Mahou Sensei Negima and all related elements and characters are the property and creation of Ken Akamatsu, and the author of this humble piece has made no material profit from it, and never will do. On a related note, is anyone else just plain angry at the recent pointless turns the manga plot has taken just so we can have the angst and angst of the team being stomped until either they lose because True Art Is Angsty or a plot device miracle saves them? Because I am.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and all its characters belong to Kumeta Koji.
Bleach and all its characters belong to Kubo Tite.
All other characters mentioned also belong to their respective copyright holders.
A huge, huge, huge, huge, and I mean huge, new thank you to Shadow Crystal Mage, for helping to correct this chapter too, as well as adding more lines and jokes. And once again, yep, you'll recognize them because they are the good ones. For instance, before the revisions, I didn't have any single Twilight gag!
Any non-parodic, non-totally safe similarity between the characters and events featured or mentioned in this story and anyone or anything ever actually seen in real life is a pure coincidence. I mean it. Would I ever lie to you?
Remember to review, Pretty Please! I mean, I only had a single review (thanks, Hellsender!) last time, after three weeks and more than 15,000 words of hard work… That stings, for Pete's sake.
Also, before we go: Originally I also had intended to include a Kazumi-centered segment here, but that will have to wait for a few chapters more due to a story logistics and planning issue.
UNEQUALLY RATIONAL AND EMOTIONAL-CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.
Sayo's Soul Society, Act One:
Late that night, a lonely, tall figure stood at the top of a lamppost at the middle of Mahora City. A large sheathed sword, enough to make Setsuna's look small, hung from his back. This, unlike Setsuna's, was probably not a highly symbolic Freudian statement. Probably.
His long black sleeves flowed in the chill breeze, as his eyes scanned the urban landscape. Eventually, his gaze settled on the area around the faraway giant tree towering over the Academy grounds.
"Shit..." he whispered to himself. "So she's really in there, after all. Those barriers will weaken me just passing through them..."
He sighed, ruffling a hand through his orange wild hair as the black butterflies fluttered around him.
"I guess there's no point on avoiding it, or I'll never hear the end of it from the old man..."
He skillfully jumped out into the night. He'd need something to pass through the barriers and get her. He'd probably need to grovel before the stupid shopkeeper…
Just what he needed to start the week...
A few calm, unremarkable days followed after that.
They would continue being that way for a blissful short while longer for Negi and his roommates– except for the usual morning incidents of provocatively positioned roommates who weren't on your bed the night before– but for now, let's focus on someone else.
The big, fancy, white-painted house was only a few blocks away from the main entrance to Mahora campus, meaning our guest co-star for this chapter had no need for living in the Academy itself. She didn't even need to take the bus. Only walking a few minutes, then making her way to the main building from the gates. All in all, still a relatively long walk considering the huge size of Mahora, but the girl didn't complain. She considered herself fortunate with her lot in life.
"Onii-sama, I'm going!" She hopped on a foot while squeezing the other one into its shoe, hopping her way to the house's front door. That was part of why she disliked shoes. Her feet had always been so small, it had always been hard to find shoes her size. Leading her to have to settle for shoes for much younger girls, which often were too small even for her, ironically.
"Behave properly and responsibly, Rukia," her older brother's calm, stoic voice came from behind his newspaper, in the same dry and manly monotone he used for every other occasion. He didn't even look at her; only his long, well coifed black hair neatly tied into a yuppie ponytail peeked from behind the pages he had all but buried himself into.
"And you finish your breakfast before it gets cold!" she chided him. "I didn't take the effort to cook it for nothing!"
He only reached out with an elegant hand to quietly grab a cookie shaped like a hideous, deformed cartoon bunny and politely wetted it into his coffee before taking it to his mouth, charmingly but sadistically biting its head off. It silent death screams went unnoticed by all except the dark-robbed Death-Of-Hideous-Deformed-Cartoon-Rabbit-Cookies…
Satisfied with that, the short and thin girl with large dark eyes and short black hair smiled. "Have a good day, Onii-sama!"
"You too, Rukia," he answered, as dry as before, to the point no one but his sister could hope to detect the underlying small degree of fondness in his words.
"Sure thing!" she said before trotting outside at a sedate pace, closing the door behind her.
My name's Kuchiki Rukia, 16 years old. I study at High School Class 1-C of Mahora Academy. Since my parents died, I've lived under the tutelage of my older brother Byakuya. All in all, I consider myself an average person of my age. Except for a single detail. I can see spirits. I would say 'I see dead people', but honestly, I'm afraid of getting sued. I'm pretty sure Onii-sama can, too, although he never will admit it, not even to me. But I can see his eyes casually following a ghost whenever it wanders across our way. As if expecting for it to attack at any moment. That's Onii-san's way; he keeps both the living and the dead at arms' length at all times. Anyway, I tend to see ghosts at all hours and all places. The mall, the theater, the streets, the restaurants, restrooms… I stopped peeing in public toilets a long time ago. It's pretty unnerving until you get used to it and pretend to ignore them. More often than not they are only vague passing shadows with vague features, floating around repeating the same gestures they made in life, as if trying to latch onto what they once were. Kinda like a hippie uncle who is always trying to get his band back together. Ignore them, and they'll ignore you too. Sadly, this tactic doesn't work on my uncle. But in all my time studying at Mahora, I've never, ever had seen a ghost inside of the Academy. At all. Until very recently. Then I met the girl with the red eyes.
I can see spirits. I would say 'I see dead people', but honestly, I'm afraid of getting sued.
I'm pretty sure Onii-sama can, too, although he never will admit it, not even to me. But I can see his eyes casually following a ghost whenever it wanders across our way. As if expecting for it to attack at any moment. That's Onii-san's way; he keeps both the living and the dead at arms' length at all times.
Anyway, I tend to see ghosts at all hours and all places. The mall, the theater, the streets, the restaurants, restrooms… I stopped peeing in public toilets a long time ago. It's pretty unnerving until you get used to it and pretend to ignore them. More often than not they are only vague passing shadows with vague features, floating around repeating the same gestures they made in life, as if trying to latch onto what they once were. Kinda like a hippie uncle who is always trying to get his band back together. Ignore them, and they'll ignore you too. Sadly, this tactic doesn't work on my uncle.
