SCM's A/N: 16 Chapters... Wow, it's been awhile… it's been fun guys. Let's do this again sometime. But, ah, not too soon?
OM's A/N: Sorry, but I couldn't get the 'Rakan adopts a child' segment done this time either. ARRRGHHH! It's driving me crazy! I just can't get it right...!
Lesson 41: "Farewell my Friends! or "1-A Forever!"
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.
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.
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, I recommend this nice little story about a boy whose dog dies. It's a very important book. You know because it has a medal on it.
Last Time we saw our Secondary Mai Hime-esque and Fate Stay Night-esque Heroes, and Itoshiki-sensei...
The strange blonde girl had made herself a sword of shadows somehow, and was now dueling the girl Mai had given mouth-to-mouth to that morning. In the meantime, the no-less-strange pale teacher in the hakama Mai also had met earlier that day had fallen at Archer's feet before he could join the fray.
Looking up, way up at the tanned taller man, Itoshiki Nozomu asked, "Are you the Angel of Death?"
"Uh... No. I'm his receptionist."
Itoshiki rose back to his sandaled feet, wooden ruler in hand. "Are you the one behind this chaotic ruckus?"
"As usual in these cases, it's the work of ladies," Archer replied, pointing to where the dueling girls kept on clashing swords, with the blonde quickly getting the worst part.
"Hey!" Mai said.
"I see," Itoshiki calmly looked that way. "Then, I suppose I should—"
"Stay out of the way," Archer said just as evenly, casually slamming his right hand down on the back of Despair's neck, knocking him out in a single merciful chop. He grabbed him and tossed him into Mai's arms, making the relatively ordinary student stumble back and fall on her butt. "Take good care of him, will you, Mai-san? After all, you're used to looking after babies."
"Say anything bad about Takumi-kun and you'll regret it," Mai deadpanned as Archer eyed both combatants, then leaped on the smaller one.
"Watch and learn. The most dangerous one must always go down first!" he said for Mai's benefit.
Feeling him come her way in the nick of time, the small girl kicked Takane back to buy herself more space before swinging her huge sword at the incoming Servant. He blocked it easily with one of his much smaller blades, smiled in a confidently. "You shouldn't have done that. Trace, on."
Much to the girls' shared shock, an identical looking copy of the giant weapon appeared in his hands. He used it to swat the little girl away as easily as a fly.
"Hey!" Mai yelled. "Don't hurt her, either! She's only a kid!"
"Wouldn't dream of it," he coldly said as the attacked girl rubbed her head and pushed herself back to her feet with her own massive blade's help. But then Takane, with an impressive battle cry of KYA-KYA-KYA-KA-YAAA, lunged at Archer with several shadow constructs at once. Archer easily dodged each one of them, slashing them to ribbons of darkness with his newly acquired weapon. "Quite an interesting blade, this Miroku. However, it is a bit impractical for closed spaces, so..." He pulled back, falling back to his shorter dual blades again.
Believing him at a disadvantage, the other combatants, placing their own differences aside for the moment, jumped him at the same time. They were sent flying back against opposite sides of the machine room seconds later.
"... Wow," Mai whispered as the red-haired woman at her feet grumbled in recovery, pulling her hood back on. "He's good..."
"Nothing in this mess is any good," the mystery woman mumbled, then looked around for her labrys. As she grabbed it, she felt a bony hand on hers. She looked up to see an already-recovered Itoshiki staring down at her with haunted eyes. "Sugiura-sensei?" he asked.
Sugiura Midori jerked in place before talking in falsetto. "Who? Me? Sugiura Midori? No! I'm just a much younger, seventeen years old warrior of justice! My name is, um, Pretty Cure! No, wait, Cutie Honey! Actually... Look, I don't even know any Sugiura Midori, okay?-!"
"Wow," he blinked. "Even worse at it than Kasuga-kun. It's certainly impressive."
"Bah!" She shook her armed hand free from his grip even as he tried to take a better peek into her hood. "Never mind that! That bastard will kill those two poor girls if we don't act pronto!"
"Hey, he's not a—!" Mai began, but Itoshiki interrupted her without even listening.
"Indeed!" he said solemnly. "So I'll do the only thing I can and sacrifice myself for them!" And he threw himself into the middle of the conflict before anyone could stop him. "Cut me to ribbons, but don't harm the children...!"
Takane batted him aside with a big shadow puppet. "Don't be a clown, Sensei!"
"I'm in despair! Being reduced to comic relief has left me in despair!" Itoshiki wailed as he was slammed against one of the nearby machines. "Even if it's probably more than I deserve..."
"I'm in despair! Being reduced to comic relief has left me in despair!" Itoshiki wailed as he was slammed against one of the nearby machines. "Even if it's probably more than I deserve..."
Then he noticed the impact had seriously damaged the boiler he had crashed against, fracturing it, with hissing steam breaking out in all directions. Archer paused in his blocking of both girls at once to blink. "Did you just rupture the pressure vessel..? You IDIOT!"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Itoshiki's cried, trying to blog the widening lean even as the steam started to cook his flesh.
Somewhere, Ai sneezed.
"Shit," Archer cursed. Then he jumped for the boiler, reaching out with a hand. If he only could fix it in time, maybe the imminent steam explosion could be stopped before it could spread too much. He only had to touch it and...
At that very exact moment, there was something huge and black blocked his way. That stupid blond shadow magic user had just sent one of her golem constructs his way, screaming "NO! YOU'LL GET YOURSELF KILLED!"
Archer wondered yet again why the biggest blunders always resulted from people wanting to do good, right before the main machine blew up, engulfing the Despair Teacher and tossing everyone else back. The Servant clenched his teeth and rushed back at inhuman speed, tackling the black haired little girl first, then Mai, and shielding them with his body as he leaped with them to the deck above. All the time, he kept on berating himself, Mai's scream of panic being drowned by the gigantic explosions. Once again, he had failed in his role as a Hero. People had just died once more because he had been unable to save them. No matter what, the story always repeated itself, because there was no way those humans could have survived...
Then he saw the thin teacher, his clothes barely burnt but very wet and steaming, flying way up in a high arc over them, his silhouette against the disc of the moon for a moment before the twitching and groaning body fell at the Servant's feet. He still was holding his wooden ruler, even.
"Is he..." Mai began weakly, before the man, hair comically wet and plastered on his head, sprang back to his feet.
"WHAT IF I HAD DIED!-!" he yelled.
The little girl frowned and poked the pale man's forehead with the tip of her sword. "People should die when they are killed."
Archer almost sighed. "Don't say that. Only morons say that kind of obvious thing."
"What is a moron?" the small girl asked.
"Oh God!" Mai's head snapped back at the inferno in realization. "I forgot the hooded woman, and the other girl! We have to see if—!"
Sure enough, right at that moment, a large ball of black energy tossed itself out of the fiery mayhem, rolling around to stop at the mismatched group's feet. The ball dissolved almost instantly, and left a coughing redhead with a labrys and a struggling blonde whose black clothes seemed to be dissolving off herself in its place.
"Ah, Takane-kun," Itoshiki said blandly. "Good quick thinking there, but you still have to work on your concentration or you'll end up stripped again. Your Shadow Armor is melting."
"Shut up!" the blonde coughed. "I know that!"
Unfazed, Itoshiki addressed the woman now. "As for you, Sugiura-sensei, I would like an explanation on—"
"I'm not Sugiura Midori!" Midori stubbornly pulled her hood back on.
Archer shook his head and put both girls in his arms down. "Well, that was fun. I suppose. Now, before this ship sinks, why don't we—"
The little girl asked him. "Are you my Ani-ue?"
"Ah?" Archer said. "Oh, no, I only have one little sister, of sorts, and you definitely aren't her."
Then she looked over at Nozomu. "And you?"
"Same thing here, actually, except without the 'of sorts'," Despair added very blandly, before looking at Archer. "What was that about, anyway?"
But then the small girl was pushing him aside and running for the hooded woman again with a long-drawn scream of rage.
"Yes, definitely someone's little sister," Archer observed.
The crew had started evacuating the passengers off the ship, urging them to board the emergency escape boats. That included a still-not-fully-recovered Sakura Mei and Class 3-F, who were being herded away by a small group of sailors. Said sailors weren't exactly having the easiest time of their lives.
"Everyone please listen carefully!" the First Mate was instructing. "Stay calm! Don't run! Walk slowly but without ever stopping!"
"We can't go out without Sensei or Ai-chan! And they aren't anywhere to be found!" Hitou Nami was saying.
"If they die, I'll sue this stinking ship and all her crew!" Kimura Kaere protested. "In my country, everyone is saved in naval disasters, or the whole class and all passengers go down together!"
"I'll go!" offered Kitsu Chiri. "As the class representative, that's my sacred duty!"
"Actually, I'm the elected Class Rep..." Usui Kagero said, but as usual, no one listened to him.
The rest of the class quickly went over a mental analysis of who they would miss the least if they died, and came to an unanimous silent agreement.
"Good luck, Chiri-chan," Kobushi Abiru told her, "May angels guide your precise steps all the way to Heaven."
Chiri frowned. "No Heaven just yet, Abiru-san..."
"You won't do anything!" a sailor told her. "Leave the rescues to us! Now hurry into those boats!"
Chiri's eyes glinted maniacally as she pulled her shovel out of... somewhere. "Oh, is that a fact now...?"
"But Chiri-chan!" Kafuka said. "It's thirty one of us in the class, plus Sensei, right? Since Matoi-chan and Kiri-chan didn't come, and with Ai-chan and Sensei away, there's twenty nine of us here. Thirty Mahora representatives here, counting Mei-chan! If you go, there'll be only twenty nine, so we'll have to sail away on an uneven number!"
Chiri's head sprouted a single long hair from the perfectly combed line on the middle of her head. "That... That's true! Oh, no, that can't happen!"
"But, Sensei...!" Fujiyoshi Harumi said.
"Sensei will be okay," Oora Kanako placidly said, "It's all right, nothing bad ever happens to him..."
"Wait, that doesn't include Ai-chan, tho—" Nami began before being literally pushed into a boat by a big fat sailor.
"Now you, boy!" The man turned to Tokiha Takumi. "Come here, don't waste time!"
"B-But my sister is still—!" Takumi started.
He felt Mei's hand on his shoulder, and he heard her saying, "Don't worry. I'll find your Oneesama and mine and bring them here!"
"Hey, Miss, the same goes for you, too," the sailor told her. "Don't think you can—!"
"Of course not!" Chiri grabbed her in a strong lock from behind. "The even numbers! You'll break the precious even numbers!"
"And besides," Kafuka smiled sweetly at her, "I'm sure your Oneesama would want you to be here with us, to protect us in her absence, hmmmm?"
Mei looked at her face with stupor before only nodding slowly. "Oh... Okay..." That Kafuka girl was horribly scary and intimidating without even trying, even more so than Kitsu-sempai.
"Besides, they're probably in another boat already!" the sailor added.
"My sister would never leave without me!" Takumi yelled. "Anthy-sempai, do something!"
"Quick! Don't protest!" the sailor shoved him ahead. "For your own good!"
Anthy smiled. "Do as the gentleman says, Takumi-kun. I trust my husband. I'm sure she'll be okay no matter what happens. And Archer-sama is there to help her!"
"Chu! Chu!" Chu-Chu nodded on her right shoulder, then looked at her face. "Chu?"
The fat sailor blinked. "Your husband? Excuse me?"
Another, taller sailor just had enough and pushed Takumi and Anthy into the nearest boat, where Takumi stumbled and fell with his face into Kaere's crotch.
The Secret Origin of Unequally Rational and Emotional Murakami Natsumi
"Oh? So your mother is a foreigner, Murakami?" Chisame asked, just to kill some time, as Negi napped against her right arm, and Chizuru and Natsumi sat opposite them. At the very least, it would be less boring than just looking through the train's window.
"Mm-hmm," the smaller girl nodded. Come to think about it, her eyes were rounder than average, Chisame thought, and even her skin tone was slightly different than most of her classmates'. But then, if she had managed to make such close friends with the blond Iinchou and the Too-Busty-To-Be-Full-Blooded-Japanese Naba, maybe it was in part because she was half-gaijin herself. "My mother is actually from America."
"And what brought her to Japan?" Chisame went through the motions of asking.
"Well, actually, she, you see..."
Once it was clear Natsumi wasn't going anywhere with the explanation, Chizuru took over. "Actually, she was a detective."
"Detective?" Chisame just had to echo incredulously. Now this was something she hadn't expected.
Chizuru nodded. "Traveling all across America in a van, solving mysteries with three friends and a dog..."
"Chizu-nee, please..." Natsumi hid her face.
Apparently unable to hear her weak whine, Chizuru went on, undeterred, "The genius of her team, the muse to many lonely geek hearts in her wake, the genetic donor of Natsumi-chan's charming set of freckles...!"
"Did you actually just use the word 'geek'...?" Chisame marveled. Natsumi was just rubbing her freckles with her fists again, as if hoping to rub them off her skin, even if the skin had to go off with them.
Finally noticing her roommate's discomfort, Chizuru finished, "Basically, they came to Japan on vacation, they solved the case of a ghost haunting the hotel Natsumi-chan's father managed, they unmasked the greedy man posing as the ghost in a ridiculous get-rich scheme, Natsumi's parents fell in love, they married before the pregnancy was evident."
Natsumi had doubled over herself, hiding her face between her hands.
Chisame just stared on in stupefied shock. A tiny part of her congratulated herself on still being able to find puzzlement in some things.
"By the way," Chizuru spoke again, "I overheard her once saying the dog really could talk..."
Natsumi tightened her fists at her sides. "THAT'S RIDICULOUS, NO DOG CAN TALK! That would be as crazy as… as… as Chamo talking!"
Due to complaints, we will refrain from adding the obvious punchline. Just this once.
After several heated clashes, the short, thin girl with black hair had been driven back by Certainly-Not-Midori, both panting at wheezing loudly as they measured each other up once again. The smaller girl also was being surrounded by Itoshiki and Takane, while Archer hung behind them, mostly protecting Mai with a bored expression on his face.
"It's over, kid," Surely-Not-Midori smiled under her hood, eyes glowing like two yellow dots in the pitch blackness. "You're surrounded on all sides. You'll never make it to Mahora!"
"Trust me, never making it to Mahora is a good thing," Itoshiki sighed. "I should know, I work there..."
"... I want a scholarship refund," Mai muttered.
The half-naked girl who wasn't Nekane began raising her weapon, but Probably-Not-Midori threatened her with her scythe. "Ah-ah-ah! Just try and we'll all attack you at once! You can't cover all angles at the same time! Face the truth and just give it up!"
The girl growled from between clenched teeth. "Never..."
"Actually," Archer said blandly, "I never agreed to any battle plan with any of you fellows..."
Then someone dashed in from the darkness, crying along with the sound of heavy boots on the wet deck. "Ah! Itoshiki-sensei! Sorry I'm late! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
With tensed up nerves, Takane, Itoshiki, Mai, and Who-Are-You-Fooling-Midori all looked towards the newcomer, clad in her raincoat, boots and umbrella Pactio regalia. "Kaga-san!" Nozomu yelled. "Stay back! Why are you still on the boat?-! If I had wanted your help, I'd have—!"
He cut himself short when he realized, in their confusion, the surrounded girl had taken the split second to swing her giant sword in a glowing circle all around her. Then, with a loud grunt, she lifted it high, and before anyone could stop her, slammed its tip into the deck with all of her might.
"... Well, that could have gone better!" It's-You-Midori gasped, as the boat began rocking with an ominous thunderous cracking noise.
"DESPAIR!" Itoshiki's hairs stood up on end.
Takane yelped, trying to send her shadow tendrils all around to protect the others, but being weakened, they failed, fell down, and dissipated on the deck, pulling her ragged clothes down with them into a black puddle. "AHHHHHH!" she shrieked, falling to her knees and covering her naughty spots with her hands.
"... Sorry!" Ai whined. "Now this, it's all really MY fault!"
Archer laughed apologetically as he took the terrified Mai under his arm. "Ah ha ha. My apologies, I should have done something about that if I had cared at all. Well, I'm sure you'll be alright, so we take our leave." And just like that, he jumped overboard with a shrieking Mai tucked under his arm.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Ai wailed, using her Artifact to summon the water that was quickly pouring all around them as the boat sank quickly, forming a huge air bubble around herself, Itoshiki, Takane and Oh-Come-On-Midori. "I'll try making up for my mistake, even if it costs my life! Please hang o—"
Then the boat, with a single final roar, collapsed in on itself, sinking. As the sea claimed it with a hungry gulp, Ai closed her eyes, put all of her will into the bubble, and it rocketed for the coastline at top speed...
"ONEE-CHAAAAAAAN!" Tokiha Takumi cried desperately as he saw the collapse of the ship. He fell down into anguished sobs, tightening his hands against his face. "No, Onee-chan, no, why, this can't be happening...!"
Anthy patted his back softly while Chuchu looked on with huge mesmerized eyes at the shattered floating remains, and Kimura Kaede stood grimly on the lifeboat, the wind blowing her hair and skirt around, giving a pink panty flash. "Be strong, Tokiha-san," the blonde said, cold and firm. "Be a man and face the loss with the dignity your sister deserved, or so I guess since I never knew her. There is nothing but one thing left to do now..." and she pointed at the sunken ship. "SUE THE HELL OUT OF THOSE BASTARDS!"
"Sounds like a nice plan, actually," Archer said, clinging to the boat right after breaking the surface with a coughing and sputtering Mai firmly held on his arm. "But I'm warning you, I've never been fond of courts..."
Anthy bowed to Mai. "Welcome, Mai-sama. I never doubted you'd survive that. I think there is enough room in this boat for you, but even if there isn't, it's okay, I can swim to the beach..."
"ONEE-CHAN!" Takumi jumped on Mai, hugging her as soon as Archer pushed her up on the boat. He cried happily, tucking his head between her breasts. "Oh, I'm so glad! Thank you, thank you, Archer-sama! Onee-chan, are you...?"
Mai coughed some more water up on Takumi's head and patted his shoulders motherly. "Yes, yes, I'm fine, Takumi-kun. Thanks to Archer-san... I think. How about you? Aren't you feeling ill or anything...?"
Takumi only made a happy purring sound as his head nestled in the middle of Mai's generous chest.
"Ah... I suppose you aren't, are you..." she said.
"Whatever happened to Itoshiki-sensei and Ai-san?" Kaere asked her. "Did you see them? Answer, or I'll sue you over hiding vital information in a situation of emergency! I invoke the Freedom of Information Act!"
"We're not American, I'm not a government agency, and the Freedom of Information Act is not some magic spell you can cast to just get what you want," Archer said flatly.
Mai scratched her soppy orange hair. "Um, well, actually, I'm not sure of anything I saw up there anymore..."
Standing on top of a villa building near the Mahora coastline with an open book in hand, a very pale short girl with white hair sighed to herself.
"Ah. And so, the wayward princess arrives for the great game. How splendid. If only you could be here to see this, Brother..." she whispered to herself.
She stood in a pose of enigmatic coolness, the wind blowing through her hair.
"I'm sorry, may I help you?" she asked coolly.
Vigilante waved a hand. "Oh, just passing through. Um, I seem to be a bit lost… which way to downtown again?"
"Head that way and take a left at the fountain."
The Secret Origin of the Unequally Rational and Emotional Slime Girls
Melona had a very nice life, in her never falsely humble opinion. As an elite minion to the dreaded Swamp Witch, she, along her partners Airi the Infernal Temptress and Menace the Fallen Queen, watched over the Witch's domains, robbing, attacking, and occasionally eating (in every sense) the foolish travelers wandering the land.
Slimes were most often seen as the joke of adventurers' campaigns. They were thought of as the stupid monsters they killed for fun and to become stronger while training. Melona, being a slime even if a very shapely and smarter than the average one, always took offense at that stereotype, even if her own race had never bothered to contact or even raise her. She never clicked with any other Slime she met, but still, in her mind, the slime race deserved respect just because she belonged to it.
So Melona took great pride in protecting the territory the Witch had assigned her, and on surpassing the quota of dispatched paladins Airi and Menace took every month. It was an easy job, until the day she ran into those three stooges.
There had been a very young and tall one with dark reddish hair, a lean one with black hair and glasses, and a tanned, mountain-of-a-man one.
They were complete idiots, except maybe the one with glasses, who was merely easily fretted.
They gave her the beating of her life.
What was worse, they had the unmitigated galls to camp on her territory that night. So she planned a counterattack, retreated back, and then attacked them again.
They gave her an even worse beating.
After that, however, they invited her to eat with them. After an angry rant of disbelief, Melona gave up and sat down to eat with them. As she did so, she began remembering those needs she had long forgotten, and since they all were reasonably handsome for humans, she offered them the prize to a hero's victory.
The one with glasses spat his drink and refused, blushing violently.
The youngest one looked tempted for a moment, but then rejected the offer as well, looking aside and muttering something about someone named Arika killing him if he ever repeated something like 'that thing with Siesta-chan'.
Only the tallest of the three took her up on it, while the other two walked away to mind their own business. A pity. Melona always liked to be watched in anything she did.
The next morning, she booted them out of her swampland, and the young one chuckled as he walked away, asking the huge one, "Hey, you took precautions, didn't you?"
He was picking his nose. "Precautions? When the hell have I needed precautions against anything, boy?"
