What fake names are these girls using again, anyway?

Asuna= Kanda Akemi

Chisame= Shimura Yumi

Haruna= Ishige Sawa

Konoka= Nonaka Ai

Setsuna= Kobayashi Yuu

Yue= Kuwatani Natsuko

Nodoka = Noto Mamiko

SCM's A/N: I'M IN DESPAIR! THE MANGA ENDING WITH SO MANY LOOSE THREADS HAS LEFT ME IN DESPAIR! We never got to find out what happened to Arika… or how Negi freed Nagi… or what the deal was with the Gravekeeper and why s/he backstabbed Sextum (SEXY-CHAN!) to help Negi… ARG!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-! !-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-! Well, here's to hoping that the next series Akamtsu is implied to be already planning is either set in the time-skip, is about MAGICAL SPACE DETECTIVE WITH BREASTS YUE!, or is Negima FINALLY becoming a full-on shounen manga while still being the Negima we all know and love at heart.

OverMaster's A/N: Yeah, Negima's ending sucked harder than a black hole. It was a triple combo of fail, since it didn't deliver on romance, action or mystery solving. All a copout after another. Negi's choice? Final battle against Lifemaker? Meh, take some big panels of exposition text and be done with it! What happened to you, Akamatsu? And why did you ruin Chisame's whole character development in a single panel? She already showed several times she was finding Internet life shallow and she was finding happiness going out and having wacky adventures with the idiots! Why did you have her reclosing herself into a life you hinted would only make her unhappy, you heartless man?-! (Pant, pant) I'm not an optimistic like SCM, so I doubt we'll ever see a sequel, and if we see it, it'll most likely skip over all the interesting things hinted to happen in the five month span before Asuna's sealing, so woe is me anyway. And we should have seen the whole class strip sneezed in 353, dammit! Akamatsu, you never delivered Naked Chao! Or Naked Hakase! Or even Naked Satsuki! (Don't look at me that way, please). AKAMATSU!

Rest assured, however, this ending only spurs me harder to keep this fic going. And to think I always hated the term 'Fix Fic'…

Also, this chapter WAS going to have a car chase, but it was cut off due to the chapter being too long already.

….

Unequally Rational and Emotional

by OverMaster

Lesson 35: "Just Like In The Movies" or "Negima Fanfic FINAL (No, not really a FINAL!)"

Disclaimer: Mahou Sensei Negima and all related elements and characters are the property and creation of Akamatsu Ken, and the authors of this humble piece has made no material profit from it, and never will do.

Ah my Goddess! and all its characters were created by and are the property of Fujishima Kosuke.

Batman and all related characters and elements belong to DC Comics.

X-Men, Deadpool and all related characters and elements belong to Marvel Comics.

Mai Hime and all its characters belong to Sunrise.

Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya is written by Hiroyama Hiroshi, and owned by Type-Moon.

Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi.

To Love Ru was created by Saki Hasemi and Kentaro Yabuki

All other characters mentioned also belong to their respective copyright holders.

Unequally Rational and Emotional created by OverMaster.

The 2814-series created by Shadow Crystal Mage.

Warning: this fic contains unholy levels of crack, crossovers, awesome, madness, crossdressing and slight amounts of cake. If you dislike excessive amounts of the aforementioned, please take this leek and use it as a suppository. Sorry, I couldn't think of anything more creative, the end of the manga has thrown off my game…

….

Dramatis Personae

Negi Springfield: Come on. You want to tell me you've read this far into this fanfic without knowing who's Negi Springfield, or you've forgotten it since last chap? Okay, here it goes- Welsh boy mage teaching a class of 31 lovely girls in Japan. Currently stuck in a labyrinth in the Kyoto hills along his students Hasegawa Chisame, Kagurazaka Asuna and Tsunetsuki Matoi, and talking ermine Albert 'Chamo' Chamomille. Happy now?

Miyazaki Nodoka: A shy student in love with Negi. A major lover of books, she recently got one that charged her with the responsibility of capturing 52 super-powered cards. So far, she's got one.

Suzushiro Haruka: The vice-president of the Mahora Student Council, Haruka is stern, strong, proud, stubborn, and obsessed with rules and order. However, she's also a firm believer of fair play and discipline. She kissed Negi accidentally one night ago, and now insists that means he must marry her in the future. One must wonder how the heck she got that idea…

Saotome Haruna: The only daughter of master fighter Saotome Ranma and his wife Nabiki. Haruna has chosen the life of a Yaoi mangaka over that of a martial artist. She's Nodoka and Yue's second best friend, and the third most feared pervert in the school, after the Suzumiya weirdo and Honsho Chizuru. She's got a very shy and passive boyfriend named Yuuki Rito.

Deadpool: Born Wade Wilson (that's a lie) in Canada (another lie), Deadpool is a mercenary who contracted cancer and offered himself as a test subject for Canada's shady Department H (this is actually true. We think). The treatment rendered Wilson virtually unkillable, with a miraculous healing factor, but also scarred his whole skin and tipped his already unstable mind into madness. He thinks he lives in a fanfic. Go figure. After being cursed by Norse God Loki to have Tom Cruise's face (don't ask), he had a brief affair with Negi's cousin (NOT sister or mother!) Nekane, before leaving her to fulfill a kidnap contract on…

Konoe Konoka: Asuna's roommate and second best friend (or first best, if you ask Asuna and Ayaka. But don't let them fool you). Konoka is a good natured, easygoing, cheerful girl with an aristocratic heritage. She has no knowledge whatsoever of her magical background, and most likely isn't secretly a traumatized mess because she was molested at a young age by Tsukuyomi. Then again, that might explain a lot…

Siesta: One of Ayaka's maids, Siesta is an immigration test subject for Mundus Magicus. She's in love with Hiraga Saito, a humble shopkeeper in the Mahora area, but after an incident with a love potion, she… had a few shameful encounters with the rest of the manor's maids.

Inugami Kotaro: A young runaway and mercenary, Kotaro is part-dog demon. Recently, he helped Nodoka and Yue subdue the first Clow card, The Windy. That absolutely didn't endear him to Yue, no sir. He's always up for a good fight, and to stay as far away from fellow merc Tsukuyomi as possible.

Harry Potter: Appears in a movie in this chapter. But he's fictional, dammit! Get over it!

….

Dan-dan-dan-dan…!

Kuro: With the sudden announcement of the end of the Negima manga, Negi, Chisame and Hakase find themselves penniless and evicted!

Negi: They killed me there, too! UWAH! I don't want that!

Joker: Why not? Sounds sweet to me.

Quartum: Off-panel death! BWA HA HA HA HA!

Misa: Who cares? Everything was undone one chapter later, after all!

Kuro: With Mahora facing its greatest crisis, the evil Lex Luthor buys the Academy and turns all the female students into his personal team of go-go dancers!

Tokiha Mai: Come to think about it… NOW I'm happy I wasn't accepted at Mahora!

Kuro: Meanwhile, Takahata looks for the mystic Viagra that could fix the grave curse of impotence the Lifemaker placed upon him! But since he didn't explain it to Shizuna-sensei, she felt rejected, and turned to Arai Chie-sensei's sweet loving company for comfort!

Misa: So called it.

Kuro: With time running out for mankind and Takahata's little soldier, Pinkie Pie is left the only one in conditions to fight the Lifemaker before he can reach the Lance of Longinus! To avenge her fallen mentor Deadpool, she wears the costume of Pinkiepool and trots out to meet the Lifemaker in a decisive final battle we won't show up because it's more interesting to see Chizuru shoving a leek up Negi's—

SCM: IT SHOULD BE "DEAD PIE"!

Asuna: Enough with the Author Tracts! Sheesh, how much is OM paying you to say all this crap?-!

Kuro: Shouldn't you be sleeping for 100 years? Go away! That means you, too!

Twilight Red: The two of us just don't fit in that sleeping chamber! Besides, my Negi was smart enough to find a way not to do that!

Kuro: And now, as our newest chapter opens, we're left with a burning question— Was Queen Arika ever really a man…?

Negi: Y-You mean I've been looking for the wrong father?-!

Arika: Canon You never even asked about me… I'M IN DESPAIR! MY LACK OF RELEVANCE IN YOUR LIFE DESPITE EVERYTHING I WENT THROUGH HAS LEFT ME IN DESPAIR!

Itoshiki: A-A-Arika-hime-sama!

Akira: (Sighs) None of this and more in today's Unequally Rational and Emotional

Makie: YIPEE!

….

The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Batman

Batman Begins

Park Row. Back then, it hadn't been called Crime Alley. It still was considered a fairly decent place, a series of interconnected narrow streets near the main Gotham entertainment district, before the drug pushers and the sex traders took over. Even so, the first seeds of the decay had already been planted. The Wayne Family was still blissfully unaware of that.

"Swish! Swish! Swish!" the black haired boy skipped ahead, brandishing an imaginary sword. "The Mark of Zorro!" His enthusiasm was so high, you could literally feel the capital letters in his speech. "Beware, evildoers! The sword of Justice is in town now! You can't hide anywhere!"

"Don't stray too far, Bruce," his mother gently admonished him. "Thomas, are you sure you left the car over here? Of all the evenings for Alfred to be sick…"

"It's still early, and there's no school tomorrow. Relax, Martha, I'm sure I parked it near here," her husband said, looking at his wristwatch. He was a brilliant man in his profession, but he was nearly laughably lost in day to day matters without a manservant around. "The parking lot must be right around this corner…"

Then the two figures stepped out of the shadows. The larger one seemed to lead, advancing faster towards them, as the other one stayed behind, breathing heavily.

"Okay, you," the leader's voice was rugged, strong and rasping, with a touch of a New York accent. "Give me all you've go,, no funny stuff, and no one's hurt. Let's start with your watch, Pops. And the pearl necklace the lady's wearing…"

The other one was barely a young man, mostly a teenager, awkward and lanky, with a long sharp nose and a face full of angles, who kinda looked like Heath Ledger. His green eyes sparkled nervously as he took the man's watch and wallet with trembling hands, the other thief's handgun trained on the paralyzed child and the woman now holding him against herself. Then he tried to take the necklace quickly to get over with it, and in doing so, accidentally hurt her neck. A moment's random incident. She yelped briefly, and the boy let out a short scream in response, and that put the husband in reflex alarm.

"Don't touch them, you—!"

Thomas Wayne had not actually done anything beyond shouting. But the gunner had an itchy finger and a paranoid attitude.

"I said no funny stuff, Pops!"

And then he shot.

Bruce's eyes froze open, as he saw his father falling on his back, with a small bloody hole in his chest. His mother shrieked, and she was next, after a shout of "SHUT UP!", despite the young accomplice's attempt to pull back the gunner's right arm as soon as he snapped from his own shock. And then, just as he still couldn't comprehend the sound of her body hitting the sidewalk, the gun was aiming at Bruce's head again.

"Life sucks, doesn't it, brat…"

"NO!" the younger man pushed his partner's hand down. "For the love of God, Joe, he's a kid!"

"He saw us, you moron! He has to die, too!"

"Joe, it's too dark. And look at him! You just traumatized him!" he pointed at the boy, who had just fallen on his knees grasping his still-breathing father's hand without making a sound. The father tried to speak, but could only tighten his hand around his son's, before exhaling a final breath. "He won't be talking anymore, Joe!" the young man said.

With a grunt, the older thief complied, pocketing the boy's wallet. "Let's go."

And then the child was alone, still, with vacant eyes that finally streamed copious tears. "Dad…"

Three blocks away by now, the bigger man took a moment to slam his accomplice against a brick wall. "Listen, Jack. I'll just say this once. To make it in Gotham, you remember three things. One, be ruthless no matter what. Two, no matter how ruthless and tough you are, never fuckin' to tell Joe Chill what to do. Three, another dead body makes no difference when you've already started. Got that, Jack?"

"Okay," the other criminal gulped. "Look, can we go now? The cops will be here anytime now…"

"First smart thing you've said all damn night long. Hurry up, you lil' loser!"

Later, even through all the amnesia bouts, the acid baths, and the psychopathic fits, Jack would remember those three lessons no matter what. And he always would agree with the first one, disregard the second one, and utterly laugh at the third one.

Of course it always made a difference, how many you killed.

It was the difference between a genius and a mere street thief.

Right?

….

Prelude: Yuuna's Doggie

Only a few minutes ago, before Yuuna got that call…

"Ako, whatcha looking at?" Yuuna asked, seeing her short haired friend had stayed behind.

"Ah?" Ako, as usual lately, flinched a bit upon hearing Yuuna's voice. Akira, who was hanging with them again, wondered why. She also pondered finally asking them about it, hoping the answer wouldn't be anything too dramatic or troublesome. "Oh, sorry. I was just looking at these doggies. Aren't they lovely?"

Yuuna walked closer as Ako stepped aside just a bit uncomfortably. Akira silently noticed Ako didn't have the same reaction when she approached, so she knew it wasn't related to her in any way, whatever it truly was.

Around half a dozen very cute puppies were on display in the pet shop's window, wagging their cute little tails at the girls.

"Ah!" Yuuna sighed. "They remind me of this puppy I had back when I was little…"

Ako blinked. "When? You never told us about that!"

Yuuna scratched her head. "I was so little I barely remember him. He was more like a mutt than a cute puppy, actually. I had him while I lived with Grandma in Izayoi Island. That was back when… Dad and Mom were always off in… business," she recalled uncomfortably. "It's weird, actually. Truth be told, I wasn't that young now I think about it, but I still have very vague memories of him for some reason. I can't even remember his name very well. Patch? Itch? String…?"

"What happened to him?" Akira asked.

"I dunno. I can't even remember that," Yuuna mumbled. "I know he was a real troublemaker, so it's possible Grandma just gave him away. I wonder how's she doing, by the way. I'll call her as soon as we get back to Mahora…"

Then they all noticed a mesmerized Mana standing next to them and staring at the puppies, touching the window's glass with a finger and smiling in a spaced out fashion. Until she noticed the three of them looking at her.

The dark skinned student stood straighter and coughed. "This never happened."

It didn't sound like a threat at all, but Ako, Akira and Yuuna still could do nothing but nodding obediently before moving on.

….

Hard Candy

Nodoka felt soft tapping coming from the inside of her backpack. A slight shudder ran up her spine with each muffled impact of paws against her back. What could Kero-san want now, she wondered. Now of all the times…

"S-Something wrong, Miyazaki-san?" Sora asked, turning to look at her as soon as she noticed Nodoka had stopped in the middle of the road. Suzushiro Haruka also stopped, glaring at Nodoka with annoyance. "Do you feel well?"

"Ah, well, yes, I only need, actually, I, um…" Nodoka began to babble, not being one used to lying to excuse herself.

Haruka sighed and unzipped her own handbag, handing Nodoka several paper tissues. "You're fortunate I'm always prepared for everything, Miyazaki-san. This isn't exactly toilet paper, but it should suffice. Just go behind those bushes and don't take too long, okay?"

Nodoka blinked several times. "But! But I don't—! I mean…! Huh. Okay, thankyouverymuch, Suzushiro-sempai!" she melted in ashamed thanks before running away in the direction she had been pointed.

"Honestly, they're like children…" Haruka exhaled.

Once out of sight amidst the vegetation, Nodoka unzipped the backpack, and Kero's head popped out of it like a Jack-in-the-Box. Still attached to the still-inside body, of course. Don't be morbid. Joker isn't in this sequence, and we're not crossed over with Clown Princesses in Amber.

"What is it, Kero-san? Y-You weren't having problems breathing, were you? Sorry! I forgot, in the heat of this all, you—"

"I have no lungs, so never mind," Kero kept his voice very low. "Nodoka, you must be on the lookout! I can feel both a Clow Card roaming near here, and very powerful barriers surrounding this whole area!"

"Barriers?" a confused Nodoka echoed him.

Kerberos nodded. "I can feel it in my nose! It's like a net of magical power encircling us! And if the card is trapped with us, it might get desperate and even violent! Not all cards are as reasonable as The Windy!"

Nodoka gulped and held her staff-turned-key tightly. "Th-Then we need to get Sora-san and Suzushiro-sempai away first!"

"That might be difficult, since I can't feel any way out of this… place." The plushie folded his tiny arms, looking so very cutely concerned Nodoka would have gushed under less pressing circumstances. "I'm almost sure the barriers aren't the Card's handwork, since it feels like a different kind of power, but still, I advice finding and catching it before anything else, just in case…"

"She's sure taking long," Haruka paced back and forth. "Do you know if she's sick?"

"She looked healthy to me all the way here…" Sora replied, before turning around with a small frown. "D-Did you hear that?"

"Ah? What?"

Sora got closer to the younger but braver girl, swallowing nervously. "B-B-Between those trees! I think I heard some kind of animal jumping!"

The blonde gave the spot Sora was pointing at a hard, intense look, and then she saw it too. It was a pink blur between the trees, bouncing from place to place, making louder and louder sounds as it came their way. "What kind of critter is that…?" Her golden eyebrows took quite a funny shape.

"It's getting too close, too quick!" Sora shuddered, but still grabbed Haruka and pulled her behind herself. "D-D-Don't be afraid, Haruka-san! I'll protect you! I-It's my duty as your chaperone, after all!"

An annoyed Haruka sighed and pushed her aside, stepping forward while picking a random branch from the ground. She flexed her arms and smirked, taking a fighting position. "Let it come! Whatever it is, it isn't very big. I'll make it hop back in fear!"

"I… I don't think that's such a good idea, Haruka-san…"

Really, it was just like having Yukino still around…

….

Girls Gone Wild

Yue stopped her cautious stalk, acquired from her long friendship with Haruna and refined by Nodoka, Evangeline, and battlefield experience. "Purple-chan?" she said, seeing Nodoka had gone still, mouth slack-jawed with shock, her small, cute, inviting, pouty, soft lips–

Yue shook her head to reset. Stupid harem jokes were getting to her. "What's the matter?"

Nodoka just stared at the book she was using to read the other her's thoughts. Yue frowned and looked over her shoulder to read the book.

Today's Goal: Kiss (The Real) Negi-sensei!

Ah! My goal is in danger! There's a Clow Card on the loose, according to Kero-chan. Oh, what am I going to do? Everyone will be in trouble! And Kero-chan said something I don't understand about a 'magic barrier' or something maybe there are two Clow Cards loose?

I… I have to do something! I am the Card Captor! It's my duty!

Yue joined in the staring. "Card… Captor? Am I reading this right?"

Nodoka nodded, a bit dazed.

They shared a look.

"One wonders," Yue mused, "What this means for the local Kinomoto-san. And the local Lee-san, while we're at it." A beat. "Daidouji-san is probably her usual crazy self, though."

Nodoka shook herself and started walking again. "We need to get closer. This is all getting too different and complicated to just let run its course. There are too many people we don't know and can't predict. We need to be there so we can react."

Blank-faced, Yue drew her Card. "About time. Adeat!"

When the flash faded (stupid bra needing to remind her about her chest!), Yue wore her hat and robe, her broom in her hand. "Hop on," Yue said as she suited actions to words. Nodoka slid in behind her, wrapping her arms around Yue's waist.

Simultaneously cursing and ignoring the feel of Ndoka around her and the weird, warm tinglies that went with it, Yue got the broom in gear. They flew.

….

Cannibal Holocaust

Elsewhere in Kyoto:

"I hope you can help us so we can help you, Tojiro-san," the red haired foreign woman said sultrily, her full lips painted green hovering over his without touching them, teasing them. "You see, we've been running through the local underground all day long, and we're getting tired already. Croc is getting hungry too, the poor thing. Aren't you, Croc?"

The towering scaly man-beast standing a few steps back from them growled viciously, "Yessssss…!"

So the shapely woman nodded. "See? And Croc's stomach is hard to fill. He needs a lot of food once he's hungry…" She playfully ran a finger all over the businessman's large belly, her green index finger nail sneaking between his buttons, rasping over the pale bare skin underneath.

"Reeeeeed!" Harley Quinn, in full black and red regalia, whined from where she sat on a wheeled chair, legs swinging back and forth, an oversized mallet at her side. "Why don'tcha just give 'im a mind controlling kiss and be done with it? He'll talk faster that way!"

Poison Ivy gave her an annoyed back glare. "He might. But it's better to see this pig squirm." And she growled in the tied man's face, making him whimper. "We were told you, as the local representative of the Fujino Zaibatsu, had several warehouses and packing plants around the area. And we want to know if you have sold or lent any of those to anyone recently."

"N-N-No!" he shook his head frantically, even though being tied hanging upside down from the ceiling was rushing so much blood down to his head, it was difficult even to shake it by now. "Wh-Who would I—?-!"

Ivy snarled and tightened his tie around his neck. "We're looking for kidnappers. They have a young woman with them, a blonde, foreign-looking. Not ringing any bells yet?"

"N-No! I swear—!"

Ivy sighed languidly. "Then you aren't of any use but as Croc's food. So, so sorry…"

"NO!" he gasped. "No, I'll talk! Really! I-I'll even take you there! But please don't tell anyone! Fujino-sama and his daughter don't know about this! I'd lose everything!"

"I think you'll lose everything much quicker if you don't start talking right now, my dear…" the redhead purred, caressing his puffy cheeks with her soft, pale hands.

"A woman with long black hair. She offered me a lot of money. Said she wanted a place with a lot of space on the access road to the lake up the mountains. She wanted no questions, so I didn't ask. The pay was just too good, even more than Fujino-sama could ever supply…!" he blurted the words out.

"So much for the ole Japanese business loyalty," Ivy mocked him sweetly. "I guess you're a man of the new era. Now, tell us the exact location, please?"

"N-No! If-If I tell you, you'll kill me right here and now! I said I'll take you there!"

She sighed and shook her head. "I didn't want it to have to come to this, I really did. Both because I'm spoiling you as food for Croc, and because frankly, you disgust me. But then again, anything for the cause."

And she planted her lips on his, slow and sensually.

"Aaaaand he's done!" Harley commented. "Now he'll sing like a canary before doing a dodo impression, right, Red? But you sure you want to wing it just because you saw that in a dream? I mean, maybe it was just a result of that sushi dinner…"

Croc turned around and huffed. "Great. Now you poisoned 'im. I can't eat 'im now!"

"Didn't you have enough with all those security guards, Waylon?" Ivy asked before addressing her friend. "As for you, Harley, I know what I saw, and I saw the Green itself telling me where to look. Now, all I need from you, my sweet, is the exact address," she batted her eyelashes at the wide eyed, mesmerized man, who had greenish spots beginning to appear over his skin now. "And you'd better say it now, since you don't have much time left. Pretty please? For me…?"

….

Live Nude Girls

Mundus Magicus:

"Maaaaaaan, I feel like I'm only just coming back to life!" Hikaru exhaled deeply, resting her back against the rocks on the small, crystalline lake's shore. They had been travelling for almost a full day now, and while flying over the forest, their mount had grown tired and landed, much to Nanami's annoyance. Then the huge beast had changed into a tiny and lovable furry animal Hikaru had gushed over non-stop, again, much to Nanami's disgust.

"I only hope we don't get magical deadly fleas from so much contact with that thing," the blonde grunted, sitting away from the others and carefully washing her unbound golden hair as best as she could without any soap.

"Don't say that! Kirara-chan's a very clean girl!" Hikaru said, still petting the diminutive creature sitting on her right shoulder.

"How are you so sure it's a girl?" Yukino asked her.

Hikaru smiled and held the animal for them to see, showing them the animal's lower body. "It isn't hard to see, is it?"

"I can't see anything!" Nanami sneered. "Way too much fur! And stop flashing us with smelly critter's genitalia!" She waved a hand in front of her nose.

Hikaru's pout grew. "Kirara-chan isn't smelly, and you know it!"

Yukino gestured for her to calm down. "Easy there, Hikaru-san. You still haven't recovered fully from our encounter with that Alcyone woman. Don't strain yourself." And she looked up at the darkenned skies. "It's too late to continue traveling, so we'll have to stay here for the night, and start again tomorrow early."

"Tsuwabuki was a Boy Scout, so he can make a camp for us," Nanami dismissed Yukino's implied concern as soon as it came. "What worries me is what we will eat. We didn't bring anything edible, and none of the plants around looks like anything I've ever eaten. Even making this animal eat them first isn't a guarantee, since it could be immune to poisons!"

Hikaru frowned and grabbed her empty stomach. "Shut up, you're just making me hungrier by talking about that…"

"Well, our best bet is reaching civilization soon," Yukino pondered. "Clef-san mentioned an actual bathhouse more or less on the way to Presea-san's house, but we can't possibly get there without a map…"

"I'm pretty sure he discouraged us from going there, saying it was a detour," Nanami tried to remember clearly. The day had been so stressful it was easy to forget even key details.

"Either way, Kirara-chan's the only one who knows the way, so we must follow her until we're out of these woods, right?" Hikaru shrugged.

"Great, we're betting our fates on the pea brain of a primitive furball," Nanami snarked. Now that made Kirara hiss furiously. "HIKARU-SAN, KEEP YOUR PET AWAY FROM ME!"

Several feet away, sitting behind a tree and facing away from the lake, Tsuwabuki Mitsuru sighed. He was all sweaty and worn down, lost miles and miles away from home, and being denied a soothing bath until the girls finished. And Nanami-sama would kill him if he tried to even risk a single peek. "Ah, Matoi-sama, to be a girl with an excuse for peeping and skinship like you…!"

"Do you think Clef-san's really… you know…?" Hikaru was asking once more

"Again with that?-!" Nanami was exasperated. "How would we know? Bad guys always love to boast and lie in TV, movies, the Student Council and in front of the Diet, so maybe that witch was only shooting off her big mouth! Do you want us to go back there and risk ourselves getting captured?"

"Trust Clef-san's advice, Hikaru-chan," Yukino gently patted the redhead's arm. "He's supposed to be a powerful mage, and if you, a newbie, could take that witch down, then she surely couldn't actually kill him. What will he do if we return there and he sees we disobeyed his orders?"

"I suppose you're right…" Hikaru sniffled.

Yukino nodded, smiled, and leaned near Nanami as Hikaru closed her eyes and relaxed. She whispered into the blonde's ear, "He's totally dead, isn't he?"

Nanami nodded and whispered back, "To say it in terms you can understand, deader than floppy diskettes, I'd say…"

"Do I look that much like a computer addict?"

"You haven't stopped checking on your dead laptop at least once every ten minutes, and each time you can't log in, your face twitches and you start shaking. So, in one word, yes, you do."

Yukino began shaking again. "Those were three words, actually… AH! A full day without updating my Facebook page with Haruka-chan's pictures! I can't go on like this!" she began biting her finger nails.

"Please do kindly slide back far, far from me, okay?" Nanami requested blandly.

….

The Last Samurai

"Well, then let's get our duel started, proud samurai!" Tsukuyomi proclaimed as soon as she fixed her glasses back. "My blood boils for the chance of crossing swords with you! Ah! Finally, after so long, I feel alive once more! I have been a pampered aristocrat for far too long! From now on, I'll listen to the call of my heart and embrace the path of my blade again!"

"I'll be your opponent," the blond young girl in the maid outfit told Twilight Red, bowing respectfully. "I'll be open to end the fight in any moment you desire to surrender and ask for mercy."

"Not happening, Blondie!" Kagurazaka smirked. "But you look kinda familiar. Do you own a big red dog?"

"Now, this girl sure looks and sounds a lot like Asuna-san, doesn't she?" Chizuru asked.

"What? I can't see any similarities…!" Kazumi rasped uncomfortably.

"She even has hair bells and everything…!" Naba pointed out.

"Are you sure, Chizu-nee?" Natsumi tilted her head aside, trying to see the similarities herself. "I don't think they're too alike…"

Setsuna frowned. "As you wish, then. I won't back from your chal—" She stopped as she felt someone tugging twice on her sleeve. She looked down to see the Chibified Sakurazaki looking up in turn at her. "Now what?" she hissed. "It's not the best time!"

The child version of herself breathed long and hard, fighting the embarrassment over what she was going to say, before announcing loudly, "Cousiiiiin! I wanna go use the bathroom, and I don't know where it is…!"

Loud laughter ran through the crowd, mortifying both Setsunas to no end.

"Cousin?" Tsukuyomi blinked. "Hey, other than Motoko and Tsuruko, we never had any cousins! Err, I mean—"

"That little girl is Setsuna's cousin? Really?" Madoka wondered.

"Oh, don't you remember? We told you about it days ago, silly!" Sakurako giggled easily and without a concern in the world, while Misa and Misora sweated cannonballs.

"She is?" the absent minded Hakase wondered herself before saying, "Ah, yes, of course they are. Cousins. Yes, yes, even I know about it…!"

Tsukuyomi pouted and folded her arms, but ended up waving a hand and saying, "Very well. We're women of honor, so I trust you won't leave. Go help your… 'relative', and then come back here for our showdown. We are in no particular hurry after all, isn't that right, Yami-chan?"

Her 'maid' made the simplest of replies. "Not on my part."

"Thank you," Yuu made a simple, just short of curt bow, before grabbing Setsuna by a hand and pulling her towards the public restrooms.

"She looked like she knew exactly where the toilets were, after all," Haruna noticed. "Maybe she just needs help with the potty?"

"She's too old for that, I think," Yue said. "But I can't blame her for wanting to step with company in a public bathroom. Those places are often scary as hell."

"Yuecchi is an expert on the use of toilets at all times, everywhere we go!" Haruna told Nelly and her friends.

"Oh, I know someone who is exactly like that!" Sawa nodded. The others with her just nodded along dumbly, sorta vapid looks on their faces. Nelly had pulled up the hem of her skirt was staring in fascination at her panties.

Somewhere, Valkyrie Black sneezed.

Inside of one of the restrooms, Setsuna began to undo the upper layers of her costume while Sakurazaki locked the door behind themselves. "You want to trade places, don't you? It's what I'd suggest if I was in your place."

"And soon, you will be," Sakurazaki said, tossing an Age Change Pill her way and popping one herself, reverting close to her proper age, but young enough to look like the other Setsuna. "It's for the best if we finish this soon, and your Ojousama will be better with you at her side."

"I understand," Setsuna nodded. "I don't care about the duel, actually. Protecting Ojou-sama is my only concern. But please… don't hurt Tsukuyomi too much. Twisted and ill as she is, she's still… my sister, and the only family I've been left with, for better or worse."

"You will find yourself a much better family," Sakurazaki reassured her.

"Perhaps." Setsuna conceded, not sounding convinced yet.

"And since you ask, I'll try to go relatively easy on her. Although she deserves—"

"Oh, you can incapacitate her leaving her unable to fight ever again with no worries," Setsuna replied. "I only was asking for you to not leave her a corpse or a quadraplegic. I'm fine with her in a wheelchair, though."

"If I didn't know what any Tsukuyomi is capable of, I'd be calling you callous…" Sakurazaki said, beginning to strip as well. "How do you feel about facial scars?"

"Oh, go nuts."

Setsuna stared at the pill in her left hand while undoing her final garments with the other. "I've never tried one of these before. It should be an interesting experience…"

"S-Setsuna-san."

"Yes, Sakurazaki-san?"

"W-Why are you wearing that kind of panties?-!"

"I-I-It was Shiina-san's idea, okay?-!"

"Oh! W-well, that was naughty of her…"

"…"

"…"

"…"

"Um, so… how do they feel?"

"Strangely comfortable and light, to be honest."

"…"

"What?"

"C-can I try them on?"

….

White Men (and Japanese Girls) Can't Jump

"Here it comes!" Haruka shouted, gripping the branch tighter. "Stay back, I'll handle it!"

"B-Be careful, Suzushiro-san!" Sora begged while she took yet another step back, now stepping down the road, and seeing how the small creature that had been plaguing them finally jump into full sight. It was much smaller than she had imagined, really. It looked like a strange bunny rabbit of sorts, pink and fat, but with a very long and thin tail, and shifty green eyes that looked more like a cat's. It stopped abruptly right next to a now also-shocked Haruka. "Wh-What kind of animal is that?" Sora asked.

"I've heard of this!" Haruka came with an answer in the spot. "It's an American animal they call a jackalope!"

"A what?"

"A weird animal from the American deserts, just like the roadrunner, the Chupacabras and the Jersey Devil!" Haruka lectured, still keeping her eyes on the thing. "It steals babies from their cradles and sucks out their blood!"

Sora gasped. "H-How horrible!"

Beat.

"You aren't making all that up, are you?"

"Well, it's what I remember from that American tabloid my Father once brought me," Haruka admitted. "It was right next to Superman's secret wedding with Lady Gaga, some story of a hulking beast attacking San Francisco, and Elvis' corpse being found in a crashed spaceship…"

The pink animal made a few muffled and annoyed sounds, and jumped on Haruka's head, bouncing on it and dodging her branch swing. From there, it hopped to Sora's head, making her shriek. "Aiiieee! It's on me! Get it off! Get it off, please!"

"I'm trying!" Haruka began chasing the bouncy creature in circles all around Sora, taking hits at it, but always failing. "Stay quiet there, darn you! You miserable abortation, I mean, aberration!"

Then the animal stomped a foot down on the ground, and it made several branches lying all around take a seeming life of their own, jumping themselves in all directions, madly encircling both girls. "Ouch! Why, you—!" Haruka yelled.

Hiding between the thick branches of a nearby tree, Kotaro snickered to himself, watching over their predicament. This was actually pretty funny, and it didn't look like the fools were in any real danger. Whatever that thingy was, it only was toying with them. The branches didn't even aim at the eyes.

Then the clumsy older girl with glasses stumbled and fell on her butt, dropping her glasses between the fallen leaves. "Ah! Can't see a thing!" She started feeling around for them on all fours, crawling nervously while branches continued raining down on her back. "Suzushiro-san, please help me!"

"As soon as I finish with this!" Haruka growled, trying to kick and swat the branches hitting her from all sides, but only managing to tick them of even more from the looks of things. "This-This is simply insane! See, this is what happens when you bring animals out of their natural habitat!"

In the bushes, where she felt strangely at home, Nodoka gulped. "I-I can't let this go on, Kero-san!" she said, still in a low but urgent voice. "Sora-san and Suzushiro-sempai could get hurt! I'll try to draw the card away from them and then Seal it, okay?"

"I can't see how you can do it without giving yourself away. That loudmouth girl will just follow you ar—" the plushie began.

"I'll think of th-that later!" Nodoka decided. "If I just stay here, either the card will escape or the girls will suffer!" And with that, she all but leapt out of her hiding and into sight, holding her staff in pale, sweaty hands. "Y-Y-You there! Leave those girls alone and c-come fight me!" She tried to remember all those trite clichés from the Shonen manga Haruna used as Yaoi reference. "I'll be your opponent! Or are y-you a-a-a-afraid of me?-!"

The pink rabbit turned its now-glowing green eyes on her.

"Miyazaki-san?" Haruka asked while shielding her own face with an arm. "What do you think you're doing? Leave this to me, I can handle it! Ow! Not there, you vegetable hooligans!"

Sora finally found her glasses and put them back on her face. "Nodoka-san? Ah, did you remember cleaning your hands off?"

Still watching from above, Kotaro facepalmed. What was with that girl and her trying to play superhero? Was someone stupid enough to pay her for it, or what?

In another universe, Yukihiro Ayaka sneezed.

"Iinchou!" Hakase cried as she frantically tried to fix whatever it was that had gone wrong, assisted by several magical girls and one Green Lantern. "No sneezing near the equipment! You might contaminate it!"

….

Total Recall

"She's sure taking her sweet time…" an impatient Makie complained, still perched on Akira's shoulders and resting her folded arms on top of her friend's head. "I want this to start already! Setsuna, come and kick that girl's butt!"

"Please excuse our friend…" Ako turned to the girl with orange hair and glasses, with an apologetic smile. "She's very… enthusiastic about everything we do…!"

"Ah, ha ha, I understand, no problem…" the girl said, in a cutely shy manner. "I think it's wonderful, for people to be that full of life and cheer. I wish I was like that…"

Then she gasped, clutching one of her arms tight all of a sudden. She looked down at her wrist, where a blue bracelet was glowing brightly, making her shudder.

"What's wrong? May we help you…?" Ako asked, giving her a concerned look.

"S-Sorry, but I gotta go! It's an emergency!" the girl yelped, turning around to push her way through the crowd as best as she could. "Please, excuse me! I'm in a hurry! Forgive me, sir! Ahhh, sorry, I didn't mean to step on your foot!"

Yuuna frowned. "What a weird girl…"

"Well, it's not like we're in too any position to claim being any better…" Ako tapped two fingers on her own forehead.

"Oh, now you're sounding like Chisame," Yuuna said. "By the way, I wonder if she's away with Negi-kun again…"

Then it dawned on her.

The journal of the other Yuna from that dirty world hadn't mentioned anything strange during her Kyoto trip, but long after the fact, there were a few annotations making references to Yuna being told about dangerous events happening behind her back during the trip.

Yuna's journal also made a mention or two to some crazy girl with glasses who had a murderous obsession with Setsuna…

"Oh, no," Yuuna whispered. "It's all happening again…!"

"Ah?" Ako said.

"I think we should leave!" Yuuna urged, hissing into Ako's ear to avoid causing a panic all around. "This could get dangerous, Ako-chan! Dammit, I should have noticed it sooner…!"

"W-What are you talking about?" the assistant nurse's voice trembled. "Don't tell me that—"

"Ah! She's there!" Makie pointed at the approaching Setsuna, who was returning with Yuu-chan in tow, walking with more aplomb and confidence than she had before. Sasaki began taking pictures again, very quickly. "This is gonna be AWESOME!"

….

Interlude: The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Siesta

The first and last time Siesta ever saw that man, she was only five years old, and he only was passing by in a hurry. Her mother was pushing her downstairs and into the bunkers, since it seemed the Academy where they served was under attack. The man, her mother had explained on their way down there, was there to help.

Siesta had asked if he was the famous hero all the older girls liked to talk about. After a brief scowl, her mother had only said yes, and finished all but shoving her to safety.

She still remembered his charming, roguish smile even as he headed into what most others would consider certain death, something she didn't understand at all back then, being so scared herself. Even now, she couldn't really understand what moved people like him to do such things. And in all honesty, she was fairly sure she didn't want to ever learn.

Very late that night, once the commotion finally passed, she had been allowed to come out of hiding. Most of the masters' quarters were so devastated, those who had not been sent to hospitals had to spend the night at the servants' quarters, much to their disgust. Lady Rosalie, the beautiful and blond mistress of Siesta's mother, being more agreeable than most of her peers, posed no objection in allowing her maid and the child to stay with her, unlike most students, who had sent the rooms' prior inhabitants to sleep out between the still-smoking ruins.

Siesta was so tired after everything she fell asleep instantly.

The man sat on the edge of her bed, and his charming and roguish face was an exhausted, sad one now. He placed a hand on top of the small, black-haired head. "My child…" he whispered, and Rosalie had never heard him sound that way.

Rosalie Claudet was used to worshiping a larger than life hero from afar. He was like an ever-bright sun, one you couldn't even look at for long before he blinded you with his nonstop light and drive, his raging will to live and win. And yet, now, sitting next to the tiny child on that bed, he looked as if he carried all the grief in the world.

The child's mother stood next to the door, with her face covered by a hand. Rosalie could feel the older woman's struggle not to cry herself. And it all made her own crush feel so small, so pathetic, made her ashamed of herself. Something she had never felt before.

"We can make it work," Rosalie tried to plead. "I'm sure the Princess will understand, because she's got such a noble heart! No child should ever be separated from either parent! I'll intercede for you, and—"

"She'll live surrounded by this, day after day, for the rest of her life, if her heritage is made public, Madame," her maid said grimly. "Not even the Princess can prevent that, especially now she's lost all her power. It's okay. Sorry to disturb you."

"Don't act as if this doesn't involve me!" Rosalie growled, her aristocratic upbringing getting the best of her again. "Is this how you repay my concern? Just brushing me aside, like you know any better?-! To doom your own child to a—!"

And the she felt the strong hand gently on her shoulder. "Rosalie-chan," the red haired man said. "No. She's right. My enemies will be her enemies, and I've endangered enough people as it is. Please look after Siesta when I'm not around, will you?"

Rosalie sneered moodily. "You're just trying to run away now, Nagi Springfield. Just you just did to that vampire on Earth, and just like you do after every time you consider you've wrapped something up. You leave, and you let others pick up your pieces." It hurt her to say each word, and yet they came out on their own, bubbling with frustration. "Because it's the easier way, isn't it? Because you don't know how to build a future with anyone. You only know how to destroy!"

His head hung in shame, but he made no attempt to defend himself.

"You aren't a hero!" Rosalie said, as if possessed by a sudden force that was shredding her from the inside. "A real hero is there for those who need him the most, and right now, that child needs you far more than your princess or this world do! You like to flaunt how big and noble a target you are, but by running away, you aren't just drawing danger away from us, you're also drawing our happiness away!" She all but sobbed, biting her lower lip. "You damn bastard…"

He put a finger on his own lips and delicately said, "You'll wake the kid up, please."

The maid was crying freely now. It took all the self restraint Rosalie had to not join her there.

"Stupid bastard, why in the world do we love you so much?"

The next year, Rosalie had enough and left the Academy to marry one of her suitors from the Old World. Her family believed it was mad love for him that moved her to take the risks of offering herself as the fourth Immigration Test Subject, in a time where that was seen as all but gambling with a death sentence. In truth, she didn't leave to pursue a love, but to flee from another one's shadow. In the end, she reflected, she had been as cowardly as him.

And yet she never truly stopped thinking about him.

When she learned the child herself, now a young woman, had been drafted into the program as well, she convinced her husband to take her under his wing. Any other position would have been deemed socially suspicious, so they had to take the child, raised as maid, in a maid's role.

But it had to stop. They had all been living lies for far too long.

The limo pulled to a halt before the mansion, and Sebastian opened the door for her. Yukihiro Rosalie breathed in and out, and calmly stepped down. Now, while Ayaka-chan was off on a trip. Now was the perfect moment.

The tall blond woman elegantly walked to the front door, where the maids waiting for her bowing deeply.

….

Quartum of Solace

The Joker tensed up, staring at his new shiny purple bracelet. All too shiny now.

"Oh, no. It's going off again! Not fair! I'll miss the show!"

Quartum lifted an eyebrow. "Oh, is that crazy girl near here? Good, finally someone to fight rather than watching a fight. Although it'll be a very short quickie…"

"We're just running unnecessary risks here anyway…" Ruri actually bothered to keep her voice low. "Let's just get back home before—"

"I! Don't! Want! To! Transform!" the Joker hissed, clenching his piano-key teeth and rattling his glowing wrist up and down. "Not now! Down, Boy! Down!"

Finally, after several moments of that, the bracelet's glow died down slowly, and a wheezing and panting Joker grinned victoriously. "Once again, man stands triumphant in the never-ending battle against cursed jewelry! I demand fanfare! Fanfare! And a bitchin' Danny Elfman soundtrack!"

"You really managed to dominate the transformation?" Ruri wondered. "Well, Lion-san said you could eventually achieve that, but so soon…?"

"Hello! Criminal prodigy here!" Joker said in English. "My voice actor has freaky Jedi powers! I can Diabolus Ex Machina anything I want!"

"Maybe the girl just got out of range," Quartum sounded nearly disappointed. "It'll have to be another time…"

"Baka," Ruri whispered.

"Don't get jealous, Ruri-Ruri," Joker patted her head. "Quarty really only has eyes for you. His interest in that Wacky Kampfer Chick is merely homicidal!" Then he noticed a large, obese tourist eating an ice-cream staring at them. "What do you want, Tubbo?"

The man said, "Please don't kill me?"

"Okay, I won't, but just because you asked nicely," Joker smirked. "Enjoying the show so far, Skinny?"

"Yes, but I really think I've gotta go now…"

"Oh, not when the good stuff's about to start!" And he gestured to the four combatants, who were meeting at the crest of the bridge. "Look, it's intense two-on-two action! The kind of thing you always wanted to see, but Mom wouldn't let you! Close your eyes, Ruri-Ruri, this could get ugly. And sexy…"

Ruri already had her back turned and was playing Solitarie on her laptop. "I'm unavailable until this ends, you decide on letting me go, or you resolve to finally buy me a Waynetech model. This crappy Lexcom is inadequate, I tell you…"

….

Hackers

Chisame sat on the bench along the path of the exit route Ala Alba had chosen, sucking a lollipop. This, combined with how she was still lolified, would have made her prime pedobait if she hadn't had her robot maids next to her. As it was, three groups of horny idiots had already hit on Chitose, which had required 'discouraging' them.

Chisame had mostly ignored it, her mind partly immersed in the aquatic virtual-scape that represented Cinema Village. She was in full Calculator mode now, trusting her robots to guard her and the others to keep the mess far away as she made the place's security system her bitch.

"You're in my world now…" she muttered, sifting through the images. AngelGARd– really, it's been months now, why hadn't Sakurazaki changed that weird name yet?– and Twilight Red were facing Tsukuyomi and a blonde girl who looked kinda like Black Reaper. In another camera, a chibified local Setsuna, Maga Laba, and chibi-golems were leading a slightly confused Konoka away from the scene, while in another camera another Konoka waved quite obviously in the crowd. She looked for Kuro and couldn't find her. That wasn't really a surprise. Loud, creepy, perverted and occasionally violent the girl might be, she was quite thorough. The daughter fo the Magus Killer had family pride on the line, after all.

She switched to another camera, and caught a flash of purple. She looked at it intently in reflex, even though the possibility it might by Tomoyo– or worse, that nut Star Sapphire; one was almost as bad as the other– were abysmal. When the full details sank in, she stared, then called up her files to compare and prayed it was off, and this was some tasteless cosplayer.

It wasn't. She swore in Japanese, English, Kaznian, Amazonian Greek and Latin– she'd picked up a lot of swear words hanging around in a gladiator arena in Mundus Magicus– and ignored the tourist family that jumped in shock at her vehemence and scurried away, the parents glaring disapprovingly. She stared at the display, at the Rogue walking free for all to see, and no one realizing the monster amongst them. As he stepped out of the field of view of the camera, she caught a glimpse of the boy in the costume next to him, and she froze.

Those eyes…

Even wearing that costume, disguised in clown makeup, she knew those dead, empty eyes…

She reached for her Pactio Card and screamed. NEGI! We've got a BIG problem here! I just saw the Joker on the security system, and–

Negi interrupted her, alarmed. Are you sure? he 'd never fought the Rogue himself, but he'd heard enough of Setsuna's own encounter with him to be concerned. And not a Justice League in sight…

I FRICKIN' ORGANIZE OUR FILES, OF COURSE I'M SURE! she exploded. But it gets worse! Somehow, he's gotta frickin' AVERRUNCUS with him! I… I think it's the one who stabbed Chachamaru… The hair is all wrong to be the lightning one, and it definitely isn't Sextum.

Hello? Negi?

Received. I'll… deal with it.

Chisame blinked. Had that been… anger in Negi's mind-voice?

She darted a worried glance into the theme park. "Keep that temper and Dark Magic of yours in check, you idiot…" she prayed.

She took a deep breath and went back to work. It almost let her take her mind off things…

….

Whisper of the Heart

"Maybe we should… stop seeing each other," Siesta had started, not daring to look at his face anymore.

"B-But why?-!" Saito had, quite naturally, gasped with an aghast, hurt voice. "Wh-What have I done?-!"

"No, it's not you!" she rushed to say. "It's about what I did. I can't keep hiding this from you, Saito-kun. I can't continue looking at my face in the mirror, morning after morning, knowing you're still ignorant of this. But I was, I was so afraid, so scared, and I know you'll hate me after this, and I'll never blame you for it, but… B-But…!"

And then she had broken into tears, blurting everything out, vomiting the hard truths. She finally bared her soul to him, and left nothing inside. The young man listened with a mute mix of horror and disbelief, each sentence rattling him more than the one before.

Then she fell to her knees with her back to him, crying like a lost child. She spoke of how useless and no-good she was, an incompetent servant and an undeserving slut. She said he deserved much better, and that he should just leave her to rot in her own misery. She was sure he'd either believe her insane or just angrily spit on her and then leave, but most likely both things at once.

And then he was crouching down next to her, and gently hugged her, telling her everything would be okay. And she knew he was thinking she had gone crazy, but he still liked her, and that was everything that mattered for now. She still apologized tearfully enough times to make Kaga Ai feel ill, and yet he only kept telling her that it was okay, that nothing of it was her fault, that he understood.

No man had ever treated her that way.

He only held her until her sobs stopped, and then, when she held him back against herself, supporting her shaking body against his, he remained quiet and thoughtful, but never distant. She buried her face on his blue and white sweater and let it stay there as long as she could.

"Thank you, Saito-kun," was all she could finally say.

So, when she arrived back home, she had red eyes, but also a small, relieved smile on her face. When Fabiola-chan and Taeko-chan asked her, still worried, "How did your date go?", she could only sigh in relief and say, "Great."

The cynical, tiny voice in the back of her mind that sounded suspiciously like Lady Sevensheep kept telling her Saito-kun only stuck with her because he was a little loser who couldn't get himself any other girlfriend, but Siesta cheerfully kicked that voice down a chasm and dropped five ten-ton boulders on it from above. Sorry, Lady Sevensheep.

A quieter, subtler voice that sounded like Beatrix wondered if maybe Saito would be all right with what she had done with the other maids if she brought him along next time…

"That's excellent to hear. We're so glad for you. Oh, and by the way, Ojou-sama's mother called while you were out," Fabiola said. "She'll be here early tomorrow."

Now that surprised Siesta. Ayaka's mother showed up even less frequently than her father, and never when Ayaka herself wasn't there. Still, she was too busy riding the happy wave to actually care too much either way.

Sure enough, as well timed as ever, Mrs. Yukihiro showed up right on time. As expected, the first thing she did was ask for Ayaka. Then she asked about Roberta. Rock-san was honest and told her Roberta was stalking Ojou-sama in Kyoto. Mrs. Yukihiro was pleased and nodded while sipping her tea. After all, protecting Ojou-sama was the real reason why they had hired the infamous Bloodhound of Florencia. It certainly hadn't been for her skills washing silverware.

Then, much to Siesta's shock, she requested to talk with her in private.

Crap. This was going to be about the orgies, wasn't it? She was SO fired…!

….

….

Interlude: Idle Hands

Evangeline frowned, looking up from her book as Chachamaru came up from the cabin's basement carrying a long metal box about the length of a car. "Chachamaru… what are you doing?" she asked.

Chachamaru gave her an innocent look. "Oh, I thought I would just check on this weapon, see if it was fully operational and in condition, Mistress McDowell. The other Chachamaru's notes said she hadn't checked this in a while. Nothing to get excited about."

Evangeline gave her a flat look and looked over the grenades, shells, and artillery rounds in the room. "And I suppose you want me to believe that for the rest of this crap too… is that a divine sealing bullet?"

Chachamaru (badly) affected a look of surprise. "Why, I believe it is. What is that shell, convenient for sealing high level divine/demonic entities, doing here?"

Evangeline rolled her eyes and went back to reading her book. "Don't make a mess." Nothing to do with her, nothing to do with her…

Chachamaru smiled and went back to 'cleaning'…

….

Hop

"Suzushiro-sempai, take Sora-san to a safer place and leave this to me!" Nodoka made her best take-charge-under-pressure voice, which still mostly came out as an overgrown mouse's squeal.

"… You? For real?-!" Haruka said, as the branches stopped hitting her, since the Card was focusing its still silent and tense attention on Nodoka now. "Miyazaki-san, this is no time for jokes! Just give someone a call and ask them to come for us while I handle this!"

Nodoka sighed and stomped a foot down, challenging the card to come for her. "H-Here, girl! Come! Come! You want me, don't you?"

With even brighter eyes, the creature leaped at her. Nodoka yelped briefly and ran into the woods to lead the card away from the older girls, doing her best to not stumble into anything. She hoped Suzushiro-sempai would do the sensible thing and stay back attending to Sora while calling for her. So naturally, Haruka ran after them instead. "Hey!" the Vice President called out. "Miyazaki-san, are you crazy?-! You'll get yourself killed!"

Well, Nodoka thought as she ran, with cartoon tears pooling in her eyes, maybe she was right after all. She hadn't really thought this out all that well, had she?

"You'll both get yourselves killed!" a desperate Sora in turn ran after Haruka. "Listen to the adult for once! Ouch! I hurt a foot! It stings!"

Nodoka came to an abrupt halt as she reached a clearing blocked by a wide stone wall, a small river running close by. The only way was back from where she had come, and the Card was hopping that way after her, along the way amassing every branch and stick on the way into a huge compressed ball as tall as a man, which jumped right behind it, as if obeying a mental command of some sort.

"It's the Jump card!" Kero informed from the backpack. "All its powers are based on jumping, so you'll need to think and act quick! I'll distract the objects it's manipulating while you seal it!"

"What?" Nodoka gulped, seeing him flying out to go meet the giant ball. "Kero-san, no! They'll see you!"

"I'll be okay! It's not very bright!" the plush animal promised, while flying around the ball fast enough to be seen as little but a yellow blur. "Over here, you big fat bully! God, I'm talking to a ball of branches… Come after me, will you?-!" And he flew over the river, leading it away from Nodoka.

As the ball jumped over the river and in pursuit of Kerberos, Haruka arrived to the scene seething angrily. "Okay, I want a darn good explanation about this! What's all this about? It's the mutant menace, isn't it?"

Sora stopped behind her, almost stumbling onto her, fidgeting with her cellphone. "I have no signal! This is like a horror movie! Well, at least there's a good chance I'll be the final girl…"

Nodoka breathed in and out, in and out. Okay, no point of keeping the masquerade up if it resulted in people getting hurt. She'd have to seal the Card as soon as possible, since Kero-san shouldn't be able to hold that… thing for long.

Maybe reasoning with it would work, much like it had with The Windy.

"Jump Card-san!" Nodoka called out. "I know you're lost, away from your sisters, trapped in a cold, wide world with no one to look after you! Return to the book, and I promise I'll treat you well, always doing my best to keep you safe! Just ask Windy-san! She— KYAAAAA!" Nodoka scrambled out of the way when The Jump leapt straight for her. She crawled desperately on all fours for a moment before regaining footing and dashing from the Card chasing her, heading back towards Sora and Haruka. "Th-This isn't working!"

But then she remembered she had to be brave. She couldn't falter like that, much less in front of Suzushiro-sempai, a rival for Negi-sensei's love!

To hell with consequences, dammit! her inner Haruna commanded her. For once, Nodoka obeyed her.

The world shuddered.

With a twist of the wrist more skilled than she'd have imagined herself, Nodoka swung the card she had kept under her sleeve since Kero had told her there was another Clow Card nearby…

She looked at the card. Oops, it was the funny looking one she'd gotten last night when she kissed Negi-sensei's copy. With another, less refined and badass motion, she pulled the right card out, just in time. She hit it with the staff just as she screeched to a halt before Sora and Haruka. "WINDY!"