But in all my time studying at Mahora, I've never, ever had seen a ghost inside of the Academy. At all.
Until very recently.
Then I met the girl with the red eyes.
It had started with the briefest glimpse while passing by next to 2-A's door on the way to speak with one of the teacher's whose office was in the building about some club thing. There she had caught a passing glimpse of a pale figure going through a wall. If it had happened anywhere but at Mahora, Rukia wouldn't even have blinked. But in all her years of studying there, it was the first time she had seen a ghost on the school grounds. And somehow, it just felt wrong.
Still, he continued walking to her own classroom, trying to push the event out of her mind, only hoping she wouldn't see more spirits at the only place where she was free of them. But after classes, while walking back home, she had seen the girl again, this time sneaking into Classroom 2-F. The same thing happened pretty much every day afterward.
Part of Rukia just wanted to leave the matter alone, but something else told her she maybe should try to contact the ghost and ask her why had she shown up all of a sudden at the school. Decisions, decisions...
She still was lost in such thoughts when she saw the large crowd gathered around a corner barely two blocks away from the Mahora gates. There was a police line, and lots of nervous chatter and muttering. Rukia wouldn't have minded it much (such events, after all, had become rather usual at the city lately, a fact that should probably have made her more nervous, but would only have become obvious after many years, apocalyptic events and hindsight) if not for the fact that corner used to be the manifestation place for a ghost girl who had died there a few years back, hit by a truck. She often greeted Rukia when she passed by, and Rukia would greet back out of pure politeness. Now, however, from what she could peek at between the people, her small, humble memorial had been crushed and destroyed; the walls around it seemed to have been burned and cracked down beyond repair.
"Some kind of hate crime, no doubt..." someone said.
"Too big. Heard some chemical load was spilled here..."
"I heard the government's trying to cover it up, and that this was caused by their secret espers battling the forces of evil!"
"Don't be silly Haruhi, it's probably nothing of the sort. Right, Koizumi-san?"
"Of course, Kyon-kun. It was probably children's card-game playing bikers…."
Rukia cringed, feeling a horrible piercing sensation in her guts. The whole site reeked of evil and death now, in a way she never had experienced before. It unnerved her, as if some sort of sentient shadow had stood before her, chilling her to her bones. Kinda like the times she passed the display of Stephanie Meyer books in the store.
It was then when she noticed a rather petite and thin schoolgirl with a middle school Mahora uniform also looking at the scene with calmed, cold black eyes. She was carrying a large, tubular cloth case on her back, and her skin was pale, her face beautiful but sharp and humorless.
The sight of a fellow student moved Rukia to head back to the school, rushing before she was late. She had a horrible feeling about the ghost girl's safety, something she never had felt for any spirit before, but there was nothing she could do it about it.
Her moody thoughts were suddenly interrupted when, right after stepping into the Campus, she was assaulted by a red haired blur pouncing on her from behind.
"RUKIII-CHAAAAAN!" a high pitched yell shook her ears, as that someone did her best to squeeze the air out of her in a hug that pushed her small breasts up and made some ribs to sound like they were cracking.
"Can't... breathe, you idiot!" She threw an elbow back, hitting her attacker and sending her stumbling back as she gasped for air. "Dammit, Chizuru!"
The bespectacled, short haired redhead currently rubbing her aching butt while sprawled on the ground whined melodramatically. "Owww, that was so mean, Ruki-chan... A simple 'Softer, please' would have sufficed..."
"I don't want it 'softer' either!" Kuchiki snapped as she dusted herself off, as if trying to get all particles of the other girl off herself. "One of these days, I'm going to have enough, and when that happens...!"
The slightly taller girl pouted, looking wounded as a few subtitles reading 'HONSHO CHIZURU-NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH 2-A'S NABA CHIZURU' appeared, floating in midair under her. "You never can have enough of the sweet, feminine love I offer!" she lectured, lifting an index finger up. "Once you go on the Chizuru track, you never can go back!"
Rukia shot her a burning glare. "I'd like to send you back. Back to the zoo."
A much taller, definitely much bustier schoolgirl with long and flowing orange hair tried to laugh as she stepped between them, waving Chizuru's subtitles away while her own appeared reading 'ORIHIME INOUE' atop her head. "C'mon, c'mon, don't start fighting so early! How are you today, Rukia-chan?" she greeted the newcomer with a wide, innocent smile.
"I was fine. Now, I'll tell you when my sides stop hurting," Kuchiki sighed. "Anyway, good morning to you too, Orihime."
The girl with the sword then passed by next to them, walking quickly, never looking at them. Rukia gave her a brief curious look before whispering to her classmates, "I'd like to know something. Who's that girl?"
Chizuru's eyes sparkled devilishly. "I *knew* you'd start seeing things my way, Ruki-chan! Not a bad choice at all, if I may say so! Class 2-A has a lot of cute kouhais to offer, and just messed up in the head enough to go along with anything to boot!"
"Wait, I don't mean-" Rukia started, before Chizuru pulled a thick notebook stuffed with all sorts of clipped extra annotations and photos, flipping through it before settling at a page. "Sakurazaki Setsuna, a prodigy of the Kendo Club! Elegant, dignified, not too academically bright, but gifted with a certain Yamato Nadeshiko charm! And the rumors say she might be playing in the same ballpark as us!" she squealed.
"I don't play the same sports, much less in the same park as you!" Rukia snapped.
Chizuru closed the book solemnly. "Denial is the first step on the often rocky, but always stimulating, road to accepting our true condition."
Rukia hissed, an icy aura floating over her. "I'll show you 'Rocky'... Until you're KOed..."
Inoue made a long suffering face. "Girls, please... We'll be late...!"
"If I'm late, I only ask to be buried with Ruki-chan..." Chizuru teased, purring as she leaned towards the object of her affection.
"Keep doing that, and you'll have to settle with being buried by Ruki-chan," the black haired student growled, veins softly popping on her head.
As mentioned several chapters ago, if you excuse this new blatant abuse of the Fourth Wall, Mahora Academy was still a mostly feminine study house. The new needs of the new times had started bringing in male students a few years back, but those still were a notable minority. They were treated by male students from other schools with a mixture of contempt over 'being studying to become girlies' and envy over being surrounded by young women. The former was most likely born from the latter.