The one was glasses was warily looking back. "Um, don't you think maybe you should have made sure she doesn't..."
"Ha ha! No way! How could a slime and a man ever have children? That's so dumb!"
"Well, not like the laws of nature and you have ever gotten along..." the one with the sword insisted, and Melona shook her head to herself as she turned around and slinked back into the swamp.
Nine months later, during a meal, she coughed three tiny balls that sprouted eyes, looked up at her, and then stretched short stubby arms at her.
"Mama!" they all said at once.
Even now as she narrated that story to the elder gentleman in black visiting them, she chuckled with pride.
"— and I've raised them all by myself! Who needs idiots like that man, anyway? I'm sure they'll be up for any job you want to give them!"
He nodded slowly, looking down at the three tiny troublemakers sliming all around their mother. She knew what kind of creature he really was. She wondered why he bothered hiding his real appearance here, but then, that was his business.
"I see. Well, with that kind of illustrious pedigree, I am sure they are able enough for the assignment I have for you. It is amusing how life turns out, since it is related to the offspring of one of their father's companions..."
Into The Station
The train's students were rousing, some enthusiastically, some grumpily, as the train approached the Academy's station.
"Ah, everyone, please stay seated until the train comes to a complete stop!" Negi said, trying to stay seated, be seen over his chair, get everyone's attention, and possibly write a novel as his students tried to gather their things, wake up, chat, and, in the Narutakis case, try to get their underwear back on.
"Everyone, please listen to your teacher!" 'Nelly' said, trying to stay seated, be seen over his chair, get everyone's attention, and possibly terraform Mars. Results were predictable.
The train began to slow, adding more chaos as everyone swayed from the sudden shift in speed. Negi and Nelly, predictably, fell off their seats. Also predictably, Chisame and Chibi-Asuna were in the way. The hilarity that ensued was too generic to bother relating.
"A fascinating statistical anomaly," Karakuri said conversationally. "I have noted several spontaneous accidental collisions between people, and of all of them, Negi-sensei is the one this predominantly happens to. Although there are other trends as well. Green Lantern only seems to have accidents of this nature with Black Reaper, for example."
'Nelly', voice oddly calm, said, "Oh, it's not just me. Tracer-san says he gets into such accidents all the time."
"Yes," Kuro added. "My brother's very virile and masculine like that. Pity he never seems to do it with me. That said, Erebus, please get your hand off my thigh before I hack it off."
"S-sorry!" 'Nelly' said. "Um, H– er, Sawa-chan could you please move your chest?"
"Aw, do I have to?" Deathnote whined.
"YES!" Calculator, Chisame and Chibi-Asuna cried.
They tried to untangle themselves, which was made awkward by the fact Nelly's hair had somehow wrapped around Nodoka's upper leg. Psycho Purple, for the first time, seemed to take after the first part of her name, eyebrow twitching erratically.
Ayaka and Haruka– very loudly– tried to impose order, the two smiling so hard their teeth ground, their words to each other unfailingly polite as other teachers went around making sure no one left anything behind, helping some of the vertically challenged students bring down their bags from an overhead compartment.
Evangeline sighed bitterly. "And it's back into the cage," she muttered under her breath. "The stupid, stupid cage…"
"Yes, stupid cage keeping you from your business at…" Kuro made a show of pausing to think. "Where did you say you were urgently needed again?"
"Next time you come to my resort I'm throwing you off a cliff."
For the next few minutes, utter confusion reigned, and it was not named Haruna. People were getting out of the train, glad to be able to move around freely. Makie had run to her mothers, who'd come to meet her ("Did you make any magical contracts with any cute, talking magical animals?" "No, Homu-mama, I didn't make any deals with a magical talking animal..." "Good… Makie-chan, why does your ribbon smell like cordite?"). (Kugimiya) Madoka, who had been looking forward to collapsing in her room, found herself accosted by a relentlessly energetic Suzumiya Haruhi, who was complaining about how boring their trip had been and interrogating her if she'd met any aliens, espers or time-travelers in Kyoto.
Nelly was helping Negi with his bags when someone said, "Negi-sensei?"
Both looked up. "Sister Shakti?" they chorused, making Misora eep and dive for cover, only belatedly realizing she couldn't have done anything wrong yet. She chose to stay hidden anyway.
Sister Shakti blinked a moment before shaking her head. "Negi-sensei," she said evenly. "The Dean wants to see you and your cousin with your… associates." Her eyes flicked sideways to Chisame, who had noticed her and was frowning slightly.
"A-all of us?" Nelly said.
"All your partners, yes," Sister Shakti said.
The two Springfields exchanged a look and silently came to a conclusion. Well, she did say 'Partners'… no need to tell her about anyone else… They both turned to her, faces innocent, the innocent of the really, really innocent, because they really wanted you to think they were innocent. "We'll tell them."
Sister Shakti, not born yesterday and, more importantly, dealt with Misora a lot and could recognize that look at fifty paces on a foggy day, decided not to ask. It had been a long night and an annoying morning. "Good. You're to come to the dean's office in twenty minutes."
They nodded and went for their Pactio Cards. They had calls to make…
It was morning already.
"Whu— I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Kaga Ai's head snapped up as soon as she regained awareness. She wiped the sand off her face and pushed herself up on her hands, sitting on the sandy coastline with a low whine. Her Pactio outfit had disappeared while she was unconscious, leaving her in her school uniform. She looked around for her Pactio card and found it a few steps away, quickly tucking it back into her shirt, with a relieved sigh.
Ai looked around and saw the girl with the huge sword snoring against a boulder, with a large bump on her head. Itoshiki-sensei was half buried in the sand a couple of meters from there, his legs sticking out the sand while his upper body remained underground.
"Sensei! I'm sorry I didn't notice you sooner!" Ai cried, running to pull him free by tugging on his scrawny left leg. "Are you... dead? Sorry to disturb your earned eternal rest if you are, but then you don't have to answer my stupid question..."
Lying on his back with unfocused eyes, the teacher muttered vacantly, "Despair I'm in despair Undynamic Entry Arika-hime-sama Stalker Hikikomori Suicide I'll Sue No SHAFT No Text Mail Poison Noose Despair Despair Why Kodansha Why..."
Ai's head grew a giant bead of sweat. "Umm... Yes, I, I am sure you will be okay..."
Then she heard a loud groan from above, and she looked up to see Takane-san waking up, on her stomach on the branch of a tree, golden hair covering the whole of her face. And nothing else.
Ai blinked. "Oh! Oh, hey, sorry for not noticing you earlier, but... are you okay...?"
The blonde rubbed her aching head. "I.. I'm not sure. Why do I feel this... this odd but familiar draft all over my—"
Then, before she could realize the harsh truth, she heard the gasps and whistlings, and she noticed several were taking pictures of her, particularly her backside, which stuck up due to the pose she had been left in.
Her bare backside, that was.
A heavily pummeled, face-swollen Sugiura Midori-sensei stood at the head of a group of newly arrived students and teachers, several of them from the sunken boat, who were arriving to the place. Several converging classes returning to Mahora from their school trips were gathering around the coast line and the wreckage remains, most of them gasping aloud at the sights... well, mostly just Takane's sight.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk!" Midori-sensei shook her head, nursing her left arm against herself. "Now what were you getting yourself involved into, Nozom— OHHHH NUTS IT HURTS SO MUCH WHEN I BREATHE!"
Several long hairs were springing up from Kitsu Chiri's head, as her left eyebrow pulsed up. "What... What is the meaning of this... Sensei...!"
Aida Kensuke sniffled while taking intensive footage. "This... This is the chance of a lifetime...!"
"If I cared enough at all, I'd so be shattering that camera on your head, Captain Nerd, " Soryu Asuka Langley mumbled.
"Oh... Oh... ONEE-SAMA...!" Sakura Mei began bawling.
Honsho Chizuru stared up with stars in her eyes. "I think I'm in love...!"
Kimura Kaere sneered. "Oh, Japan is such a land of deviants! In my country exhibitionists like you would be— AH!" she cried as the wind flipped her skirt, and pink panties were visible yet again.
Karigiri Jinako-sensei groaned, pushing her glasses up her nose. "And to think I left my room for a whole week just to see things like this..."
"Sorry, but I think I know you. Aren't you supposed to be in my class?" Tohsaka Sakura asked her.
"I'm your homeroom teacher! Although I guess it's my own fault. Maybe I should leave the room more often after all..."
"Ooohhh! Rika didn't know there was a nude beach so close to the Academy! This is sooooo exciting!" Shiguma Rika gushed, pushing her glasses up her nose.
"Bwark! BWAK BUKAWWK BWARK BWARK!" Boo-sensei protested indignantly.
Takane looked with gigantic helpless eyes at the crowd, then fainted from the branch and hit the sand below.
At the back of the group, Tokiha Mai sighed and asked her brother, "Takumi, do you have your headache medication at hand?"
"Yes, Onee-chan, but I'm not feeling..."
"It's for me this time, " Mai said, taking it and gulping a couple of pills. "I have the feeling I'll be needing these too for the duration of the term..."
"We're not even back an hour and already we're being called to the dean," Chisame grumbled as they walked towards the dean's office behind Sister Shakti. "All right, 'fess up! Whose screw up is this?-!"
"They probably want Tsunetsuki," Misa said, giving the older girl a smirk. "Jumping trains and skipping your own class trip to stalk someone from another class is probably a big no-no."
"I have no regrets," Matoi said stoutly, standing tall and proud.
"Regrets or not, can you please stop breathing down my neck?" Chisame said, grabbing Matoi's hand— to her delirious joy— and pulling her up next to her. "What have I told you? Walk next to us, not behind us! You know, like a normal person!" She ignored the sudden guffaws of laughter this statement seemed to elicit in Kuro.
As Sora frowned disapprovingly— a disapproval that wilted as she remembered how Tsunetsuki had selfless gotten herself frozen to protect her sister— Ayaka let out a lighthearted laugh that set both Asunas' and Haruka's teeth on edge. "Ohohohohoho! Perhaps the dean wanted to be the first to welcome you back! You DID save his granddaughter and prevented chaos and destruction from destroying a city, Negi-sensei!"
"What are we, chopped liver?" Deathnote said, still walking a bit stiffly. "I didn't see your Negi-kun putting any dents on kaiju."
"I don't know," 'Nelly' said doubtfully. "Our dean was willing to wait until the next day to talk to me about that…"
"Maybe you're going to be charged with crimes against humanity for giving Haruna an Artifact," Misora suggested.
"That seems more likely," Setsuna agreed.
"HEY!" both mangaka chorused.
"Shh…" Misora hissed, watching Sister Shakti nervously. The inclusion of Haruna, Haruka and Ayaka to their party hasn't so much as made the teacher blink, and that made Misora uneasy. Sakurako looked nervous– or was possibly faking, since she was taking the opportunity to hold on Hakase's arm in the classically approved 'helpless maiden looking for protection' hold. Hakase herself looked unperturbed, though she did glance down at her arm a lot– and how Sakurako's chest was pressing against it– and blush slightly every so often. Sora looked panicky, and seemed to be rehearsing begging for forgiveness, judging how she seemed to be bowing slightly every once in a while. Misa looked confident, which was no great change. Konoka was smiling brightly, but Asuna and Setsuna looked nervous, the former more so than the latter, though Twilight Red, still chibified, was trying to calm her down. Most of Ala Alba were relaxed, though there was a slight undercurrent that said they were concerned about why they were being called to meet the dean so soon as well. Only the Evangelines and Chachamarus weren't looking worried, the former being more bitter at being back in Mahora after tasting short freedom more than anything else and the latter being utterly serene.
As they neared the dean's office, they became aware of a hum in the air, as if…
"Is there a party going on?" Asuna asked in surprise.
"Oh, how wonderful!" Ayaka cried, spontaneously pirouetting as she clasped her hands to her cheek, sparkling. Asuna inched back slightly in case it was catching. "The faculty is holding a party for the returning conquering hero, who valiantly risked his life against monstrous odds to save the day!"
"Traditionally, the reward for that is to marry the king's daughter and half the kingdom," Kuro mused. "So the dean might be announcing Konoka and Negi's engagement too."
Negi, Ayaka, Misa and Setsuna paled in horror.
Konoka laughed, whipped out her mini-mallet and lightly bonked Kuro on the head with it. "Oh Kuro-san, you're such a kidder…"
"I don't know, the Elder didn't protest when you said Konoka needed to have sex with Negi to heal him…" Deathnote said cheerfully.
"Huh?" Negi and 'Nelly' said.
"Don't think about it," Chisame and Twilight Red chorused tiredly.
"Th-there's no way the Elder and the dean would do that!" Setsuna said. "B-because… ah…"
"It's inappropriate!" Ayaka interjected. "Think of the age difference!"
"Three years?" Hakase said.
"Er, well, they're from different backgrounds!" Ayaka tried again.
"You mean, she's rich and he's not?" other Chao said slyly. "Yes, you're right, they'll never be able to get over such a gap. It just wouldn't be meant to be."
That stopped Ayaka short. "Er…" she said, sounding pained. "I meant that… that is…"
"Think very carefully before you say they're teacher and student," Kuro said dryly. "Because being fired solves one and dropping out solves another."
After an entertaining moment watching Ayaka's brain start to fry, Asuna took pity on her rival. "Hey, lay off," she said. "Find your own Iinchou to mess with! I've got dibs on this one."
"Oh, do you now…" both Harunas said, grinning.
"A-hem," Sister Shakti 'coughed' as she stopped walking. They were, the group belated realized, in front of the dean's office, where there the party-like sounds were definitely coming from. "Interesting as your discussion is–" Ayaka tried to blush and pale at the same time, and even Haruna looked slightly chagrined, "– we have arrived."
"Exactly what is this about, Shakti?" Evangeline demanded, by virtue of the fact she was the only one with the nerve to do so.
"I believe it would be faster to just show you, McDowell-san," Sister Shakti said, and with a twist of her wrists, she threw the doors to the office open. Negi and Nelly, in the lead, staggered under the sudden wall of sound that slammed against them as the door was opened.
At the cry, Negi subconsciously braced himself for impact, expecting enthusiastic greetings and wondering how his students had beaten them to the dean's office.
He need not have bothered.
With a roar, a solid mass of femininity crashed into 'Nelly', leaving Negi blinking in confusion and feeling slightly cheated for some reason.
"Negi-sensei! Oh, Negi-sensei, thank goodness you're safe! I knew I would find you again! I will always find you!"
"Negi-kun! Darn it, you ditched us to go adventuring on another world again!"
"Hey, Negi! You didn't hog some sort of special training all to yourself again, did you? Damn it, I'm never going to be able to catch up!"
"Idiot Negi, you've been hanging out with these boob monsters again!"
"Negi-bozu, you okay, aru?-!"
"Negi-kun! Tell me, what is it like being in another universe? Did you save the world again? Does Eva-sama FINALLY have a Pactio? Eager readers want to know!"
"Negi Springfield. I see you are in good health. Excellent. This means you will be able to continue overseeing the Mars Alteration Secondary Plan."
"Ha hah! Hey Negi! Nice dress."
"Yuuno, can you please make me a—"
"I don't know, I might get lynched…"
"Gah! Sapphire, get her off me, get her off me, geteroffme, GET– MWWWWWW!-!-!-!-!"
He blinked, staring uncomprehendingly as the other Negi was mobbed by… he blinked again, took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and put his glasses back on. Nope, no change. The other Negi…
… was being mobbed by 3-A.
They were there. All there. Asakura, the Narutakis, Zazie and… okay, he didn't know who the silent, dark-haired girl was, but everyone he recognized was there. And… Ayaka? And Misa? And Misora?
He looked behind him, but no, they were still there, and each was staring at the shove in front of them. What was…?
"Gah! Iinchou! Give him some room! Look, he's going to choke!"
"Chachamaru! Ah! You've been in combat! Are you damaged?"
"Mother, I am undamaged. Please, there is no need to examine me right at this moment."
"Nodoka-chan! Yue-chan! Yeah! Pettanko-club is back together!"
"– Phf! GET OFF ME YOU PERVERT!" SMACK!
Sister Shakti, who had immediately stepped out the way of the door the moment she'd thrown it open, met his gaze and nodded sympathetically as Kuro flew on an aesthetically pleasing arc and landed on the carpet with a goofy grin on her face. "Yes, that's exactly how I felt last night." She shuddered, remembering the horror that had gripped her as she saw her worst nightmare made flesh.
There were two of Misora.
Sister Shakti closed her eyes, said the Lord's Prayer, and did it again twice more before she continued. "They arrived last night looking for, and I quote, 'Their Negi-sensei', unquote."
"Ah!" a blonde girl cried in distress as she was displaced from her position smothering Erebus' face into her breasts as the dynamics of the huddle shifted. She glared at their backs, then sniffed dismissively. She turned towards Negi.
She was Ayaka.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, her eyes becoming very wide and staring at Negi like he was the last cup of chocolate ice-cream on a desert planet. She seemed to be literally drinking him in. A little drool had begun to trickle out from the corner of her mouth. "Ah… y-you must be the l-local Negi-sensei. Th-thank you f-for taking care of m-my errant classmates. I apologize m-most grievously f-for any trouble Asuna m-might have caused…"
"Ah, it was nothing…" Negi said, still a bit out of it at the sudden surprise. She was Ayaka… and she wasn't. He hadn't really been able to appreciate, really appreciate the fact that the ones from another universe was a bit older than them. Yue and Nodoka hadn't looked noticeably taller or… bigger, and he hadn't really hung out with Deathnote enough to notice the difference. Evangeline was unchanging and Chachamaru, while… bigger… wasn't really all that taller or even visibly older. Asuna looked exactly the same. Only Calculator had looked significantly different from Chisame, but Negi hadn't found it… gentlemanly to mention out loud how Calculator had clearer and smoother skin and seemed to be more relaxed, not to mention taller and… bigger. He knew how sensitive Chisame was about those things and he'd found it prudent not to bring it up… lest she throw him out of bed and he had to sleep alone.
This is a mindset that wives can take years to properly train into their husbands, and possibly a form of foreshadowing.
This other Ayaka was noticeably taller than his partner, her hair about nine inches longer. Even through her clothes, Negi could tell her chest was slightly bigger. Her face was slightly leaner, and had lost some of its adolescent fullness in favor of more refined features. That, and she was wearing what might be described as an urban camouflage-patterned catsuit and body armor. A well-worn, futuristic pistol-shaped weapon hung from a hip holster, while a more traditional firearm hung from an underarm holster. Several pouches hung from her belt, some prominently labeled with things like 'C4' and 'grappling hook' and 'chloroform' and 'Sensei RL34', and a combat knife was sheathed on her upper arm. Negi was inclined to think of a less-colorful and more fashionable Deadpool.
Her hand shook slightly as she held it out towards Negi, and he hesitantly shook her hand. He felt her shudder at the contact. "N-no," she said, her hand tightening convulsively on his. "It m-must have been v-very diffic-c-cult, h-having to deal w-with such c-complications. F-from the bottom of my heart, I w-wish to thank you f-for the help you have g-given o-our class. W-would you l-like to c-cum to our world s-so that I may reward y-you properly?"
He felt long, feminine hands on his shoulder. "Ohohohohohohoho!" Ayaka replied, smiling brightly at her doppelgänger, her fingers tightening slightly, possessively. "Don't worry about it, my… ah, honorable other self. Our Negi-sensei, our partner and Magister Magi has been most generously and selflessly providing support, solidarity and shelter for your esteemed classmates. No reward is necessary!"
The older Ayaka blinked, staring at her as Misa, Chisame, Misora and Matoi moved to subtly and not-so-subtly surround Negi. "You're… partners… with your N-Negi-sensei…?" the older Ayaka said, voice quavering.
Ayaka drew herself up proudly, her hands tightening just the slightest bit more as her internal color spectrum turned just a little bit more Orange. "Why, yes! I have the honor of–"
"He kissed you…" the other Ayaka said, trembling. She whirled. "NEGI-SENSEI! PLEASE FINALLY MAKE A CONTRACT WITH ME!"
Somewhere, Kyubey sneezed.
This, of course, caused a whole new explosion.
"What? Ayaka has a Pactio here? Negi-kun, I want one too!"
"Hey, no fair! Me first!"
"WILL YOU GIRLS COOL IT!-?"
"Ah, everyone, please, I'm glad to see you too, but–"
"Anyone who does not settle down in the next five seconds will be petrified. One–"
There was an explosion of screaming and suddenly everyone was standing very still.
"Fate!" Erebus exclaimed, sounding shocked and indignant.
There was a dismissive sound. "I would not have actually done so. And even if I had, the Konoe-san would have been able to revert them." The voice was disturbingly familiar…
Negi tensed as Misa let out a cry, and he was suddenly surrounded by armed Ministra. "Evil crazy flamey boy!" Misora cried, bravely standing behind everyone and acting as rear guard, bravely.
The silver-haired boy gave them a flat look, taking note of Ayaka's whip, Misa's needles, Chisame's wand sparkling electricity, Hakase's backpack and its metal arms, and Sakurako's pompoms. Then he turned to the other Negi. "Why are they reacting like that?"
"We just came back from Kyoto after dealing with Amagasaki Chigusa," Erebus said.
Fate frowned. "Then why do they seem to be confusing me with the fourth unit?"