The Card materialized itself, deploying its ethereal self to a shocked and paralyzed Sora and Haruka's eyes. "Windy, p-p-push the Jump back!" Nodoka stuttered, pointing a quaking finger at the strange pink critter. And the Windy produced a large blast of wind that sent the Jump flying back against the brick wall. With no ground to support its feet while the wind pushed it up, it flailed helplessly before hitting the ground. Once there, its cheeks swelled up, and it made two huge chunks of the ground rip themselves out, sending dirt flying everywhere as they bounced over to the girls, making the rest of the ground quake.

"We're dead!" Sora shrieked. "Chisame,Iloveyou,pleaseforgiveallmymistakes!"

"Yukino!" Haruka said what she feared could be her last word.

Then something fell down from the foliage, crashing feet first through one of the masses of ground, shattering it effortlessly. The other chunk stopped suddenly, as its manipulator's will was distracted by the new arrival.

"Who the..?-!" Haruka blinked.

"It's… It's only a boy!" Sora gulped.

Indeed, standing over the pile of pulverized debris, a black haired child in black, with a wool cap on his head, smirked cockily, making a sign of streetwise salutation to Nodoka. "Yo, Card Captor Girl! Can't stop getting into messes, can you?-!"

"I-Inukami Kojiro-kun!" Nodoka recognized him immediately, too impressed to notice her heart was beating even faster now.

"Whaddya mean with Ko—" Kotaro interrupted himself, then remembered he had given her an ingenious! false name. "I mean, yeah, that's me! Where's Forehead Nee-chan?"

"She stayed back in— Look out!" Nodoka warned as the second piece jumped for him. With an annoyed grunt, he swung a fist almost lazily and shattered this one to pieces as well.

"Wow! H-He's so impressive!" Sora gulped.

"Mutant, obviously," Haruka commented. "I think he's that short Wolverine guy from the news, although I thought he was older."

"Maybe he's Wolverine Jr.?" Sora wondered.

"Good idea," Haruka nodded. "I hadn't thought of it…"

"Like hell I am!" Kotaro barked, while Nodoka made a beeline for the Card itself, using the Windy's swirls of air to make a shield of sorts around herself. The Jumpy tried to leap away once more, but Nodoka took a leap and, using the winds to propel herself forward, managed to reach with her arms long enough for her fingers to grasp on The Jump's form.

"I-I got you!"

Then, with an angry expression on its small face, the Jump set its feet, crouched, and leaped way higher than before, taking Nodoka up with itself.

Way, way, way higher than before.

"AHHHH!" Nodoka yelled. "KERO-SAN, INUKAMI-KUN!"

"STUPID GIRL!" Kotaro gasped, jumping up after them, hoping it would be enough. In all his years of adventuring, he'd never seen anything or anyone jump that high, not even his old man.

"Wha-Wha-What is—?-!" Haruka stared, open-mouthed. Sora couldn't even form the words. Much less when, moments after, a flying plush lion came in escaping a titanic ball of tangled branches, which only grew bigger as it ran, absorbing more fallen branches into it.

"This barrier just sent me back here—!" the yellow lion cried, before noticing it had arrived before the two girls he had been trying to avoid. "Errr, I mean, these are special effects."

Haruka pointed a finger at him. "A toy of Satan!"

"Oh, for the love of—!" Kero growled.

Meanwhile, way, way, way up, Nodoka's fingers lost their grasp on the Jump's tiny form, and she slipped, falling several feet to what most likely would have been a sure death. "W-WINDY!" she thought fast. "Cushion my fall!"

It created a current of air under her big enough to slow her fall down, but she still wasn't powerful enough to create something that would completely hold her in the air, or precise enough to make anything that could lower her gently. She'd still break an arm or leg when she fell.

And then she was falling into a pair of arms. She brushed the bangs off her eyes and stared, amazed, at her rescuer's face. "I-I-Inukami-kun!"

Ba-bump, Ba-bump!

"Brace yourself!" the boy growled, maneuvering enough to land on a treetop. It was a rough, but he clutched Nodoka against herself to shield her from the worst of the 'landing'.

"Inukami-kun!" she repeated. "A-Are you okay?-!"

He grinned and winked at her. Ba-bump! "This is nothing to me! You?"

She nodded. "I… I'm fine, thank you… But Sora-san and Suzushiro-san! We have to help them!"

Down at ground level, Haruka was pulling a startled Sora away with herself, running from the ball now pursuing them. "Faster, faster! What kind of chaperone are you?-! Move those feet!"

"I'm sorry! I'm doing what I can!" Sora cried, trying her best to keep up and failing. But just as suddenly, Haruka was grabbed by an arm and tugged behind a large rock, dragging a yelping Sora along.

Haruka found herself now staring at two cold green eyes on a beautiful and stern face, framed by long black hair. Under the face, a slender, fit female body in black leather and a jacket. A biker…

"Kuga Natsuki!" Haruka seethed in disgust. "Fujino's delinquent pet! This isn't supposed to be your field trip!"

"Do you have the card you got last night?" Natsuki asked her curtly.

"Ah, you know each other?" Sora asked in a clueless fashion.

"What?" Haruka blurted.

"The card you got when you kissed the boy!" Natsuki pressed on, hearing the ball approaching quickly. "You still got it, right?"

Chao kept on listening behind a nearby tree, ready to jump in any moment the ball came too close…

Haruka nodded and held the card up. It had been in a pocket on her chest. "Why—?"

Natsuki forced her arm up. "Hold it like that and say ADEAT!"

"What, how?" Haruka blinked. "Adeat? What the hell does Ad—?-!"

Then she felt herself being bathed by the most intense light she'd ever seen.

….

Not far away, Psycho Purple and Valkyrie Black, reading from one of the Diarium Ejus's mini diaries, twitched, Yue's hands were twitching on the broom she'd almost launched to catch the falling girl.

"'Ba-dump, ba-dump'?" she demanded quietly. Nodoka twitched some more, feeling a blush coming on, as well as a mild queasiness. "That is wrong on SO many levels…!-!-!-!-!"

"So wrong… so bad… he's cheating on poor Natsumi-chan!" Nodoka nearly wailed. Quietly, of course. They were hiding.

"Well, technically, they hadn't met yet, but still…!" Yue shuddered.

Nodoka shook herself. "F-focus. Things are about to happen…"

….

It's A Wonderful Life

Siesta dutifully closed the library's doors after herself as Yukihiro-sama took a seat next to the old chimney. The blond woman gestured for her to sit with her in an identical chair across the chimney. After a brief moment of hesitation, Siesta thanked her with a nod and obeyed, keeping her hands on her white apron.

"Happy birthday, Siesta," Yukihiro-sama said. "I must admit I had no idea what to give you, but I still placed an amount of money I hope you find satisfactory in your bank account."

"Thank you so very much!" the maid answered quickly, blushing bright. "I'm not worthy your generous attentions!"

The normally austere Mrs. Yukihiro smiled. "My husband sends his regards as well."

Siesta smiled back, in an awkward way. "Ah! I should've known. Tha-Thank you both, then. I'm so fortunate to have you, and I owe you so much…"

"No. If anything, there's a lot we owe you," the millionaire sighed briefly. "We owe you your own, real life, for starters. Tell me, Siesta, isn't it hard for you, to keep living a lie, to the point you can't even celebrate your real birthday with those you can call your friends?"

"Oh, it's no big deal for me, Madame. It doesn't matter if I'm congratulated now or two months from now, as long as I know my friends keep me in their hearts. I understand the need the Project has to keep most of our actual data hidden…" Siesta mused, her glare fluttering down to her own feet.

The older woman hummed, taking a hand to her own mouth in a pondering fashion. "Siesta," she finally said. "What do you know about your father?"

The young maid made a slightly troubled face. "Mother never wanted to tell me about him, and she made my cousin and uncle swear secrecy about it, too. That used to make me furious, but since he never came back for me, I guess I can't blame her. She told me he was alive, but that we could never meet, and that I shouldn't ask about him. I asked her if he was a bad person, and she only answered it was far more complex than that…"

"Well, he wasn't a bad person," Mrs. Yukihiro reassured her rather quickly. Siesta made an uncomfortable face, but kept herself from asking. "Siesta, I know what you may be thinking. But no, you aren't my husband's daughter."

Her large dark eyes bulged out. "I-I-I NEVER THOUGHT THAT, YUKIHIRO-SAMA!"

"— and when I say you might believe that, I don't say it because I think you might wish for a claim at our fortune." Siesta thought that sounded a little too much like a Suspiciously Specific Denial for her liking, but again, she didn't object. "Like your mother said, the truth is far more complex. Back when she was a maid at Ariadne and I was studying to become a Valkyrie, we fell in love with the same young man, an adventurer who sometimes ran… special errands for the Principal. However, that man was already in love with someone else, although they didn't exactly get along all the time."

Siesta nodded stiffly, feeling a dry knot in her throat for some reason.

"At some point, he and his beloved had a serious falling out, because they both were stubborn and headstrong. That happened around the time she assumed a position of extremely high responsibility, and she made a few grave decisions… he didn't necessarily agree with," Rosalie-sama narrated. "I must say, even under those conditions, I never managed to seduce him. But somehow, your mother reminded him of his very first love, a black-haired girl with bright, mischievous eyes, who apparently teased him a lot when he was but a child,." The blonde had to laugh a little. "What can I say? Young people often make decisions based on whims of the heart, and they tried to achieve happiness together. They found out quickly it wasn't meant to be, but by then, you had already been conceived."

Siesta's face was pale, and her hands clutched at her apron.

"Siesta…" Her mistress placed her hands on her shoulders. "I regret hiding this from you for so long. It was what both your parents considered the best for you, but things have happened, forcing me to reconsider a lot of things in my life. And how I affect others, through action or inaction. I pray your mother, whenever she is, may forgive me, but now I think she was wrong in enforcing this for so long."

Siesta nodded, with huge, unblinking eyes and a haunted expression.

"You've got… two younger siblings," the billionaire hesitated, "And a father who was born in a humble abode, but achieved true nobility, not the sham we live, through his own means and efforts. In a way, your lineage is just as noble as my daughter's."

"My father… My f-father is…!"

She nodded. "Nagi Springfield himself. The Thousand Master."

….

Chaos Theory

Then Haruka felt her clothes all exploding off her in a way that made her want to scream about indecency Kotegawa Yui-style, but as soon as it happened, new clothes were knitting themselves all around her, tightening on her body, and she felt something long and hard in her right hand as the light engulfing her died down.

Looking down, she saw, much to her relief, she was only gripping the handle of a spiked ball and chain weapon, an oversized Morningstar, that looked far too heavy for her, and yet felt light and natural in her grasp. A second later, she noticed she also was wearing the same skintight green and white battle suit of sorts (that accentuated her upper torso) her image in the card had. "What… What is the meaning of this?-!"

Watching from a few steps away, Sora made a short sound of choking on her own tongue. "Oh, dear God!"

"This is the power of your Pactio with Negi-sensei," Natsuki said sternly. "You're his Ministra Magi, and as such, you must protect him and his allies."

Haruka gave her a haunted stare. "WHAT?-! I don't understa—"

"Look out!" Natsuki jumped at her and Sora, pushing them out of the rolling ball's way as it crashed against a tree in an attempt to roll over them. It had popped into sight surprisingly fast for something so big. With the skill of a seasoned shooter, Natsuki drew her trick guns out and opened fire on the thing, only managing to stall it and send a few random branches flying way. "Suzushiro! You must—!"

But even before she had finished the sentence, the blonde was already running past her, ball and chain in hand, with a loud battle yell. "AAAAAYAAAAAAHHHH!" And she leaped straight into the jumping ball, weapon first, her Artifact drilling a path into it for a couple of seconds before completely pulverizing it, making it explode in a thousand different directions, branches flying everywhere, forcing Natsuki and Sora to shield their eyes with their arms.

Haruka stood, exhaling harshly, over the scattered branches, looking quite imposing, like an Amazon. Nodoka made a brief astonished sound as Kotaro leaped down with her in his arms, setting her down carefully. "S-Suh-Suzushiro-sempai! That was so amazing!"

Haruka's head snapped back in Natsuki's direction. "Hey, you! Are you Doraemon?"

Natsuki's head popped a vein. "Of course not! I didn't give you any powers! You got them by yourself when you kissed Negi-sensei!"

Nodoka was startled. "What?-! Then… Then those kisses… and the cards…?-!" She looked at her own Pactio card. It wasn't as cool looking as Haruka's, so if Haruka's meant she gained that fantastic suit and weapon, would hers turn her into a small seal instead? "Ahhh, this is what I get out of…" Then her newly acquired Clow sensitivity tugged at the back of her mind, and she tensed up, readying the staff. "The Clow Card's coming back!"

"Excuse me, can anyone explain this to me…?" Sora begged.

Sure enough, the pink creature hopped into sight now, heading directly towards the group as it made every pebble, rock and branch along its way jump with it, surrounding it as if they were its own personal posse.

"It isn't playing games anymore," Nodoka said. "It's really angry now, and I need a good contact on it, but I can't with all those things in the way…!"

Natsuki took aim again and began shooting the larger obstacles out of the way, hitting each one with notable precision. "I'll take charge of that! You, boy, and you, Suzushiro, help her get there! She's the only one who can finish this!" Or at least, that's what Chao was telling her now through the miniature microphone hidden in her right earring in low, hushed but urgent tones she hoped no one else would get with all the commotion.

"What the hell… okay!" Kotaro said, grabbing a blinking Nodoka under one arm and advancing with her quickly, like a football player running for the touchdown. "You coming too, Blondie?"

More or less getting the idea, Haruka grunted, stomping ahead and batting all the leaping stones sent her way with her spiked iron ball. "Be more respectful, brat! We've never met before!"

Growing even angrier, the Jump kept on pressing the attack, and Nodoka whimpered when one of the rocks grazed her forehead, giving her a small cut. She saw the boy protecting her was taking the brunt of the attack, however, being too busy holding her with one hand to defend himself with both arms. But they were close now…

"K-Kojiro-kun!" the librarian shouted. "It's okay! I can take it from here! WINDY!" she called out. "Lift me!"

"What?" Kotaro blinked. "No, wait, what are you—!"

The Windy created a cannon of compressed air around Nodoka, both sending her all but flying forward out of Kotaro's grasp and getting all the obstacles out of her way. Nodoka forced her arms to stop shaking as she swung the staff at the tiny creature that tried to leap away at the last moment, hoping she could hit it before—

It worked.

"C-CLOW CARD!" Nodoka yelled as the tip of her staff impacted on one of Jump's ears, just barely. "R-Return to y-your true form!"

Sora gasped and gasped as the animal was forcefully pulled by an invisible force, making it change into a card in mid-air, until it flew straight into Nodoka's waiting right hand. "I can't believe this…!"

And just like that, every object the card had been controlling fell heavily to the ground, completely inert.

"I…" Nodoka breathed at last once she realized she had stopped and needed air. "I did it! Q-Quick, a pen, please! A pen! Oh, oh wait, I have a pen!" She reached into her backpack, drew out a black pen, and nervously wrote her name on The Jump. "I did it! I really did it! I caught my second Clow Card, Kero-san!"

Kero flew down to eye-level with her. "Um, well, yeah, that's just great, Nodoka, but…"

He pointed a paw at the flabbergasted Haruka and Sora and the unfazed Natsuki and Kotaro. Nodoka, abruptly pulled from her adrenaline trip, grew several shades of red, white and purple. "Oh, um, hey, I mean, I can explain…"

Haruka crossed her arms. "It's not so much you can, as you will!"

Then a few bushes were rattled nosily, and out of them stepped Negi-sensei, Chamo, Chisame, Asuna and Matoi. "What was that?-!" Negi was saying. "W-We heard screams down the road, and then—! Ah? Wh-What are you…?"

Chisame gave Matoi a glare. "So we lost them, huh…?"

Matoi shrunk down miserably. "Sorry…" she said in a nearly microscopic voice.

"Why is that plush doll flying?" Asuna noticed, giving it a somewhat disturbed look.

"AH! MIYAZAKI-SAN!" Negi said as Nodoka fainted in front of her eyes, her eyes turned into spirals. He ran for her, but before he could reach her, the black haired boy stepped on his way, arms folded. "Eh? What are you doing? Miyazaki-san needs—!"

The other boy huffed. "Well, since I'm already here, might as well give myself a good time!" And he smirked cockily, his slightly sharp teeth glinting under the sunlight. "Hey there, Negi Springfield! I'm Inugami Kotaro, mercenary, bounty hunter! And also the man who will kick your ass today!"

….

"…and also the man who will kick your ass today!"

Yeah! How's that for badass!

Psycho Purple and Valkyire Black exchanged exasperated looks and sighed as they finished reading Kotaro's thoughts. "Ah, Kotaro-san…" Yue mused. "Why did someone as nice as you get roped in with these people…"

Nodoka shut the book, and stuck the reader portion of her Reading Ear into the little diary. Making sure the other piece was secured o her ear, she reached at her waist and pulled out her combat knife, a cute little K-Bar number made of dulled metal to keep it from catching the light at night and giving away your position. "It looks like we'll have to move in soon…" she said quietly. "Be ready, Yuetchi…"

Yue nodded, quietly changing into her blackened armor. "I'm ready. Got a fix on the local Chao?"

Nodoka nodded.

Yue drew out her wand. "Let's get ready to rumble…"

….

The Parent Trap

"My father...!" Siesta gasped, her hands shaking randomly. "All this time, I had a picture of my own father with me, and I never knew...! And that boy is my b-brother...!"

Rosalie-sama nodded once. "Yes. He's the son Nagi finally could sire with his true love, after many misfortunes. Shortly before, however, he also had a daughter with the heiress of the prestigious Einzbern family from Germany. From what we've learned on her, she's become an alchemist, even at her tender age, much like her mother was..."

"Ah. Both of them are prodigies, but I'm only a servant, born from a servant, " Siesta mused sadly.

"Don't ever say that again. True, we did an injustice on you, damning you to live an existence of servitude, and I apologize again over it. But that doesn't mean you're lesser than your siblings just because of your maternal lineage, " the aristocrat said.

"But you still did that to me for years, without even hinting anything!" the young woman pointed out, losing herself in her indignation. "You denied me years and years of life with a brother and sister! How can you tell me all of that only now?-!"

"The Thousand Master's lineage is a dangerous brand, child, " the millionaire told her. "More than two decades ago, your father invoked the wrath of the demon world upon himself, when he and others slew a demon prince. And then, he gained powerful enemies within the Ostian Senate. All of that, plus dozens of randomly scattered renegade mages, warlords and psychopaths across both worlds. Your brother and his... your cousin almost lost their lives in a demonic vendetta, and then they only survived under Merdiana Academy's protection. Your sister has escaped unharmed only because everyone fears the Einzbern clan. You, on the other hand, had only us, and even we aren't powerful enough to stand against your father's enemies. Your uncle and cousin would have been collateral damage in their revenge, as well."

Siesta sniffed. "I don't know! This is way too sudden...!"

"Now you're old enough, I trust you to rejoin your siblings. Perhaps together, you'll be able to stand in public for what you are without any fear, " Yukihiro-sama told her. "I won't ask for your forgiveness, but please try to hold your tongue on the subject for the time being, until we can find a way to tell your brother. Otherwise, you could be endangering us as well, and while I fear little for myself... Ayaka..."

Siesta nodded as she ran a tissue across the damp corners of her eyes. "O-Okay. For her. I only have a question for now..."

"Ask me anything."

And then those eyes were fixed on hers, in a focused, driven, and stern way she never had seen from Siesta before.

"Are you really sure... I only have two siblings...?"

The color left Rosalie's face for a moment, before she recomposed herself.

"I have told you I never managed to seduce your father, didn't I?"

"You did, " Siesta nodded. "Just like for years, you told me there was nothing special about me."

"I have come clean with you. If I had anything else to add, I'd have said it along everything else."

"I'm just saying, Ojou-sama doesn't look like she has a Japanese father. She hasn't inherited any traits of—"

"Mundus Magicus' genetic traits are dominant, " the older woman said, unfazed. "It's no surprise Ayaka would look much more similar to me than her father. Much like you look more like your mother than your father."

After some long moments of sulking silence, Siesta nodded. "Very well. Something else you have to tell me for the moment?"

"I'm afraid not," she lowered her head.

"Then please excuse me," and she bowed in a stiff, mechanical fashion. "Ring me for me if you need anything. Madame."

And she left the library without looking back.

Yukihiro Rosalie remained quiet and silent, looking at the chimney without flames.

"No wonder she can't believe me anymore, I guess," she mused.

….

Intelude-The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Panty And Stocking

The Mary Magdalene Church of Mahora:

"Where were you when the Academy was being attacked by motherf***ing giant killer fireflies?-!" Father Garterbelt paced up and down the aisle furiously. "You were brought in to help in situations like this! What the f**k were you two doing?-! And what the ****ing **** were you thinking?-! Don't tell me you didn't notice how EVERYTHING WAS BURNING LIKE HEEEEEEEEELL!"

"We weren't paid enough to guest star in that chapter, which already was too long anyway," Panty explained, lazily sitting with her legs crossed and reading a Playnun magazine featuring Karen Ortensia on the cover.

"I only bothered to make sure the Chao Bao Zi was safe," Stocking added, hugging her plush cat tightly. "That's the only place in this dump where they cook decent food, so everything else could burn for what I cared."

"Yeah, and I was with a man," Panty nodded absently, unfolding a centerfold. "Wow. That's one interesting way to use a candle!"

"Big shock," Stocking huffed. "Besides, Garter, Auntie Rind said she wanted us to let her protégé shine!"

"Which protege?" the large black man shot her a puzzled glance.

"Oh, just a girl Auntie likes to watch over," Panty hummed, looking up and down the centerfold in a mesmerized way. "Not that way though. I think she made her big fighting debut last night, and she was the one who ended up fixing the problem. I don't really give a damn as long as there's less work for us to do."

Garterbelt facepalmed. "Why did they have to assign you two here, of all people?"

"Well, you're just lucky you didn't get Flonne," Panty replied, her left hand snaking downward. "That little idiot can drive anyone mad. Or that bimbo slut Nanael…"

"Pot, meet my sister Kettle…" Stocking mused.

"Shut up!" Panty snapped. "Don't think I've forgotten that **** you pulled on me back in Daiten City! To betray me, and slice me up in 666 pieces to make amends with your demon dad!"

"Hey, I already said I was sorry!" Stocking protested. "Dad's family, too!"

Garterbelt blinked. "Your father is a demon?-!"

"Well, devils and gods come from the same original source the Lord of Nightmares created, so it's not unheard of them, or angels and demons for that matter, to breed together," Panty explained. "Then again, as this case proves," she poked a thumb on her half sister's direction, "It never ends well."

"Shaddap, pure blood bigot!" Stocking yelled. "Even the big Kahuna Himself had a daughter with the Queen of the Demons, and you don't hear anyone talking crap about it!"

"I think I need a beer," Garterbelt rubbed his forehead. "To think I've brought a half-demon into these hallowed grounds…"

"Look, you just don't worry and let me handle the real big messes. Last night's case was only an anecdote! Start worrying when Mars starts plummeting towards Earth, or when Parademons begin raining from the sky, or when a giant Alladia golem starts rampaging naked through the campus, or when the Joker gains godlike powers. That's the kind of actual emergencies we'll cover," Panty explained.

"… What's an Alladia?" Garterbelt had to ask.

Stocking sighed and unwrapped her fifth honey filled croissant of the afternoon. "We've already said too much, that's classified information, sorry…!"

….

Flags of Our Fathers

Hino Rei's Apartment, Tokyo.

She prayed before the flames in the small altar she had built in her apartment, eyes closed, hands together. She had been that way for almost a full hour now, only making the whispered sounds of her continued, almost fully nonstop prayer, which would have seemed obsessive to almost anyone by now.

But the Servant sitting a few steps behind her didn't seem to mind at all, sitting in an absolute, respectful silence. And she remained that way until her mistress stood up and said a single word.

"Shield?"

"Miss Hino?"

"That man you're aiming for… Stop it," Hino Rei requested, soft but sternly. "I can't see exactly who he is, or why he's so important to you… But I saw he'll hurt you again if you get close."

The blonde lowered her gaze. "Yes, Master."

Now it was, again, the tone of someone who was unused to submitting to others, a person born to lead, not to follow. Taking a certain measure of pity on her, Rei knelt down before her. "I'm sorry. I know you want to keep most of your life a secret, but I still see things about those closest to me when I try to read the future. It's not something I can control very well yet…"

"No, it is I who should apologize. It's selfish of me to hide secrets from my own Master, and heading out for my own personal affairs." The words were sincere, and yet the awkward tone of someone obeying against her will persisted.

Rei placed her hands on the taller female's shoulders. "I only want to know something. Since that man you knew is still alive, your death was relatively recent, wasn't it?"

"According to your calendar, I died little more than nine years ago."

"Oh."

Far from being an eloquent answer, making Rei kick herself mentally.

"I have a son…" the Shield whispered.

Rei jerked upright, taken aback by the unexpected announcement. "A… A son? A still living one, you mean…?" Again, she reprimanded herself mentally for asking something so tactless. Why had her father raised her as such a recluse? Even now, she was no good at all at dealing with others…

"That man talked about him as if he still was alive. And I figure he still must be, since I left him under the care of…"

She stopped in mid-sentence, remembering little Lina the Pink running down the mountain passage with the baby in her arms.

"… people I trusted," Shield forced herself to continue. "I left orders for him to be delivered to his father's family."

"Is that…" Rei really tried to sound comforting and not meddling now, "… is the man you've been meeting your child's father?"

For the first time ever since she had been summoned, the Shield looked suddenly flabbergasted and even disgusted. "W-What? NO! Of course not! Perish the thought!"

Somewhere, a sneeze was set up for an obvious Decadent Habits reference.

Rei made calming gestures with her hands. "Okay, okay, sorry! Forget I even asked. Like I said, if you really don't want, you don't have to tell me…"

"He's my father," the Servant replied, forcing herself to calm down.

The sneeze waited tensely to be set off.

Now that was another bombshell for Rei, but she took this one a lot better, all things considered. "Ah! Well, um, I can see why you'd be so interested in meeting him then. Sorry, I didn't want to come off as callous. If he's your father, you should—!"

Shield shook her head. "No, you were right despite your youth and inexperience, Master. I won't continue looking after that man. Otherwise, he'll just drag me into ruin again."

"If you ever want to talk about it—"

"Right now, I don't," Shield commented with all the precision and emotion of an ice scalpel.

And Rei had to nod. "I understand."

What she was beginning to NOT understand, though, was who was exactly the Master in this situation…

Somewhere, no one sneezed, despite the obvious setup. Please mark the calendar date of this momentous event. The sneeze went home, dejected and calling itself a loser.

….

Paranormal Activity

Mahora, Classroom 3-F:

"Boy, it must've been hard for you two, being without anyone to talk to all those years," Momioka Risa told Sayo and Oshizu, who floated at the other side of the kotatsu table across from her and Mio. "It'd have driven me crazy! You never met another ghost, at least, to do… you know…?"

Both ghost girls stared at her, completely clueless.

Risa gave Mio a side gaze. "What are they saying?"

"They aren't saying anything. They have no idea what do you mean," her best friend told her.

"You know, what people do to each other when they need close companionship…" Risa went on, waving a hand.

"Ah, you mean long, deep conversations?" Sayo asked. "Well, I've never been a great conversationalist anyway…"

"What are they saying now?" Risa asked Mio again.

"They think you're talking about conversations," the meganekko answered.

"I don't mean that!" Risa snapped.

"Mah-jongg? I loved mah-jongg when I was alive! Wanna play some?" Oshizu put her hands together and beamed her best smile.

"That isn't it either!" Mio sighed. "Risa-chan, not that I'm complaining, but we need a way for you to communicate with them personally! I can't be translating everything they say!"

"It isn't technically translating!" Sayo pointed out.

Kiri, who had been lying on her stomach on a blanket in the corner, finally had enough and pulled Sayo's doll out, placing it on the table. "Here. Through this, Sayo-chan can talk to any human she meets. I'm not sure if Oshizu-chan can inhabit it, though."

Risa frowned. "I'd feel stupid talking to a doll. No offense, Sayo-chan. But are you sure Ichigo-kun can't help us with some weird ghost artifact or another? I'd really like having paranormal sensitivity too!"

Mio put a finger on her own mouth. "Well, I gained my sensitivity after Oshizu-san entered my body. Maybe you could see and hear ghosts too, if you're possessed!"

Risa doubted. "Did it feel good?"

Mio smiled. "It was a real trip! And I've never felt fuller! Not even when we use Mr. Happy!"

Kiri cringed. "Mr… Happy?"

Risa made hand gestures of indicating something very long and thick. "Well, yeah, it's this really nice and helpful—"

Kiri held a hand up. "I can imagine what it is! Thank you, but no!" Sayo and Oshizu shared puzzled looks.

"Anyway," Risa unbuttoned the front of her shirt open, "If it's that way, then I'm game! Which one of you will enter me?"

"Risa-chan, they are over here now," Mio helpfully turned her around.

The looks Sayo and Oshizu were trading now were wary ones.

"I did it last time. You go now," Oshizu told Sayo.

The white haired spirit jerked back. "Ah! B-But I've never done it before! What if I get stuck inside?"

"That won't happen!" Oshizu told her. "It's easy once you get used to it!"

"I'm… I'm still afraid!" Sayo sobbed pitifully.

Oshizu grabbed her hand and smiled cutely. "Don't be. I'll guide you in. We can go in together, if you want."

"Are… Are you sure it's safe? Do you think we can fit in at the same time?" Sayo worried.

"Well, we'll never know if we don't try it, don't you think?" asked Oshizu.

Kiri made a funny gesture with her mouth. "Not sure I like this at all…"

"What are they discussing now?" questioned Risa.

"Double penetration," was Mio's reply.

Risa drooled. "LET'S DO IT!"

A few minutes after, Kuchiki Rukia walked in bringing a few bento boxes. "Hey, everyone! I was bored at home, so I thought we could have lunch togeth— What are you doing now?" she said, seeing an entranced Risa stumbling drunkenly across the classroom, with her shirt open and a different color in each eye, for some reason.

"Oh, hello, Kuchiki-sempai…!" Risa said in Sayo's voice.

"Yes, how are you, Kuchiki-san…?" Risa asked in Oshizu's voice.

Rukia blinked slowly. "What is this…? Don't tell me you…?"

Risa hugged herself. "Ah, it feels so cozy and weirdly comfy in here…!" she sighed in Sayo's voice.

"Yes, and it's so warm! Ah, it's my soul resonating with both of yours!" she added, with Oshizu's voice.

"I feel so complete!" Risa said in her own voice, Sayo's and Oshizu's, all at once.

Rukia's face was indescribable. Kiri took a picture for posterity.

"I feel… curiously bothered by this…" Kiri tried to deadpan.

Mio took a deep breath before actually suckling on a Pocky stick. "Me next…?"

Ten minutes later, Risa lay on her back on the floor, with a ghost on each side. Mio sat to the side nodding and smiling, while Rukia and Kiri tried to remain oblivious as they ate. "I'm just happy I didn't bring Ichigo…" Kuchiki mused.

"Your hair is so white…" Risa ran her right hand through Sayo's hair. "And yours so black…" she added, running her left hand through Oshizu's hair. "Both of them so soft and silky… Both of you so cute…!"

"Why is it I feel a need for a cigarette, when I've never smoked before?" Sayo wondered, with a blush on her white face.

"Hey, my turn now, remember?" Mio asked.

"We…" Oshizu felt a small shudder down her spine. So to speak. "We need to find ourselves real bodies…!"

….

Interlude: Raiders of the Lost Seed

Mahora:

"So tell me," Nanoha set a plate of dinner before Yuuno, who thanked her with a deep bow of his head, "How did you get involved with these Jewel Seeds, Yuuno-kun?"

The ferret swallowed his first mouthful and said, "Well, I was working in a few digs in a nearby abandoned lost homeworld…"

"How nearby?" Nanoha asked.

"Around two solar systems away from here."

"That doesn't sound too close."

"The controls are the part that takes the longest, actually. It was such a pain to get authorization to land on this unregistered world. I had to actually bribe a few—- Err, never mind that. Let's just say it was difficult, and when I arrived here, all the Jewel Seeds were scattered just to wildly."

"Unregistered world?"

"Yes, that's the terminology to refer to planets that haven't been included in the communities of worlds inhabited by civilizations capable of interplanetary travel."

"But we sent probes to the moon! And Mars!"

"Not the same thing, Nanoha…"

"Hmm. Then you have rules like the Federation in Star Trek, right? Dad's a fan. When do you think we'll be able to join those communities?"

"Judging from your current levels of development in the areas I've observed, I'm afraid you'll end up destroying yourselves with your terrifying advances in weaponry before your meager advances in interstellar travel bear fruit. Sorry."

Somewhere, Yosho sneezed.

"Eh, it's okay, it's what Dad always predicts after watching Star Trek, too," Nanoha shrugged.

"Ah," Yuuno rasped. "W-Well, I was working as an archaeologist in that world, in a site in the middle of the ruins of a great city. It was there I found Raising Heart, and I started to investigate its applications and powers. Later, I found the Jewel Seeds, and learned Raising Heart could be used to contain and seal them. Unfortunately, an accident during our studies caused the Jewel Seeds to disperse and fall down on this world."

"You're an archaeologist?-!" Nanoha sounded truly shocked.

"Hey, maybe I don't look like one, but this isn't my true form! Once I recover completely, I'll show you my real appearance!"

Somewhere, Keroberos sneezed.

A thought balloon appeared over Nanoha's head. It held an image of an ferret wearing a hat and an old open jacket, with a whip on his hip, and a revolver next to it as John Williams music blared in the background.

"… Nanoha?" Yuuno said. "Are you okay? Why are you spacing out?"

Then she slapped her knee and broke into laughter.

A vein pulsed on Yuuno's forehead for like two seconds. "Nanoha, is there anything in particular I should know about the standards of hilarity on this world?"

….

….

The Lost Boys

Negi gave the strange boy a very puzzled stare. "They've sent you for the letter? But… But you're only a child!"

The other boy, Chisame, Asuna, Matoi, Natsuki, Haruka and even Kero immediately gave him a look. Yes, that one you're making now. Even Sora would have done the same, if she hadn't been too busy fanning the fainted Nodoka's red face.

"Excuuuuse me!" the dark haired boy bopped the palm of a hand twice on his own head. "I forgot I was dealing with such a respectable adult here!" He assumed a mocking, exaggerated tone. "Seriously, man!"

"Th-That's different!" Negi was taken aback a bit, the comment striking a chord. "I'm only doing my job! You, on the other hand, just announced yourself as a mercenary!" He already had assumed a casual but effective preparation stance the other Negi had taught him, the kind that wasn't too evident but allowed a fast reaction in the event of an attack. Behind him, Asuna and Chisame had tensed as well, gripping their Artifacts. Even Natsuki was fingering her guns again, though Negi wasn't sure if she hadn't already been doing that before.

The boy didn't seem nervous, however. "That'd be because I'm, indeed, a merc! I'm not expecting a Momma's boy like you to understand, but some of us start earning a living from early on." He lazily toyed with a pebble, tossing it up and catching it time and time again. Out of a corner of his eye, he watched Natsuki and perfectly calculated the trajectory he'd need to neutralize both guns at once. His smell also caught someone else being hiding closeby. This would be tricky. He stretched and feigned a yawn.

"Actually," said Matoi. "Negi-sensei earns his living already. Doing an honest job, as well!"

"Ah yeah, playing house with you girls, right?" the boy scratched the back of his head. "Man, this is just sad, having to face another guy with a bunch of girlies watching your back. Don't you have any shame?"

"I came on a mission of peace, not to looking for fights, so I have no reason to feel shame for this," Negi said. "But that doesn't mean we aren't prepared to defend ourselves! You're outnumbered, so give up and don't force our hands!"

"You had to say it," Chisame mumbled. Now, as if to prove his statement wrong, a dozen more bad guys would pop out of the woods, she was sure of it…

"Our hands?" Kotaro challenged. "You're just proving my point, aren'tcha? I'm here for a one on one match! Man to man! Mano a mano! With honor, if you can understand the concept!"

"I see what you're trying to do," Negi stared coldly at him. "And it won't work."

"Oh brother! I heard you were the son of that famous mage, the Thousand Master," Kotaro snorted dismissively, "So I figured you had to be a great opponent, but now I'm disappointed! You're a wimp who doesn't even want to fight!"

"I told you, I don't fight for sport or to prove myself!" Negi stated, shifting on his feet ever so subtly to deepen his stance, ready to spring at any moment. "That isn't a true Gentleman's way!"

"Gentleman? More like Prissy-Man!" the other boy mocked.

"You won't provoke me with petty insults!" Negi said, and Chisame nodded approvingly behind him. After seeing Chisame was nodding, Matoi nodded as well.

"You speak like a girl, talking about yourself as Boku instead of Ore!" the boy laughed. "That girl with glasses talks manlier than you!"

"Chisame-sama is the man in our happy relationship, yes, but there's no shame in that!" Matoi said.

"REALLY NOT HELPING AT ALL, TSUNETSUKI!" Chisame shouted.

"I'll bet you aren't the Thousand Master's actual son!" Kotaro kept on taunting Negi.

"Think whatever you want. I don't care!" Negi hissed.

"Maybe you're just an impostor taking advantage of a real man's name!" Kotaro went on.

"Your personal insults only lower yourself, not me. I won't lose my calm, no matter what!" Negi crossed his arms.

"And that's the way a real man talks!" Haruka smiled approvingly and nodded, crossing her arms as well.

"Or maybe the Thousand Master wasn't a real man either, after all!" the boy laughed aloud.

"I'LL KILL YOU!" Negi jumped for him, while behind, Matoi, Asuna and Chisame sweatdropped."DIE, DIE, DIE!"

….

Requiem for a Dream

"Hey, Oniisama," Rukia yawned, walking back home after a full afternoon of watching Risa and Mio being creepily touchy with each other, plus the unfortunate(?) Sayo, Oshizu and Kiri. Not with her, though; by now, Rukia had taken to threatening them with her Zanpakutou to keep them at bay. She didn't consider it overkill. "You arrived early! I'll go cook dinner…"

Her Oniisama looked up from his newspaper, a thin eyebrow elegantly raised as he saw her taking her shoes off at the entrance. "Rukia."

"Yes, Oniisama?"

"I trust you haven't been surrounding yourself with morally dubious acquaintances again, have you?"

"I've told you," she recited the tirade that felt so old by now, "Ichigo and I are only friends, and I was just visiting Kiri because she's all alone in the school now, anyway…"

Byakuya made a pause that somehow managed to deliver his disapproval of her referring to them via first names and without honorifics. Rukia wondered how he did that with nothing but a complete silence and a bland look.

"I swear I won't become a bleached delinquent or a shut-in," Rukia promised yet again, with a hand on her heart.

Byakuya eyed his newspaper again. "That is certainly reassuring," he said flatly. "May I ask who gave you that doll?"

The black haired girl pointed at the Sayo doll hanging from her purse. "Oh, this? It's, ah, Kiri's. Cute, isn't she? Her name's Sayo-chan…"

Byakuya, again, looked over his newspaper without moving anything but his eyeballs. Rukia didn't get how he did that either. He stared intently at the doll for several long awkward moments, until it almost looked like Sayo was about to break into a sweat. Then he looked at the pages once more.

"Very lifelike," he simply said, and Rukia felt a tremor go up her spine. It was easy to forget how, once in a blue moon, Oniisama also gave strong signs of spiritual sensitivity.

"Ah, um, I think I saw workers loading boxes into the house next the Takamachi's…" she said, only to change the unspoken subject as far as she could.

"Shirou-san informed me a manga editor from Tokyo will move there with her two children," her brother answered, without any hint of interest.

Rukia's heart skipped a beat. A manga editor living two houses away from hers! This was her big chance! Ahhh! She could get herself a break into Shonen Jump, or Sunday, with Chappy the Wonder Bunny and his friends! She already could see herself wearing a Tezuka beret and smiling as she received the Young Talent of the Year Award. Then the tankoubon compilations! The Gaiden volumes! The reprints! The crappy tie-in videogames! The radio dramas! The panned but profitable animated adaptations! The dreaded live action series! The plush dolls! The daikamura pillows! The H-doujin! The English dub starring Dan Green! The crossover fanfics by Shadow Crystal Mage!

By now, Byakuya had waited long enough for dinner to actually call for a pizza.

Rukia continued daydreaming standing at the entrance.

—-

"You have a very pretty house, and an even prettier bedroom, Kuchiki-sempai…" Doll Sayo commented, sitting on Rukia's bed while the girl herself sat with her back turned to her, frantically drawing at her desk. "Thanks again for bringing me! But, what are you doing…?"

"Sorry Sayochanchangeofplans," Rukia quickly said, licking her upper lip as she drew nonstop. "Ihavetofinishafullsamplestory…" she had to stop for breath and take it easier from there, "… to show that famed editor before the Manga Club gets her first! I looked her up in the Internet! She's Hinata Aki, the woman who put Yuuki Saibai in the map! She's Chappy the Bunny's ticket to immortality!"

Sayo made a brief sour face, looking at the Sonichu-quality string of pages Rukia was churning out. "Ahhhh, Kuchiki-sempai… Why didn't you ever join the Manga Club, if you have such a passion for it? Sorry for asking, b-b-but…!"

"I tried it once. Your friend Haruna and that 3-F girl looked at my drawings and told me I needed to read on anatomy, perspective and basic proportions first," Rukia mumbled. "They even gave me a book on all that." She casually pointed at a thick book forgotten in a corner under the only and very thick layer of dust in the whole room. The doll sweatdropped. "Books? Who needs books? True art is born from the heart! My creations will succeed because they have a soul!"

Somewhere, Ala Iridia sneezed.

Sayo thought that was the worst Rukia-sempai had ever reaped a soul, but she said nothing.

"So, um…" the ghost shyly asked, "what's the story about?"

"In the pilot chapter, Chappy the Bunny finds a magic ring that summons him a Magical Girlfriend," Rukia explained. "Then his Unlucky Childhood Friend gets jealous and hits him in the head, which makes him go down the drain into a land of giant bears. There he's greeted as their savior against the forces of darkness from the Monster Empire, and he gains a talking sword and a blue echidna sidekick. I'm trying to keep it simple since it's an intro chapter, so I won't introduce the goblins, trolls, the Hockey Team from Hell, the thinly veiled demonized caricatures of those girls who mocked me in kindergarten, the car chases, the Fairy Queen or the shapeshifting dog yet. I'm only fifty pages away from completing it! I think I can finish it tonight if I pull an all nighter! There's no school tomorrow anyway!"

"Art scares me," Sayo whispered under her breath. She dropped her tiny body on her back, wrapped a handful of bedsheet around herself, and tried to remember how to sleep.

….

Arachnophobia

Negi swung a punch in the boy's direction, aiming for the chest, but the stranger sidestepped it easily and grabbed his arm, swinging Negi against a nearby bamboo tree. "Ugh!"

"A bad start," Kotaro said. "You were telegraphing it!" He feinted with an arm, but when Negi tried to block a split second later, the other boy struck with the other fist from an unexpected angle. "See? This is how you do it!"

A moment later, he blinked, feeling Negi's left fist curved over his shoulder and impacting on his cheek. "Like this?" Negi asked, right before being kicked away in the stomach.

"More or less, yeah!" the stranger grinned roguishly. That was more than enough, and Haruka, Chisame and Asuna all advanced for him at the same time.

"Hey, that was enough, stinking brat!" Asuna stormed ahead with the harisen.

"Attacking a Mahora teacher is a grave offense!" Haruka growled, zeroing on him from another direction, gripping her ball and chain like a natural.

Chisame was preparing a lightning bolt already, deciding talking wasn't necessary, and she should just hit him all out from the start. From the looks of him, he was really strong.

The black haired boy clapped once. "I don't fight women! Try someone else who likes weaving!" he said, as a giant spider large enough for a man to ride to it dropped from above between him and the girls.

"Uwaaaa!" Haruka screeched to a halt. "What kind of animal is that?-!"

"What a stupid girl!" Kotaro said, while blocking a jumping staff strike from Negi with both arms. "Isn't it obvious it's a spider?-!"

Sora gasped and tried to pull the unconscious Nodoka out of harm's way. "No spider on Earth could ever be that size! It's some sort of robot, isn't it? Look, I'm sorry if we intruded in your premises, but—!"

Chibi Setsuna flew in right besides Asuna's head. "These youkai spider went extinct centuries ago! This is another of Amagasaki's paper constructs, but look out! It's a very powerful one!"

"Gah, another Satanic fairy!" Haruka yelled. "Begone, evil spirit!"

"Leave my students out of this!" Negi roared, all pretense of formality forgotten as he landed his staff on Kotaro's face. Even at that point, he was still wary of using magic in front of Haruka-san, although she obviously had activated her Pactio somehow. Seeing how the only one of those who had been with her that knew about magic had been Kuga Natsuki (wait, Kuga-san? What was she doing there?), he figured it had been her doing.

"Hey!" With his finger nails becoming sharp claws, the boy slashed at Negi across the chest. "I was only doing my job! It's their own fault for stepping into men's affairs!"

Haruka's wide forehead became a web of veins. "Why you, little Darwinist…"

"I think you intended to mean chauvinist?" Kero asked her.

"Shut up, winged freak of nature!" The blonde stood her ground as she, Asuna and Chisame carefully surrounded the arachnid creature. "Hey, you two, from those outlandish costumes and weapons, I assume you know how to fight this, right?"

"Right," Asuna nodded. "Don't sweat, my weapon is a counter against magic. I only need to whack that critter in the head a couple times. I think."

"I'd feel better if you weren't placing all your trust in a giant paper fan," Suzushiro noted. "Let me do it! At least this," she held up her own Artifact, "looks like it can deal more damage!"

The spider advanced, and the girls jumped back as one. Then a gunshot rang from behind them, and a moment later, a bullet pierced one of the spider's eight eyes, making it… shriek shrilly? Okay, sure…

The girls looked back over their shoulders and saw Kuga standing straight, guarding Sora and Nodoka, aiming both her small guns at the lurching eight legged behemoth. "How about this?" she asked coldly. "Hasegawa and I will give you cover fire. You two use that to get close and bash that thing to pieces. Right?"

The three girls could do nothing but nodding.

"Go, then!" Natsuki began shooting for the head, while Chisame readied the scepter and blasted for those furry legs. Running between the twin fire, Haruka and Asuna raced straight for the spider's midsection, until it vomited a massive batch of smaller, yet vicious looking spiders, each one the size of a small dog, on their way, forcing them to halt.

From their hiding place in the bushes, Psycho Purple gasped. "The spider Asuna-san fought couldn't do that!"

"I think this may be our cue," Yue held her wand firmly. "On the count of one, two…"

"Don't hesitate!" Natsuki began skillfully putting bullets into the smaller spiders when they tried to jump on the girls, with an accuracy Yue felt didn't quite match Mana's, but was as good as Yuuna's. "The big one's still rattled! You can still get it!"

Chisame breathed quickly, nervous, while trying to hit only the spiders without accidentally hitting Asuna and the Vice President. It was difficult, because she had to use smaller, more precise shocks instead of the wide area ones she favored to get over fights as soon as possible. She wasn't taking as many of them as Natsuki was, but it still was enough to allow the redhead and the blonde an opening. But then, the mother spider puked even more of its spawn into their way.

"It's useless, we can't get closer than this!" Asuna said. "Too many of them, even for all four of us…!" She yelled, wiping a batch of critters away and into paper shreds with her fan only to have another one poured her way just as soon.

Haruka grunted and put her weapon down. "Kagurazaka-san, how far can you leap?"

"Eh? A lot, actually, but with all these—" Then she saw Haruka was crouching down with her hands joined at ground level. "Oh, I see!" After undoing more spiders, she quickly jumped into Haruka's arms, and just as quickly, the brutally strong blonde flung her up. Using the strength of her own jump plus the added leverage, Asuna cleanly jumped over all the spiders and reached the gigantic one's head, slamming her harisen on it, and making it explode on contact, in an omnidirectional storm of confetti, with a bigger charm fluttering down to the ground in the middle of it all.

"Bravo," Natsuki said dryly.

….

Interlude-The Secret Origin of the Unequally Rational and Emotional Universe

Yggdrasil

Skuld went through her data files one final time, updating each one of them before placing them in Omega Storage. No one but Father could get them out of there, not without her ten-dimensional codes. Only Belldandy and– Skuld had to begrudgingly admit it– Urd might have hoped to crack her codes, but… neither of them were around anymore, and she was their superior in programming if nothing else.

In the beginning, only the Golden Sea of Chaos existed, and the Mother of All Gods and Demons existed within it, being it, trapped in the unending flux of her quiet madness. It was kinda being sent to a nursing home, but in reverse.

Grandmother.

Skuld hit the translucent switches down one by one, her forehead beaded with sweat. One by one, databanks no mortal culture in the universe could ever achieve by themselves, no matter how long they lived (Unless they did something REALLY stupid), entered lockdown mode.

Lingshen and the others didn't know, they just had no idea, how complex the whole situation was. They thought they knew, they thought they understood the causes for everything, the big picture. Even most people at Yggradsil just didn't get it. Peorth, for instance, was basically a glorified operator, and Rin was nothing but a high level soldier.

Skuld was a researcher. A scientist. Easy to forget as that was, especially when they saw her eating ice cream with stained cheeks before her computers, she had spent untold eons (13 years in a rough human equivalent) cataloguing and analyzing data on the iteration jumps and the variables contained within. How often they repeated themselves, how often they varied.

But of course, Skuld was a child. She couldn't offer anything that Peorth or Rind or even Big Brother Morningstar (dun-dun-DUN!) could appreciate. Maybe if she acted less childish, they'd take her more seriously, she considered fleetingly…

Nah. Too late for that already. That ship had sailed.

Most of those who thought they were in the know were quick to blame Lingshen. She was an easy scapegoat. But Skuld knew the domino effect was too big to have started with such a tiny variant in the large scheme of things.

That was why she'd have to have a talk with Lingshen.

Belldandy would have understood. If she still was there…

Sister…

Once upon a time, within the Omniverse, there was a Multiverse. In the beginning there were many, all contained within the Golden Sea, and within her. A Multiversal infinitude… so cold and so dark for so long… that even the burning light was imperceptible. But then the light grew, and the Multiverse shuddered. And the darkness screamed as much in pain as in relief. For in that instant, a Universe was born. A Universe with mighty worlds orbiting burning suns. A Universe reborn at the Dawn of Time. What had been many became one.

Skuld placed the final few banks in absolute zero storage, powered by the kind of energy a full Lighthwak Wing was only a baby version of. Force fields that nullified absolutely anything directed to them. The perfect way to guard something. She wiped a furtive tear off the corner of an eye. She'd miss the place.

Once upon a time, a man from the stars stole Fire from Heaven, the very thing that sustained the merged universe. The Code of Yggdrasil. He couldn't understand it fully, of course, but he understood enough to make his own, even if logically inferior version. And he created his own world with it. Human arrogance, in any world, knows no bounds, and that man played to be a God. He paid for it eventually, although not as much as Skuld would have wanted…

Now everything would rely on that man's offspring. The universe was full of cosmic ironies like that.

Dear Belldandy. You tried to stop the Omega Initiative, and failed. Now it's my turn. I'll save everything you hold dear, and I'll save you as well, my precious sister.

Just wait for me. Hold on. I'm almost there.

She started to work again on restoring the old, burned out connections to Earth the ancient Wish System had. It hadn't been used for several iterations, and Spectre would surely punish even her if she was caught doing that. But it wouldn't take her long enough for that to happen. It was a child's code for her.

Now all she needed was a human patsy down there, and she knew just the man for it.

Skuld smiled slowly. I got it.

Once upon a time, one world met another, and in the process several more, adding a whole new set of previously unseen variables to the equation. Pity no one really stayed around to study them…

….

….

Reservoir Dogs

"Okay, now it's your turn, small fry!" Asuna turned her attentions to Kotaro, who had just caught Negi in a headlock. "Let the twerp go and surrender, or else…!"

The boy grunted, tossed Negi aside, and tucked his hands into his pockets. "Hey, if you want to call someone a small fry, he's your… man. Though I'm only calling him that 'cause I can't think of anything better. You're a joke, you know? They all make better men than you!"

"Talk about damning with faint praise…" Chisame muttered.

Haruka briefly looked down at her chest. "I… I hadn't been mistaken for a boy since elementary!"

"Last week for me," Matoi sighed sadly. "Ah, Chisame-sama, comfort me!"

"Oh, get off me Tsunetsuki!"

"Ah! Hands off my sister!"

"Yeah, well, he ain't Takahata-sensei!" Asuna growled, jumping for the insolent kid, harisen spinning around mercilessly. "Tell me something I didn't know!"

"Hah!" he easily dodged all her swings, moving around like a pinball on legs, jumping acrobatically around her and sticking her tongue out. "You're all strength and no skill! You're— Oof!" he said as she connected on his chin, sending him rolling back.

Asuna smiled. "Like it? That was a feint my Onee-chan taught me! Who's unskilled now, huh?"

He only smiled back, rubbing his chin back into shape. "Okay, I take that back. You have some skill, but not en—" He jumped out of the way right on time as trick bullets exploded under his feet. He tossed the two pebbles he had been keeping in a sleeve the whole time and expertly sent them into the barrels of Natsuki's guns, jamming them both at once. The biker blinked, being completely unused to anything like that.

"What the—?-!"

"Asuna, get out of the way!" Chisame tried to keep lock on the quick moving little guy, who had returned to a dodging game with the redhead. "I need a wide area blast to hit this guy!"

Haruka weighed her own Artifact in her hands. "I wonder if he can take a hit from this…?"

"Asuna-san!" came Negi's voice. "Thank you, but step aside!" He ran back into the fight, having prepared a spell in the meanwhile, and Asuna sidestepped as he charged Kotaro. "EXARMATIO!" he projected a hand ahead, but the other boy simply smirked in a devious way and blocked with a small wall of paper charms he had just pulled out of his other sleeve. The charms created a barrier that protected Kotaro from the spell, which could only fling off his cap, freeing his furry dog ears.

"Ah…?" Negi blinked.

"You really thought I wouldn't have a counter…" the young mercenary said right before punching him several feet back, "… against a spell that basic?-! Besides, what were you trying to do, strip me? I don't even have any weapons!"

"Oh my God!" Haruka gasped. "We're facing some of the worst mankind has to offer! A furry! It's like last year's Mahora Comic-Con all over again!"

