Chapter 16: Going on a Bender
"It's here! It's here! It's finally here!" Haruna burst into the room. Yue took one look at the size of the smile on Haruna face and immediately rolled her eyes. It was going to be one of those days.
"What's here?" Nodoka braced herself for the answer.
"Uh, just a little something I ordered online."
"I swear, if you ordered another World War II era warhead, I'm going to request a new roommate." The chair squeaked as Yue pushed herself back from the desk. What she really wanted was to be as far as possible from Haruna when she received whatever the heck it was that she had ordered.
"Don't worry, it's nothing explosive. I learned my lesson." She pushed her glasses up her nose with a finger. "Besides, I've been officially forbidden from ordering any sort of military ordinance."
"So it's some sort of sex toy, then?"
"Nah, last time I tried to order one of those they refused to deliver it here. It'll have to wait until I get my P.O. Box set up. Be right back. Got to sign to for my delivery." She vanished down the hallway.
"Yue, does toxic waste count as a 'military ordinance'?"
The forehead girl spun around to stare at Nodoka, whom was peering out the window at the large truck parked outside the front of the dorm.
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"I think that might have been what Haruna ordered..."
"You have got to be kidding me..." Yue sighed as she put her head next to Nodoka's. Sure enough, on the road that lead past the front of the dorm, a large delivery truck was idling. On the sidewalk was a handcart upon which rested a rather ominous-looking 55-gallon drum, painted in a green color that had at one point in time been a bright neon but was so faded that it was almost gray. Next to that, Haruna was scribbling her name on a clipboard held by a delivery man.
"Should we report her to campus security now, or wait until she actually does something?" Nodoka stroked her chin nervously as she watch Haruna excitedly wringing her hands.
"Let's hold off on that until we find out what's in that barrel." Yue eyed Haruna with suspicion as she examined her purchase. "Maybe, against all probability, it's nothing dangerous."
"This thing cost how much?" Yue kicked at the barrel, listening to the muffled sloshing within.
"About 32,000 yen." Haruna patted the container proudly. "Shipping was free. I got a heck of a deal!"
"So...um...what exactly is in there?" Nodoka had examined the barrel thoroughly, and there was no indication whatsoever what could possibly be inside.
"Water!" There was an inexplicable note of pride in Haruna's voice.
"Water!-?" Yue grabbed Haruna's shoulders and gave her a hard shake. "You spent 32,000 yen on a barrel of water?"
"Give me a minute to explain!" Haruna answered as she tried to free herself from Yue's grip. "It's not like it's just plain old regular water! It's magic water."
"Magic water?" Nodoka tilted her head.
"Seriously?" Yue thrust a finger at the water drum. "Magic water?"
"Yeah. It's from China!"
"You have got to be kidding..." She put a hand to her enormous forehead.
"What's magic about it?" Nodoka gingerly attempted to open the lid, but it was so rusty that she gave up the attempt as soon as she touched it. "Does it contain magical energy or something?"
"Kinda, but not quite." Haruna grinned as she produced a crow bar from her artifact and jammed it under the lid. "Let me just open this up here..." She grunted as she leaned all of her weight on the bar. After a moment of exertion, the lid popped off, revealing the contents of the barrel. "See, it looks like regular water, right?"
"That's because it probably is..." Yue rolled her eyes.
"Oh be quiet." Haruna scoffed. "Just wait until you see it in action."
"Well, what is it supposed to do?" Nodoka peered over the edge of the barrel. The water didn't really look like anything but plain old regular water. Even so, she wasn't about to touch the stuff. She took a step back. If anything, the mere fact that it was something Haruna had purchased over the Internet was more than enough to convince her to keep her distance. It was probably radioactive or something.
"Well, if my sources are correct, anyone who is fully submerged in it will-"
Haruna's explanation was promptly cut off by the sound of an enormous splash as a large, person-shaped object dropped out of the sky, landing squarely in the open barrel.
"EEAAHHH!" Yue stared at her feet, which were now soaking wet. "I got some on me!" She grabbed Haruna's shoulders once again, shaking her even harder than before. "Look what you did! Who knows what this stuff is going to do to me!"
"Relax!" Haruna wriggled out of Yue's grip. "Like I said, the effects of the water only take effect if you're totally submerged in it."
"Like that...?" Nodoka pointed at the barrel. A small stream of bubbles was emerging at the surface.
"Oh crap." Haruna sighed. "I had plans for that, too."
"I'm a little more concerned about what's in there..." Yue's shoes squished as she took a step forward. She then immediately jumped back as a figure erupted from the water. The voice was familiar, but it was somehow off. Exactly whose voice it was, and exactly what was wrong, she couldn't quite tell. Likewise, she recognized the face of the person in the barrel, but it just didn't look the way it was supposed to...
"Kotaro!" Nodoka rushed forward. "Are you all right!-? Where did you come from!-?"