1-C, for instance, only had two male pupils on it, much to Chizuru's never-ending relief. The redhead only avoided looking at them as she, Rukia and Orihime left the classroom after the end of classes bell rang, although, much to her annoyance, her friends, just like always, saw fit to stop by to tell them their goodbyes.
"See you tomorrow, Chad-kun," Rukia simply told the gigantic, lumbering dark skinned boy quietly reading a book at the back of the class. He lifted his head up to give her a short respectful nod.
"Have a good evening," his voice was slow and thick, yet serene and kind. His eyes were sleepy and deep, half hidden by his unruly dark hair swooping down over the upper half of his face.
"Good evening to you too, Ishida-kun!" Orihime happily waved at a much smaller, thinner and distant boy sitting at a corner on the opposite side of the classroom. He merely lifted his eyes up from the sewing he was doing for the short, shy looking brown haired girl right before him, barely acknowledging Inoue's existence with a brief nod before going back to sewing on the beaten, ripped teddy bear in his hands. His eyes once again became fully unreadable behind his glasses.
"Oafs," Chizuru muttered while the three of them left the classroom behind.
"Well, I'll admit Ishida's almost impossible to talk to, but Chad-kun's a good boy. Just the extremely silent type," Rukia shrugged casually.
"Neanderthal," Honsho insisted with a little pout.
"Ishida-kun can be scary at times, but he's good person, too," Orihime commented. "He made me the loveliest dress for the Christmas party..."
"I'll admit he has a good eye for the fashions," Chizuru relented, "But then again, you'll look good in anything, Hime... or nothing at all…"
"He's also a great help with homework," Orihime added.
"Not like you really need it, anyway," Rukia told her.
"Ehhhh! I'm not Chao Lingshen!" Inoue said. "I often need help, too! Last term, I had this huge problem with advanced logarithms, and I only passed the final test because he helped me with it..."
"Really? I only did what any good boxer would," Chizuru said.
"What do you mean?" Kuchiki asked her.
"I lost the match, but trained hard to beat the rematch," Honsho replied.
"Wasn't that the test where you cheated with a-" Rukia began.
"Hush! Secrets of the trade! These walls have ears!" Chizuru hastily silenced her. Then they reached the building's front door. "Hey, Ruki-chan, what if you call your brother and tell him you'll be spending the night with us?"
Rukia grimaced, expecting the usual routine to ensue. "No, thanks. To be frank, I have other things to do."
"But we can rent movies and have intense friendly, not physical at all, close bonding all night long!" Chizuru promised.
"No," Rukia still said.
"I promise I won't get naked this time!" the redhead added.
"That's what you promise every time!"
Orihime laughed bashfully. "Never mind, Rukia-chan. Just have fun doing whatever you're going to do..."
"Oh, it isn't a 'fun' thing to do. Just... helping someone dealing with some unfinished business. That's all," she informed, beginning to walk away. "See you tomorrow, guys."
"Bye Bye!" Inoue said in perfect Engrish.
Chizuru made a defeated face. "I really wasn't going to strip this time..." Then her eyes glinted, and she grabbed her tall friend by an arm. "You, on the other hand, will always be with me, won't you, Hime?"
"Ummm, I course I will, Chizuru-chan..."
"Great! So you'll come to my room tonight so we can, um, chat and stuff?"
"We do live together, after all, Chizuru-chan..." the taller girl laughed while sweating.
"And thank God for that! Shall we get going?" she started to drag her away. "Say, I haven't shown you my newest camisoles yet, have I?"
As she prudently waited behind a tree for her friends to retreat, Rukia *still* couldn't help but feel guilty about leaving Orihime with Chizuru. What Inoue needed was a bodyguard. Maybe a karateka one. But honestly, that was silly. Who in that school had a bodyguard?
Some ways away, Konoka, Negi and Evangeline sneezed.
Still, unfortunate as that was, she really had other things to do.
Sneaking back into the Middle School building, Kuchiki headed straight for Classroom 2-A. There was no one there; the boy teacher she'd heard about and all his students had already left.
That only really left her with one option, other than leaving altogether, so Rukia sighed and directed her steps towards Classroom 2-F, the other most wretched and vile hive of scum and villainy at all of Mahora. Besides 2-C. And that weird SOS club. And the World Domination Club. And the Allies of Justice Club. And…
Warily, the girl walked down the now lonely, badly lit corridor at the end of the east wing, in complete silence, carefully measuring each step. It was so unusual for her to actually try to sneak up on a ghost; normally, she'd all but walk right through them. What was so different about this one, she wondered.
She could hear soft, low girlish chattering and giggling from the dreaded classroom of the (other) insane. The one everyone did their best to avoid unless completely necessary. Even Chizuru tried her best to ignore its girls ("Although Fujiyoshi-sempai does have her appeal..." she once had admitted).
And just her luck, the door was even half-open, too. Wait. Those were two voices. That meant there was another ghost, as well. Two girl ghosts showing up at the school all of a sudden? What were the odds? What could they be doing though?
A Chizuru-tainted part of her mind surprise-attacked her with some rather soft-core visions of what two girl ghosts from an all-girls school stuck with each other for all foreseeable eternity might get up to that…
Rukia firmly resolved to kick the real Chizuru next time she saw her as she banished the sudden and disturbingly arousing vision out of her mind.
Her curiosity piqued even more now, she slowly craned her neck ahead towards the door, straining her eyes to look into the shadowy classroom. The only light from the inside came from a small lantern at the floor of the other end of the room. Her ghost was floating near the lantern, amiably talking with what at first seemed to be another, sitting ghost, but on second glance was clearly a still living, even if very pale and skinny, young woman. Even so, her extremely long black hair and her deep, cadaverous, although perky and happy, dark eyes also added to her impression of being a living corpse, half wrapped in blankets, with only her large, bare white feet peeking from underneath them.
"More tea, Sayo-chan?" she was offering the ghost.
"Yes, please!" the dead girl said, very politely.
With a smile, the blanketed girl poured from a teapot into the cup the spirit was holding. Rukia's shock only grew when the ghost downed the drink, and it passed right through her making a small lake at the floor.
"Ahhhh! Delicious as always, Kiri-chan!"