"Attattattattatta!" Kotaro shouted as he unleashed a flurry of punches all over Negi, clearly showing he had watched too much Fist of the North Star in his life. Negi barely could keep on blocking with his staff and arms, as Asuna tried to hit Kotaro from behind to no avail, and Natsuki cursed while trying to fix her guns somehow. She really had to get herself one of those Pactio things…

"If only there was anything electronic around to manipulate…" Chisame looked around in all directions.

"Chisame, when did you start getting into street fights?" her older sister asked her.

"Later, Sora! LATER!"

"This is bad! Even with superior numbers, we can't win!" Chibi Setsuna said. "If only my real self was here…!"

"I could try a smokescreen to cover our escape," Chamo proposed her, "But we couldn't take Honya-nee along quickly enough as we are! Ahhhh! I don't know what to do!" His standard solution to anything was to make a Pactio, and although they had Matoi, Natsuki and Sora at hand, the mutt boy wouldn't allow them any time for it.

"Heh, even your personal barrier couldn't do anything to stop me!" Kotaro boasted while he stood over a coughing Negi, on his hands and knees. "I knew you Western mages were overrated!"

"Fine, then take us on!" Asuna challenged, blocking his path along with Natsuki, Chisame, Haruka and even Matoi. "What's your problem, smartass bully? Don't feel like picking on anyone but smaller kids?"

He crossed his arms behind his neck and huffed. "You're really dense, Nee-chan. How many times do I have to tell you? I don't fight girls! But if you're so hot to rumble, I'll leave you with more pets to look after!" He clapped twice, and then extended his hands ahead. "Go play with them, boys!" he ordered, and six huge black dogs sprouted from his shadow, howling and rushing for the girls. "But don't be too rough, okay?"

"It keeps getting weirder and weirder…!" Natsuki commented, just tossing the damaged miniguns aside and pulling the smaller spares out swiftly. She shot one of the dogs in the head, but it kept advancing. "How—?"

Chao's voice spoke from her earring. "You need magic to damage them, Nat-chan. Stay back with Hasegawa-san and Honya and help her wake up, okay?"

Haruka, meanwhile, just had enough, steamrolled ahead, and whacked the lead dog in the head, sending it flying up with a long yowl. "To hell with PETA! I'm so angry I don't care anymore! I'll even whack you down if I have to, disresentful brat!"

"Disrespectful!" Chamo and Kero corrected her at once.

"Shut up you two!" she snapped while pummeling another dog, Asuna tangled up with another. "I told you I'm on an anti-animal binge!"

"Well," Kotaro turned back to Negi. "Now, where we were—"

"FULGARIO ALBICANS!" Negi had worked back to his feet and just unleashed the spell he had been preparing. It rattled Kotaro in a maelstrom of lightning, making him scream and then fly over one of the gates. Not giving him a rest, Negi followed with seventeen simultaneous lightning arrows that converged all on him. "SAGITTA MAGICA SERIES FULGURALIS!"

"Seventeen at once!" Chibi Setsuna gasped. "I never had seen something like that before!"

Chamo puffed out his chest. "That's nuthin' but a taste of the power you can share if you make a Pactio with my Bro!" Then he looked at Kero. "By the way, who are you? That twerp's Familiar? A freelancer? I have exclusive rights to the Bro!"

"Um, actually, I'm with Miyazaki-san…"

"Got an exclusive on her, huh?" Chamo pondered. "Well, what if we arrange a Pactio between the two and share 50/50 of the profit?"

"I think we aren't seeing things in the same thing…" Kero began.

Natsuki and Chisame shot at the dogs as they charged, keeping them from attacking from the flanks as Haruka played defense. One managed to dodge however, and leapt at Chisame's throat. Sora screamed.

There was a blur, a scream and an explosion of black. When it settled, Matoi stood there covered in dissolving black residue holding a rock.

"W-wha–?" Sora blabbered.

"Ah! Sorry for stealing your awesome, Chisame-sama!" Matoi said, slinking off behind Chisame. "Sorry. I'll be standing over here."

Chisame grabbed her and pushed her in front. "Like hell! Be useful for once!"

"Okay, Chisame-sama!" Matoi chirped, hefting her rock and turning at the rest of the black dogs…

More black gunk followed.

….

Memories of a Geisha

"Very, very, very well!" Tsukuyomi cooed in gleeful expectation. "This marks our duel's beginning, Onee— Samurai-kun!" She drew out her blade. "En garde!"

"Halt!" a voice called from the crowd.

Tsukuyomi threw an annoyed glare in that direction. "Now what?"

Ayaka stepped forward despite the attempts of Chizuru, Natsumi and Asakura to reign her back. "If you're going to stage a duel with rules, fine! However, we're Sakurazaki-san's classmates, and I cannot stand still while it's a rude stranger with hideous fashion sense and a deranged attitude who fights at her side!"

Twilight Red's eyebrow began twitching. No matter where or when, Ayaka could always rub her the wrong way, even without trying…

"Hey, stay out of this, big mouth!" the disguised alternate Asuna barked. "This is between us and her! You know, the people with the swords? Go back to your kitchen or to… to… whatever geishas do!"

"Geishas prostitute themselves," Tsukuyomi explained brightly. "The Shinmeiryu have traditionally been very friendly with them."

Setsuna and Asuna blinked while in the crowd, a younfer Setsuna just getting out of hearing range blushed and muttered about weird Miroku crosstraining. "Wait, wha—? Pros—ti—tu—"

"Yeah, Geishas were basically paid suppliers of sexual services and company," Haruna chirped. "Didn't you know? It's a basic part of Japanese lore!"

"Go easy on her, Haruna-san," Natsumi asked. "She must be a foreigner. Look, her hair is so red…!"

"Even foreigners know that!" Haruna said. "Why did they hire someone who had no idea about such a basic thing for a time period play? She'd have to be Ku-chan, Makie-chan or Asuna-san to ignore something so well known!"

"Hey, I'm over here, Paru-chan!" Makie called out from another spot on the crowd, still perched on a distraught Akira's shoulders.

"Oh, hey, Makie-chan, Akira-chan!" Paru waved back. Asuna bristled, but somehow managed to hold her tongue back. From under the bridge came an amused giggle.

"It's only a perfectly innocent costume! The passage of time has stripped all shameful implications from this getup, leaving only its rich historical value!" Ayaka growled.

Tsukuyomi giggled. "What do you say, Yami-han? Willing to change opponents and fight the pretty prostitute instead?"

"I'M NOT A PROSTITUTE!" Ayaka yelled.

"I have already agreed to fight her," the petite blond girl said, looking straight at Twilight Red. "It would be rude abandoning my engagement to meet her blade, just because of a whim."

"I suppose you're right!" Tsukuyomi mused, as she put a finger on her own pink lips. "Honor before everything else, after all! What to do, what to do…"

"Just ignore them!" Setsuna told her. "They are only civilians with nothing to do with this! I thought this was a personal matter for you?-!"

"Ah, but they asked for it, and it'd be awful from me to reject their brave and noble offer!" argued Tsukuyomi. "Well, I'm afraid I can't give you another human adversary, but please be entertained by this!" and she tossed a lot of paper charms high into the air. "My dear friends here will satisfy all your raging desires and needs… for a battle!"

Twilight Red smirked. That had been the cue she had been waiting for.

In the crowd, Misa pointed at Tsukuyomi. "Ah! Innuendo! Innuendo!"

Back in Mahora, Evangeline sneezed…

….

Sister Act

Yukihiro Manor:

Well, it had been hard to find proper books, of the manual or guide types, on how to be a good older sister, so Siesta had to do the next best thing and go buy several manga with "Onee-sama" and "Onee-chan" in the title. The store clerks had looked her funny, and she'd had to show her ID for some reason (she guessed it was because underage sisters couldn't be allowed to legally care after their little brothers), and for some stranger reason all the books were wrapped so she couldn't see the cover images, only the titles, but she'd worry about that later.

She'd have asked Fubuki-san for her guidance first it only it hadn't been such a private matter, and frankly, she didn't feel like talking to Lady Rosalie again unless she really had to…

Once alone in her room, she unwrapped the books and blinked. Well, those were some… inadequate covers, but surely, they only were hooks for peripheral male audiences. Japan was like that at times, like when putting Loli fanservice for creepy men in little girl Mahou Shoujo shows…

She began flipping through the manga, and steam blew out her ears.

She definitely couldn't ever do that with Negi-sensei…!

She got a lot of ideas for her relationship with Saito-kun, though…

….

Toy Story

"Come forth, my pretties!" Tsukuyomi cried joyfully as her paper charms began to morph in mid-air, transforming into dozens of bizarre small to mid-sized creatures, ranging from the silly looking to the grotesque. The public gasped in awe, as the extravagant array of impossible beings fell all around the swordsgirl, moving quickly, looking for their targets already. "Go, and show those girls what we are able of! Let us all have a great fun time!"

"Uwaaa!" Natsumi was amazed. "How cute! How did she do that? She pulled so many toys out of nowhere…!"

"I… I don't think those are actual toys at all…" Yue took a wary step back. After the incident with Nodoka's magical book, and the kissing game fiasco, she knew to really distrust whenever she saw anything too strange.

"It's CGI!" a man cried while taking photos. "I've seen things like these at Disneyworld Metropolis!"

Haruna rubbed her chin. "No, it's something else. I'm reminded of the time Dad told me about—"

Twilight Red, meanwhile, only smiled cockily. "Neat little trick. Let me show you one of mine." And she slammed her sword point-first against the ground while one arm swept out dramatically. "NULLIFICATION FIELD, FULL OPEN!"

Instantly, a sphere of powerful and glowing anti-magic spread itself all around her, reducing Tsukuyomi's summons to fine shreds in the air, and then to nothingness, as soon as it touched them. More awed exclamations and clappings ensued.

"I didn't know she could do that, too!" Misora gasped. "Man, she just isn't human!"

"Yeah, I suspect she isn't…!" Misa said, frowning and nodding twice.

Tsukuyomi blinked in sheer, raw disbelief, before closing her mouth back and stomping a foot down in petulant anger. "Foul play again, you… you… you interloper! Those things weren't even mine! They were a friend's! Who do you think you are, coming out of nowhere and stealing the spotlight like that?-!"

Somewhere, Jack Rakan sneezed…

Kagurazaka laughed in a way Ayaka found, for some reason, particularly annoying. "Ah ha ha ha! Sorry, am I raining on your evil parade? I wasn't even trying! I just wanted to see what happened when I did that, but I wasn't counting on your critters being so weak! I hope PETA doesn't learn about this!"

"Actually," an amused male voice with an American accent came from the audience, "I think you missed one!"

"Eh?" Asuna looked in all directions, until she saw, indeed, one of Tsukuyomi's figurines given life had managed to roll out of her field in time, and was heading towards the closest group of her classmates. Or rather, the other Asuna's classmates, fine.

Most of the figurines had Japanese designs, but this one, in an ironic but fitting twist considering the cosplayer who had pointed to it, was a tiny purple and green circus car, not mmuch bigger than Asuna's foot. Well, at least, it wouldn't be a problem. Natsumi herself could dispose of it by just stepping on it, surely.

Setsuna, on the other hand, was looking at the cosplayer who had called out, and her face went even paler than usual. "You..!"

Then the circus car burst open from the inside, vomiting out dozens upon dozens of bizarre small to mid-sized creatures (again), ranging from the silly looking to the grotesque, out in the open. A collective loud gasp rippled through the audience.

"Just like a real clown car!" Haruna marveled. All sorts of exotic toy-looking oddities had spread out of the impossibly small containment, including Pokemon dolls, plush bunnies, Kappas, jumping umbrellas with a single eye, ukeleles with legs, flying cellphones, Bat-Mites, G.I. Joes in Barbie dresses, tiny hunchbacked old men, flying Oni heads, Tama turtles, SD Governors Ishiharas, stuffed bears, a couple of random Entrail Animals, a few living piñatas, a Chapulin Colorado puppet or two, at least three Muppets, several animate chupacabra T-shirts, six or so trains that went in circles muttering obscenities, Grant Morrison, a living bra who seemed to recognize Haruna, and a lot of other stuff that looked even more like something just plucked from a drug trip.

"… Well, crap," Asuna mumbled. "No problem, though, I'll just—!"

"Yami-han!" Tsukuyomi commanded, and in a flash, the girl dressed like a maid was blocking Asuna's way, her right hand quickly transforming into a long steel blade. Kagurazaka blinked, falling back into a defensive stance. "It's been enough stalling! Let's start right now!"

"Fine with me," the other girl nodded. "Sorry, Red-san. I have nothing against you," she said, in a tone that somehow reminded Asuna of Chachamaru during their first battle. "But you must go down." And she charged forward.

"Wow!" Makie said. "Did you see that? The girls are in trouble…!"

Then she found herself being quickly but gently lowered back to ground level. "Hey, what gives, Akira-chan…?"

"I-I'll go call for, um, help from Kuro-san or Sora-san!" the swimmer offered hastily. "You three just stay far from those things until we come back, okay?" And without waiting for anything else, she ran through the shocked crowd and out of sight, leaving her perplexed friends behind.

"What's wrong with Akira-chan?" Ako wondered. "She looked worried…!"

A grim expression appeared on Yuuna's face. "I don't think she's okay. I'll go with her!" And, without waiting for anything either, she began pushing through the public, going the same way Ookuchi had taken.

"Ah! Not you too, Yuuna-chan!" Ako still tried to reach for her in vain. They were just too fast for her. "Makie-chan, what should we… Makie-chan?-!"

Makie had pulled out her ribbon and was pushing her way the opposite direction, looking to join the rest of 3-A. "Don't worry about me, Ako-chan! I can look after myself with everything Homura-mama and Kodachi-sensei taught me! I must help the girls in case there's any evil contractor animal there, like Homura-mama warned!"

"Wha-What in the world are you talking about?-!" Ako exclaimed. "Makie-chan, you could get yourself hurt! Come back here!"

….

Return of the Joker

Setsuna was having a horrible flashback. The warehouse. The smell of ozone mixing nauseatingly with albino gorilla hair, corpse dust and wet cat. Brilliant flashes of light as Green Lantern and Star Sapphire dueled with their rings, Love and Will clashing violently. The roar of energies, fists, explosions, walls collapsing, cries of "Divine Buster!", the ringing of swords. Tsukuyomi's giggling as they had fought. Setsuna had managed to hold her ground, her training with Saber, Signum and Kuro holding her in good stead. Without Konoka or a time limit to worry about, she was free to concentrate on fighting.

And then the clown had stepped in, and he'd had that lead-filled rubber chicken…

Setsuna had found herself outmaneuvered. The clown hadn't been any faster or stronger than a mundane, but he had moved erratically, unpredictably, distracting her with feints and sleight of hand. There had been no mercy in him, just laughing, methodical cruelty. He had quickly turned his attentions elsewhere after nearly crippling Setsuna for his daughter– a giggling Tsukuyomi had coyly confided he was going off to check on his 'boyfriend'– but Setsuna had been left to the girl's questionably existent mercies. She had blacked out to a flash of pink…

She forced herself back to the present in time to meet Tsukuyomi's attack with Yuunagi, reminded that she had more pressing problems. The Joker was just in the crowd. Tsukuyomi was here NOW. She hadn't bothered to draw the prop sword that had come with the costume– she hadn't bother to bring it– opting instead to use the nodachi. She wasn't the little middle-schooler anymore. She had more experience now, and had since devoted a substantial part of her training specifically to counter Tsukuyomi. The blonde's dual wielding style was quick and versatile, but it lacked power and control, relatively speaking. Kuro-san had been more than helpful in assisting her in reconstructing, finding, learning and exploiting every flaw Tsukuyomi's personal style had. One of the advantages of knowing someone who could reproduce someone's fighting style perfectly by reproducing their sword. The Tsukuyomi she knew would have since greatly improved from the skill level demonstrated by the sword they had last recovered, but this little chit…?

Setsuna found herself smiling as she effortlessly repulsed the initial attack, angling her body and blade to slide Tsukuyomi sideways slightly. Her foot kicked the smaller girl in a short, precise move, bumping Tsukuyomi's ankle and briefly destabilizing her footing. Setsuna shoved Yuunagi hard, knocking back her opponent, and giving herself room to retaliate with a power attack.

… She might actually enjoy this.

The force of the attack sent Tsukuyomie stumbling back, and Setsuna pressed her advantage. The ringing of metal rose as their blades clashed, only to be nearly drowned by the excited roar of the unknowing crowd.

"My!" Tsukuyomi said convivially, her blades whirling. "You seem to be doing better than you did yesterday, onee-chan!"

Setsuna twitched, but didn't let it get to her. "I ate my spinach this morning," she said, channeling as much Mana deadpan as she could she thought she heard someone sneeze. She waited a beat, then let out some of the most devastating words she knew. "That dress makes you look fat."

Tsukuyomi stumbled, shocked at the brutal attack, and Setsuna managed to tag her with a kick. Yuunagi dipped for the blonde's off-hand, and only a quick roll saved her wrist from dismemberment.

About time Setsuna got to do the off-putting talking.

Tsukuyomi rallied, launching a quick combo that Setsuna dodged and parried. It was a simple but effective defensive, meant to get one breathing room. The younger girl was clearly shaken. "Onee-chan! What a mean thing to say! I chose this dress especially for you!"

Setsuna ignored that, trying to press her against the bridge railing. But Tsukuyomi danced sideways, going for her flank. Setsuna blocked, then retaliated, waiting for her opening…

"Why don't you just surrender ojou-sama to us, onee-chan?" Tsukuyomi said sweetly. "I promise we don't mean her any harm. We just want to use her a little, have a little fun…" Giggle.

Setsuna twitched at how such already-suspect words were made dirtier passing through her lips. Tsukuyomi noticed and smiled wider, pressing the attack…

"Breasts still flat as a board, I see," Setsuna shot back. "Or did you have to stuff just to get them that flat?"

As Tsukuyomi crumpled at that low blow, Asuna was having her own problems.

"You sure you don't have a big red dog?" she said as she parried Yami's arm blades with her harisen, uncertain where they were as strong as they looked. She'd dropped the Anti-magic field to concentrate on the immediate. As usual, it hadn't done anything to neutralize magic in someone's body. Negi had once told her it wasn't effective against magic directly a part of someone's soul, which was why she wasn't any more effective at shutting down his Magia Erebea Berserk that anyone else, or why her touch didn't delete Mundus Magicus natives, or unmade the Wolkenritter. Whatever magic her enemy was using to shape-shift, it was a lot deeper than a spell, but Asuna didn't dare risk the chance that those blades weren't as steel-hard as they appeared and cut off the girl's hands. After all, she looked like Black Reaper. "You look the type."

"Yes," the blonde said blandly. "If you surrender, I give you my word I will let you live."

"Wow," Asuna deadpanned. "Where have I heard that before?"

"I would not know," the girl called 'Yami' said, equally deadpan. Asuna was starting to suspect she might be another Lifemaker creation, another line of humanoids like the Averruncus. That would explain it. Her hair writhed, becoming razor-sharp, blade-tipped tentacles.

Asuna barely restrained her urge to scream, jumping back reflexively on instinct. "T-tentacles!" she yelped, barely keeping herself from dropping a protective hand over her crotch.

Yami tilted her head curiously, but didn't question the sudden and quite obvious panic reaction, instead taking full advantage of it, her hair arcing forward to attack–

–only to be met with a mass of buzz-saw, chainsaw, drill, spear-tipped, harpoon-tipped, machinegun-tipped and jackhammer-tipped tentacles that leapt out of the water and over the railing of the bridge behind Twilight Red. They met the golden hair, forming a protective yet disturbing guard around the armored girl, who had gone rigid in instant panic.

"Ah-ah-ah," a voice chided as a figure rose up out of the water, carried on a single thick tentacle with, oddly enough, protective railings. She wore a black dress, an apron with long trailing ties at the back, a hat with a wing-like projection on one side, and an elaborate mask that looked like it was trying to outmatch the entire 17th and 18th centuries in decadent, tasteless garishness. In one hand she held an open book, in the other a white feather quill. "Tentacle trauma is my domain. To use it is to challenge me, you loli-esque fetish fuel on legs! For I am the great Kira Deathnote Paru-sama, and no one screws with my teammate's heads using tentacles but me!"

She leapt from her tentacle and landed next to Twilight Red, slapping one hand on the still-shaking knight's palm. "Tag out, princess! It's my turn. Summon, OVERFIEND! GREAT PARU-SAMA EDITION!"

As the near-Lovecraftian tentacles horror erupted from the book, even MORE disturbing add-ons on the ends of its tentacles, Yami narrowed her eyes. "I hate ecchi people…" she said softly, and struck.

In the sidelines, Saotome Haruna stared, starry-eyed. "Ah! That style! That poise! That outfit! That taste! I think I'm in love… Again!"

Somewhere, Yuuki Rito and an entire universe sneezed.

….

Freaks

It's useless, Yuuna told herself as she finally broke free from the gathering crowd, which was struggling to get better and closer views of all the action. She ran around aimlessly trying to find Akira, but found no sign of her anywhere. She had too much of a lead on me, and she's too fast and athletic… and hot… no, damn it, scratch that last part… even if it's true…

Then luck finally decided to smile upon her, and she glimpsed Akira down the street, running frantically from side to side trying to find something. Yuuna decided not to call to her, instead approaching in silence to see for herself what was bothering her friend so much. Because she still wasn't sure Akira would really tell them by herself. She and Ako were very much alike that way.

Akira must have been seriously distracted by whatever was troubling her, since she didn't notice Yuuna's proximity even when Yuuna herself thought she had come too close. In truth, she was looking for a phone booth, since she was given to understand that was the standard hiding place for superhero transformations in the middle of densely populated urban areas, but when she couldn't find any, the tall swimmer simply ran into a nearby narrow alley.

Yuuna stood right out of the alley, unsure of what to do next. Her impulsive nature told her to just walk in and check what the hell was happening to Akira, but a nascent part of herself kept nagging her on how bad an idea that was, and how being impulsive had bitten her in the ass so often recently, and how that'd be akin to shooting Negi-sensei or blocking a petrifying dart with her arm in the list of stupidest things she ever could do (what was that about? she wondered).

Then she heard Akira's soft frustrated whimpers coming from the alleyway. "I really hate this, I hate it so much…"

And all caution was tossed to the wind.

"Akira-chan!" she shouted, running in, seeing her standing in a shadowy corner with her back to Yuuna, a hand raised high. "What are you—"

Akira was already in the middle of a shout of her own. "—POWER, MAKE UP!-!"

Yuuna's jaw slacked down. It all happened in only a fraction of second, and she could barely see the mesmerizing flash of luminous nudity happening before her, but she still was stopped dead on her tracks. And then that girl was there, right where Akira had been a second before, tall and beautiful like a goddess in an oh-so-tiny miniskirt, long and powerful legs supporting her impressive build. Dark hair cascading down her back…

The stranger looked over her shoulder, startled, and froze in terror when she saw her. Her face wasn't Akira's, and yet, in a way, Yuuna knew it was hers. It had to be. It was nearly impossible to describe, that feeling, but somehow, it was like her mind kept itself trying to trick her eyes into thinking they were seeing something else than Akira's own face.

But the confirmation came a moment later, in a terrified stutter, maybe too careless. "Y-Y-Yuuna!"

"Ah… Akira-chan?" she babbled, her own feet rooted in shock, swallowing hard.

Then, before Akira could say anything, there was a shrill feminine scream from the crowd.

"We'll discuss this later, sorry!" the all-too-familiar stranger ran past Yuuna, with the drive Akira-chan always had when she wanted to protect someone, no matter what. Even if her face was so terribly pale.

Yuuna couldn't follow her anymore. She only fell, sitting on the sidewalk, covering her mouth with a hand.

A few streets away, in a public restroom, the orange haired girl with glasses they had met minutes ago stumbled into a stall. The woman in the next stall blinked, noticing a flash of light, and then a few screamed curses and obscenities that made her blush.

The next door stall's… well, door was kicked back open just as soon, and a rather different looking girl with fiery, intense eyes and crimson hair stomped out, with a gun in each hand, and carrying the same handbag with the Entrail Animal black bunny hanging from it. "F*CK! I'm gonna perforate that B**CH! Midget bodyguard or not, this time!"

The woman all but literally sank down into her toilet, trying to remain unnoticed as the strange young woman stormed out cursing like a drunk sailor and waving her guns around. "I'M GOING FOR YOU, CLOWN FACED COW! YOU'D BETTER START PRAYING AND READYING YOUR FLABBY WHITE A$$!"

Next time, she'd just use a random restaurant's bath, the tourist swore…

….

Dances With Wolves

"Okay!" Kotaro leapt back to his feet and dashed for Negi, claws ready. "Now you're being serious? Fine with me!"

Negi moved a hand quickly. "Ras Tel Ma Scir Magister! Evocatio Valcyriarum Contubernalia Gladiaria! Contra Pungent!"

Eight ghostly, glowing magic constructs shaped like Negi himself, riding staffs and wielding lances, flew towards Kotaro, arms ready. The dog boy only laughed. "Is this supposed to impress me?" He thrust a fist forward. "GARYU INUGAMI-RYU KUON GAROKU-SEN!" and a large discharge of ki flew out of his hand, blasting through the summons and streaking for Negi, who ducked under it in time. "Not bad! To move that fast, even after the beating I gave you…!"

He jumped forward with a kick, but Negi managed to sidestep it and whack his staff against Kotaro's stomach.

Sora's eyebrows looked like they were sending telegraphed messages. "N-No way anyone here can be human…" Then she felt Nodoka stirring weakly on her lap. "Oh, dear! A-are you okay, Miyazaki-san? If you can move, we have to—!"

"I'm… fine, thanks…" Nodoka fully sat back up. "Kero-san…?"

"I'm here!" the plush lion flew before her.

"Ahhh, good…" she blinked, still sleepy. "And Negi-sensei…?"

"Um, he's over there getting beat up…" Chamo pointed in the direction where Kotaro had started gaining the upper hand again, charging his fists with ki and using them to pummel Negi mercilessly.

"What?" Nodoka was too stunned by the vision to even register the ermine had just talked to her. "Sensei! Koujiro-kun, why are you beating on him? Let him go!" She pushed herself back to her feet.

Kotaro sighed. "This girl will never stop annoying me, will she?" he mused, while swinging a fist at Negi's face. Negi, however, stopped it wit a hand, squeezing it while clenching his teeth, an eye swollen.

"Have you just insulted one of my students?"

"Ah?"

Then Negi smashed a fist against his stomach.

Nodoka panicked, reaching for her cards. "They d-don't listen! Yue w-was right about boys, after all! Ah! I don't see how Jump can help here, and if I use Windy, I could hurt them both…!"

"Nodoka, why don't you help them instead?" Kero pointed at the girls struggling with the shadow dogs. "Once they're freed there, they can go help your friend!"

"Oh, you're right!" She finally noticed her classmates. "Asuna-san, C-Chisame-san!" She selected the Windy. "Windy, blow those evil creatures away!" she commanded, gaining steely determination in the span of a second.

The Windy came into being, startling the hell out of Sora again, and managing to impress Chamo (this Pactio would be worth a FORTUNE!). She created a few, precise gales of hurricane-force wind that threw the dogs off their feet and tossed them out of the path. Once they were there struggling to untangle and come back, Chisame hit them with a flurry of lightning bolts that unmade them.

"Oh, God!" Nodoka gasped. "Chisame-san, that was going too far!"

"Nahhh, those things weren't even alive!" Chamo said. Now Nodoka noticed the ermine was talking, and she yelped, stepping back. "Don't be afraid, Honya-nee! It's just me, good ole' Chamo!"

Chisame panted, tired, and looked back to where Kotaro was, once again, regaining the edge on Negi with his superior close combat skill. "Without spellcasting, you don't have any fight in you, Sissy-boy! Tired? I can keep doing this all day long!"

"Hey, you, cut it out!" Chisame ordered. "I told you to stop it! You can keep tossing animals at us, and we'll just keep taking them down, so just quit already!"

Asuna looked in shock at Nodoka. "Wait, you can use magic?-!"

"You can use magic, Asuna-san?-!" Miyazaki countered. "Uwaaaa! I don't know what's going on anymore…!"

"What a bunch of annoying girls," Kotaro grunted, while grabbing Negi by the neck and slamming him down. "But they're too late now! This is over anyway!"

"Okay," Valkyrie Black whispered from the bushes. "Now we really have to…"

Negi coughed. "Sim ipse pars per secundam dimidiam Negius Springfieldes…"

"Hum?" Kotaro blinked, and then, as if possessed by a burst of new found strength, Negi kicked him off himself and into another tree. "Ow…"

Valkyrie Black sigh. "Honestly, I know they're doing their best to hurt each other, but this is like watching kindergardeners playing at professional wrestling…!"

"It's kinda cute and childish…" Psycho Purple agreed.

….

Toy Story 2

"So, we're supposed to… fight these things?" Ayaka looked down at the squirming, hopping masses of toy-like creatures, which swarmed noisily around them. "This must be some sort of sick joke…!"

"No, no!" the pale man called from the crowd. "It'd be a sick joke if one of those shot you through the head! As it is, I'd just call it a lame joke."

"HEY!" Tsukuyomi found a few moments to yell from where she was frantically trying to keep a dominating, advancing Setsuna at bay. "Lame?-! Who made you the judge on these things?-!"

"I'll have you know I'm the world champion on 'these thing'!" he replied grandly without missing a beat. "I'm the Simon Cowell on 'these things'!" He pointed behind Ayaka. "By the way, Tootie, don't look now, but methinks we're seeing a bit too much of that Geisha charm!"

"What?" Ayaka's head looked back, and she gasped aloud, seeing a kappa and a white rabbit-like thing had just pulled her dress up, exposing her white panties for everyone to see. "AHHHH! W-WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?-!-?"

"I-it's a bunch of perverted toys!" Natsumi said, trying to back away while shaking two catlike beings who had clutched on her, chomping pieces of her kimono apart very quickly.

"Oh, for the love of—!" Haruna easily slapped a bloated black dust bunny into a wall. "These things are all wrong to be believable sex toys! You're half doing it, Swordsgirl!" she shouted in Tsukuyomi's direction, while slamming a foot down on a quickly approaching rat with gloves, crushing it under her heel. "You should either make them vivid or cute and silly! Do it properly!" And she pulled Yue by an arm, keeping her close to herself. "Stay close, Yue. I'll handle this, okay?"

In Okinawa, Kitsu Chiri sneezed.

The short girl only nodded, looking up at her friend. She hadn't seen her looking this way, that focused despite her still wisecracking and reckless boasting, since her attempt to stop the golem at Library Island. Yue actually liked Haruna better when she was like that; then, it was like she was being, in a way, more honest about what she truly was…

"Ara ara ara, this could be a problem…!" Chizuru put a hand to her cheek, before casually swinging a leg around to kick a blue kappa trying to pull her pants down in the head, instantly making it explode into a rain of blue confetti. "Hold on there, Natsumi-chan, I'll help you…!" She didn't sound any more alarmed than she did when the dinner was burning in the kitchen, and her movements were precise and calm, even somewhat lazy, as she punted one of the beings holding Natsumi in its butt, also causing it to burst in a myriad of paper pieces.

"Hey, someone get them off me!" Asakura screamed from where she had been pinned down against the ground by several little gremlins, who were ripping her clothes apart, already leaving her topless and struggling to keep her chest covered by her arms. "These things are strong, dammit!"

Misa took in a deep breath. "Sakurako, take Madoka away from the danger zone! With your luck, no way they'll even touch you!"

Shiina nodded very fast. "Okay! Take good care, Misa-chan!" she said, already grabbing Madoka by an arm and pulling her back.

"Wait, what's going on here?" the third cheerleader protested. "Don't tell me you're gonna try fighting these things, Misa! I know you want to impress Negi-sensei, but—!"

"Come on, come on, we'll explain it all later, Mado-chan," Sakurako gently insisted, tugging on her arm with more insistence. "Misa-chan has been taking self defense classes lately, see?" As she talked, she looked in Hakase's direction, begging her to be careful with her glaze. Satomi seemed to understand somehow, nodding at her with a small smile before one of her robotic arms caught a tin chicken by the neck.

"Ah, I should keep a few of these for later study. Maybe I could learn—" her musings were cut short by Misa's next shout.

"Don't even think about it!" the cheerleader said, discreetly pulling a few glowing needles out and sinking them into the necks of two approaching blow up dolls, one of them with each hand, making them laugh uncontrollably before deflating in place. She hoped everyone was too busy looking at the exposed female flesh to notice the needles, but she was sure she could come up with a good excuse anyway. She prided herself on being a good liar. "We take no prisoners! Misora, stop cowering in that corner and come over here!"

Hakase wondered when had they elected Misa field leader in absence of Negi and Chisame, but then again, she didn't seem to make that bad a job at it now, all things considered. Plus, if Sakurako trusted her…

Sick of having herself exposed as if she was that Goodman stripper, Ayaka had gone on the offensive, angrily ripping into a group of summons as they also ripped more of her costume off. By the time, a few moments later, she was done with them, she was reduced to her underwear and a few shreds of outer clothing, her gorgeous fake black hairstyle fully undone, the wig slipping, her golden hair hanging loose again. But she stood victorious. "You insolent vermin! To DARE touch the daughter of the Yukihiro house with your filthy paws—!"

"Iincho, look out! Behind you!" Misora warned.

Ayaka growled, ignoring the catcalls and the photo flashes coming from the crowd, twisting around to catch an incoming huge and amorous kappa with a devastating chop. "YUKIHIRO AYAKARYUU AIKIJUU JUTSU! SECHUKA!"

"KAPPA!" the kappa said as it was slammed down against the sidewalk, losing all capacity to go on.

"That was awesome, Iincho!" Natsumi said, while Chizuru took off her own jacket and secured it around the freckled girl's half-exposed torso.

"A bit of that awesomeness over here, pleaseeeee!" Kazumi pleaded from where she was squirming naked under a pile of hopping gremlins now. They were only hopping on her now they had finished with her clothes. Only hopping. Honest.

Ayaka was too busy basking in her victory to notice, though. "Oh ho ho! I developed this martial arts style myself! A bunch of stuffed toys is no obstacle for me! No way I'll betray the trust placed on me by Ne—" Then her eyes bulged out, as she saw a gigantic smiling cat with a good-luck bell tied around its neck, jumping on her from way above. "—NEKO?-!"

And then the huge creature landed squarely on her, so only her kicking legs stuck from under it.

"Oh, no, they got Iincho!" Natsumi cried.

"You bastards!" Misora gulped.

"They got me tooooooo…!" Kazumi was screaming as loud as she could now.

Haruna huffed. "I always knew Iincho was actually weak for pussies…" Yue rolled her eyes, but still kept clutching at her for dear life.

Then something whistled through the air, and a black and white blur jumped from the public and feet first into the giant cat, sending it flying into the nearby river with a devastating kick. Then the blur landed on her feet, revealed as a tall, grimly serious looking woman with her black hair in braids, wearing a maid outfit and round shiny glasses.

"Wait, you're…!" Haruna recognized her. The Christmas party…

Ayaka coughed, breathing hard to fill her lungs again, and then looked up dizzily, her eyes growing wider in recognition, as well. "Ruh… Roberta-san!"

The maid bowed deeply at her. "My apologies over not arriving sooner, Ojou-sama," she humbly said. "I trust you haven't been seriously hurt. That's… a lovely lingerie set, by the way."

"Roberta-san, you followed me again!" Ayaka hid her face between her hands. "Honestly, every trip or holiday, it's the same thing…!"

"I just can't bear the thought of having you hurt, Ojou-sama," the maid said, professionally, but with the tiniest hint of actual fondness in her tone.

"Like always, you have an interesting way of saying 'Thanks', Ayaka," Chizuru commented.

….

Interlude: Merry Melodies!

Chachamaru stared, dutifully recording the scene before her, since right now she wasn't sure she wasn't having a malfunction and this was all just false data caused by her recipes becoming corrupted and mixing with her homework assignments.

Evangeline, wearing dark jeans, a black shirt and a trench coat in the same color, her long hair slicked back by mousse, held the mic of the karaoke machine and crooned the lyrics of the song. "I died… so many years ago… but you make me feel… like it isn't so… why'd you want to be with me, I think I'll never know… mmmmmmm…"

"I didn't know Eva-sama was such a good singer…" Fumika commented, dressed as Tomax. Indeed, various people of different ages and genders were stopping to enjoy the show.

Eva ignored them, eyes closed, looking like she was about to perform fellatio on the microphone. "So scared… Ashamed of what I feel… And I can't tell the one I love… I know they couldn't deal… Whispers in a dead girl's ear… It doesn't make it real… "

"She's making me kinda hot…" Fuuka dressed as Xamot whispered back.

"Ssshhhhh, wait until the song's over…"

"…" Fuuka went. "All right…"

""That's great…" Eva sang, eyes half-lidded, making several men gulp nervously and put things to cover up their crotch. "But you just wanna play… And bein' with you touches me, More than I can say… But since I'm only dead to you, I'm saying stay away! And let me rest! In! Peace… !"

As the tempo changed, Eva changed her pose abruptly, making a sudden, Michael Jackson-esque (myherestinpeace) pelvic thrust that caused more gulping and had a blushing Fumika give her sister a jealous glare for drooling. The blonde stood with legs apart in a defiant power-stance. "Let me rest in peace! Let me get some sleep! Let me take my love and bury it, In a hole 6-foot deep! I can lay my body down, But I can't find my, sweet release! So let me rest in peace!"

Abruptly, she gave Fumika a smoky, smoldering, heated, lustful look that had the other loli squeaking. It was soon Fuuka's turn to be jealous. Eva didn't really see them, however, focused on her song. "Don't know… You gotta willing slave…" at this everyone listening gulped, sweating and fanning themselves, "And I just love to play the thought, That you might misbehave. But Till you do, I'm telling you, Stop visiting my grave! And let me rest in peace!"

Abruptly she turned and started slowly walking so morosely you half-expected her to be moping through a storm, her coat trailing behind her. She raised a hand to her chest as if it pained her as she belted out the next few lyrics. "I know… I should go… But I follow you, like a girl possessed… There's a traitor here, beneath my breast… And it hurts me more, than you've ever guessed… If my heart could beat, it would break my chest! But I can see, you're unimpressed, So leave me be! And let me rest in peace! Let me get some sleep! Let me take my love and bury it, In a hole 6-foot deep! I can lay my body down, But I can't find my sweet release! Let me rest in peace! Why won't you… Let me rest! In! Peace?-!"

As the drum finale of the song started to fade out, leaving Evangeline posing dramatically as her audience erupted in applause, Fumika tugged on Fuuka's costume. "Okay, now we can go…"

They headed for the nearest stall.

Next to where they'd been, Chachamaru was busy rebooting, and still not sure just what exactly it had been she'd just witnessed…

….

….

Straw Dogs

Powered up by a burst of extra magic running through his body, Negi dashed at the dazed Kotaro's, giving him an uppercut to the jaw, growling while following that with a roundhouse kick to the midsection before the dog boy could recover. Kotaro tried to land a claw strike on him, but Negi parried, stunned him with another punch to the face, and prepared a spell quickly as he had been taught while the other boy staggered back.

"Ras Tel Ma Scir Magister…" he punted Kotaro in the stomach, hard enough to actually send him up in the air, then quickly placing himself under him, holding up a hand. "Unus Fulgor Coincidens Noctem…" Kotaro blinked when he felt himself actually suspended in mid-air, held still by the spell's accumulating force, which seemed to charge the air around him. "In mea manu ens inimicum edat…"

Then he placed his fingers on Kotaro's back, and shouted at the top of his lungs, "FULGURATIO ALBICANS!"

The girls and the Familiars had to shield their eyes as a massive discharge of magical lighting flowed out of Negi's hand and into Kotaro's body, rattling him wildly and making him howl in pain, and then the whole forest was filled with a white light for a moment.

When it finally passed, Kotaro's weakly panting beaten body hit the path heavily at Negi's feet. The young merc tried to move, but his body wouldn't react. He heard bells ringing madly in his head, and his stomach felt inside-out. "W-What kind of—"

Negi struggled to regain his breath now that the momentary rush of magic had subsided. Blood was running down his face, and as some of it hit his mouth, he fleetingly thought it tasted strangely sweet, but that was the last thing on his mind now. "That-That is the power of Western mages, and the legacy my father left me!" Chisame would have pointed out his father actually didn't teach him anything at all, but she was too busy feeling relieved he had won. "Think twice about insulting him, next time!"

"Sensei!" Matoi gasped, as she felt the troubling Deep Love struggling to resurface again…

Haruka cried the manliest tears a woman can shed. "Dear God, I actually got it right…! I made the right decision…!"

Asuna gave her a funny look. "I seem to recall you saying you had no choice in that…?"

Nodoka ran to Negi's side. "Sensei, please, no more! Why did you and Kojiro-kun have to fight? He helped me twice, and I'm sure he's a good boy…!"

Somewhere, Tobi sneezed.

Chisame went to Negi's other side, pulling a tissue out of one pocket of her skirt (to keep with its fancy appearance, the dress included silk tissues. Chisame vaguely wondered who thought up those details when those things were designed) and wiped the blood off Negi's cheeks with it. "Kojiro-kun? He isn't even named Kojiro! He told us himself his name was Kotaro! And why are you so acquainted with him, anyway?" She pointed her scepter at the bewildered Nodoka. "Don't tell me you're with him!"

"What?" Nodoka gulped.

"Like any good mystery, the culprit is the most inoffensive looking character!" Matoi stepped behind Chisame. "Unless this is a Dan Brown novel, in which case it's the most helpful… Um, Chisame-sama, is there anything you want to tell–?"

"Oh, shut it, you!" Chisame said, rolling her eyes.

"Now, now!" Asuna tried to interfere. "We know the other Honya is good, so this one must be, too!"

"Wh-Which other who?" Nodoka's asked, confused.

"Who knows how different things are here?" Matoi questioned. "We could have been left with the Evil Twin! The Bizarro Nodoka! A heart of pure evil hiding behind a precious, angelic, pure and innocent…" she stopped herself before she snapped into random DEEP LOVE, as was the case when she thought too much about a person's qualities, "… face!"

In every world in existence, Daidouji Tomoyo sneezed.

"Girls, please," Negi exhaled wearily. "I believe in Miyazaki-san."

"That sounds a lot like 'I believe in Harvey Dent'…" Matoi grumbled. "She was hiding from us that she could use magic! What kind of two-timing, bad friend, treacherous and sneaky classmate would hide something that important from her friends?"

Crickets chirped through the forest as the brutally titanic irony of the statement fell on all of them.

Negi coughed. "Anyway, I trust Nodoka-san! I've known her long enough to know she's a decent and honest person!" he said passionately, "And I trust her reasons to hide her magic are just as good as ours!"

"Oh, yeah, we hide the whole magic issue too. I forgot…" Matoi said. Chisame rapped her on the head with her staff. "Ah! Chisame-sama! Hit me harder! Punish me more!"

"Oh, knock it off," Chisame groused.

"S-Sensei…!" Nodoka blushed intensely. "Actually, I, um, only started to use magic, or know it even existed, last night! That's also when I met Kojiro-kun, I mean, Kotaro-kun! Oh, Kotaro-kun, why did you lie to me? And why did you attack Negi-sensei?"

The dog boy didn't reply, only grunting and looking aside.

"Looks like he's part of the team of evildoers out to kidnap Kono— UMPF!" Matoi had her mouth covered by Chisame's right hand.

A pale Sora approached them. "Chisame! L-Let me see if I got this right… Negi-sensei is a magical warrior, and you're his helpers, right?"

"Something like that," Chisame conceded.

"That sounds very dangerous," her older sister cringed. "Why do you do it? You always were the type that tried to stay out of problems! You said you hated abnormal, unusual things! You didn't even like fantastic movies!"

Chisame lowered her head and mumbled. "Ilikedthem Ijustdidntwant anyoneknowit. I alwayswatchthem inmylaptopbecause Iwasembarrassed I likedthestupidstupidthings."

"Ah?" everyone asked, unable to understand a word. Only Kotaro's dog ears could make it out, making him snicker darkly.

"NOTHING!" Chisame shouted. "It was just gas!"

"Heh heh. Stupid girl. Stupid, all of you…" Kotaro chuckled from the floor, struggling to get back up, pushing himself on his hands. His claws grew longer and sharper, as his hair grew wilder, into a white mane running down his spine. A powerful aura surrounded him, and his muscles seemed to inflate, his torso becoming manlier and bigger, so much his shirt ripped itself. A long furry tail popped through a convenient hole in his pants, and he stood before them all, looking truly imposing, brutal and threatening. "Well done, kid! I've never been this hurt before, much less by a brat like you! But it's time you see what my own old man left me! And from now on, I won't hold back on you!"

"Oh my God!" Chisame gasped. "What kind of monster is he?-!"

"H-H-He's some sort of lycanthrope!" Nodoka stammered.

"He looks more like Dark Schneider, the mightiest of all mages of his age, to me!" Chamo gulped, impressed enough to more or less overcome his urges to run away. "Bro, Dark Schneider was the greatest chick magnet of Mundus Magicus ever, too! ASK HIM FOR TIPS!"

Haruka crushed him under her heel. "SHUT UP, ABSURD BOTHERSOME THING!"

"I think he's gone Super Saiyan 3!" Matoi blinked.

"… What?" Chisame asked.

Matoi opened her mouth to reply, but then closed it just as quickly. "I have no idea at all why I just said that."

Then she spoke again, "Or rather, he kinda looks like Lightning Mode N—"

"THAT DOESN'T FIT IN THIS POINT OF CONTINUITY EITHER!" Chibi-Setsuna whacked her across the head.

"It does in the 2814 one," Matoi pointed out.

"… He looks kind of hot now," Sora observed meekly. Ah, Keiichi, forgive me!

"I should've stayed in bed today," Natsuki sighed. "I'd bought new batteries for Mr. Happy and everything. Enerloop ones…"

"I have no alternative," Negi began the chant for another power augmenting spell under his ragged breath, "I'll augment myself again, this time to—"

"Bro, no!" Chamo begged. "You're too spent! You'll end up running yourself down to death!"

Then another voice rang out. "Halt!" it called out from above, and it was one that Nodoka thought sounded eerily familiar. They all looked up to see two short girls, one of them wearing black armor with wings and holding a sword, the other one masked and holding an open book in one hand, both standing on a floating broom.

The masked girl had been the one to speak, and Nodoka was impressed by her brave, confident, driven tone. She seemed to be very pretty under the mask, too. "Inugami Kotaro-san, misguided child, stop your misdeeds here and now! We promise you mercy, but first cease your services to the cause of evil!"

Kotaro snorted. "Oh, that's rich! You seriously expect me to take that seriously? Who the heck are you hichks?"

"Magical Girls without peer or equal, we are the warriors of Truth, Love, and Justice! Valkyrie Black, warrior philosopher of Ariadne's elite, and Psycho Purple, guiding light of Ala Alba, have arrived!" the armored girl proclaimed proudly. Funny, the local Nodoka thought, she more or less sounded like that voice actress, Kuwatani Natsuko… "Surrender, unless you want to have to tell everyone you just got your ass kicked by two little girls!"

Sora and Haruka traded perplexed looks.

"More friends of yours?" Sora asked.

"Never seen them in my life," Haruka shook her head. "I'd never associate myself with someone gone enough to call themselves 'Psycho'!"

Negi, Chisame, Asuna and Matoi all sweatdropped.

"Um, actually, we know them. They're all right," Asuna sheepishly said.

"You hang out with people who calls themselves psychos, Chisame?-!" Sora was horrified.

"Never mind the name!" Chisame was frazzled. "She'd never kill a fly! Um, but they're still badass, so you're welcomed to surrender," she told Kotaro. "I mean, we outnumber you so badly now it isn't funny! Give it up, okay?"

"When I die," he said. "And besides, even if you defeated me, you'll never get outta here! More people means you'll only die of starvation here sooner!" Then he saw the local Nodoka's devastated expression and sweatdropped, feeling like a heel all of a sudden for some reason. "I mean, um, you're an okay girl, so I'll show you the exit after I put these jerks down…"

"I won't ever leave without my teacher and friends!" Nodoka said, and for a moment, her suddenly fiery tone matched Psycho Purple's so perfectly it made Natsuki take notice.

Kotaro made an awkward face. "Eh. Ah, well, that's… bad, but… Ahh, what the hell! Fight first, sort this out later!" And he jumped at Negi like an animal.

Not that way! Sheesh, put down the yaoi goggles…

….

Toy Story 3

"We'll talk about this later, Roberta-san," Ayaka mumbled as her maid unzipped a handbag and handed her a folded shirt and shorts. "Thank you. Always prepared, huh?"

"I have noticed you and your classmates tend to lose articles of clothing in public with alarming frequency, so I saw fit to bring this, Ojou-sama," the towering maid replied. "Do you authorize me to simply start shooting all these monsters and be done with it?"

"NO!" Ayaka said while buttoning her shorts up. Weren't they a bit too tight and short? Idly, she wondered if that was what Roberta would have liked to see her in the best. "I've told you before, don't ever shoot in public! You could hit an innocent!"

"Alright, we almost have this in the bag, then!" Haruna smirked as she kicked a jumping one-eyed green umbrella into a fountain, then grabbed another one and used it to bat more critters away at left and right, using a single hand, while the other kept clutching a swooning Yue around the waist. "Good to see you again, Lurch-chan!"

"My name's Roberta…" the maid hissed glacially.

A curiously vacant-eyed bipedal brown bear hopped its way to Kazumi, as the gremlins surrounding her backed away, as if intimidated by the bear's mere unnerving, strangely chilling presence. Asakura's eyes widened. "W-Wait! If you're what I think you are, then I'm too old for you! I mean, yeah, I'm fourteen, but—! But—!" she stammered, sitting up and recoiling against a wall. "Damn you people, stop taking pictures and—!"

A gymnastics ribbon was flung around like a whip, wrapping itself around the bear's neck and tossing it high up into the air, until it became a twinkle in the sky. A gasping Asakura, still covering her chest and crotch with her hands, looked at her newly arrived savior. "Ah, Ma-Makie-chan! Man, I've never been this glad to see you before!"

Makie tilted her head aside curiously. "Kazumi-chan, did I just hear you complaining about people taking pictures?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, karma's a bitch!" the reporter said. "Just hand me something to cover myself up, please?"

"Just a sec, okay?" Makie whipped the ribbon aside, this time whacking two penguins with red rubber crests on their heads. "Ah, these little guys are everywhere! And they're very ecchi, too!"

"A master of the obvious as always, Makie-chan!" Ayaka was back to stomping on summons, this time with Roberta's efficient help. There was a disturbing insane glint in the maid's eyes as she rampaged through the creatures, stepping on one after another and crushing their heads down, but somehow Ayaka seemed blissfully oblivious to it. "Shouldn't the police be here already?-!"

Then a man in the crowd pointed up. "Look! Up in that rooftop!"

"Aren't you supposed to say 'in the sky'?" someone else asked before being rightfully slapped upside the head.

The girls looked up to see a tall, majestic figure standing on the edge of a nearby rooftop, with her arms crossed and her long black hair fluttering in the breeze.

"It's Sailor V!" Makie chirped loudly, making a piece of Akira's self esteem crumple down like a cookie under a soldier's boot.

"No, it's that other girl who hangs with Sailor V!" Yue said. "I think she's named… named… What was her name again?" she wondered. Akira's self esteem lost two chunks more.

"She's named Sailor Mercury!" Kazumi told them. Ah! Finally someone got it right!

Posing the way Minako had taught her, Akira spoke with a falsely confident and powerful voice. "Enemies of peace and order, beware! Renounce your evil ways, and stop trying to corrupt the innocent! Always watching everyone no matter where, the warrior of Mercury is here! Surrender now, or Sailor Mercury will punish you!"

"I can see her panties from here! Perfectly white!" Haruna gushed.

"Actually, I think she's wearing a white bodysuit under that skirt," Yue observed.

"Who… Who is this nut?" Misa asked Misora, sporting a deep frown. "Is she for real too, or just an actress? I thought Sailor V and her sidekick only operated near Mahora…"

"Maybe she just grabbed the Sailormobile and drove all the way here!" Misora hissed. "How am I supposed to know? Do you think I'm an expert on vigilantes?"

They both paused and look over at Twilight Red and AngelGARd, then made a note to ask them later.

Sailor Mercury acrobatically jumped down, making Makie squee aloud and the other girls and viewers take instant notice. "Okay, I can believe she's the real deal," Misa said, as the Senshi landed on her booted feet without a hitch, posing again as if inviting the monsters to attack her.

"Come and fight me or flee, minions of darkness!" she had to improvise. "Leave the innocent, and Haruna-san, alone, and take on someone who can fight back instead!"

"Hey, I can fight back, too!" Haruna protested before saying, "Wait, you know my name? How?"

"The Sailor Senshi know everything about all enemies of purity and modesty everywhere!" Akira didn't miss a beat.

Yue blinked. "Haruna! You're bad enough to be considered a supervillain!"

On the bridge, the girl with the black dress fighting with tentacles exclaimed, "HEY!"

Haruna only smiled smugly. "I must be doing something right…!"

"NO, YOU AREN'T!" Kazumi, Ayaka and Natsumi told her all at once.

Meanwhile, lured by the magical power irradiating from the newcomer and her challenging stance, the remaining summons all charged against Akira. Drawing a deep breath in, the Senshi thrust her hands ahead and shouted, "SHINE AQUA ILLUSION!"

A loud series of shocked gasps ran through the whole audience, as they saw Akira's magic engulfing and encasing them in a large concentrated layer of ice. And it was over, just like that.

"AMAZIIIIING!" Makie clapped, and the crowd followed her example.

"Hey! Hey there!" Kazumi ran to Akira's side, all modesty forgotten now. "That was simply awesome! Incredible! Amazing, sensational and spectacular! You don't have any agent or representative yet, do you? I'm your woman! I can make you a real superstar!"

Akira sweatdropped. "I… I'm not sure what do you…"

"Sailor Mercury-sama, sign me an autograph!" Haruna held her notebook up for her. "You won't deny me that just because I'm your future sexy nemesis, will you?"

Chizuru approached her a bit more dubiously. "Excuse me, but aren't you, perhaps, my fri—"

Then a loud sound coming from behind them startled them all.

….

The Deer Hunter

Perched atop a much taller building's rooftop, aiming down with a sniper rifle, the pale and delicate Gretel waited impatiently, with her twin Hansel standing guard right next to her, axe in hand. They were surrounded by magical wards hiding them from the naked eye, hearing and cameras. The girl was talking again into her specially mounted headpiece.

"Can I shoot now?" she gently asked with a faint insane smile on her thin lips as she waved away a pigeon. "I have visual on what seems to be a Magical Girl. I've never shot a Magical Girl. I want to see if she bleeds pink with sparkles. I have a perfect target on her head! The tiara on her forehead makes an excellent bulls-eye! Come on, Old Lady, let me shoot her!"