"I'm fine! I'm fine!" Kotaro sputtered. "Me and Negi were doing some sparring on the roof, and he overdid it a little."
"W…what happened to your hair?" Nodoka furrowed her eyebrows.
"What about my..." Kotaro's eyes widened. The hair in question was now almost twice as long as it usually was. "What the hell?" There was another splash as Kotaro began to clamor out of the barrel. "Wait..." Kotaro's eyes widened even more before they darted downward.
"Don't look!" Yue clamped her hands over Nodoka's eyes as Kotaro seized the waistband of his pants and pulled them away from his body. His eyes expanded one final time; practically popping out of his head, which was growing paler by the millisecond.
Something clicked in Yue's mind. The boy's voice was higher, his hair was longer, and his face was a bit less harsh than normal. There was no doubt in Yue's mind. The boy was no longer a boy.
"WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!-?" Kotaro screamed. He (or she, if Yue's intuition was correct) certainly resembled a girl on the verge of hysteria.
"As I was explaining to them before you dropped in..." Haruna leaned nonchalantly on the edge of the barrel, "...this water has certain magical properties. It just so happens that any boy who is submerged in it turns into a girl."
"Why on earth would you order something like that?" Yue asked, massaging her temples in an attempt to ward off the inevitable headache.
"Well, you know that doujin I was writing where Negi gets turned into a girl? I was having trouble getting the design right, and I wanted something to use as a reference…?"
"You got this so that you turn Negi into a girl!-?"
"Yue, you really shouldn't be so surprised." Nodoka placed a hand on her friend's shoulder. "I mean, it isn't like she hasn't tried this kind of thing before-"
"I don't care about why it's here!" Kotaro interrupted. "Turn me back! Now."
Nodoka bit her lip to keep from grinning. Despite the fact that she knew she should be angry at Haruna, she couldn't help but find Kotaro's predicament amusing. But still, they would need a way to fix this before Kotaro freaked out even more.
"Um, Kotaro, just be quiet for a moment." She patted the newly created girl on the head. "Let's get you out of here before somebody realizes what happened."
"Oh crap!" Kotaro put her hands to her head. "If Negi sees me like this – you need to get me out of here!"
"Are you dried out yet?" Yue handed Kotaro another towel.
"Yeah, pretty much," she mumbled as she rubbed her head with the towel. "I'm just not used to having this much hair."
"Tell me about it." Yue ran her fingers through one of her massive ponytails. "You wouldn't believe how long it takes my hair to dry out."
"I don't know how you do it. Being a guy is so much easier..."
"Do the clothes fit alright?" Nodoka stuck her head out of the closet.
"Yeah, it's fine." Kotaro sniffed. She wasn't sure what was worse; that Nodoka's clothes actually fit, or that the clothes she had picked out included a skirt.
"Um, Kotaro, you shouldn't sit cross-legged while wearing a skirt..."
"Eh, what do I care? I don't have anything down there anyway." She folded her arms. "No thanks to Haruna." With a flourish, Kotaro tossed the final towel over her shoulder. Nodoka snatched it out of the air and added it to the pile of wet clothes that she was stuffing into the laundry. "Anyway, now that I'm dry, you can tell me how I can turn back into a-"
Kotaro's words were cut off by Haruna dumping a large pot of water over her head.
"What the hell are you doing!-? I just got dried off!"
"Uh...eugh...bluh...bluh..." Yue's eyes bugged out of her head as she pointed a shaky finger in Kotaro's direction. "Y-y-y-your..."
"Huh?" Kotaro looked down and flipped up the top edge of the skirt. "Awesome! I'm a boy again!"
"Put your skirt down! You're scaring Yue with that thing!"
"Huh?" He looked down for a moment before yanking the skirt back into position. He turned his rapidly reddening face towards Nodoka, whom was mercifully unaware of what had just happened. "Can I have my clothes back? These panties are kinda riding up now..."
"Uh...sure...as soon as they're dry."
"I didn't realize that fixing the problem would be quite so simple..." Yue mumbled. "Usually when something like this happens, fixing it is a lot more of a hassle."
"Yeah, about that..." Haruna scratched nervously at the back of her head. "We haven't quite fixed the problem yet..."
"What do you mean?" Kotaro narrowed his eyes.
"Well, the way that the water works... Maybe I should just show you..."
"What are you talking abolgbglglgg!" The dog boy's words turned into frantic bubbling as Haruna dumped a pitcher of water over his head. "What did you do that for!-?"
"See? Now take a look." She grabbed the front of Kotaro's skirt and whipped it up.
"Hey, wait! I-" He froze. Once again, he was a she. "What the hell? Was that more magic water or something!-?"
"Nope." Haruna tossed the empty pitcher into the sink with a loud crash. "Regular water. What the magic water did was put a curse on you."
"That water was cursed?" Nodoka looked up for a moment as she pressed another towel into the damp patch in the carpet that now surrounded Kotaro.
