A/N: Having trouble thinking of what happens to the others. Will need to reread book 4…
Beyond the Wheel
by Shadow Crystal Mage
Chapter 4: The Wagons
Disclaimer: The Wheel of Time series belongs to the Creator, Robert Jordan/James Oliver Rigney Jr. Negima belongs to Ken Akamatsu.
"Konoka…" Setsuna moaned, leaning against Asakura's back. "Oujo-sama, where are you…?"
Asakura turned to Negi, who was running next to Rand and pulling the staff behind him. "Is it just me, or does she sound like she really needs to get–"
Setsuna thumped the back of her head. "I might not be too coherent, but I'm coherent enough to keep you from saying that," she growled, before dissolving into wails again. "OJOU-SAMA!"
Negi was blinking over his shoulder. "Get? Get what? What does Setsuna need to get, Asakura?"
"She needs to get to Konoka," Asakura managed to say smoothly.
"Is that right?" Mat said dryly. Had Egwene been there, she'd have slapped him. Nynaeve would have started with that, then stopped being nice.
Asakura gave him a wide grin. "Yes, that's right. She needs to get to Konoka very much. Needs it desperately, in fact."
Behind her, Setsuna suddenly bolted upright, horror in her eyes, nearly dislodging Sayo from her perch on Asakura's shoulder. "Oh no…" the swordswoman breathed.
"Hmm?" Asakura said, turning to the girl.
"I just realized…" Setsuna said, wide-eyed. "If we've been separated… then we've just unleashed Haruna on a poor, unsuspecting world. May the world forgive us."
Sayo's already big eyes went wide. "Oh no…"
Rand turned back to them, frowning. "What is a Haruna?"
"Who is Haruna," Asakura corrected gently. "Haruna's a friend of ours."
"The kind you wish wasn't," Setsuna muttered just loudly enough to be heard. "Because they keep getting you in trouble you don't need…" A beat. "OJOU-SAMA!"
"I know the type," Rand and Mat said in eerie synchronicity, then blinked, looking at each other.
"Can we pretend we were talking about Perrin?" Rand said.
Mat nodded. "Though let's not tell him that."
They stoically turned and kept their gazes forward.
They rode in relative silence for the next hour or so, when Aviendha suddenly spoke. "Elayne is the woman for you."
Rnd looked down at Aviendha in confusion as Mat started whistling softly, not looking at them and Negi blinked in cofusion. Asakura, however, jerked up like she'd just sat on something sharp, looking at Rand with a disturbing predator gleam he'd never seen before, ad he was something of an expert on being on the receiving end of predatory looks, her hands fumbling for one of her pockets and nearly falling off as she retrieved what appeared to be a small book and a ridiculously thin pen, but no ink bottle. "What do you mean?" he asked.
Aviendha stalked as she spoke. "Elayne is a wetlander, your own kind. Exactly the woman for you. is she not beautiful? Her back is straight, her limbs supple and strong, her lips like plump loveapples. Her hair is spun gold, her eyes blue sapphires. Her skin is smoother than the finest silk, he bosom fine and well-rounded. Her hips are–"
"I know she's pretty!" Rand interrupted, blushing as Asakura wrote frantically. That wide smiled was very disturbing. Scary, even. "What are you doing?"
Negi also had his own question. "What's a 'bosom'?" he asked innocently.
Asakura's smile became wider as Aviendha faltered. "Well, Negi-kun, when a woman–"
A sword was at her neck. "Tell him anything," Setsuna growled, sounding slightly unbalanced. "And I swear that you'll regret it."
"Setsuna-san!" Negi exclaimed.
The swordswoman turned to the boy. "A 'bosom' isn't something good little boys ask about, Negi-sensei," she said. "Especially to girls."
"Ah…" Negi said hesitantly, slightly confused. "Well, okay…"
"Setsuna, he needs to learn about things like this," Asakura said cheerfully. "He's a growing boy, after all. Soon he'll be big and tall and hitting puberty and his thing will be–"
"ASAKURA!" Setsuna cried.
"I'm just saying, if he doesn't know which part is which, it might lead to awkward situations when he tries to stick his–"
"FINISH THAT SENTENCE AND I'M DOING HORRIBLE THINGS TO YOUR CAMERA!"
Rand frowned as he looked over at the Wise One's party, grateful for an excuse to look elsewhere. Where they... laughing?
One of the Maidens who'd gone ahead to scout arrived, and spoke to Rhuarc, who announced something about peddlers wagons. Setsuna really didn't care, since she was gripped in a nightmarish vision of Konoka in some kind of vague yet horrible danger.