"No!" Chigusa's voice roared through the part attached to her right ear. "I've told you, don't shoot unless the whole operation is in direct danger! Otherwise, hold back and don't do a single thing, or you'll regret it dearly!"

"Pain doesn't scare me, death is only a reward, I don't have anything you can take away!" Gretel sing-sang. "I'll shoot anyway…!"

"I'll make you marathon the Alvin and the Chipmunk movies," Chigusa threatened.

Gretel's face fell down, and her voice lost all musicality. "I'll be good."

Hansel yawned. "But this is boring and pointless. And that girl is a danger, Old Lady. She has just destroyed all your puppets, and Big Sister is having too many problems with the samurai girl. This is going to fall down all over again…"

"I'll send the extra help to cope, then," Chigusa promised. "It's about time they earn their pay. In the meanwhile, don't you dare shoot unless everything is all but lost! Over!"

Hansel stretched his arms. "When we worked alone, no one gave us this many absurd orders, Sister…"

His twin smiled. "Well, we'll eat enough Japanese takeout by the time this is all over, Brother. I promise I'll let you keep their heads this time."

"I like the sound of that. Japan is very quiet, so it makes for a good shooting gallery. What do you say of moving to Tomobiki City once we're done here? I heard they have… interesting people to shoot and chop there…"

A few blocks away, Sakurako made Madoka sit down at a restaurant table and smiled at her. "Now, wait here will you Madoka-chan? I'll go, um, bring Misa-chan here too! I promise it won't take long!"

Madoka scowled. "You must be joking! What the hell's going on here? Misa and you have been weirder than ever lately, but this takes the cake! I'm not letting you go back there, you hear me?" She grabbed her arm. "We're going to call the chaperones, and—!"

"Madoka-chan," Sakurako pulled her arm free with a strength Madoka hadn't suspected Saku-chan possessed. The lucky girl grabbed both her hands, pinning them down against the table. Even her tone was strangely serious and very un-Sakurako-like now. "You trust me, don't you? We're the best friends ever, aren't we? I beg you, let us do this. Just stay here, don't call for anyone, don't go away, and wait for us. I swear we'll be fine!"

"Sakurako, I want to help you, but I can't if I don't know what's happening!" Madoka told her. "If you think it's something impossible to explain, just try me! Look, I haven't told you this, but recently, I—!"

Sakurako only hugged her. "Please, Madoka-chan. There's no time for this. Misa-chan, Satomi-chan and Konoka-chan all need me. I don't want you to be in risk too, because you mean a lot to me, okay? I won't fail your trust in me, so just do what I'm telling you, please, please…"

Madoka sighed in defeat and briefly hugged her before pulling back. "I have a few things I want to tell you when this is over."

"So do I," Sakurako nodded. "I don't know if I'll be able to, but… Well, I need to hurry. Remember, wait for our arrival or my call!" And she ran out of the restaurant, leaving a concerned Madoka behind.

"Sakurako…" Madoka exhaled. She considered calling for Nagato-sempai's help, but she feared it only would worsen things. She would have to trust her friends, which was a horribly scary idea, but what were the choices…?

"Miss, what will you order?" a waiter approached her.

"A cheese sandwich and the strongest non-alcoholic drink you have," the cheerleader rubbed her aching temples, closing her eyes. The waiter stood there for a moment as if waiting for something else before just turning around.

"Very well."

Madoka remained quiet and silent there until she heard someone grabbing a chair at the other end of the table. She opened her eyes to see a slightly pale Yuuna plopping herself down on the chair.

"I hope this isn't taken, because I'm staying here either way," the basketball player said mechanically.

"Be my guest," Madoka grumbled. "What happened to you? You have looked better… let's say 99% of the time."

"I could say the same thing about you."

"My life has become too weird," Madoka confided.

"Yeah, mine too."

"I doubt it's as weird as mine."

"You shouldn't bet on that."

"Yeah? Care to tell me?"

"Well, either I'm completely insane, or I was transported to a parallel world a few days ago, for starters…" Yuuna mumbled.

Over where the fight was still on, several people sneezed.

Madoka blinked. "Ah. Ah, well… So was I, actually." The words actually came out by themselves.

"There's no need to snark, Madoka. Just tell me I'm crazy and be done with it…"

"No, it really happened to me!"

Yuuna blinked thrice, then looked straight into Madoka's eyes. She looked all around to confirm there was no one in the neighboring tables; almost everyone in the area had gone to watch the fights. Then she stared back into Madoka's eyes. "Tell me more."

….

The China Syndrome:

From the Files of Chao Lingshen, Time Traveller:

With great interest, I observed the arrival of two young women who perfectly matched the combat Pactio forms of Miyazaki Nodoka and Ayase Yue in the near future, plus extra added features to conceal their identities. They even held Artifacts matching the data observed in most timelines, leaving only one rational, even if unlikely at first sight, explanation.

Two weeks ago, when I was contacted by my mysterious benefactor through the pan-dimensional crisis involving the 3-A Sports Quartet, I hazarded a wild but sensible guess as to her identity. The advanced degree of her knowledge and expertise, coupled with her knowledge of my security codes, and several coincidences with my own speech style and character quirks, moved me to deduce I had been reached by an alternate reality version of myself. Those suspects were validated days ago, when 'Nelly' Springfield was introduced to us. I obviously never believed 'her' official explanation, since I know the only cousin my ancestor has in this timeline is Nekane Springfield (who, unlike the troubling patterns observed in other iterations, is not his sister or mother, or both things at once, here. Thankfully).

I surmised 'Nelly' was, indeed, an alternate reality version of my teacher and ancestor, as well. I doubt 'her' true gender is even female, having observed my ancestor in drag in previous iterations, and finding him then a perfect match for 'Nelly''s behavior and appearance.

Now these two extra librarians reinforce my theories. Highly interesting! They worked in my favor as well, since they had a Diarium Ejus of their own. I had followed my ancestor in secrecy bringing a vial of the commonly called 'truth serum', highly concentrated sodium pentothal, for use on Inugami Kotaro, in the event extracting escape information from him was needed. However, it looked like my intervention wouldn't be necessary after all. Good. I have revealed enough of myself to Negi recently. In every sense of the term.

I remained in my hiding place despite everything. If I knew the recorded methods of an older, more experienced Nodoka, and I do, she had scanned the whole area with her Artifact by then, so she must have known I was in the vicinity. There's no point in running when they already know you're there. Besides, I needed to know how much they've told the local Negi and his allies about me. It could be a key factor in the success or failure of the Mahorafest project and beyond.

Another factor to be considered was, what happened in their timeline, and what could I learn from it for my own purposes?

So I stuck around, watching over and recording in silence, hoping Miyazaki was too busy with Inugami to be reading my mind right then. A gamble, yes, but each jump was made of gambles, and this one seemed to be particularly ripe with unexpected additions…

Wait a minute… if she knows I'm here… then… well, she probably didn't notice, I'm sure she's focused on Inugami…

Chao looked up from her recording to find the girl she suspected was Nodoka looking right at her, smiling benevolently, nodding enthusiastically, and pointing at her Book.

"Oh, crap," Chao said as she realized all the juicy exposition she'd just provided…

….

Shooter

From her chosen sniping position on the top floor of a building, behind the decorative window of the façade that was actually connected to a dusty storeroom, Kuro kept a watchful eye. She'd had to knock off a pane of glass from the window but the curtain covered it up. This way, there'd be no breaking glass to hurt civilians when she took her shot. Her view was narrow, but it was centered perfectly on the bridge on the other side of the theme par. Archer eyes ruled. Her black bow rested in her hands, a mundane arrow– aluminum shaft, diamond-edged steel tip– nocked and ready to fire. The explosive in the shaft was simple, an impact-triggered chemical switch with no complicated or detailed parts she and those who used powers like her had been able to memorize, but of decent yield. Her first shot would be undetectable and deadly.

"Here, psychos, psychos, psychos…" she murmured, scanning the slit again. "Where are you…?"

She paused, then frowned. That roof… why was there a big empty circle there among all those pigeons and leaves?

"Why, that looks suspiciously like someone trying to hide their presence with a glamour and overdoing it…" she murmured, raising the bow and drawing the fletching to her cheek. She stood well back from the window, aiming through the tiny opening of the empty pane. An easy shot, she thought a bit smugly. She lined up with the blank area, then sighed and aimed a little off to one side. Well, Magical Girls weren't supposed to just kill people, after all. She took a deep breath, emptied herself, and felt her fingers start to loosen–

Her window exploded.

The force of the blast threw her back even as her arrow went wild, arcing upwards. She managed to dismiss the Traced arrow before it exploded, and then she struck the wooden wall on the opposite end of the storage space– though it would be more accurate to call it the space under the roof facade– cracking the wood hard enough to leave a mark and slamming onto the ground.

As she groggily but quickly rose to her feet, something arced into the opening where the window had been, and there were several small thumps over the sudden screaming as something landed on the wooden floor. Kuro had time to stare at the distinctive shapes of various kinds of grenades before instinct took over, and she leapt, one had snapping up between her and the explosive. "Rho Aias!"

The charges detonated, the shrapnel flying through the air. The projectiles of the fragmentation grenades slammed into her Conceptual Weapon and were easily shrugged off, but the same couldn't be said for the sudden concussive explosion of the concussion grenades and flashbangs. She slammed back into her indentation, this time going through the wall and out into the street below.

As she lay there, staring at the sky, Kuro felt compelled to react to her surroundings. "Ow…" she said, deadpan.

Somewhere around her feet, there was the sound of a door being kicked open, a distinctive metallic click, and a girl who sounded like they hadn't hit puberty yet– and Kuro knew very well what this sounded like– crying out, "Say hello to my little friend!" in a cheesy Spanish accent.

Bullets started to riddle the ground.

"Ah…" Kuro said to herself as she rolled out of the way, moving low, dodging and weaving with super-magus speed. "I see 'Inflict Absurd Amounts Of Pain On Kuro-chan' Day has begun… Trace, On! Avalon!"

Another one wouldn't hurt…

"Hold still, Darkstalker-loving Magus!" the girl's voice cried. More gunshots followed, very heavy caliber from the sound of them. Those couldn't possibly have come standard, not with that firing rate.

Kuro bounced off a wall and backflipped to face her opponent. It looked like a little girl, just slightly taller than her, and seemingly not much older. She was wearing a red dress that was either more than a century out of date or custom made for loli fetish play. A white apron and a ref hooded cloak adorned her, the hood up. Said hood did nothing to hid the electronic monocle strapped to one eye, probably some kind of infra-red feed, On the crook of her right arm she carried what looked like a wicker picnic basket covered by a checkered cloth, and she was wielding what looked like a modified Squad Action Weapon. A belt of shotgun shells fed into it. "Oh, you have GOT to be fucking kidding me!" Kuro cried as she Traced Kanshou and Byakuya.

She girl smiled brightly, innocently. It was the exact same smile Kuro practiced in the mirror to creep people out. "Hey, girlie! Surrender now, and I'll tell you what, I'll only shoot off both your kneecaps!"

Had she been anyone else, some other Magical Girl, Kuro would have yelled indignantly at the other girl for using weapons that put people in danger. It was only truly absurd luck that there was no one lying on the ground bleeding from those explosions and the weapon's fire just now. People had run away, shocked by the explosions, but some were coming closer now, taking pictures, they probably thought it was some kind of show.

Kuro wasn't any another Magical Girl. She'd come into this world trying to deal death, and she'd probably leave it doing the same. Still, there were standards. "Your lack of proper gun safety in atrocious," Kuro said coldly, raising her weapons in a guard position, readying another Rho Aias. "I, Dark Magical Girl Black Archer, shall punish you."

The girl giggled. Darn it, she hated having to be the serious one in a fight! "Bring it, bitch!"

Gunfire rocked the air.

Off to the side, Tatsumiya Mana sheathed her piece and nonchalantly pumped her fist. "Go get her, Archer-chan," she whispered.

Hey, gun safety was important!

….

Mean Streets

Three mismatched figures had just leaped onto the middle of the street before the girls. The tallest one was a large and muscle-bound man with short blond hair, wearing a skintight full bodysuit of a tan color, with brown stripes along the legs and arms. He had a wide vicious smirk and sharp blue eyes which glinted in a feral way. His gloved hands seemed to have claws at the ends of his fingers. An almost as tall and bulky man with extremely pale skin, a long golden ponytail and cold dead eyes stood next to him, clad in scarlet body armor with a long, long, long metallic tendril coming out of each one of his gauntlets.

Finally, a thin and shapely woman, obviously Japanese, somewhat on the skinny and bony side but still fairly attractive, completed the trio. She had long black hair and wore a simple and functional black and gray outfit, with a red belt and cap. Her hands were armed with sharp finger claws at least thrice as long as those the huge man had.

"Hey," Misa whispered, "Who's the manicure disaster?"

"No idea, but I think I've seen the giant somewhere…" Misora gulped, pulling back a bit.

"Oh my God," Asakura backed up behind Akira, who shielded her instinctively, suspecting the worst. "The big one's been all over the news. He used to work for Magneto's Brotherhood…"

Akira flinched. "What…?" She felt the ground heat up beneath her feet, and she recoiled, pulling Asakura along. She looked in the direction a certain young woman with pigtails was making her way out of the crowd and into her sight. "Oh, it's you…!"

Homura's left eye glowed crimson. "You didn't think I'd let you go without a rematch, did you?"

Kazumi looked up at Akira's face, vaguely wondering why she found her so familiar. "Is she your archenemy?"

"For this week, at least," Sailor Mercury nodded.

"Weapon X," Ruri was whispering further into the audience. "Mithrill kept extensive archives on them. Mutant operatives for Canada's Department H, recruited from several terrorist cells and forced to serve the Department. After their program's failure, they killed their managers, escaped, and became freelance mercenaries…"

"Thank you, my little wonder of expository dialogue!" Joker patted her head fondly. "Hey, I like the big lug. The short haired one, I mean. I have the impression we once met in a past life, when we were amalgamated into some sort of feral Hyena…"

"Ah?" Quartum asked. "Sounds kinda gay"

Joker shrugged. "I have those kinda thoughts all the time, never mind me!"

"Gay thoughts?"

"Shut up, you."

Out the corner of her mismatched eyes, Asuna kept a wary glare on the newcomers. Other than Homura, she knew none of them, or what they were capable of. She wondered if Haruna could handle Tsukuyomi's helper all by herself; she certainly trusted her to handle herself more than the newbies…

The public, still thinking it was all part of the show, remained mostly entranced, although a few wary ones were leaving already in a slight hurry. Misora envied them.

"We want the girl, ey!" the tallest one spoke in a heavy Canadian accent that made his question almost impossible to understand.

"What is he saying?" Misa asked.

"He wants a girl, meaning Konoka-san, I assume," Hakase told her in a low voice. "Although he might just be saying he feels a desire for carnal contact. He seems to be reliant on brute strength and close range, so I'll take him on. Misa-san, you're the one of us with the longest range, so I trust the tentacled adversary to you."

"It had to be the tentacled one, right?" Misa exhaled. "Even karma considers me a pervert, doesn't it?"

"I wouldn't know," Satomi said. "Misora-san, that leaves you with the female by default."

"Freddy's sister, right. Niiiice," Kasuga gulped. "Maybe we won't have to fight? Maybe, once they see we don't have—"

"WE ASKED YOU FOR THE GIRL!" the ponytailed one howled with a thick Russian accent, flailing his metal tendrils around and slamming them on the pavement, making the girls jump back.

"Okay, maybe one day we'll find someone those hopes work on!" Misora said.

Both Sakurazaki and Kagurazaka felt like shouting "DON'T COUNT ON IT!" if they hadn't been otherwise busy.

Anyway, then the next fight scene started.

….

Inception

Negi raised his staff to defend himself, but before Kotaro could get within reach, Valkyrie Black dropped from where she'd been standing. Landing between the two swung her souken.

Kotaro dodged. "Hah!" he said as he swung around her, still aiming for Negi. "Your outfit is pretty flashy girl, but–"

"Nivis Tempestas Obscurans," Valkyrie Black incanted calmly, and the wand she'd palmed in her other hand let loose with a howl, ice and darkness hitting Kotaro right in the side as he passed and sending him eating dirt. And ice. And darkness.

"Ah! Kotaro-kun!" Nodoka cried in concern.

Psycho Purple, who'd taken a bit longer to bring the broom down, placed a comforting hand on Nodoka's shoulder. "Don't worry," she said soothingly. "He's all right. Valkyrietchi doesn't really want to hurt him."

"Don't be too sure about that," the black-armored figure said.

Kotaro didn't stay down long, quickly flipping up on all fours and charging again. "It'll take more than that to stop me!"

"I know," Valkyrie Black said, taking a deep breath. "Such a waste of my time. In the name of Truth, Love and Justice, stand down!"

Kotaro snorted. "Truth. Love. Justice. Did you get that trash out of a kids show or something? Right… like those things are anything worth fighting for!"

"Spoken like a true weakling who has never known the strength of Truth, the power of Love, and the might of Justice," Valkyrie Black said. Her tone made it perfectly clear she considered such a person beneath her, and in fact not worthy to be the rock used to scrape bubblegum off her shoe.

Kotaro bristled. "Hah! Power? Might? Yeah, right. Those things have no power over anything!" He slammed his fist into his hand, the impact sounding like a small explosion. "All a man needs to be strong is his fists! I don't need no love, truth or any of that malarkey! They just make you weak!"

Valkyrie Black burst out in derisive laughter. "Bwahahahahahaha! Oh, you're so pathetic! You can talk about being 'strong' or 'weak' all you want, but that's all it is– talk! You will never know their true meanings!"

Kotaro stared at her, wide-eyed and wondering if she was delusional. "Ex-CUUUUUSE me? What are you, bli–"

"Further!" Valkyrie Black interrupted. "''One who does not know love will be eternally unable to gain true strength'. Mock the power of love at your own peril, lest it smite you like a bolt from the gods! Love is an ancient, relentless force! It can destroy empires and topple nations, slay kings and create gods! Even the weakest man can become invincible with its power, and even the meekest man will go to war! In its name, even the most pious man would challenge the gods themselves!"

Somewhere, Daidouji Tomoyo of 2814 sneezed.

Chisame sweatdropped. "When did this turn into a philosophy showdown?" she asked.

"Chisame-sama!" Matoi chided, and the hacker blinked at the girl in shock. Matoi was ignoring her, staring at Valkyrie with wide, entranced eyes. "Have some respect for the power of love! Er, but my DEEP LOVE still belongs to you, Chisame-sama!"

"Yes, Chiu-chan, have more romance in your soul," Sora agreed, mushy-eyed.

"DWEH!-?" went Kotaro, eyes having gone a little cross-eyed during the tirade. "W-well, what happens when you can't protect the one you love, huh? What then? For a guy, 'strength' is what it's all about–!"

"So what happens when you have it?" Valkyrie cut in, not impressed. "Is it a prize? Do you get a little hat? A certificate of strength? Does your power level officially go over nine thousand? It isn't until you truly do attain infinite strength and wisdom do you realize how impossible attaining it is! You will never understand in fullness how weak you are until you know that strength!"

"Wha– that doesn't even make sense!"

Valkyire sniffed. "For those with true strength, it makes perfect sense, weakling! Strength without acceptance of weakness is a sham, a self-perpetuated delusion, like the ant who thinks he is a giant because he's bigger than the flea."

"Shut up!" Kotaro cried. "Love or any of those things have nothing to do with strength! Love just makes you weak, and pathetic!"

"Is your mother weak for loving you?" Psycho Purple said, softly but clearly.

Kotaro's head snapped like he'd been punched, turning to look at the girl. His face was suddenly sickly.

"And so the strength of Truth is revealed!" Valkyrie declared. "When strength is built on lies, Truth is the unbeatable destroyer!"

"Shut up!" Kotaro cried.

Asuna leaned towards Chamo. "Is it me, or is he deflating?"

"Shh! Don't jinx it!" the ermine hissed.

"Why are you gaining strength?" Valkyrie pressed. "For the sake of strength? Are you a miser, who hoards what he has? Do you let it sit, doing nothing with it but gaining more strength?"

"N-no!" Kotaro cried. "Of course I'm doing something with my strength!"

"Oh? I've seen you do nothing but bully those you call weak?" Valkyrie said. "What sort of man are you, that you'll only beat upon women and children you yourself say don't have your strength, who can't even hope to match you. You're nothing but a bully."

"Am not!" he roared. "They kicked my ass!"

"Yet you call them weak," Valkyrie Black pressed. "If they beat you, doesn't man mean you are weaker than they?"

"Gah!" he cried, covering his ears with his hands. "Stop it with your weird words!"

"No matter how much strength you delude yourself you possess," she said. "Without Truth, you will never see how weak you truly are, will never gain real strength. Without love, you have no reason to be strong, for didn't you yourself say the purpose of strength is to protect the ones you love? A being such as yourself, who doesn't even love his mother because he thinks she's weak–"

"I DO!" he roared, on his knees. "I'm doing this to protect her! I don't want her to be tired and sad any more!"

Silence fell over the forest at his cry of despair.

"Kotaro-kun…" Nodoka breathed, moved.

Slowly, Valkyrie Black left her sword and walked to him, kneeling before him. "It's all right," she said gently. "Everything is going to be okay now."

He looked up at her an adorkably pathetic smile on his face. "It is?"

She nodded. "Yes. Because just you've left yourself completely defenseless. Aer to aqua, facti nebula illis somnum brevem…"

The mist of the sleep spell blasted straight in Kotaro's face.

He tried to dart back, but already his muscles were getting sluggish as sleepiness overwhelmed him…

"Kotaro," he heard. "Where are the focus points for this barrier spell?"

Vainly, he tried to answer, then remembered he wasn't suppose to, then…

Get up Kotaro-kun… it's your birthday!

"Mommy!"

As Kotaro keeled over, snoring the snores of the recently gassed, Valkyrie Black grimaced, and straightened. "Ugh. First I philosophically browbeat a gradeschooler, then I chloroform him… I feel so ashamed of myself."

"Kotaro!" Nodoka cried, rushing up to the boy. She glared up at Valkyrie, clutching the Clow Wand like she meant to beat her on the head with it. "What did you do to him?"

Valkyrie Black held up her hands in an 'I surrender' gesture. "Relax, it was just a harmless little sleep spell. He's probably dreaming of being a Dragon Ball character or something. When he wakes up, he'll feel like a billion yen." She looked over her shoulder at her companion. "Did you get the information before he passed out?"

Psycho Purple nodded. "Earlier, actually. He thought of it when he offered to let Miyazaki-san here go."

Valkyrie sighed in relief. "Good! That means we can blow this popcorn stand! Let's get out of here."

"What about him?" Natsuki said.

Valkyrie glanced down. "We'll leave him here and reset the barrier after us. That should keep him from reporting what happened to his companions for a couple of hours. You can reset the barrier, right, Chibi-Setsuna-san?"

The Chibi blinked. "Oh, yes, of course!"

"Perfect," Valkyrie said. "Then we'd better get going. You have someplace to be, Negi-san."

"We can't just leave him here all alone in the woods!" Nodoka protested.

"I say we can," Haruka said. "All in favor?"

Asuna, Matoi, Chisame, Natsuki, Kero, Chamo and Valkyrie Black all raised their hands.

"And the votes are in! The magnanimity has decided, Miyazaki-san," Haruka said.

"Majority," Matoi corrected.

"Whatever."

"No!" Nodoka said. "Sensei, do something!"

"Nodoka-san is right!" Negi declared. "We can't just leave him out here! He might die of exposure, and–"

"He dissed your dad," Chamo reminded him.

"I'm sure he'll be all right spending a night out in the cold, Nodoka-san," Negi said reasonably. "So what if there are wolves and foxes and Chupacabras and Twilight fans about?"

"Sensei!" Nodoka exclaimed, shocked.

Psycho Purple intervened. "Look, if it makes you feel better Miyazaki-san, we'll take him to the rest area so he can sleep on the bench and leave him enough to buy some hot chocolate when he wakes up so he can get warm. He knows how to open the barrier anyway, so he'll be all right on that score."

Nodoka paused. This sounded reasonable, but…

Psycho Purple tilted her head, pulled back her hood and, with one swift motion, pulled off her mask.

Nodoka gasped. So did some of the others.

Smiling down at her was herself.

"Trust me, Miyazaki-san," her Doppelgänger said. "I swear, on my honor as a librarian, that this arrangement will not bring harm to Kotaro-kun."

"T-two Nodoka-sans!" Haruka cried. "W-what's going on here?-!"

"Could it be the Twin Card?" Kero sputtered. "B-but, I don't feel a Card around anywhere!"

Chisame sighed. "We'll explain later, okay?"

Psycho Purple held out her hand. Nodoka stared up at her, then down at Kotaro. Hesitantly, she took the proffered hand, and let herself be pulled up.

Valkyrie Black grunted and bent down to pick up the snoring Kotaro. "Can someone help me get him to my broom so I can get him to the rest area?"

Negi moved to help, only for Chisame to drop a hand on his shoulder. "Where do you think you're going?" she demanded. "You're not carrying anything, brat! Look at you! You're all beat up!"

"I'll help Valkyrie-san" Asuna volunteered, and together they got the unconscious boy on the broomstick and left to take him to the rest area.

As the two walked off, Psycho Purple turned to look at an unobtrusive clump of bushes. "Come on out now, Chao-san! We're leaving so unless you want to get left behind–"

Chao's head popped out of the clump. "Yes, yes, I'm coming, Psycho-san!"

She sweatdropped. "Um, Purple-san will do…"

Negi stared. "EH?-! Chao-san's here too?-!"

"Oh, come on!" Chisame yelled, glaring at Matoi, who wilted. "Who else is still following us? Haruna? Nitta? Suzumiya Haruhi?"

"No, Chao-san is the last, Chisame-san," Psycho Purple said as the Chinese girl sheepishly walked towards them. "We followed way behind everyone, so we saw them all."

"What, like a chain of stalkers?" Chisame said. Matoi sneezed. "Bless you."

"AH!" Matoi gushed. "Chisame-sama has blessed me with her love!"

Chisame sighed.

….

The Dark Knight

The dark figure watched with interest from above, ready to swing down into the middle of things at any moment.

He had never fought the three psychos for hire now in the middle of the street himself, but he could clearly tell they were the real deals. Facing children. True, if they were anything like those he met two nights ago, they could probably hold their own in a fight, but still. Children.

His mere presence down there before the right moment would alert Joker immediately, and make him either flee or play his card prematurely, most possibly endangering dozens. Either way, all his work tracking would be lost in moments. And yet, it wasn't an option, if children were at risk. He saw the fear in the face of that dressed like a nun, the tension in the expression of the purple haired one. They weren't ready. He would have to—

Then he felt the proximity of another, and rolled around, tossing a Batarang and hitting the gun hand of the red-haired girl now standing on the rooftop several steps behind him, making her yowl and drop the gun, only to produce another one just as soon.

The girl grinned cruelly, which, coupled with the gutted out black plush bunny she had on her handbag, made her look like, in a nutshell, a complete psycho. He gave her a 4 out of 10 on the Bat-Psycho-meter.

"Wow, you're fast!" she said. "But not fast enough. Just look at this! I come here looking for a good ambush spot for the clown, and what do I find? You're the real deal, aren't you? If you came for him, you can take the carcass. But I call dibs on leaving him that way first!"

"What's your vendetta with the Joker?" he asked. He figured the fiend would have killed her relatives. It had happened more times than he cared to remember by now. His madness was contagious, spreading through the shared pain and suffering.

"Why should you care?" she snorted. "The only reason I'm not perforating you right now is because he'll run away if he hears gunfire. Or not. Who knows, he seems gone enough for it, but still, not taking chances. Since you haven't taken your chances to kill him yet, I suppose you'll try preaching to me how killing is bad and a sin and heinous, so let's skip that part. It bores me to tears. Why don't you flap away and go look for some Penguin or Yakuza or litterer to catch instead?"

"Not gonna happen," he said, subtly falling into a counterattack position, carefully determining her casual degree of familiarity with the gun.

"Oh, fuck. You know, I hate talking things out! You're an idiot, wasting this rare chance to walk away just for the sake of that sick fuck down there!"

"There are others down there. Innocents who would get caught in—"

"Cry me a river, freak!" the girl shouted. "To hell with you, I think I'll just shoot you anyway and use your corpse as clown bait!" She squeezed the trigger and let the bullets fly just as the Batman rolled out of the way.

Stupid, stupid little punk…

He could hear the gasps from below, even as the fights started in the middle of the street. He couldn't help until he put the young maniac down. To that end, he tossed a gas grenade at her feet; the gas exploded out on contact, making her cough violently and back away just as soon. He held his breath and leapt, fists first, at her, punching her in the face and sending her stumbling back but still conscious. He could tell she was strong despite her frame.

"Okay, that does it, you miserable son of—!" she choked, both because of the swallowed gas in her reckless rant and because she had just received a Bat-boot to the solar plexus.

She still wasn't being knocked out, however, instead lashing out with even more wild gunfire that was so aimless it gave the Bat enough room to grab her wrist and twist it, forcing her to let the weapon go. She still managed to plant a knee into his stomach; she winced feeling the body armor absorb most of the blow, but regained enough control to follow with an elbow to his face. However, he retaliated with a quick punch between the eyes, and then a hold that slammed her down, on her face, against the rooftop. Now that finally made her slump down groggily, as he was fast to handcuff her before she—

Then he was aware the fight had forced him out of hiding, enough for a few people to be looking up at him in awe, some of them taking pictures.

One of those looking at him smiled. It was the Devil's own smile.

"Darling," the Joker said, waving energetically.

"Gay thoughts again?" the boy in the clown costume said beside him.

"Shut up, you. Go make shiptease with Ruri or something…"

….

Airplane!

Nekane found it rather amusing to be watching Harry Potter and the Little Green Boxes as one of the in-flight movies on her trip. Most of her colleagues basically despised those books and the surrounding fandom. It had been explained to her that they portrayed magi (or wizards, to use the term the books used) as bumpkins unaware of the modern world in which they lived. Considering the number of mages every year who retreated to Mundus Magicus in hopes of escaping that very modernity, Nekane frankly thought that portrayal might be a bit more accurate than anyone wanted to admit.

For her part, she rather liked the books. She'd tried to get Negi to read them, thinking he might view their protagonist as someone in much the same position as himself, but he'd apologetically claimed that he didn't really have time to be reading for pleasure. Too much studying to be done, if one wanted to be a Magister Magi.

Her smile faded as she watched the antics of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Negi hadn't had friends like that growing up. He'd had Anya, but she was more of a self-appointed caretaker. Well, not self-appointed, Nekane amended. She herself had asked the little girl to look after Negi, while she was recuperating from her injuries. Anya had just taken the request far more seriously than Nekane had expected from her. But that was a failure on Nekane's part, for not realizing how badly damaged Anya had been by the night all sense left their lives.

No real friends, no entertainment, just endless work and study, all in the hope of expiating a sin that wasn't even his. What kind of childhood had she given him?

Somewhere, the Joker, and Alfred Pennyworth all sneezed. Batman didn't because he was being awesome.

Well, there was no point on worrying about it. She would simply stick to her plan, make sure nothing bad happened to Negi until his return, and return to Wales shortly before he did, meeting him as if nothing had happened. Before leaving, she had sent him a letter explaining she'd be traveling for the next few months, but she'd still keep writing from wherever she happened to be at the time.

It made her feel actually miserable, since she had never needed to lie to him before.

Something in the back of her mind, something other than that, still bothered her. She was feeling that annoying deja vu again, causing her a world of uneasiness. It was something that made her feel dirty, guilty, ashamed, without even knowing why. It was as if her mind was trying to remember something that had never been there to start with. Wade had told her he sometimes felt things like those too, with the memory implants and all that, but she was fairly reasonable that wasn't her case. Right? No, something like that just never could add up to the history of her life.

She knew mages sometimes erased traumatic or otherwise troubling memories of their children so they could lead normal lives, and it normally was considered a mercy rather than wrongdoing. But still, those acts always left children with mental lagoons of their missing time. Nekane had an excellent memory, for better or worse, and she knew there were no large gaps in her life remembrances. Her family had always been against it, and following the tradition, she respected Negi's right to remember that night in the snow, and his vision, despite the advice of several of her elders. It had been a difficult decision, but she didn't regret it.

It had been, she reassured herself far from the first time, the right choice to take.

Yet, something else she couldn't remember haunted her.

The credits were rolling. Nekane removed her headset and closed her eyes in hopes of getting some sleep. She suspected that she'd need all the energy she could muster for her arrival. But sleep wouldn't come.

It just wouldn't come.

Until it came. And then she regretted having that dream.

Dreams that started with the scarecrow with a pumpkin for a head asking how much Nightmare Fuel they needed generally did that to her…

….

Interlude-The Secret Origin of the Unequally Rational and Emotional Justice Society:

Mahora:

"— and that was when I really got angry at them," Evangeline continued narrating. "They had tried to play me for a fool, the bastards! Schmidtt still tried to sweet talk me into helping, saying I was the incarnation of their dream, but I would have killed him right there and then if only his superpowered Mook hadn't attacked me to defend him. Captain Nazi, can you believe it? They called him Captain Nazi! Anyway, he'd undergone the same basic treatment Captain America got, but with extra additions that basically made him Superman or Captain Marvel level."

"I have noticed several heroes in this world choose to call themselves 'Captain-'…" Karakuri noted. "Do they hold some kind of military rank or own a nice boat?"

"You know those clowns. Always picking ridiculous names for themselves to stroke their egos," Eva shrugged, never minding the fact Karakuri worked alongside several superheroes herself. "Don't let that bad habit rub off on you. Captain Nazi was a rival physically, I'll admit it, and it looked like Hitler would escape with the Lance of Longinus, until Captain America arrived with a group of do-gooders including the Phantom, Liberty Belle, the Wildcat, the Hourman, the Sub-Mariner, a prototype robotic called the Human Torch, the original Black Canary, and a fat loser named Red Tornado, who was basically some housewife with a pot on her head. They were still no match for Captain Nazi until the Spectre himself, the Wrath of Heaven, joined their cause, retrieved the Spear, and… well, I won't tell you what he did to Captain Nazi, but even I thought he went too far." She made a gesture that graphically reminded Karakuri of Chizuru using her Artifact.

"I see…" Karakuri made a note never to annoy Alicia-san. While the Sayo-san, Girl Eternity, Black Alyss, Secret-san and Black Reaper-san said the strange spirit was usually very nice, there was apparently a darker side to her being…

"Not really, but… After that, the costumed fools decided to create a permanent team and call it the Justice Society. They even invited me to join, but naturally, I would have no part of it. Schmidtt escaped with a batch of Super Soldier Serum, but unluckily for him, it was a failed one. It granted him a physical power much like Captain America's, but also scarred his face horribly into an actual Red Skull…"

Karakuri tilted her head thoughtfully, an affectation she used a lot. "It sounds like a derivative of the Hyde formula. I'm surprised the affect was lasting. The alchemical compound and all its historical derivatives are known for being temporary and highly addictive."

Evangeline smirked and lifted an eyebrow. "Well, what did your Mistress do during World War Two?"

"From what I've gathered, she spent the whole war vacationing in Australia, Miss Mc Dowell."

"Ah, that lucky bitch…!"

"As I understand it, that was when her bounty reached it's current amount."

Evangeline's eyebrows rose. "Really?"

"Yes. Something about several dozen deaths that annoyed the Clock Tower Association…"

….

Epic Movie

Still lost, still in gypsy queen drag and still silently swearing bloody revenge against Saotome Haruna (the Saotome family always had that effect on even normally nice and clueless people), Morisato Keiichi dragged his feet down the streets of Cinema Town, paying no attention to the amazed yells of the crowd that kept on getting thicker and denser (in more ways than one) as he kept walking.

"Look over there! It's the Batman from America!"

"Oh wow! The Joker cosplayer is inviting him down! This will be amazing!"

"That girl over there's butt naked!"

"Ah! And that one too!"

"Lotion! I need lotion!"

"Hey, put it back! This is a family place!"

Okay. From his admittedly limited experience with 3-A, that definitely sounded like them. Plus, he had never seen any girl actually naked out of that time he walked on Megumi in the shower and they'd… um, so what the heck.

He walked as close to the action as he could, and saw a girl in Sailor V cosplay (although she had the colors all wrong, and lacked the blond wig) fighting a naked girl with little horns and tanned skin, who had burned all of her clothes down if the charred scraps all over the street were any indication, and was somehow still on fire. Great special effect. An also naked Asakura Kazumi hid behind the Sailor V cosplayer, keeping a prudent distance from the fight itself and calling for someone to bring something to cover herself with.

"… I knew it," Keiichi deadpanned, stopping right next to Chizuru and Natsumi. "What's going on here?"

"Ara ara, where were you, Morisato-san?" Chizuru asked, swiftly pushing the blame on him by default. "While you were away, Setsuna-san got into a sword fight, strange puppets stripped us, and actors in Sci-Fi cosplay began harassing Hakase-san, Misora-san and Misa-san!"

"You guys walked out on me while I was in the dresser!" Keiichi said. "I spent more than one hour looking around for you in this labyrinth!"

"Oh, my apologies!" Chizuru said calmly. "You were taking so long with your dress, we thought we had to move on to keep the schedule…"

"It's… ahhh, a lovely dress?" Natsumi offered shyly.

Keiichi slammed a hand on his face. "Forget this. I'm calling this out and taking everyone back to the inn. Asakura-san!" he pulled the top of his dress off, to whistling and cat calls, and tossed it to the reporter, to much cries of disappointment. "Put this on and come here immediately!"

Kazumi took the top and quickly pulled it down her body, covering herself as best as she could. "Oh, thank you, thank you! Geez, people, what the hell was wrong with the rest of you?-!"

Chizuru let out a soft laugh. "I'm sorry, I wasn't left with too much on either…" She pointed at her own ragged clothes.

"Nitta-sensei will kill me for this," Keiichi whined, "I know he will. Takahata-sensei will be ashamed, and Shizuna-sensei will give me that disapproving cold look all women do when you mess everything up…"

"Ah! This one, you mean?" Chizuru gave him that cold disapproving look.

"Yes. That's the one," Keiichi nodded.

Chizuru returned to pleasant form just as quickly. "Don't be worried, Morisato-san! We'll speak on your behalf! And somehow, something tells me Hasegawa-san isn't doing much better…"

"Why do you say that, Chizu-nee?" Natsumi asked, dodging a flying piece of flaming debris from the closest fight. "Hey, watch out, you guys!"

"Well, she's also watching over the rest of 3-A, isn't she?" Chizuru asked. "We haven't had a single trip chaperon without any problems of this kind since we started junior high, Morisato-san. Why do you think they resorted to you outsiders for this? Everyone in the school was wise to it by now…"

Keiichi's jaw hit the dust.

….

Species

Near Tokyo Disneyland:

Yuuki Rito had sneaked out of the Inn to buy a few Snicker bars, but mostly, to clear his thoughts, something he could never do with Saruyama around. The orange haired boy sat on a bench in a small, lonely park, looking up at the moon, and thought of Haruna. He wondered how she was doing, and what she would have to tell him once she came back.

Then he heard a scream, a feminine one, coming from between the trees, and he blinked while seeing a tall, curvy, voluptuous girl running towards him from that direction, tackling him to the ground, hugging him forcefully, screaming "HELP MEEEEE! They want to take me awaaaaaaaay!"

Rito's eyes popped out, as he felt her large breasts pressing against his chest. She was wearing the most ridiculous (and skintight) dark blue and white costume he had ever seen, complete with a giant white puffy hat and a black devil tail ornament, plus tall boots. But that barely registered in his mind. She had a gorgeous face framed by a long mane of bright pink hair, and long thick eyelashes like those of a doll. She smelled funny but also very nice, like an exotic cologne, and her lips were pink, neither too thin or too full.

"Wh-wha–?-!" he yelled, sitting back up and pulling her up with him since she just wouldn't let him go. "H-Hey, what's going on?-!"

"There she is!" a non-descript obese man in a black suit, tie, shoes, shades and hat ran into sight, followed by a taller and thinner man dressed the exact same way. "Princess, you're cornered with no place to go, and even if you teleport, we'll just track you down again! Please stop this foolishness and return with us at once!"

Rito blinked. "Princess?"

"NO!" the strange girl hid behind him. "I'll never go back as long as daddy intends to marry me to that man! He's an awful person, and I want nothing to do with him!"

"I beg you, be reasonable!" the shorter man said. "You have to understand, think of your honorable father! He'll be crushed by your decision!"

"We don't need a marriage with Lord Papacharino!" the girl insisted. "He already has fifteen wives! A Deviluke Princess doesn't deserve being just another trophy wife!"

Rito's eyes became pinpoints, but his ability to talk returned when he realized an explanation. "A-Ah, I see… This is for a TV show, isn't it? Some sort of candid camera?"

"Stay out of this and clear the area, commoner!" one of the men told him.

Rito obliviously waved in the direction and angle he supposed the cameras were at. Since he was the pranked one, he assumed they'd be shooting his face. "Hello, Mikan-chan, this is your Oniichan on TV! Hello, Haruna-chan, Mom, Dad, Cousin Nao! And Ryoko-sensei, Kotegawa-san, Risa-chan, Mio-chan, Saruyama, Nodoka-san, Yue-san… Not you, Ren, because you're a—"

One of the men just stalked forward, pushed him aside, and grabbed the girl by the wrist. "My apologies, Princess, but we've been authorized to employ force if necessary! Just because we couldn't bring weapons for this assignment, it doesn't mean we are—!"

"EEEEE!" the girl cut him short by slamming him against the ground as easily as Rito would have tossed a Pepsi can aside. "SOMEONE HELP MEEEEE!" she cried, punching the other man in the face and knocking him down.

"A-Ah, yes, sure!" Rito snapped out of it and stood back up, weakly kicking the fallen man, whose eyes resembled spirals now his shades had cracked, while the beauty slammed the other pursuer against a tree over and over, never stopping crying for help. "Hey…" Rito realized, stopping what he was doing. "You actually don't need my help here, do you?"

She blinked, stopped slamming the man's face against the trunk, looked at his swollen face carefully, and let him go. He fell on his face with a groan. "I guess I don't. Sorry, Agent R!" She turned around to Rito, smiling at him cheerfully, in a very cute way. "Thank you for saving me, Mr. Foreigner!"

"Um, sure, my pleasure," he played along, sweatdropping. "How do you do? Are you okay? They didn't hurt you, right? Um, the cameramen can go out now, can't they?"

One of the downed men sprang back to his feet and reached for them. "PRINCESS!"

"Look out!" Rito dashed for her, trying to pull her away from the stranger, and stumbling down with her after a misstep. He fell on top of her, his head cushioned by her chest, and just as quickly, he panicked and scrambled to stand back up with a strangled scream of apology. Struggling to find standing leverage on the ground, his shaking right hand took hold of something long and thin, which felt like a cable. He tugged on it instinctively and heard her gasping aloud, rather comically. Then he noticed he was touching the girl's tail ornament, and dropped it like a hot potato.

"Oh, erm, I'm so sorry!" he gulped, blushing while getting fully back up. "My hand slipped! I didn't damage your cosplay, did I?"

The girl and the men stared with unspeakable horror at him, not making a single sound.

"Wh-What?" Rito stammered. "I'm looking the wrong way? We have audio problem? You got the wrong man? My fly is open? What?"

The girl exhaled and inhaled, exhaled again, and walked to Rito, stopping before him. The men didn't dare stop her. She looked at his face with a completely serious expression, and spoke, firm and stoically, although her voice was still high pitched and on the cutesy side.

"I accept your marriage proposal."

"No, what, seriously, what is this—" Rito babbled.

Then the girl kissed him in the lips, wrapping her arm around his neck, and his mind melted. The kiss wasn't as passionate as Haruna's, but definitely just as deep and long. And then she finally broke the contact with a slurping sound, swallowing Rito's saliva before smiling oh so prettily at him once again.

Somewhere in the midst of being cool, Haruna froze. "I sense a great disturbance in the Force… as if history were repeating itself…"

In Nerima, an Amazon sneezed.

"So, what's your name?" she asked him.

Rito fainted with a technique Nodoka would have envied.

….

Flashback Interlude: Challenge

"Uzumaki Naruto!" the tiny feminine voice called out to him, making him stop and blink. "I challenge you to a duel to prove myself as a real ninja-de gozaru!"

He cringed as he slowly turned his face back. "De gozaru? Who the hell talks like that anymore?"

She was tall for her age, which the blond boy guessed had to be between seven and five years younger than him. He'd never been good calculating ages. Or calculating anything, period. She had even started growing breasts, which was honestly kinda creepy. Her eyes were as narrow as slits, so much it even looked like she was keeping them closed. "If I defeat you, everyone will come to respect Nagase Kaede's name!"

He turned around to smile at her, hands cockily on his hips. "Oh! Because you'll have defeated the most awesome ninja this town ever had to offer, right?"

She shook her head. "No! Because I'll have defeated the biggest outcast, idiot, cliche and reject this town ever suffered!" She pulled two kunai out and began waving them around clumsily. "Prepare yourself!"

The pink haired girl the boy had been following around approached them at last. "Hey, Kaede-chan. Those things aren't toys. If you handle them without knowing how to, you'll only hurt yourself!"

The black haired boy who had stayed further ahead the road, hands in his pockets, grunted a brief, "How annoying…"

"I know Naruto-kun is the ideal prey for anyone wanting to start, since he's clumsy, stupid, and even a baby could beat him, but you're still in danger of having an accident while you attack him, dearie!" the pink haired girl patted Kaede's head fondly.

Naruto's eyes became blank circles. "YOU'RE COMPARING ME TO RUNNING AROUND WITH SCISSORS?-! Arrgh, uncool Sakrua-chan!"

Kaede sniffled. "B-But I don't have anyone to practice with! Mom and Dad don't want me to become a ninja like Auntie Miko, and I don't even know any techniques but the Monkey One…"

Naruto scratched his head. "The Monkey Technique?"

Sakura gave him an icy glare. "Climbing up trees."

"They gave that an actual name?"

"Yes, they did! God, how can you be so ignorant!"

"Naruto doesn't do the research " Sasuke said from down the road, "Though it was a stupid decision, naming it a technique when it's something anyone can do…"

Sakura flustered quickly. "Ah, well, of course you're right there, Sasuke-kun! It's just I—!"

Kaede went to sulk in a corner, dragging a finger in circles on the dirt. "Only my Grandpa and Auntie support my dream. Mom and Dad only want to marry me to someone and have me continue the family's lineage-de gozaru…"

Naruto looked at Sakura's face while pointing a finger down to Kaede. "Hey, what's the big deal about her lineage? Is she from an important family or something?"

"AAAARGHHH!" Sakura exploded. "Don't tell me you haven't heard about the Miroku clan, either!-!"

"Cowards who only want to get out of the danger zone and live easy pampered lives… lying down on your back and getting laid is not a legitimate fighting style, darn it!" Sasuke muttered before finally approaching Kaede as well. "Hey, you. If you really want to make up for your family's shame, come and watch us train. Just don't be a bother."

"Are you sure Kakashi-sensei won't mind, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked while Naruto made faces at him behind his back.

Sasuke snorted. "It's Kakashi. Since when does he care about anything?"

Sakura gushed. "Awwww! Sasuke-kun is sooooo nice and cool!"

The last Uchiha simply growled and quickened his pace back down the road. Naruto only made puking sounds.

"Just copy the techniques Sasuke-kun uses, and never Naruto's!" Sakura told Kaede. "Because those suck hard!"

"So do yours," Sasuke mumbled way ahead.

"Ah? What did you say, Sasuke-kun?"

"YEAH, WHAT DID YOU SAY, JERKASS!-?"

Kaede blinked, and after a long hesitation, followed them down the road.

She didn't learn that much from watching them, actually, but it fascinated her enough to keep her strong on the path she had picked.

And a few stolen glances at Kakashi-sensei's prized book were a great help later on, when Auntie Miko started training her three years later…

….

Highlander

Twilight Red realized how utterly screwed Hakase and her group were a heartbeat after their enemies moved. They, of course, moved with inhuman speed and grace, and Asuna was glad they'd taken the time to teach them all the basics powering themselves up with magic without the Magister supervising. The air around them all had that rippling, hazy distortion being powered up by magic had, so she was reasonably confident they'd be able to react. Misora was even already moving– away from her opponent, Asuna saw, and while a part of her was a bit disgusted at such cowardice from a member of their class, she had to admit that fast as she was, Misora wasn't the Flash, and not much of a fighter in any case.

A heartbeat later, and Asuna's blood grew cold. The three mercenaries all moved with a liquid, unrestrained grace, like hunting cats. It was different from the self-assured imperiousness the Averunnci had, and completely different from business-like, methodical efficiency Mana possessed. It was a liquid, eager thing, and Asuna had only ever seen it in a few people.

Tsukuyomi, Daidouji Tomoyo, Kuro, and every single one of the former Servants of Fuyuki City.

The former was one of the most dangerous killers they'd ever met. The latter were literally LEGENDARY killing machines honed through a lifetime of insane battles against forces that awed even the powerful men and women of their day. And the middle two…

Praying she was making the right decision, she made sure Haruna's rear flank was covered before she kicked off with a shundo, hurtling herself at the one Hakase had picked. She was in the most danger, having to close in like that to engage. Asuna poured power into her sword, and it shifted in her hands, changing to the reassuringly big, definitely-not-at-all-Freudian proper form of Ensis Exorcizans, ready to, hah ha, cut in–

A blur of movement, and she spun instinctively. Something metallic deflected off the flat of her blade, her experienced ears pegging it as a heavy caliber round. She skidded far short of her goal, in a clear area between the two sets of fights– Setsuna looked to be nearly having fun, wailing on Tsukuyomi like that. Good for her!– barely managing to stop herself from taking a very unceremonious tumble as her shundo was interrupted.

The shooter, the element of surprise lost, leapt from his perch. Asuna supposed Amagasaki must have left orders not to endanger bystanders, for all the good that seemed to be doing if the explosion earlier was anything to go by. She raised an eyebrow at the guy as he landed: two-toned divided face mask, only one eye hole, scale-mail shirt-and-breeches– they were never 'pants', apparently– bandolier, grenades, guns, sword, all in seizure-causing blue and orange…

"You American, are not you?" she said in accented and slightly mangled but understandable English. "I recognize particular kind of color blind."

She thought she heard a snort under his mask. "Like you people should talk about fashion," he said in perfect Japanese. Oh, goody. That made trash talk so much easier. "A maid uniform?"

Asuna had a nice retort all lined up about not getting involved in Setsuna and Konoka's foreplay, but the inconsiderate jerk didn't wait for her reply, charging in as he drew his sword from over his shoulder. She swung, trying to knock him out with a flat-strike, but he was quick, parrying and slipping under her blade. She drew back, not letting him get under her guard…

The next few moments were a blur of movement, instinct, move and countermove. His blade was shorter than Excalibur or Laevatein, the closest analogues Asuna ha ever fought against, but he offset the differences of their ranges by sticking as close to her as possible. Even with her superior speed, he managed to keep her from going too far by pushing her towards the crowd, where she was reluctant to go. He was experienced as more than a mercenary, then: while seemingly obvious, it was a tactic that took much practice to use effectively, and was only really good for fighting superheroes one on one. She'd need to look up this guy when they got home, see if he was there…

But those were thoughts she had later. Right then the fight took precedence, and she flowed in practiced guard and counter guard, attack and counter-attack. She took a lot of punches and kicks on her armor, but fortunately while he had enhanced strength, it wasn't in the rock-breaking range of her own Pactio-boost, never mind Kanka, and she barely felt them. His sword she was more than fast enough to counter, but her every counter-attack was evaded with equal ease. Her cape was grabbed, but she ignored that, using the time it took to fall off her armor from its easy releases to attack. He managed to tag him with her elbow, but he was quick to recover, and nearly took her ear off. He moved with a deceptively easy, laconic grace that was deadly in its efficiency, and reminded Asuna of Tomoyo the few times they'd gotten the girl to spar when Sakura wasn't around to see, which half the time resulted in painful humiliation and the rest in hard-earned barely victory. That girl fought dirty.

"Oh, you did not just cut my hair!" Asuna snapped, her womanly offense giving her a momentary boost, which she used to quickly retaliate. She saw an opening, and went for it–

Her instincts almost literally SCREAMED danger at her, and she noticed his right hand had let go of his blade, reaching for his belt, even as his sword made a backhanded cut. Reflexively, she made to block it, while moving through with the attack.

There was a memory of being hit on the head, a feeling of wetness as the red paintball broke on her hair, and a saintly, mysterious smile ©…

Raw, utter bloody golden terror took over and she reverse-shundo'ed out of there, body tucked in, all her unarmored areas covered, her sword protecting her face.

She hadn't yet come to a stop when there was the crack of a Desert Eagle, a puff on the ground as the bullet that would have gone through her head struck it, and several more shots that bounced off her sword and armor. Asuna moved, in paranoid fear he'd hit her fingers, one that was borne out when she felt one of the bullets bounce of the guard on the back of her hand. Thank goodness for lightening and reinforcement magic!

She darted sideways evasively, trying to process. An effective sword and gun combo… that was one of Tomoyo's preferred moves, at least the few times she'd actually fought in training. Only the fact she'd had a clue it might be coming had saved her life.

He charged at her again, his gun expended and discarded, and now it was Asuna who was on the defensive. "Not bad," he said, sounding only as winded as she was. "Not many people are lucky enough to dodge that. But your luck's run out…"

He made a wide, circular attack, flashy, bold and distracting as hell, darted back, then feinted forward, sword poised for a direct frontal attack. Asuna ignored it, ignored the instincts that told her should she plant herself and solidify her defense, listening to something more specialized.

Experience and reason, the very things that had grown by those instincts.

He knew it was a feint, knew it in her bones, and she met him, feinting her own defense, then shundo'ed to the side just as he broke off the attack, releasing a flashbang grenade. It exploded where she would have been standing if she'd fallen for it, a potentially lethal mistake. It was probably Amagasaki's orders that had kept it from being several fragmentation grenades.

One thing was for sure. This man was MUCH more dangerous than his mundane physical abilities suggested. Unless she was missing her guess, she was facing one of the people that had trained one of the most dangerous people on her world. She was facing one of the teachers of Daidouji Tomoyo.

"Oh, crap," she said.

Well, then, it was best to treat her like Tomoyo in that case.

"Nullification field full open!" she cried in case he had any magic on him, careful to set it so as not to neutralize her allies' Pactio Artifacts, not to mention the buffs on her own armor. "Kanka!"

With that cry, she went all out, and hoped this didn't end, as it always did with Tomoyo, in her getting shot. She had a feeling that unlike the heiress, he wouldn't be helping her up.

He answered her with a shotgun apparently loaded with slug rounds, and the day started to get worse from there…

….