"Relax, it's not like he's going to die or anything. He'll turn into a girl every time he gets splashed with cold water, but that's it."
"WHAT?" Kotaro screeched as she leaped to her feet.
"Relax for a minute!" Haruna giggled nervously as she backed away. "Warm water will turn you back into a boy, so it's not that big of a deal."
"What do you mean, not that big of a deal! I don't want to lose my manhood every time it rains!"
"Well, technically there's no known way of getting rid of the curse..."
"WHAT?" She lunged at Haruna, whom merely rolled her eyes and snapped her fingers. From out of nowhere, a giant tree trunk appeared in a puff of smoke. There was a crunch as Kotaro found herself wrapped around it.
"However..." Haruna smirked as she held up her artifact. With a second snap of the fingers, the tree vanished and Kotaro found herself sprawled on the floor. "...There is a way that we can completely counteract its effects. You see, there are quite a number of places that this cursed water comes from. All we need to do is find the one that curses you to turn into a boy. It will overwrite the current curse, and because you're already a boy...well, normally already a boy, getting wet won't have any effect anymore."
"Okay, then let's do that."
"Yeah, there's only one little problem..."
"And what would that be...?" Kotaro's eyes narrowed.
"I'd have to make another special order, and I don't exactly have the cash for that at the moment. However, I know how we can get some."
Yue sighed as she noted the devilish gleam in Haruna's eye.
"I don't even want to know, do I?"
Kotaro crept along slowly. Owing to a hot shower, he was once again male. Hopefully he would be able to stay that way until Haruna got this predicament fixed. He wasn't quite sure that this was the best way of going about getting the money, but he didn't really have many other options at the moment.
"Are you absolutely sure that Evangeline isn't going to find us in here?" he whispered. "She'll make my life a living hell if she finds out about this."
"Shhh." Haruna pressed a finger to her lips as she peeked around the corner. "Okay, it's clear." She turned back to the dog boy that was following behind her. "Relax. Everything is planned out. Evangeline is at her weekly Go game with the headmaster, and those usually last for a couple of hours. Given the time dilation inside this resort, we should have like three days to find what we're looking for. Besides, Nodoka and Yue are up at the top of the resort. Nodoka has her artifact out, so if Eva does come back early, we'll be able to track her location."
"I used my artifact to create a communications system." She tapped the Bluetooth-looking doodad that was hooked on her ear. "If Nodoka or Yue see anything suspicious, they can tell me." She stopped in front of one of the doors. "Okay, this is it." The door creaked as she gave it a gentle push. "Looks empty." She shoved the door open.
"What is this place?" Kotaro blinked as Haruna flipped the light on. The entire room was lined with shelves, which were themselves lined with all sorts of bottles. The bottles were filled with what appeared to be all sorts of liquids and pills.
"This is Eva's private apothecary. She keeps all of her magic pills and potions in here."
"So you're looking for a potion that can break the curse?"
"Nah." Haruna shrugged as she ran her finger along one of the shelves, examining the labels. "I mean, there might be something in here that could do that, but I don't know what it looks like. Anything strong enough to fix your problem would be custom made, and Eva would be able to tell that someone took them."
"If you can't get anything here that can break the curse, why did you drag me down here!-?"
"Like I said, we order a barrel of water cursed to turn you into a boy and it'll counteract the girl curse. But that's expensive, and even low-end magic pills will get a pretty good price on Mahonet."
"You mean we're robbing the girl who is possibly the most powerful mage on Earth, who is feared by nearly the entire magical world, so you can steal some pills and sell them on the black market!-?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"You got that right." Yue's voice crackled out of Haruna's earpiece. "I'm sure that you could have gotten someone to loan you the money..."
"I already have a giant tab at Chao Bao Zi that I need to pay off. I needed the cash anyway so I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone. Besides, we wouldn't have had to do this if you would have just let me go with Plan A."
"I told you, there's no way in hell I'm posing for pictures while I'm turned into a girl! I've still got my pride, you know."
"I can't say I blame you." Yue's voice once again came through the earpiece. "Besides, I think the sale of the kind of pictures that Haruna intended on taking is illegal.
"You people are such party poopers," Haruna grumbled as she continued surveying the cabinets. "Ah, here we go." Sitting at the corner of the room was a massive glass jar, filled to the brim with gumball-sized pink capsules.
"Make sure you get the right ones this time!"
"I know, Yue, I know." Haruna rolled her eyes. "It's not my fault that Eva sucks at labeling things."
"You've done this before?" Kotaro asked. "What happened?"
"I grabbed those by mistake." Haruna pointed at a small jar of white tablets with black blotches on them. "They technically did what they were supposed to, but they had some...side effects. I'd love to explain it to you, but Yue probably wouldn't-"
"Please, let's not talk about that again," Yue interrupted. "Especially not with a child present."