"Because he showed up and attacked us," Kagurazaka said.
Fate frowned. "Quartum was activated and assigned to Amagasaki?"
"No, Sextum was activated and assigned to Amagasaki," Erebus corrected. "Quartum just showed up with the Joker."
"Ah," Fate said, face completely blank, tone uninflected. He turned towards the group of Ministra and addressed Negi. "I am not Quartum. We only appear similar due to a family resemblance."
"Really?" Negi said.
"I do not wish to interrupt your reunion," the dean's slightly pained voice wafted from the office. "But could you please continue it in here where we can discuss it in privacy?"
"Grandpa!" the Konokas cried, rushing into the room in concern.
As Erebus was pulled into the room, Ala Alba in tow, Negi and his Ministra exchanged looks, shrugged, and followed.
While most of the others bickered and chatted noisily all around them, Misora approached the slightly taller other Misora in her standard issue combat habit. "Um, hey... Hello there?"
After a moment of hesitation, the other Misora waved back. "Ah, yeah, hello. How you doin'?"
"Errr, well, I'm alive and in one piece, and that's what matters in the end, isn't it?"
"Ah-hah-hah, I suppose you're right..."
"Ah-hah-hah, yeah, of course I am..."
There was an awkward pause. The Harunas took the opportunity to sketch them, since they were making for a nice tableau.
"So…" the Misora said awkwardly as they got seated. "Sister Shakti told me you had contracted with Negi-kun."
"Paru, that is, your Paru, told me you had pactioed with Cocone-chan..."
They looked at each other.
"You realize you're not going to get anywhere there for at least twenty years, right?"
"Well, yeah, but... Man, it has to feel like doing your little sister...!"
"Oh, like Negi-kun's so much older… Besides, we like pretending she's my little sister… It's really hot…"
"Maybe not, but...! Like a little sister, man...! That's… that's so…"
"I was going to say Narutaki-esque."
"Eh?" The other Misora gave her a blank look, before her eyes widened. "Wait, wahhh…?"
A new tense silence ensued. "Besides, I'm so much faster than you! Your Setsuna told me!"
The other Misora made a dismissive sound. "Like I care! Knock yourself out."
"I saved Konoka's life! What do you have in the way of accomplishments?"
"I helped save the world. Twice!"
"Whatever, just keep yourself away from my Cocone-chan, okay? I don't want you ruining our beautiful friendship with your Siscon vibes!"
The other Misora made a weirdly serious, pitying face, as if asking herself 'was I ever that big an idiot?'. "And why don't you ask Cocone-chan what she wants out of that relationship?"
"Eh? What? Don't be ridiculous! If she wanted 'anything else', she'd have told me already! I mean, that's the way it must have happened with you, right? Or did you actually make the first move?"
"Think carefully before you answer that question."
Sister Shakti just sighed, grabbed their heads, and bashed them against each other.
Damn, but that had been therapeutic!
Konoemon relaxed, letting out a sigh of relief as the two Setsunas helped him up from the futon he'd been lying on since he'd stopped stamping permission forms. "Thank you Konoka-chan," he said gratefully as he settled himself on his chair, marveling as the usual ache in his spine didn't make itself known. For one paranoid moment, he'd been worried that the healing would disrupt the mirage spell he'd cast to conceal the marks of his Command Seal. Magecraft could be a bit weird at times.
Straightening, he took a moment to look around his office, a bit amused at the semi-familiar yet completely strange people he saw. The crowd around Negi had pulled back in favor of reuniting with their classmates, and the two Negis were making themselves comfortable on chairs in front of his desk. A silver-haired youth in a grey, uniform-like outfit and a blond boy wearing shorts and a grey hoodie were standing next to one and speaking with him, while wild-haired boy with dog ears a tail was talking to the other. The other Negi looked strangely confused and nervous, which was no surprise. His last sight of Inugami Kotaro two days ago would have had the two at odds.
Some of the girls who had identified themselves as Ala Alba, Mahora high school class 1-A, were wearing the black dresses of the high school uniform, the assorted golf-clubs, baseball bats, and lacrosse sticks they'd brought as impromptu weapons leaning next to them. Hakase and Hakase were sitting next to each other and speaking in rapid-fire techno-babble with the occasional equation thrown in, while Sakurako and Sakurako were chatting not far away. From the way they were occasionally glancing at the oblivious mad scientists, they were talking about them. Poor clueless fools. They really should know better than not pay attention when their girlfriend might be talking about them.
Nodoka, Yue and Natsumi were talking to the girl wearing the robes and wizard's hat who'd introduced herself as Anya, while Miyazaki hung in the periphery of the conversation, looking very confused as to why this girl seemed to like her so much even though they'd only just met. Misa was surrounded by herself, Madoka and the Narutakis, asking her how the heck she'd gotten a Pactio, and she was visibly enjoying the attention. The Misoras were sitting in uncomfortable silence, the one in her nun habit awkwardly making conversation with Hasegawa's sister, and seemed very surprise at the notion of Chisame having a sister. The armed and armored Ayaka was having her reunion with the other Asuna, which involved a lot of verbal abuse, pulling of hair and faces, crying, and general physical comedy.
Kuro was having her own reunion with the pink-and-white clad girl who was undoubtedly her twin. Konoemon remembered her surprise the night before when he, upon seeing her silver hair, had made an educated guess as to her name and identity despite the Identity Obfuscation Spell on her mask. She'd muttered darkly about Kuro not being able to keep a lid on her identity, and had swung the wand she carried in a familiar threatening gesture. Currently, Kuro was glomped onto her arm, rubbing her cheek against her sister's affectionately, while said sister and the blue-clad friend accompanying her were using every method short of violence to get her to stop. Mana, wearing her usual tan chaps, coat and leotard— not that anyone would call it that to her face, but that's what it was!— leaned against the wall were she would be able to watch the door, the window and everyone in the room.
All in all, despite the kinda silly outfits some of them were wearing- for some reason, the inexplicably solid form of Sayo had on a helmet reminiscent of a Gundam's head— it was just another gathering of Negi's class. It was nice to see that, no matter the universe, some things stayed the same.
The door opened, and Takamichi, Seruhiko, and some of the newly returned Mage teachers trooped into the room, many stopping dead in stupefied horror and staring at the terrifying scene before them. Even Takahata paused, his unlit cigarette falling from his lips. "I have nightmares about this…" he muttered.
Sister Shakti snorted. "If I can put up with it without getting drunk, so can you. Where are Itoshiki and Akashi?"
"Nozomu's in traction. Apparently, he slipped and a truck hit him, setting him on fire. He wasn't even trying to kill himself, he just stepped on some bubblegum and stumbled. He's in despair, of course," Takahata said dryly. "Wataru isn't answering his phone. The one time it picked up, a woman answered. This didn't seem important enough to bother him with in the face of that."
Konoemon coughed, and for a wonder this actually attracted everyone's attention. "Now then, as much as I hate to have to interrupt again, now that everyone's here I believe explanations are in order." He paused a beat. "Again." For some reason, that addendum caused smiles to blossom on Ala Alba's faces. Even the corner of Mana's lip curled slightly. He wondered what the joke was. "I was under the impression that travel between universes was quite rare. I am curious as to how it was accomplished so soon, and so accurately. I'm no expert, but even with my rough knowledge, I believe that the odds against being able to find the right universe so quickly are literally infinite."
"Not quite that high," the vaguely familiar blond boy said, smiling brightly. "It happens enough on a universal scale that statistically speaking, it's pretty common."
"Perhaps introductions should go with these explanations?" Takahata said, his gaze lingering on Fate.
McDowell sniffed. "He's exactly what he looks like, Takamichi," she said. "An Averruncus. The Averruncus of Earth, to be precise."
Fate gave Takahata a nominally polite but ultimately disinterested nod. "I am informed you encountered the fourth and sixth models recently. My congratulations on your survival. Although as you had Negi Springfield with you, the likelihood of your death at their hands was tremendously reduced."
"Fate…" Erebus said, embarrassed. The sheer cuteness of the sight of this, in girl clothes no less, nearly derailed the conversation then and there as nearly everyone internally squee-d at the moe of it.
"I still don't get the appeal," Kuro muttered as Haruna stared at Fate, then at Negi as Deathnote grinned.
The blond boy coughed, a green ring glinting on the hand he raised up to his mouth to cover his smile. "Well, I suppose I should make introductions. We didn't really have a chance to formally meet last night what with Ala Alba… being Ala Alba, whom you know," he said as the girls in question grinned unrepentantly. "This is Fate Averruncus. He's on our side. You've divined Black Archer's sister and her friend Sapphire. I believe you've learned it's not a good idea to mention her real name."
"Yeah, what have I told you about mentioning my name, sis?" Illya ground it, glaring at her sister.
"Eh heh he…oops?" Kuro said uncomfortably. "Well, it's not like Batman is going to find out…"
"He's Batman," the blond and Illya said flatly. "He'll know!"
There was much looking surreptitiously into every dark corner of the room– a few looked straight up at the ceiling and a couple more checked behind the curtains and under the furniture– but there was a significant lack of Batman in the room.
"He's still going to find out," Illya insisted.
"He will," the blond nodded agreement. He turned back to Konoemon. "I'm Professor Yuuno Scrya, Green Lantern Corps. And you know Ala Alba." There was a brief cheer. "We're here to bring our friends back home."
"Ah!" Sakurako cried. "You're the Green Lantern-chan Miyazaki-chan told me about!"
Yuuno twitched as Erebus unexpectedly burst out in laughter. "No, that's my co-worker," Yuuno said. "She couldn't make it for this investigation. Something more important came up."
Erebus and those who'd come with him stared in disbelief. "Something more important came up?" Calculator said the words on their minds. "What, is something destroying the Earth again?"
"No," Yuuno said. "Black Reaper is missing, and we think she was kidnapped. We found Bardiche, blast marks, and teleporter radiation. She's nowhere in the solar system or the nearest five light-years. Green Lantern-chan's gone to tear apart the universe looking for her."
There was a beat. "Yeah, that's more important," Deathnote agreed, nodding sagely.
"Pardon me," Takahata said politely as he stifled his curiosity of why a kidnapping would rank higher than something trying to destroy the Earth again, "but I'm afraid I do not have the benefit of knowing who this young lady is." He was looking at a girl Konoemon only vaguely recognized, her black hair cut at the neck and plain brown eyes.
Erebus snapped his fingers. At Yuuno's confused look, he said, "That's right, I forgot. Um, this is Cassandra Doe. She joined us during December of the previous year."
Cassandra nodded in acknowledgement, somehow managing to convey polite attentiveness, before settling back in her corner.
"How'd you find us?" Kagurazaka asked. "Did Vivio-chan and the Power Rangers show up with their giant robots again?"
"No…" Yuuno said slowly. "How would that have helped us find you?"
"Well, it probably wouldn't have, but I'm glad to see I didn't miss out on piloting the giant robot," she said cheerfully.
Asuna perked up. "Giant robot?" she said eagerly.
Kagurazaka reached over and patted her hand. "Now now, imouto, one step to being a world-saving badass at a time."
"That brings up so many questions…" the other Asakura muttered under her breath.
"How was mother able to recreate the circumstances surrounding our departure?" Karakuri asked. "Her machinery interacted with Jewel Sword Callandor to produce the portal effect, and to my knowledge, only Black Archer is capable of creating it."
"Apparently not," Hakase said. "After I contacted the Justice League, I sent out a call to the rest of the Association."
Seruhiko frowned. "You contacted the Clocktower Association?"
Kuro snorted. "Please. Those guys wouldn't move their asses unless it involved a reason that would turn your brain to mush. She means the UMGA. The United Magical Girl Association."
"United Magical Girl (and Boys) Association," Yuuno, Kotaro and Negi corrected, somehow managing to pronounce the parentheses.
"You know, we really need to think of a better name," Calculator said.
"BLASPHEMY!" Deathnote cried. "This name is filled with tradition and valor, chosen by our ancestors–"
"We only picked it out last year," Kaede pointed out helpfully.
As the teachers all turned to stare at her, Yuuno and the girls with both Negis ignored her with practiced ease. "It turns out there are others who can create it," Ayaka said, taking up the explanation. "Two others actually. Three if one wishes to be technical. Regina Daemonia and the Broken Magistra were able to pull the method for Tracing the sword from the data uploaded from Archer-san and were partially successful in getting Hakase's device to work."
Asuna and Kagurazaka stared at her, then both turned to a Konoka. "Konoka-chan!" they whined in stereo. "Translate from Ayaka-ese please!"
The armored Ayaka twitched, one hand inching for one of her laser guns before she firmly settled it on her lap. "I see even exposure to two perfect gentlemen has not smoothed your roughness, Asuna-hime," she said cattily.
"Ah, and the pet names begin," Deathnote said cheerfully.
"Pet names?" Haruna said eagerly.
Deathnote sighed wistfully. "Yes. They've stopped fighting their inevitable sexual urges towards each other, and Ayaka has since taken to calling Asuna such dear things as 'hime', 'princess'… you know, the usual sweet nothings lovers say to each other…"
"I DO NOT HAVE SEXUAL URGES TOWARDS HER!" Ayaka cried.
"ONEECHAN DOESN'T LET HER CALL HER THAT!" Asuna defended staunchly.
"I DON'T CALL HER THAT BECAUSE I HAVE SEXUAL URGES TOWARDS HER!" the other Ayaka cried, pointing at Kagurazaka.
"SHE DOESN'T CALL ME THAT BECAUSE OF THAT!" Kagurazaka cried, pointing at other Ayaka.
Asuna and Ayaka stiffened and stared at her.
"It's technical!" the other Ayaka and Kagurazaka protested.
Deathnote made kissy faces.
"Could someone please shut her up!" Calculator cried.
"Is that really necessary?" Negi said.
"YES!" everyone else said. Even the teachers.
Kotaro elbowed Yuuno. "Dude, step up," he said. Yuuno looked up and sighed.
Ten seconds later, Deathnote was tied up in green duct tape and hanging from the ceiling, gagged and struggling to get out.
"Wow, that's really convenient," Misa said approvingly, looking up at the struggling librarian.
"Kinky," Haruna agreed.
"There's more where that came from," Kagurazaka warned.
"Kinky," Haruna repeated.
Kotaro jabbed Yuuno with his elbow again. Yuuno sighed.
Ten seconds later, Haruna was tied up in green duct tape and hanging from the ceiling, gagged and struggling to get out.
"He's very convenient," Satomi said.
"Ayaka said that Broken and Regina were able to make the magic sword and make Hakase's machine work," Maga Alba told Kagurazaka.
"Ah…" Kagurazaka said. "So that was it? You just turned on the machine with a new sword and it worked?"
"Un, not exactly…" Hakase said as her alternate took copious notes. "The first instance seemed to have been a statistical anomaly. I couldn't keep the machine stabilized and properly synchronized with the sword. Normally, I'd have been able to carefully calibrate the machine, but…" Hakase looked mildly embarrassed. "Well, last time it happened, I was out of the room and the machine had been left on standby. If Black Archer had done anything to alter the parameters, I wouldn't know."
"But you got the machine working anyway, didn't you?" Ayase said. "How'd you fix it?"
Hakase looked, if anything, more embarrassed. "I, uh, didn't. Yuuno-san tried to use his ring to calibrate the machine, but apparently the Green Lantern Corps doesn't exactly keep a how-to guide for this sort of thing. Then, about an hour later, my laboratory's computer's was attacked by a virus."
Karakuri suddenly sat up, looking concerned. "Is everyone all right?"
"It wasn't an attack, exactly," Hakase said. "It went through my firewalls and security systems as if they weren't there. The system shut down for ten minutes… and when it booted up, there was a new black box program for stabilizing the sword/singularity interaction."
"A virus fixed the system?" Calculator said, bewildered.
Hakase nodded. "I tried to analyze the program it installed, but it threatened to self-destruct, and we needed it to control the portal's stability."
"That makes no sense!" Calculator said. "A virus just happened to break through one of the most powerful, non-extraterrestrial computer systems on the planet to install a program you conveniently needed? Are you kidding me?"
There was a pause. Then, as one, Kuro, Erebus, Kagurazaka, Sakurazaki, Karakuri, and Ayase said, "Chao…"
They all turned, but there was a considerable lack of time-traveler or pink-haired Senshi in the room.
"Where the heck did she go?-!" Kagurazaka demanded. "She was right there in the hallway with us!"
"Chao is here?" Hakase said, unconsciously straightening her clothes before she realized what she was doing and stopped, trying not to look at Shiina, who was pouting at her.
"She was!" Kagurazaka exclaimed. "Damn it, I hate it when she does that! Sneaking out all the time, dodging her responsibilities, never explaining anything… stupid, irresponsible Springfield behavior! She ditched us again!"
There was a click, and the door opened, and two girls entered.
"Sorry we're late!" Chao greeted, one hand up. "Usagi-chan needed to use the bathroom, and I had to show her where it was. Um… why is Asuna-chan giving me a dirtier look than usual?"
Kagurazaka glowered at her as her classmates turned away, covering their smiles. Ayaka wasn't doing a very good job of it. "Well… it's still all true!" Twilight Red groused. "Even if it's not true right now…"
"Um, okay…" Chao said slowly. "Satomi-chan, did you get my black box program all right?"
"I got it just fine, Chao," Hakase said.
"Good, good. Incidentally, it's going to delete itself as soon as you get home," Chao said cheerfully.
"Not if I have anything to say about it," Hakase said.
"You've always been determined," Chao said fondly.
"But how'd you find us?" Erebus said. "Even if you'd managed to stabilize the machine, how did you manage to point it at the right universe?"
Yuuno and Hakase exchanged a look. "Star Sapphire showed up," he said, sounding annoyed. "She said her usual spiel about protecting love with mass destruction, murder and violence and said she could help us hone in the machine on you."
"How?" Sakurazaki asked.
Yuuno's frown deepened and he sighed. "Love."
As one, the twins, Madoka, Kakizaki, Kugimiya, Shiina, Kasuga, Yuuna, Makie and Ku burst into song. "THAT'S THE POWER OF LOVE! THAT'S THE PO-WER OF LOOO-OOOVE…!"
Calculator and Erebus sighed.
"The renegade but honorable enemy Star Sapphire used the power of her crystal to strengthen the bond of our love to Negi-sensei, connecting our machine across the infinite endlessness by following our bond of love!" Ayaka explained. "Truly, our love can cross any distance, and overcome any obstacle!"
"I think the fact his parents and cousin were there had something to do with it," Yuuno said.
Both Springfields suddenly jerked up straight at that, and so did the other teachers. "My parents were there?" Erebus said.
"Of course," Yuuno said. "What, did you really think they'd stay in Africa fighting evil regimes and terrorists when their son was thrown into another universe?"
"What, were you really surprised Negi?" Kagurazaka said. "After all, weren't you the one who believed that if you were ever in trouble your dad would show up to save you?"
"Aha-ha…" Erebus laughed, tears in his eyes. "O-of course, Asuna-san… of course… excuse me, I've got something in my eye."
As the other Ayaka handed him a handkerchief, Negi lowered his gaze, keeping his own tears hidden. He was over such childish fantasies. He knew better now. There would be no heroic rescues. He–
A handkerchief began to dab at his tears. "Idiot," Chisame groused. "Wipe your eyes… no, stay still…" she warned him as he tried to take the handkerchief away from her to do it himself. "Let me do this, will you? Sheesh…"
"W-why aren't they here?" Erebus was asking as Chisame continued wiping Negi's eyes.
"Well, they need to stay there to keep the way open," Ayaka said. "Sailor Mercury-san is operating the machine, waiting to open it for us. Sailor Pluto did something to ensure the flow of time between universes was the same, and we arranged for Sailor Mercury to open the portal again in 24 hours. Your parents needed to be there to point the portal this way again."
Takahata blinked as Calculator muttered darkly about 'upstarts with magic laptops'. "You're working with those Sailor girls?" he said.
"Why wouldn't we be?" Makie said. "After all, we're all Magical Girls."
"Warriors of Truth, Love and Justice!" Yuuna proclaimed, posing dramatically with a finger gun.
"Students by day, heroes by night, saving the world by our own courage!" Misa added, fist to the sky.
"Mahora's first, last and best line of defense against anything the world can bring!" the twins cheered.
"Oh, is that so…?" Sister Shakti said frostily.
"Yes," Zazie said simply.
Ayaka, Negi, Chisame, Misora, Misa and Asuna recoiled. "You can talk?-!" they exclaimed.
For some reason, the girl Cassandra burst into laughter, while Zazie merely looked amused. "Yes," she said.
Seruhiko was shaking his head. "Well, overlooking that," he said placatingly to Shakti, "Why are all of you here? Surely you do not need this many people to go on a mission such as this. Not all of you seem to be properly equipped, so I'm a bit confused as to why all of you would risk going into danger."
As one, all the girls gave him a look that said the answer should be blindingly obvious. "Because it's Negi-kun!" they cried.
"It was a simple decision, Seruhiko-sensei," Kaede said. "The last time Negi-sensei and a group of our classmates were sent to another world, he became embroiled in… certain difficulties."
"I am offended at being relegated to being merely a 'difficulty', Nagase-san," Fate said.
"So we figured that Negi-sensei would be in trouble again and all came to help!" Misa said cheerfully. "And if, you know, he should happen to need more Ministra…"
"…then, of course, we wouldn't mind…" Shiina said coyly.