Species 2

A Small, Lonely Park near Tokyo Disneyland

Yuuki Rito woke up with a start, jerking his head up only to have his face crashing against a pair of large, soft breasts. Yelping helplessly, he dropped his head back down onto the lap of the pink-haired girl, who was sitting on the same bench he was lying on.

"Ah, you finally woke up!" she said in the happiest of tones, while holding a huge and somewhat disturbing-looking long, thick object with a smiley face on it in onehand. "I was about to use Mr. Happy Waking to bring you back!"

He squirmed away from her and pointed at the object. "WH-WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THAT THING?-!"

She blinked. "This?"

She placed it on her forehead and pressed a button on it (the artifact, not the forehead), making it glow and hum pleasantly (again, the artifact, not the forehead). "It sends soft nervous stimuli to your brain waves, bringing you back to full awareness in a gradual, safe way. Or just fries your brain, but that can be fixed with Mr. Happy Brainwave Reconfigurer 5000, and only happens in 15% of the cases anyway… You can also use it to mastu–"

"W-where are those two guys?" he interrupted, looking around in all directions

"Agent P and Agent R?" she asked. "They couldn't figure out what to do next about the situation, so they left to debate their next plan of action. Attacking a consort of Deviluke royalty is a grave offense, after all." After looking at his horrified face for a moment, she simply smiled again. "So, what's your name?"

"I'm… Rito! Yuuki Rito!" he babbled, and after some hesitation, offered her a hand. "H-How do you do, and what's your name?"

She looked at his hand as if trying to figure what to do with it, and only after a pause, she grabbed it and shook it energetically. "Pleased to meet you! My name's Lala! Lala Satalin Deviluke, First Princess of the Deviluke House!"

"Well, Deviluke-san, it's… been nice meeting you, but it's getting late, and I'm expected back before my curfew, so I have to leave, and… can I call you a taxi?"

"Why would you call me like that? Is it a local nuptial custom?"

He tried to laugh. "Ah, ha ha, funny… No, I meant, do you need a taxi to get you home?"

"I don't know. What's a taxi, and where's our home?"

His eyebrows shook. "Our?"

"Don't married couples live together on this planet?"

"Okay, cut it out now!" he yelled. "It stopped being funny long ago! I have a girlfriend, I love her, you don't marry someone because you grab their fake tail, and you definitely don't decide to marry anyone without knowing their name first!"

She nodded. "Yes, we really did it backwards. Wait, fake? It's not a fake!" She shook her tail around, making his skin crawl. "See? It's completely real, so the proposal is valid!"

He opened his mouth to protest something in livid outrage, but then closed it and decided to play it straight instead, asking as seriously as he could, "Why would you want to marry someone you don't even know, anyway?"

Now that made her finally drop her smile, not to mention lower her gaze. "Well… You probably're right."

Probably?-! he thought.

"You don't look like a bad guy, but yeah, I'm maybe taking this a bit too fast…"

MAYBE?-! A BIT?-!

"But I have nowhere to go, and Dad would send me to marry that man, and I'd prefer to gamble on marriage with a complete stranger off the street than that man, and I didn't even come here for marriage anyway, but you happened to grab my tail, just like Miss Lum and her horns and that guy! Why do your people grab the body parts they don't understand so much? Anyway, I came here because a friend of mine is in this world, and my tracking devices detected her biosignature in this area!"

He blinked. "Around here?" Maybe if they found that friend, she'd take this girl back to the nice padded room she no doubt inhabited, and he could just go back for a good night of sleep. "Where, exactly?"

She hummed, pulled a small device similar to a round silver watch out of her cleavage, and pointed towards the Inn Rito and his class were staying at. "There!"

His face froze solid. "Ack. Oh, well, um… What's her name?"

"Her name's Run Elise Jewelria!" she said.

"Run…?" he scratched his head. "No, doesn't ring any bells, but… Well, maybe she's staying with some other group, or she's part of the staff…"

"Ah? Rito-san, are you residing there as well?"

"Well, yeah, only for the duration of our school trip!"

"Oh, it IS our temporary home!" she gushed. "And Run will live with us too! What a happy coincidence…!"

"… Let's just go find your friend already, okay?"

….

Batman: Dead End

There was no choice but a direct confrontation now. Close range, since long range actually gave Joker more room to threaten innocents, and shoot at him. Batman knew, after many months without facing each other, his twisted nemesis would actually crave for and allow proximity, which was a card he could play against him.

The dark-caped figure swung down to ground level, silent and swift, as the crowd moved back to allow him a graceful landing, facing the grinning clown and his two young companions. The girl had been dressed in a perfect replica of Harley Quinn's costume, which was deeply disturbing in itself, and although her face was cold and even, there was a subtle nervous uneasiness in her large eyes, and the way her small lower lip trembled ocassionally. She was a hostage. And she was afraid. Her body langugage, while soft and measured, still gave a clear message to the experienced eye. Please let him save me.

The boy, on the other hand, stood with confidence and even aloofness, and his own uneasiness, while more noticeable than the girl's, spoke of boredom and unsated malice more than anything else. His eyes scanned the Dark Knight analytically, but also with disdain and disgust, the way a man would look at a cockroach or a rat. This one was in on it of his own will. That didn't discard the option of him being manipulated by the Joker, obviously, but it'd be difficult to convince him to surrender.

Then the Clown Prince tapped his cane on the street, and spoke. "Hello. I came to talk."

His tone was playful and mockful, as if repeating words spoken to him a lifetime ago, to taunt his archenemy with a distortion of his own views. "I've been thinking lately. About you and me."

"Gey thoughts again," the boy muttered.

The Joker, without looking, grabbed his jester cap and pulled it over his eyes. "Quiet you. Adults talking serious matters."

The Batman only made a silent snarl, all the while calculating and measuring his alternatives. His opportunutiy for a surprise drop had disappeared. On the other hand, they were close enough for a physical one on one confrontation Joker never had a chance of winning.

Then again, it was never that easy, was it? That was why he didn't dare to move yet, and just listened in silence, waiting for the first actual move to counter.

"About what's going to happen to us, in the end," Joker mused as if he hand't been interuppted. "We're going to kill each other, aren't we? Perhaps you'll kill me. Perhaps I'll kill you. Perhaps sooner. Perhaps later. Unless Robin kills me, in which case I want a do over, even if it takes fifty years…"

He sighed grandly with overdone sadness, and tapped the cane on the gournd again. The public watched on, enraptured. No matter what else could be said about him, he never left anyone indifferent. It was like watching a king cobra slithering around, poised to strike at any moment without any warning.

"I just wanted you to know," the clown smiled benevolently. It was somehow more creepy than his usual smile. "That I'd make a genuine attempt to attempt to talk things over and avert that outcome. Just once."

The smile expanded into a sinister smile again, as the archfiend extended a long arm, offering the gloved hand with the hand buzzer in plain sight. The Batman remained still.

"Joker. Let's take this elsewhere," he said in English. It wasn't a request, but a command. "Besides, you're being so lazy it's not even funny."

Disappointed, the green haired man titled his head aside. "Oh, come on, Bats," he answered, in fluid but still funny sounding Japanese. "Where are your stage manners? Our public deserves a show in their mother tongue. Unless you brought your subtitles, I suggest you speak Japanese, smart guy. After all, not like you got anything to hide, right? I know I don't! Oh, right, masked man, I forgot. So, how's the Boy Wonder doing? I hope Two-Face hasn't kidnapped him too much lately."

He only got a sharp stare in reply.

Joker cringed. "Not exactly the warm reunion I was hoping for. But hey, hey! Look at this! Inspired by your heartwarming saga of familiar love with Robin, I decided to adopt, too! After all, looks like Harley can't bear kids, and kids can't bear her either anyway, so I went for the next best thing. Lovely, aren't they? I think I'll adopt a Nigerian one and a Bolivian one next! Then I'll be the next Angelina Jolie! Ah ha ha!"

"I thought you said they had gay subtext?" the boy asked. "Because that's why I'm here, you can forget it! I'd rather do the girl!"

The Joker grinned. "Ooh! More shiptease!"

"Quit it with that, damn it!"

Batman decided to ignore that. Stupid rumors. "You disappoint me, Joker. If you wanted a really good reunion show, you shouldn't have resorted to child stars. Isn't this supposed to be all about us? You've never been one to let guest stars steal your thunder."

"Tsk, tsk," the clown disapproved. "I'm even more disappointed at that transparent attempt at manipulation. Really, Bats? Do you think harping on my ego will make me let my poor angels walk away? What kind of egomaniac do you think I am? The right answer is a Piscis, by the way, but never mind. I brought my kids here because they're an important part of my new life, so much I can even share my old toys with them!" He snapped his fingers. "Quarty. Do your magic."

It all happened in a flash, in less time that it took to blink. Batman only registered hearing the boy's voice saying "Finally!" before he felt something hitting him in the ribcage with the strenght of a freight train, tossing him across the street and into a few men who fell toppled under him. He winced, putting a hand to his side, estimating a bruised rib at the very least. And then the boy was standing over him, his face of boredom replaced by a psychotic grin to match Joker's own.

Batman could barely see the little girl gasping next to Joker, as the boy kicked him up into the air, knocking the windout of him, then slammed a knee against his stomach, almost making him puke. Like a blur, one of his hands slapped his face, and his mouth bled on contact.

Another punch slammed him against a wall, with no time to even reach for a Batarang. Even through the body armor, each blow was mind-blowingly painful, worse than Croc's worst ever, comparable to those on Bane going all out on Venom, and the worst part was, if anything, the boy seemed to be holding back. He hadn't felt anything like that since the time he went against Superman crazed by red Kryptonite and thinking he was The Rock…

Batman threw a punch to the face, but the boy stopped it with ease, clutching his fist almost delicately yet tightly, his grin widening as he squeezed Batman's hand, slowly crushing it between his fingers, in a grasp that was impossible to escape…

"Entertainment for the whole family!" Joker cackled. "I'm just sad we forgot to bring Grandma! Ah ha ha h—!"

Just as he said that, there was an almost literal crack of thunder, and a streak of light like a lightning bolt skipping over the groudn, leaving lifted skirts and shrieking women in its wake, passed by right next to him,. Quartum didn't notice until it a hand snapped upward, forcing him to let go of Batman's hand, and a kick sent him flying into the wall across the street.

"Hey, what the—?-!" the construct protested, getting to his feet, more confused and angry than hurt, looking furiously into the cold eyes of the one who had just surprised him.

It seemed to be a very cute girl in a just as Alice in Wonderland dress and apron, with long, spikey, pale hair flowing behind her like a living white banner. For some reason, black opera gloves covered her all the way to her sleeves. She looked absolutely adorable. The public all swooned around.

"Why don't you pick on someone your own size…" 'Nelly' declared with barely restrained rage.

….

Mean Girls

Roberta grabbed Ayaka by an arm and began pulling her away from the crowd. "We must go now, Ojou-sama. I formally apologize for my intrusion, but there will be time for my punishment later. Right now, we—"

"Wait!" Ayaka stubbornly planted her feet. She pointed to where Misora, Hakase and Misa were involved in that strange play of sorts. "I don't exactly know what's going on, but I know we were just attacked for real, and I know they are in actual danger now too! So God help me, Roberta-san, but—!" The tall maid looked in that direction, and she was about to protest something when she saw the towering man advancing towards Hakase. Her face twitched the slightest bit in recognition. Ayaka noticed it. "Roberta-san?"

"… Your friend is in danger, yes," Roberta nodded spartanly. "Since I know her premature demise would bring you pain, Ojou-sama, I will handle this situation. But please stay away from us, no matter what happens."

Ayaka paled. "Wait, what are you saying? Could Hakase-san…?"

Roberta spotted Chizuru and Natsumi, and remembering them as Ayaka's roommates the year before. She all but dragged Ayaka to their side. "Please look after Ojou-sama until I come back," she requested, "And keep her from approaching us. If things get dangerous, take her out of here, and quickly."

Chizuru nodded, seemingly taking it as a given, although the confused Natsumi wasn't so sure. "We'll do just that. Please be careful."

"Roberta-san, wait!" Ayaka still tried to stop her. "I demand an explanation for this!"

But Roberta only marched ahead without looking back, swinging her umbrella over her shoulder. "I'm very sorry, Ojou-sama. I truly regret you have to witness this." And she began whispering under her breath, "Dios te salve Maria, el Señor es contigo, Bendita tu eres entre todas las mujeres…"

Meanwhile, Yue noticed all of a sudden Haruna had disappeared from her side. She looked all around for her frantically, until she saw her again and gasped loudly.

Misora had started dashing back as the woman with the oversized claws took slashes at her over and over, always failing no matter where she struck, which was angering her to no end. "Cowardly excuse for a woman, stand still and fight me! You can't keep dodging me forever!"

Misora laughed nervously while she secured her Mysterious Sister mask over her lower face, although truly, it was already too late for that. "I b-beg to disagree, Obaa-san! Ha ha, with that aim, I doubt you could hit me even if I was still and as fat as you!"

"You only make your eventual demise more painful!" the older woman threatened, making a feint and then attacking at the place where Misora had planned to dodge instead. But in the last fraction of second, remembering Sakurazaki's advice during training, Misora foresaw the twist coming and twirled back in time, avoiding being skewered by the claws, although their tips still managed to scratch her stomach lightly, ripping some of the dark fabric of her habit. Now that had been too close for comfort…

Then someone landed from above on the crazy woman's back, pushing her down into the dirt.

"Bwa ha ha ha!" Haruna laughed evilly, standing over the woman, fists on her hips. "Protecting the weak and helpless is the martial artist's duty, especially if they're sexy!" She jumped off the woman's back before she got up angrily, pirouetting right next to Misora with a graceful landing on her feet. The crowd clapped, and she posed in a showoffish bow. "Heiress of the Anything Goes School! Princess of Ero-Manga! Personal Enemy of Senator Ishihara himself! Buy her doujin, or she'll break your bones! The Great Artist Paru-sama is here to fight at Misora-chan's side!"

"I don't know any Misora! My name's the Mysterious Sister!" Misora cried.

Watching out of the corner of her eye while fighting the masked man, Twilight Red cursed inwardly. Was this Haruna idiotic or what? Why was she so suicidal? Even their own had enough sense back then to stay back… Wait. How had she jumped that way, and put so much power into that kick? Had she managed to activate her Pactio already? But she carried no Artifact, and her (heavily damaged) clothes were still the same, so…

"Sure, sorry, whatever you say, Sister," Haruna snickered, rubbing her nose with a thumb, before whispering to Misora, "These guys are real, aren't they?"

Misora had to nod.

"Well. Crap," Haruna gulped.

"Pretty much, yep."

The mangaka breathed in and out while the clawed woman seemed to measure her with her gaze before launching another death strike. "Okay, quick plan. You are very, very fast for some reason, even for a track star, so you'll confuse her with your speed, distracting her while I hit her. Deal?" she whispered again, as fast as she could.

"Okay!" Misora said, because they really had no time to debate, since the woman had launched herself against them, claws itching for their blood…

….

….

Clash of the Titans

The girl placed herself between the fallen Batman and Quartum, her fists clenching and unclenching. "Stay behind me, Batman-sama," 'she' said in a Sato Rina-sounding voice. "He's not someone you should confront directly without preparation. Leave him to me and let Maga Alba take care of your wounds."

"Hey!" the Joker cried in protest, waving his cane. "This is a Clowns and Bats invitational only, kid! Mad Hatter pedobait loli rejects butt out!"

The girl ignored him, instead focused on her opponent, who had gotten back to his feet, his expression set in childish anger over having his play time interrupted. "Out of the way, doll," he snapped.

The girl's eyes, if it were possible, grew colder at the word, her hair flapping like an angry snake. "Quartum Avurruncus of Kosmo Entelekhia!" she cried, her voice clear, her words a denunciation. "For conspiracy to commit genocide resulting in the Bellum Schismaticus, for being an accessory to several thousand counts of murder, for several hundred counts of murder in the first degree, for treason against Vespertatia, for behavior resulting in a breach of the peace, malicious bodily harm, vandalism, and most likely being an illegal alien, I am placing you under arrest!"

The Joker gasped, raising his eyebrows rising. "Several thousand! I didn't do all that, did i? Have I been sleep-murdering again? Darn it!"

Quartum's eyes had widened at the mention of Kosmo Entelekhia, then narrowed. "And who are you supposed to be?"

The girl reddened, and there were several dozen coos at the cuteness of it all. Ruri found herself going Ba-bump. "I am Magical… ugh, Girl… Magus Erebus, a hero in the service of Truth, Love and Justice! Surrender or else!

Ruri tilted her head. "Isn't 'Magus' the masculine form of the word? Shouldn't it be 'Maga'?"

Quartum's grin turned nasty again. "Okay. I pick… 'or else!'"

The ground beneath him exploded as he launched himself forward, hands erupting into flames, to the gasp of onlookers. There was a crack of thunder, and suddenly Erebus was in his face, literally in the case of that left fist that smacked him. Quartum's head snapped back, surprised, but he retaliated, swinging a fiery fist and failing to connect, just as an elbow slammed into the back of his head. He hit the ground, snarling like an animal, and fire rose higer up his arms as he let out a roar. What followed was a blur of movement, fire and lightning weaving against each other, too fast for normal eyes to see. Every punch, kick, elbow and knee were accompanied with a clap like thunder, and the heat radiating from the combatatants was hellish.

As Batman struggled to stand, a little girl in a white dress with little magenta triangles at the hem and cuffs suddenly appeared at his side, wearing… a black mask? "Hi!" she chirped. "Hold still Batman-sama, I'm going to try and heal you."

For some reason, the last two words came out with more creepy menace than they should have.

"Hurry, Maga Alba-san!" another little girl called from a nearby alley, carrying what at first looked like a long stick. She appeared to be trying to keep the older girl next to her from rushing out.

The girl– Maga Alba?– waved her wand, and sparkles of green light fell from it. "Tui gratia Jovis gratia sit…"

A warmth spread across his body, and his pains began to recede…

Quartum was finding, to his shock, the girl was more than a match for his abilities. "What are you?-!" he demanded. Surely nothing this powerful could be human. The group of statistical anomalies called Ala Rubra were an isolated case. Blow after blow was exchanged, and while his had a fraction more power, she hit him five times for everyone one of his, and most of the time his blows were parried.

"An English teacher," the girl said, her palm strike hitting him twice before her punt sent him flying into the sky.

He roared, and flame covered him completely. "Lorem novem seras et egredietur de Lægjarn acervum! Gladius Divinus Flammae Ardentis!"

The giant pillar of fire in the shape of a sword appeared behind him, and he threw it down at her, screaming in rage.

She just smiled and raised her hand. "Circuli Absorptionis. Agite extractio, Negica Magia Erebea!Stagnet! Complexio! Supplementum Pro Armationem!"

Beneath her feet, the ground erupted into an enormous magic circle, Quartum's spell lost cohesion, collapsing into a ball of magic that was crushed and absorbed into her hand.

With a cry, the lightning died as she erupted in flames, becoming a body of living fire.

Somewhere in New York, Johnny Storm sneezed.

Quartum stared, shocked. "Wha– That's impossible!"

The Joker facepalmed. "Oh, you schmuck… you deserve what comes next…"

With her own cry, the girl rose like a literal missile, fire blasting from her feet like a rocket even as a blazing corona of it wreathed her body. She spiraled upward, getting momentum, and Quartum's head snapped back as he was hit on the chin with a Springfield Spiralling Uppercut™.

"Called it," the Joker sighed. "Schmuck."

He straightened, tugging his lapels and spinning his cane. "All right. Let's do this Joker style! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!-!-!-!-!"

Ruri stared intently at the arcing ball of flame that was Quartum, tracking his movement. Er, not that she was concerned about him or anything like that! It wasn't like she liked him or anything!

Somewhere, Kugimiya Rie sneezed, and her sneeze resonated amongst the cosmos and manifested itself in every female character she's ever played since Shana…

….

Assault on Precint 13

"Even policemen are pushovers in this miserable country," the White Rabbit snorted while pushing a mind controlled Tsujimoto Natsumi, the woman who had arrested her two nights ago, aside again, just for fun. The short haired woman moaned, but made no attempt to retaliate. "Argh! I almost miss Gotham. Almost."

The Boss' Wonderland Gang, plus that Fasalina woman who dressed like a slut and had those huge sad eyes, had broken into the local police station an hour and a half ago, first by leaking paralyzing gas through the air vents, then placing mind control hats on everyone's heads for good measure. Rabbit had been quite grateful for the rescue, but then she was told their only goal there was making sure the cops wouldn't meddle into the Amagasaki woman's scheme. Mad Hatter was actually torn between leaving Rabbit jailed or not after her failure at the train station, but the Carpenter was a good friend, and she convinced the Boss (and even Tetch knew not to mess with a woman who carried around a power drill). And now there they were.

"There's something I don't get yet, Boss," the young black-haired woman in carpenter clothes said. "These magic people say they value their secrecy, right? So why are they attacking those children in the middle of the street? The public can't be that stupid; the movie excuse can only take them so far. At least Harry Potter tried…"

"My dear," the short man with the huge top hat chuckled, lazing on the station chief's chair while petting the head of the pet chimp on his lap. "The Red Queen of Hearts is about to unleash a demon god upon Wonderland, one even more powerful than the blamed Jabberwocky himself. What's the point of keeping a low profile when you're about to reach godhood?"

"A… what?" the Carpenter blinked. "Boss you can't possibly believe that! That woman must be… well…!"

"Mad? We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad. You must be. Or you wouldn't have come here," he quoted. "The Red Queen is as wise as she is beautiful, my dear. She is a goddess already," and he sighed dreamily, "and I'm sure that, when her divinity is recognized everywhere, she'll make me her Red King! Then off, off with the Jabberwocky's head!" he practically drooled.

The looks his subordinates exchanged spoke volumes on what they thought of that.

"Be careful with pulling jobs based on whims, Boss," the Carpenter warned, although a tad late by now. Well, a lot actually. "Remember what happened when we kidnapped Johnny Depp?"

"I had to!" the Hatter shouted. "He was an awful Hatter, and that Alice was supposed to be mine! All mine!"

"I liked him," the large and overweight Walrus commented from where he sat at a corner, on top of two absent-eyed policemen. Then he noticed Hatter was aiming a revolver at him, and he hastily added, "I mean, I didn't!"

Hatter hummed and lowered the gun without firing it. He made a call. "Dee? Dum? is everything okay down there?"

"No problems at all, Boss!" Twedledee's voice rang, sounding a bit panting. And a bit too happily, as a matter of fact.

"You aren't distracted, engaged in that thing you aren't supposed to ever do on duty, are you? Because if you are, off with your heads!" the leader of the gang threatened. "All four of them!"

A pause. "… Of course not, Boss!"

"Excellent," Hatter said. "Keep it that way, then." He cut the call, only to make another. "Hansel? Gretel? Is everything going according to the royal plan?"

Hansel answered with youthful enthusiasm as well. "Yes, Mr. Hatter! A bit too boring since we don't get to do anything ourselves, but at least the show is very exciting! Gretel and I are already in the mood to, once we get back, start—"

Hatter cut the call short with disgust. Even he had some standards left, after all. "What is it, I wonder, the thing moving twins to be… that way…?"

Somewhere, Shadow Crystal Mage sneezed. Kageyama Yamiko did a moment later, and Over Master not long after that.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Twedledee and Twedledum kept on doing that.

Funny how the same thing that can sound hot to many when it's about Fuuka and Fumika sounds so revolting to almost everyone when it's about Twedledee and Twedledum, right? Huh? Huh?

….

Eat Drink Man Woman

Okinawa:

"Question!" the dark skinned Maria Seikutsu asked Sakura Mei out of nowhere, startling her. As a matter of fact, it was the first time that girl ever talked to her. They were coming out of the open air bath, having dried themselves off and just put their yukatas on, carefully in Mei's case, messily in Maria's. "Where is milk?"

"Ah? Milk?" Mei echoed. "W-Well, I suppose there must be some left in the fridge, naturally, but why do you want to drink milk at this hour?"

"In Harumi-chan's anime, Japanese girls alway stand together in line and drink milk bottles at once! Like this!" She made a gesture of holding an imaginary bottle and drinking from it in a single big chugging. "GLUG, GLUG, GLUG! AHHHH! Ne, ne, what's with that, Mei nee-chan?"

"Ahhh… That?" the only-a-bit-taller girl asked, with a finger doubtfully on her own lips. "W-Well, I think they do it to gain bigger breasts. They say soaking in warm bath water and drinking milk does wonders for your bust size."

"So that why you spend so long soaking in bath, Nee-chan?" Maria blinked innocently.

"It wasn't that long!" Mei said. "Besides, I was tired and needed rest and relaxation, that's all!"

"Kaere-chan says best way for big chest is plastic surgery!" Maria replied. "She says it fast and effortless, and if goes wrong, you or your family can sue surgeon for all he's worth! You win either way!"

"No, I'm not doing that!" Mei protested. "Never!"

"Maria neither," the little foreigner said. "Maria's family have no money for operation or sue. All twenty nine of them live in big crate in alley. Funny; crate is very big, but we all still too tight in it!"

Mei shuddered. "How could your family buy you a scholarship in Mahora?-!"

"Brave Seikutsu Taro boy sold Maria spot and name very cheap and left! But, if milk so good for big breast, why girl with biggest chest here never drink it?" She pointed inside of the baths, while a completely drunk Otohime Mutsumi, naked as the day she was born, danced clumsily around the water, holding an empty bottle of sake, her large chest bouncing up left and down because of it all. "She only drinks liquor, like Papa when about to hit Mama! Must I drink liquor too?

"Oh hell, absolutely not!" Mei told her. "Look, w-what else did you see in those anime? Something we can do together?"

"Well," Maria said, "In many movies, Sempai and Kouhai take each other to corner and get naked, and then do things Suu-chan and Maria have done two times or twice!"

"TOO MUCH INFORMATION! AND I DON'T MEAN THOSE ANIME! I mean those who take place in an Onsen!" Mei was horrified.

"Ah! In those, after bath, girls always play ping-pong too!"

Mei nodded. "That's much better, and I admire your enthusiasm! But wait! What do you know about playing ping pong?"

"It's game where goal is to hit other player with ball and paddle, isn't it? And opponent flies through air ZOOOOOM and into wall…"

Mei sweatdropped. "No, that only happens when it's Naru-Oneesama and her husband playing. Let's hit the kitchen; I think it's better if we just get you some milk…"

….

The Day the Clown Cried

Ruri stared intently at the arcing ball of flame that was Quartum, tracking his movement. Er, not that she was concerned about him or anything like that! It wasn't like she liked him or anything!

We already did the sneeze gag. It still applies.

Then she felt, out of nowhere, a near-crushing pressure being applied to her neck from behind.

He had always been damn fast. He already had her by the time Batman pulled the Batarang out, stopping himself just short of tossing it and risking her life. The girl who had healed her and her friends also froze behind him, the girl leveling her wand. It would have been cute if it wasn't the Joker.

Negi swooped down to Quartum's side, grabbing him by his shirt and roughly pulling him up. "It's over! Now, you'll tell me—!"

"Okay, Sugar!" a male voice, a darkly amused one, spoke to him then, making him stop with a glare. He looked over his shoulder, never letting the dazed Quartum go, his hand moving to his throat instead to keep him quiet, the effects of his Armationem making hand-shaped cuts in the Avurruncus' skin. He saw the Joker holding the girl in the Harley Quinn costume against himself, an arm wrapped around her neck, ready to snap it at any moment. Her eyes were even wider than before, and her paleness was cadaverous now. "That's as far as you go with your foreplay, Missy! As Quarty's legal guardian, I don't allow decapitations on the first date! At least buy him some chocolates and introduce him to your parents first! Ah ha ha!"

Negi still didn't release his prey, knowing he was too dangerous to let escape, and the Joker never respected an agreement. "Let her go…" he said, with an icy voice filled with cold anger.

He, and almost everyone watching the situation, kept their eyes on the arm holding the girl, trying to anticipate any fatal movement, any irrational reaction, or an involuntary loosening that gave them an opening. Joker only chuckled and, taking advantage of that, always a master of misdirection, swiftly pulled a small remote control out of the sleeve of his free arm, clutching it tightly between his fingers. Batman waited for an opening, tense and grim. The clown kept on talking, to distract and unnerve the youngsters. The Batman had learned during confrontations with him it was better to block out the distracting, confusing noise and chatter, but at the same time, it could also drop often useful hints. Finding the balance between paying him enough attention and not too much was hard to achieve.

"Ah? Lett her go? Nah, sorry, I don't think I can. See, Ruri-Ruri here was lab enginereed, and her egghead makers were big on taking no chances. What kind of evil men would rig an explosive failsafe into a child, right? I was told stealing her away was such a problem because they had to steal the trigger too. And guess who's holding that now!"

"I know you're insane, but you aren't stupid," 'Negi said. "If you detonate that here, you'll kill everyone but me and him," He shook Quartum like a ragdoll. "And we all know that wouldn't be the way you want to go. It's not funny enough." 'Negi dearly hoped he wasn't being stupid, that he wasn't taking too big a risk, that what he knew about the Joker's psyche from Setsuna and urban legend was enough and translated well to this universe.

"I suppose you're right…!" Joker mused. "It wouldn't be the same if it isn't in Gotham. Oh well. Easy come…!" And he tossed the remote into the air, towards Batman and Konoe. "Catch!"

Negi gasped, his momentary panic about the safety of his students and the masses betraying him, making him look away from the pale man and at the small device flying through the air. He could see the girls instinctively moving forward to catch it before it hit the ground and disaster could befall, just as the Batman warned them to stop and lunge ahead for it himself. Negi, dreading the worst, threw Quartum down roughly to the ground, not wanting to drag him near the girls, and in a sudden burst of rocket fire, he was catching the thing in midair, tossing it up as high as he could, where it exploded in the distance, unleashing a massive rain of confetti that blanketed the whole area.

In the meantime, never letting the girl go, the Joker laughed and pulled out, just as quickly, a second remote control out of his sleeve, pressing a red button on it. "And speaking of explosions!" he cackled, as a building immediately went up in flames a few blocks away, "I had this nice home away from home near here, but some reason, I tend to boobytrap those in case partypoopers show up! Oh my, poor neighbors!" He put his free hand on his cheek and feigned a few sobs. "And I think I left a few henchmen there, too! Now, if only a brave hero was there to save them! You're too slow to get there in time, Bats, but I think there's one of us here who could… Well, Boy?" he asked, even as a choking Quartum limped next to him, rubbing his almost-punctured throat. "What's it going to be? Take your chances trying to save this little girl, or…?"

Negi narrowed his eyes, tumult growing inside, threatening to bring the worst out of him at any moment now. She knew he couldn't leave those with him alone with Quartum, even a damaged one. And yet…

Joker sighed, even as everyone warily closed on the three of them. "See, now this irks me. No respect, no sense of danger even if I rub it in your faces". He raised his voice, shouting for the crowd, "WHAT ABOUT YOU, FELLAS?-! CAN'T YOU TELL THE ONE, ONLY, ACCEPT NO COSPLAYERS JOKER YET?-!"

And right then and there, the crowd, which hadn't even flinched at most of the things they'd just seen, taking them all for major stunts, broken into sheer, unadultered panic.

"Oh, my God, it's him!"

"I knew it was him!"

"He'll kill us all!"

"Gotta get away, away, away!"

"Help! Police!"

He laughed as he saw the public scatter in all directions, starting to stampede and adding to the chaos. "Ah! I still got the touch, after all!" He backed away against Quartum and told him, "TAXI!"

With a tired sigh, the boy waved a hand up and down, and created a wall of flames before them to cover their escape. "I'll see you dead for this, girl!" he swore before disappearing behind the screen of fire, along with the Joker's deafening laughter.

"Oh no…" Maga Alba was gasping, only to notice Negi wasn't there anymore, leaving only a scorch on the ground and a sound that she'd come to associate with high speed movemnt. Her Pactio card called to her, and she pressed it against her forehead while the child Setsuna tried to keep her back from harm's way.

Konoka? the boy's voice called to her. I leave crowd control in your hands. I'll be back as soon as I can, he promised, even as he zoomed into the inferno of a nearby abandoned filming lot. The flames hadn't spread to the nearby buildings yet, but it was only a matter of time, and he could hear screams of trapped men from the inside. No matter what you do, keep yourselves safe, okay?

Okay, Negi-kun! she promised back, although it was easier said than done. Crowd control had never been their specialty, and Batman-sama, if anything, was more of a further intimidating factor than anything else. Maybe she could try a few mass area calming spells, though, before anyone trampled anyone else too seriously…

….

Nude Nuns with Big Guns

(Actually, it's a single pseudo-nun with no guns who keeps her clothes on, but…)

(What? So it never won an Oscar, so what?)

Both Haruna and Misora jumped aside with incredible speed (particularly Kasuga) in opposite directions as the woman with the claws swooshed between them trying to maul them with her hands. Haruna took advantage of the landing and the momentary reaction delay to lash out and kick the woman on a side of her head. Just as quickly, the mercenary slashed at her leg, managing to land only a slight scratch on it. However, a few mere seconds of belated reaction time on Haruna's part would have meant a seriously cut thigh.

"Haruna, are you out of your mind?-!" Yue called out, even as most of the crowd began dispersing quickly, the short girl struggling to avoid being trampled. "Get out of here right now! You too, Misora!"

"I tell you I don't know any Misora!" Misora cried while running in circles around Deathstrike to distract her. "My only name forever more is 'Mysterious Sister'!"

"I'll remember it for your funeral arragements," the woman said, swinging the claws and hitting only air each time, then growling while Haruna sneaked up behind her and kicked her in the back of the neck. Hissing like a viper, the merc pirouetted and kicked Haruna's chin, setting her up for a claw stab that didn't connect when the Mysterious Sister's blur pushed the stacked girl out of harm's way with herself. Yue felt like her heart was going stop.

"HARUNA! I DON'T THINK THAT'S STAGED!"

"Baka Black, all right," Misora mumbled, setting Haruna aside. "Y-You okay? If you feel you can't go on…"

Haruna smiled and shook her head, bopping lightly back towards the pissed off enemy. "Nah, just getting the hang of this! Hey, Ma'am, what's your name? Miss Stabbity Stab? Ginzu Woman? The World's Largest Vegetable Chopper?" Edwina Scissorhands?

"Deathstrike. Lady Deathstrike," she said, in a cold and arrogant tone, tinted with remains of a traditional, aristocratic old Japanese accent.

"Whoo, what an eXxXtreme name!" Haruna taunted her while hopping around, keeping her guard up, measuring her more carefully in a way that reminded Misora and Yue of a boxer in the ring. "Got it from an American comic book, I'd bet! And you look old enough to have lived through the Golden and Silver Ages, Granny!"

"Shameless little wench!" the assassin hissed again, jumping for her and barely missing, ducking under another kick aimed at her head. "It's because of youngsters like you our once proud nation fell into decay!" she stabbed ahead, but since Haruna moved aside, she clawed nothing but the nearest wall. She was getting closer with each new try, however; Haruna cursed inwardly, feeling slightly out of breath already. Her Manga Club duties meant she spent less active library exploration time than Yue and Nodoka, and like Dad had warned her, she'd gone rusty. She really had to work on it. For real this time, not like she promised after the dodgeball game… "It's because of you I voted for Ishihara!"

"Oh, those are fighting words, bitch!" Haruna snapped back.

The next claw strike came even closer, but Haruna managed to use it to grab the arm and twist it, to little avail. The thin, bony arm of the woman was deceptively strong, almost as if it was made of iron. Unbeknownst to Haruna, inside of Lady Deathstrike's arm, the adamantium-laced ligaments that extended themselves all the way to her claws worked against her. The woman smirked, and pushed her claws, using her proximity, up, creeping closer to Haruna's face…

Then the black and white blur grabbed Deathstrike from behind and pulled her away from Haruna, slamming her against a wall, then another and another one, and so on, faster than the mercenary could react to counter. Misora wheezed as she strained her Pactio granted endurance, trying to get the woman to hit her head each time. But finally, she broke free from Misora's hold, flailing her claws around so Kasuga had no choice but letting her go or being cut.

As she dropped her, however, Misora tucked something into the back of Deathstrike's outfit. She grabbed Haruna by a hand and ran with her inside of an alley. "C'me here!"

A moment later, the cross Misora had placed on the woman exploded, knocking her down and making her moan loudly as she slumped, dazed but still up. Yue still didn't approach, looking genuinely flabbergasted for once.

At the empty alley's end, Misora demanded, "Haruna, your card, quick! Do you still have it?-!"

Paru nodded, holding it up. "Right here, yeah! But, why…?"

Misora grabbed Paru's hand between her own shaky ones and forced it high, then yelled, "Say Adeat!"

"That's Latin, right?" Haruna savored the expectation. "I think I'm getting what is this all about…!" And she smiled. "Adeat!" she loudly said, getting ready for what no doubt would come next.

Ah, yes, it happened! She was turning into a Mahou Shoujo just like Misora-chan! Just like in a TV classic, her clothes were removed in a blink, then just as quickly replaced by a perfect copy of the flashy and yet functional ensemble (in her opinion) her image was donning in her card (the good one, not the penguin one). Then the quill and the sketchbook appeared in her hands, and her joygasm was complete. "SO COOL!" she chirped. "This has to be the most awesome thing that has ever—!"

Lady Deathstrike showed up at the alley's entrance, snarling fiercely. "I'll slice you two into hamburger meat…!"

Misora screamed, knowing she was at a disadvantage in enclose spaces. "H-Haruna, draw something to hurt her!"

"Ah?" Paru blinked. "Say what?"

Misora huffed while dodging as best as she could, not being able to get very far as the killer for hire lunged for her, then for Haruna, who avoided her again with a skilled feint. For some reason, her energy had returned, and then some, after activating her no doubt spectacular Mahou Shoujo form. That didn't surprise her, actually.

"That #$& drawing set is magical!" Misora shouted, sounding more like a sailor (not Senshi!) than a nun. "Just draw anything that can beat her down!"

"What on Earth are you talking about?" Deathstrike growled, nonetheless leaping for Haruna and her artifact again, just in case. Misora managed to grab her by a leg at the last moment and yank her back with herself just as Haruna drew frantically, her hands almost becoming a blur…

A second later, Lady Deathstrike flew out of the alley, landing into a trash can at the other side of the street.

Still waiting outside with her heart in her mouth, a pale Yue saw Misora and Haruna stepping back out of the alley, the latter smiling smugly. A giant boxing glove attached to a jack in the box hopped behind them.

"What's the meaning of this…" Yue's voice trailed off. Luckily, almost everyone else had gone away by now.

"You know," Kasuga said, "I was expecting something more imaginative."

"Give me a break, I was on a tight deadline, and this was quick to draw!" Haruna gulped then, seeing the woman was getting back up. "A tough one, right? Well, let's give you a cozy new home to relax in!" At truly breakneck speed, she drew a steel cage, but instead of trapping the woman inside as she had expected, the cage erupted from her book and just dropped on the mercenary. "Ouch. Not what I was aiming for, but still not bad. I had to draw her inside or what, Misochi?"

"Mysterious Sister!" Misora corrected before pointing at Deathstrike, who was pushing the cage off herself with a grunt. "She's still going on! Draw something heavier!"

Haruna briefly considered a giant anvil, before having a rare moment of mercy. She drew a sofa, which fell on top of Deathstrike. Only to be shredded to bits moments later.

"Heavier!" Misora screamed. "She's like a Terminator!"

"Don't pressure me!" Haruna yelled back, hands back at work. A small tree fell on Deathstrike. It took a bit longer this time, but she chopped through the trunk and got back up.

"Heavier!" Misora repeated.

Haruna decided to drop the kiddy gloves. A piano was the next thing to fall on Deathstrike. She still was able to slash her way from under it.

"Heavier, heavier!" Kasuga wailed.

"She's groggy now," Haruna noticed. "She only needs a classic finisher…!" She waited a fraction of a second until the augmented mercenary was set to attack again, and let a kitchen sink fall on her head.

Misora and Yue flinched as the woman finally fell for good, slurring curses that melted into pained tiny snores. "You're a nutcase, didja know that?" the Mysterious Sister asked.

"What was all of that—?" Yue questioned, finally daring to step closer.

"CGI!" Misora anticipated the rest of the question.

"I don't think CGI works that way."

"Of course it does!" Misora said. "What do you know on the subject, Baka Black? This is cutting edge modern illusion tech, NOT magic! Ever heard of that Mysterio guy in America who fights Green Arrow?"

"Spider-Man," Yue said.

"Same difference! Well, it's that type of illusion!" Misora argued.

Yue tapped Lady Deathstrike's head with the tip of a foot. "This illusion seems very solid to me."

"Hard light tech!" said Misora.

Haruna laughed. "Oh, ho ho ho! I'm a Magical Girl now!"

"No, you aren't!" Misora tried to get her shut her big mouth, although there was no one but 3-A and the enemy in sight by now. Those were still more than enough, she thought.

Ignoring her, Paru continued, "I have a newfound right to be as absurd, whimsical and sexily Crazy Awesome as I want! The world will now kneel down to my beauty, charms, grace, and unrestrained power! Ah ha ha ha ha!"

"Shut up, Haruna," Yue ordered.

"Ah, sorry, Yuecchi."

"Y-You're insane!" Misora was horrified.

"Misochi," Haruna smiled calmly while drawing a few snaking ropes that wrapped themselves around Deathstrike's wrists and ankles, keeping her safely tied. Misora and Yue both tried not to think how much they looked like tentacles. "You have experience with the church, so I'll make you the High Priestess of my global cult of awesomeness!"

"What have I brought upon this— I mean, really? So I'll be like the next Pope?"

"You gave me great power, didn't you? So my great responsibility is to be thankful to you!" Haruna patted her shoulders.

"Well, not like I'm rejecting the Neo-Vatican throne (how much will you pay?) or anything, but you got the powers yourself after you did… well, that thing. I still told you how to activate them, however, so I expect a good—"

"I thought you had said it was all CGI," Yue intefered.

"It is!" Misora cried. "This is part of the script, too!"

"Misora-chan…" Haruna spoke.

"Yes?"

"Shouldn't we be helping the others now? I want Misa as my fifth royal concubine, and Hakase as my Secretary of Sciences, so I need them alive, after all…"

"Oh, yes, that," Misora sighed. "S-Show the way then, Haruna-sama! I'll be behind you all the way!"

"Fifth concubine?" Yue asked Haruna.

"Don't be jealous, Yuecchi! You'll be my first royal wife!" Haruna joked(?).

Yue gave her the flat stare. "Just go save the others from the CGI."

….

Beauty and the Beast

A physically impressive, even if esthetically displeasing, individual towering over two meters tall and looming over her, armed with sharp clawed fingers similar to those of a carnivorous animal, although they didn't seem artificially altered. All in all, a remarkable and intriguing specimen, and Hakase would have liked to run a few lab tests on him. However, he looked unlikely to contribute willingly, the way he was looking down at her…

"Out of the way, chicken legs," the man said gruffly, his hot, rancid breath smelling like a decaying slaughterhouse. "I'd love to stay and feed you yer tinfoil backpack, but the first one to grab your rich friend gets an extra…"

With a clunky pose and a soft gulp, Hakase stood firm in his way, metal fists ready. "I believe that is an offer I'm unlikely to take, Mister. My familiarity with the classmate you ask for is scarce, but I still can't allow you to depart with her. May I suggest leaving peacefully, in a gesture of good will Mahora Academy will surely reward in the future?"

He huffed, furrowing his brow deeply and lurching threateningly towards her. "Izzat so? You know what shrimp, that sounds like a very reasonable idea…" And he swung a massive claw at her face, "… AND I HATE THOSE!"

With clenched teeth, Satomi blocked the hand with a giant fist, then pushed it back, actually surprising the behemoth with the power of her push. He slammed the other hand down to hit her head, but she twisted right in time to make him hit the top of the backpack instead. Her other giant arm punched him in the jaw, but that barely made him move back. He only grinned, with narrowed eyes and a raspy tongue running over his lips. "Well, well. I might spare a moment f'r ya after all, babe…"

Satomi decided to punch him in the stomach now, and that hardly had any more effect. In retaliation, he immediately elbowed her in the chin, not even trying, and that made her stagger back groggily. She recovered right in time to stop his next punch with her own, and they pushed against each other until her fist won and drove him against a wall.

"Not bad for a four eyed chick!" he approved, leaping for her just as fast, and this time she had to block with both of her major arms to stop his approach, while the two smaller ones hit him in the head, which he, if anything, only seemed to appreciate. "Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about!"

Psychology had never been Hakase's specialty, but she hypothesized she was facing a sociopathic personality with a complete lack of capacity for empathy, also plagued by an acute fixation with violence, possibly linked to sublimation of his sexual impulses through sadistic behavior. Or something like that. Sexuality of any kind had never been her forte either, although she had found herself reading a lot more on the subject for some reason lately, after she started dating Sakurako. She didn't think there was any connection, though.

Sakurako-chan, by the way, would just have diagnosed the man as "a complete whacko!"

For once, Hakase felt herself inclined to agree with the more primitive term.

The mountain of a man slammed his claws down time and time again, forcing her on the defensive. Still mostly unused to serious combat situations, the young girl overcame the woman of science, and she began panicking, resorting to just blocking desperately while praying for Chisame or Negi's help. But they weren't there, and it was up to her, and oh if only she had another function beyond brute force in these arms, and why had she been assigned an Artifact that didn't match her…

No! No, for the love of Tesla, she wasn't going to surrender like that! So what if her idols weren't traditionally styled women and men of action? She would be a Leonardo for the new age, opening new avenues, combining new and old disciplines! She'd be a Renaissance woman! She's master the atom, create life (oh wait, she'd already done that), become a fighter, bed Sakurako, win five Nobels, travel into space, bed Chisame, learn the truth about what separated life from the absence of it, heal cancer, bed Negi, become the mother of modern cybernetics for the generations to come, bed Chao, analyze and explain every Artifact in existence, rationalize magic, explain the supernatural, bed Mato– wait, what did beds have to do with all of this, and more! Yes! She wouldn't doubt her capabilities anymore!

Um, and maybe she'd start by kicking that bad guy down. He was almost breaking through her defenses, after all.

Hakase positioned one of her arms better to stop the merciless strikes, then swung the other in an arc that managed to land a solid hit on his chest. Again, it didn't faze him much, but it gave her a momentary opening for what she truly wanted.

She didn't know a lot on the subject of hand to hand combat, but she had watched enough TV with Sakurako to know which style of attacks popular wisdom considered the most effective against a man.

Ducking under his slashing arms, Hakase rammed both of her big fists forward and into the tall man's crotch, as strongly as she could.

Now that made him whimper and double over, covering the impacted area with both hands and muttering something that didn't sound too flattering.

"Ah, my apologies," Hakase said, without any real intent of mocking him. "Are you in any conditions to continue, or should we interrupt this here?"

He straightened up and lunged for her, claws and teeth bared murderously. "DIE, BITCH!"

"Creed," a cold, emotionless female voice called from behind him. The familiar sound in his ears made him stop in the middle of his charge, looking back with curiosity. He saw a tall woman with her black hair made in braids, wearing a long-skirted maid outfit. He didn't recognize her at first, until he sniffed the air and recognized the old familiar scent.

"Bloodhound of Florencia…" he chuckled. "I thought ya were dead, but I'd recognize that smell even under yer cheap cologne. Long time no see…!"

"Yes," she nodded sparsely, aiming her black umbrella at his face. "Let's keep it that way."

She pulled a trigger on the umbrella's handle, and shot several rounds into his head.

….

Backdraft

Being a human rocket, Negi allowed, was actually pretty cool. It was certainly more controllable than lightning form. Though it looked easy, using magic to control the ion distribution in the air so he could move was actually pretty complicated, and designing the spell for it had taken a considerable amount of time. Rocketry, however was far simpler. No matter how complicated people thought rocket science was– and this was certainly rocket science– once you got right down to it, it was a pretty basic application of Newton's laws: equal and opposite reaction. Throw fire forcefully one direction and be thrust in the opposite one. Simple, really.

Negi didn't even break the sound barrier, but he was pretty sure he nudged it as he reached the burning building. The blast had sent burning debris to the other buildings, but they hadn't really caught fire yet. Quickly, Negi raised a hand, sending multiple water arrows at the other buildings, dowsing the flames. It wasn't really his element, but for such an elemental and low-powered casting he managed to pull it off.

Now, onto the big one.

He drew close to the burning building, not aware of the flames– he really needed to see about learning this spell!– and turned behind him. "Rastel Mastel Magister!" he cast, "Flans Saltatio Pulverea!"

Immediately, a wind burst into being, surrounding the burning building and isolating it. The flames roared higher, but it didn't trespass through hthe wind boundary. For all intents and purposes, the fire was contained.

Negi couldn't hear any cries for help, but that meant nothing. A blast like that, the best he could hope for was that they were only stunned, unconscious at best. But with the fire, they were in danger of smoke inhalation. Immune to heat, he decided to take the direct approach, and headed for the front door, kicking the lock off and yanking it open.

That was the last thing he remembered as the entire building exploded violently, the Joker's trap on the door set off. Apparently, fire immunity to explosion didn't equal concussive blast immunity to same…

….

….

Die Hard

Hakase had never seen someone shoot anyone in the face. Sakurako disliked those kinds of movies, and the laboratories' higher ups hadn't approved their project to develop intelligent facial protective plates, so they never got to make those tests. So the sight of what that woman (where had she met her? She was fairly sure of having met her before, but where? Ah, right, Iincho-san's mansion, wasn't it?) had just done startled her, although not as much as it had Ayaka (whom she could hear gasping loudly in the background). Although she was mildly used to seeing facial skin and flesh splattering in all directions, from that time the experimental particle accelerator blew up in Himori-kun's face. Poor Himori-kun. Ah, if they only had intelligent facial protective plates. Well, she had heard the reconstruction surgery had gone well, at least.

(The management would like it to be known that poor Himori-kun isn't going to turn into some URAE version of a known supervillain. Instead, his face is reconstructed, and the incident makes him think long and hard about his path in life, wherein he decides to become a more responsible scientist and eventually becomes a leading expert in space elevator technology and eventually dies peacefully in his sleep, after a long life with a happy family. Oh, and he ends up marrying Dakota Fanning.)

She still was ruminating over that when the maid grabbed her by one of her actual hands and began pulling her in back to Ayaka, Asakura, Natsumi and Chizuru even as the large muscled body hit the ground with a thud. "Excuse me," Hakase asked, "But I believe you have just taken that person's life…"

"It'll take far more than we've got to—" Roberta began, then froze in her tracks as she heard his feral growl, and she turned her head back, tucking Satomi under an arm and reloading her umbrella shotgun with the other.

The 'Creed' man was rising back to his feet, his face still a bloody mess, but the red collage of his features was healing inhumanly fast, quickly growing new pieces of flesh replacing those that were dripping off. "Always the cold bitch, Rosarita," he crooned in a sinister fashion. "'Cept for that one time in Barranquilla…"

She took aim and fired again, but this time he dodged, charging forward at her with a dry laugh. Roberta pushed Hakase back towards Ayaka, shooting again, managing to hit a shoulder this time, but cursing to herself since she had aimed for the neck. He was as fast as ever despite his size. Hakase tried to run to her side to help her, but a panicked Natsumi grabbed her by an arm to hold her back, and while Natsumi's strength wasn't an issue, she could be hurt if Hakase shook her off herself abruptly.

Those split seconds were all Sabretooth needed to close in on Roberta, roughly grabbing her wrists and lunging with his mouth for her throat. Without missing a beat, the woman kicked her heel, and a sharp blade sprouted from her boot. She brought the foot up, and it cut a vertical red slash on Sabretooth's stomach, forcing him back. Pulling a hand free, she swiftly pulled a small knife out of her sleeve and sank it with a single push into Sabretooth's left eye.

"DAMN YOU! I'M GONNA MAKE YOU PAY—!" He waved an arm and yanked the umbrella off her other hand, tossing it aside, far from the girls. He grabbed her arm again and swung her against a lamppost, dizzying her momentarily. As this happened, Hakase escaped from Natsumi's shaky grip, running forward and punching him in the back with all four metal fists at once, only making him snarl. He rolled around expertly and slashed her right biological arm, cutting a large gash up to her elbow. She had been caught in several lab explosions with flying shrapnel, so it wasn't exactly a new feeling for her, but still, it was very painful, and her attention wavered again.

Roberta tried to scramble quickly for the umbrella, but Creed stomped a foot on her way, which stopped him from pressing the attack on Satomi for the moment.

"Where's Morisato-san?-!" Hakase called at the girls while checking her wound wasn't too serious. "I thought he was with you!"

"He told us to hide while he went for a car to get out of here!" Asakura told her. "I wouldn't be shocked if he just ran away…"

"On the other hand, hiding was something we should've done…!" Natsumi whimpered.

"Roberta-san!" Ayaka screamed, and it took Chizuru holding her from behind as strongly as she could to stop her from going risking herself.

Creed grabbed Roberta by the neck and lifted her up, beginning to choke her. She kicked back against his chest with enough force to shatter a normal man's ribcage, but it was doing nothing here. "Forget the reward, just icin' ya is enough reason to come here, Rosarita…" he savored the moment, licking his fangs. "A pity you have to die in something as unflattering as that…"

Then he heard a swooshing sound cutting through the air, and out the corner of an eye, he caught a red gymnastics ribbon snapping the umbrella, then yanking it a few feet back to the hands of the lithe, pink-haired girl who had just tossed said ribbon. "What in the…?" Creed snorted.

"MAKIE-SAN!" Ayaka cried. "Are you insane?-! Drop that thing now, it isn't a toy!"

"I know," Makie said flatly, with a tone rather distant from her usual bubbly self. "It's what Homura-mama always tells me. Guns are never to be played with, no matter what…"

She carefully examined the umbrella's handle even as Creed tossed a coughing Roberta aside and stomped for her. "It's gonna be hard," Makie mused. "I've never shot an umbrella before…"

"Look out!" Hakase shouted, making a beeline for Creed, but stumbling back when he casually punched her in the face. Her glasses went flying.

Makie took that moment of distraction to aim the umbrella as she had seen Roberta do. She breathed in and out very deeply and whispered, "Let's see if this works…"

With amazing accuracy, the first shot landed in the left eye, which had been regenerating for the last few moments, turning it into a splotch again. The second shot went straight into the right eye, which suffered the same fate, making Creed howl. Breathing heavier and harder, acting on pure practice now, trying not to think about anything, Makie lowered her aim and put four more rounds into his huge chest, two in the heart and two in the center of mass, until she ran out of ammo, and he dropped on his back.

"S-Sasaki-san!" Hakase gasped.

"Makie-san!" Ayaka covered her mouth with her hands. "What have you just—!"