"I didn't think it was all that bad..." This time it was Nodoka's voice that came through the earpiece, in a low whisper. "Actually...Haruna...if you don't mind...could you bring a few of them up...?"
"Okay, so we'll just grab some of these..." Haruna scooped a handful of pink pills from the jar and poured them into a large plastic bottle. "And a few of these for Nodoka..." She grinned as she put half a dozen black and white tablets into a small Ziploc bag. "Shoulda figured that she'd want more of these..."
Kotaro opened his mouth to ask what on earth the tablets did, but he resisted the impulse. It was probably something he didn't want to know. And there were more pressing matters at hand anyway.
"Maybe I should grab a few other things while we're down here..." Haruna mumbled to herself as she examined a pointy, multicolored jawbreaker-like object. "This thing has got to be valuable. I mean, it's on a pedestal and everything..."
"Forget it." Kotaro grabbed her arm and hauled her out of the room. "We got what we came for. Now let's get out of here."
"All right, we're on our way back. SHHH!" Haruna flattened herself out against the wall. "Somebody's coming."
"That's strange..." Nodoka's voice again. "Nothing is showing up in my artifact."
"Let me check..." Haruna snapped her fingers and a long, bendy tube materialized from her artifact. Holding one end around the corner, she squinted into the tube. "Crap. One of Eva's maid robots. She must leave them running while she's gone. And it's coming this way. Let's get out of here."
Haruna and Kotaro rapidly backed along the hallway. They stopped with a "thunk" as they backed into a wall.
"Dammit! A dead end." Kotaro tried to keep his voice to a whisper.
"Don't worry, there's a door," Haruna whispered back. "We can hide in here until the robot leaves." She scurried through the doorway, hauling Kotaro behind her.
"Oh crap." Kotaro stopped in his tracks as he realized what room he had just ducked into. "Of all the rooms..."
"Huh? What are you talking about?"
Kotaro sighed as he pointed a finger over Haruna's shoulder.
"Oh." Haruna chuckled. "Of course. We would end up in Eva's personal bathhouse."
"What are you talking about!-?"
"Oh come on..." Haruna raised an incredulous eyebrow. "Haven't you ever read a book before? You have a curse that activates when you get wet. You're going to attract water like a magnet."
"Hmph. Just because it happens like that in books doesn't mean it happens that way in-"
"INTO THE BATH!"
Half a second later, Kotaro found himself (or herself, to be more accurate) waist deep in Evangeline's private bath.
"Why the hell did you do-"
"SHHH!" Haruna clamped her fingers around Kotaro's head and shoved the girl down into the water. "It's coming in!" She crouched down so that just the top of her head protruded from the water.
The two girls watched silently from the bath as the robot maid entered the room holding a massive stack of towels. It looked not unlike Chachamaru; the only visible difference was the hair, which was black and half as long. Haruna held her breath as she watched the robot add the towels to a pile in the corner of the room. Getting caught by Evangeline was not an option. Well, it technically was, but that was an absolute worst case scenario. Pretty much any alternate result would have been preferable. Especially after what had happened last time Eva had caught her poking around the pills...
"Is it gone?" Kotaro's voice sounded much more nervous than she would have liked. Stupid female vocal cords.
"Looks like it." Haruna could hear the robot's footsteps fading down the hallway. "Let's get into some dry clothes and get out of here before another one shows up."
"You brought a change of clothes?" Kotaro furrowed her eyebrows as she clamored out of the bath.
"Yup." Haruna reached into her backpack and withdrew two large, plastic bags. "For both of us. Like I said, I figured you were going to wet at some point. Brought some for myself just in case I got caught in the crossfire."
"Thanks, I guess." Kotaro mumbled. "I guess you-" Her eye began to twitch as she noted the contents of the bag. "You packed me a skirt!-?"
"Well, yeah." Haruna shrugged. "I figured that if you were going to get wet, it meant that you'd be a girl anyway, and we don't really have time to change you back."
"What the hell is this!-?"
Haruna stifled a giggle as Kotaro withdrew a pair of ostentatious pink panties from the bag.
"Why are they so frilly!-?" Her hands began to shake as she fought the urge to shred the offending article of clothing.
"I don't know, I just grabbed a pair at random."
"You did not!"
Haruna flinched as she yanked the earpiece off of her head. Even without it in her ear, Yue's voice was totally distinct.
"I saw you rummaging through Nodoka's underwear drawer! You deliberately picked out the poofiest panties that she has!"
"Haruna!" Now Nodoka's voice came through, bearing a surprising amount of agitation. "You took panties from my special occasions drawer!-?"
"I'll buy you a new pair, okay?" Haruna grumbled as she fitted the headset back onto her ear. "Give a couple of seconds to get dressed and we'll be up in a few minutes." She turned back to Kotaro, whom was glaring with disdain at her new outfit.