"…Pac-ti-o! Pac-ti-o! Pac-ti-o…!" the twins chanted.
"Besides, the last time we lost sight of Haruna, Megalomesembria sent out a warrant for her arrest," Natsumi said dryly.
Takahata, and Konoemon sighed. "Why am I not surprised…" the dean said.
"I'd like to know something..." Batman said, suddenly standing right behind the Misoras, who yelped and hugged each other, then just as quickly spilt apart, looking disgusted.
"See? Of course he'd be right there!" Illya declared.
"You followed us all the way from Kyoto?-!" a disbelieving Chisame said. "I can't believe it! Don't you have better things to do than stalking us around? Like, going to hunt the Joker before he kills another dozen people or something?"
"Don't question Batman-dono's ways!" Illya declared. "They are not for mere mortals to know!"
"Hnh," the Batman grunted, eyeing her. "The Kyoto trail is cold. Joker moves quickly once a plan falls apart, and burns all trace left behind as best as he can. I have to try new angles to deduce what will he do next, and figuring exactly why he was after you, and why he had one of those 'Averrunci' with him, should be of help with that."
He held out a small picture of an albino girl with large sad eyes. "My contacts got me this last night," he said, mentally thanking Barbara's hard work in a school night. "She's the girl Joker held hostage at Cinema Town. A bio-engineered prodigy kidnapped from an international military agency a month ago. Information on her is scarce, but she has been raised to be the perfect hacker, a literal living computer interface."
Chisame and Calculator's eyes shone despite themselves, their interest highly piqued.
"I see. That would explain why they could not only breach through the magical defenses at Eishun's manor, but also all the added electronic defenses," Takahata pondered.
"What was he doing there in the first place?" Asakura asked, scribbling frantically.
"From what we've pieced together, stealing the Yoh-katana Hinata to hand it over to Tsukuyomi-san," Negi said, making both Setsunas cringe in remembrance, and Konoka sigh sadly. "Later, they escaped together, along with Quartum-san, Temptress-san, Tsukuyomi-san's twin bodyguards, and Sailors Uranus and Neptune."
"Who is Temptress?" Miyu asked.
"A local Servant," Kuro said. "Apparently they have some pretty weird classes around here. Remind me to tell you about Vigilante…"
"Wasn't there a crocodile man and an old guy with a puppet there, too?" Asuna said, scratching her head.
"Wait, Tsukuyomi has twin bodyguards here?" Asakura repeated, taking notes. "Let me guess, she picked them identical to Setsuna, didn't she?"
"NOOOO!" both Setsunas cried.
Yuuno frowned. "He's working with Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune?" he said.
"Not the ones we know," Kagurazaka said.
"Still, that's bad…" Yuuno said. "We've already got some reports of Puella Magi turning to crime. It's a bit sad to hear that sort of thing happening here too…"
Batman filed that away, even as he turned to Fate. "You say you're related to this Quartum. Do you have any idea as to why he would be working with the Joker even though the Joker was work counter to the interests of another Averrunci?"
Erebus rubbed his chin carefully. "I'm afraid we can't give you a clear answer on that. The other Averrunci on our world weren't activated by Dynamis until months later relative to now, and the Joker never was involved with any of them. The Joker of our world is more affiliated with... well, let's call her 'our' Tsukuyomi for short. He's her father, as a matter of fact."
"I still don't get it," the local Asuna said. "He's Tsuku-whatever's dad there, but here, her dad is Setsuna-san's dad, right? Wait, that doesn't mean your dad is the Joker, right, Setsuna-san?"
"Of course not!" the local Setsuna gasped aloud. "It's already bad enough he's David Cain—!"
Cassandra Doe flinched slightly at that, but said nothing.
Batman gave Setsuna a sidelong glance. "The killer for hire?"
Setsuna's head drooped. "The same, much to my eternal shame. In addition to Tsukuyomi and I, I heard he fathered a third daughter he took under his care, but who that is, I have never been able to find out..."
Cassandra became unnaturally still. No one but Takahata, Evangeline, the other Chao and Konoemon actually noticed it.
"Well," Yuuna said, "since you've fought pretty much every supercrook in the world, you must have fought Setsuna's dad too, haven't you?"
"Actually, he was one of the men who trained me."
"Knowing how to kill someone doesn't equal ever killing anyone."
"Sorry I asked, even if I didn't."
"Wow… your dad sucks Setsuna-san," the other Yuuna said. "Back home, even the Joker at least watches out for Tsukuyomi and spends time with her. Granted, their idea of quality family time is trying to kill Batman-sama and Setsuna-chan, but still…"
"I'm sure he probably cares for Setsuna-san deep down," Erebus said. "He probably just wanted her to have her best chance at a good and happy life."
Setsuna's frown showed what she thought of that, but her eyes were strangely contemplative.
"Then, this is a dead end for you, isn't it?" the local Misa asked the Bat, making the other Misa a bit wary of how she could be so familiar around him. "The Joker could be anywhere by now, especially with that Temptress girl helping him."
"Oh, I know he'll resurface soon enough. He can't stay quiet for long, especially not when he has resources at hand. The problem will be countering him before too many innocent lives are lost."
Ferret Lantern scratched the back of his head. "If I could stay a little longer, I'd gladly help you look for him. But if events unfold here anywhere near the same way they did in our world, soon you'll have a local Green Lantern to aid you, too. Most likely several of us, after a while…"
"Hnh. I only hope it's someone trustworthy..."
Ferret Lantern smiled confidently. "Oh, I'm sure it will be. The rings always choose worthy bearers to serve our Corps' cause."
A day later, over at England:
"Take it," Abin Sur said with his wheezing dying breaths. "Sinestro is coming, and he is only a spearhead for the advance of Fear... You must warn the rest of the Corps... if the ring has chosen you, it is because there is... great will in you..."
The bespectacled girl kneeling on the crashed ship looked at the glowing green ring in her hands with reverent fascination. "So simply fascinating... Like something out of a manga... And all the mesmerizing possibilities from studying such an unprecedent piece of alien technology...!"
"What is... your name...?" Abin Sur coughed.
"Ah! Ah, yes, sorry! Einstein, sir! Nina Einstein from Ashford Academy, sir! Maybe you should remain quiet and silent while I call for an ambu—"
"There is no time for that. Put the ring on your finger and repeat after me..."
In Mahora, Batman shuddered.
"Something wrong, Batman-sama?" asked Misora fearfully.
"I've never been a believer in hunches, but just this once, I feel like answering 'yes'..."
(Author's Note: Don't miss the first chapter of our upcoming Green Lantern spinoff for more details! Coming soon to a Fanfiction Dot Net near you!)
"Don't worry, Batman-dono!" Illya declared staunchly. "I'm sure even without assistance, you'll be more than a match against the forces of evil!"
Yuuno's cough sounded suspiciously like "Justice League".
"Hey, you wouldn't have your precious space station if it weren't for Batman-dono!" Illya declared, pointing dramatically at him.
"Uh, Ruby, we still have the parts of the Garden of Time on the Moon," Yuuno pointed out. "Green Lantern-chan or I could just reassemble that if we needed to. Or build our own. Really, it's not that complicated."
"It still wouldn't be as good as what Batman-dono had built!" Illya said stubbornly.
Chisame stared at Illya and turned to her counterpart. "Fan girl?" she asked.
"Apprentice," Calculator replied.
Chisame blinked and turned towards Illya, noticing the black armband around her left bicep that was finely stitched with the outline of a stylized bat.
Batman noticed as well and filed it for consideration.
"Well, if the portal back isn't manifesting until 24 hours after your arrival, then I suppose you still have some time," Konoemon said. "Until then, Springfield-sensei, I wonder if you and your companions could brief me as the exactly what happened at Kyoto?"
"Ah, of course, Headmaster," Erebus said. "You see, it all began in Cinema Village…"
Eishun had already sent Konoemon a report on the events of Kyoto, but after the night the headmaster'd had he was just a bit leery of paperwork. Besides, the full recounting of the events leading to the Konokas kidnapping and rescue was a delight to listen to, what with the pair of Harunas graphic illustration (though the teachers doubted everyone's shirt had all been open to the waist, or that there had been that many flower petals floating around dramatically), the different narrative styles of the people recounting, and the sheer amount of things that had happened.
In the midst of all this, Batman had disappeared, much to the teachers' consternation. The children just seemed to take it as a matter of course. Which it was.
"We didn't have tea and cookies, that's the problem," Yuuno said when someone made a fuss over the disappearance. "He always stays for tea and cookies."
"Tea and... Cookies?" Chisame said disbelievingly. "Really? He doesn't seem the tea and cookies type..."
"Well, he prefers Devil's Food Cake, but cookies are easier to eat and serve..."
Everyone took a moment to consider the mental image of the Dark Knight sitting at a table and eating tea and cookies, or Devil's Food Cake. They all twitched.
"Yeah, it takes some getting used to," Yuuno said, understanding.
There'd been the usual sound effects of astonishment as the events were recited. Astonishment, disbelief, straight 'what the hells', the works. Negi had been expecting "I'm in despair!", but it turned out Itoshiki had gotten into a freak accident,
"He got hit by a truck?-!" the other Ayaka said, aghast as they left the dean's office. The other teachers had stayed behind to discuss matters concerning the classes who hadn't had Kyoto-based shenanigans. Negi would normally have attended, but he'd been excused to attend to his… 'guests'.
"Oh, he'll be fine," Matoi said, brushing it off as she stood protectively close to Chisame. There were two of forehead girl now! CONSTANT VIGILANCE! "He's really hard to kill."
"Yeah, there's a lot of that going around," the other Asakura said, looking sideways at Fate.
Fate didn't deign to look at her. "Durability is of course built into the Averruncus line, Asakura-san," he said. "We were meant to be perfect constructs. I wonder if Tsunetsuki-san's teacher is a failed prototype of the local incarnation of the line."
"No, he was just cursed to never die from anything but old age," Negi said, then frowned. "Um… Fate…-san? How do you know Matoi-san's name?"
Fate gave him a look. "Why wouldn't I know Tsunetsuki-san's name?"
"Well… I just don't recall introducing her…"
Fate gave him a flat stare. "Why would you need to introduce Tsunetsuki-san?"
Negi cringed back, wilting slightly. Then yelped as Calculator and Twilight Red grabbed him by the shoulders.
"Stand up straight and don't look like a sadsack," Kagurazaka said.
"Considering you pissed off one Averruncus and set up a future beat-down with another, I'd say you're going to have to work on getting those kinds of responses out of your system," Calculator said.
"So, stand up straight. Look intimidating. Ready the big 'wiping him off the face off the planet' spells!" Kagurazaka enthused.
"Kagurazaka Asuna, such behavior towards your teachers is contrary to the values fostered by the Mahora Academy Student's Handbook," Fate said.
"YOU HAD ME REPLACED BY YOUR LITTLE ELF GIRL AND KEPT ME IN YOUR BRAIN THINGY!" Kagurazaka cried. She paused. "Imouto, are you taking notes?"
"Elf girl, brain thingy," Asuna said.
"Pretend not to?"
"It can't be very hard…" both Ayakas muttered.
"Ayaka…!" both Asunas growled back.
Everyone else was completely nonchalant as Hilarity Ensued.
"So!" the other Sakurako said cheerfully as she held on to her Hakase's arm. "What's this Mahora like?"
"TOUR!" everyone cried.
"ARGH!" the Narutakis cried, their fingers curled as they tried to claw their own eyes out while Nagase gripped their forearms and tried to keep them from doing so. "BRAIN BLECH, BRAIN BLEACH! UNSEE! UNSEE! STARS AND STONES, UNSEE!"
"Ew," Illya agreed, shuddering, pressing her palms against her face."Ew, Ew, Ew, Ew, EW!"
Kuro rolled her eyes. "I don't see what everyone's getting their panties all twisted up for," she said staunchly as she absently wiped the blood dripping from her nose. "The love between two siblings is one of the most beautiful, natural, horny things in the world—"
That was as far as she got before Illya started to gag her with the cape off her back.
"I don't get it," Negi said with some exasperation, eyes covered by Chisame. "What's going on?"
"Yeah, what's everyone making a fuss about?" Kotaro asked, his own eyes covered by a panicky Natsumi. "And what's that smell…?"
Erebus made a bet with himself.…
"DON'T THINK ABOUT IT!" Kagurazaka, Chisame and Natsumi cried.
Yup, he was right.
"I believe this is because of some issue of feminine modesty," Fate said stoically. Only Ayaka was making any effort to cover his eyes, but because of Kyoto-related reluctance, wasn't doing it very well. "I wonder what sort of accident caused the Narutaki twins to lose their clothes like that. Judging from their cries, and motions, they seem to be in pain…"
"They're not in pain!" Kagurazaka declared shrilly. "But they're very, very naked, so we'll be getting out of their way, okay Negi?
Yuuno had a hand over his eyes. "I'm a gentleman, I'm a gentleman…" he kept repeating.
"BRAIN BLEACH, BRAIN BLEACH, BRAIN BLEACH!" their own twins kept screaming.
It had started out so simply. They left the school building, slipping on glasses and sunglasses with Identity Obfuscation Magic ("Oh goody, we get a glasses-brigade escort," Chisame said sarcastically). With those on, no one had glanced twice at their clothes. Not even Ayaka's vest and guns. This was Mahora after all, where the Chemistry Club had twice tried to perform a coup against the student council (it had not gone well, since they'd been up against Kurokami Medaka at the time).
Then they'd made that turn into the park and seen the clothes on the ground… naturally, they'd been alarmed… weapons had come out, and everyone had joined hands so Natsumi could keep them cloaked ("Seriously, shouldn't we let the authorities handle this?" Chisame said). When they started hearing the noises, there'd been some frantic consideration as to how to get rid of the Negis short of actually throwing them over the horizon courtesy of Chachamaru. Rape was relatively rare in Mahora (what with the quite reasonable fear that the girl they accost might be a magical girl, a martial artist, a demon, a vampire, or Negi, who would then castrate them [unless it's Negi, who would only beat them up]), so everyone was wondering about what to do when they got there when—
"ARGH! BRAIN BLEACH!"
Ayaka, Chisame, Misora, Asuna, and Misa stared. "It… it's true…" Misora said breathlessly. "Your Narutakis really aren't doing each other!"
"Of course not!" Akira cried, blushing fiercely as she held on to maintain the human chain of invisibility. "They're not Black Archer-san, after all!"
"Hey, don't go using me as the only example!" Kuro said cheerfully. "Saber got busy with her sister Morgaine too, remember. It was in a book and everything. I think you guys have even met little Mordred-chan…"
"Can we just get out of here?" Calculator grumbled.
They awkwardly snuck off, Kaede carrying the twins over her shoulders as they whimpered something about it all being Kuro's fault, the Negis and Kotaro being led blindly as Fate walked casually away, not interested, Yuuno in tow, sneaking guilty looks behind him.
"I hope the rest of this tour of Mahora isn't going to be that red-light district, Asuna-hime," the other Ayaka said, walking awkwardly as she held Chizuru's had while she guided Erebus with the other.
"Don't think about it, sensei."
"They'll be useless for a tour," Kuro said, an arm around her sister and Miyu. "They just went along to the usual boring old civilian places."
"Well, where do you think we should go?" Madoka asked.
Well, Chibi-Satsuki said, I cannot fault your priorities, Black Archer-san.
"I have to admit, this was a good call," Yuuno agreed.
The Chao Bao Zi was perfect in any world. Satsuki had decided to open up for the afternoon to catch the 'returning from school trips and feeling nostalgic' crowd. Though mere mortals would be tired after such a trip, her Satsuki-ness allowed her to endure against such adversity. Tiredness probably thought it would be impolite to bother her. Though she was a bit puzzled as to why so many gradeschoolers had shown up suddenly. Ah, they were Negi-sensei's cousin's friends. That explained… well, nothing really, but it was acceptable.
"So… these are the rest of the other Negi-sensei's class?" Makie said, eyes wide.
Next to her, Skuld was paling in horror at the level of escalation this would force Yggdrassil into.
"We are so screwed," she said in a small voice. "And not in the good way."
"More please!" several chibified Magical Girls called.
Matoi was eating her own Nikkuman, even as she stared dreamily at Chisame's own meat bun and wished that it was her touching Chisame-sama's lips instead when she let out a startled yelp and dived under the table.
Chisame let out an irritated growl. "Tsunetsuki, would you stop peeking at my panties and come out from under there!-? You're usually more discreet than that!"
"My apologies Chisame-sama," Matoi's slightly muffled voice said. "But I really don't want to have to talk to my classmates right now."
Chisame frowned, looking around and spotting 3-F walk as a group past the plaza the Chao Bao Zi was set up. The girl in the lead with the anally-straight part right down the middle of her hair looked to be in a mood, and she was ominously carrying a spade with some rather disturbing dark stains on it. "I see what you mean," she said. "I'm sorry I overreacted."
"Nonsense Chisame-sama," Matoi said. "You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. Incidentally, may I compliment you on such risqué and erotic underwear?"
Chisame kicked her in what she presumed was the face.
"Worth it," Matoi gurgled as some people craned their necks to see what had happened.
Fate frowned at the depart 3-F. "Why is Kitsu-san carrying a digging implement?"
Okayama District, far from Mahora:
Masaki Sasami, better known across the galaxy as Sasami Jurai, sighed as she walked back home from Okayama Elementary School. It had been a particularly hard day, and knowing her beloved friend Ryo-Ohki wouldn't be waiting for her at home made it all worse. She couldn't help wishing that cousin of Tenchi Ryo-chan had been sent to would give her back quick, although she also was curious about how that cousin was. Yosho-oniisama had told Sasami Cousin Konoka was supposed to be quite the lovable young girl, but then, he called all young girls 'lovable'.
It was while crossing a small bridge leading to her home at the hills that Sasami stopped, scared by the sudden appearance of Tsunami. Tsunami, with the same large reddish eyes and blueish hair of Sasami, was an unwanted reminder of how they were supposed to merge into one as soon as Sasami was eighteen, or rather its Juraian equivalent, which was something Sasami wasn't looking forward to at all. In fact, her mere presence terrified Sasami.
"W-What are you doing here?" the girl asked, giving a first step back.
The much taller woman smiled down at her, in such a beatific way it only could come from a goddess. Without Belldandy around anymore, it was an unmatched smile, and Tsunami knew it, which brought her a certain sense of satisfaction. Princess Celestia could only score a distant third place. And she was a horse.
"Sasami, my dear," she said. "Great prodigies have come from afar. Great wonders have come from beyond. A new age is being born. The Grail War starts at Mahora, the twelve Hime have begun dancing, and Angels are upon us. It is time for the Mahou Shoujo to rise."
"Eh?" Sasami said, wrinkling her freckled nose. She sniffed the air. "Are you drunk?"
"Of course I'm not!" Tsunami made a graceful spin, which finished in a not-so-graceful almost stumble as she pulled a strange pink heart-topped staff out of her elaborate robes. "Why would I be inebriated? It is not as if I was drinking in bed with Tokimi while watching representatives of another universe's Magical Girls Association intrude upon OUR world without OUR permission!"
"Of course," Sasami nodded, wisely deciding to play along.
"Anyway!" Tsunami all but pushed the staff on Sasami's hands. "We have sagely decided it is time for you to head a Magical Girl Era of our own, Sasami! Already, five Sailor Senshi and the White Devil of Earth have awakened, but none of them is lead to fit! I mean, fit to lead! I appoint you with the task of organizing them as my champion of justice, Magical Girl Pretty Sammy!"
Sasami was walking past her now. "... Sorry. No can do."
Tsunami sighed, reached over, and grabbed Sasami by an ear, making her yipe. "Sasami-chan. I was not offering alternatives, you know."
"Owie! Hey, no! Please!" The girl looked back at her. "What do you want me to do? To become a Magical Warrior like that Sailor V at Mahora City? Wouldn't Ryoko-san be a better fit for that job?"
A mental image of Earth blowing up appeared over them. Tsunami stared at Sasami.
"Okay, sorry, I just said something very silly," Sasami admitted. "Still, maybe Ayeka-oneesama..."
Another mental image of Earth blowing up appeared over them. Tsunami stared harder.
"Sorry, sorry!" the girl yelped. "But, maybe Washu-chan...!"
A mental image of Earth blowing up appeared over them. Several times over. A scary aura was flowing around Tsunami now.
"... or perhaps Mihoshi...?" Sasami made a very tiny whine.
A mental image of Earth blowing up appeared over them. Then the image widened up, and it showed the rest of the Milky Way blowing up as well.
Sasami slumped her head in defeat and reached over with her hand, holding the staff high. "Just tell me what do I have to do with this."
Tsunami smiled very sweetly now.
"This, girls, is my Manga Circle!" Saotome Haruna announced proudly, gesturing all around the overstuffed room she had guided everyone into. "This is our Director, Amano Hikaru-sempai!"
A red-haired college-aged girl with large round glasses blinked, looking up from her drawing table. "Oh, welcome back, Paru-chan. I'd like to remind you, you're still late for your piece on—"
"And this is Fujiyoshi Harumi-chan, my greatest rival!" Haruna went on completely unfazed, gesturing towards another table, where another black-haired girl with glasses drew. "She's from 3-F, but don't worry, she won't bite!"