The girl at the door instantly made a facefault sending her inside of the classroom.
Half an hour later, she was sharing the tea, wiggling her bare toes against the floor, her shoes and socks discarded aside. Ah, now that was the life. And Onii-sama wouldn't be at home for at least one hour more.
"So you can see ghosts too, huh?" she asked the other living girl.
"Only Sayo-chan," she cautioned. "Other than her, I've never seen one, although I must admit I've never been at the places where you'd be expected to find them. You could say I'm a bit... reclusive."
Sayo still seemed wary, hovering at Kiri's side, clutching her right shoulder.
"You don't need to be afraid," Rukia tried to comfort her, with a smile. "I swear I won't tell anyone about you. I only want to know, how long have you been here?"
"Well, I came here after classes finished, around one hour ago-"
"I mean at this school..." Kuchiki said.
"I don't remember." Sayo scowled cutely. Why everyone always wanted to know that? I was so rude, asking a girl about her age! Another girl, of all people, should realize that... "Around sixty years, I guess."
"Sixty years!" Rukia blinked. "It's... It's weird I never noticed you before."
"No one could, actually, until Negi-sen-" Sayo instantly covered her mouth and exhaled a brief panicked hiccup, realizing she had just said too much.
"Negi Springfield-sensei?" Kuchiki wondered. "What did he do?"
"I think he and Itoshiki-sensei are some sort of mediums," Kiri calmly explained while gathering the cups and dishes, apparently not minding much about the subject she explained. "Since they visited me a few weeks ago, I've been able to see and listen to Sayo-chan."
"But please don't tell anyone!" the ghost desperately begged. "Especially not them!"
"I won't! Who would believe me, anyway? Trust me, I know what's hiding such a secret like," the short haired student appeased her.
"Talking about secrets..." Kiri said, and much to her horror, Rukia noticed she was looking through her school bag and into her notebooks. "What's this, Kuchiki-san?" she giggled mischievously, holding a few pages full of doodles up.
"Ahhhh!" Sayo floated before them, eyeing them up and down. She honestly thought they were grotesque, but... "They're so cute! You have a very talented little brother or sister, Kuchiki-sempai!"
"Actually, I did those," Rukia dryly confessed.
"Oh, it's still very cute! It's heartwarming, to see you hold these memories of your childhood so close to you..." Sayo went on.
"I drew those today, between classes," Kuchiki's head hung down.
Sayo's smile froze on her face. "Oh, poot."
"Ah," Kiri uneasily blinked while examining the sheets. "They are very... avant-garde, as Itoshiki-sensei would say. Yes. Very... naif. A... unique and original style. You draw very cute bugs."
"They're bunnies! Chappy the Bunny and his good friends!" Rukia mashed the palms of her hands against her own face.
"Oh, yes, sorry. My bad," Kiri hastily apologized. "What does this 'Original Character! Do not steal!' mean, may I ask?"
"It's a..." Rukia sighed and snatched her sheets away. "Forget it. Come to think about it, I should be going back home."
"Oh! So soon?" Sayo's face saddened.
"My Onii-sama doesn't like when I get back home late," she explained. "I'd be dishonoring the legacy of the Kuchiki family."
"In other words, he's afraid you could be continuing the Kuchiki bloodline too early," Kiri surmised.
"But-But you'll come back tomorrow, won't you?" Sayo fluttered, lowering her head bashfully. "I'm sorry if I offended you..."
Rukia forced herself to smile. "Of course you didn't! Look, I'll try to come back whenever I have the time, okay?"
The ghost nodded eagerly. "I'll look forward to it!"
"Me too," Kiri added.
Rukia responded with a brief token good will goodbye and promptly left, hugging her school bag against her chest, her shoes firmly grasped in a hand. Truly, she was so embarrassed, she even had forgotten about the socks. There was a good reason why she kept those sketches hidden even from Orihime. Why, that nosy, rude, insane hikkikomori...
Then she stopped when she heard a window near her being opened from the outside. She stopped in mid-hall, consulting her wristwatch. It was late, much later than she had believed. She felt suddenly uneasy and hurried her steps down the hall, before hearing solid steps from behind her, heading in the exact opposite direction from her, towards Classroom 2-F.
Rukia gulped. Was it her imagination? No, those were definitely steps. Heavy and fast, no doubt a man's. Slowly, she turned her head back to see a tall orange haired young man in a black hakama shirt and loose dark gray pants, his feet clad in sandals, with his back turned to her, quickly backing towards where Sayo and Kiri were.
"Hey, you! Wait!" Kuchiki instinctively cried, no doubt more moved by the Kuchiki Honor and defense of the needed than by any rational reason. "Who are you, and where do you think you're going?"
He fully ignored her and continued advancing.
"Hey! Are you listening to me?-!"
He still ignored her words, never stopping.
A second later, one of Rukia's shoes bounced against his head.
That did it. He turned around fast, looking in all directions, unsheathing a sword large enough to make Rukia gasp aloud. And he looked in all directions, as if not even noticing she was there.
"Okay, who did that?-! Where are you?-!" the boy yelled.
"I-I-I'm sorry! I didn't mean to-!" she nervously began.
He finally noticed her, looking straight at her face with vivid curiosity. "You can see me?"
"Of course I can!" she held her hands before herself to keep him at bay. "How couldn't I? And don't get any closer! My brother has influences! You won't get away with this!"
He scratched his head cluelessly. "With what?"
"Whaddya mean 'with what'?-! Don't play innocent now!"
"That's my line!" he snapped. "How can you see me in the first place?"
"Well, for starters, your punkish bleached hair stands out like a swollen thumb..."
"Why does people always say that?-!" he growled, pointing at his head with a finger. "My hair is all natural, dammit! This! Is! Not! Bleach!"
Finally, after a tense mutual staredown, he just threw his hands up and began walking away again. "Forget it. I have no time to waste talking to weird kids."
"Weird kid? Me? You're around my age, and you're the one waving that huge thing around, so you have no right to say any part of that sentence!" Rukia protested, stomping after him despite her own reservations. "And you'd better leave right now or I'll call the police!"
"Your security agencies can't even see me," he mumbled, quickening his pace, visibly even more annoyed now. "And I'm not going to do anything bad anyway."