"Do I really have to wear this?" She turned back to Haruna. "I don't mind being we-EYAH!" She clamped her hands over her eyes upon realizing that Haruna was already halfway to being naked. "Put some clothes on!"
"What are you so worked up about?" Haruna chuckled. "We're both girls, right? Not like I got anything to be ashamed of anyway."
"Yeah, but I'm not supposed to be a girl!" Kotaro focused her eyes on the wall. "You can't just go and undress like that!"
"Fine, go and change behind that pillar or something."
"Will do." Kotaro skittered around the corner.
"You sure you don't want to take a look? I don't mind."
"So according to you, we have enough time to change clothes, but not enough time to get some warm water?"
"Oh hush." Haruna looked back over her shoulder at the dejected dog girl that was shuffling along behind her. "At least you look cute in that ensemble. I knew that that skirt would look good on you."
"I don't give a crap about looking cute!"
"Don't make such a big deal out of it. Look on the bright side."
"What bright side?"
"Well, this way, if we run into somebody from class, they won't recognize you."
"We're back!" Haruna raised a triumphant fist in the air as she emerged from the depths of Eva's tower into the brightness of the artificial sun.
"Where did the other girls go?" Kotaro squinted into the light, trying to locate Yue and Nodoka.
"They already left. Keeping tabs on Eva's cottage to make sure that we don't get busted on our way out. Now come on. The sooner we get the listing for these-" she held up the bottle of pills and gave it a shake, "-up online, the sooner we can get your bottle of man-water on its way here."
"I can't believe we actually got away with this," Yue mumbled as she ascended the stairs out of Eva's basement. "I was sure that you'd get hit with some sort of karmic retribution."
"Don't say that, Yue!" Nodoka whispered harshly. "You know that as soon as you say that we're going to run into Eva and get caught!"
"You do realize that the world doesn't actually run according to the laws of fiction, right?" Yue grumbled.
"Hey, I was right about Kotaro getting doused while we were in there, wasn't I?" Haruna paused as she reached the top of the stairs. "I bet we're going to run into somebody as soon as I open this door."
"Are you serious?" Kotaro shoved her way past Haruna. "You just got lucky before. There's nobody up here!"
"Kotaro, no!" Haruna tried to grab Kotaro's arm, but it was too late. The dog girl was already out.
"See, there's nobody up here!"
"Huh?" Haruna poked her head out of the stairwell.
"Told you." Yue shoved her way past her bespectacled friend. "Nobody here."
"Yue, we should still be careful." Nodoka emerged slowly, clutching her artifact against her chest. "One of the robot maids might be up here."
"I don't see anyone." Yue observed. "All of them must be in the resort at the moment."
"Huh...I guess we got lucky." Haruna scratched her head as her eyes wandered bemusedly around the apartment, looking for some indication of an imminent disaster.
"Yeah, we did." Kotaro rolled her eyes as she walked to the front door. "Let's get out of here before you turn out to be right." She gave the knob a twist and threw the door open. "Wh-!"
Kotaro's eyes widened as she found herself face to face with Negi.
"Oh, hello." Negi smiled politely. "I didn't realize that Evangeline-san had company."
"Oh, what are you doing here, Negi?" Haruna dragged Kotaro away from the door. "We just came by to pick up a book that Chachamaru had borrowed from Nodoka."
"I was just dropping by to drop off Master's homework." Negi held up a stack of papers. "She's been slacking off a little on her attendance..."
"Well, of course!" Haruna chuckled loudly, attempting to sound normal, but ending up closer to the psychotic end of the spectrum. "Well anyway we should probably be going now okay bye!"
"Wait a moment." Haruna groaned as Negi walked past her into the house. "Who's this girl? I've never seen her before."
"Torako!" Nodoka stepped in front of Kotaro. She hated to lie to Negi, but even she could tell that no good would come of explaining exactly what was going on. "She got off at the wrong train stop so we were just going to take her back to the station."
"Yes, we should probably get going." Yue nodded enthusiastically. "Wouldn't want her to miss her train."
"Oh, all right. It's nice to meet you, Torako-san." Negi bowed politely.
"Uh, nice to meet you too." Kotaro bowed awkwardly, making every effort she could to avoid eye contact. "I really need to get going. Nice talking to you." With a halfhearted wave, she rushed past Negi and out of the cottage.
Kotaro took a deep breath as she ducked behind a nearby tree. There was an inexplicable lump in her throat, and her face felt like it was burning. And her heart was beating a heck of a lot faster than a brisk walk should cause...
"Don't worry, that reaction is completely normal."
Kotaro jumped as she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Haruna standing beside her. Behind Haruna, Nodoka held a hand to her mouth, trying to stifle a giggle, while Yue simply rolled her eyes.
"What's normal?" Kotaro growled.
"That reaction to Negi." She leaned in. "And don't try to deny it. You were blushing so hard that you could power a solar panel. But hey, every girl he's ever met does that. I think he has special pheromones or something."