"Of course not," Harumi blandly said, looking past Haruna and to the others. "Paru is the only one who bites here. A shame she won't ever sink her teeth into deadlines. Hello, Matoi, how did your trip go?"
The other 3-F girl waved from behind the Chisames. "Just great. How many times did Itoshiki-sensei try to kill himself over losing me?"
"Nine. Before we reached Okinawa. After that, I lost count," Harumi said. "You know, I've started thinking you're his favorite."
Matoi shuddered. "Don't even joke about that..."
Haruna pointed towards another, shorter, dark brown haired girl with glasses sketching a buxom blonde who sat on a chair wearing only a towel and a smile. "And this is Tamura Hiyori-chan, our youngest member! She prefers doing Yuri, but please don't hold that against her! Our lovely model here is Patricia Martin-chan, intern!"
"Hello!" Patricia greeted in American accented English, while the Negis carefully averted their gazes and muttered twin greetings.
"What have you been working on lately, Paru-sama?" 'Sawa-chan' asked with bright, eager eyes.
Haruna chuckled. "Fu fu fu! I'm glad you asked, young Padawan! Behold!" She grabbed a few uninked pages and showed them to the group, just as Natsumi, Twilight Red and Chisame covered the eyes of Kotaro, Erebus and Negi, respectively. Yuuno had to cover his own eyes. "It's a Doujin on thinly veiled parodies of the Britannian House princes Clovis and Schneizel! It's an ultra hot item guaranteed to become a Comiket classic!"
"For when it's ready, which I calculate will happen in three decades," Harumi snorted. "Really, you draw like Shadow Crystal Mage writes!"
"Thank you for admitting I'm so awesome," Haruna said, looking smug.
"And as we've told you, just changing one letter in each name is not enough to cover our butts in real person-based material, Paru," Hikaru said. "You like to live dangerously..."
"Oh, poo!" Haruna said. "Like anyone who has ever met the Britannian princes will ever see any of this!"
A foreign exchange student peeked her orange haired head in and said, with a noticeable British accent, "Hello, girls, are my Lelouch pinups ready— Oh, sorry, didn't realize you were busy with visits..."
"Hello, Shirley-sempai!" Haruna chirped. "Guys, she's Shirley Fenette-sempai, and she's in Akira-chan's swimming club!"
Sawa looked at the two princes embracing in the pages and hummed to herself. "Hmmmm. Much better than William and Harry, if I may be so bold..."
Kuro appeared at her other side and sniffed. "What, you can do Iono-Perdita-Audrey stuff?"
"I still can't get used to the idea of Great Britain having an Emperor here..." Calculator mumbled in a very low tone. "And why is their Russian Prime Minister a heavily scarred woman smoking Cuban cigars, anyway...?"
The Narutakis took a haunted look at the pages filled with Royal House brotherly incest and weeped silently, trying to lean away from each other.
They stopped at 3-F's classroom, and at that point, the local Negi turned back towards the others. "Well, Sayo-san tends to spend most of her time here, with Komori-san. She's likely to... well, freak out over this, so please try breaking the news over to her calm and quietly..."
The whole of his class and the visitors from the other dimension nodded almost at once. The Sayo doll hanging from Asakura's necklace gulped visibly, but kept her nerves mostly under check.
"Wait, won't she be there with her hikikomori friend?" Chisame asked. "We can't just waltz in and tell them about this. Komori-sempai doesn't know you're a mage, right?"
Negi scratched his head. "No, she doesn't... I mean, she seems to believe Itoshiki-sensei and me are mediums, but—"
"Mediums?" Erebus blinked.
"It's quite a long and complex story..." Negi smiled apologetically.
"Aaaahhhh…" Ala Alba all said, nodding in understanding.
"Hmmm," Asakura thought aloud. "Now this is a problem. I really want to meet the other Sayo-chan too, but we can't freely talk with her before a stranger..."
"What if that Komori girl just isn't there right now?" asked Yukihiro.
"You don't know Komori-sempai at all," Ayaka sighed. "She is always there. She's a Classroom Hikikomori, and will anguish and despair if she has to step out of there."
"Really? How does she go to the bathroom, then?" asked Kagurazaka.
Yukihiro cringed. "Really, Asuna-san, out of all the questions to ask in public...!"
"We built her a special bathroom in the broom closet," Matoi said. When Ala Alba looked at her, she said, "What? You aren't the only closely-knit class in existence. We may be freaks, but freaks have to stay united to survive!"
Somewhere in Salem, a school's worth of people all sneezed. The resulting reconstruction took 4 days and had them on a wild goose chase looking for any new enemies with mutant sneeze-causing powers.
Abase frowned. "Sensei, can I have a special bathroom in the broom closet?"
"We'll see Yue-san.…" Erebus said, in that special parental tone that said "no way". Yue sighed.
Then the classroom's door flew open, startling everyone, and a female head with sandy blond short hair peeked out, saying, "Excuse me? We're trying to play strip poker here, could you tune down whatever you're talking about...?"
"It isn't Strip Poker!" a rather flat girl with short black hair and large dark eyes rushed out and hit the blond girl with a fist on the head. "No matter how much you insist!"
"Oh, hey there, Risa-chan," Haruna waved, then told the others, "Guys, this is Momioka Risa, a friend and classmate of my Rito-kun, although I have no idea why she's playing strip poker with Kuchiki Rukia-sempai here and Komori-sempai..."
"It's not strip poker!" Kiri protested from the inside, clutching her white shirt against her chest, as Sawada Mio, who sat across her, giggled. The Sayo doll sitting on Mio's lap made her best try to look like a harmless and lifeless toy, while hovering over them, Oshizu looked curiously at the newcomers. Then she noticed the tall woman with glasses who looked like Evangeline-san was staring back directly at her, and she shuddered.
Three small cats, two of them black and one white, ran out meowing to greet Sakurako. "Oh, hey, girls!" the cheerleader giggled, hugging them and picking them up. "Ah, it's so nice to see you again!" She presented the cats to the disguised and curious Shiina. "These are my three dear pets, Yoruichi-chan, Blair-chan and Felicia-chan! Komori-sempai was looking after them during the trip! Aren't they lovely?"
"Well," McDowell grunted, looking back at them much to Oshizu's relief, "They certainly are something else, alright."
"Ooh! So many new faces!" Risa was crooning, looking at all the newcomers with huge bright eyes. "And so cute, all of you!"
In a moment, before anyone could stop her, she had placed herself behind the alternate Naba, groping her breasts and measuring them between her fingers. "This one's going to be a real beauty, I can tell! Why, so young, and still so—!"
Kuro grinned. "I like this girl!"
Rukia hit Risa's head again, saving Yukihiro the problem of having to do so herself. "GET A DARN HOLD OF YOURSELF ALREADY!"
"C-Chizu-nee...!" Murakami whispered, somewhat choked.
"Ara ara, they are so open and warm around here..." Naba put a hand on her cheek. She wondered how would a normal day go in the life of her local counterpart, if that kind of attention was something she dealt with in a routine basis.
Elsewhere, Naba Chizuru sneezed while her father gave her a loving welcome back to Mahora City in their own special way...
Interlude: That's News to Me
As both Ala Albas walked around the Academy, Twilight Red noticed a giant TV screen with dozens and dozens of students, and even some teachers, gathered around it, watching in awe at what seemed to be a dubbed news flash from America.
"What's that?" she asked, walking closer to the crowd, and watching how the screen displayed a series of bizarre images of three bright flying streaks, one red, another one blue, the third one green, flying all over a major metropolitan city, hitting and knocking out hundreds of wild, maniacal acting monkeys and apes rampaging all over. "I thought you didn't have a Justice League here? Seriously, what the—"
"Oh, that's a Lexcorp Plasmatron screen we have set for the upcoming Mahorafest," Suzushiro Haruka began explaining, "so all assistentantes can behold all the sights all around the campus at once while—"
"Not that!" Asuna pointed at the three blurs, which now were stopping in mid-air to reveal themselves as three tiny girls in colorful clothes, hovering over the defeated simian horde. "THAT! I, I mean, what in the... how in the..."
Her Ayaka laughed in a very Chibi-Oujo way. "Oh ho ho! Asuna-san, I'm so honestly sorry your relatives were hurt, not to mention you missed your family reunion!"
"You're going to miss a lot of family reunions!" Asuna yelled as she jumped on her.
Magus Erebus was as surprised as the rest of his Ala Alba. "Say, aren't those—"
"Ahhhhh!" a girl with her blond hair in two short tails at her sides gushed, wearing a dress as blue as her huge eyes. "They're so cute, aren't they, Momoko-chan, Kaoru-chan?"
The girl in light green with a baseball cap and dark short hair standing at her right cracked a smile. "Cute my foot! But at least they can kick major butt! Wow, did you see all of that? America rules! We never have flying brick fights like those over here! Why do our superheropes have to be miniskirted bimbos sticking to the shadows?"
Ala Alba and Illya glared at her as Kuro nodded sagely in agreement.
The redhead with the big red bow on her head at her other side bopped the green girl's head with a fist. "Hey, Kaoru! As the Vice President of the Mahora Sailor Senshi Fanclub, I'm going to ask you to take that back!"
Deathnote Paru looked back and forth between those three girls and the three pint sized powerhouses onscreen and muttered, "This world is freaking weird."
"— and so, the day was saved, as you could say, by these three new young heroines," the newscaster was saying. "They have yet to issue an official statement to the press, but when asked by a reporter, one of them, asking to be called 'Bubbles'," and here the camera showed a closeup of the blond one, waving happily for the viewers, "announced their trio would be called the Powerp—"
"Hey, it's Snapper Carr-san!" the Makie from another world pointed up. "Hey, they have one of those here, too!"
"Shhhh!" the three girls near her in red, blue and green hushed her.
"In an early statement for the Daily Planet and the WGBS," Mr. Carr was continuing, "Superman welcomed the three new young heroines, and expressed a wish to meet up with them, for the purposes of—"
Calculator began trudging away. "I think I don't want to keep watching anything more of this. I feel like I'm trapped in the sidelines of a Cartoon Network show, and if I stay, I might be pulled in to the middle of it. And I'm not in any mood to meet the annoying red guy."
"But, but, just look at them, they're so cool and cute...!" the Makie she knew the most kept on pointing at the screen.
"— In other news, 'Alex', the dancing lion star of the New York Zoo, continues missing, along with several other animals from the park," Carr continued. "In a desperate attempt to locate the prized attraction, the city has hired the services of world renowned Pet Detective Ace Vent—"
Twilight Red began rushing after Calculator. "On second though, I agree with Chisame."
While We Wait
In a quiet little part of the woods surrounding Mahora, voices were raised in argument in the coming dusk.
"We're not bringing back those clothes!" Erebus cried.
"Aw!" Maga Alba pouted, holding up a very flowery, pinky dress from the pile they'd brought along. "But it looks so cuuuute on you!"
"Yeah, it's absolutely gorgeous!" Konoka agreed.
"I don't care!" Erebus cried. "You know, it's things like this that keep Green Lantern-chan thinking I'm a girl!"
"This would really show off your legs quite nicely, Springfield-sensei," Misa said, holding up a denim miniskirt.
"I think this works better," the other Misa opined, holding up some black hotpants.
"OTHER ME!" Erebus whined. "HELP!"
"Look, it's really unbecoming to force all these clothes on him," Negi said reasonably. "Besides, it's unseemly to force him to wear girl's clothes. Why don't you just leave the clothes he— "
"You realize if they leave the clothes here, Misa and Konoka will make you wear them," Matoi said, sotto voce.
"Other me, I'm ashamed of you!" Negi lectured disapprovingly, turning to him with a frown and waggling his finger in a chiding fashion. "These clothes are gifts! We took a lot of time and effort to buy these for you, and it's very ungrateful of you to want to leave these behind."
Erebus gave him a flat, betrayed puppy look. Negi tried to look unapologetic and only managed guilty as hell.
"Do you think Negi-sensei's shoes would go well with these knee socks?" the other Sakurako asked.
"… " Sakurazaki said. "… he'd look good in these bike shorts.…"
"Et tu, Setsuna-san?" Erebus said.
"Eh, a suit? What's that doing here? This can stay," Makie said, making as if to throw the offending garment away.
Erebus leapt forward, snagging the suit from her hands. "This I'll keep!" he cried. "It's a good suit!"
The assembled girls gave it a look. "Uncute!" they declared.
"Teachers aren't supposed to be cute!" Negi and Erebus declared.
"Is that so…?" McDowell said.
Erebus hastily panicked, backpedalling. Dense he may be, but he knew what that meant. "I-I'm not s-saying Master isn't cute! But, ah, being a teacher doesn't make her cute! Argh, I mean you're cute separate from being a teacher! Master has always been cute!"
McDowell gave him a flat look, expressionless except for a rising crimson, before abruptly whirling to face away from him. As Erebus winced, certain he'd made her mad, the vampire womanfully tried to stomp down her blush, cursing half-heartedly about brats who said sincere things unknowingly.
"Get OFF OF ME!"
Negi and his Ministra jumped at the cry. Illya, her back against a tree, was desperately trying to keep Kuro's face back, the other girl's lips determinedly puckered and inching ever closer. Ala Alba barely looked up from the clothes pile beyond AngelGARd, Calculator and Twilight Red giving disapproving looks. The Narutakis just shuddered, exchanged a look, and inched away from each other, as if afraid they would spontaneously be compelled to perform acts of incest.
Illya growled, ducked, and with a quick and complicated movement of her hands and legs somehow caused Kuro to slam face-first into the tree with a humorous 'thud'.
Yuuno winced even as he examined Kuro with a critical eye. "Training under Batman's paying off, I see."
"Whoop-de-doo…" Kuro groaned as Illya stomped away. She looked up and sighed. "How did those Narutakis do it?"
"WHAT THEY WERE DOING WAS SINFUL, UNNATURAL, AND DISGUSTING!" the twins cried.
"I'm never going to get used to how normal those two are…" Chisame muttered. "Which is probably a bad sign…"
Matoi nodded sycophantically at Chisame's words.
"Natsumi-nee, why are you taking that shirt from the pile?" Kotaro asked suspiciously.
"Oh, nothing Kotaro-kun…" the actress said innocently.
"And… that skirt…"
"Just some costumes for the theater club…"
Erebus patted the boy on the shoulder as a look of dawning horror came over him. "Welcome to the club, Kotaro-kun…"
Calculator sighed and tugged on Matoi's sleeve. As Tsunetsuki glanced at her curiously, Hasegawa jerked her head aside. "Can we talk?" she asked quietly.
Matoi blinked, then turned to Chisame. "Chisame-sama, I'll be going away to talk to Calculator-sama for a moment. But don't worry Chisame-sama, I'll be back as soon as possible! And this doesn't at all mean I'm leaving you for Calculator-sama, or that her mature elegance has in any way wooed me away from you. You won't even know I was gone, Chisame-sama! But if you're worried, you can come with us and—!"
Both Chisame's rolled their eyes as Calculator grabbed Matoi by the Standard Female Grab Area at her bicep. "Just go already!" Chisame groused as she subtly tried to tuck away the top that would be perfect for subsequent 'Chiu's little sister' photo shoots.
"You know, when someone sidles up to you and whispers that they want to talk to you and then nod significantly to one side, it means they want to talk to you privately!" Calculator muttered vehemently.
"But I can't just vanish!" Matoi protested as she was led away. "Chisame-sama would get worried!"
"I can say quite definitively that she could and would care less," Calculator said, pulling her along. Her voice dropped and took a tinge of annoyance. "More fool her."
They couldn't go very far, but Calculator led the older girl away to a semi-isolated corner under a tree, far enough away to give the illusion of privacy while still being within sight and sound of the group.
Calculator let Matoi go, crossing her arms. She scowled, shuffling from foot to foot. Finally, she said, "You like the other me, don't you?"
Matoi gave her a flat look so neutral it was insulting
Calculator sighed. "Right, sorry. I really should be able to be certain of the Daidouji and Sakurazaki-esque obsession by now."
"Hey! I'll grant you Daidouji, but Sakurazaki is a rank amateur," Matoi said indignantly.
From where she was taping Sakura getting changed, Tomoyo barely stifled a sneeze.
"Fine, just Daidouji-esque, then," Calculator amended. They nodded on it.
There was an awkward silence.
"She likes massages," Calculator muttered quickly. "After two hours on her computer, her neck and back get stiff. She likes it when someone massages her gently. And even though she makes her own costumes, she hates sewing on the small stuff. Her favorite breakfast is omelette rice, and she hates curry. She likes to take warm bubble baths every once in a while, but considering who her roommates are that's not likely to happen any time soon. And even though she knows it makes her break out in pimples, she likes the occasional bite of Toblerone. None of that white chocolate stuff, the real thing."
Matoi blinked at the rush of words. "Huh?"
Calculator glared her. "Shouldn't you be writing this down?"
"Ah, no… I think I can remember it. Kneading massage or circular massage?"
"Mix of both."
Another awkward silence.
"Why are you telling me this?" Matoi asked softly.
Calculator shrugged one shoulder, looking away. "It's not that I think she likes you or anything… it's just that… well, it's not like she hates you or anything."
Matoi raised an amused eyebrow, knowing what that meant in Chisame-ese. "Ah? Really?" she said, trying to get a look at Calculator's face.
Calculator scowled and turned away, beginning to walk back. "She's lucky to have you…" she muttered.
"I said… take care of her."
Matoi smiled brightly. "Of course I will!"
Kotaro leaned against a tree, eyes closed, trying to ignore Natsumi, Ayaka and Chizuru gleefully picking girl clothes and comments such as "goes well with his tail".
"Could you please stop staring at me?" he said, trying to relax. "'Cause all things considered, I'm kinda pretty nervous right now…"
Nodoka blushed "S-sorry," she said, looking down in embarrassment.
Kotaro chuckled. "Heh… haven't seen that in a while…"
"S-seen what?" Nodoka asked.
"Nodoka-neechan being so shy," Kotaro said. "But I guess we kinda went back in time, so you're still being all cutesy and stuff."
For some reason, Nodoka blushed.
Kotaro paled, let out a yelp of fear and Nodoka blinked as he leapt upward into the limbs of the tree above. "Huh?" she said, confused.
"Don't do that!" Kotaro cried from above as he panted hard, looking at Nodoka with wide, panicked eyes.
Nodoka blinked in confusion. "Do what?"
"THAT!" Kotaro said emphatically. "That blushing, stammering, cutesy thing, but especially the blushy thing! I know what that means even if Negi doesn't! Sorry, but I've got Natsumi-chan, all right!"
Nodoka stared, even as a part of her was feeling rejected. "Ah, th-that's not what I wanted to talk to you about at all…"
Kotaro eyed her suspiciously as he cautiously climbed down from the tree. "Yeah? Well, what did you want to talk about?"
Nodoka nearly blushed again, but took a deep breath to steady herself. "W-when we were in Kyoto, I m-met a boy who… w-well, who was probably you…"
Kotaro was nodding. "Yeah, I remember that. What about it?"
"I-I need to know… why was he there? He seemed like a good person… so, why would he be in league with horrible people like Amagasaki Chigusa?" Nodoka asked, face intent.
Kotaro crossed his arms, face intent. "Well, it's gotta do with market forces. You see, there's something called the law of supply and demand and—"
Nodoka raised her arms, shaking her head. "N-no, that's not what I meant!"
"Well, I can't really tell you anything else," Kotaro said, shrugging. There was a small gleam in his eye that made Nodoka suspect he was messing with her. "Look, at that point in my life, my choices were to get a job with the Yakuza, who don't offer days off, the League of Assassins, who are nuts, Daidouji Tomoyo, who's even more nuts, Lex Luthor, who for some reason actually has a policy against child labor, or Amagasaki." He shrugged. "She said I could have weekends off and have all the strong opponents I could want, so I decided to take it."
Nodoka stared at him, not sure what to make of this strangely clinical explanation. She didn't think the boy she'd met even knew what 'market forces' were, but this one… "But what about your mother?" she asked.
Again, Kotaro shrugged. "I was an orphan by that point. Have been for a while. So no mother."
At Nodoka's wide-eyed look, he raised his hands consolingly. "Hey, it's not as bad as you think, née-chan," he said. "Youki and Ayakashi get a lot of flack for eating people and, you know, following stupid leaders like Shuten Douji, but a lot are actually pretty decent. There were a bunch of kappas who shared their cucumbers with me, and this river spirit in Kohaku who got me a gig in a bathhouse."
Nodoka shook her head. "That's not… it's just, the boy I met, he said he ran away from his mother…"
Kotaro started. "WHAT?-!" he cried, causing people to look at them. He ignored them, grabbing Nodoka by the standard emphatic grabbing places (upper arms, just below the shoulders). "He had a mother, and he just ditched her? That IDIOT! Née-chan, when you see him again, can you kick his ass for me? No, wait, I'll do it myself. He should still be in Kyoto, I just—"
Natsumi suddenly loomed behind him, grabbing him by one pointy ear. "You'll do no such thing!" she said. "We don't have time for you to go haring off to Kyoto!"
"Eh?-!" Kotaro whined. "But Natsumi-chan, he's asking for it! What kind of man just leaves their mother alone to fend for herself?-!"
"Well, that doesn't make it your problem," Natsumi said sternly. "We're not leaving you here! There's no way you could make it to Kyoto and back before we had to leave!"