"Yeah, that explains why you broke into a school at night carrying a sword bigger than yourself!"
"I'm going to slay a Hollow. Could hardly do that with my naked hands, now could I?" the strange boy mumbled.
"What are you, some kind of crazy Otaku playing war games? God, the new legislation was right after all! No, wait, I take that back!" Rukia cried as she felt the murderous stares being directed at her from beyond the Fourth Wall. She shadowed him. "What's a 'Hollow' supposed to be? It's like one of those paintball targets?"
He stopped and gave her an exasperated look. "I don't understand half of what you're saying!"
"The feeling is definitely mutual, then!"
He sighed and ran a hand over his face. "Listen, kid. I'm a Shinigami, a god of death. A Soul Reaper."
Kuchiki blinked, stunned. "You... reap souls? So someone in this building is about to die?"
"I don't reap the souls from the living. Most of you can find your way into the light by yourselves after talking to Death-sama, although you seem clueless enough to need a map."
"Yeah. Anyway, we claim those spirits who wander around even after they're supposed to ascend or descend. You could call us the police of the spirit world," he declared.
"I've seen many ghosts before, but never one of you," Rukia suspected. "You seem... too solid to be a ghost. You don't look different from any human. Hell, you're definitely no Reikai Tantei!"
"I'll take that as a complement," he dryly delivered. "But honestly, I don't give a crap if you believe me or not."
"You sure use rather crass contemporary language for a spirit hunter from another realm," she pointed out.
"We spend all our working hours at this world walking amongst you people! Of course we pick bad manners from you!" he defended himself.
"Okay. Let's suppose I believe you. What's a 'Hollow'?" she asked.
"Well, the spirits basically come in two different kinds," he half-heartedly explained. "The most common by far are the 'Pluses', who are the ones you most likely see, if I understood your crazy diatribe well. They are harmless, generally stupid and annoying until you show them the right way, but otherwise okay. And then we have the 'Hollows'. Those are basically corrupted souls who gain power from devouring Pluses. Our job at this world is making sure the Pluses are sent to Soul Society and the Hollows are blasted down to Hell. Get it now, brat?"
"No. What's a 'Soul Society'?"
"The afterlife. The Heaven, I guess you could call it that. At least a part of a version of it; those things are complex and have many sub-departments. I wouldn't know, politics isn't my thing. The process to send a Plus there is called a 'Soul Burial'. You just tap the Plus on the noggin with this," he poked at the sword's handle, "And it's quickly sent to where it belongs. As simple as that."
"And what about the Hollows?"
He grinned, holding the sword up. "Well, they get the other end of this..."
"Figures," she whistled. "I guess I'm lucky I never saw one of those Hollow things."
"That's because we keep slaying them down. Otherwise you'd be swimming in them. You saw that whole mess near this school's door? The one that happened last night? That was a Hollow's work."
She tensed. "But then, the ghost girl who was there-!"
"Swallowed. I came too late to save her," he shook his head. "All because this place has barriers all around it preventing the likes of us to get close. It should have stopped the Hollow too, of course, but it's been eating Pluses all through town for the last few days, getting stronger so it could break in here. Tough bastard, and fast, too; it keeps eluding me. With each victim, it can come a bit closer, and I think it's already strong enough to get here. So I decided to get here first and wait for it so we can finish things once and for all."
"I thought you had said you couldn't get in either. So how did you-"
He shifted uneasily. "I got a charm of sorts from... someone. Even so, I'm not operating at 100% here. I only hope it's enough to stop the Hollow."
She started to get nervous. "Wait, there's only one ghost to devour here. And it's that of a small, cute, innocent and helpless girl. Why to take so much effort to eat it? This city's full of other ghosts! Why to obsess over this one?-!"
He gave her a level glare. "You don't know it, do you?"
"This place. Mahora. It's chockfull of magical energies of all sorts. It's what we call a 'critical point'," the boy said. "If we're being impolite, we call it a Hellmouth. Full of special people, as well. But I've already said too much, and I've work to do. Bye," he turned around and walked.
"Wait! I'll help you!" she ran after him.
"Are you nuts? You'd only be a hindrance!" he shooed her away with a hand. "Go home to watch the weird talking box like you all do all day long!"
"You mean the TV."
"No, I mean your computers with loud speakers," he dryly snarked, never looking back.
"But there must be something I can help you with!" Rukia insisted. "I mean, I can't possibly just leave that girl to her fate like that-"
"Who are you, some sort of super martyr heroine of love?" he asked. "I'm already on the case! But wait, there's something you can do."
"What is it?"
He immediately poked her forehead with a finger, and she felt her limbs becoming stiff, her body falling down to the floor like a plank.
"Wha- What's this?" she struggled to even move her tongue. "What have you... done to me..."
"My old man's taught me a thing or two on medicine, including secret pressure points. Your bodies are far weaker than ours, so our techniques work with double of efficiency on them. Well, gotta go. You'd be able to move again in a few hours. Meanwhile, be a good girl and don't make too much noise. Sorry, but you're safer this way." He walked out of sight.
Rukia desperately struggled to move her body, straining herself madly. Dammit, that bleached guy was going to be even more of a dead man when she could get her hands on him...!
As the boy drew closer to the door, he could feel the unmistakable presence of a Plus. Weak, soft, gentle and harmless. It shouldn't take more than a minute. Maybe he'd get back home in time to watch 'Carnivore World'...
For almost any human observer, it'd have looked as if the door just opened itself, slowly creaking as it moved inside.
But Komori Kiri actually saw a weird tall boy carrying a huge blade sneaking into her classroom-living room, just as she was taking her shorts off, her butt slightly pointing up as she lowered them down her legs.
She froze solid.
For a moment, he didn't seem to notice, just looking around the room until his eyes fell onto Sayo, who was very quiet at a corner, no doubt hoping to stay undetected just like every other time anyone but Negi, Misora, Itoshiki or Rukia had ever entered in. But much to her horror, the strange young man noticed her and made a wolfish wide grin.
"Ah hah! There you are!"
With decision, he stepped quickly into the classroom, walking straight into Kiri's body, as if expecting to pass through her like thin air.
He was as shocked and scared as them when he was stopped by the slight mass of her curves, her breasts mashing against his body. His face blared red, and his hair stood up in point… among other things.