Her companions, however, were more attentive, especially when the wagons came in sight. The second wagon had a large, ridiculously obese woman sitting next to the driver, who go down and waddled over to the lead wagon as Rhuarc, Rand, Mat, Couladin, a hundred Jindo, and a curious Negi, Asakura, Sayo and Setsuna approached. She banged heavily on the door of the lead wagon. "Kadere!" she cried, and people were startled by the stark contrast of her voice, which was the equivalent of the effect deodorant has in commercials. "Get out of there, you fool! What are you doing inside in the middle of the morning, anyway?-!" she demanded.
She turned from the wagon as the group finally arrived, while the sounds of frantic activity came from inside the wagon. "I am Keille Shaogi, pedder," she said. "And when he finally gets his miserable bulk out here, my partner is Hadnan Kadere. We seek Cold Rocks Hold, good sirs, and–"
The entire party was surprised at this cry, those armed suddenly going for their spears, Couladin himself going so much as to draw his, as an orange-haired blur streaked past with a tinkle of bells. Negi suddenly found himself being tackled to the ground by a crying Asuna. "GAH! NEGI! YOU'RE HERE! YOU'RE HERE! I'M SO GLAD TO SEE YOU!"
A large, heavy man with a hooked nose stepped out of the first wagon in his shirtsleeves, his clothes rumple and uneven, as if hastily just donned. He adjusted the hat on his head, looking nervously over his shoulder at the still open door of the wagon. Sweat covered him, far too much for even the heat, and there was a strong, musky scent about him.
Setsuna jerked upright. Even as the new peddler stepped forward, Keille glaring at him in disapproval and the others dividing their attention between his approach and the impromptu reunion on the ground– Negi and Asuna were flat on the ground now, the latter holding on tight and crying, her words blurring into indistinct but heartfelt sounds– the peddler nearly fell as a dark-haired girl ran from where she'd been sitting hidden in the back of one of the other wagons, running, if slower, to Setsuna, who'd nearly fallen of the floating staff in shock as she tried to get off. Konoka tackled Setsuna too, and soon there was another pair of people rolling around in the ground in greeting.
"O-oujo-sama, please, show some decorum!"
"Please, Ojou-sama, you're getting all dirty!"
"Is it just me, or does it sound like Konoka's having an orgasm?" Asakura chirped.
The men all jerked, blushing at this, even Couladin, and over by the Wise Ones' came the sound of Egwene choking. Kadere, for some reason, looked especially guilty.
"You were about to introduce yourself, peddler?" Rhuarc prompted, a little too loudly.
"Ah," the peddler said distractedly, voice also just a tad bit louder than needed. "I am Hadnan Kadere, good sirs, seeking Cold Rocks Hold, and…"
They talked over the children rolling around and crying, ignoring how Asuna was berating Negi and pulling on his cheeks. While they managed, barely, to get business done, warning Kadere off from Rhuidean, discussing their destination Imre Stand, and Mat somehow managed to buy a hat, the mood was very much ruined, and the air of it was quite awkward. At some point, another girl from the wagons with the most improbably green hair had arrived, dressed in a ridiculously short skirt, barely covering her knees, and had also greeted Negi, Setsuna, Asakura and Sayo, obviously one of the companions they were looking for.
The men were about to conclude business, with Couladin having just left and Keille about to chide Kadere along, when the door of the second wagon suddenly slammed open with enough force to make the whole wagon tremble. "Kadere!"
As Kadere paled, everyone stared. A little girl stood at the door, looking about ten, and completely naked. Her long, floor-length hair, which theoretically could have preserved her modesty, was doing nothing of the sort. Her body was covered in sweat, and there was some kind of white liquid spattered on her face, stomach and lower. "What's taking so damned long?-!" she demanded, striding towards the peddler, her bare feet seemingly not at all inconvenienced by the fact she was stepping on ground hot enough to cook eggs on. The light turned her hair into a curtain of gold, but except for an ever-so-slight droopiness to her eyes that might have implied sleepiness, she didn't seem affected by the hot sun at all. From the Wise Ones came the sound of more choking.
"M-MASTER!" Negi cried, eyes going wide before he suddenly realized he should be covering them, and did so, but not before the image was burned into his mind (he would later come back to it a lot when he hit puberty, but that's another story…).
"EVA-CHAN!" Asuna cried, finally breaking off the extended reunion as she pointed at the girl in a highly offended and scandalized manner. "PUT SOME CLOTHES ON, WHY DON'T YOU!"
Evangeline sniffed as the Aiel's faces became suddenly blank, some discretely looking away. Mat blushed and looked away, covering his face with his new hat, while Rand did the same, staring intently at some distant nothing. She ignored all this, focusing a glare at a sweating, nervous Kadere. "What's taking you so long?" she demanded, stalking– and it was a stalk– towards the peddler, who visibly drew back slightly.