"But I'm not supposed to be a girl!"
"Eh, that doesn't matter. Chachamaru is a robot and he still got to her." Haruna sniffed. "He even managed to get Setsuna, and she's not even into boys. You never stood a chance. I'm telling you; he has pheromones that react with estrogen to produce a-"
"Haruna, we can talk about your pseudo-biological theories later." Yue gave Haruna a shove. "At the moment, our greatest priority is getting the money so we can fix Kotaro."
"Fix!-? What do you mean, 'fix'?" Kotaro growled.
"Fine, fine..." Haruna sighed as she watched her roommates follow Kotaro as she stomped back towards the dorm. "I never get to have any fun..."
"Okay, the listing is up." Haruna grunted as she swung her chair around to face Kotaro, whom was back to being male. "As soon as we get the cash, I'll put in a rush order for another barrel of water."
"Good." Kotaro folded his arms. "I don't want to put up with this crap any more than I have to."
"Believe me, neither do we..." Yue mumbled as she collected the girl-clothes that Kotaro had been wearing.
"Yeah, we want to solve this as fast as we can..." Nodoka tried to smile as she gingerly withdrew a pair of bright pink panties from the tangle of clothing. She examined the underwear, sighed, and dropped them into the trash bin. "It's not really fun for any of us."
"It's fun for me..." Haruna mumbled to herself.
Yue merely put one hand to her forehead before slapping Haruna upside the head with the other.
"Well, the water is on its way." Haruna's back cracked loudly as she stretched in her chair.
"That was surprisingly fast." Yue looked up from her copy of The Republic.
"Well, these kinds of magical goods aren't exactly cheap. Normally I'd charge more, but we're in a rush, so I couldn't charge too much."
"How much did you get for them?"
"70,000 yen. That's like twice what we'll need. Apparently Knickerstoat69 really needed those pills. I already ordered a barrel of water to fix Kotaro's curse."
"When is it going to get here?" Kotaro asked. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted to hear the answer.
"I had it overnighted. Cost me a little extra, but it should be here tomorrow afternoon."
"Wow." Nodoka put a hand on Haruna's shoulder. "That's very nice of you, Haruna."
"What's nice of me?" Haruna raised an eyebrow.
"Paying the extra money to get it here faster."
"Uh, yeah..." Haruna looked away as she ran her fingers through her hair. "I actually did it because I know he's going to be following me around until I fix him up."
"Even so, I'd thought that you wouldn't mind taking a little longer..." She leaned in. "You know, have some fun with him?"
"I'd considered that," Haruna whispered back, "but I'm not sure it would be worth it. If he gets turned into a girl again, he's probably going to freak out, and I'll get in trouble."
"I doubt that." Yue leaned in. "He's not the type to go reporting to the authorities."
"I'm not too worried about that. I'm worried about the fact that he hangs out with Negi a lot and he'll eventually mention something suspicious. After that incident with the Charizard I'll get put on probation if Negi finds out that I've been up to something."
"Well, whatever the reason, I'm glad that this will be over with soon," Yue added, massaging her forehead with her thumb and forefinger.
Kotaro cautiously poked his head out of the doorway of the Mahora Academy Boys Elementary School. He had been rather skeptical of Haruna's claim that he would now attract water, but the events of that morning had made him a believer. If not for reflexes honed by months of training, he would have almost certainly been girlified by now. First that klutz in homeroom spilled that vase, then the burst pipe in the bathroom, then the sprinkler system in the chem. lab went off after another klutz mixed the wrong test tubes, then in Physical Education it was announced that they were starting the swimming section of the semester... All in all, it was nothing short of miraculous that he was still male.
All he had to do now was stay that way. Five minutes ago, his cell phone had beeped. It had gotten him in trouble with the teacher, naturally, but the message he had gotten was totally worth it.
Of course, there was nearly an entire campus between him and the remedy, but he'd made it fine so far. He finally allowed himself to smile as he strode down the path towards the Middle School dorms. It was a bit of a trek, but it beat waiting in line for the train. Everything was turning out fine. He stopped as the brightness of the sun vanished.
"What the heck?"
He looked to the sky to find his worst fears confirmed.
"Are you kidding me!-? It was totally clear like a minute ago!" He shook his fist at the enormous bank of dark clouds that had seemingly materialized out of the air. "Go away!"
The clouds responded with a thunderclap and a sudden downpour.
Kotaro hung her head. She really should have expected something like this. It was inevitable. Now she just had to get back to the dorm without running into anyone she knew...
"Hello." Kotaro looked up to see Negi approaching down the path, holding an umbrella. "Oh, you're that girl from yesterday! Torako, right?"
"Right..." Kotaro muttered through clenched teeth. A second later, Negi was standing right next to her, shielding her from the rain with the umbrella.
"Where were you headed?"
"Uh..." Kotaro pointed a finger at the nearest building. The sooner she could get away from Negi the better. If he caught on... "Over there."