"D..." Kiri gasped, her face twitching. "Don't..." She quickly turned around, pushing her shorts back up. "Don't look!" she lamely finished.
"Ah, oh, err, sorry, I, um, err, that is, I saw nothing!" he stammered, quaking wildly. "I'm not even here! Yeah! I'm only a hallucination! Ghosts don't exist, and neither do I! N-Now, if you excuse me, I'll just take your ghost away and-!"
"Leave," Kiri asked, breathing deeply, tightening her blankets against her chest.
"Huh? Ah, sorry, just a sec," his hands trembled as he grabbed his sword and began approaching Sayo again, making the spirit to shrill like a banshee. "T-This won't take long! I'm just going to send you to Heaven! There, you'll know nothing but eternal pleasure!"
"HENTAI!" the ghost swung a desperate fist into his face as she bawled her eyes off. She actually packed a mean spirit punch for someone as waiflike.
"Okay, sorry, I picked the wrong words, but-!"
Before he could finish the sentence, Kiri grabbed a bottle and smashed it down on his head. "OW! That hurt! What the hell... You shouldn't even be able to touch me!"
"But you'll touch me, won't you?" Kiri panted madly, broken bottle in hand, gesturing with its sharp shattered edges like a mad drunk at a bar. "Creep! Pervert! Degenerate! Fan of eroge! Twilight fanfiction writer! I don't know why can you see Sayo-chan, but you won't ever lay a finger on her or me!"
The boy gestured with his hands in a sign of peace. "Whoa, whoa, take it easy! I really mean to send her to Heaven! It isn't right for her to wander across this world! It's time for her to pass on!"
Kiri blinked. "Passing on? You mean...?"
He nodded, still shaking bloody sharps of bottle out of his hair. "Yeah, taking the big step. I'm a Shinigami, god of death, Soul Reaper, and- Ahhh, forget it. I don't explain these things twice a night. I'll just do what I came here to do."
Before either of them could stop him, he swung the back of his sword's handle against Sayo's forehead, making a loud 'POP!' sound. He smirked, waiting for the ensuing choir of celestial music and rays of light to guide the Plus to the afterlife, sometimes, if he was unlucky, accompanied by Panty, Stocking and their creepy green dog. However, that time... NOTHING HAPPENED.
Except because the Plus took her hands to her forehead and whined. "Ouchie! Kiri-chan, the big bully's hitting me now!"
"Wait, that should've..." the boy blinked oddly before Kiri swung the broken bottle against his butt. "YEE-OWWW!"
"I warned you!" Komori growled with unusual ferocity.
"Dammit, is everyone at this damn school crazy?-!" the young man yelled.
While updating her webpage a few blocks away, Chisame tensed up. "I feel... like a soul has suddenly resonated with mine..." she mused.
Even more blocks away, a tall brown haired boy stopped his daily update of the infamous SOS Homepage and tensed as well. "This sensation! It's as if I'm not alone in the world!"
Back at Classroom 2-F, the Shinigami paced around waving his hands in the air. "I see… This is one of those decades! Mom warned me there would be decades like this! Yeah, decades where you can't even send a weak-ass Plus to Soul Society! Oh, when Tatsuki and Renji learn about this, I'll never hear the end of it..." he sulked. "And the old man will start nagging, too..."
"Chie-sensei's psychological consultations begin at 8:30 A.M.," Kiri helpfully said, now a bit scared herself.
"I'M NOT CRAZY!" the Soul Reaper claimed.
"That'll be fixed by the time you get to her office," Kiri said.
"It's this damn place that is full with insanity!"
Then, he fell into an abrupt wide-eyed silence, stopping all motion. That feeling… How could have he missed it before? Had his senses numbed down so much?
"Get down!" he yelled, quickly grabbing Sayo and Kiri and pushing them down to the floor with himself.
Both girls screamed as they were unceremoniously grabbed, and even more when the classroom's door suddenly exploded into a million pieces blowing inside, flying over their heads. Sayo's huge eyes made their fast way to the spot where the door had been seconds before, and saw the most hideous thing she ever had witnessed, other than Kimura-sensei and that time that furry had snuck into her classroom to change.
Towering, over three meters tall, so tall its head scratched the ceiling roughly, leaving marks on it. Solid black with a tiny white head and long, clawed white limbs. A mouth armed with a thousand sharp teeth. Dead eyes devoid of any emotion but malice and hunger.
"W-W-W-What is that?-!" Sayo asked.
"AH!" Kiri cried. "It's the Third Angel!"
"It's a Hollow," the boy grumbled while standing back up, getting his sword ready. "Stay put there. I'll handle this."
Rukia had struggled harder to move when she saw the huge black shadow moving down the next hall, briefly passing her while ignoring her. She only managed to wiggle around like a dying trout.
She continued struggling even when the thing was gone from her sight, since she was sure about where would it head to now. The explosion's sound only confirmed her absolute suspects.
"A Kuchiki is always there for a person in true need, Rukia," her brother had once told her, calmly drying her tears after the funeral. "Like I'll always be there for you when you need me."
His face was the same as always, and yet, she could notice something different in him even between her tears.
She barely knew the stupid hikkikomori and the airheaded ghost.
But they needed her.
She heard the first yells.
Clenching her teeth, straining herself to her limits, she managed to move a leg.
Pushing herself beyond those limits to a point that hurt like hell, she moved her other leg.
Feeling like her whole spine was breaking, leaking copious tears of pain, she propelled herself up on stiff legs.
I won't fail you, Onii-sama. Or you, girls
Or you, girls, she promised herself.
The orange haired boy groaned in pain as he was slammed against a wall. He immediately rotated his left shoulder to check it still was in fighting shape, and retook a fighting stance on his feet. The Hollow towered over him, reaching with an arm to the door so the girls wouldn't escape through it.
Sayo, instead, dragged Kiri towards one of the windows. "Over here, Kiri-chan, quick!" she urged.
The pale shut-in stopped breathing for a moment while watching the ghastly huge, dizzingly wide, world beyond the wall. "I-I-I can't go out there! It... It isn't safe..." she whimpered, backing away.
"Kiri-chan, it's even more dangerous here!" Sayo grabbed her hand and floated out, trying to pull her with herself.