Nodoka blinked. Of all the reasons not to do that she could think of, that was the one she'd thought least likely to be vocalized.
"Oh, come on!" Kotaro complained. "Yuuno could get me there and back like— "
In the center of the clearing, a rainbow effect began to sparkle. There was a sudden burst of light, creating a bright, shimmering sphere of energy, and a sudden explosive rush of air as a crapton of sucked-in gas was violently released outward.
"…" Kotaro said eloquently as Natsumi raised an eyebrow at him. "We'll, Yuuno can probably still—"
Natsumi frowned. Kotaro sighed.
Misa eyed all this and sighed as well. "Haruna I can understand, but how the heck did Misora and Natsumi end up being in relationships first?"
"Yeah, it's frickin' unfair," Kakizaki agreed.
Kuro rolled her eyes as Yukihiro began calling for people to assemble to the portal. "Right, completely gloss over the fact said relationships are pedophilic in nature…"
Her sister gave her a flat look. "You're one to talk."
"Hey, it's not pedophilia! You're in my age group!"
"THAT DOESN'T MAKE IT ANY BETTER!"
There's No Place Like Home
Asuna stared with wide, teary, quavering eyes. "Onee-sama…"
Kagurazaka stared back at her, eyes equally wide, wet and quavering. "Imoutou-chan…"
As one they burst into tears, holding each other tight. "WAH!" Asuna wailed. "IT'S NOT FAIR! I JUST GOT THE COOLEST, MOST AWESOME, SMARTEST BIG SISTER IN THE WORLD AND NOW I HAVE TO LOSE HER AGAIN! LIFE SUCKS!-!-!-!-!-!"
"I KNOW" Kagurazaka wailed right back. "TO THINK I'D FIND THE WORLD'S CUTEST, MOST ADORABLE, BADASS, WONDERFUL LITTLE SISTER EVER, ONLY TO MAYBE NEVER SEE HER AGAIN… DARN IT, WHY DO I KEEP LOSING PEOPLE I LOVE?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!"
Everyone stared at the two, faces blank and silent as tears streamed from their heterochromatic eyes as they knelt together. It would have been sad and solemn if the two weren't letting off enough ham to clog arteries at ten paces.
"My sister's more badass and adorable," Kuro said blandly, only to be elbowed by said badass adorable sister.
The Ayakas sighed, sharing mutual long-suffering looks. "Oh, honestly Asuna-san!" Ayaka said, sounding annoyed. "You're embarrassing us! I understand this must be very emotional for you, but really, you look like some near-parodical children's cartoon!"
Yukihiro was nodding in agreement. "Asuna, remember your dignity! You no longer just represent yourself, but also Ala Alba and Vespertatia! You must have poise and respectability befitting your station."
The two paused to glare at them. "OH, SHUT UP!" they shouted, sticking their tongues out at the blondes.
Haruna and Deathnote chuckled. "Aw, you're so shameless, Iinchou," Haruna said.
Deathnote nodded. "To think you wouldn't even wait for Asuna's loss to try and catch her on the rebound. How sly…"
"WOULD YOU STOP INSINUATING THAT UNCIVILIZED, BARBARIC MONKEY AND I ARE A COUPLE!" Ayaka cried, waving her arms angily.
Yukihiro folded her arms indignantly. "Y-yes, Haruna-san," she said with great poise and dignity, eyes darting sideways. "Y-you know perfectly well that the r-relationship between her hi– er, Asuna and I is a p-perfectly professional one. I really wish you'd all g-grow up and stop it with those silly jokes about A-asuna and m-myself. They're not funny!"
Ayaka blinked and slowly turned her gaze towards Yukihiro, eyes a wide, blank white. Yukihiro twiddled with her hair.
Even though they'd had more than an hour together, everyone seemed to be making last-minute goodbyes in front of the open, shifting portal that Yuuno waited patiently in front of, a glowing thread of green light already running into it as crude signal to the other side that they were ready. The Chachamarus were bowing to each other, Chachamaru handing her counterpart a small box containing a selection of teas while the other presented her with a photo album of the events of Kyoto, and making the others wonder when she'd had the time to put it together and, apparently, get it professionally leather bound. The Hakases were exchanging last-minute equations, formulae, computer code and anything they felt would net the other sufficient accomplishment to either knock on the Nobel Prize committee's door or take over the world (whichever), while their respective Sakurakos stood next to them, both exchanging fond, mildly exasperated looks at their choice of girlfriend. Miyazaki was shaking Nodoka's hand, offering some last words of encouragement as the Evangelines stumbled out of the woods, one pulling the shoulder of her skimpy black dress on straight. Anyone who noticed prudently decided not to mention the tracks of liquid dripping down the inside of their legs.
Calculator was awkwardly extricating herself from a tearful Sora– "You poor, lonely thing!" the college girl was bawling as her sister patted her on the head to try and calm her down– while the Misoras exchanged awkward waves and leery looks. Tasteless weirdo, both pseudo-nuns thought.
"Eyes on the prize." Misa said, fist clenched.
"The Reverse Hikaru Genji Project is still a go!" Kakizaki agreed, and they fist-bumped.
The Setsunas exchanged silent looks, then drew swords and saluted one another. They both knew what needed to be done. Both tried to nervously ignore the two Konokas with their heads together, whispering conspiratorially, giggling and shooting the hanyou girls sly, too-knowing glances.
Eventually, the girls all stepped back, and Negi Springfield faced Negi Springfield in the strange, shifting light of the forest gloom and the portal's glow.
"So…" Erebus said, rubbing the back of his head.
"So…" Negi said, shifting uncomfortably.
They coughed awkwardly.
Chisame rolled her eyes. "Oh, for crying out loud!"
Yuuno raised a finger. "Not to rush you or anything, but we're sorta keeping a hole in existence open and who knows what sorts of things are passing through that we can't see, possibly making our lives ironically more difficult as a result…?"
That seemed to shake Erebus out of his awkwardness. "Well, it was great to meet you, mou hitori no boku…" he ventured. It sounded a thousand times more awkward to his ears than it did in his head.
"Ah, you as well…" Negi said as Ayaka cringed. "Feel free to come over any time!" Behind him, Chisame facepalmed.
"You too!" Erebus said. "I'll show you around my Mahora, we'll make a day of it. And–"
A hand fell on each of his shoulders.
"Negi, this is more awkward than the time I walked in on– well, suffice to say, it's REALLY awkward," Yuuno said.
Kotaro nodded. "As your friends, we're obligated to shut you up to keep you from making any more of a fool of yourself."
So saying they picked Erebus up and began dragging him away. Erebus and Negi exchanged one last look of relief and a thumbs up of understanding.
"Asuna and Asuna, let go of each other already, we're going!" Calculator said.
"Never!" Kagurazaka cried. "I'm never letting my sister go! I'm staying right here!"
"You heard what Skuld said, the universe will keep upping the difficulty if you stay," Ayase pointed out.
"So I'm bringing her with us!" Twilight cried, holding Asuna tighter. "She can live with us in the dorm and train to be a hero and–"
"Ah! Finally, Asuna-san has seen the light and is following the way of the little sister!" Kuro gushed. "I knew I'd get through to you, Asuna-chan! Remember, incest is best, put your sister to the–"
The Asunas sprang from each other so fast they left furrows on the ground. "On the other hand, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and we'll always be family," Twilight said quickly.
"Bye onee-chan, don't forget to write, visit soon, but not too soon," Asuna said just as quickly.
Calculator gave a firm nod as Kuro turned away, smiling slyly. She turned to the Harunas "Okay, cut it out you two."
The Harunas slowly let each other go, exchanging sorrowful looks. "Haruna-chan…" Deathnote said, stepping back and raising one hand towards the other girl.
Haruna put one hand to her heart, extending the other and lightly brushing Deathnote's fingers. "Haruna-neechan…"
Their fingers began to slip away from each other. "Haruna-chan!"
"WOULD YOU SHUT UP AND GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!" Calculator, Yukihiro and Kagurazaka cried.
The two sighed.
"Ishiharas," Haruna said, pouting as she crossed her arms.
"No sense of artistry whatsoever," Deathnote agreed as Miyazaki and Ayase began dragging her away.
Negi and his Ministra stepped back as Ala Alba crowded towards the portal, Chisame's maids bracketing her. Yuuno raised his hand. Green light erupted from the ring on his finger, enfolding him. His clothes dissolved as they were replaced by a black and green tight… outfit was the best way to describe it. Haruka smugly handed Ayaka a handkerchief as the blonde's nose began to drip blood.
The green light spread, surrounding Ala Alba, kuro, Illya and Miyu forming into a transparent bubble. It began to rise, moving towards the portal. Erebus turned to wave goodbye one last time as the bubble distended and entered the portal. "BYE!" he cried, his voice warping slightly.
The last thing they heard as Ala Alba began to disappear was Sakurako asking, "Hey, where's Chao?"
"THAT TIME-TRAVELLING BI– !-!-!-!-!"
The portal winked out.
"Hnh," Batman said, standing behind Chisame and Matoi. "It was about time..."
"Ah!" Matoi cried out. "You were ther— You know what, just forget it."
"I wonder how long before they noticed we ditched them," Chao said.
Other Chao shrugged. "Should be a while. I haven't been in that class in months." She sighed. "Although I'm kinda depressed Chachamaru hasn't noticed yet. My own daughter doesn't notice I'm gone." She drooped, purple lines of depression radiating over her. Over at the sofa, Usagi was watching Mythbusters, intent on the experiments.
Next to them on the table, other Chao's cellphone-like device began to beep a cheery little tune.
Chao looked at it with polite curiosity as other Chao sighed. "Well. That's it then. They crossed the portal back home."
"Aren't you worried about them getting lost?" Chao asked. "Even with your help, I took a few wrong turns when I went looking for my classmates."
Other Chao waggled a finger. "Ah-ah… you didn't think I gave you everything then, did you? Besides, I have absolute faith in Star Sapphire-chan's heart-link. They'll get home okay."
Chao shrugged. "If you say so. They're not my problem anyway."
"No, your problem is you're insane," other Chao said cheerfully. "That's how you define someone who keeps performing the same actions expecting a different result, ne?"
Chao blurred. Other Chao found herself blinking as she slammed into the wall behind her, Chao's forearm pressing across her sternum. She winced, but managed to raise a hand to stop Usagi, who had surged other feet at the commotion.
Chao ignored the gesture. "Don't you dare lecture me," she snapped. Her forearm didn't exactly hurt, but it kept her other firmly pressed against the wall. "I WILL find a way! I WILL!"
"Hey, it's cool," other Chao tried to laugh, which is difficult when someone is pressing against your sternum. "I just thought… you know, I'd offer an outside perspective…"
Chao scowled, then abruptly released her, going back to the table. She picked up the device, glanced at it briefly, then carelessly threw it over her shoulder at other Chao. "What do you know about it?" she said dismissively.
"Ah, I got bored and hacked your system," other Chao said shamelessly, catching her gadget. "Funny, you don't look older than recorded human civilization."
"I've aged gracefully," Chao said dryly. "And I don't need advice."
"Yes, because it turned out so well the last hundred thousand times," other Chao said.
Chao would have snapped back, but she couldn't deny that. "You've accomplished what you've set out to do. Please leave now."
Other Chao shrugged, rubbing her sternum and wincing. "You really should let them know, you know," she said.
"I have let them know," Chao said, pushing the table's chairs back in. "It made no difference. In fact, it made it worse."
"But that was a long time ago," other Chao said. "Things have changed, since then. Mahora wasn't crawling with… well, everything then. Just—"
The door slammed behind the local Chao as she left the room.
"— think about it," Chao finished lamely, sighing.
"Well, that was rude," Usagi said, tucking her compact back in her pocket.
"She's got a lot on her mind," Chao said, flicking on a switch. There was brief burst of rainbow energy.
"Does this mean we're leaving now?"
There was another flicker of rainbow light and a roar of dispersed air. When both died, the room was empty.
And far, far above, in Yggdrasil, warning lights finally began to shut down.
She stopped at the Chao Bao Zi, sitting down at the kitchen to let her head hang down.
Chao Lingshen ran a hand down her face and allowed herself a sigh. Bad form, bad form, she told herself. Losing control of herself was the only one thing she never could and should do, and she had just done it. What had moved her to display such a childish loss of her calm and patience?
As she absently grabbed a fresh nikkuman from the plate Satsuki had just made, Chao began analyzing the situation with a more critical mind. Obviously, the stress of the latest few days with little to no sleep had combined itself with the logical side effects of facing a displacement of matter from an alternate plane of reality. Under such circumstances, human brain often subconsciously tried to cope with the perceived impossibility by raising its emotional defenses. She had simply been unprepared for it this time, that had been it all.
It certainly couldn't have had anything to do with that younger and more careless Chao being a bitter reminder of a time when she could allow herself more levity in her mission.
Chao wondered, as she finished the nikkuman and grabbed a second one, if that Chao had been born in a future as dire as her own. That certainly would explain a few things about her, although the... unique conditions about her very nature she had exposed at Kyoto surely were another deciding factor into it.
Maybe she should head back and ask her. Perhaps, a complete comparison of their respective backgrounds could help her with her own—
Nah. She couldn't allow herself a distraction marred by events from a divergent reality. The contamination of the other Chao's reality by elements not present in the current timeline would most likely make her universe useless as a source of factors to be pondered for her own future plans.
Satsuki walked back from serving the customers, asking her, "Oh, are you still hungry?"
"Not that much," Chao admitted, chewing slowly. "I suppose you could say I'm saving energy for Mahorafest."
Chao looked at Satsuki. Even the small details in the large scheme of things, like Satsuki actually talking instead of... that thing Satsuki most often did to communicate through the timelines, that thing even Chao couldn't really understand how it worked... Even those were really important. For the most part, however, Satsuki was always the same, keeping her core integrity no matter what changed.
It was part of what made it so comfortable, being around her.
"Sat-chan," she finally told her friend, "You're aware of what I'm going to do at Mahorafest, aren't you?"
"I have pieced most of it together, here and there," the cook admitted, loading her next plate with steaming snacks. "But should we be discussing this while the customers wait?"
Chao shrugged. "I guess not."
Satsuki thanked her with a short bow of her head before briskly walking out. "I won't take long."
Chao rested back on her seat. Out of all people in the world, leave it for Sat-chan to worry about serving good food first, the fate of magic next. And yet, Chao wanted to be there with her, helping her, but she felt, for once, too tired for it. She tried her best to rationalize the reasons again.
She couldn't even show surprise about Satsuki knowing more than she should have logically known from what Chao had told her so far. By now, it was almost a routine. Sat-chan was much sharper than she let on, and she always had a knack for reading people, including the likes of Evangeline and Chao, correctly, no matter how unlikely the conclusions could be at first sight. Yet Sat-chan would never freak out or react wildly no matter what she had found out.
That was one of the many reasons why Chao felt safer about having her on her side than with anyone else. Even Satomi, as this particular loop was proving, could be swept away from her sphere of influence. Satsuki, on the other hand...
Thinking about Satomi, Chao needed to do something, and fast, to make up for her absence if her proximity to Negi's group meant she wouldn't join her cause this time. The problem was, Satomi was such a valuable (and dear) resource, and she simply couldn't find a fitting replacement just anywhere, so she would have to—
Then a voice asked her, "Do you sell ice-cream?"
Chao looked towards her nearest window, recognizing the voice even before she saw the long haired, smugly smiling girl with the facial markings sitting there, her legs swinging back and forth slow and lazily.
"Ah," Chao said. "I had believed you would leave with Morisato-sempai-yo..."
Skuld chuckled. "As long as I have unfinished business here, even if we're tied, I won't go with him. He'll come with me. I happen to know you were missing a science partner for an endeavor of yours...?"
Hyperspace Is A Scary Place…
The first time through the portal, everything had been a rainbow-hued blur. Any sound there'd been had been muffled by the roar of air and screaming. This second time through, however, escorted as they were by a Green Lantern in a controlled manner rather than a breakneck fall, was a more leisurely affair, and thus allowed them to take in the view.
And there was so much view to take in.
Ala Alba seldom fell completely quiet, and never for long, but the moment they'd come through there'd been a hush. Even now, there were mostly wondering murmurs.
Kuro had only ever seen anything like it once before, when she'd been wearing the white ring, during those first few moments of insight. The glimpses of worlds and possibilities. Some, like Sailor Krypton, had even come true.
She wondered if that was the case now, or if they were seeing the possibilities of other worlds.
The images came from the… space? Could it be called that?— from the vastness around them, brief glimpses of color and sound.
A girl who was the very image of Negi in a dress teaching a classroom full of boys, with a blond one in front staring dreamily in obviously loli-filled fantasy…
Konoka, with demonic wings and a pointy tail, at the head of a crowd of demons, while not far away a girl with guns was waving frantically and pointing at herself, holding a sign that read "Asagiri Asagi" like someone trying to be noticed on TV while those around her gave her weird looks…
An older Negi teaching a class of kindergarteners, one a rather distinctive girl with bells in her hair staring at him with rather inappropriate lust…
Setsuna and Negi wandering a desert with an enormous host of warriors carrying short spears and bucklers who looked vaguely Irish…
Negi-sensei and a girl Chachamaru realized was Green Lantern in her civilian identity— if that person with Raging Heart had been the equivalent of Green Lantern— looking deeply into each other's eyes, faces drawing closer together.
Konoka sitting outside some sort of cafe, obviously on a date with a short- haired girl who looked like rainbows were straighter than her that wasn't Setsuna…
Negi, wearing a blindfold and a black leather coat, wailing a strange sword shaped like a demonic wing, fought Chachamaru, who wielded a giant key like a sword…
Two figures atop a bridge, one dressed like some kind of samurai harlequin, another in a bat-themed loli goth leather ninja suit, their swords ringing in the air dramatically while a red-headed Robin and Batman finished tying up a bunch of other girls in clown makeup and pointedly looked at their watches…
"What the heck is all this?-!" Asuna exclaimed, breaking the hush.
"W-well, this is just off the top of my head," Satomi said, adjusting her disguises glasses with their actual prescription lenses. "But I believe we are seeing into other universes. Fascinating. I wonder how their development diverges from ours? To think, the possibilities to be found in ARGH, COVER NEGI-SENSEI'S EYES, DON'T ASK, DON'T ASK, JUST DO IT, DO IT NOW!"
Ayaka, Asuna and Chisame leapt to do so, while Natsumi did the same to Kotaro on general principle, to mild "Hey!" of protest. Everyone else turned to see what Hakase was yelling about.
There were stares. Illya and Miyu reddened as Kuro grinned lecherously, and the Narutaki twins sprang away from each other, shuddering and screaming. Yuuno raised a hand to block out the sights, though his eyes kept flicking around it to peek.
Only Fate was unaffected. "Why are Princess Arika and Negi copul-"
"SHUT UP!" Asuna screamed as put her body between IT and Negi. "AND YOU! DON'T THINK ABOUT IT! DON'T EVEN ASK WHAT IT IS!"
"This is just like the time I walked in on Kyouya and Miyuki…" he muttered. "Why do I always have to see things I can't UNSEE?-!"
"You walked in on who?" Haruna said, wiping her mouth.
A blushing Konoka said, "We'll, ah, it's not like it's going to happen, so we should just OH GOD, MY EYES! MY EYES ARE In AGONY! WHY PAPA, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-! SET-CHAN, WHY AREN'T YOU SAVING ME?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-! WHY ARE YOU ON HIS FACE AND LICKING?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-! WHY ARE YOU JUST LICKING?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-? WHY AREN'T YOU SAVING ME?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!"
Setsuna gave no reply as her nose exploded in a fountain of blood.
"Konoka's dad has a great ass… " Asuna reflected with a strange tranquility, blood dripping from her nose as well.
"FERRET LANTERN, MAKE THIS OPAQUE ALREADY!" Illya cried as next to her Kuro stood in open-mouthed lust, drool dripping from her mouth as she stared at what were clearly the Narutaki twins getting intimate. Said twins had retreated to as far away from each other as they could, whimpering.
"Huh?" Yuuno said, strangely drawn to the image of an older him holding a baby in his arms next to a woman with her back to him. All he could see was her long orange-brunette hair. It was a strangely familiar shade. Where had he...? "Ah, right…"
The bubble around them turned a bright, and more importantly opaque, green, and there were sighs of relief.
"Can we get a mop here, please?" Akira asked diffidently, looking at all the blood on the floor. Konoka was curled up in a fetal ball, rocking back and forth and twitching occasionally.
"Huh…" Yue said, iron control and immunization via hundreds of smutty library books doing her proud. "To think, after all we've been through, that this would be the most traumatic part of the journey…"
"So… many… notes… to… take… " Haruna panted, trying to write, draw and be one-handed at the same time.
"What are you all looking at?" Negi demanded.
"NOTHING! DON'T THINK ABOUT IT!"
Better Late than Never
"Negi-sensei!" Itoshiki Nozomu slammed the door of Negi's office open, making a Dynamic Undynamic Entry. He had an arm in a cast and several bandages around his head, making Negi briefly wonder if he might be starting some sort of improper relationship with Kobushi Abiru-san. He had heard things lately. "Where are Magus Erebus-sensei and his Ala Alba? I want to ask them if they could take me with them! Perhaps, if the gods finally smile upon me, my immortality curse will cease to exist in their world, much like Evangeline-sama's in this one!"