"Forgive me, Dark Mistress!" he gurgled. The look on Keille's face was completely unreadable. "I was speaking to these people about our destination. We're heading for Imre Stand, and I must prepare–"
Evangeline snorted. Loudly. "'Prepare'… yeah, right! You know as well as I do, she," Evangeline jerked her head towards Keille, "really runs things around here. They can get these things pointed at wherever without you. Get you ass back in the damned wagon!"
Kadere cringed as people stared wide-eyed at this exchange, Asakura's eyebrow raised high, Setsuna's eyes bulging. Asuna looking disgusted and highly disturbed. The others were confused, though dark suspicion seemed to be creeping over some people. "Please, Dark Mistress, I beg you!" he said. "It's been long… I am tired, I need to replenish–"
"YOU!" Evangeline snapped, pointing at the nearest wagon driver, who fell of his seat. "Water! Now!" The man ran.
Only then did she seem to notice Negi. She smirked, amused at his averted gaze. "Boya!" she said. "So, you survived after all. Lucky you."
Negi made an indistinct sound.
Evangeline's eyes narrowed. "Look at your master when she is speaking to you!"
Negi's eyes snapped forward, and they flew wide, as he tried his best to keep them focused on her face. Asuna growled.
Evangeline smirked, ignoring the others as she deliberately brushed her hair aside, removing what little cover her hair had been providing. "Well, Boya?" she said, voice sultry. "Do you… like what you see?"
"M-master, maybe you should–" Negi began.
"Baka-Eva!" Asuna cried, suddenly kicking the vampire in and sending her flying to the surprise of all. As Evangeline tumbled, Asuna jumped at her, trying to hide her form from view. "Don't go around trying to seduce an innocent child! Baka-vampire!"
"Insignificant mortal!" Eva cried as the two started tugging on each other's faces.
"Ah! Get off! You're getting this white gunk all over me! Ew, gross! What is this?-!"
Kadere shuffled nervously as everyone directed dark looks his way. He whimpered. "It wasn't my idea…"
"Shut up, you old pervert!" Asuna cried. "You certainly said yes fast enough when baka-Eva suggested it to pay for letting us travel with you!"
More stares where directed at Kadere as the wagon driver arrived with water. Evangeline growled and managed to push Asuna away. The girl flew with a cry as Evangeline got to her feet, grabbing the water skin. She threw it at Kadere, who caught it awkwardly. "Here. Drink up Kadere. We still have our… transactions… to finish. Never let it be said that Dark Evangeline does not fulfill her bargains." With a laugh that sent chills up everyone's spine and one last smirk at Asuna and Negi, she swayed sultrily back towards the wagon.
Kadere looked pleadingly at the crowd, as if asking them to kill him.
"Coming, Dark Mistress!" he cried, running back to the wagon and trying to drink from the skin at the same time. The door slammed shut.
The wind blew loudly through the ensuing ominous silence.
"Baka-Eva," Asuna growled.
"W-what's going on?" Negi asked. "W-why was Master naked?"
The door slammed open again. "Boya! When I get out of here, I expect you to have prepared clothes worthy of me person! Or else!"
"B-but, how am I supposed to do that?" Negi cried.
"That's your problem!" The door slammed shut.
"Baka-Eva," Asuna muttered. "I HOPE YOUR DICK FALLS OFF FROM OVERUSE, YOU OLD PERVERT!"
All the men winced. More choking sounds came from the Wise Ones' camp. Negi just looked confused.
"What's a dic–" he asked.
More than a hundred voices, Aiel, Ala Alba, Ta'veren a few from the Wise Ones party and even one Forsaken all cried out, "DON'T ASK!"
Perrin found Kotaro to be extremely useful. The self-proclaimed dog-boy had a nose as good as Perrin's own, and he wasn't bad at tracking either. He managed to keep up with the horses, running on all fours or two legs, nose low to the ground. The others had been nervous of the boy, muttering about Shadowspawn. The boy's goldening eyes had people looking sideways at Perrin, as if they were wondering if his ears would go pointy. This had gone on until the boy had loudly asked them what the heck their problem was with him. And then there was their first encounter with Trollocs with the boy…
They'd caught the Trollocs while they slept, descending on them with weapons and arrows. Kotaro, however, had charged forward, tearing at them with claw-like nails, punches and kicks that cracked bones even with light touches and sent them flying into and sometimes through trees. He moved faster than anything Perrin had ever seen, faster than even Fades.
And then there'd been that ambush…
- To be continued...
A/N: It's very tempting to skip right ahead to Gathering Storm or Towers of Midnight. With the exception of Evangeline, only Ala Alba will be showing up.
Please review, C&C welcome.
Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.