"EEEEEEEE!" Makie whined, sounding like Makie again. "Sorry! I saw him tanking those shots to the face, I didn't think I could kill him! Homura-mama told me it was okay if there was no choice but our lives or theirs!"

Natsumi struggled not to faint. "I'm gonna be sick…!"

"It's… not over yet," Roberta snarled, walking to Makie's side and recovering her weapon.

"I'LL KILL YOU ALL AND EAT YOUR DAMN GUTS!" Sabretooth roared. "LIKE HELL I'M GONNA BE BESTED BY A BUNCH OF WHO—"

Then a van turning a corner rushed into the street and, before he could move away, rammed him against a wall. The girls all gulped aloud, even as Roberta only sneered.

"Is that…?" Chizuru began.

Asakura took a good look at the driver's seat. "Morisato-san?"

Keiichi sighed very deeply, pushed the airbag down, and made a truly miserable face. "I'm SO going to jail for this." Then he shot them a look through the window. "I told you all to wait in a safe place!"

"Did you steal that car?" Ayaka asked him.

"Look, in the Motor Club, Tamiya and Ootaki lose our keys all the time, so I've learned how to start cars the hard way, and well, in this chaos, it's not like I could call a cab or a rented car, and there was no time before that maniac killed everyone, and since I just saved your life….!" the young man began.

Ayaka made a few pacifying gestures. "Fair enough. I just wanted to know, because I'll compensate the car's owner. Is everyone okay? Roberta-san? Hakase-san?"

Roberta only nodded, looking down as if somewhat ashamed of herself.

"It was only a superficial, although extensive, wound," Hakase nursed her arm clumsily. "I'll be fine once Maga Alba-san attends m—" Then she realized she had said too much.

"Maga Alba?" Ayaka asked. "Who in the world is—?"

Then there was another horrible roar, and Creed revived, clawing from between the van and the wall with terrifying strenght despite his bleeding wounds, fiercely making his way to the windshield and staring at a paralyzed Keiichi's eyes. "You realize you're dead, don'tcha, geek?-!"

"What kind of monster is this?-!" Natsumi cried. "Jason?"

"CREED!" a voice called from above. Sabretooth looked up and sniffed, only to glimpse a dark caped figure jumping down from a lamppost, before having a boot firmly planted between his still bleeding eyes. Keiichi blinked stupidly before the Batman all but pushed him out of the car. "Get away! Now!"

Feeling rather inclined to obey, Morisato scampered on all fours to the girls' side, standing back up just as soon as the Batman smashed a sleeping gas grenade on Sabretooth's nose. "Sweet dreams," he growled, before following with a punch to the face, another one, and then planting a tazer on his scalp, the triple impact barely managing to keep him groggy until the gas took effect, and the beast man slumped down on the damaged car, snoring heavily.

The Dark Knight jumped down from the vehicle, with everyone but Roberta staring at him in mute amazement.

"You sure it's enough?" Roberta asked.

"Hnh. That was enough to handle a family of gorillas," he said. "I hope you're still keeping your nose clean, Cisneros."

"I only intervened to protect my Ojou-sama and her classmates," the woman said in the same glacial tone. "Save your unwanted patronizing."

Ayaka blinked a few more times.

Chizuru coughed, clearing her throat. "Ayaka, I believe my father would be interested in hearing about where you hire your staff…"

A little further down the street, a building exploded, accompanied by the sound of psychotic laughter. Everyone tensed, Roberta moving in front of Ayaka and quicly reloading her umbrella.

A slightly worn Kuro stumbled out of the flames, one hand raised. A shimmering, circular thing in the shape of a seven-petalled flower emanated from her hand, bullets bouncing off it. "Clear the decks!" she yelled. "Incoming gun-happy psyc– "

There was a sort of 'whooshing' noise, and the something exploded against her shield, throwing her back with the force, though nothing penetrated. "Stand still, magus!" a high-pitched voice cried, followed by a stream of machine gun fire.

Kuro swore. "STUPID BOTTOMLESS MAGAZINE MAGICAL ADD-ONS!"

….

….

Lolita

Kuro grinned as she saw the deserted street. Finally, she'd gotten to where she'd be going. There were hardly any civilians in sight, and those that were had a big question mark above that designation. Flame-chick and Sailor Mercury were still pretty much deadlocked, though they'd taken to jumping up to the rooftops now. Misa was egaged in a long-range battle against some guy who… whoa, where those tentacles growing out of his hands? Awesome! She wanted some of those. The man, Russian going by his accent, sounded very pissed, attacking ruthlessly, but the cheerleader was responding with equal aggression, if the number of needles all over the guy's head and near the vicinity of his groin was any indicator. Kuro felt a burst of pride at her nominal student. She'd get her up to 'not dying when she was killed' eventually!

Still, no time to observe, she had other problems. The girl shooting at her was nowhere near the level of the ''Magus Killer', but she made up for lack of planning and forethought with enthusiasm and lots of weaponry. Speaking as someone who sometimes still used said tactics, it was working very well. The Avalons inside her were doing a good job of healing her injuries, but the little blonde bitch had cottoned on to the fact Rho Aias didn't block concussive force. She had a grenade launcher on her gun now, and was using it every so often to wear Kuro down.

"I'm too loli hot for this shit," Kuro muttered as she zigzagged evasively down the street, patting out the burning spots on her cape. She threw several Black Keys at the girl, but the nut easily dodged them, moving like she was an escapee from a fighting game. Next thing you know she'd do a down, down-right, right plus punch combo…

There was a whirring sound and two black things spun through the air, which were promptly shot down. For a wild moment, Kuro thought Illya had gone Berserker and joined the fight… but no. It was someone else. "Bulleta Bonnie Hood," Batman growled.

The Darkstalker hunter stopped for a moment, taking her fingeroff the trigger and alloing Kuro room tocatch her breath. "Oh! I remember you! Sorry about that thinking you were a vampire thing! It was an honest mistake!"

"68 people were hospitalized for your 'mistake'," Batman growled, drawing more batarangs from his belt.

Hood smiled sweetly. "Hey, when a girl hears some dark creature with a black cape of the night is preying on people, you draw conclusions!"

Makie blinked, then looked slightly incensed. "Who's this girl, and who taught her how to use guns? Don't hold it like that, it's unsafe! Point it down!"

Hood turned, the barrel of the gun tracking with her and pointing vaguely in the direction of Makie. "Did you say something?" she said smiling hideously as the girls backed away. Kuro saw her chance.

"Trace, ON!"

Kanshou and Byakuya spun end over end, one slicing off her gun a bare millimeter from the trigger, destroying the firing mechanism, even as the other simultaneous cut the basket from Hood's elbow and buried itself in her side. The basket hit the ground with WAY more force than it should have as Hood cried out in sudden pain, her face contorting hellishly as she dropped her gun. She pulled the blade from her side, ready to throw, but with a thought from Kuro, it disappeared, reverting back into nothing.

Reinforced legs ate ground and she leapt at Hood with a flying kick, slamming into her wound, her food striking broken chain mail and pierce Kevlar and ballistic plate.

Kuro had a rather well-defined injury classification system. At the very top of the list was when she'd had her heart literally ripped out and was legally dead for a little while. The pain, when she'd been aware of it, was agonizing, although she'd had a rather pleasant conversation with Death-sama afterwards, and had actually managed to smooch a kiss. Death's prana was awesome! Very tasty, succulent, sensual…

Slightly below that was when she'd get a limb torn off, followed closely by the limb being reattached by means of stabbing it into the swords that would inevitably grow from the stump. Ouch.

Beneath that there was a 1 to 10 scale, one being tickling and ten being everything else short of dismemberment. Going by Hood's face, she'd just done a 7. Blonde pansy.

"I'll kill yo–!" was as far as Hood got before Kuro slammed a giant sword on her head. The blonde was out like a light, scalp bleeding profusely.

Kuro let the sword disappear, nodding in satisfaction. "Let that be a lesson, bitch," she said. "I'm the projectile loli around here!"

"What have you done?"

Kuro looked up to find Chizuru charing towards her, breasts bouncing quite obviously in her hurry. She knelt next to the unconscious BB. Hood, checking her injuries. The normally pleasant girl glared up disapprovingly at Kuro. "She's loosing a lot of blood, and I think her skull is fractured. If we don't get her to a hospital, she'll die."

Batman swore, striding over while reching into his belt.

"You're welcome for my keeping her from shooting you," Kuro said with a sigh. Typical. "Out of the way, I'll take care of her…"

Chizuru didn't move as Kuro concentrated, drawing one of the Avalon's she'd taken in. it materialized in her hands, and she heard some gasps as the golden sheath appeared, shining like the sun and enameled with blue designs. When she looked up, Batman was looming over her.

"What is that?" he demanded, already holding what looked like a small med kit.

"The Sheath of Excalibur," Kuro said honestly. "I don't know how well you know Arturian legend, but it'll keep her alive and maybe fix her skull." She paused significantly. "Probably won't do anything about her being crazy, though."

"Magic," Batman said, sounding mildly disapproving.

"Unless you have a Bat-portable-Brain-Surgeon in that belt of yours, it's her best chance," Kuro said. "I thought she'd be wearing a helmet under that hood, darn it. I would have been." Resting the sheath on Hood's body, she lightly activated it, and watched carefully as skin began to knit. A bone fragment was slowly pushed out of her scalp. Nodding in satisfaction, she turned to Chizuru. "Keep an eye on her and don't move the sheath. If she looks about to wake up, holler." She straightened.

"Where are you going?" Chizuru asked.

Kuro pointed. "My little student needs backup. Trace, on!"

A sword appeared in her hands, and she was off. Batman bent down to check on Hood, and while still disapproving, seemed satisfied with what was there. He handed Chizuru the kit. "Here. Magic or not, her wounds need to be disinfected and sealed. Can you–?"

Chizuru nodded, taking it. "I have first aid training."

Batman nodded, turned, and raced for the other fights.

"Ayaka-chan, Morisato-san, could you help me with this?" Chizuru said, more as a way to keep Ayaka from haring off.

As the blonde moved to her side to assist, Roberta watching over them, Makie bent down over Hood's broken gun, clucking in disapproval. Then her eye caught the fallen basket, its covering handkerchief slightly disarrayed. Curious and hoping for a snack, she looked inside.

Her eyes widened…

….

….

Water World

"By the way," Chizuru said as she carefully settled down next to the prone Hood, looking around, "Where's Hakase-san? She was here only a moment ago…"

"Huh, you're right," Natsumi blinked. "How did she run away so fast with that giant backpack on?"

"I'll go look for her…" Keiichi sighed, standing back up despite the pains of the crash all over his body. "She can't have run too far."

"I'll bet she went to look for Sakurako-san," Ayaka frowned slightly, concerned rather than annoyed. "Does anyone have a cellphone to call her? I lost mine when those awful things stripped me…"

Roberta dutifully handed her one.

"Thank you," Ayaka replied and made the call without thinking twice. As a really good Class Rep, she had memorized the numbers of all her classmates. "Hakase-san? Hakase-san, where…? Darn it," she grumbled. "She's turned it off."

A few blocks away, now that the audience had finally dispersed, Setsuna made her best effort to pull both Konokas back to safety, dreading the worst after exposing themselves so much. The local one had sat down on a narrow side street's sidewalk, fanning herself. "My, my, this costume's so hot…!" she complained. "And after all that happened, I feel so sweaty…! Don't you, Ai-chan, Yuu-chan?" she smiled at the two smaller girls.

Maga Alba smiled, sitting down besides her. "Yeah!" she chirped, dearly hoping Negi would get back soon. Going into any nearby building could be walking into a trap, and staying into the open too much was dangerous as well, so they had subtly guided her counterpart to a place that wasn't too closed or too visible. "I really wanna go back right now to take a bath!"

"Maybe it'd be for the best, yes," Setsuna pondered quietly, torn about just trying to leave before they could be located. She still didn't feel confident Erebus could return before more ambushers arrived. So naturally, despite her inner turmoil, she kept herself alert and on the lookout, even tense, her senses focusing everywhere.

The first thing she noticed was the diminutive sound of a water droplet. That was enough to make her spring back to her feet, unsheathing her blade, eyes growing narrow. She stepped swiftly before both Konokas, just as Maga Alba also tensed up and drew her wand out, a hurried, "Set-chan Alba Curaga Set-chan Amora Justica!" escaping her lips. The other Konoka felt the magic in the air tickling her skin and running up her spine to her brain, and it felt oddly good, familiar even; but it still shocked her.

"Yuu-chan, Ai-chan?" she asked. "What—"

Then all the humidity in the middle of the street, every water molecule unseen until then, seemed to gather together into a single spot, forming a strange but beautifully shaped vertical spout that took a vaguely humanoid shape. And just as soon as it had happened, the water dissipated in all directions, and out of the unmade sprout, like a butterfly out of her cocoon, a gorgeous pale girl with short grayish hair stepped out, completely dry. She was slim and yet well curved, despite being apparently roughly two years older than Negi, with the grace of a young girl starting adolescence, but without the physical awkwardness that often came with that age. There was something unnatural and ethereal about her and the way she moved, with measured, elegant steps, arms resting at her sides. She wore a gray school outfit; a boy's outfit, but it still flattered her figure nicely. Her eyes were calm and even, glinting slightly, but still devoid of the true spark of life.

Maga Alba reacted on instinct, honed from months of drills, training and field experience. "Sagitta Magica Series Lucis!"

Several arrows of light erupted from the librarian's wand, but the girl just dodged, Konoka could hear 'Ai-chan' gasp, her grip on her wand wavering for a moment. Setsuna, steeling herself for the worst, swung her sword forward in a determined slash, trying to cover as much range as she could, not hesitating at all. It still wasn't nearly enough. She couldn't even see how the newcomer dodged her attack; all she saw was her flashing past her, zeroing onto a suddenly terrified Konoka.

Setsuna had started to turn back and strike again at the girl's back when Maga Alba, fully recovered, aimed the wand between the girls' eyes and shouted, "Sagitta Magica Series Lucis!"

Twelve arrows of light flew out, but they just slammed into her defensive mandala, her expression always the same, flat and detached. Setsuna growled, cursing her new small size reduced her reach, and lunged further ahead to land a glancing slash at the girl's back, but it didn't make her even look back.

Before Setsuna could press on her attack or Maga Alba could use a deeper-penetrating spell, in a blink, the mysterious girl had tackled Konoka, making her shriek. Alba tried to take aim again, but with the other Konoka already secured in the enemy's arms, hesitation took her for a decisive moment. Setsuna jumped in with a desperate swing, aiming for the shoulder opposite the arm holding Konoka, but the girl just snapped up her hand, a ball of ice erupting from her hand and trapping it in mid-swing, making Setsuna's eyes widen. She made no sound as she wrenched Yuunagi from Setsuna's hands and kicked her away, securing Konoka tighter against herself.

"LUX!" Maga Alba cried, trying to blind Sextum with the light spell, but by the time she was uttering the 'U', the construct had already guessed it and shielded her eyes with an arm. As the flash subsided, she stopped Setsuna's unarmed dash at her with a casual wave of a hand that sent a stream of water out of her fingers and dousing Setsuna, making her fly against a wall. For a split moment, the pale girl followed that by moving her fingers in a way that eerily reminded Maga Alba of that time she had been nearly drowned, but then the fingers stopped, and there was a whisper.

"Only children," Sextum told herself. "No need for this much."

Instead, she only summoned another large swirl of water all around herself, blocking both Alba's next attempt of a Sagitta Magica and Setsuna's crazed charge at once. Right then, Hakase appeared around a corner and raced towards them as well, but it was too late; the water column was collapsing in on itself, taking both the captive and the captor away with a final wet sound.

"YUU-CHAN!" Konoka cried, trying to reach out with a hand. "AI-CHAN! HAKA—!"

But then the disappearing swirl slurped her arm into itself before imploding in the air, and that was the last they saw of her then.

"OJ-OJ-KONO-CHAN!-!-!-!" Setsuna fell to her knees, all of her energy drained at once, her legs unable to support her all of a sudden. "KONO-CHAN!-!-!-!"

"Curses!" Hakase screeched to a halt between them. "Ah, we were foiled by an erratic distribution of our human resources! Instead of being distracted by all the enemies, we should have put the bulk of our forces her—"

"Yadda yadda yadda, yeah, that's what I always say," a male voice blabbered from behind her, and she, Maga Alba, and even the stunned Setsuna looked in that direction, to see someone had just materialized there, with a finger still on a button of his belt. Tall and lean, but not without muscle. Completely clad in red and black, a mask covering all of his face. Several katanas on his back, enough guns strapped to his hips to start a war. "I see Dolly left one! Hip-hip-hooray, that's one bonus I'll get, then! Lucky me, I read all the previous chapters! Malibu summer home, here I come!"

Hakase blinked, but still fell into a protective stance before the remaining Konoka. "And you would be…?"

"Well, I'm, naturally, the one and only, the inimitable, accept no substitutes, pure blooded, tried and true, authentic and awesome, definitely-not-played-by-Ryan-Reynolds Deadp—!"

Then the segment ended to switch to another scene.

"No, damn it! Who do you think I am, Baka Pink?-! I'm Deadpo—!"

Then the segment ended for real.

"Assholes!" he said.

….

Fire and Ice

Akira still hated fighting. As a matter of fact, she thought she actually hated it more with each new fight she had, and somehow fighting this particular girl was even more annoying and disturbing than having to fight random Youma, because this girl actually meant her harm. The Youmas used to be little more than rabid beasts, and it helped to keep an emotional distance from the troubling realization you were pummeling them to destruction; but this girl was fully human- or a close facsimile, at least- and that made it much more taxing. That, and how full of vinegar and bitterness she seemed.

Akira felt like she was repeating a tired script by now, trying again to reach for her with words, words the fire girl was clearly not interested in hearing. But then, Akira was the saintly, patient type, and she'd repeat the peace speech two thousand times if she had to. "Shine Aqua Illusion!" she was shouting now, in what wasn't exactly an example of that speech, okay, but a necessary part of keeping herself alive before continuing, "I just don't see why you're so dead set on kidnapping her! What did she do to you? Or was it her family? Whatever the case is, I'm sure this won't solve anything!"

In all universes where she was, even the Triangle Heart ones, Takamachi Nanoha sneezed.

Homura snorted deeply while avoiding the icy blast with relative ease, both due to superior battle experience and to Akira never aiming for her body or head, only for the limbs. "Shut up. Why don't you ever go for the best course of action?" she asked, sending a volley of fireballs straight for Akira's midsection, forcing the novice Senshi to roll back like Minako had taught her. "Don't you have enough conviction to go all out in a fight? You're pathetic!"

Akira frowned, running along the rooftop trying to find a better angle of attack, but getting frustrated at each turn by the faster moving, cynically smirking, naked girl. "I fight for life and safety, and those are the only things moving me to do this!" she shouted to make herself heard over all the noise below. "I'll never fight anyone with killing intent!"

"Then you'll die soon!" Homura said, igniting the spot right under her left foot. Only the thick blue boot, which seemed insulated against both extreme heat and cold, saved her leg from suffering some very serious burns. "I'm actually holding back here, under orders to not kill anyone, and yet you can barely keep up with me!" She tossed herself in a straight line at Akira, trying to wrap her with the flames sprouting around her own body, but the Senshi managed to leap over her and out of immediate range. "Ha! Look at yourself! If all you can do is elude me and putting half your heart into what you do, then you shouldn't fight to start with!"

Since they were still close enough, Homura kept on advancing towards Akira, trying to touch and burn her, forcing the sailor-suited girl on the defensive. Using her longer legs and arms, she could keep Homura at bay with a frantic array of punches and kickes, her gloves and boots protecting her flesh from the intense heat. Still, Akira knew she couldn't keep it for much longer, and the girl was, step by step, leading her to the edge. She had to stop it now.

So she shoved her hands forward and pushed Homura back, but miscalculating her own strenght she sent Homura to the other end of the rooftop. Not that Akira could realize how close to a fall she had just pushed Homura. "Mercury Aqua Mist!" she shouted, enveloping her adversary with a thick layer of mist that blinded her, making her spin around aimlessly for a few moments. Mercury took the chance to leap in and kick Homura in the head, and she was sure that'd only stun her…

She never realized she'd just pushed Homura to the street below until she made out her shape in the mist stumbling back, then disappearing after stepping out over the ledge. With a horrified scream, Akira jumped for her, barely reaching for the dizzy girl's hand in the absolute last second, breaking her fall and exhaling a long sigh of relief.

Split seconds later, when Homura regained awareness, she realized how she was hanging from the hand of her enemy. Briefly, she pondered bringing her down with herself, but somehow, once she saw the tall girl pulling her up and offering her other hand for better support, Homura took the second hand and planted her bare feet against the building, helping her back up.

When Akira gave her the final tug onto the rooftop, Homura, with her flames already down, fell back against her, her head falling on Akira's neck, the long and powerful arms encircling her for a moment as she heard her unwanted rescuer's ragged breath coming in short pants, more of emotional recovery than physical. And it felt oddly nice, for a moment. Why had this strange girl spared her life so? Before, when she held herself back in combat, Homura had believed she was under instructions not to kill, like herself. Or that she was just scared of invoking more of her wrath if she went all out. But now she had gone out of her way, even endangering herself, to save her life. No one had ever been that kind to her before in a battle. What kind of… stupid warrior was this?

Feeling herself confused by those strange thoughts, she punched the girl in the chin to make her release her. "Thanks," she muttered bitterly, getting back to her feet.

"My pleasure," Akira tried to rub her chin back in shape. "Then, what if we finally stop fighting? Why won't you talk? What's so hard about it?"

Homura gave her a cold look. "You say you do this for others' good, don't you?"

"Eh? W-Well, yes, of course. Why wouldn't I—"

"Then you should join our cause," Homura folded her arms. "If you want to talk, fine, let's talk about our goals, and if you're really worried about the world's fate, you should be with us."

"Ahh?" Akira said. "What? There's nothing good about what you're doing!"

"There are necessary sacrifices for the geater good," Homura told her. "While I can't say much, your friend holds a great power we could use to truly save the world from corruption and chaos. We strive for a world with no wars, no big tragedies, no large scale suffering. You, who call yourself a soldier of peace and love, should follow our cause and walk along us."

"What? No!" Akira protested. "You can't say that after you attack us and try to kidnap a perfectly innocent girl! You can't do anyone any good through others' pain!"

"Weren't you asking me to listen to you moments before? Well, I will listen to you if you listen to me," the fire nudist offered with a dry snarl. "That's just fair, isn't it?"

"Yes, but you can't expect anyone to heed your proposals while you're still hurting others! Call your friends off and let's all discuss this like civilized people!" Akira asked. "You should have started from here, and maybe Konoka would help you willingly if you really have a good point…"

Homura frowned deeper, unsure of why she was bothering with this empty-headed girl. Sure, she felt obliged to spare her just this once after she saved her, but that didn't mean she had to explain anything to her. Then again, she was strong, and her team could use more recruits. Somehow, her attitude reminded her of Shiori's…

Her musings were cut short when she heard her mistress' soft voice in her head, through their Pactio link. I have her. We will leave now.

I understand, she thought back, before looking at Akira again. "We'll have to continue this later. After tonight, I'll be able to find you no matter where you are, so just wait for me. Goodbye."

"What? No, wait!" Akira reached for her, but then the girl simply vanished from sight as if she had never been there. "WAIT!"

Akira slumped down to her knees, wide-eyed and completely at a loss for coherent words. "What's happening here… I can't understand what's going on anymore…"

Then she heard steps behind her, the clicking of high heels, and she spun around, readying herself to strike. She felt a tingle of disgust at herself becoming a fighter, the kind of person she disliked the most.

But the attack never came. Instead, she could only stare at the woman standing before her. "Are you… another…?" she only could blabber.

The woman was of average height and a slim, shapely build, and she seemed to be in her early thirties. She had short blond hair, thick eyebrows, and a black mole under one eye. She was wearing a Sailor fuku much like Akira's own, but with a dark-green and white motif, and she also held a huge, long metallic staff in one gloved hand.

"Yes," the stranger nodded, in a collected and slightly cold way. "I am to be a comrade to you, Sailor Mercury. My name is Sailor Pluto, and we really need to talk."

….

Basic Instinct

Saotome Haruna, Kira Deathnote Paru-sama, organizer and nominal producer (a term they stole from the television and radio industries) of the United Magical Girl Association, found herself immensely disappointed. "What, never?-!-?-!-?-!" she demanded, taking a half-step sideways to make room for one of her Shield Maidens so it could block one of the blonde hair-tentacles snapping at her. "Seriously, you've never been tempted to use your powers to–"

"NO," Yami said almost curtly, reconfiguring her hand into a forward curving blade similar to a kukri and trying to penetrate Paru's defenses that way. "I have never used my powers to try and convince multiple girls to let me pleasure them all simultaneously. That's ecchi."

"…" Paru said, stepping onto the safety-railed tentacle of the construct still secured to the river under the bridge. "Well, you've at least done it to yourself, right? I mean, one in front, one at back, a few at–"

"What are you talking about?" Yami demanded, attacking the bridge beneath them.

"Oh, for–" Paru didn't face-palm because she needed to see her enemy, but she certainly felt like it as the planks of the bridge fell away from beneath the tentacle she was standing on. "Come on, girl! You're hitting puberty, surely you know about…" Paru paused and gave her an intent look. "Are you a workaholic?"

Yami frowned. "What?" she said, as she met Paru's latest Queen of Swords head on, the construct's larger, heavier blades parrying the faster blonde's, and not getting all of them. Dents were accumulating on the armor.

"Do you work all the time?"

Yami gave her a look like that was a stupid question. Paru sighed, dismissing the Queen and sending in three faster, vaguely Kingdom Hearts Nobody-inspired ninja sporting blade claws, shuriken studded braids and buzzsaw hula hoops. Her Artifact was no power ring, but she wasn't going to let that stop her. Oh, for one of those sweet, sweet little rings… "First Negi-kun, then Green Lantern-chan… I pity the boy or girl who thinks you're hot…"

Somewhere, Yuuki Mikan sneezed.

Also, in another universe, Larfleeze sneezed, about a sentence before Mikan did…

"Saotome Sneak Attack Technique!"

Yami, face not changing, tilted her head out of the way. Haruna yelped as she flew past her target's, her skirt blowing back to reveal her Victoria's Secret panties. She landed on the other side of the bridge, nearly tripping on where Setsuna had gouged out a chunk of wood. "Damn it!" Haruna said as she straightened, giving Yami the pointer finger, her hair blowing dramatically with the tattered edges of her clothes. "Such nonchalant dodging skills! The sexy black outfit! The completely blank expression! No doubt about it… You are a villainous martial arts master!" A beat. "By the way, thanks for the dramatic wind machine!"

Paru gave her a thumbs up, the wind machine that she'd drawn for Haruna transforming into a Michael Bay-esque ninja robot and jumping at Yami.

Yami just gave Haruna a blank look. "Please leave, little girl," she finally said blandly, fending off the mind-machine ninja. "The staged show is over."

Paru took opportunity to use that statement to hit Yami over the head with a bus-sized mallet. It slammed Yami hard onto the bridge, denting it significantly, but before Paru could hit her a second time Yami spun, her right hand reconfiguring into an ultra-narrow blade and slicing straight through the hammer, cutting it in half. Paru winced, the damage recoiling on her, but she'd had worse over the months she'd started being heroic more or less regularly.

Haruna's eyes were wide, her finger shaking. "Wait… are you calling me a child?"

"I think she is," Paru said, a safety tentacle wrapping around her waist as Yami managed to break a hole in her offensive line, charging at her at shundo speed. Her tentacle snapped out of the way, just as a giant metal shark with chainsaw teeth leapt from the water, snapping Yami whole and dropping back into the water.

"Oh, this is going to hurt," Paru muttered as she stepped lightly onto the bridge, avoiding the damaged sections. She snapped her fingers in front of Haruna to get her attention. "Hey, you okay?"

Haruna snapped out of it, scowling poutily. Paru wondered if her face looked like that when she was being childishly petty. Probably not. She figured it looked more evil and slashery. "Child? Child?-!" Haruna ranted, grabbing her breasts and squeezing them. "Does this look like the sort of thing a loli carries around?-!"

Paru shrugged. "You've got me. I've heard stories about this cat demon samurai girl…"

Haruna twitched as the strategically dropped words caught her attention. "C-cat demon samurai girl?" she said, her eyes lighting up at the prospect.

Paru patted her on the hat. "Later, young padawan. For now, we need to take proper advantage of the few moments we've got before she breaks out of Bruce-clone-kun."

A blade stabbed out of Bruce's back at that, punctuating her point. Paru winced slightly.

Haruna looked her up and down, nothing the similar apron, hat, book and quill. "You got a spare black dress?" she asked.

"All in good time," Paru said, keeping a nervous eye on Bruce-clone-kun as her constructs began reconstructing their battle line. "Now listen. If your Artifact is anything like mine, then it also summons low-level golems and follows several basic rules. One, if anything you draw is destroyed, you feel about one percent of the force that destroys it. While that doesn't feel like much, even one percent of a punch stings, one percent of a bomb is a bitch, and one percent of a nuke will outright kill you."

Haruna nodded, noticing how Paru winced as another blade stabbed out of the metal shark and making the connection. "Right, one percent, got it."

"Two, the more detailed your drawing is, the better," Paru said, speaking quickly. She could feel Bruce getting really beat up inside. "That means if you specify something is made of iron, it will be, and will be as tough to destroy. However, that only works for common materials on the periodic table or relatively simple compounds. You can't specify, say, mithril or Nth metal, or an exotic chemical just by writing its name. You need to write down the exact scientific formula and molecular structure every time. Let me tell you right now, it's a bitch. Magical materials like genuine unicorn horn is even worse, so keep it simple, and don't bother trying to specify something is made of unobtanium. Though for some reason, you can easily draw energy beam weapons and thrusters, no problem, though they won't be very strong."

Haruna's eyes crossed at the complicated second rule. "Uh…"

Stab!

Paru winced especially hard. "Third!" she said quickly. "The bigger something is, and the better designed it is, the harder it is to destroy, but that means when it IS destroyed or damaged, it's going to hurt like a bitch! Also, it'll take a while to draw, so leave those kinda things for later."

Stab!

"Forth! What you make is made of magic, and can be banished, disrupted, or outright cancelled if you face the wrong enemy!" Paru panted. "Be careful and don't let them tank everything. Again, hurting!"

Stab! Creak!

"Last for now!" Paru said in a rush. "As long as you're holding your book, you can mentally control everything you create, but it has to be able to move for you to control them. But don't worry, we can draw things that fly if we specify it, so it's all good. Any last questions?"

"Yeah," Haruna said, nodding solemnly. "If I'm a padawan, who does that make you? Because if you're Qui-Gon, that means you die at the end of this adventure."

Paru paused. "Good point. Okay, I'm Obi-Wan, you be Anakin."

"That means I turn evil half-way through," Haruna pointed out.

"Aren't you already planning to take over the world?" Paru said. "Besides, you get to wear awesome black leather."

Haruna thought about it. "To the dark side!"

Slice!

Yami tore her way out of the shark, looking a bit beat up but none the worse for wear, sending Paru gasping on her knees. Yami leapt out ,wings erupting from her back and facing them.

Haruna gulped, and made a choice. Her hands blurred as the goddess of manga drew with speed she hadn't known she possessed, and briefly reflected that maybe that 'training' with the goldfish and later the chestnuts and campfire hadn't been as useless as she thought. Her experienced hands quickly drew something they knew well, having drawn it innumerable times before, something she could have drawn perfectly with her eyes closed.

Paru, for her part, gaped at the drawing speed, which was easily beyond anything she had ever done. It was, like, Flash speed!

Something erupted from Haruna's sketchbook, a hulk the size of a house that loomed over Yami, who stared up at it uncomprehendingly. "Ecchi…"

All combat stopped momentarily as people stared, Asuna and Deathstroke pausing with blades nearly at each other's throats, Omega Red's tentacles wilting in shame, Batman going very blank-faced. Keichi stared down at his crotch in envy. Only Tsukuyomi and Setsuna kept at it, somehow inexplicably immune to the sight.

The giant flesh-colored dildo whipped back and slammed down on Yami, sending her crashing into the ground. It proceeded to pound on herseveral times until she stopped moving.

"Ecchi…" she groaned before losing consciousness.

"YES!" Haruna cried, thrusting her fist into the air. "Beware the power of a Yaoi mangaka!" She threw back her head and laughed.

Paru, getting back to her feet, looked around, took pity on the poor, unenlightened heathens, and gently reached over, took the quill from Haruna's hand, and erased the image from her Imperium Graphices.

There were several sighs of relief as it faded away.

"All right," Batman growled. It was hard to say what he felt, but he was certainly growling. "We never speak of that again."

Everyone nodded solemnly. Then they gleefully went back to trying to maim each other.

Paru patted Haruna on the shoulder. "A good try, but the world isn't enlightened enough for that yet…"

….

Legend of the Guardians

"Sailor Pluto," Akira repeated, in a fascinated whisper, trying to pretend she hadn't just seen… NO, SHE HADN'T SEEN ANYTHING! "Oh God, I figured finding you would be harder, with all the time Venus mentioned having to work alone…" She approached her and grabbed the hand that wasn't holding the staff, her own hands trembling lightly. "I'm so glad we now have someone else to help us fulfill our mission…!"

Akagi Ritsuko, just as in denial, wasn't used to handling children the way Misato was. And considering Misato wasn't that great a mother figure either, that said a lot. She had never been particularly good at understanding the young pilots in her past life, and in this one, she hadn't even connected with her peers from kindergarten to high school, never mind sharing a rapport with youngsters now. So she wasn't exactly sure how to react, but she did her best to smile despite her own nature. "Pleased to meet you too, Ookuchi Akira-san."

Akira was startled. "H-How do you know my name?-!"

"I am," the woman began, with a lot of aplomb, "the Senshi of Time, Guardian of the Gates of Eternity. I have watched through the past, present and future. I have strolled through the beaches of a world without any animals, and took a ride in the first public steam boat. I have witnessed the downfall and rise of empires yet to born, and I was there when they invented chocolate. I have been both blessed and cursed with the responsibility of looking after the unending stream of time itself until another one like me is chosen. I have sinned beyond repair, and yet also purged my faults in a way no one ever could or should. Of course I know you like the back of my hand…"

Akira's eyes were huge, spherical and wet now, with no whites, the pupils taking all of their extension. Ritsuko sweated a little drop. "I wasn't saying that to scare you…"

"S-Sorry!" the younger female stammered. "Y-You are the Moon Princess Minako keeps talking about, aren't you, Y-Your Majesty?" she fluttered adorably. "I should call you that way, shouldn't I?"

Ritsuko's sweatdrop grew. "Sailor Pluto. Not Moon Princess."

"Ah," Akira gulped. "Sorry about that!" A beat. "But I still have to call you 'Your Majesty', don't I? Your Highness? Pluto-dono?"

"Just 'Pluto-san' is okay. Actually, I'm still of little importance compared to the Moon Princess."

Akira choked. Sighing, Ritsuko reached and patted her back softly.

"Sorry…" Akira wheezed. "It's just this is too much to take it all at once…"

"Understandable," Sailor Pluto said. "You have done a fine job so far. Tell Artemis Luna sends her regards."

"Th-Thank you, I will… Huh? W-Who is Luna?"

"He'll understand."

Akira gave it some thought. "Girlfriend?"

"At the very least." She placed a hand on Akira's shoulder. "Listen, because you have little time right now. Tonight, a great evil will be released upon this world, and a beacon will come down from Heaven. That beacon may mark the beginning of the end for mankind, or its ultimate salvation. It will depend eventually, in no small part, on you. You will meet two other future partners, but beware, because at first, they will look for your doom. I will come for you when the right time comes, so be prepared."

"Wait!" she pleaded. "What about the girl I just fought? Was she telling me the truth? What should I do about her, and everything she told me?"

Sailor Pluto looked down. "Her heart may be in the right place, but beware of utopias, Akira-san. There is a reason the word means 'no place'. It is a concept that cannot truly exist in the world as anything more than a concept. Because the more perfect something looks, the darker its secrets will turn out. Trust me on that. Never trust anyone playing God with mankind's fate, even if they start pretending being benevolent gods." She gave it some thought. "Actually, I have a hard time trusting actual gods with mankind's fate. After all, they made mankind, and if we're the best they could make…"

The words chilled Akira to her very core.

"Go now, and I'll tell you more tonight," Pluto promised, pointing down with the long staff. "Your friends need you, as they ever will."

"Aren't you coming too?"

"My presence there would have unpalatable ripples in the fabric of time and space," Pluto told her, her initial coldness returning in full force. "The less I show up in public, the better."

Akira wasn't sure she was buying that excuse, but she still nodded. "Okay."

"Oh, and also, don't eat too much before the train trip back to Mahora. Or else you'll get sick in the stomach. It's written in your future. Just in case I forget to tell you later."

"Well, at least I know I'll survive tonight, then," Akira tried to be optimistic.

"Oh, never get overconfident. As a great woman once said, the future is a blank book. True, I've been there, but it seems to change every time I'm there. The only constants are Twilight will always suck, and there always will be taxes."

"Not even the death thing, huh…?"

"Well," Pluto cautioned, "keep in mind there are things far worse than death. Death-chan is actually quite a pleasant girl, good taste in music, likes funny hats…"

Akira got the impression Pluto-san kinda wasn't the half-glass-full type. Or really all there…

….

From Russia with Love

"Heh. Heh, heh heh heh!" the towering man with the blond ponytail laughed, evidently against his will, a bit of drooling escaping a corner of his mouth as he lashed his tendrils forward. Yes, the Joker sneezed, but we can't really squeeze the usual italics here, so we'll just mention it straight out. Misa's needles had injected their 'positive magical energy' into him by now, although that didn't seem to make him any less psychotic. Maybe just a tad happier about trying to kill her. "Heh heh, it's funny… Never felt better at a job, and yet I hate this!" He waved his tentacles again in a direct arc for her, forcing her further back with a choked yelp.

"Well, we can agree on the latter, at least!" Misa readied more needles, thanking God her arsenal seemed to be unlimited, but panting hard at that point. She was in good shape increased by the Pactio activation, and Kuro's recent training, she had to admit, had improved her capacity to deal with this, but still, it didn't look like she was hurting him that much. The big guy was very tough; where was Hakase now? It looked like she was done with the other big lug, so why wasn't she helping her?

She rolled aside out of a particularly nervous tendril's way, this time aiming and tossing for the eyes as she'd been taught, but he blocked the needles in mid-air with an armored glove. Impressive! Mostly distressing, but also impressive. Well, at least this one, unlike most people she ended up fighting, didn't constantly sputter innuendo that was too dirty even for her. She could cope as long as he didn't say anything like—

"Heh heh heh! I'm going to stab you over and over, milk you for everything you're worth and leave you hanging, girl! Heh!"

Oh, damn it. Men…!

"Need any help over there?" Kuro lazily asked her, leaning against a nearby lamppost and watching with mild interest, polishing a sword.

"Not from you," Misa grunted while lashing out with more needles to the man's chest.

"Seriously? Because I don't really see how you can beat him by yourself," Kuro chirped. "Against an enemy of this experience, range and power, you need a team to back you up. Didn't you watch sentai as a kid?"

"I already have a team, thanks," Misa saw Sakurako rushing down the street. "Saku-chan, over here!"

"Misa-chan!" Sakurako cried, coming closer, only to sidejump when Omega Red sent a tentacle her way, readying her pom-poms. "You evil man, better change your tune! Or else, your fall will be our luck! If you don't quit, you'll suffer misfortune! Because with 3-A, you just don't fu—!" she cheered while assuming a brief daring pose, pom-poms held high. "Winds of Destiny, CHANGE!"

Kuro cringed. Okay, she was sure of it now; Madoka had to be the one who normally wrote their cheers…

Red snarled viciously, his dark mirth subsiding. "You Japanese are crazy…" His carbonadium tentacles rose, poised to strike at the newcomer, but then one of them rattled unexpectedly as one of the needles embedded into it had a strange random reaction. Kuro looked more interested now; since she hadn't supervised Shiina's training, she hadn't gotten a good look at how her powers worked yet.

The tentacle spazzed wildly, then shot itself against Omega Red's jaw, socking him a good one. "What the f—!"

Kuro laughed. "Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself! Stop– !"

The tentacle kept hitting him, wildly out of control despite his attempts to make it stop. Finally, his mouth bleeding, he resorted to grabbing the tentacle and ripping it off himself, blood squirting out of the spot where it had been grafted to his skin. Sakurako and Misa shuddered. "Okay! We'll do this the hard way, then! Heh, heh… What do you ignorant girls know about pheromones?"

Kuro raised a finger, mouth open to provide exposition, then considered and guessed he was probably using it the wrong way.

"Are you using innuendo again?" Misa asked warily, but then she saw his gauntlets had started releasing tiny spores into the air; spores that quickly dispersed. Being the closest to him, Misa was the first to come into contact with one of them despite her attempt at holding her breath. Almost as soon as the first spore flew into her nose, he felt dizzy, as if a mallet had just hit her skull from the inside. She also was struck by sudden nausea and weakness, stumbling back on wobbly legs. "What is this…?"

Kuro tensed, looking more intently and analyzing the situation carefully before acting. Still, she couldn't help but think that, yes, she was right, he had been misusing the word 'pheromones'. Spores did not count as pheromones!

"Misa-chan, no!" Sakurako covered her own face with a pom-pom, it's effect making the spores 'luckily' get blown away in another direction, although a few still touched her skin and made her feel woozy as well. Still, she kept enough presence of mind to aim the other pom-pom at him and yell, "You evil man, so cruel and mean! You hurt Misa, but she'll heal! But you'll never beat our team! For you, sh*t just got real! Winds of Destiny, Change!"

Wow, such language, Kuro thought. Cheerleaders truly were potty mouthed little bitches when angry…

Omega Red just laughed aloud at the little girl's new bravado, but his laughter was cut short when both carbonadium synthesizers built into his gauntlets randomly failed and exploded on his arms at once, interrupting the flow of his spores. "Arrrghhh! Little witch, what have you done?-! I need these things to live! If I don't take vital energy, I'll—!"

Then a Batarang hit him across the face, interrupting his exposition. Batman swung from a Batrope, kicking the large mutant across the street. "I'm sure you'll get those fixed as soon as they take you to STAR Labs, Rossovich… so, for your own good, it'll be better if you give up!"

"Go to Hell!" the mercenary roared, using one of his remaining tendrils to grab Batman by a leg and toss him against a souvenir store. "You won't take me in like you did KGBeast! I prefer dying than being a Guinea pig again!"

Oboy. if the big drama queen was actually being serious, that'd be a problem. Kuro sighed. The ones willing to go all out with no fear of death always were. It was one of the many reasons Shiro, Illya in Berserker mode, Nodoka and Green Lantern-chan weren't allowed to do vital, life-and-death missions alone. Well, it looked like Kakizaki was recovering quickly now there weren't any more spores to breathe, and Shiina was okay as well from the looks of it, so odds were she wouldn't need to worry about having them healed, and she could focus on the ass kicking instead.

So, with an amused smile and whistling the opening tune to Enterprise, Kuro shoved off from the wall she was leaning against to join the fray.

….

The Dead Pool

"You know," the costumed man said as he quick pulled out his katanas, producing a way cool sounding 'SWOOSH!' as he did so. Hakase stood her ground warily, while Setsuna got back to her feet, her grip on Yuunagi tightening. "That was a long ass pause! But I wasn't going to start the fight until the spotlight shifted back to us!"

"What are you talking about?" Hakase asked him. "You just arrived a second ago!"

Deadpool snorted. "One second? With these long as hell paragraphs? It feels more like a day!" He assumed a battle ready pose of his own, locking eyes with Setsuna. "Okay, I must warn you now, I know everything about you two! Before coming here, I DID THE RESEARCH! I read all the manga, up to Chapter 355! Congrats on the wedding, by the way, Set-chan." She bristled at the mention of such a sacred nickname from those no doubt filthy lips. "Watched the XEBEC series, too! And SHAFT's! And the movie! I honestly tried to start the live action show too, but I just couldn't stomach it! I'm not that insane!"

As they talked (well, he talked, at least), Maga Alba stayed behind and drew a bead non Deadpool, readying her spell and cheerfully ignoring the numerous Ala Alba and Association orders to NEVER use fire magic within 50 feet of wood. However, before she let fly, she felt something small and sharp piercing her hand from above. She let out a brief cry that distracted Setsuna, and saw a small, colorful dart jammed in the back of her small hand. It smelled funny, too, like some sort of exotic juice even Yue would find unpalatable. Probably.

"OJOU-SAMA!" Setsuna ran for her, forgetting the incoming fight and the fact this was the wrong Konoka, and crouched at her side, even as Konoka pulled the dart out with a wince. "K-KONOE OJOU-SAMA!"

"I'm okay, Set-chan!" she tried to smile, although her mouth already was feeling stiff. "I'llheal… myself….!" Her usual creepy healing tone returned as she tried to apply her Artifact on herself, but this time, her words came out much more spaced out and groggy. Her hands trembled, and she felt disoriented all of a sudden, unable to remember the words or what to do next, her healing fan tumbling out of her hands. Then the sensation was replaced by a sublime bliss, and a rush of nice warm fuzzy feelings accompanied by the soft, melodic drumming of jungle drums in her head. And everything was right with the world, with Set0chan by her side, so she didn't need to heal herself, right? She felt great, even if a bit sleepy, and she couldn't think straight, and Set-chan was telling her something, but she spoke so fast…

"OJOU-SAMA!" Setsuna was applying first aid to her, but the poisoning had spread into Konoka very quickly, and even her body felt cold. "HAKASE-SAN, CALL SENSEI! OJOU-SAMA NEEDS MEDICAL ATTENTION!"

"It would seem I'm too occupied enough to establish communications, sorry!" Hakase apologized while she kept the fast moving, agile and armed mercenary at bay, parrying blades against metal arms. He chuckled while assaulting her from all directions, jumping around her like a rabbit on a pogo stick on crack while trying to find an opening in her defenses. Actually, it was mostly the length of Hakase's main arms that had prevented him from finding a blind spot yet.

"Hey, no fair, they never showed you using this in the manga! Well, except for that one panel in the Chachamaru tune-up chap… Stupid secondary characters, it's so hard to find info on you, and not one bothered to scanlate the Negipa books!" he quipped, his swords clanging time and time again against her metal. "Why can't you have your own solo books and spinoffs like me? By the way, talking about unexplained junk, why will you marry that Godel guy?"

"Ah?" Hakase blinked, while she found a hole in his own defenses and socked him a punch in the chest. It didn't seem to faze him that much. That was getting quite aggravating! Can't one person rumble in pain like they were supposed to anymore?

"You know, that creepy guy with the shady past? Oh, wait, that doesn't narrow it down much, does it? Couldn't you be his daughter? That's gross, and believe me, I know gross when I see it! Well, not really all that gross… it's actually kinda tame compared to Decadent Habits…" He swung his sword at her, and barely missed one of her braids. "So what if he must be loaded with cash, and he's a political mover an' shaker, and he's kinda handsome and suave… Actually, if you aren't marrying him, can I keep him? KIDDING, KIDDING! I'm not gay! Well, except maybe for Cable…" He took a punch to the chest. "Ouch. And so what if I was staring at Spider-Man's junk that one time? I only wanted to see if he stuffed his crotch! I think he's envious because Venom's is bigger!" A punch to the stomach now. "Ow. And I didn't enjoy torturing Wolverine that time me an' Weapon X had him prisoner! Okay, I did, but not THAT way!" He took a solid fist to the face and recoiled. "Will you stop doing that, girl?-!" He tried to stab her, only to notice the blow had made him drop that sword. "Oh, nuts! And that time with Bullseye didn't count, because we were drunk, and he tricked me painting a target on his—!" Hakase slammed both of her main fists on his head. "Holy Stan Lee! I think that one cleared my mind! Yeah, maybe I'm a bit gay."

Satomi backed off two steps to regain her breath, impressed by the amounts of physical punishment that man could endure and very, very annoyed she'd been fighting people like him all day. "You would make an excellent Guinea pig…!"

"Actually, I already was an excellent Guinea pig!" he said, advancing with his remaining sword spinning. "I was the only test subject in my promotion to graduate, and when I say promotion I mean a batch, and when I say graduate I mean survive. Boy, we had a sucky graduation party! But on the bright side, no girl told me 'No' that night…"

"I thought you were gay," Hakase noted.

He feinted with the sword, but then kicked her on a side of her head instead. "Give me a break, you'd just hit me in the head! I'm not gay! Except maybe for Cable."

"And Spider-Man?"

"And Wolverine."

"And Bullseye?"

"And Neil Patrick Harris."

They both paused and sighed dreamily.

"Well, okay, but I'm not gay, because I have a wonderful, beautiful girlfriend waiting for me in Wales! Well, okay, she's flying on the way here, but I'm suppose to think in character that she's still in Wales."

"Wales? What a perplexing coincidence! A very dear person to me also hails from Wales!"

"No, seriously? Well, just look at that! The world's a small place!"

"Ah ha ha ha, you're right…!" she laughed dorkily.

She punched him in the face.

He gave her a nasty cut in one of her natural arms.

They continued chattering as they clashed and clashed.

"You know, I believe I can sympathize with you," Hakase said. "I have also felt, recently, the emotional ravages of dealing with an attraction to individuals from both genders…"

"No kidding? You? The manga never said anything about that!" He sank the blade in the elbow of the bulky left arm, but it got stuck in the metal joint, and despite his best try to pull it free, he couldn't get it out. "Oh, maybe we can trade tips after I kill you. I really want to know how to deal with Nek—" He paused for a moment. "Wait a minute, wasn't she in the manga, too…?"

One moment later, he was sent flying across the street and into a wall.

Seeing him slump down to the sidewalk like a ragdoll, Hakase turned back and ran to Konoka and Setsuna's side. "Symptoms so far?" she asked as she began examining Maga Alba's unusually pale face, and her dry lips.

"S-She lost consciousness and stiffened after being hit with this!" Setsuna showed her the discarded dart with trembling hands. "Her vital signs seem stable, as you see, but—!"

"Ah, sorry Iono-sama, but I don't want to be a sobame…" she said happily, giggling. "Oh, hello Sailor Moon…!"

"As you can see, she's delirious," Setsuna finished.

"The Department of Chemistry and the Anthropology Club might tell you more about this instrument," Satomi hummed, carefully analyzing the evidence. "But from what I can collect, this is of Congolese origins, used by the local natives in their hunts. It looks tipped with a paralyzing neurotoxin, non-lethal in most cases since otherwise the meat would be poisoned. But who could have possibly—"

Then a tall and muscular man leaped down from a nearby building, landing on his feet in the middle of the street like a jungle cat. He had raven black hair, and wore only a leopard loincloth and an open lion's skin vest that showed off his robust, hairy chest. Misa and Haruna would have wolf whistled. Setsuna and Hakase only cringed.

"Greetings," he said with an elegant and cultured foreign accent, most likely from Northern Russia. Not nearly as thick as Omega Red's, in any case. "My congratulations. I have observed your prowess and skill in combat, and deem you worthy prey. Children you may be, but you are more dangerous than most adult men I have ever known. Kraven the Hunter accepts your challenge and thanks you for it!"

One half-expected him to smile and his teeth to go 'ting!'

"When did we ever challenge you?" Satomi asked, sweatdropping

"Your existence, young lady, is enough a challenge for me!" the man laughed aloofly, but also with a lot of boisterous pride.

Setsuna heard two others approaching stealthily from behind her, and she gave them a piercing glare. She recognized the two small figures approaching them, identical in almost everything down to their slasher smiles. Tsukuyomi's young helpers from two nights ago.

"We grew tired of waiting without doing anything…" Hansel began.

"So we came to look for fun once the royal doll was taken!" Gretel smiled cutely.

Both of them kept advancing.

"Now the spoils are left for us!" Hansel gushed.

"Indeed, they are, Brother!" his twin told him. "I've been dying for some real Japanese takeout!"

"As they say here, Itadaikimatsu!" Hansel charged ahead with his axe, which quickly met Setsuna's superior steel.

Meanwhile, Deadpool pulled himself from the wall and limped his way back down the narrow street, chuckling with that strange voice of his. "Well, what will you do now, girls? You know, if I could be trusted, which I can't, I'd be giving up right now if I was—!"

Then the action moved to the next segment.

"No, damn it, not again!" Deadpool complained. "You can't cut my dialogue short when there's only word more before I—!"

Then the action moved to the next segment!

"I'd be shooting you bastards right now if I could, no-life circus escapees!" Deadpool shouted, waving a fist.

"Who are you talking to?" a puzzled Kraven asked him.

….

George of the Jungle

The tall hairy man had a spear in one hand and a rifle hanging from his shoulder, and there was a bow and arrows in a quiver strapped to his back. A few boomerangs and a blowpipe were secured to his waist, giving Hakase a fair idea who had been the one to dart Maga Alba.

"Um, why isn't the narration focusing on me anymore?" Deadpool asked. "I thought I was the chapter's star!"

You show up in less than 15% of the chapter's total lenght, so shut up. It's Kraven's turn.

"Oh, come on!"

Do you want us to edit you out? We can replace you with the evil Flashpoint Plastic Man. Or Assassin Bug! Or even ASAGI ASAGIRI! She's always good for a guests star…

"I'll be good!"

Hakase smiled confidently. "Primitive weaponry can't be a match for the power of SCIENCE!" she boasted, trying to ignore the pain in both wounded arms. "You must be even more deranged than your friend if you think you can defeat me with pitifully outdated equipment!"

"Friend?" the jungle man sneered in Deadpool's direction. "Him? Kraven never hunts in packs! I only allowed him to act first to test your fortitude for me!"

"Dude, you were only letting me soften her up for you, weren't you?" Deadpool asked. "And like I'd associate myself with a guy named 'Coward' anyway!" He sniffled petulantly under the mask.

"Kraven doesn't stand for 'Craven'!" the other man protested. "It's an African deformation of my family name, Kravinoff! And there's no family in Russia with a past more prestigious than ours!"

"Oh, aristocrats, then?" Deadpool asked. "Have you ever heard the joke about The Aristocrats? It goes like this...!"

Random and loud gunfire coming from where Gretel was trying to shoot Setsuna dead suffocated Deadpool's next words for everyone but those closest to him, but when the joke was finished and the gunfire ceased momentarily, both Kraven's and Hakase's faces were crimson. His with outrage, hers with embarrassment (and her glasses had fogged up, too).

"You'll pay dearly for this!" Kraven threatened the masked man with his spear before turning his attentions back to Satomi. "But first, my dear, let's test your paltry gadgetry against the deadly secrets communion with nature taught me!" And he jumped on her, spear first. She grabbed the weapon between her oversized metal hands and snapped it like a twig, then used the same motion to elbow Kraven's face. Looked like she was getting the hang of fighting, after all.