Negi looked up from the program of activities for the next few days he was checking on. "Huh? Oh, welcome back, Sensei! And Kaga-san, too!" he smiled at the blushing and bowing girl following Nozomu. "I'm glad to see you're okay. I heard you were hit by a truck, Sensei..."
"Don't be ridiculous, Negi-sensei, I'm never 'okay'," the adult said. "Besides, I wasn't hit by a truck. That's just code for 'the boat we were on was sunk during a fight between students'."
"Ah?" Negi blinked.
Ai whimpered. "Sorry, it's my fault! If I had helped Itoshiki-sensei like a good Ministra, that wouldn't have happened, and he wouldn't be hurt right now! Sorry, sorry, sorry!"
"It wasn't your fault," Itoshiki softly told her, before pressing back on Negi. "Well? I'm ready to leave everything behind for my ultimate goal! Half of my worldly belongings will go to you, by the way."
"Um, thank you very much, but that won't be necessary," the boy answered. "Erebus-san and his team left several hours ago. They told me to thank you for all the good moments we spent together..."
"What?" the cadaverous teacher gasped.
"Oh!" Negi added. "By the way, Eishun-sama sent you his best regards, as well! I got to see my father's Kyoto home, too! It was all very exciting! Oh, and Konoka-san was kidnapped as well, but don't worry, everything is fine now. And Tsunetsuki-san was—"
Itoshiki fell to his knees, gesturing grandly for the skies. "DESPAIR! I'M IN DESPAIR! LOSING THIS CHANCE TO CO-STAR IN AN ACTUALLY BETTER FANFIC SERIES THAN THIS ONE HAS LEFT ME IN DESPAIR!"
Negi blinked, nervously looked around in all directions, and then discreetly waved at the Fourth Wall. "Let's just edit out this part for the final release, please...?"
"So, how was your class trip, Negi-sensei?" Itoshiki-sensei asked him. For a man who'd been 'hit by a truck', he seemed pretty fine.
Negi smiled a bit awkwardly. "Oh, it wasn't bad at all! We had some problems when a separatist from the Kyoto Association kidnapped Konoka-san and summoned two gigantic monsters, one of them intrinsically tied to McDowell-san, to destroy the whole association and all Western mages, but we managed to prevail with the help of Ala Alba and Batman-sama."
"I see," the older mage nodded sparsely. "However, your secret wasn't compromised anymore than it already was, right?"
Negi fell perfectly still, his smile freezing as much as the rest of him.
"How many?" Itoshiki sighed patiently.
"Let's see… Iinchou-san, her maid Roberta-san…"
"You danced with her in the Christmas party."
"And Chao-san, and Kuga Natsuki-san… Suzushiro-san, and naturally Konoka-san… Makie-san and Yuuna-san…"
"My God. Akashi-sensei is going to go insane…"
"Actually, it seems she has decided not telling him she knows yet. I respect her decision, although I'm sure it'll only provoke comical misunderstandings further along the line…"
"Comical ones? Still always the optimist, I see…"
"How 'still'? We only were gone for a week."
"It felt more like two years, however."
"Yes, I guess it did. There also was Deadpool-san…"
… and Kaede-san and Ku-san, although Chisame-san remains in denial telling herself they could have been Baka enough to not make the connection between seeing me make a Pactio and my condition as a mage…"
"I wouldn't be so hasty at calling it denial. We are talking about Nagase-san and Ku-san, after all."
"… and Chisame-san's sister and her friend, who was our driver. And obviously Batman-sama, and Haruna-san and Nodoka-san, but it's okay, because they already had found a book holding the magical legacy of Clow Reed…"
"THE Clow Reed?-!"
"… and other than Asakura-san, I think there was no one else who found out!"
"That's great to know, although— Asakura Kazumi?-!"
"She has promised she wouldn't tell anyone!"
"That is no guarantee of her silence! Asakura-san redefines 'free press' as 'press free from any moral obligations'!"
"You're exaggerating, Itoshiki-sensei. Asakura-san is a good girl, and she promised me she wouldn't tell a soul, with a hand on her heart…"
"And Sakurazaki-san behind her?"
"Now that you mention it, yes… Why? How did you know?"
"And remember!" Setsuna whispered, pulling the sword back as Negi walked away. "A single word about this, damaging Ojou-sama and Negi-sensei's lives, and the sharp side is used! With a lot more pressure! And I do mean A LOT!"
''"Dammit!" Kazumi growled. "This is censorship! The masses deserve to know! The truth will be made public eventu— Okay, okay, I'll shut up! Just pull the darn sword from my spine already!"'
"So, tell me now, and tell me with full details," Minako said eagerly after all but pulling Akira into her room, and all but forcing her to sit at the other side of the small table where Ami had been studying, "How did your trip go? Did you meet any handsome guys?"
"Ahhh, w-well..." Akira gulped, "Sort of. I mean, I got to meet Konoka-san's father, who is, it must be said, actually... attractive for his age..."
"Waaaaaiiiiii!" Minako shrieked, waving her fists at the sides of her face. "Akira-chan goes for older men after all...!"
"I-I never said that! You only asked me if I met any handsome men, and he was the only actually handsome man I met there! Just because I can see why he'd be attractive, it doesn't mean I'd be attracted, myself!"
Never lifting her eyes from her laptop, Ami asked, "But, is he a good man?"
"Well, yes, he seemed very devoted and loving of Konoka," the taller swimmer said.
"And well placed?" Minako's eyes shone.
"If you mean his economic status, yes, he has a huge mansion in the mountains," Akira answered. "Or at least he had it before all those demons trashed it."
"Yeah, demons are always so annoying like tha—" Minako perked up as the other penny dropped, something Artemis and Ami already had done before she even started talking. "Wait, which demons?-!"
"The ones an enemy of Konoe-sama summoned to stop us from rescuing Konoka," Akira said. "Luckily, the three other Sailor Senshi I met there helped us a lot. That was why I came here this early, actually. I understand that's the kind of subject you just can't discuss over the pho—"
"THREE OTHER SAILOR SENSHI?-!" Artemis and Minako yelled.
Akira nodded. "Pluto, Uranus and Neptune. Oh, and a fourth from another universe. Pluto-san is a bit cold, but actually seems a nice person, although eccentric. Uranus-san is very... genki, but in a sort of creepy way. And Neptune-san is... well, very pretty." She thought of adding "and a real witch" at the sentence's end, but decided Artemis and Minako already had enough, with the shocked way they stared at her, long hairs randomly sticking out their heads in an abnormal way.
Seeing the normally talkative and hyperactive Minako had fallen into mute stillness, Akira shyly added, "Oh, and by the way. I suppose there's another handsome man you'd like to hear about. I don't know for sure if he's handsome, with that mask he wears, but I also met Batman-sama. At the very least he's well muscled, and I know you like that, so..."
"YOU MET BATMAN-SAMA, TOO!" Minako began to shake.
"FOUR OTHER SAILOR SENSHI!" Artemis gasped.
"Are you sure that was the real Batman, Ookuchi-san?" Ami asked her.
"I think so. He certainly knew how to fight. It also seems I made an enemy out of a girl with powers over fire I ran into twice. I don't think she has anything to do with the Dark Agency, however. I'm convinced she actually has good intentions, even if she's a bit misguided. Her name is Homura. Does that ring a bell from anywhere, Artemis-san?"
"No, no!" the cat shook his head. "But let's discuss that later! Tell us more about those FOUR NEW SAILOR SENSHI first!"
"Three, one was from another universe apparently. Oh, Pluto-san said Luna-san sent you her best regards, by the wa— Artemis-san?"
He had fallen off the table as soon as the word 'Luna' had been uttered.
Despite everything, Minako found it in herself to snark. "What is it, Artemis-kun? Another old girlfriend? Didn't you have enough with Yoruichi, Blair and Felicia-san?"
Akira blinked a few times. "Who?"
"Don't ask!" the blonde sighed. "You don't want to know, trust me."
Kugimiya Madoka was having a well deserved (in her unbiased opinion) nap face-down on her bed (good old familiar Mahora bed) when her cellphone rang. With a groan, she reached up to grab it without lifting her face, and placed it against her cheek. "I'm gonna hunt you down and kill you..." she gurgled.
"Kugimiya-san, it is I, Nagato Yuki," a soft voice told her.
"Uh, oh, yes, Nagato-sempai," Madoka yawned, sitting up on the bed and noticing Sakurako and Misa were still nowhere in sight. "How are things going?"
"I find myself in stable conditions of performance, well above the basic satisfactory levels, and the Kyon entity is pleased and under control," Nagato reported. "I have been informed you had no need of my or anyone's assistance at any point during your class trip, either."
"No, I didn't. It was a very boring trip, for the most part, and— Wait, don't call Sempai an 'entity'! Just because he's different, that doesn't mean— Wait again, who told you about my trip?"
"Classified information," Nagato said, shamelessly throwing Mikuru under the bus to save her pretty humanoid interface ass. "Regardless, the Data Overmind extends its congratulations for your survival, and I personally give you a hearty welcome back to Mahora," she added, as robotically as ever.
"Erm, well, thank you... Same here... Tell your Overmind pals I could use some pretzels as a welcome back gift next time..."
"Yes. I will inform them personally..."
"Ehhhh! It was only a joke!"
"Of course. I am also obliged to remind you the first meeting of the SOS Brigade for the new term will take place tomorrow, right after classes. Your attendance is obligatory."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Suzumiya-sempai told me early today, at the train station. I'll be there."
"Good. I'll bring pretzels."
Madoka blinked. "Nagato-sempai? I told you that was a—"
But she already had cut the call off.
The next day, it amazed Madoka seeing how those were, indeed, the best pretzels she had ever eaten.
Ai Love You
Kaga Ai stood leaning out her window, looking up at the starry night, while her roommate Hito Nami slept on the bedroom's lower bunk, in quite a normal way, on her right side and hugging her bedsheets, occasionally muttering something about Itoshiki-sensei.
It was stupid, cartoony, lame and cliche, but in the sky above (why do we keep using that expression? Who has ever heard of a sky below? Oh, on space stations? Well, I guess that counts...) she could see the shiny stars arranged in the smiling face of Psycho Purple-sama, offering her support even now.
"I'm sorry I couldn't—" Ai began to whisper, then shook her head to herself.
No, even now, she couldn't tell Psycho Purple-sama she was sorry for being weak, indecisive and hesitating. Of being a sad sack of unending apologies.
Because Psycho Purple-sama was, despite her frail appearance, so strong and driven, just bothering her with that kind of useless apologies was an offense in itself.
At the very least, there now was one person Ai wouldn't apologize to again.
To honor Psycho Purple-sama's efforts, she'd just do her own best, as well.
She would succeed at love. She would gain Itoshiki-sensei's heart. No matter how many Namis, Chiris or Kaeres happened to be in the way. Apologetically, of course, she wasn't rude.
And some day, she would just look at his face and talk to him without ever apologizing, because there would be nothing to apologize for.
No, she couldn't tell Psycho Purple-sama "I'm sorry." But there was something else she needed to tell her.
"Thank you so very much," Ai whispered.
And she smiled.
"And remember!" the gumball-dispensing machine-based golem told the two caretakers before leaving. "This afternoon, Senator Godel will arrive personally to inspect his new private park! And that private park had better be in the best darn possible shape by the time he's here! Or else! Have I made myself clear?-!"
"Yeah, man, sure, just like the other twenty times you told us before. This morning," the blue jay that was as tall as a human being waved a wing-hand at him.
"Just relax already and leave this to us, Benson," the raccoon sized raccoon added, with a small yawn. And he patted on the pedestal of the massive Queen Arika statue they were standing next to. "You should know there's no one better than us to handle a fine lady! Heh heh!"
Benson stared at him.
The raccoon made a slightly uncomfortable face. "Look, we won't break the statue, okay? How could we? The thing is made from solid rock! Even if we took a jackhammer to it, we'd still spend two days chipping a leg off with our tiny bird and raccoon muscles! We'd destroy our own house first!"
Benson kept staring at him.
The blue jay commented then, "Does the rest of the Senate know about this statue of a war criminal?"
Benson opened his mouth to answer, held an index finger up, lowered it after a moment, said, "Just make sure it isn't damaged or YOU'RE FIRED!" and went away in his cart.
"Can you believe him, Mordecai?" the raccoon asked. "He's so paranoid about us, he thinks we can destroy this giant of a statue! Man, not even if we brought dynamite!"
"I don't know," the blue jay said. "I guess, with dynamite, it could be done."
"What? Of course not! This is like those Mythbuster things in TV, where I saw they couldn't destroy a safe with TNT! And if a safe can survive that, so can this statue!"
"You sure you didn't dream that up? I never watched that episode, and I've watched them all!"
"You haven't watched them all! At some times, you were WORKING! And I bet you this statue could survive that!"
Godel examined the statue up and down, arms folded neatly behind his back. "Hmmm... Perhaps a bit inexact around the eyes, since she never had those bags... But otherwise, yes, a striking image of the Queen at the peak of her beauty."
Benson laughed a bit shakily. "Ah, I'm so glad you liked it, Sir! As you can see, we have taken the best care of your Arika Entheofushia Memorial Park, and will continue doing so in the future!" He discreetly leaned back towards Mordecai and whispered, "Where's Rigby, now...?"
"Ah, well, he felt sick, so we thought he could take the rest of the day off..." the blue jay replied.
"As long as he is where he can't do any harm... fine. For now."
"Oh, trust me, he can't do any harm now. Actually, he can't even move, the poor guy..."
The Arika statue repressed its urges to sneeze, but damn, that wig was just tempting its allergies, and that damn corset was choking the life outta it, and the dress was just a torture to wear...
"By the way, wasn't the statue supposed to be just somewhat bigger than this?"
"Well," Chisame forced herself to smile, as she, Negi, Satomi and Chamo stood at the train station, about to tell Sora and Keiichi goodbye, "I think everything's okay now, isn't it? Because you aren't telling Mom and Dad..."
Sora sighed softly. "No. Not yet, at least. Chisame, I want you to be really careful with all of this, okay? And you, Negi-sensei, Hakase-san, Matoi-san, please look after her until I come back."
"Wait, when are you planning to—" Chisame began to ask. For once, Sora was faster than her on the verbal draw and interrupted her.
"I'm going to ask for a transfer to Mahora's college," she said, sounding very serious. "I'm not leaving you by yourselves in what could be the end of a world. I know I'm not a very useful person, but I'll use my Pactio with Negi-sensei and anything else I can resort to... to protect you, Chiu-chan. It's time I start being a real sister to you."
Chisame opened her mouth, started sputtering the beginnings of a heated diatribe against the idea, then deflated with a weary sigh. "Fine. It's your life, after all. I should have known you—"
Sora hugged her and kissed her forehead. "I love you, Imouto-chan."
Chisame gave the hug back reluctantly. "Dumbass. You're embarrassing me in public again..."
Keiichi and Negi shook hands. "Please tell Skuld-chan I... well, I'll see what can I do about what she asked me, will you, Sensei?" the young man asked.
Negi blinked. "Huh? What did she—?"
Keiichi smiled goofily. "Oh, it's something she asked me in private while you were touring with Ala Alba. She made me promise I wouldn't talk about it, sorry, but... Look, please, just tell her I'd be honored to, but I must settle several things first, fine?"
Negi nodded. "Very well, fine. I guess..."
Satomi loaded Sora's hands with several small gift packets. "This one's from Chachamaru. This one's from Chao. This one, from Sakurako-chan. Kakizaki-san told me you should open hers only when you were alone at your home. I think this one is from Saotome-san, judging by the suggestive wrapping. These books are from Miyazaki-san. Uh, this knife is apparently from Kuro-san. Kaga-sempai apologized over not buying anything for you..."
"Uh... uh-huh, sure, sure..." Sora kept nodding.
The train's last calls came then, and Sora gave one last awkward hug and kiss to her younger sister. "We'll be meeting again soon," she promised, and then, amidst several waves of hands, they were inside of the vehicle. And then, gone.
Chisame rubbed her eyes with a fist. "That stupid cologne of hers. Always makes me cry..."
"She wasn't using any cologne," Chamo told her.
Chisame kicked him off the platform.
Negi sighed, trying to fish him up with his staff. "Well. At least things should settle down now for a while."
"There you go, tempting fate again," Chisame grumbled. "Although I guess you're right. After all, every action arc in manga is followed by a lull string of filler, and God knows our life has turned into some crappy manga of sorts..."
Chamo, Satomi and Negi looked at her in silence.
Chisame sighed and turned around. "Let's just head back home."
Nekomi Tech, that evening:
"WELCOME BACK, SORA AND KEIICHI!" the sempai at the Motor Club all bellowed, all but jumping on them as soon as they stepped in. "CONGRATULATIONS!"
"Uh?" Keiichi blinked, rubbing his aching ears. "Congratulations? Over what? Over making it back alive?"
The towering Tamiya chuckled and harshly rubbed his knuckles against Keiichi's scalp. "Ya dirty creep! What didja do wit' Sora-chan here in dat trip! Movin' away together without tellin' us first! Sly dawg, ya!"
They both blushed. "Moving away?-!" Sora squeaked. "Sempai, what...!"
The beautiful and short haired Chihiro-sempai, who had stayed back until now, advanced towards her, patting their shoulders. "Your forms for application at Mahora arrived this morning, approved by the Dean. Congratulations, you two!"
"Our... what?" Keiichi gasped.
"B-B-B-But I hadn't even, yet...!" Sora stammered, with eyes made into spirals.
Chihiro laughed. "And as if that wasn't enough, your cousins arrived from England, saying they'll be transferring to Mahora too! The family that studies together remains together, right? I bet even Chisame-chan will be happy!"
"Our... cousins?" Sora said. "But, but we don't have any cousins!"
"Cousin Sora," a blond boy two years or so older than Chisame stepped out from the back of the room, his blond hair and tall height giving him a delinquent's appearance in contrast with the soft gentleness of his words. "Pleased to meet you at last. I know this must be too much of a surprise for you, and sorry for never contacting you before, but... Look, I'm Hasegawa Kodaka, and this is my sister Kobato," he gestured towards a short blonde in black Gothloli who remained behind him, hugging a plush bunny and looking at Sora with a frowning cute face and mismatched red and green eyes. "You are just like Mother told us you'd be..."
Tucked deep inside of the boy's back pocket, a golden watch ticked softly.
Epilogue 1: Return to 2814
The laboratories of Mahora University were perfectly ordinary university laboratories, like any that could be found around the world. It was a breeding ground of future scientists, engineers, madmen, heroes, villains, and the place where new contributions to humanity began, like interesting drugs, materials, weapons, gadgets and, occasionally, something actually useful. In recent months, a strange amount of oversight had fallen on the place. Resentful little proto-villains, once left to stew in their own juices, would suddenly find themselves meeting smiling little girls, asking them how they were doing, and have they thought of a fun and productive, not to mention lucrative, career working for Wayne Enterprises, the Daidouji Toy Company, S.T.A.R. Labs, the Yukihiro Zaibatsu, or even the locally-based Terraforming Research Initiative (but definitely NOT LexCorp, that was just asking for trouble). And the smiling little girl, who inevitably wore green and whose face they were never able to remember clearly, would hand them an application form and tell them to think about it. And said proto-villains would suddenly find they were running into Chachamaru-chan, the moe idol of the university labs, a lot, and she would introduce them to the wonders of cute little kittens (but not puppies, because meh), and they'd suddenly start hanging out with others of their peers, and who could think of villainy with Chachamaru inspirationally smiling at them while they held a cute kitten in their hands?
And if any DID try their hand at villainy, they inevitably ran into one of the Mahou Shoujo who had taken up residence in Mahora, especially the hot one with the beam cannons and cute cat motif who'd be surprisingly gentle as she kicked their asses, and while they lay on their back wondering why they thought this was a good idea, a kitten would inevitably find them to bring things in perspective.
Mahora took a very active approach to stopping supervillains. They stopped them from becoming supervillains, period.
So, Sailor Mercury was reasonably sure none of the polite and slightly awestruck boys and girls who'd occasionally peak into the room with the Zero-Point Generator and had helped work to diligently to get it properly working again was currently an evil maniac, though some would stare at her chest and legs a little to long. And Sailor Pluto's chest and legs even longer, which was kinda annoying, but nothing she wasn't used to.
The room itself was in the basement, secured by thick walls and blast doors. She tried not to think of why a university lab would have a room with blast doors in the basement. Definitely didn't want to think about old Dr. Tomoe and his lab… come to think of it, she wondered how Dr. Tomoe was doing… she should ask Hotaru, she probably talked to her father, right? Huh… come to think of it, why WAS Hotaru living with Haruka, Michiru and Setsuna when she had her father around?
Absently, she rechecked the settings of the zero-point generator. No change. Everything was holding stable, which was slightly worrying, since she had no idea how it was happening. The program running it was a true black box, with no indicator as to how it worked. Well… not really no indication. When she'd tried hacking it to see what made it tick, a pop-up had appeared with a stern reprimand… from herself. She figured it wasn't worth the hassle of dealing with more time travel shenanigans.