"The admissions office?"
"Um...yes...I have to...drop off some stuff..."
"Okay, let's go then, shall we?"
"Well, I don't want you to get any more wet than you already are." Negi smiled. "I'm not in any rush."
"Oh..." Kotaro scratched her head, trying to avoid making eye contact. "I think I'll be fine."
"Don't worry about it!" Before she knew what had happened, Negi had taken hold of her arm and the two of them were striding along the path. Kotaro took a deep breath. Her heart was beating a lot faster than it should have, given the pace they were walking. Maybe Haruna had been right about the pheromones...
"Are you all right?" Negi leaned in closer. "You look a bit red..."
"I'm fine!" Kotaro bent back, trying to keep as far away from Negi as possible. Unfortunately, it wasn't far enough to prevent Negi from putting a hand on her forehead.
"You feel a bit warm. Are you sure you're feeling okay? Getting caught in the rain probably didn't help much."
"No! I'm totally all right! Completely fine! Oh look, we're here! I really should be going!" Kotaro spun around and rushed towards the building, hoping that Negi wouldn't follow him.
"Oh okay, see you later!"
Kotaro let out a sigh of relief as she watched Negi wave goodbye. Now if only her heart would start beating at its normal rate...
"Haruna is going to pay for this..."
"Okay, where is it!-?" Kotaro dumped her sopping wet backpack in the doorway to Haruna's room. Naturally, the sudden shower had vanished the moment she entered the dorm. Nodoka sighed as she looked at the massive puddle that Kotaro was dripping all over the floor.
"Haruna and Yue have it out back where the first barrel came in-"
Before she finished talking, Kotaro had already vanished down the hallway.
Nodoka sighed as she tossed a towel on top of the mess and followed the dog girl outside.
"Do I even want to know what Haruna is up to this time?" Asuna regarded the large barrel with trepidation.
"It's a long story," Yue responded. "To summarize, Haruna accidentally got Kotaro cursed so that he turns into a girl whenever he gets wet, and this barrel of water should break the curse."
"Really..." Asuna tried to hide her smirk as she saw Kotaro dashing towards them. "I kinda wish I had seen that..."
"All right, let's do this!" Kotaro shoved her way between the other girls and snatched the crowbar out of Haruna's hands. The barrel made a loud pop as the lid flew off.
"Bet you a thousand yen he spills the barrel..." Haruna whispered to Yue. "And I'm not paying for another one."
"What are you guys whispering about?" Kotaro glared at them over her shoulder.
"Hrnk." Asuna stifled a snort as she heard Kotaro's girl voice.
Kotaro's eye began to twitch as he stared at the redhead.
"She knows, doesn't she?"
"Yeah." Haruna nodded, trying unsuccessfully to hide her grin.
"He really is a girl." Asuna began to chuckle. "That's priceless!"
"Shut up." Kotaro growled. "I am not going to be a girl for one more second."
With a loud splash, she leaped into the barrel, and emerged in a second splash.
"Did it work!-?"
"Oh crap..." Haruna groaned. Kotaro's voice was still obviously female. And that wasn't the only problem.
"Um...I think there's something wrong with your ears..." Nodoka pointed nervously at Kotaro's head. Protruding from it were two animal ears. And they were different from Kotaro's usual dog ears. These stuck out a bit more.
"Dammit, Haruna!" Kotaro screeched as she climbed out of the barrel. "I thought you said this would fix my..." She froze as she registered Nodoka's comment about the ears. Her hands shook as she began to feel her new attributes. "What the..."
"Also..." Nodoka moved her pointer finger a bit, "...there's something wrong with your tail..."
Kotaro slowly turned her head. There was indeed something wrong with the tail. Rather than being wide and shaggy, it was long, skinny, and not quite moving correctly...
"YOU TURNED ME INTO A CATGIRL!-?"
"Sorry. They must have sent me the wrong barrel-"
"Do you have any idea how horrible this is!-? I'm an Inugami! I'm a disgrace to the tribe like this!"
"I don't know, I think I like you more this way..." Asuna giggled.
"Really? Well, let's see how you like it!" Kotaro shouted as she charged towards Asuna. Half a second later, the redhead was slung over Kotaro's shoulder, being carried kicking and screaming towards the barrel.
"I don't want to be a catgirl!"
"Neither do I!" Kotaro growled. "Now get into the barrel!"
"No!" Asuan flailed her arms wildly. Granted, growing ears and a tail wouldn't be the worst thing that had happened to her, but she really didn't want to deal with it at the moment. "Adeat!"
There was a flash, and Asuna's massive sword materialized in her hand.
Kotaro's eyes barely had a chance to widen.
Asuna flopped to the ground as Kotaro crumpled in a heap.
"Was that really necessary, Asuna?" Yue shook her head. "Assaulting a young girl?"