Undeterred, he used the blunt end of the spear he was still holding to sweep her of her feet, making her fall on her back. Brandishing a large, Crocodile Dundee-ish knife out of somewhere, he tried to jump on her to stab her, but she kicked up, and sent him against Deadpool, who calmly sidestepped letting him hit the dust. "Try 'Me Tarzan, You Jane'," he adviced. "Girls go ga-ga over that one...!"

"Silence!" he pushed him aside and charged back against Hakase.

Meanwhile, Setsuna had easily dispatched Hansel and now was running out of Gretel's line of fire, drawing her attention away from Maga Alba, but also getting herself further away from her, much to her distress. "Why do you help my sister?-!" she demanded. "She won't honor any agreements she may have with you! She boasts about being a woman of her word, but she always twists her own words to her convenience!" She was definitely not thinking about that time Tsukuyomi said Setsuna could have her popsicle stick… and as it turned out, only the stick…

Gretel giggled in an insanely cute fashion. "As long as she takes us where there's people to kill, we don't care! When we were at Roanapur, our sora Tsukuyomi saved us from a trap of the Russian mob, and we'll be eternally thankful to her!" Her giggle continued giddily over the sounds of her frantic firing. "So she's your sister too? Well, once I kill you, we'll be her only siblings, and she'll give us all her love! And the best parts in her kills, too!"

Setsuna cringed inwardly. They weren't related by blood, but Tsukuyomi had found herself the actual family she deserved. She kept on dodging the machinegun fire skillfully, once again seeing how, good as she was, the girl wasn't used to handling metahuman-level adversaries. Not like it was being easy for her either, anyway.

Satomi and Kravinoff had resorted to trading punches since they were too close for Kraven's long reach weapons to be useful. Although he looked far more human than Sabretooth, it was clear he was an augmented being of some sort, since he was taking her best punches and even making her sorely feel his fists too, although he seemed to be absorbing more and more damage of the giant fists each time they connected.

"My congratulations!" he grinned. "Commendable enough for one as young as you, cub! You aren't the Spider, but your power is certainly remarkable!"

"I owe it all to my teacher," she said, before slamming the fists on his face and then crushing his eardrums between her large hands, making him howl. She kicked him again in the stomach, grabbed him, lifted him up, forcefully stuffed him into a trash can, and slammed the lid down on him. "He also taught me about efficient waste disposal!" She sighed and made a note to check if her Artifact hadn't been turned down or anything. It's damage output was pretty pathetic lately…

She panted to regain her breath, even as the trash can shook from the inside. Then she looked back and noticed the red-clad mercenary was pressing the button on his belt again, disappearing from sight in a flash. She lowered her guard and relaxed, thinking he only was escaping away, until she cursed herself, seeing him reappear at Maga Alba's side.

"OJOU-SAMA!" Setsuna cried again, and Gretel was momentarily distracted enough to allow Setsuna to steamroll over her, jumping on her face and bouncing toward Deadpool, swinging for his head even as he picked Konoka up in his arms, waving happily to Setsuna.

"Looks like that wedding end is cancelled, Setchan!" he said. "Arrivederci, Rome!" He vanished altogether with Maga Alba just as Setsuna's blade reached the point where his head had been a second ago.

With a grunt, her momentum lost, Setsuna rolled into the dirt, just as Satomi rushed to her side to lift her up. "OJOU-SAMA!" she screamed again.

"Two for the price of zero, Sister?" Gretel mocked her, poking her tongue out while slinging the unconscious Hansel over her shoulder with the greatest of ease. "Ehhhh, what a bad bodyguard you are!" She tossed some leftover paper charms Tsukuyomi had lent her beforehand to cover their escape. With Setsuna still in sudden shock over the new loss, Hakase took it upon her to bash the little colorful critters to pieces, but when she was finished, the twins already had disappeared down the street. Hakase looked back over her shoulder and saw the trash can had been literally ripped apart from the inside, Kraven nowhere in sight anymore.

Hakase sighed, walking to the destroyed trash can even as Setsuna whispered "Ojou-sama, Ojou-sama, I failed you, Ojou-sama..." over and over. She picked up the knife the Hunter had left behind, with a small, hastily written note for her. It was in Russian, but she had learned the language for the conferences the Russian Union gave during last year's Mahorafest.

For a worthy adversary. Let's meet again when your arms are stronger.

She blinked, since she was still unused to receiving love letters of any sort...

….

Red Heat

Omega Red blinked as he saw the little dark skinned girl walking confidently over to him. "What? Another one…?"

"Not just another one, Ugly," Kuro said, swinging her blade in a flashing arc for Red's knees. The reinforced kneepads gave out, sliced by half and dropping down to the ground, and although he attempted to retaliate by sending a tentacle to hit her, she jumped out of its way with ease, before zipping forward to cutting him on the arm during mid-jump. "You've never seen anyone like me before! Today's just not your lucky day!"

With a roar, Red sent another tendril her way, but he failed again. He tried once more with the third one he had been left with, but as soon as he tried to move it, he saw someone had tied it around a lamppost in the split second he hadn't been paying it any attention. "Who the—?-!"

Misora screeched to a sudden halt between Sakurako and Misa, leaving a fiery trail behind her. "Hello, guys, what's up?"

"Well," Misa sighed, "That guy's a real pain in the ass, apparently that dark hunk over there is the real Batman, and we've destroyed the whole neighborhood by now. Even if the magic police don't get us, the real one will. I hope those rumors about women's jails aren't true. What about you? Already finished with the manicure disaster?"

"Yeah, with Haruna's help," Misora nodded, while Kuro took advantage of Red's distraction to make cut after cut after cut after cut on his biceps, and Batman blinded him with flash grenades to the face, ones which Kuro made sure to shield her own eyes against.

"Hey!" the dark skinned Loli called. "Your turn here's not over yet, lazy asses!"

"A sec!" Misa held up a hand, then asked Misora, "Then Haruna already knows, huh?"

"'Fraid so. But hey, she was a great help. That Artifact of hers is nasty crap. The same as the other Haruna's, actually…"

Kakizaki facepalmed. "Great, so we'll have our own 'Paru-sama' too. Why couldn't it be Honya? At least Honya's harmless!"

"I disagree," Sakurako said, wincing and rubbing her butt in memory. "Remember, I trained with her…!"

"DAMN YOU ALL!" Omega Red roared, lashing out with all three tentacles in all directions, pulling the trapped tentacle so strongly it ripped the lamppost in two. It fell a few steps away from him, just as Kuro cut him in the tentacle; the reinforced Carbonadium layers didn't give up completely, but the magical properties of the blade cut enough of it to render it nearly useless, dangling precariously. "I'M GOING TO—!"

"SHUT UP!" Misa threw more needles to his shoulders, then told Shiina, "Sakurako!"

"Yeah!" She aimed the pom-poms at him again and began a short routine. "Spare our allies any harm, but let's fry this large ham! Go, go, lucky charm! Leave him flat like a clam! Winds of Destiny, Change!"

Red hissed monstrously, "Oh, I'm going to enjoy wringing your spindly—"

Then a sizzling cable coming out of the broken post accidentally touched the half-open section of his spliced tendril and sent a massive electric discharge through him. He shook around screaming out in agonizing pain, just as Batman instinctively jumped aside to pull Kuro to safety with himself. Much to his surprise, the Dark Knight suddenly found himself pulled along by the small child instead.

Finally, the electrocution stopped, and Omega Red fell on his face, unconscious. Those gathered around him waited tensely for a moment, only breathing easier after a few moments of inactivity.

Batman glared at Kuro, who was holding her blade in both hands. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Cutting his head off," Kuro said. She raised the blade, only to have Batman grab her wrists. "What? I've seen this horror movie, I know how it goes. The minute we turn around, he'll rise up and try to kill us! Uh-uh! I'm NOT going to be the girl who gets killed because she's not smart enough to kill the monster!"

Batman glared harder at her and took her sword, tossing it to one side. Kuro flipped him off, glaring at Omega Red intently in case he had any intention of greeting up, somehow completely healed, and killing them all.

"You know, working with you is like teaming up with a roulette wheel," Kuro told Sakurako. "Are you even sure about what you'll get each time you do those silly cheers?"

The peppy cheerleader shrugged. "Generally, I get what I was hoping for. That's how luck works," she said, as if saying something she considered too obvious to bother explaining it in depth. Then they saw Sailor Mercury dropping down near them. "Oh, hey, Mercury-sama! You got here a bit late, I'm afraid…!"

"I'm sorry," Akira bowed shamefully, in quite an adorable way. "I was busy with someone else. Is everyone okay?"

Misa coughed. "I was pretty bad for a moment, but I feel better now, Mercury-sama."

"I'm tired, but otherwise fine," Misora said.

Batman had already left. Kuro looked at the spot where he'd been a moment before. "That's just rude. I guess he's all healthy and ready to fly all night long, too. As for me, check me out! Don't I look wonderful?"

"Debatable," Misa deadpanned.

"Oh, shut up you."

Sakurako smiled and nodded. "Feeling as good as ever! So, who's left to deal with?"

"I think it's only down to Setsuna versus the crazy girl and Asuna versus that masked guy we saw from afar now," Misa said. "Wait. Where's Konoka?"

"She was with Ala Alba, wasn't she?" Sakurako replied. "So they should be alright…"

Then Hakase's voice rang in her head. Sakurako-chan, are you in acceptable condition? Haven't you lost any limbs, key organs or appealing even if strictly unnecessary physical features?

Sakurako pulled her card out for a better communication. Yeah, I'm fine, Satomi-chan! You?

Oh, thank the random patterns of cause and effect, the atheist seemed to breathe easier. Because we don't have a healer in our ranks anymore.

Ah? They took Maga Alba-chan away?

Technically, no.

Ah, good…!

They took Maga Alba-san AND Konoka-san away!

Ah… Darn, that just can't be good. How's Setsuna?

Crying in the fetal position, but otherwise physically fine.

She hasn't wet my panties yet, has she?

No, she isn't that badly shaken or— Why would she be wearing your panties?

It isn't what you're thinking! Honest!

Huh? I'm not thinking anything. How could I think something when I have no information about the situation? You know I would never dare to formulate theories until I have some basic evidence or information…

Sakurako sighed. That's why I love you, Satomi-chan. We'll be there right now, okay? Where are you, by the way?

Hum, right between a wrecked candy store and a half-burning mask stand. This place really should have better security measures against riots and super criminal attacks…

Gotcha. I saw that spot before arriving here. I'm on my way!

Okay!

After that, Satomi looked down at Setsuna. "Why are you wearing Sakurako's panties, anyway?"

A few incoherent sobs were her only reply.

"Oh, right. Serious psychological trauma, I forgot it. Sorry…"

….

Friends With(out) Benefits

Ayaka saw Misora, Misa, and Sakurako running down a side street, and she frowned. "Morisato-san, Chizuru-san," she told Keiichi and Naba. "Could you stay here with the others? I have something important to do." Without even waiting for the reply, she rushed after the other girls. "Come with me, Roberta-san!"

Without a word, the maid nodded and went after her.

"Hey, wait, no!" Keiichi tried to reach out for them. "It's better if we don't split until the police arrive! Sheesh, they're fast…!" He blinked, seeing how quickly they moved away.

Chizuru hummed thoughtfully. "Morisato-san, looks like things have settled down, so why don't you go bring them back? Ayaka is a very dutiful girl, so if she's going there, and bringing Roberta-san to boot, it must be to help someone in more danger than us. I'm afraid for her…"

"Are you sure you'll be okay?" Keiichi said doubtfully.

Chizuru nodded and smiled pleasantly, with a worried Natsumi and Ako standing behind her. "Yes! Why don't you take Makie-san along, too? She has just proved she's… very capable of protecting people, and you could need her help. Everything here right now is quiet, but who knows…"

Makie nodded, hastily-covered the picnic basket and hooked it around one of her arms. "Y-Yeah! Sure!"

Keiichi sighed. "Okay. Let's go! We'll be back as soon as we can!" he promised, leaving with Makie hot on his trail, going the same way Ayaka had taken.

Asakura's reporter nose itched. No doubt this had everything to do with Negi's secret. Now she understood why Iincho had ordered a complete background check on him weeks ago…

"You should go as well if you want to, Asakura-san," Chizuru said sagely, still not taking her eyes off the healing B.B. Hood.

"Um, yeah, I think I'll do just that. See ya!" Kazumi needed no further excuse to run after Keiichi and Makie. As she ran, the dress Keiichi had lent her fluttered around the bare body underneath, briefly flashing the girls with her backside. Nice ass indeed.

Ako and Natsumi sweatdropped.

"This is the weirdest day of my life," Natsumi decided.

"The second worst for me…" Ako sighed.

Four blocks and a half away, Sakurako was throwing herself into Hakase's arms. "Satomi-chan! Thank God you're alive!"

"O-Ow! Please be careful!" the scientist asked, showing the fresh wounds on her arms. "They still hurt considerably…!"

Sakurako gasped aloud. "W-Who did this to you, Satomi-chan?-!"

"Forget that, who took Konoka away?-!" Misa yelled. "Both of them! You realize Negi-kun won't even talk to us now, don't you? BOTH of them! Geez, just what we needed… Setsuna, stand back up and stop whimpering! That won't fix anything!"

Setsuna worked back to her feet, supporting her weight on Yuunagi and shuddering. "Ojou-sama…! In the hands of those vile monsters…! I'll never see her again! GAH! I'M IN DESPAIR! FAILING OJOU-SAMA AGAIN HAS LEFT ME IN DESPAIR! GOOD BYE, CRUEL WORLD!"

Misa grabbed the noose she was about to throw over a lamp post, tossed it to one side, and slapped her cheeks twice, lightly since she had actually started to take pity on the swordsgirl. "Snap out of it! They need her alive, don't they? I'm sure Negi-kun will think of something…! Both of them!"

Then she heard Misora gasping in horror and tugging on her blouse. "M-M-MISA!"

Kakizaki spun around with fluid grace, readying more needles. "Okay, damn it! Who is it this time? Dracula? Predator? King Kong? Gojira?"

Then her face became much paler than it would have upon sight of any monster.

"Ah!" Misa choked briefly. "Iincho!"

"Roberta-san," Ayaka said icily. "Please wait outside of normal hearing range. I'll yell if I need help."

With a short nod, Roberta bowed and pretended to walk far enough. In truth, she stopped right at the edge of that limit. She had a damn fine hearing.

"What happened here?" Ayaka demanded.

"Happen? Nothing! I mean, we're as clueless as you!" Misora said, sounding really strangled. "Say, Iincho, why don't you just—"

Ayaka seethed angrily and pointed at Hakase's backpack. "That," she said, "is an Artifact, isn't it?"

"Ah?" Hakase blinked. The others all panicked, except for Setsuna, who was only despairing in place, paying Ayaka no attention.

Ayaka forcefully grabbed Misa's hand, bringing the needles to level with her eyes. "And these are yours, aren't they? You little sneaky seductress, contracting Negi-sensei for your convenience! Even you, Hakase-san, and no doubt you too, Shiina-san, Kasuga-san! What a shame, having you drag our good name through the mud! Taking advantage of an innocent young boy!"

Misa yanked her hand free. "W-Wait a minute! You got it all wrong!" A beat. "And don't just pull them like that! You could have poked your eyes out!"

"H-H-How do you know about Artifacts?-!" Misora backed away, doing the sign of the cross at Ayaka. "I know! You're a succubus studying us, serving the cause of evil behind your facade!"

Ayaka felt like chewing her out, but at that moment, Keiichi and Makie came running, followed by a technically all but naked Asakura, making her bite her tongue.

"Girls?" the young man blinked. "What are you…? Sheesh… Hakase-san, right? You need those wounds treated right now…!"

Makie took a good long look at her surroundings, then at the girls in the costumes, and finally at Ayaka, still frozen in her position to start a rant. The gymnast blinked stupidly, sighed in an extremely deep way and asked, "How many of you are in the known now?"

"It would seem everyone here but Morisato-san," Hakase spoke matter of factly. Sakurako facepalmed.

"Something I'd need to know?" Keiichi grew even more worried.

"… Makie-san?" Ayaka doubted.

Makie scratched the back of her neck sheepishly. "Sorry I haven't been honest with you about many things, Iincho! I never told you Homura-mama taught me how to shoot, or about the whole time I was in another world, or how it was me who ate your French chocolates…!"

"I knew that last one," Ayaka said, eyebrows trembling.

"Ah, that's a relief," said Makie. "Anyway, my point is, this is one of those magical things, right?"

Misa, Sakurako and Misora all did a double take. Setsuna just sulked in her corner, disconnected from the outside world.

Somewhere, in a side realm wreathed in fog, full of mirrors hanging suspended in midair, Despair nodded in approval at a job well done.

"W-W-What…" Ayaka began, her face spazzing. "How could you know…?-!"

Makie put a finger over her own lips. "Sorry, but I promised I wouldn't ever tell who told me about this! But I know Negi-kun is a you-know-what, and his Daddy was an even bigger you-know-what, so you're you-know-whats too, aren't you?"

Misora, Misa and Sakurako turned into stone statues with no need for Fate, and birds perched theselves on them.

"Is this about being gay?" Morisato guessed.

Trembling violently, Ayaka grabbed Makie by the shoulders. "TELL ME RIGHT NOW HOW YOU—!"

Asakura shook her head and raised her voice. "Listen, we can start tossing around blame later! The important thing now is, where is everyone? Where are Akira-chan and Konoka and Yue and Paru?"

"Haruna went to the bridge," Misora gulped. "We left Yue in a safe place, we have no idea about Akira-chan, and well…! Well…!"

Sakurako and Misa just felt relieved Sailor Mercury-sama and Kuro had gone in another direction, to help in the still-going fights, before they came here, or else Mercury would be asking them about Akira and the others, too!

"Konoka-san was just kidnapped," Hakase explained with a perfect poker face.

"SATOMI-CHAN!" a scandalized Sakurako cried.

"What?" the scientist shrugged. "They already know more than enough. It's useless to keep up this charade with them…"

"SAY WHAT?-!" Ayaka screamed.

Roberta's voice spoke from afar. "Can I…?"

"NOT YET!" Ayaka barked. "When I need you, I'll mention your name!" And she muttered under her breat, "Rosarita Cisneros, honestly…"

"Now?"

"NOT YET!"

….

Lethal Weapon

Asuna made a resolution. When– and it was WHEN, darn it, now IF! She was going to think positive!– she got out of this and got back to her home universe, she was going to hunt Tomoyo down and spar with her every chance she got. Never mind the girl had a sociopathically cheerful attitidue and disregard when Sakura wasn't around, if her suspicion was right and this guy, or someone like him, had taught Tomoyo, there was a good chance they might run into him again, and Asuna wanted to be ready.

Her enemy was good. From what she could make out, his speed and strength were well below hers, even without the Kanka boost, but it was hard to tell from how he moved. His reaction time seemed Raiten Taisou-level, something she learned when she'd tried to shundo around him to hit him in the back and nearly been blasted in the face by his shotgun, resting on his shoulder when she dropped out. Sh'ed barely shielded her face in time with her blade, and the ringing in her ears had made her vulnerable to a lunge at her groin she'd barely twisted in time to avoid. Still, as the fight wore on, it was clear he was getting tired. He didn't have an augmented endurance like she did– or at least, not as much as she did– and was clearly winding down. He was moving less, his moves becoming more surgical and precise, simpler and less gun-fu.

"Tired, grandpa?" Asuna panted. Even with the energy boost she had, breath was a limited commodity that even magic couldn't really replace. "Getting too old fo this shit? Need to retire? Kick back, maybe enjoy that pension from World War II?" Another minor advantage she had over him. She seemed to be panting less than he. It wasn't quite as obvious, but he was obviously trying to control his breathing, make him look in better shape than he was. She'd TOLD other-her wise-cracking in battle and practice had a practical purpose!

"Now, no need to get ageist, Red-chan," Kuro's voice said from behind her opponent. "It's not nice for you to get snotty with people younger than you."

"Don't bring my age into this," she said dryly, waiting for either Kuro's attack or for him to look over his shoulder to look and give her an opening. He only had one eye, after all. He compromised by drawing his uzi and shooting blind behind him at the voice, but Kuro was ready, Rho Aias snapping into place and stopping his bullets. Asuna charged, her sword already swinging, aiming for his sword hand, but he parried, locking her blade in the tines of his crossguard and diverting her force to slam ensis Exorcizans to slam into the ground, trapping it as as he raised his leg to kick her in the knee.

Asuna had already gone 'oh, crap' at the anticipated attack for one of her few weak spots– it's hard to armor a joint properly against being hit the wrong way– when a dark shadow swung down from above, catching Deathstroke standing on one leg. A pair of heavy booted feet slammed right ni his face, breaking the glass over his mask's eye hole and whiplashing his head back as his sword was ripped out of his hands while he was sent tumbling to the ground. She noted his mask didn't seem to have much in the way of helmet-like properties either. Batman gracefully backflipped with the energy of the kick, his cape billowing and swooshing dramatically, landing lightly in a ready crouch, a batarang seeming to just sprount into existence in his hand. Asuna gave her own shoulders, where her cape would normally be, an annoyed look. It didn't swoosh and billow so dramatically when she backflipped! Half the time it ended up in her face!

Kuro flipped over and picked up his sword. "Oooh, great workmanship, excellent maintenance…" Kuro gushed, looking at the weapon starry-eyed. She stroked the blade in a disturbingly Freudian fashion, licking her lips. "A wonderful addition to my armory."

"Stand down, Slade," Batman said, although this was purely for the form of the thing. After the day he'd had, he'd check to see if he was dreaming if someone just surrendered like that. "You're outnumbered."

His mask crinkled slightly, and Asuna could detect indications of a smile. "No point in continuing, anyway," he said. One hand darted to his belt. "Job's done."

Kuro threw his own sword at him to impale him as he pressed a button on his belt, and both man and sword flashed away as he activated his belt teleporter. "Darn it!" she snapped. "Stupid villain tech!" She directed a glare at Batman. "How come you don't have a handy belt-mounted teleporter?"

Batman stoically did not think of one of the many buttons on his belt. "He likely won't be back," he said. "Belt-units use a lot of energy and need to recharge their capacitor before the next jump. He's probably back at their hide-out."

Asuna sighed, pulling her sword out of the ground and holding it ready just in case. "I don't suppose you managed to tag him with some kind of… Bat-Shoe-Mounted-Bubblegum-Tracking-Device?"

Both sweatdropped when Batman checked his boots. "No, they didn't stick," he said blandly.

"I can't tell if you're being serious or pulling my leg…" Kuro said.

….

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Misora sighed again, shook her head, and touched her forehead with her Pactio card. Haruna?

Haruna's surprised voice came immediately to her mind. Ah? Misochi?

Yeah, it's me. Explanations later! Can you come here? We're in a really big jam, and we could use even you!

Okay, I'm there right now, over.

You don't even know exactly where we are now!

"Of course I do. Here," Haruna's voice came from right behind her, the mangaka walking close to her and slapping her playfully on the ass. "Wow, all that running keeps it in real great shape, doesn't it?"

"GAH!" Misora backed away, seeing a vision out of her worst nightmares: Haruna and Deathnote standing side to side. "YOU WERE HERE?-!"

"Well, not always." A short pause. "I wonder if Matoi-sempai has just sneezed. Anyway, we finished with the girl who was bothering us, so we went to see where we could help. Whatshername Red-chan seemed to be doing a good job on her side, plus she had the little loli and Batman's help. I think that was the real Batman, at least. Cool, huh? And Setsuna-chan seemed to be having the time of her life with her cute friend, so we just flew around on Deathnote-sama here's giant flying turtle (with speakers and real cool music!) until we saw you guys here arguing, and Deathnote-sama said we had to go down…"

Paru-sama let out a sigh. "Okay, since we left you with Konoka-chan, and I definitely don't see Konoka-chan around, let me guess… they kidnapped Konoka-chan?"

A haunted-looking 'Yuu' could barely nod without saying anything. "GAH! I'M SUCH A HORRIBLE FAILURE! I DON'T DESERVE TO LIVE!"

Deathnote methodically took Yuunagi from 'Yuu's' hands as she sat on the ground and began opening her samurai outfit to bare her stomach. "Ah, Setsunangst… I can't say I've missed it."

Ayaka shot her a suspicious look. "Who are you, anyway? I find it very strange Konoka-san is kidnapped right after you and those others start those fights! What if this was staged? There's something about you that just screams 'dangerous'!"

"Ah, ha ha ha ha!" Paru-sama laughed, chest bouncing slightly. "Your instincts are powerful, Iincho, but not enough! I'm evil, yes, but evil on the side of good!"

"That doesn't even make any sense!" Ayaka shouted.

"Trust her, Iincho!" Haruna said. "I can feel she's a kindred spirit!"

Deathnote grinned at her. "Ah, Haruna-chan!"

"Deathnote-sama!"

"Haruna-chan!"

"Deathnote-sama!"

"Haruna-chan!"

Ayaka looked back and forth between the eerily similar girls who were now hugging each other, their breasts squashingtogether and feeling each other's ass. "… If anything, that only makes me suspect both of you… Wait, did you really say you came flying in a…"

"Yup! Those things have great stability, but their acceleration isn't so good. I prefer a manta ray for chase scenes," Paru said perkily, and looked at all the people who shouldn't have been there. "You guys over here suck at keeping secrets, don't you?"

"Coulda fooled me, because I still don't understand what the whole secrecy thing is about," Keiichi said.

"It all starts with Negi-kun," Makie began helpfully. "He is a— UMPPPFFF!" She had Ayaka's right hand firmly pressed against her mouth.

The heiress looked at Paru-sama again. "You can erase people's memories, can't you?"

"Yes, we could," Saotome nodded. "As a matter of fact, I'm looking at a prime candidate for it right now. Hope you like brain damage, though…"

"Don't you dare!" Ayaka said. "Tell me, is Negi-sensei in danger as well? Where is he now?"

"I wanna be sure how much you know in the first place before I answer, but that isn't something we can discuss here," Paru-sama answered.

Ayaka leaned forward and whispered into her ear, "I have known Sensei's a mage for weeks now. Not because of him or anyone else with him. One of my maids confessed she came from Mundus Magicus. She also told me about Pactios. How many of them," she pointed back at her classmates, "have Pactios with him now?"

Deathnote hummed. "Well, why not. Looks like you're already well informed enough, so… Chisame, Misora, Hakase, Misa, Asuna, Sakurako, your Vice President and Gorgeous here." She reached over and patted Haruna on a shoulder. Haruna smiled, trying to lean closer to listen.

"That many?-!" Ayaka was surprised.

"Yeah. But you know, I'm kinda shocked you're taking it so well. I figured you'd be all over the place after hearing Negi-kun kissed so many girls…"

Ayaka's beautiful face became a pale mask of hideousness.

"Oops," Paru cringed. "You hadn't learned how a Contract is made yet, had you?"

"K," Ayaka sputtered.

"Well, it's not the end of the universe as we know it!" Deathnote laughed. "I've seen what those look like, and this definitely isn't it!"

"I," Ayaka's mouth began to form small froths of foam. Sakurako, Misa and Misora all took several steps back. When Hakase didn't move, Sakurako pulled the scientist back with herself, sighing and muttering fondly how a girlfriend's job was never done.

"That's nothing, actually! You already knew about last night's kisses, didn't you?" Deathnote asked.

"S," Ayaka's hands clawed at the air.

"Iincho, that doesn't matter now!" the younger Haruna moved closer. "We should be far more worried about Konoka-chan!"

"S!-!-!-!-!" Ayaka roared, spinning back and going for Misa's throat. "Nefarious Hikaru Genji wannabe, corruptor of innocent souls! Dragging pure boys with you to the Hell of your black depravity and decadence!"

"I know I should be separating them," Keiichi blandly said without moving a muscle. "But honestly, as a guy, I'm forbidden by the Bro Code from stopping a catfight…"

"Broken much already?" Deathnote asked him. "You haven't seen anything yet…"

"I believe you," he replied.

"WHY ME…?-!" Misa tried to struggle free. It was very difficult even with her Pactio-born strength boost. "THEY DID IT TOO!"

"THEY'LL GET THEIR TURN!" Ayaka promised, making Misora gasp and rub her throat. "BUT I KNOW YOU'RE THE WORST ONE!"

"A-hem!" an offended Haruna The Local rasped.

"SECOND WORST!" Ayaka corrected herself.

"Better," Haruna allowed. Deathnote nodded her agreement.

"What did you believe a Contract involves, Iincho-san?" asked Satomi curiously.

Ayaka finally let Misa's throat go to make heavy gestures of signing on an imaginary document. "This! This is what I imagine when I'm told someone made a 'Provisional Contract'! I certainly didn't imagine anyone planting their lips on poor, poor Negi-sensei!"

"Weren't you playing in the Kissing Game last night?" Sakurako reminded her.

Deathnote finally had enough and just stepped aside to warn the rest of Ala Alba, shaking her head and chuckling. "You guys are too much. You make the whole lot of us but Tomoyo-chan look sane…"

….

What Lies Beneath

Setsuna had to admit that, on a deep, personal, very satisfying level, that she maybe, just maybe, was enjoying this a little too much.

But DAMN was it fun to finally be on this end of a fight with Tsukuyomi!

Yuunagi was a bit heavier held in one hand, but she'd had long practice, and she didn't even really notice it as she swung, spinning a bit ostentatiously to give her slash more impact, while her other hand held Sica, darting forward at vulnerabilities. Tsukuyomi managed to parry the shorter blade, but at the cost of yet another strip torn off the edge of her dress.

"I must say, onee-sama," Tsukuyomi panted slightly, holding her swords defensively, a nearly inconceivable position, "You seem to be in much better spirits than usual."

"I'm deeply comforted by the thought of beating you unconscious, arresting you, and throwing you into prison for the rest of your natural life as a quadriplegic," Setsuna almost chirped, launching in to a quick twin blade combination that she had, surprisingly, learned from reviewing her old fights with Tsukuyomi. The girl had been fond of the attack, and it broke through the double defense, Tsukuyomi narrowly almost losing her ear, turning her head in time to come out with only a cut along her cheek.

"…" Tsukuyomi said, leaping up and spinning, her blades flashing to parry Setsuna's to one side. Setsuna responged with a kick straight up that hit her on the shoulder. "Ah–! Onee-sama, perhaps this is going a bit too fast! I'm not ready for such things…"

"Don't be silly, you'll love prison!" Setsuna sang happily. "Three meals a day in the form of disgusting mush fed to you through a straw, the same generic colorless institution apparel, no one coming to visit you because they don't care enough to… paradise!"

Tsukuyomi frowned, trying to sever the ligaments on the inside of Setsuna's arms. "It sounds very dull and boring, onee-sama."

"I know! I meant paradise for me! Ah, knowing exactly where you are at all times, locked behind twenty feet of concrete and steel…" Setsuna sighed happily. "It'll be like a vacation! Just as good as sitting around in a comfy chair, watching corny movies and eating nothing but lime ice-cream." She sighed. "Ah, lime ice-cream…"

Something deep, deep within Tsukuyomi 'pinged' at that, and outwardly, she frowned. "You like Seasalt ice-cream," she said.

Setsuna blinked, blocking Tsukuyomi's strike, and riposting with her own, which was also parried. "What?"

"You like Seasalt ice-cream, not lime ice-cream," Tsukuyomi said, frowning now. "You said lime ice-cream was too sweet."

"I did?" Setsuna set, losing some of her momentum.

"When's my birthday?" Tsukuyomi suddenly asked, doing a three stroke combination that ended with a stab. Setsuna blocked those too,

"Why should I–?" Setsuna said.

"What post did you use to measure my height when we lived with Konoka-chan?" Tsukuyomi said, not waiting for an answer.

"Um–"

"Which of Eishun-sama's pornos did we watch that night?"

"What?"

"Trick question! You two chickened out and we never watched it! When was our first kiss?-!" Tsukuyomi demanded.

"Okay, I know that never happened," Setsuna said.

A sudden double impact threw Setsuna back, and she realzed she'd said exactly the wrong thing as Tuskuyomi went dangerously still, her scelera staining black as her eyes turned gold. "We kissed on my birthday…" Tsukuyomi said, voice dangerously low. "Konoka-chan dared us to do it… You… You're not onee-chan…!"

Setsuna recovered, smirking as she did so, not realizing her position and still on clud nine from being on the wnning side of the fight so far. "Took you long enough. Your real 'onee-chan' is far away from here, and the gods willing, you'll never get within–"

That was all Setsuna had time to say as, with a roar of animalistic rage and a burst of absolutely murderous ki, Tsukuyomi leapt at her with the fury of a typhoon, and about as much mercy. Setsuna raised Yuunagi to guard, but Tsukuyomi ignored it, hitting with force that sent her sliding back. Too late, the Magical Girl realized her mistake: she'd just taken away Tsukuyomi's reasons to go easy on her, and if anything, had given her ample cause to go in a berserk fury. And berserk fury was reminding her all too much of all those times Tsukuyomi had triumphed over her…

Setsuna activated Sica, calling its other blades into being to create a Blade Barrier (something she learned by taking up an invitation from Haruna to join them at Eva's for game night), but Tsukuyomi made her Relfex Save, managing to dive through the whirling wall of Artifact blades. With a howl and another flare of ki, she hit Setsuna ful one with both blades, and the taller girl was knocked off her feet and sent tumbling in surprise. She tried to get up, but gasped as a foot slammed into her chest, breaking the costume breastplate. Another foor kicked away her swords with brutal savagery, even as Tsukuyomi raised both blades, eyes burning with hate…

A small white blur seemed to come out of nowehere, leaping over Setsuna's face and landing on her chest to scremable up Tsukuyomi's leg and into her skirt. Tsukuyomi let out a startled yell of surprise, flailing about as something began to wiggle under her dress. "AH! Geti t off, get it off, get it off–!"

Setsuna rolled and lashed out with a half panicked scissor kicked, dropping Tsukuyomi and kipping back up to her feet then dashing back as she reached into her clothes and pulled out her other Pactio Card. "ADEAT!" she roared, transforming to her usual cat-eared maid form, Takemikazuchi in it's default form in her hands. She grasped it in both hands and instinctively took on The Stance, even as Tsukuyomi managed to shake the thing from out of her dress, sending it flying away trailing a pair of panties. The renegade saw her and let out another howl, charging at her.

"Zanmaken-Ni-No-Tachi!" Setsuna howled. "In Celebration Of My First Kiss with Konoka Oujo-sama S-ST-RIKE!"

The technique slammed into Tsukuyomi, ripping apart the back of her dress in an explosion of blood and fabric as it sent her flying back, a look of surprise on her face. She hit the ground and dounced for several feet, before miraculously landing on shaky legs, staring wide-eyed at Setsuna. She looked down at her chest, then reached behind her and stared at the blood on her hands from the long but shallow cut there.

"That was a warning shot," Setsuna said as lightning arced slihgly over her sword, excess ki being converted to small bursts of electricity. "The next one is going to hurt a lot."

Tsukuyomi snarled, but before she could attack, she suddenly tilted her head. Her eyes widened, and the black leaked out of her eyes. She turned one of her usual grins at Setsuna, the sudden change jarring. "I'd LOVE to tear you apart limb from limb abd feed you your own swords, imposter-nee-chan, but I don't really have the time. Setsuna-nee-sama is going to come to me now, and after the way you ruined what was supposed to be our date, I need to get ready. But know this: I will have my veangeance. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…"

With that parting cliché, Tsukuyomi drew one last talisman and activated it, and she disappeared as the expensive teleport spell carried her away.

Setsuna panted, lowering her sword but not her guard, looking over to wear Chamo was rubbing his face against Tsukuyomi's panties. "Thank you, Chamo-kun," she said, genuinely thankful.

"No problem, nee-san!" the ermine said, giving her a thumbs up. "And look, I go this really neat spoil of war, too!"

Setsuna sighed, to relieved to bother berating him for being a pervert. Besides, he deserved it, after all. "Careful," she said. "It might be filled with concentrated evil."

He chuckled. "I'll take my chances."

Setsuna smiled, even as she wondered what had drawn Tsukuyomi back…

Her blood froze.

No…

No…!

She drew her cell phone, still connected to Calculator's network. "Calculator, where's Konoka-san?"

There was silence. Then…

"They got her," was the bitter reply. "Both of her."

Setsuna stiffened, her phone falling from numb hands, Takemikazuchi following after it. She dropped to her knees as Chamo pushed the phone he'd caught off himself, looking up at her in concern. "GARd-chan? What's the matter? We won, didn't we?"

"No…" she whispered. "I should have been there… it's all my fault…"

It's happening again…

Setsuna threw back her head and howled…

….

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Learned To Love The Bomb

Cinema Village was very much a mess, with many of the studios and buildings in the neighborhood around it smoke-blacked or slightly charred. One studio was only a smoking ruin, and the buildings around it hadn't gotten off unscathed.

"What a mess…" Komatsu-san, one of the many mages the elder had brought with him upon hearing the news, said, looking over the ruins and checking if there were any survivors (unlikely) or evidence of magic (slightly more likely). "And things were so nice and quiet too. After that big thing ten years ago, when that magus blew up that hotel, I never hoped to run into something like this again…"

"Careful," his partner, Hatta-san, said. "If you start talking about it's time retire, I'm taking cover."

Komatsu chuckled, turning over a fallen and still burning sheet of wood with magic, putting out the flame, and looking underneath. Nothing. "So, you believe all those rumors this was all done by Western terrorists?"

"Eh, everyone's a western terrorist," Hatta said. "The only thing we have east of us is Mol Mol– oh, god…"

Komatsu, hearing the shift in tone, looked up and walked over to his partner, who was staring down at what he'd found. When Komatsu caught a look, his face went slack, not letting anything out. "Poor kid," was all he said, staring down at the long-haired girl in the half-charred Alice dress and long opera gloves. Her face and the bare portions of her flesh were either reddened or charred. It was starting to remind him uncomfortably of that incident ten years ago, when all those Magi had gone nuts in the middle of a populated city, trying to kill each other and their familiars. He looked at the rubble distribution, shook his head. "I'm surprised she isn't completely gone. It looks like a lot of the rubble fell on her while it was still on fire. Poor thing probably burned aliv–"

The girl suddenly coughed, skin darkening slightly as circular, curving designs began to glow on her skin. Both men gave out a startled yelp as charred flesh flaked off, and steam seemed to rise from her wounds, leaving behind pale, healthy skin.

"ELDER!" Hatta, the more excitable one, cried, getting the attention of the senior figure. "ELDER! We found someone! She's still alive! Somehow!"

The elder, heedless of staining his pristine white robes– they were already sooty from his own search– was suddenly there, and Hatta nearly fell on the still-hot debris. Only the elder's quick grip managed to save him straightening him with a thoughtless strength that reminded Hatta of all the stories of the elder as a great war hero, andhow every single one of those seeming exaggerations was in fact completely true.

The elder knelt, staring in shock at the girl. "A-asuna…?"

The girl opened her eyes. For a moment, they were a deep gold before fading to brown… "Elder…" she said weezily, coughing, and speaking in a clearer voice. "Elder… Cinema Village… Konoka… Help her…"

The elder turned and shouted orders, calling for a phone as the girl impossibly revived…

….

The Warriors

With all the fights finally over, Deathnote began herding the group she was with towards a meeting point Calculator had designated, then told her through her phone. Ayaka had protested she wouldn't be moving until she got some answers she wanted, but Paru-sama had been clear enough on establishing she'd be making the questions first to make even Iincho stop and take notice.

Now they were walking there (there was no point in a flying turtle for everyone, and Deathnote wanted to save her energy for later. She was fairly sure she'd need them), while addressing a few points. "Okay. You'll be coming with us, Iincho, since we both have a lot to talk about. I think you should be coming too, Makie-chan, since I'm sure everyone will want to know why you're a John Woo star all of a sudden."

"I told you, it's only self-defense training my Homura-mama gave me...!" Makie whined. "Why does everyone finds it so hard to believe? Didn't any of you train under your parents too?"

"I did," the local Haruna nodded. "Eh, Deathnote-sama, she's got a point! Training at a shooting range isn't that much worse than the things my Dad put me through!"

Paru-sama looked back at her, sounding a bit worried for once. "And what's that?"

"Well, weight training, sparring each time we meet, supervised gymnastics under Auntie Kodachi, blunt weapons training, survival in the woods..." Haruna narrated. "He drew a line when Grandpa Genma wanted to toss me into the cat pit, though."

"Ah, yes!" Makie chirped. "Haruna-chan and I met during that gymnastics training!"

"I'm not cut out for that, though," Haruna gestured towards her chest. "Auntie Kodachi says I'm too busty for it, and frankly, I find it a bore anyway."

"The best gymnasts wear their pettanko badge with pride!" Makie patted herself in the chest. "Big breasts only get in the way!"

"Weren't you complaining in the baths just yesterday about how your breasts weren't as big as Yuuna's?" Misora asked.

"That isn't important now!" Deathnote waved a hand. Being the most experienced one with the best grasp on the situation, and thus the most responsible one around felt eerily wrong on so many levels. Was this how Asuna, Iincho and Negi felt all the time? No wonder they were always primed to explode. "However, the place we're going to could be dangerous, so it's better if we don't bring the others with us! Morisato-san, you'll get them to the Inn, won't you? If Nitta-sensei or Shizuna-sensei happen to ask, just tell them... well, Negi-sensei will know exactly what to tell them, but I'm sure Takahata-sensei or Seruhiko-sensei will also understand and—"

"Wait, wait, slow down!" Keiichi said. "You're assuming things way too fast! Look, I was put in charge here, and I don't deny you're a big help, and you and your friends helped us to stay alive, thanks a lot, but I just can't allow all these kids, even if it's only a part of them, wander around with you guys! For God's sake, you're masked people who just dropped by from nowhere!"

Deathnote gave him a blank look. "You don't trust masked people who suddenly appear out of nowhere to save your asses? My god, what a backward world this is. Listen, like I told you, I'm sure Takahata-sensei will voucht for us. You don't have to worry about anything but the other students following us."

Up in Yggdrasil, Skuld monitored the situation closely, ignoring the ravaging fires in Mundus Magicus' Happy Tree Village and its woodland creatures' prayers for help. They were like that all the time, anyway. Looked like the girls wanted to leave Keiichi behind. Well, like Niffleheim that would happen! Skuld needed him in place for the key moment, and by Father, she'd have him right at that moment!

She dialed a few dusty Divine Inspirations in her control panel, the kind you used when you needed to speak through a prophet, or talk through a burning bush. Calibrating her dials on Keiichi's paltry human mind, she sent a suitable message.

"Well, I don't doubt Negi-sensei, being the Thousand Master's son and all, is very capable of handling this situation," Keiichi suddenly said, crossing his arms in a strangely feminine fashion, "But I still maintain I must be around as well! Like I can just leave you all at the mercy of that Amagasaki woman and her cronies! Maybe I'm only a scrawny, good-for-nothing, big-sister-stealing wuss, but I'm still the man in charge here!"

Deathnote stopped abruptly, pushing her hat up since it had just slipped down a little. Misa, Sakurako, Hakase and Misora were giving Keiichi wide horrified looks at well. Even Ayaka and Asakura were utterly perplexed. Setsuna still was too out of herself to care.

"What, did, you, say?" Paru-sama asked tensely.

"What did I say when?" Keiichi blinked innocently, unfolding his arms.

"All that you just said about Negi-kun!" Deathnote was on his face now. "When did you learn all of that, smart guy?-!"

"Smart? Me?" he gasped. "You sure you got the right man?"

"Who's this Amagasaki you're talking about?" Ayaka asked.

"Talk, or I'll subject you to the worst questioning a Yaoi mangaka can dish out!" Deathnote threatened, making Haruna's eyes shine. "What's your angle in all of this, boy? Think carefully before you answer, because you're addressing someone who was banned out of fourteen doujin circles, and that was before I got a magical sketchbook!"

Keiichi looked helplessly at her, which was a constant in his relationship with women, before tilting his eyes for the others and asking in a deflated whimper, "What did I say?-!"

"Something about a Thousand Mister, a woman named Amanapuchi, and how you stole big sisters," Makie replied.

"I didn't say any of that!" he protested.

"We all heard it, Hon," Misa snorted, and Sakurako, Misora, Haruna, Roberta, Kazumi, Ayaka and Hakase nodded all at once.

Keiichi blinked again, pointed at his chest and let out a squeal of "Meeeee...?"

They all nodded again.

Keiichi took his hands to his head and became a SD caricature. "Agggghh! It's a conspiracy to drive me crazy! I fell into a surrealist movie! Or a Nabeshin anime! Or a fanfic by–"

Makie put a hand on his mouth, looking around. "Shh! That's going too far!"

Deathnote exhaled and contacted Calculator again. "Yo, boss-chan, we've got another loose end... "

Six minutes later, they all had converged at a small and relatively intact spot near the bridge. A wrecked AngelGARd was there with Kuro and Albert, and Calculator had just arrived with her maids. Twilight Asuna and Batman were there as well, and a small group made of Chizuru, Yue, Natsumi and Ako chattered amongst themselves a few steps away. Evangeline and Chachamaru were just arriving at a slow pace when Haruna's group made it there.

"What happened to the crazy shooter girl?" Kazumi asked Chizuru.

"Oh, some gentlemen in white robes arrived and said they'd look after her," Naba told her. "They seemed very qualified, so we came here as soon as we got a phone call from Nelly-chan summoning us here. I wonder where she got my number, though..."

Even now, Twilight Red couldn't help but admiring Negi's anal attention to detail, like his student's cellphone numbers. Luckily, Chizuru's number had been the same in this universe, too. And if it wasn't, he probably stolen a look at the other him's class register.

"Well, now," Naba looked directly at Asuna for some reason, and Asuna could feel as if somehow, Chizuru knew or at least suspected far more than she should, "... if we could have some much deserved explanations as to what's exactly going on here..."

Deathnote, around more responsible people now to take up the slack, grinned and opened her mouth.

"Are you about to say something that's literally true but completely misleading just for the lulz and evulz?" Calculator said, the little Chisame-fangirl they knew as Yumi-chan looking very grim and serious. It was actually so Chisame-like they were more inclined to believe the Chisame-fangirl thing. "Because if you are, I swear I'm having Mint here hammer you like a nail."

Deathnote winked. "Ooh, kinky!"

Haruna swooned. "Ah, Deahtnote-sama!"

"Haruna-chan!"

"Deathnote-sama!"

"Haruna-chan!"

"Deathnote-sama!"

"Haruna-cha–!"

Asuna sighed and wacked the two hard with her harisen. "Moving on…" she said, turning back to Chizuru.

….

Wrong Turn

They had to retreat back to the old small house in the outskirts now that the film set hideout had been destroyed. A real shame, Joker had said; he had set a few lovely traps for Batman there in the event he decided to drop by for a visit. He had ranted and ranted on it until he got a phone call, which he answered only after locking himself up in the bathroom.

Still nursing an aching throat, Hoshino Ruri sat surrounded by Mo, Lar, Cur and Bruno, carefully watching how Quartum was crouched down in the corner, coughing regularly and doubled over, muttering curses at random intervals, shirtless and with his wounds and bruises healing at a slow but regular rate. Ruri most definitely did NOT notice how shirtless he was. Nope, she didn't care he was very, very shirtless. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

"Do you think you'll be able to do that t-tonight?" she finally asked him.

He nodded. "Yeah. Damn sure I can. My core's still intact, and as long as it's there, I'll never back down."

Ruri nodded back slowly, hands now on her lap. "What will you do if you run into her again?"

"I'll rip her apart, then burn the remains," he promised.

"I don't think you can do that. At all," Ruri simply said.

"Shut up," he replied.

"You shut up."

"No, you!"

"You. Idiot."

Joker stepped out of the bathroom, looking pretty pleased about himself. "Now now, don't overdo the toyship, kiddies! Our little benefactor called again at last! As expected, tonight's the night your little sister will be paying our target a visit. Let her take care of things while we just slip in and take what's ours! Nothing like seeing two sets of gene pool wastes pulling each other out of their respective miseries. It's like watching a fight between fellow inmates, or reality show contestants going at each other's throats, or the obligatory fight between superheroes every time they meet before realizing they're in the same side. A shame they never kill each other, though…"

"Sister?" Quartum gave him an odd look.

"Well, yeah, I was told they made two models after you, and the last one's a girl. Congratulations on becoming a big brother, kiddo!" Joker patted his bare back, making sure to hit the sore spots. "Maybe you can invite her after the massacre for family bonding! Try not to bleed on my carpet, though. And no wacky, decadent habits-y stuff on my bed, no matter how kinky it may seem…"

"What are you talking about?" the construct snorted. "Two models, huh… I guess they had to do it, after I was lost…"

"Those two models should be your superiors physically, if they were created afterwards, so I'd suggest not looking for a confrontation with her," Ruri said analytically. It wasn't because she was concerned or anything! Not at all! "Mr. Joker, don't you suppose that model might be the girl we met today?"

"That's no Averruncus," Quartum said at the same time Joker said, "That's no girl. It's a space station!"

"Eh?" Ruri had to blink. Behind her, the henchmen all shared looks and subtle shrugs. This was far from being the weirdest conversation they had heard Joker have with someone else.

"Sorry, got a flashaback from my Star Wars days. I'm voiced by Mark Hamill, you know. That was a little boy in disguise!" Joker said peppily. "Trust me, when you spend enough time in the Gotham underworld, you learn how to recognize those things. Plus, when he was angry, his Japanese speech patterns slipped a bit. He was using grammar forms no girl raised out of a boxing gym would use!"

"I see, yes…" Ruri nodded, deep in thoughts. For someone who wasn't even a frequent speaker of the language, her captor/boss sure could pick on such things. He was sharp, if nothing else. "You're remarkably well informed about the Japanese language."

"Well, I DID THE RESEARCH!" Joker said bashfully. "Someone has to now that the manga is over."

Quartum blinked. "A boy." For some reason he couldn't fathom, the thought of his tormentor being a boy who dressed like a girl made it feel even more insulting. "A dead boy!" He punched the floor, and the house quaked.

Joker bent over to look at the floor. "Whoa, tha'ts gonna leave a mark…"

Burnt Alive Lion fell from the stand where he had been napping. "Is it time for dinner yet?"

"No," Ruri told him.

"Ah," He went back to sleep on the floor.

"Lazy idiot," she muttered.

"Ruri, you'll be mission control today, as planned!" the pale man told her. "That way, I won't have to threaten crushing your windpipe again, so cheer up!"

"I'm so happy," the girl deadpanned.

Somewherein Mundus Magicus, Droopy sneezed.

"Hey, I had to seriously threaten your life, or we'd have been caught, and you'd have been freed to maybe lead a better life elsewhere!" Joker argued.

"You realize you aren't exactly helping your case with me, don't you?" she quietly asked.

"I do. I also realize I'm rubbing in your face how close you could have been to escaping," Joker nodded, just as calmly as her.

"Do I really have that explosive failsafe you mentioned?" she inquired.

"Do you really want to find out?" Joker inquired back.

"Not particularly."

Joker smiled and patted her head. "See, this is what having a family is all about. Staying together no matter how miserable we make each other, just because we have no one else to go to."

"It's certainly thought provoking," Ruri allowed.

Quartum looked back and forth between them. "Well, if torturing each other is the reason why humans have families, I might finally understand why you do it."

"Thank you, Quarty. We love you too. Family Hug Time!" Joker cheered.

"I'm not sure I want to—" Quartum began.

"NAKED Family Hug Time!" Joker said now.

The Averruncus put a fist against his throat. "I'm not exactly sure why I'll never do that, but I'll never do that!"

"JUST JOKING! JOKING!"

….

As Good As It Gets

"Well, you see..." Twilight Red and Ayaka started at the same time.

They gave each other a mildly annoyed glare.

"You first, Mysterious Stranger-san," Ayaka said. "After all, you were the ones who popped out of nowhere to valiantly save us, weren't you?"

"Oh, no, you first, Iincho-san!" Twilight Red clenched a grin. "After all, you are this fine girl's roommate and classmate, and—!"

"How do you know that?" Ayaka frowned. "Although you got it wrong; we stopped being roommates last year..."

"Oh well! You know, being busy with real superheroic things leves us little time to keep up to date with trivialities like your life...!" Twilight Red replied.

Ayaka narrowed her eyes. "Who are you? To know those details about my life, even if they're outdated...!"

"Maybe she's like Santa Claus, keeping a nice list and a naughty one of all of us, but she only updates it once a year, around Christmas?" Makie guessed.

Everyone gave her a look.

"Just saying!" Makie held her hands up.

We will not prove or disprove the presene or absence of a URAE Santa Claus with the presence of absence of a sneeze…

But then, a slight cough from a small throat came from down the street, and they all saw Nelly-chan, with her hair turned a soot-stained mess and her clothes and cheeks dirty, approaching and surrounded by seven men in white clothes, all of them stern and austere looking, if a bit soot-stained themselves. One of those men walked closer to Nelly than any of the others; he was tall and thin, but still vital and strong looking despite his bony face and grim expression. He had short black hair and wore glasses, and while he wasn't flaunting it, it was clear he was carrying at least one sword in his loose, traditional clothes.

Twilight Red suddenly looked as if her heart had skipped some beats. "Neg... Nelly!" She ran to the shorter girl's side. "Dammit, you idiot, what did you get into this time?-!"

"I'm sorry, Twilight-san, but you don't need to worry, really!" Nelly tried to calm her, turning to smile apologetically at the others. "Excuse me, I was just careless and... fell." Into a trap I really should've expected, he whipped himself mentally as he continued, "I'm glad to see you're all okay. But you need to have those wounds treated, Hakase-san..."

"Merely flesh wounds, Sens— Nelly-san," she amended herself after hearing Misa cough loudly. "My apologies over what happened to..."

Nelly held up a hand. "I know. Before we continue, girls, Morisato-san, umm, Batman-sama, this gentleman is Konoe Eishun-sama, Konoka's father, and these are his associates." He knew 'subordinates' was a far more accurate term, but that only would bring more unwanted questions.

"Oh, of course," Chizuru bowed. "It's my pleasure to finally meet you in the flesh, Konoe-sama. Both Konoka-chan and my father have told me about you..."

Eishun briefly bowed back before saying, "The pleasure is all mine, Miss. But, if I could know who is your father..."

"Naba Tetsuo, Konoe-sama," the young woman answered. "I was told you have met at least twice. I'm his daughter, Chizuru."

"Ah, yes, Naba-san," the man pondered quietly. Indeed, he had crossed paths with him a few times at galas, but he had never been particularly eager to socialize with him, and the feeling, from what he could tell, was mutual. If he remembered it correctly, there seemed to be something vaguely familiar about the man from the first time they had met. But that was probably only a coincidential resemblance to a long dead man. "The philantrophist millionaire. I've followed his work for a long time."