"No! I won't! Inside... I need to be inside..." she babbled. "I can't be outside. It's dangerous, it's stunning, it's horrible and awful..." she whined, cowering back into a corner.
"But Kiri-chan...!" Sayo pleaded.
"And besides, we're in a third floor and there are no escape stairs there," the human girl added.
The ghost scratched her head in a sheepish way. "Ahhhh, sorry, I forgot you couldn't fly..."
Kiri pushed her back with a hand. "You must escape, however!"
"No, not without you!" Sayo insisted, tackling her in a hug.
Meanwhile, the swordsman swung again, cutting the Hollow in a flank, pushing it a few feet back. However, coming so close gave the thing an opening to grab him by the head and bash him down against the floor.
What a huge power! the boy inwardly cursed. How couldn't I feel this bastard getting close before? I-
Then Sayo's newest scream distracted him for a moment just as he was standing back up.
"What...?" he muttered.
After the Hollow had been pushed back and its arm had left the door, the scrawny black haired girl had appeared at its frame, panting heavily.
"What the hell are you doing here, stupid girl?-!" he growled, but before anything else could be said or done, the Hollow swung a titanic claw aside and trapped Sayo in it, firmly squeezing her, making her to scream.
"SAYO-CHAN, NO!" Kiri yelled, jumping back to her feet.
"Stop, stop, please!" the female spirit cried, squirming in its steel grasp. "You're hurting me! It hurts a lot!"
"Aisaka-san!" Rukia breathed out.
"Take the other idiot and get outta here!" the swordsman commanded, rushing ahead and taking advantage of the Hollow's momentary distraction to get under its body, chopping its right leg off in a single, precise motion. The beast howled madly, but didn't let its prey go, stumbling ahead and managing to keep its balance on one foot, kicking the boy up with its stump, black blood spraying everywhere.
Her legs still feeling as if they were made of wood, Rukia hopped her way to Kiri, forcefully grabbed her by an arm, and began pulling her back towards the door.
"But Sayo-chan...!" the hikkikomori pointed out.
Rukia hesitated. It was true, after all. The big monster had pinned the freaky boy to the floor with its remaining foot as it hung the helpless Sayo over its huge open mouth, slowly lowering her towards its fangs despite her shrill screams of panic.
Stopping in place, the short haired girl grabbed an eraser and tossed it up with amazing accuracy at the Hollow's head. "Hey, you! Let that poor girl go, or else...!"
It stopped what it was doing, making a muffled sound and looking at Rukia with mild annoyance. Then it seemed to study her, briefly sniffing the air, briefly, seemingly forgetting about Sayo. Although never stopping holding her, it lunged ahead for Rukia instead of outright devouring the ghost.
With a loud gasp and a mental-slap for her rash action that would have done Chisame proud, Rukia couldn't do anything but stand in place, pushing Kiri aside to relative safety. And then, in a flash of black, white and orange, before the Hollow could reach her, she saw the Shinigami hopping up to put himself between them, the Hollow's mouth sharply biting into his right shoulder, causing an explosion of blood to splatter in all directions.
"SHINIGAMI-KUN!" Kuchiki yelled.
Then she saw he also had thrust his sword deep into the Hollow's stomach, making it to yowl in agony and to release Sayo, who quickly floated down to Komori's side. As the beast recoiled, holding itself up, emitting a sinister symphony of gurgling hoarse sounds, the wounded boy crawled back against a wall, bathed in his own blood, panting and gasping.
"Idiot..." he told Rukia.
Rukia knelt down next to him, holding his left hand. "Hold on there! Don't die... if you can die again, that is... I mean, we gotta get you out of here! Komori, help me to lift him up, quick!"
"No time for that. The SOB will just catch us before we can get to the end of the hall..." He looked at the still pained and howling, but quickly recovering, creature. "Woman, tell me! Do you really want to save this people?"
"What? Do you mean me?" Rukia quickly said. "O-Of course I want, but-"
"How long have you known them?" he curtly asked, coughing loudly.
"I just met them tonight, but-" she was interrupted by him again.
"You sure you want to do it, then?"
"Yes, I do! You don't need to be close friends with someone to want preventing them suffering!" she claimed. "If I can do something, just tell me already!"
He held his sword shakily up at her. "I can't... fight on now. You have lots of spiritual power, and you're less of a moron than the pale exhibitionist with the cute-"
"Hey...!" Kiri protested. "You did see, you pervert!"
"—HAIR!" he indignantly finished.
"Yeah, sure," Kiri pouted.
Ignoring her, the Shinigami told Rukia, icily, "Sink this sword into your heart, and I'll transfer my powers into you."
"ARE YOU CRAZY?-!" Sayo and Kiri said at once.
But Rukia only looked thoughtful. "Can it really work?"
"I don't know," he confessed. "I've never tried it before. The legends say it can be done, but it's kind of a taboo even trying..."
"Don't do it, Kuchiki-san!" Sayo pleaded.
"It's suicidal! And you aren't Itoshiki-sensei!" Kiri added. "Besides, that 'sticking a sword into you for power'-thing sounds like some kind of macho-sexist symbolism for sex and being dominated by the male phallus to realize your own innate feminine potential as a willing subordinate of the patriarchal system!"
They all stared at her.
"What? I do pay a little attention to Itoshiki-sensei's classes. And that Yue-chan from Negi-sensei's class leaves me some books to read… hmm, Yue-chan…"
Then the Hollow roared, standing straight and strong again, and gave a stomping hop ahead, then another, heading their way. Rukia's eyes grew narrower. She put a hand on the sword's hilt.
"Please let me try, Shinigami-san," she humbly asked.
He smirked. "My name's Ichigo. Kurosaki Ichigo."
She half-smiled back. "Kuchiki Rukia."
And she pushed the blade inside of her own chest.
"See? Totally phallic!" Kiri said.
Sayo attempted to fly to her, to stop her before she could waste her life, but she was too late. By the time she got there, it was done, and an intense yellow light filled the whole classroom. Along with it, a powerful invisible force sent her and Kiri crashing back against their corner. When they regained her eyesight moments after that, they saw the Soul Reaper now wearing a very simple ensemble of thin white shirt and pants, his feet bare, his wound largely healed but still very visible.