In her seat next to the open portal, which was contained within a shining pinkish-violet energy bubble courtesy of Star Sapphire, Sailor Pluto yawned. The room was empty except for the two Senshi, Star Sapphire, the three people who had been introduced as Magus Erebus' biological family, the three people who were obviously Black Archer and Kaleido Ruby's family— Tracer was trying very hard to keep still and just as obviously failing— a red blur moving quickly back and worth around the room, and a member of the faculty who'd stayed to 'supervise'. In her own chair next to the door, Broken-chan sat quietly, doing her homework as she maintained the existence for the sword in the bowels of the Zero-point generator. Sailor Mercury wasn't sure what this Takamichi-sensei thought he could do if something went disastrously wrong— as they were usually wont to, and usually involving youma of some kind— but to his credit, he'd stayed out of the way and hasn't pestered anyone with questions, though he'd spoken quietly with Erebus' family. Probably telling them what a good job he was doing protecting Mahora.
There was a rush of air as the red blur stopped his pacing next to Mercury, resolving into the Flash trying to look at her monitor. "How long has it been? Shouldn't they be back by now?"
"It's been fifteen minutes and 27 seconds," Sailor Pluto said from her chair, not opening her eyes. As always, her sense of time was perfect. "You know those girls. They're probably saying good byes and buying souvenirs or something."
"Maybe he's got a new cute girl with him and is bringing her home," Erebus' dad said brightly.
The blonde woman who was his wife elbowed him. "Do not joke about such things," she said sternly. She always seemed stern. The woman made Ami nervous. She reminded her a bit too much of the vampire that lived in this school, Evangeline. Perhaps they were related somehow?
A bit of impatience crept into her thoughts, but she firmly quashed it as unworthy of her. Usagi was fine, and there seemed to be no signs of any abnormality, nothing to explain why she had collapsed so suddenly a few days go. They'd still checked her out completely for brain slugs, every form of mental influence, mind control and possession they could think of, and had the Watchtower and Asura's long-range sensors and everyone the Association knew with any kind of sensory perception be on the look out for some new evil kingdom invasion or something though. They been through this song and dance before, after all, though it was usually Mamoru who got whammied.
Still, a part of her felt that there was something she could be doing to get to the bottom of it, whatever it was. There was a nagging feeling in the back of her brain where she imagined her past-life memories and knowledge of magic were buried, slowly leaking into her consciousness, something that said she should know what that had been about…
"Is that thing even working?" Flash asked Star Sapphire belligerently, not for the first time. There was, if not exactly bad blood, then at least ill feeling. Ami had heard from Hotaru— who'd heard it from Maga Alba, who'd heard it from AngelGARd— how she'd been involved in that incident with the two Lex Luthors, and clearly so did Flash. "How do we know you sent those kids to the right place and not to some zombie apocalypse world or something?"
"You don't, Flash-kun," Star Sapphire replied too cheerfully in that British accent of hers, just as she had all the times he'd asked already. Ami had heard that kind of cheerfully before, usually on the ones too insane to be reasoned with. "So you'll just have to have faith, won't you? Just like your friend the Green Lantern did." She smiled such a saintly, mysterious smile Ami felt she had to warn Tomoyo her trademark was being violated.
Tracer gave her a suspicious look, and Erebus' mother and the man Ami assumed was Black Archer and Kaleido Ruby's father had expressions that promised divine retribution should anything go wrong as the areas over their hearts glowed a faint, incongruous pinkish violet.
Ami wondered if she should intervene when Flash suddenly straightened, one hand going up to a golden earpiece. "Yuuno? Dude, you're okay! I knew you'd make it back!" Everyone straightened up at those words as Sailor Pluto sighed in relief, clearly no longer needing to do the… whatever it was she'd been doing to equalize the flow of time between universes. Flash waved frantically at Star Sapphire, whose trademark-infringing saintly, mysterious smile was looking a touch smug. "Open that thing up! They're almost here!"
Star Sapphire made a show of thinking of it for a moment, then negligently waved a hand as Broken-chan and Sailor Pluto got to their feet and everyone grew tense. The gem over her heart pulsed, and the bubble of energy around the portal vanished as an opaque mass that glowed a familiar emerald green seemed to rush towards them through the chaotic rainbow mass.
There was a rushing wavefront of air as the green construct burst out of the portal, landing a bit roughly on the laboratory floor. It lay there a moment, shuddered, then collapsed. People recoiled as the metallic scent of blood filled the air, the crimson liquid splashing on the ground.
There was a cry, and the two waiting families rushed forward. Ami politely ignored the names they inadvertently cried out— Chloe? Ira?— as she hurried over to help, feeling cold. So much blood…
Haunted moans were rising from the crumpled Ala Alba, some of whom had curled into the fetal position. Deathnote's form was splattered with blood, lying insensate and twitching spasmodically, her face twisted into an unspeakable, blasphemous visage. A group of girls— Twilight Red, Calculator and Winter Flower— were huddled protectively over the body of a little girl in a very girly dress. Yuuno-san himself was shaking, muttering to him himself in some strange, alien language. She didn't understand a word of it, although somehow she felt she should, but the gist, as far as she could tell, were variations on the theme of "what the heck just happened?".
"Well, I guess I'll just be off," Star Sapphire said as she crystal began to glow. "Tat ta for now, dearies."
Flash ran for her, but all he managed to grab was the crystal carapace that wrapped around her as she teleported away, which crumbled to dust in is hands and faded to nothing. "Nuts," he said in English, before zooming over to Yuuno. "You okay buddy?"
"Meeple… " Yuuno uttered, shaking. "I've seen things, Flash… things man's not supposed to see..."
Flash paused, drawing back slightly. "Um, this isn't the infectious-drives-people-crazy Lovecraft stuff man's supposed to not see, or…?"
"The regular kind…" Yuuno said reassuringly, voice still hollow.
"Mama!" Kaleido Ruby cried, holding her mother and sobbing into her chest. Kuro was having a similar reunion with their father, who had a lot more quiet dignity. "It was horrible… that world… IT WAS HORRIBLE!"
As AmI rushed over to help, the girl in the dress, who she realized was Erebus by the sexy legs, was being dug out of the pile of girls over him, the blonde woman who was his mother coldly frantic as she dug him out, awkwardly holding him to her chest as his father loudly declared how glad he was to see him and how he knew the kid would make it. The macho act was fooling nobody.
For some reason, the members of Ala Alba watching them were turning a strange shade of green and looking away at the heartwarming family display, except for Deathnote, who had on a more perverted look than usual.
"Aaaannnnd we're back in the gilded cage," Evangeline groused, getting up and cursorily brushing herself off. She gave Erebus's mother an annoyed look. It bore a great resemblance to the looks Ami had seen on those dramas Minako liked, when the wife and the mistress of one of the characters finally meet, just before the hair-pulling happened, but with slightly more dignity. "Arika," she said frostily.
"Dark Evangel," Arika said flatly.
Evangeline glared at Erebus' father, then stalked out of the room. No one stopped her.
With a groan, Yuuno pushed himself to his feet as Sailor Pluto moved to offer him a hand. He gave her a wary glance, but accepted the proffered help. Ami didn't know exactly what was going on between those two— whatever it was, it had something to do with the air-battle in Fuyuki last year— but as long as it kept Setsuna away from Erebus…
"NO!" an anguished voice cried, and everyone stopped the usual chaos to turn towards Hakase, who was hunched over the terminal Ami had just vacated, bawling her eyes out. "The control program! It's gone!"
"As mother said it would be," Chachamaru said, patting her mother's back as Sakurako did the same on the other side.
Hakase just cried louder.
"So…" Flash asked, seemingly oblivious to the awkwardness between Sailor Pluto and Yuuno. "What exactly happened over there?"
Haruna grinned. "Got a few months?"
In the middle of eating her third Chocolate,Overkill Omnicide, Tsukino Usagi suddenly paused, the spoon stopping dead halfway to her mouth. She stared into the middle distance, eyes unfocused.
"Usako?" Mamoru asked, instantly concerned and catching the attention of the others at the table. "What's the matter?"
Usagi didn't respond. Instead, she dropped the spoon back into the bowl. Minako and Makoto gasped in concern at this behavior.
"Pa-a-ale moon, pa-aa-ale moon," she began to sing. "Clean-ses the si-nful and makes them a-new… Shi-ning brightly, in-the-night-sky, wai-ting for their souls… Who will be born a-gain, to-ni-i-ight? Will they be born a-gain, to-ni-i-ight... ?"
As Usagi stopped singing, she blinked her red eyes rapidly as she found everyone crowding around her, Mamoru and Hotaru each with one hand on her forehead, Haruka and Makoto gripping her arms. Beneath the table, she could feel Gilgamesh's Enkidu wrapped around her legs and torso, holding her in place as the two blonde brothers sat opposite her, tensed for action. "Um, what's everyone doing?"
"Usagi," Mamoru began patiently, "do you feel any urges to start serving some entity, or begin collecting magic or life force or whatever from innocent people?"
Usagi groaned as she recognized the beginning of one of several mind-control-screening checklists…
Didn't this sort of thing usually happen to her boyfriend?-!
Epilogue 2: Assorted Aftermaths
A Fated Encounter
The world turns, and days come and go, leaving events that become memories. Memory turns to legend, and legend fades to myth, and even myth is forgotten as new events unfold. In one age, called the 21st century by most, a century that had finally come, a century that would someday pass, a wind rose in the mountains outside Mahora. The wind was not the beginning. The beginning and ending lay far off in the turning of the world. But it was a beginning.
Downward the wind blew, over stone and tree untouched but for the beasts of the land, the occasional ninja, the local Youki and Ayakashi, and one or two Mahou Shoujo. It blew over the modest but well-appointed houses of teachers and other staff members, striking many invisible wards of magic. Over the lake it danced, swirling strangely around the well of time-space phenomenon that was Library Island. What were books but knowledge? Knowledge is power, power is energy, E equals MC squared. Really.
The wind moved on, making dust and leaves dance along the Old-World European-styled streets of Mahora, too narrow and cobbled and pretty for cars, between the shops and cages and bookstores, mischievously flipping up skirts of too-early students going to and from breakfast and heading for their respective schools. It danced on, leaves and hair twisting, spinning in its wake to music of their own making. Onward and upward the wind flew, curving teasingly to set the leaves of the World Tree in a riotous orgy of excitement and severely pushing the purple prose of this paragraph. The wind whisked through the empty air, basking in the in rebel view of the the campus, before diving into the horde of students of all ages rushing to class. It danced over them, teasing hair and threatening to steal hats and handkerchiefs, delighting in play before it slammed into a wall of deadly seriousness that stopped it cold.
Hasegawa Chisame felt the wind slam into her face and she flinched as some of her stray hair got into her eyes. The early morning madcap dash to school was a Mahora eccentricity that started about an hour and a half before anyone could conceivably be regarded as late and kept on until every last student was in class. Not everyone participated, with some walking leisurely along, but in the high-energy and highly enthusiastic environment that was Mahora, those people were usually either injured or sad and alone.
Chisame was walking, even though the past year had seen her becoming able to run any normal student but a member of the track team into the ground. She stifled a yawn, tired. The night before had predictably seen Ala Alba throwing the inevitable "We Found Negi-Sensei! Oh, And A Bunch Of Other People' party, a name that drew some ire. The invitations had been sent as well, and anyone not looking for the missing Black Reaper— that is, everyone but Green Lantern-Chan and those Space Wizard people— had put in an appearance, those who could make the trip. The Tomoeda trio had come bearing cake and ice-cream, and the Senshi had shown up with food, and a partially tied up civilian-masked Eternal Sailor Moon to be run through a battery of mind-control tests. Again. She had apparently collapsed around the same time they had been sucked into the portal.
Chisame wondered if anyone had remembered to tell them about Type-Moon, absently waving back a reply to Asakura's greeting as the reporter rushed past.
The crash came out of nowhere.
Chisame was yawning, one hand delicately covering her indelicately wide-open mouth, eyes screwed shut when one of the many, many indistinct footsteps around her became distinct for a heartbeat before someone slammed into her from the right. There was a feminine wordless exclamation as whoever it was and Chisame tumbled to the ground in a heap. Around them, the running crowd politely swerved around them, creating a wide eddy to warn off others still incoming.
"Ow!" a vaguely familiar voice groaned on top of Chisame as the hacker found herself starring at a blurry sky. "Ow… sorry… are you all right?"
"My glasses…?" Chisame said, concerned by the rushing crowd. Whoever had run into her got off, and Chisame felt someone pushing a familiar-feeling pair of glasses into her hands. "Thanks."
"Are you all right, sempai?" the oh-so-familiar voice said, sounding concerned and chagrined as Chisame sat up, a middle school uniform-crimson blur in front of her. A blurry hand was held out. "Here, let me help you up."
Chisame took the proffered hand even though she didn't really need, still a bit dazed, though not from the impact. That voice…
Hurriedly, she slipped her glasses back on.
A girl clad in the uniform Chisame herself had abandoned just this year looked at her in slightly fearful concern. One could never be sure about how a sempai would react, after all. "Is that better, sempai?" she asked.
Chisame nodded, starring, unsure what to say. "Uh, yeah," she said, adjusting her glasses and looking around for her bag. "Where were you going? The school's that way."
The girl started and straightened from picking up her bag, looking around. "Ah! Asakura-sempai is gone. I'm sorry, I was trying to catch Asakura-sempai before class but I guess it's too late now." The girl looked like she wanted to run off and try to catch up, but either shame or a good upbringing kept her in place.
Chisame felt an eyebrow rise. "Asakura Kazumi?" she said. At the girl's nod, Chisame sighed and drew her cellphone from a pocket. After making sure it was all right, she began to tap together a text. "I guess you got lucky. She's my classmate, I'll tell her to slow down and meet us. Does she know you?"
The girl shook her head, looking relieved. "Not really. I'd only just joined the photography club, you see…"
Chisame nodded, almost finished with the message. "Got a name?" she asked, even though she already knew.
The short-haired girl nodded gratefully. "My name is Tsunetsuki Matoi, sempai. I'm in class 2-F under Averruncus-sensei."
Chachamaru stared at the large package in front of the cabin. The large wooden crate had named her as recipient, but there was no return address, not even so much as a stamp or a sticker to say who had delivered it. It did, however, have a disproportionately cheery kitten-themed ribbon on one corner.
"Well?" Evangeline demanded from behind her, moving around to see the crate better. "What are you waiting for? Open it already!"
It wasn't that simple. Chachamaru ran her scans over the package quickly, mindful of her master's growing impatience. Refined metals, in unusual alloys, some she didn't recognize. A magical energy source, dormant. Several more mundane power sources. There were none of the complicated, or even simple spell works of a trap, no readings of explosive chemicals or electro-magnetic discharges waiting to happen. It was clean. Hesitantly, she reconfigured one arm and eased the narrow blade into a seam, twisting it to pop the lid open. She pried up the wooden cover and paused to inspect the contents. Evangeline leaned around her, one eyebrow rising at the sight before her.
In the box, cushioned by shredded copies of Twilight and other cushions, was a beautiful, deadly bright green, white and black weapon. It looked some bizarre combination of huge sword, lance, and energy cannon, a recolored version of the things Chao had used in the fight at Kyoto and had briefly lent to the other Chachamaru. Taped on top was an envelope. Chachamaru picked it up, examined it briefly and slid out the card within.
To my unstoppable steel princess,
I sorry I wasn't able to play with this visit. Next time, promise.
"Ah, the ole' 'buying the kid's love with toys and bribes' trick," Evangeline said, giving the weapon a once over and dismissing it. "Don't use it in the house, okay? The yard's never been the same since those girls messed around in it last year, and I don't want the same thing to happen inside the house, you hear?"
"Yes, master," Chachamaru said, carefully putting away the note.
Steel Princess… it seemed a good name…
She carefully picked up the weapon and hefted it. It was beautifully balanced.
Forgot to Pack
Back in the cage… Evangeline thought. She was surprised to find the thought had less bitterness than she would have expected. That couldn't be. She hated it here! Definitely hated it here. Of course she did.
She sighed, and, currently lacking anyone to torture (read: train)— not to mention someone to fuck. She sighed longingly, already missing the other her— reached for her game controller, and began to look for the game she was finishing.
It took her fifteen minutes to realize.
"DAMN IT!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!-!" she cried as she realized she'd left her copy of Ultimate Battle in another universe.
In another universe…
"This is actually a pretty sweet game…" Evangeline mused as she used Rand al'Thor to defeat Asagiri Asagi in story mode. "I can't believe they all have their own story mode… "
"… and that's what happened," Kuro finished recounting, shifting her ass on the throw pillow she was sitting on.
Rin was shaking her head. She'd done a lot of that through Kuro's story, and now looked like she was about to boil over with badly suppressed comments. "That's insane!" she burst out. "First off, it's not that easy to just go and make up your own half-assed Class for the Grail War! It doesn't work that way! And seriously, an anthropomorphic duck Servant?-! ARE YOU SHITTING ME!-!-!-!"
"Onee-sama, calm down…" Sakura soothed.
"I AM CALM!" Rin cried.
Luvia, for once, wasn't adding fuel to Rin's fire… so to speak. Kuro wasn't sure how her brother and these hussies managed sleeping arrangements when Luvia and Rin so clearly hated each other's guts. Possibly some form of dominance play or hate sex was involved. "What interests me," the drill-haired blonde said, "is the very existence of this other world. It goes against every known fact about the Second Magic as it exists, and I should know. We shouldn't have been able to access it like that."
"It's possible those 'facts' are deliberately misleading or outright lies," Saber said, her gaze intense. It always was when she hadn't been boinked in a while, and Kuro got the feeling her brother had been in Mahora this whole time. The thought made her all warm and horny. "After all, we would only have Zelretch's word."
"Point," Luvia agreed.
Kiritsugu hadn't at all been surprised to learn he was dead in the other world, as far as Kuro could gleam. She supposed given all that had happened in the Fourth War he found it plausible, especially when the Caster hadn't been Hayate. Her mom's reaction was harder to divine. Her smiled hadn't slipped one bit.
"By the way," Kuro asked, "how'd you explain my absence from school?"
"Oh, Sakura made a clo— er, duplicate of you to go to school," Irisviel said, barely stopping herself from saying the 'C' word.
"Wait… you guys sent a youma to school in my place?" Kuro said, aghast. "Those things are default evil!"
"Actually, your teacher called to ask if you were sick, since you were so well-behaved in class," Kiritsugu said.
Kuro sighed. "I get no respect."
Back at a Certain Unequally Rational and Emotional World:
"So, the crossover already ended up, didn't it? Because I so totally can feel it ended," the man in red and black said, hanging within the restraining chamber where they kept him for questioning. "Hey, since it's over, do you think they will put this at the end of the chapter, like a closure snippet? The Stinger? I love having the last word! And the first one and all the ones in the middle, too. Say, when can I watch some TV?"
Eishun sighed, taking his glasses off and polishing them. He was sitting on a chair before the captured mercenary. "Now, Wilson-han, while we are going easy on you due to your previous services to the Yukihiro family, we simply can't allow you any privileges until you have cooperated with us. Other than telling us about Amagasaki-han's favored underwear, you have shared nothing with us about your operation and how you were contacted..."
"Contacted? Is this an UFO story now? Oh, I forgot, the Devilukes. Although I'm not supposed to know about those yet. I'm not being way too Fate Zero Sense, am I? Maybe TIM is reading this. Although I'm sure I make for a far better Assassin than that Jack the Ripper chick. Why no one ever wants to use Hassan, though?"
Eishun put his glasses back on. Gods, this man was far worse than Jack Rakan at his worst. And yet... "You have just mentioned an 'Assassin'. Is this just a reference to your line of work, or—"
"I know absolutely nothing at all about the Grail Wars or the classes of Servants," Deadpool said. "Okay, you caught me, I know a few things, but I'm a secondary, really! I don't like Visual Novels because they make me cry! Okay, the FSN anime made me cry too, but because of how bad it was. The Tsukihime one doesn't exist, of course. And that meany Bullseye broke my PSP, so I haven't been able to play Extra yet. Hey, didja hear about Lancer in CCC? I bet OM is sad he went with Cu Chulainn instead! You following me, Gramps?"
Eishun stood up. "Excuse me. I'm going for my sword."
"Seppuku is never the solution, dude."
"It's not for seppuku," Eishun replied dryly.
Deadpool looked back as best as he could from his restrained position. "DAN-DAN-DAAAAN! Will our lovable hero survive this brutal questioning? Will he ever be reunited with lovely Nekane-chan? Don't miss the answers in the next exciting chapter of Unequally Rational and Emotional!"
"What— What are you saying about Nagi's niece?-!"
"Oh shit! Lower that pointy thing, dude! You could hurt someone!"
Please review, C&C welcome.
Until next time, this is Shadow and OM, signing off.
Next Time, in Unequally Rational and Emotional:
Things seem to have settled down after the departure of the 2814 crew, but right then, Class 3-A meets its newest student, one Skuld Odinson! And with her, a surprise rivalship for the position of Chao's Dragon comes up! Besides, Negi goes to Evangeline begging to be allowed become her disciple, but first he'll have to tackle a challenge unlike any other so far... a hand to hand fight against Chachamaru!
Suzushiro Haruka is told about Yukino's fate, and when students start disappearing in buses leading to the Academy, the Sailor Senshi jump into the case! Their search leads them to the Tatsumiya Shrine, where possibly a new Sailor Senshi could be waiting for them...?
Also, will we get to FINALLY meet Rakan's adoptive son...?
Next Chapter, "Robot Wars"! Don't miss it for anything!