"This is my friend Natsumi," Chizuru smiled, introducing a blushing and bowing Murakami, "And you no doubt know Yukihiro Ayaka-san..."

"I do," Eishun greeted Ayaka with another bow. "How is your mother doing, Yukihiro-san?"

"Her health has improved greatly. Thank you for your kind concern, sir," the heiress said. "However, concerning what we were told about Konoka-san—!"

This time, it was Eishun who imposed silence with a subtle, polite gesture. "We have everything under control, Yukihiro-san. I know you all wish for an explanation as to this afternoon's events. Several of your classmates," he told Yue, Kazumi, Ako, Natsumi and Chizuru, "were involved from the start in a few open air staged plays our clan was sponsoring, starting with Setsuna-kun's sword demonstration. However, real criminal interlopers made their way into the events, endangering everyone, and we offer our deepest apologies for that. We will compensate you and your families as best as we can for all the circumstances you suffered through here. If you wish so, we could even escort you back to your Inn."

"That won't be necessary, thank you," Kazumi said, politely but also clearly not buying a single word. "I assume the streets on our way back are safe now?"

Eishun nodded. "Quite. Along with the local authorities, we're making sure all the perpretators are caught. However, if you really wish for—"

Chizuru smiled again, brightly as the sun. Asuna was ominously reminded of one of Tomoyo's mysterious, saintly © smiles. "My heartfelt thanks, but like Asakura-san said, we can walk back home ourselves. We know the route back, and it isn't late yet. We'd hate interrupting you when you still have so many things to do..."

"We still have to find Akira-chan and Yuuna-chan!" Ako urged. "They went off to find help when this all started, but they haven't returned, and I think I lost my cellphone in the chaos, and—!"

"Ahead of you, I think," Natsumi shyly held her own phone up. "I can't contact Akira-san yet, but I managed to call Yuuna-san. She says she's with Madoka-san in a restaurant several blocks away, out of the disaster zone..."

Sakurako breathed far easier now.

"But that still leaves Akira-chan lost!" Ako waved her arms. "Who knows what could have happened to her!"

Kuro hummed to herself. In any moment now... One, two, three...

"S-Someone asked for me?"

There.

"Akira-chan!" Ako sighed when she saw her tall, curvy friend appearing at the end of the street, walking bashfully. "Where have you been all this time?-!"

"Sorry, Ako-chan!" Akira rubbed the back of her neck, looking down. "I think I got lost in the middle of it all, and then the commotion started, and I had to hide inside of a store, and I, err, saw Sailor Mercury-san on her way here..."

"I'm sure you did," Kuro mused. "That Sailor Mercury is always showing off, with so little care or strategy...! Not using lethal force even though it's a good idea…"

A tiny drop appeared behind Akira's scalp.

"So the rumors were true!" Makie said. "There are two of them now!"

"Well, at least we're all already accounted for," Natsumi tried to smile.

Ayaka frowned down at Kuro. "Who are you supposed to be, exactly?"

"All of us but Konoka," Yue said. "Konoe-sama, precisely what is—"

"Konoka-chan is fine, I assure you," Eishun replied. "Thanks for your honest concern. We will take your classmates who took part in the play, plus your Class Rep and Morisato-san, to give brief testimony as to these events. Then they'll be delivered back to your Inn later tonight. In the meanwhile, I would advise you start heading back there yourselves. The sun will set soon, and no doubt you'll want to rest..."

Chizuru nodded, already herding Natsumi and Ako along. "Naturally. It's been quite a taxing experience, Konoe-san. I hope we meet again soon, under less stressing circumstances."

"Aren't you coming too, Makie-chan?" Ako asked her pink haired friend.

Baka Pink shook her head, walking over to stand next to Ayaka. "Sorry, Ako-chan! I have to... help Iincho with a few things!"

"Take good care, Izumi-san. Chizuru, please watch out for the safety of the group in my brief absence," said the blonde.

Naba nodded. "I will, Ayaka."

"Hey, how about you, Eva-chan, Chachamaru-chan?" Kazumi called out.

"I think I'll stick around for a while," Evangeline yawned. "I'm interested in seeing some of this farce..."

"We'll try to return as soon as possible," Chachamaru promised softly.

"Don't party out too wildly until Nodo-chan and I get back, Yuecchi!" Haruna winked at Yue.

Yue actually tried to half-smile at her. "Take good care of yourself, Haruna. And Nodoka too, if you happen to see her."

"Please, Ako," Sakurako asked the assistant nurse, "When you see Madoka-chan in that restaurant... well, I left her waiting there for me, so tell her I'm okay and she doesn't have to wait for me anymore, will you?"

"Of course. I forgot you can't bring cellphones in that outfit." She looked up and down at Shiina's skimpy cheerleading uniform, which had no pockets anywhere.

The only reason why they had been allowed to walk away without a throughly detailed memory wipe was because Negi had interceded for them to Eishun before arriving there.

As they saw them off and away down the wrecked boulevard, the group left behind at Cinema Town said nothing, not a single word, until the others were finally out of sight. Only then did Eishun turned back to Nelly and looked down, asking in a considerate but still demanding tone, "My daughter, Springfield-san. Where is she now?"

Likewise, the group leaving the area walked in an unusually gloomy silence for 3-A until they almost reached the restaurant. It was only there that Ako whispered, "I hate this kind of language, but there's no other term for this. They have just tossed a ton of bullshit at us, didn't they?"

Everyone else nodded to some degree or another.

When they walked in, they saw Madoka and Yuuna were the only customers left; after the commotion began, everyone had else left, and the only reason the owners hadn't left as well was because they were afraid of going out until things had fully settled down.

"Oh, hey, girls!" Madoka greeted.

"'Afternoon, Madoka-chan," Ako sighed. "Sakurako sends you a message saying she'll be busy for a while and you can come back with us already..."

Yuuna, meanwhile, gave Akira an even glare. "What's up, Akira-chan."

The lack of question mark was blatantly intended. It wasn't a question.

"Oh, hey, Yuuna-chan," Akira replied nervously. "S-Sorry for leaving like that, but...!"

"I know. I understand," Yuuna waved a hand. "You had important things to do..." The tone in which she said it made Akira flinch for some reason, but before anything else could be said, Yuuna spoke again. "By the way, this morning, wasn't Mana with us in Cinema Town too? Where is she now?"

Already back at the Inn, Tatsumiya Mana enjoyed a lonely and quiet open air hot bath, stretching her long and slender tanned legs and crossing them. "We should have more incidents like that one..." she mused to herself. "That was a decently entertaining show…"

A nude Kaede jumped on her from nowhere and from behind. "This morning's duel still hasn't finished-de gozaru! I FIGHT ON!"

"BRING IT ON, YOU!"

….

Good Fellas

As the not-so-small-group-anymore advanced up the hill, Haruka broke the uncomfortable silence saying, "By the way…"

"Yes, Suzushiro-san?" Valkyrie Black asked.

"For such a tough guy, he ultimately was only a kid, wasn't he?" the blonde snorted, resting her morningstar on her shoulder.

"Well, it can't be helped," Chao mused. "After all, no matter how much life roughs a young soul up, it'll still retain its core innocence for a while…"

Batman once more did not sneeze, because this, sadly, did not apply to him. Both Evas DID sneeze, however…

"Talking from experience?" Natsuki grumbled harshly.

Chao only made a small smile. "Sorry if I've touched a sensitive issue, Natchan."

Natsuki made a disgusted scowl. "I don't like any of this. You're all insane, and I don't think I'll get any of what I'm looking for with you. This whole day has been a complete waste of my time."

"It would help if we knew what you were looking for!" Haruka told her, rather frustrated herself.

The answer came as dry as a desert, and yet with the same amount of heat. "My mother's killer."

A blunt, uncomfortable silence blanketed everyone.

It was only Natsuki who dared to shatter that silence, moments afterward. "What's the deal with you two, anyway? Twin sisters?" She pointed a finger back and forth between Nodoka and Psycho Purple. "I doubt it, since you look a solid two years older. Sisters in any case, right? What a soap opera pile of crap."

"It's… more complex than that," Psycho Purple said softly.

Sora stopped abruptly. "Enough of this!"

"Ah?" Chisame looked back at her.

"I said, enough of this!" the normally mousy older sister said. "We aren't moving from here until everyone comes out clear and explains what in the world is going on! You!" She pointed at Chao. "What were you doing following us?"

"I was worried about Negi-bouzou after the events of the last two nights, so I decided to follow him, to make sure he was okay. He's very important to me, after all," she truthfully said, making Chisame, Nodoka, Haruka and Matoi do a double take. Asuna only raised an eyebrow. Valkyrie Black and Psycho Purple just exchanged a knowing look that Chao noted and added to her theory.

"And what, may I ask," Sora clenched her teeth, "happened two nights ago?"

"Konoka-neechan was kidnapped, and then the next night Bro here made provisional contract with Blondie-nee and Haruna-neesan…" Chamo explained.

"OKAY!" Sora cut the issue short. "Why can you talk?"

"I was born this way."

"What is a provisional contract?" Sora asked again just as quickly. "Does that mean you sell your soul of something?"

Somewhere, Kyubey sneezed. "Ah, Sorry, Oriko-san. You were saying?"

"Basically, you kiss a mage's lips to obtain magical powers," Natsuki replied dismissively, arms crossed, look turned aside.

Sora paled, then looked straight at her sister, with eyes wider than some stadiums. "Chisame…!"

The younger Hasegawa looked down irritably. "It wasn't my choice, okay?"

Sora's eyes travelled down to a trembling Negi. "Sensei…!"

"I'm extremely sorry," he said with a tiny voice. "Things like these just kept happening, and so…"

"I'm not sure I can ever approve this," Sora rubbed her temples in circles. "My God, my headache is killing me. Then, that time I blacked out in the woods during your birthday…!"

"You were attacked by a monster who infected you with mind controlling spores," Asuna explained.

Sora exhaled as deeply as she could. "You were right, Chisame, we should have sent you to Ohtori!"

"The damage is already done," Chisame deadpanned.

"Okay. Okay, I'm calm, I'm fine, I can live with this," Sora quite obviously lied. "Now, why does the plush lion talk, too?"

"I was created that way," Kero paw-waved it.

"And FLIES!" Sora screamed.

"Created. That. Way," Kero repeated.

Sora took her hands to her head, really looking like Chisame's sister now. "Nothing of this makes any sense, and everyone's keeping things from me, even my own sister! Animals talk, and there's one animal boy, and, okay, be honest, which ones of you also have animal ears and tails? Show them right now!"

Kero and Chamo held their tails up, terrified. Everyone else just stood perfectly still.

Sora began pacing all around the road. "Wait, I know! Next you'll tell me the world's about to end, and one of you is a Venusian from the future out to save us from the Monster Empire, and argh look at me, I'm not making any sense either!" She dropped to her knees and placed her face against a trembling hand. "What did I do to deserve this…?"

Valkyrie Black opened her mouth, one figner raised as if to correct her on something. Psycho Purple pulled her hand down and shook her head. Chao gave them a look.

Everyone looked at Chisame. "What?" she asked.

"Your sister, your comfort," Asuna replied.

Chisame frowned, slowly looked down at Sora, and finally, as if afraid she was going to burn at a touch, she crouched down to hug her. "I'm so very sorry, Sora. I really am. I didn't want to hurt you with any of this, and that's why I never told you. I understand if you're angry with me…"

Sora sighed in a very tired way before resting a hand on top of Chisame's head. "You had pretty much this exact same reaction when this happened to you, didn't you?"

"Well, in my case, I got the news one by one, but basically, yeah…"

"Hey, hey," Haruka said. "It all dropped on me all at once too, and I don't see anyone comforting me! And I'm not the one supposed to be an adult! Get up!" she told Sora. "Act like the grownup you're supposed to be! This isn't the end of the world!"

"… Yet," Chao whispered with a sourness she only allowed to herself. Valkyrie Black jabbed her in the ribs with her elbow.

Sora nodded, getting back to her feet, helped by Chisame. "I suppose you're right. Fine, fine, I'll be responsible and mature for once, and I won't overreact, and I won't— OH GOD WHAT'S HAPPENING TO THE LITTLE FAIRY?-!"

They all turned their heads to look at a spazzing Chibi-Setsuna, convulsing on the ground.

"Chibi-Setsuna-san!" Negi ran to her side.

"Sen… sei!" the Chibi cried. "After leaving the sealed area… I began losing cohesion! My main self must be… wounded or too distraught to keep… Please look for Ojou-sama! Ojou-sama is in great danger! Ah! Remember me! Use me again in future chapters…!" she yelled desperately before disappearing in a small puff of smoke and tiny paper shreds.

"Oh damn, they got Konoka!" Chisame said.

"KONOKA-CHAN!" Asuna cried.

Natsuki made a terribly bitter face for some reason no one but Chao managed to figure out, or even notice in the heat of the moment, for that matter.

Then Negi, Chisame and Asuna felt their Pactio cards calling to them at the same time, and they all quickly placed them against their foreheads.

Chisame! Hakase's voice rang in the younger Hasegawa sister's mind. There would seem to be a major inconvenience here! Actually, scratch that. It IS a big problem!

We just fought a bunch of freaks out to get us, and in the meanwhile, someone took Konoka away! BOTH Konokas, actually! Misora was telling Negi, who paled horribly.

We're going your way now! Misa was telling Asuna. Um, we're also taking Iincho with us…

"WHAT THE HELL?-!" Asuna screamed. "WHY IINCHO?-!"

Iincho and her maid, actually. The one who was at the Christmas party… Misa kept on saying. The one with glasses, who looks like—

"I KNOW HER!" Asuna shouted. "WHY THE HELL ARE YOU BRINGING THEM?-!"

Hey, somehow Iincho figured everything out before we came here! At least, everything about Negi-kun! Misa tried to explain. She's saying she'll just call the police and her own security forces or whatever if we don't tell her what's going on with Konoka, so it's either that or everything goes to Hell! Even deeper, I mean!

Hello? Negi blinked, hearing Haruna's voice now. Is this thing on? It works this way, right, Misora?

"H-Haruna-san?"

Ah, hello, Negi-kun! Some kiss, huh? Don't worry, Misochi already taught me the basics! Never fear for Konoka, we'll save her, or them, no difference, in a blink and you'll miss it! I'm used to going to save Auntie Akane from guys who kidnap her like twice a year! Did they tell you Sora-san's boyfriend's coming, too? And maybe Batman too… I got to meet Batman, how cool is that? Haruna was gushing nonstop. Nodoka's with you, right? Hey, maybe if you kiss her too, she'll get an Artifact as cool as mine! That way rescuing Konoka will be even easier! Sheesh, keep it down, Setsuna! It's all going to work out, okay?

Negi repressed his overwhelming urges to sob.

"Oh, that can't be good," Valkyrie Black sighed. She looked at Purple and they both raised their Pactio Cards to their heads…

….

Cop Land

The police station had been freed only half an hour ago (actually, it was more like all the perps had escaped before reinforcements arrived), but they had already caught their first suspect in today's violent incidents.

"Okay, here it says you're a Mishima Akane, Glasses," officer Tsujimoto Natsumi slapped her student documentation on the table before the nervously wrecked, about-to-cry meganekko with short orange hair. "Sixteen, no criminal record, a librarian, perfect grades— So, mind telling us why we found you near the scene of a Joker sighting, tied up on a rooftop, cuffed and with a Bat-note stuck to your shirt? Huh? Huh? Huh?-!"

Akane broke into tears. "I can't take this anymore!-!-!"

The black plush bunny resting at her side actually facepalmed when no one was looking at it.

….

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Late that dark, cold night, she met the dealer at the local park. "Did you bring them?" she asked in hushed, urgent tones.

The dealer nodded. "Yeah. But why the rush? Couldn't you wait until tomorrow?"

"This kind of issue just can't wait. It's… very important I start getting acquainted with him as fast as I can. I must learn everything about him, everything he likes and what he doesn't. And I know I can't trust Asakura-san on the subject. Ojou-sama has told me about her."

The dealer blinked. "Wow. You've really fallen hard, haven't you?"

"It isn't that!"

"I know the little guy is popular, but really, none of his admirers are above high school age! Well, those I know anyway. There've been those rumors about Hanyuu-sensei…"

"I told you I'm not in love with him! It's something else! You got them, yes or no?"

"Okay, fine. Your poison. Here, knock yourself out." The dealer handed her a folder full of pictures. Siesta flipped through them before exhaling dreamily. Ahhhh, her little brother was really cute and prim and proper!

"Thank you." She paid the dealer very generously. "Here. We'll remain in contact."

"For payments like this, anytime! This is gonna buy me a lot of military and weaponry kits…"

As he saw the dark haired maid quickly scamper back towards her manor, Aida Kensuke shook his head to himself.

"Why won't he leave anything for the rest of us…?"

But then, just as quickly, he just turned around and headed back home himself.

….

- To be continued…

….

A/N: Long one, isn't it?

The Secret and Sad Origin of the Incredible Unequally Rational and Emotional Hulk

Excerpt from the Profiles of Chao Lingshen, Time Traveler, not to be Confused with Chao Linghsen, Temporal Renegade:

On the subject of the rampaging brute known as The Hulk-

As a child, brilliant physicist-to-be Robert Bruce Banner was the victim of domestic abuse inflicted by his father David, a remarkable but troubled scientist himself. Real domestic abuse; he didn't tug on animal tails like Kobushi Abiru-san. Years of pent up frustration led Bruce (he never liked being called 'Bob') to develop a hidden and repressed violent side under his normally kind and affable outward behavior (see also entries- Harvey Dent, Kimura Kaere, Nishizawa Momoka, Daidouji Tomyo).

Seven years and three months ago at the time of this entry, Banner (Bob. I mean, Bruce) was conducting experiments with bombardment of gamma radiation in the deserts of New Mexico for the United States Army, when a teenager named Richard 'Rick' Jones entered the test area on a dare by his friends. Banner rushed to keep the foolish youngster out of harm's way, managing to push him into a safe, lead lined refuge in the nick of time. However, the unleashed Gamma radiation mutated Banner's cells, making them experience out of control exponential growth akin to a grotesque radiation-derived cancer. With his whole body mass growing until reaching a gigantic size (but somehow never destroying his pants beyond a few rips- the causes of this have never been explained by anyone, and even I find myself stumped on the subject), Banner's mind snapped and his bestial violent side took over.

So the Herculean machine of destruction known as the Hulk was born! Tearing a path of destruction through America, he was engaged by the US Army led by General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, only to easily plow through everything the Army threw and shot at him. Superman-sama was out of the planet at the time, so industrialist Anthony Stark, who had been funding Banner's project, sent his armored enforcer, the War Machine, to stop the Hulk. After a fierce battle, the man-beast prevailed, but his cell growth became his undoing when he quickly decayed into a mass of amorphous cancerous Gamma growths, culminating with his transformation into what basically was a giant green tumor covering all of his body, and his slow and highly painful death.

Ever since, subsequent accidents with refined Gamma radiation left their victims alive, but still mutated into deranged super criminals like Emil Blonsky, aka The Abomination, and Samuel Stern, aka The Leader.

And that's why we won't use Gamma radiation on these premises no matter what, Satomi-chan, so please don't insist anymore on the subject. We won't be using Cosmic Rays, either!

PS- General Ross, due to his experiences coping with the Hulk crisis, was later assigned with the task of handling most cases of Solomon Grundy rampages.

The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Kuzunoha Touko-sensei

"I will be your master from now on," Tsuruko-sama told her, in that cold, even, but polite and kind tone of hers. "You've shown promise, but now it's time to see if you can live up to it. Power and skill alone don't suffice; you also must work with the persistence and dedication needed to excel at your arts."

"Madame," the slightly younger woman bowed with the utmost respect. "I'll be pleased and willing to go with any training regiment you decide charging me with. I know it isn't easy for you, with your incoming marriage—" then she stopped, being sure she had talked too much.

But Tsuruko-sama only smiled more. "Oh, it's true, you don't know him, do you? Do you want to see pictures of him?"

"If… If Tsuruko-sama sees fit to share them with me, I—"

"I do!" She reached into her hakama, pulling a fat wad of photos. "Look, this is him at his summer house. Here are we at our Hokkaido retreat. This one is… oops, no one was supposed to see that one. Forget it, or I'll have to slice your neck off. This is him when he was a baby, and all these are of him in his fifth birthday. Here's him when he graduated college—"

Well. They were very much in love, that was evident.

….

The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Itoshiki Rin

"This is your little sister, Itoshiki-kun," his father gravely said, guiding him to the small cradle. "Her name is Rin, and I want you and your brothers to look after her for the rest of our lives, even after we're gone."

The boy stared, puzzled, at the baby lying on the cradle, who seemed to be posing with her diaper-clad rear end trusting up at them. "Why is she doing that, Father?"

"It seems she likes doing it. Never mind it; it's sure to be only a fleeting stage…"

The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Akashi-sensei

Twelve Years Ago:

"Why do you do this?" Yuuka asked him in an amused tone, seeing him struggle with the staggering amounts of paperwork. "It's not only because your father was a mage too, is it?"

He laughed weakly, still not looking up at her. "No, no way! He never pressured me into it, and at times, he actually wanted me to do something more… normal, I suppose. Actually, I never gave much thought to the 'family business', if you can call it that."

"Then, why?" she pressed on, smiling. "To help others?"

"Well, I realize I'm gonna sound terribly selfish, but no, that never crossed my mind. There's a million things you can do to help mankind that are more influential than being a mage. We lock ourselves in our little bubble, and unless we hit the really big leagues, we'll never do anything that actually improves the world. We're just bureaucrats who wave wands around."

"I guess that discards your motivation being it gives sense to your life, then," she mused.

"No, actually, it does give me a reason to go on. Yeah, I think you could see it filled a void in my life. Even if I don't get to do anything that shakes the world, it still makes me happy. But really, the main reason why I joined this line of work is because it gives many chances to meet beautiful women." He finally looked up, his smiling face looking at hers.

"Oh?" she said. "And did it work?"

He kissed her mouth.

And it was magical.

"And that's how I first nailed your father," Yuuka told little toddler Yuuna. She probably wouldn't have told her that kind of things normally, but she still was a bit tipsy after that night's gala. "And someday, when you're old enough, it's going to happen to you too…"

"Yuuka-chan!" her husband cried. "Are you finished tucking Yuuna into bed?"

"Coming!" Yuuka said, kissing her daughter good night, while in a little part of her little Yuuna head, the equation was set: father… nail…old enough… happen to her too…

The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Negi Springfield

"So… was it good for you, too?" Nagi asked, turning his head to the side to look at her again.

Arika could only nod.

The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Paio Zi

She was weaned far too early.

Without even suspecting it, she'd spend the rest of her life trying to make up for that.

The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Nagi Springfield

"So… was it good for you, too?" Mr. Springfield asked, turning his head to the side to look at her again.

Mrs. Springfield only could nod.

Like father, like son, after all.

The Secret Origin of the Unequally Rational and Emotional Kite-Man

Two Years Ago:

"So, what did this one do?" Gotham Police Sargeant Bullock asked between mouthfuls of donut.

"He tried to break through the skylight of the Third Gotham Bank in an armored kite," Detective Montoya explained. "Then he tried to subdue the guards by tossing small razor sharp kites at them. Batman showed up and punched two of his teeth out, and he surrendered crying like a baby."

"Well, ain't that a doozy," Bullock took another look at the man in the cell. "What's his sob story? He was bitten by a radioactive kite? Raped by a kite? Fell into a vat full of kites? Raised by kites as a baby? He came from the planet of kites? A kite murdered his entire family? He bought a cursed kite?"

"He says all the children in his block used to call him a blockhead."

"And?"

"And well, now he wanted money. That's all."

"If he was such a pimp with kites, why he'd never enter a kite flying contest or something? He could at least buy himself dog food, which is more than the moron deserves, if you ask me." Bullock snorted, before saying, "Montoya."

"What?" the young Latin woman asked.

Bullock showed her the name on the prisoner's rap sheet. "Is this guy really named Chuck Brown, or is he shitting us?"

"Well, just look at this…!"

"Good grief…!" the man was lamenting in his cell

….

Unequally Rational and Emotional Hulk: Secret Bonus Happy Ending

The endless, gray plains of Soul Society

The jade giant landed with a thundering boom, drooling and clenching his teeth. He growled and huffed like an animal of long gone ages, stopping only for a moment to rest his knuckles on the sandy ground, breathing heavily while his whole body weight rested on his bare feet and hands. The bleeding sword wounds all over his body healed with incredible velocity as his breath came out in rough, raspy puffs.

Back on Earth, Berserker sneezed.

"Aaaaarrrghhh! Why puny men with swords never leave Hulk alone? Why don't they ever learn nothing can stop Hulk?-!"

Somewhere on Earth, Solomon Grundy sneezed.

Then he heard the throaty chuckle and the vapid giggle, and he saw them approaching under the waning sun. For once, the tiny pink-haired girl walked behind the one eyed man who towered over her instead of traveling on his shoulders. In turn, even the tall and well muscled brute of a man was dwarfed by the Hulk's titanic mass.

"Hey, Banner! Running away from the party?" the man called out, grisly amusement dancing in his voice. "Not until we've had another round, you hear me?-!"

The emerald behemoth turned to him, massive fists clenched. "Raaaghhh! Why Puny Spiky Haired Man always after Hulk, calling him Banner? Hulk hates Banner, and Hulk hates Puny Spiky Haired Man too! Hulk will smash you, because Hulk strongest one there is!"

"Good afternoon, Hulk-tan!" the diminutive girl in the black and white robes waved at him.

The Hulk paused, smiled in recognition, and waved back. "Hi, Giggly Pink Girl! Have cake for Hulk?"

She shook her head. "Sorry, Hulk-tan! Maybe next time!"

Hulk sulked and he jumped on the swordsman, growling savagely. "HULK SMASH PUNY SPIKY HAIRED MAN FOR NOT BRINGING CAKE!"

And there was even more savage laughter. "Bring it on, pal! This time I'll slice you apart from sure!"

Elsewhere. The Shinigami Women's Association:

"… And so, we start this meeting, with the first issue of the day being—" Lieutenat Ise Nanao began.

"Hey, hey!" Lieutenant Matsumoto Rangiku interrupted her with a gesture that made her humongous breasts bounce. "Where's the President today? You haven't told us yet!"

Nanao sighed and pushed her glasses up her nose. "Captain Zaraki and she are having fun with that friend again…"

They all shuddered and hoped it wasn't that kind of fun

….

Taiga Dojoooooo!

"Hey, hey, everyone there! I'm your trainer, Fujimura Taiga, and don't think I've forgotten about you, maggots! I'm gonna make you sweat blood, along with my trusty sidekick, Eva-chan!"

"If I wasn't bound by contract to do thirteen episodes of this, I'd slash your throat and drink your blood right now…"

"That's good! Your lesson of the day is to always look before signing, then! As for you guys, the thing you've gotta learn from this chapter to avoid death is to never offer yourself as sacrifice for the safety of an alien magical world!"

"I thought that was the lesson to be learned from our final canon manga arc. And technically, Asuna did avoid death. It was everyone else who—"

"I've seen the scans! Your classmate were sent to the afterlife!"

"Idiot, at least bother to read the pages! It was the future, not the afterlife! I was there too! Do I look like a ghost to you? And why are you talking about 'the scans'? You're Japanese, moron! You could read those!"

"…"

"What?"

Taiga quickly turns into a Clayface and scurries away off-camera.

Evangeline blinks in surprise, then slowly looks at the camera.

"Is this our own attempt to have a mindscrew end for this chapter?"

Murmurs and mutters from offscreen.

"If anyone really needs me, I'll be in my trailer drinking Scotch."

….

….

Unequally Brokeback and Mountainous

"We've been receiving complaint letters from female readers," the man sitting behind the desk in the shadows said. "They say there's too much Yuri everywhere, regardless of previous characterizations, and not enough Yaoi or Shounen Ai. They demand for more gender opportunity equality."

"Nonsense!" Konoemon shook his head. "This whole fanfiction universe was built on Unequalness!"

"Even so, we're going to be accused of being homophobic at this rate," the man in the shadows said, opening a bag of M&Ms and putting the first one in his mouth. "So we gotta start somewhere. Suggestions?"

"Why don't we wait for Albireo?" Eishun suggested. "He's our usual go-to guy for this, and he never complains…"

"It's too long until he shows up," the man in the shadows answered. "We need an already existing pair of you to fill the starting quota, at the very least."

"How about Itoshiki-kun and Takamichi-kun? They have good Foe Yay chemistry!" Konoemon chuckled under his breath.

Nozomu and Takamichi entered Panic Mode.

"It'd break Asuna-kun's heart!" Takahata braced the usual excuse.

"Not like you'll ever go for her anyway…" Eishun pointed out.

"It'd break the hearts of all my students but Fujiyoshi-san's! And then they'd rip my heart out! Literally! And that, sir, isn't the kind of demise I wish for!" Itoshiki argued.

"Once again, it's not like you'll ever make a move on them," Eishun mused quietly.

Both teachers shot him a sharp glare. "Why don't you do it?-!" they chorused.

"I'm a married man with a daughter!" the swordsman said. "Frankly, I'm not the type, sorry!"

"The problem is we have relatively few male characters," Aoki-sensei hummed, tapping a pen on his own chin. "And those of us who show up are either severely underdeveloped, or around ten years old."

"… Who are you?" Emiya Shirou asked him.

"The protagonist from Kodomo no Jikan."

"… Who let you in?" Akashi-sensei asked him.

"At least I don't have a suspicious relationship with my own daughter."

"Only because you don't have a daughter!"

"Shouldn't you be a bit more worried about the whole accusation about you?" Shirou sweatdropped. "Anyway, I nominate him and, how many other Bleach guys we have here?" he asked, pointing at Ichigo.

Ichigo almost jumped on his chair. "I'm a classic Shonen hero! Meaning I'm asexual!"

"Like that ever stopped the slashers!" Shirou replied.

"You're the one who lives with a roommate heads over heels in love with you!" Ichigo countered.

"Issei? Don't be silly! Issei here doesn't swing that way!" Shirou patted his old friend's back. "Isn't that right, Issei?"

"Ah…" Issei averted his gaze while blushing crimson. Everyone but the smiling Shirou noticed it. Sweatdrops abounded.

"Anyway, we can't go on with these double standards!" the man in the shadows shouted. "I want two of you start dating, or else!"

Right then, the meeting room's door was opened from the inside, and in walked one Kyon and one Koizumi Itsuki. "Good afternoon!" Itsuki greeted good naturedly. "Sorry for taking so long, but we were… ah… busy in our way here! Things… happened!"

"Hello everyone," Kyon said dryly, almost mumbling.

The other men shared a collective look, then a single nod.

"What?" Kyon grunted.

"But, isn't this guy, let's say, God?" Ichigo whispered to Shirou.

Shirou scratched his chin. "Well, they say God is love to everyone…"

"…"

"Just saying," Shirou argued. "If he's God and he didn't want a Gay Option in his harem, he wouldn't have him in his club to begin with, right?"

Ichigo nodded at that rare moment of Emiya lucidity. "Fine with me, then. We can always chalk it up to Everyone is Bi."

"Naturally."

"Except me."

"And me, of course."

"Yeah, right."

"…"

"…"

"Do you have something to do tonight?"

"EHHHHH!-!-!" Issei began to protest.

Sitting right outside of the meeting room, Negi and Kotaro waited, sharing a bag of candies.

"I wonder what are they discussing this time?" Negi wondered.

"Who cares, as long as we get paid. How many girls have you kissed so far?"

"Chisame, Misora, Hakase, Misa, Asuna, Sakurako, Makie, Haruka and Haruna."

"Whoa. You think I won't have to kiss any of them this time around?"

"Kotaro-kun, for the last time, girls don't have cooties. That's a plain rude thing to think…"

….

As Reported by Sakurazaki Setsuna, Shinmeiryuu Disiciple

Full Name: Urashima Keitaro.

Known Aliases: The Ronin, The Perverted Idiot, The Unkillable Man, Sempai, Kei-kun.

Alignment: Doormat Good.

Religion: Buddhist.

Sexuality: Heterosexual. Mitsune-san says he's a masochist too, but the mere idea is far too scandalous and indecent for me to consider. Although evidence would seem to support it…

Family: Parents I prefer not even to mention here (both alive), Urashima Hina (Paternal Grandmother), Urashima Haruka (Paternal Aunt, formally his aunt after her adoption by Hina-sama), Noriyasu Seta (Uncle-in-law through marriage to Haruka-san), Urashima Kanako (Foster Sister), Urashima Naru (wife), Sakura Mei (Sister-In-Law), Otohime Mutsumi (Distant Cousin), Aoyama Motoko, Suu Kaolla, Konno Mitsune, Maehara Shinobu, Sarah Mc Dougal (… Housemates), Newly Conceived Baby with Motoko-sempai (Gender still not deter— WAIT, WHAT?-! W-WH-WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN!-?-!)

Affiliations: Hinata Inn, Noriyasu Archeological Research Team.

Background: Born in Tomobiki City, the only son of a family of confectioners, Keitaro-sempai had a gray childhood, since he never had the capacity to make many friends. Other than his foster sister, his only friend was a small girl around his age he used to play with. Before moving away with her family nineteen years ago, said girl made him promise they would, someday, enter the Toudai University together, since that was seen as a traditional sign of eternal shared happiness.

(At this point, Setsuna-san pauses to contemplate entering Toudai with Konoka-san. Please wait- The Management)

Five years ago, Urashima-sempai was a student who had failed his Toudai entrance tests twice. His parents expelled him out of their house, but his sister insisted on tagging along with him to Hinata Inn, managed by his grandmother and aunt. At the time, this lowly disciple of the glorious Shinmeiryuu school lived there under Motoko-sempai's tutelage, after a dishonorable expulsion from the Konoe household. The Inn had been made into a female dormitory, one that besides us, Otohime-san, Narusegawa Naru-san, Kaolla-san, Maehara-san and Konno-san called home, plus one Kinezono Rio-san and Yumizuka Satsuki-san.

Much to everyone's shock, including Keitaro-sempai's, Hina-sama decided to appoint him the Inn's new Manager while she traveled around the world with her then-lover. Shortly after, he realized Otohime-sempai was his beloved childhood friend, which made him clash repeated times with Otohime-san's current romantic partner, Narusegawa-san. They competed bitterly for Otohime-sempai's feelings time and time again, but somehow, during the process, they also came to develop romantic feelings for each other. Much like Asuna-san and Iincho-san, in a way.

After several adventures involving, amongst other things, Satsuki-san's vampiric infection (ain't it sad, Satchin-sama?), Haruka-san and Noriyasu-sensei's marriage, a race against time to the country of Mol Mol to help young journalist Clark Kent recover the fabled El Stone from the Venture Brothers, and an intense visit from the honorable Tsuruko-sama (Motoko-sempai's older sister), Otohime-san made Narusegawa-san and Keitaro-sempai realize they didn't actually hate each other anymore, but quite the opposite. Citing her own frail health as a reason for being an unfit wife, Otohime-san quite skillfully manipulated both of them into marrying each other instead, becoming their… I don't really know any word to describe that position that wouldn't be indecent… common beneficial friend. That was two years ago.

The rest of the residents but Kinezono-san, Satsuki-san and I also… well… eventually sort of fell into that arrangement anyway, somehow….

No, it's not anything I regret!

Powers and Abilities: Keitaro-sempai is gifted with the highest physical endurance I've ever seen in any human being, including the most powerful masters of Shinmeiryuu. Virtually no amount of blunt damage ever inflicted upon him has ever hurt him seriously, and other than a strange incident where he broke a leg (there were these strange green stones around at the time), his invulnerability seems downright superhuman, and he has survived incidents no mortal being but Happy Tree Village residents from Mundus Magicus could ever walk away from.

After studying under Noriyasu-sensei, Keitaro-sempai has become an accomplished archeologist, digger, and Jeet-Kun-Do expert, able to go toe to toe with Motoko-sempai. However, he is an awful driver, and he's nearly blind without his glasses. He's a competent cook, and he has an amazing skill with disguises and misdirection, much like Kanako-san, when he puts his mind into it (they developed such abilities through their childhood games).

Despite his clumsiness, his good heart and affable nature somehow tend to make him irresistible to women.

No, not including me.

Seriously, no!

He's also a very good drawing artist, almost on Saotome Haruna-san's level, and worked as an assistant to some fellow named Akamatsu Ken for a short while.

….

From the files of Chao Lingshen, Temporal Renegade, not to be confused with Chao Lingshen, Time Traveler:

Full Name: Sakurazaki Setsuna

Known Aliases: Set-chan, AngelGARd, the Divine Meido, Konoka's Squeeze,

Alignment: Konoka Lawful Good

ECL: Class A+

Sexuality: Konoka-sexual, Negi-sexual, possibly Asuna-sexual.

Family: No known family. DEFINITELY not genetically related to Tsukuyomi OR Konoka in any way, shape or form.

Affiliations: the Shinmeiryu School, the Konoe Clan, Mahora Academy, Special Advisor to the Photography Club (Light Amplification/Night Vision Lenses), Ala Alba, the United Magical Girl's Association, Special Advisor to the Justice League on Tsukuyomi Affairs.

Background: born a hanyou, Setsuna was cast out from her tribe for possessing white wings, which were considered unlucky. Taken in by the Shinmeiryu, she found a new home amongst them and was given preliminary training in their style by the then-head of the school, the Aoyama sisters. One day, she was brought to the headquarters of the Kanto Magic Association, also known as the Konoe Family home. There, she made the acquaintance of a young Konoe Konoka, with whom she became friends. After a traumatic near-drowning incident, Setsuna left the Konoes to devote herself to her sword training, vowing to gain strength so that such a thing would never happen again. During her pre-Mahora years, she was part of the Shinmeiryu Underground Martial Arts Exhibition team, which toured various underground and not so underground martial arts tournaments to advertise the abilities of the school for mercenary purposes. It was during this time that she encountered the youki known as Noihara Himari. What happened between them is unknown, but it resulted in Setsuna being suspended from the team for six months and Tsukuyomi developing a crush on her, Noihara being suspended from the underground circuits for a year, and their mutual loathing of each other.

When Konoka transferred to Mahora Academy, Setsuna did so as well. Deciding to act as a bodyguard from the shadows this time, she emotionally distanced herself from Konoka. At this time, she resorted to "definitely-not-stalking" Konoka from a distance, and using surveillance and photography gear to keep watch on the girl.

During the school trip to Kyoto, however, she was unable to continue playing such a passive role. The Dissident Amagasaki Chigusa's kidnapping of Konoka necessitated her moving to the forefront. Forming a Pactio contract with her teacher Negi Springfield, and with the help of some of her classmates, they were able to rescue Konoka from her kidnappers, and in the process revealed the existence of magic to the girl.

After these events, she began to relax and extend her interests beyond following Konoka around and training. She renewed her friendship with Konoka and began socializing with her other classmates more. Soon afterwards, she began training Kagurazaka Asuna in the basics of Kendo, which would also lead to a close friendship. She also possessed a professional working relationship with Tatsumiya Mana, with whom she would occasional perform mercenary jobs with.

During Mahorafest, she accompanied Negi on his first few experimental trips back in time, as well as acting closely with him and the proto-Ala Alba to figure out the beautiful, serene, intelligent, yet humble Chao Lingshen's plans. She acted as one of the Hero Units during the Mars versus Mages game, helping turn the tide against robotic forces.

After Mahorafest she assisted with the training of Negi Springfield in physical combat and was a founding member of Ala Alba. She also began wearing various kinds of Meido outfits at this point, likely at the behest of Konoka.

The incident at the Megalomesembria City Gateport led to her being teleported to a distant part of Mundus Magicus with Kagurazaka Asuna, where they survived by taking bounties. They later encountered Konoka and Kaede before they traveled to Ostia.

In the end, she, like the rest of Ala Alba, was instrumental in the defeat of Kosmo Entelekhia, with her critical battle with the renegade Shinmeiryu-ka Tsukuyomi now a famous much dissected and analyzed battle. Things, however, did not settle down. She, also like the rest of Ala Alba, was drawn into the incident known as the 'Book Of Darkness and Yet Another Reason To Stay The Hell Away From Earth (Unadministered World #97)' case.

During the Wolkenritter's attack on Mahora, she was occupied fighting the knight's leader Signum, with the later assistance of Fate Testarossa (See "Black Reaper"/"Gold Reaper of 2814.1"). She was also one of those who responded during the Invader mass-activation incident at the end of the 5th Holy Grail War in Fuyuki city.

Powers and Abilities: Setsuna is a gifted fighter trained in the Shinmeiryu style of combat. Possessing two Pactios and accompanying Artifacts, she is a powerful fighter, as well as versed in the rudiments of Onmyoudo spellcasting. Although average at best at the art, what she can do is top-notch, versatile and has often proven useful.

She currently possesses a reverse-engineered form of one of the Shinmeiryu's most powerful techniques, demonstrated to her by Jack Rakan. While equal to the original version in every way, to her mortification she cannot use it with saying the name or some variation thereof which Rakan bestowed upon it: "Zanmaken-ni-no-Tachi: In Celebration of Setsuna's First Kiss With Her Konoka Oujo-sama Strike!"

She uses it anyway, but only under great duress.

Besides her sword training, she is a passable if passionate photographer (though strangely the only pictures she takes are of Konoka), as well as certified to repair night-vision lenses.

….

Top Ten Things We'll Never Hear in Unequally Rational and Emotional

"I think this chapter was way too short."

"I love you, Chamo!"

"Nodoka! You're actually a boy!"

"Haruna just called saying she's joining a monastery!"

"It's a Gundam!"

"Wow, Anya-chan, your breasts are huge!"

"Teach me, Naruto-sensei!"

"Absolutely nothing ever happens here."

"That's ridiculous! I haven't ever seen a single naked person since I joined this school."

"Whoa, Itoshiki-sensei is just so full of happiness today!"

Other Things You Will Not Hear, But Aren't In The Top Ten

"This needs more crossovers!"

"Ah, just like in canon!"

"I think I'm a Bella fangirl…"

"Negi! I am you half-sister! Have sex with me!"

"Wow, Makie really gets around, doesn't she?"

"The Commission of Dodgeball called ,and they have a few corrections for the dodgeball chapter…"

"Negi has just turned me off boys completely."

"Chisame has just turned me off girls completely."

"Nanoha has just turned me off girls completely."

"I. Fate Testarossa, am completely straight and like only boys! "

"Wow, the Soul Society arc was so short…"

"What, did we already leave the Savage Land?"

"Ah! Mami-chan is giving head!"

"Wow! It's Kyubey here to save the day using his contract system that's superior to Pactios!"

"Shiro, I can't fight, I broke a nail!"

….

Bonus- Exclusive Tidbits! Read the Fine Print! Trivia Clauses on the Contracts the Cast Signed to Star in Unequally Rational and Emotional!

Negi:

I will never sneeze on The Joker.

I will never agree to Naruto teaching me anything.

I can't take the kitsune costume home.

Chisame:

I won't ask for any Digimon.

We aren't redoing Negimaru no matter what, so I won't ask for knives.

Hakase:

I agree to the terms of not building any giant mecha for the series' duration.

That includes Gurren Lagann's.

Chachamaru is not to be added to with extra male equipment.

Asuna:

I will stop asking for the protagonist role back continuously.

Sakurako:

Yes, I was lucky to get Hakase, so I won't ask for another romantic partner anymore.

I will not make Pactios off-panel.

Misa:

I will understand the chief of cameramen is gay and stop hitting on him.

Madoka:

I agree on going after Kyon, not Itsuki-kuuuuuuun, no matter how hard it may be.

Fuuka:

I will stall my breast augmentation operation until my role in the series ends.

I will ar least pretend my sister and I aren't doing it when moral guardians might be reading.

Fumika:

I will not ever touch drugs while I'm on set.

I will at least pretend to be reluctant when moral guardians might be reading.

Chizuru:

What happens in Decadent Habits stays in Decadent Habits, so I'll stop taking pot shots at Arika-sama.

What happens in the Sports Festival Arc stays in the sports festival arc and is canon discontinuity. Thus, I will stop petitioning for my leek Artifact.

Natsumi:

No, I can't have the vampire role, and I'll leave that for Evangeline-sama.

Evangeline:

I won't grant interviews in the nude.

I can't have random flashback sex scenes with Nagi.

Chachamaru:

I will not allow Hakase to install extra male equipment on me no matter how much she begs.

I will not dye my hair red.

Haruna:

I hence forth from this chapter on promise to never use a giant phallic anatomical organ as a weapon.

Alladia:

I am not permitted to own, use, operate, be within 3 miles of, acknowledge the existence of, or even know of the existence of, cloning machines and homunculus makers.

If I somehow bypass the 'no giant robots' rule by making a giant golem, it will be fully clothed, or at least anatomically incorrect.

Nagi

I am not to bow to fan pressure to appear early. We are NOT the XEBEC anime!

I will not send those two things from the SHAFT anime into the plot.

Shadow Crystal Mage:

I will make as much fun of Twilight as possible.

I will stick around and finish the crossover with 2814, which is all my fault anyway.

….

Unequally Rational and Emotional Q&A!

This chapter's guest: Quintum Averruncus

Q: Quintum-san, how do you feel about being the only one of the four active Averrunci to remain unrevealed?

A: Appropriate.

Q: What are you doing at the moment?

A: I serve as Lord Dynamis' bodyguard.

Q: Do you have your own harem of Fatettes?

A: Counter question- What is a 'Fatette'?'

Q: An Averruncus groupie

A: I'm not familiar with that terminology. I'll need an explanation on the meanings of 'Harem' and 'Groupie'.

Q: Forget it.

A: I certainly will.

Q: To put it this way, do you have any female followers of your own?

A: No.

Q: Any plans to get one in the near future?

A: My intended task is perfectly suited to a single Averruncus unit. I have no need of help for the time being.

Q: Ah, yes, but… Don't any of the girls working for Kosmo Entelekhia have any interest of sorts in serving you? We know Shirabe is devoted to Tertium and Homura to Sextum, but since we still have no knowledge on the current status of Tamaki, Koyomi, and Shiori…

A: Certainly you don't. That's classified information. If you were informed about it, I'd need to eliminate you.

Q: Ah.

A: Indeed.

Q: By the way, just to be sure, I haven't learned anything yet that would require you to elimin—?

A: Yes. As a matter of fact, you did.

Q: Oh, shit.

A: That wasn't a question.

….

Lexicon URAEum!

Supplement: Gladius Divinus Flammae Ardentis

Blade Forged By Holy Fire: By absorbing a flame spell of the highest magnitude, the mage gains high endurance and heat immunity as if they were a high-level fire elemental, as well as an 'edge-like' quality to his physical attacks, granting them greater penetration and slicing ability on contact. The mage's movements can release brilliant flames, and allows him to move as if in flight by directing the flames like rocket thrust. Human Torch, eat your heart out.

Technique: Springfield Spiralling Uppercut™

Explanation: Nagi Springfield's final attack that defeated the Lifemaker at the end of the Great War. Negi, against the advice of many people, actually bothered to learn it. This is the first and possibly last time it's ever come in handy. Somewhere, his daddy is very proud and his mother is exasperated.

Technique: Blade Barrier (Transfiguration)

Level: Cleric 6, Good 6, War 6, Setsuna 0

Components: Sica Shishikushiro

Casting Time: 1/3rd a Standard Action

Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Effect: Wall of whirling blades, or a ringed wall of whirling blades

Saving Throw: Reflex half or Reflex negates

Spell Resistance: No

Explanation: An immobile, vertical curtain of whirling blades created by the Artifact Sica Shishikushiro springs into existence. Any creature passing through the wall takes 3d6 points of damage per blade (maximum 45d6), with a Reflex save for half damage. If you evoke the barrier so that it appears where creatures are, each creature takes damage as if passing through the wall. Each such creature can avoid the wall (ending up on the side of its choice) and thus take no damage by making a successful Reflex save. A blade barrier provides cover (+4 bonus to AC, +2 bonus on Reflex saves) against attacks made through it.

….

Character Notes: Nagase Kaede

- Kaede is definitely one of the hardest, if not *the* hardest, character for me to write in all of 3-A. Even her speech is hard to get a grip onto! To be honest, while I have an idea of where I want to take the character, it'd be a direction that would take her away from Ala Alba, and I'd really like to adapt her Pactio scene from Negima? (which I loved) to some point, so I'm still torn about it…

- The idea of making Kaede Mido Miko's niece and disciple was all Shadow Crystal Mage's. Truth be told, I haven't even watched La Blue Girl yet. That kind of Hentai, frankly, isn't my thing… (SCM: not really my thing either but the absurdity of the idea was too good to pass up and LBG is a classic! Heck, once it was the only thing you could get your hands on…)

- Unequally Kaede was, indeed, born at the Hidden Leaf Village. But since Naruto is a setting that vampirizes any other setting it's in contact with, and honestly I'm not a fan of the series, don't expect the plot to ever dwell too deeply into that.

- You might just, however, see some Naruto and Co. in the prequel spinoff Lovingly Resented, Hatefully Cherished. Still, don't hold your breath for too much there either. Maybe we'll get to see the actual first meeting of Setsuna and Kaede there?

- Anyway, I'll admit it's funny to write her rivalry with Mana. Maybe I should maybe that my clutch for the character, since I do like writing Mana? A love-hate relationship?

….

Magical Academy City of Ariadne, Main Ariadne Academy for Magic Knight Cadet Training, Galderobe Wing, Middle School Class 3-C Class Roster

Emily Sevensheep: Class Representative. Only daughter of the prestigious and powerful Sevensheep Family. Nagi Springfield Fanclub. Best grades in the class.

Miss Raspberyl: Exchange student from Venus. Replacement Class Representative in the absence of Miss Sevensheep. Never explain to her exactly what does being a 'delinquent' mean.

Beatrix Monroe: Human from Megalomesembria. Miss Sevensheep's best friend.

Petunia (last name not applicable): Born in Happy Tree Village. Extremely accident prone. Be careful around her. Cleaning Commitee.

Collet Farandole: Nagi Springfield Fanclub. Prone to cause accidents for Petunia. Keep apart from each other.

Jennifer Von Katze: Born at the Ctarl-Ctarl Empire. Wayward aunt works as a waitress at Ostia.

Seline Du Chat: Born at the Ctarl-Ctarl Empire. Miss Von Katze's best friend. Wayward twin aunts work as renegade terrorists for the Buaku Faction.

Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière: Third daughter of the prestigious la Vallière family from Tristain (Eldest sister Cattleya-dead. Middle sister Eleanor-alive). The lowest grades in the class.

Tiffania Westwood: Half-Elf from the Albion country, woods of Westwood. Extremely self conscious about her mixed heritage, especially her ears. Allowed to hide them at all times.

Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt Zerbst: Don't let her seduce you. Believe me, she'll try. No matter who or what you are.

Tabitha (family name withheld-classified information): Library Club. Miss Kirche's best friend.

Montmorency Margarita la Fere de Montmorency: Suspected of regularly escaping away to date a young man. Keep under surveillance.

Gosalyn Waddlemeyer Mallard: The second lowest grades in the class. Adoptive father used to be a costumed hero occasionally associated with Ala Rubra. Paternal grandfather created the Immigration Subject procccess of creating alternate bodies for use at Mundus Vetus. Shows a high interest on archery.

Shirley Mc Loon: Highly developed psychic powers. Never enrage her. Fortune Telling Club.

Yumemiya Arika: Named after the late great Queen Arika. Only daughter of Lena Sayers. The third lowest grades in the class.

Nina Wáng: Adoptive daughter of Major Sergay Wáng of Artài. Second best grades in the class.

Erstin Ho: Arika's best friend. Can't stand the company of males. Did not give rise to the expression 'Ho-Yay!'

Irina Woods: Library Club. Third highest grades in the class.

Tomoe Marguerite: Discipline Commiteee.

Twilight Sparkle: Exchange student from Equestria. High magical potential. Protégé of Princess Celestia herself. Allowed to bring her familiar to class.

Mia Ausa: Daughter of Lemia Ausa, chief maiden of the Vane Magic Order.

Jessica de Alkirk: Former priestess in training for the Shrine of Althena, looking to hone her abilities.

Zatanna Zatara: daughter of the famous Giovanni Zatara, of the Gotham Zataras. Uses her native language spelled backwards to incant, a closely held secret of the Zatara family. Has several demerits for wearing fishnet stockings as opposed to standard issue school stockings.

Selphie Tilmitt: Scholar from the SeeD Institute. Has a Pilot's license. No longer allowed near firearms.

Garnet til Alexandros XVII: Crown Princess of Alexandria. Disciplinary case. Affiliated with the Theater Club.

Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca: Crown Princess of Dalamasca. Does not like being interrupted. Fencing champion 3 years running.

Yuna Brasca: Heir of the Brasca Family of Summoners. Member of the Society for the Recognition of Summon Rights (S.R.S.R.)

Wendy Harvey: Average student. Has a possibly imaginary friend named Casper. Students are asked not to tease her about her resemblance to Hillary Duff.

Egweme Al'vere: Exchange student from the White Tower of Tar Valon. Elayne's roommate and 'pillowfriend'.

Elayne Trakand: Daughter-Heir (read: princess) of Andor, in the west continent. Member of the Artificers Club and the Artifact Research and Replication Club. Don't mention her older brother.

Tsukiko Darkgloom (nee Aoimaru): class nurse. Double major in Necromancy and Necrotheurgy. Founder of the unauthorized organization The Association of Underaged Necrophiles. Has several demerits for researching the work of the Lich Xykon.

….

SCM's A/N: Andso ends another long chapter… that peopleprobably won't review and wont make additions to the tvtropes page from, making us all sad and delaying the next chap as we cry ourselves to sleep for weeks… DARN IT, WHY WON'T PEOPLE REVIEW OR ADD TROPES! 2814 is good, isn't it?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!

OM's A/N: AAARRRRRRGHHHHHH! THE SAYONARA ZETSUBOU SENSEI MANGA IS ENDING TOO! IT'S A CONSPIRACY!

Until next time, be good.

….

Please review, C&C welcome.

Until next time, this is OverMaster and SCM, signing off.

Next Chapter:

Welcome to Konoe Manor.

It's the tense peace right before a huge storm.

While Rito and Lala meet both Ren and Run, things look grim at Kyoto. Akira and Yuuna have a serious confrontation dealing with their respective sets of secrets. Chigusa looks poised at the edge of a complete victory, and not even two Ala Albas might be enough to defeat her with her two unexpected triumph cards. The Joker waits in the sidelines for a prize of his own, and to make things worse, Natsuki delivers a chilling revelation to Eishun right in the middle of his biggest crisis. The Kyoto arc gears up for its big finale, and things will never be the same for Negi after this.