And Rukia stood between him and the Hollow, now wearing an exact copy of the Shinigami's outfit, complete to the sandals. The sword in her hands had changed to a much smaller one, surrounded by a thin but noticeable icy blueish aura.
Rukia briefly gulped before facing the monster with an even glare. "I'll be your enemy now, Hollow-san. Unless you want to escape now. I won't stop you if you try to do-"
The Hollow just charged ahead again like a mad animal.
Rukia sighed, running ahead as well, silently praying for the best. The evil spirit clawed for her, but her small size saved her. Ducking under the claw, she made a desperate jump for its remaining knee, swinging the sword into it. Much to her own shock, it cut like a knife through butter, slicing the leg cleanly off. The Hollow fell down on its back, still clawing madly above, until Rukia drew in a lot of breath and simply sank the sword into its chest, stabbing it using both hands before ripping through it, literally splitting it by half.
With a final deafening scream, the Hollow exploded into a million black sparks that soon dissipated into nothingness, just as the souls it had devoured, dozens and dozens of pale, translucid ghosts, were freed and vanished away floating up and through the roof, much to Sayo and Kiri's open-mouthed awe.
"At least, the creepy sisters didn't show up this time..." Ichigo sighed, standing up with a lot of effort, his eyes falling into the panting, exhausted Kuchiki. "Hey, are you okay?"
"Yes," she erratically nodded.
"You are a real bother," he facepalmed. "I only intended to give you half of my power, but you took almost all of it! Man, I'm going to be chewed out about this."
"Sorry," she humbly offered him the sword back. "You can take it back now..."
"I'd like to, but I can't," he rejected it. "I must wait until my powers return on their own."
"Kuchiki-san...!" Sayo tackled the heroic girl in a tight hug, kissing her right cheek loudly. "Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was so scared! You saved my life! I mean, my death! I mean, my post-life!"
"After-life," Ichigo corrected helpfully.
"Thanks, indeed," Kiri bowed. "I'm sorry to have caused you so many problems. To you too, Kurosaki-san."
"Forget it..." he mumbled. "You're welcome..."
Rukia blinked and shook the still kissing Sayo off. "Welcome? Oh no! My Onii-sama! He must have gotten home by now! What time is it? What time is it? It's late! And I'm late, too!"
Around one hour later, she stood at her house's doorstep, timidly facing the tall and stern figure of her brother, who looked down at her with an expressionless face scarier than any Hollow's.
"Rukia," Byakuya slowly began, "I do hope you have a good explanation for this..."
"Ehhhh..." she lifted a finger up before drooping down. "... No. Actually, I don't."
The next morning, Komori was similarly wordless as the rest of her class and Itoshiki-sensei stood before her, looking at the wrecked classroom with wide eyes and mute mouths.
"I was... cooking my dinner, and I had a little accident with the stove..." the shut-in shyly held a broken teapot up.
Nozomu looked at her, then at the embarrassed Sayo cowering at a corner from his eyes. He sighed and patted Kiri on a shoulder. "I'll have to tell your parents about this..."
Meanwhile, at High School Class 1-C, Rukia groaned, slamming her face down against her desk.
"And your brother punished you just for that?" Chizuru asked, suggestively leaning on the seat next to hers. "Poor thing. All girls should have a right to have fun at night. Let me comfort you with a tender, soft, loving-"
Without even looking at her, her face still buried in her desk, Rukia simply planted a fist on her face.
"Girls, play nice..." Orihime softly asked from the seat behind Rukia's, just as Jinroku-sensei entered the classroom.
"Ahem!" the old balding man adjusted his glasses. "Good morning, class. Sorry about the lateness, but I was talking with Konoemon-sensei. Starting today, we'll have a new, transfer student at our class. Please welcome Kurosaki Ichigo-kun."
Rukia tensed up in terror at the mention of the name, springing up to look at the newcomer grumpily showing up right behind the teacher. Chizuru had just made a disgusted face at the sight of a new boy, and Orihime had started staring at him with an impressed, nearly star-struck face. Ichida had simply scowled as if seeing a devil in their midst, and Chad's non-expression was the same as always.
"Hello," the new boy grumbled, holding a few sheets full with ugly doodles up. "Um, I found this before getting here, and... someone told me they belonged to one of you. I kinda doubt it, since my little sisters draw better than this, but I still wanted to ask..."
Rukia bit her tongue before it could betray her in an explosion of curses.
Next: Silent Night.
Bonus Segment: Class 2-A's Sleeping Arrangements.
I have noticed a few questions and doubts regarding who rooms with whom in this Negima continuity, so here's the related data until this in-story date.
AISAKA SAYO used to sleep at her empty 2-A desk, now sleeps with KOMORI KIRI at Classroom 2-F. Someone should tell her ghosts aren't supposed to sleep.
AKASHI YUUNA has a room of her own. Having a teacher father has its benefits.
AYASE YUE rooms with MIYAZAKI NODOKA.
KASUGA MISORA rooms with COCONE FATIMA ROSA.
KAGURAZAKA ASUNA rooms with KONOE KONOKA.
TATSUMIYA MANA rooms with MUNAKATA SHIHO.
KAKIZAKI MISA rooms with SHIINA SAKURAKO and KUGIMIYA MADOKA.
KARAKURI CHACHAMARU lives at a cottage at the woods with EVANGELINE A.K. MC DOWELL and CHACHAZERO.
SAKAKI MAKIE rooms with YUKIHIRO AYAKA, although Ayaka spends her weekends at her nearby manor.
NAGASE KAEDE rooms with NARUTAKI FUMIKA and NARUTAKI FUUKA.
SAOTOME HARUNA rooms with KU FEI.
SAKURAZAKI SETSUNA lives alone.
ASAKURA KAZUMI lives alone as well.
CHAO LINGSHEN rooms with YOTSUBA SATSUKI.
OOKUCHI AKIRA rooms with IZUMI AKO.
HASEGAWA CHISAME rooms with HAKASE SATOMI, NEGI SPRINGFIELD and CHAMO.
NABA CHIZURU rooms with MURAKAMI NATSUMI.
ZAZIE RAINYDAY lives alone with her pets.
That's everything for now! Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and until next chapter!