ones who reacted, and we're already known to be demonic. If a full Demon had been wearing an Ala Alba badge, he'd still be screaming."
"Which was my goal," said Negi.
"But now we're back to square one," said Skuld. "And I still don't know a lot about detecting Demons."
Setsuna rested a hand lightly on her sword. "Perhaps ironically in my case, the Shinmeiryuu specializes in Demon hunting."
She grinned tightly.
"I'll find the Demon for you."