"Well, too bad." Asuna grumbled as she dismissed the sword. "I'd rather not have a tail, thank you very much."
"Ow..." Kotaro grunted. "That hurt, dammit. Why did you...wait a minute..."
"The cat ears are gone..." There was a hint of disappointment in Haruna's voice. "So is the tail..."
"Let me just check something..." Kotaro stuffed a hand down the front of his pants. "YES! I'm a guy again!"
"Why didn't we think of that earlier?" Haruna mused.
"Think of what?" Kotaro glared at her.
"Asuna's magic cancel. She could have just bopped you on the head and erased the curse that way."
"So instead of that..." Kotaro's eye began to twitch, "…you left me cursed for two days, dragged me into Evangeline's fortress to steal magic pills to sell on the black market so that you could order the wrong barrel?"
"...Yeah..." Haruna stared at her foot for a moment. "Well, I have stuff to do. See you later!"
"Get back here!" Kotaro bounded after her as she rushed back towards the dorm.
Yue, Nodoka, and Asuna watched as they disappeared into the building. Asuna shrugged as she turned back to the other two girls.
"So, what are you going to do with that?" She pointed at the barrel.
Yue just shrugged.
"I have no idea."
"Anything happen while I was out, Chachamaru?" Eva tossed her jacket over the back of a chair and sprawled on the couch. "I swear, Konoemon gets worse at Go every time I go over there..."
"One of your maid units detected intruders in the lower levels of your resort."
"You have surveillance video?"
"It's already loaded, mistress."
"Good. You're on top of things as usual." Eva punched one of the buttons on her remote, causing a screen to pop out from the wall. She chuckled as the video popped up on the screen. Despite the overly-grainy video quality, she could easily recognize Haruna and Kotaro. "I should have known that Saotome would be poking around again. She's even corrupting that dog boy now. Let's see, where do I think that they're heading..." She closed her eyes and put her fingers to her forehead in a mock psychic pose. "I'm gonna say they steal some pills."
She opened her eyes just in time to see Haruna and Kotaro sneaking into the apothecary.
"I performed inventory of the pills and it does indeed seem that some of your magical pills are missing," Chachamaru informed her. "Would you like for me to go to Saotome and recover the stolen property?"
"Nah." Eva waved the robot away. "I put a little extra something in the pills just in case somebody ever stole them. They'll get hit with some nasty side effects. Serves 'em right. Out of curiosity, what did they take?"
"Let me see..." Chachamaru paused as she searched her internal databank for the report. "Several sudesnea were taken."
"Really? She took more of those?" Eva sat up. "I would have thought she'd have learned her lesson after the last time."
"Apparently not. A larger number of bularreko pills were taken-"
Chachamaru stopped as Eva let out a loud snort.
"Are you all right, mistress?"
"Oh, I'm just great!" Eva was grinning from ear to ear. "I just wish I could see what happens when she actually takes it."
"Should I even desire to know what additional ramifications you have added to the pills' primary effects?"
"Anya-chan, your pills are here!" Chamo scurried across the floor of Anya's room, towing a small, rattling sack behind him. With a flourish, he whipped the bag open and withdrew a bottle full of pink pills.
"Awesome!" As she reached for the bottle, Chamo drew back and wagged a finger at the overanxious girl.
"Hey, hey, hey. You remember the terms of our agreement! You wanted me to get these for you, and I did. You gotta hold up your end of the bargain or these go to somebody else."
"Fine." She snatched her purse off of her desk and began counting out a stack of bills. "How much did you want again?"
"That's like 600 pounds! That's like two months of fortune telling!"
"Hey, when I agreed to pick up the pills, you said that you'd give me 110% of whatever I paid for them. I'm actually giving you a discount." He folded his tiny arms. "If you aren't willing to pay, I heard that Ako has been saving up for a while; I'm sure she'd be willing to consider my offer..."
"Okay, okay, okay!" Anya tossed the ball of money at the ermine. "Give me the stupid pills."
"Uh-uh-uh!" Chamo waggled a finger at the redhead. "There was another part of the deal. You know what I'm talking about."
"Are you serious?" Anya's cheeks began to flush. "Do I really have to..."
"You want the pills?"
Anya wrinkled her nose for a moment before slowly reaching a hand up her skirt. Chamo rubbed his hands together in anticipation. The girl wriggled for a moment before her panties slid down her legs to rest at her ankles. She bent down to pick them up, and held them up between her thumb and forefinger.
"Stupid old pervert..."
"There we go!" Chamo snatched the panties out of her hands and tossed the bottle of pills in her direction. "Give them a try. I'm quite curious to see if they work as advertised!"
"I swear these had better work..." Anya mumbled as she plucked one of the pills out of the bottle.
"If they don't, I'll make sure that you get a refund, all right?"
"Okay, here goes..." She clamped her eyes shut, popped a pill into her mouth, and swallowed. A rush of magic flooded her body. She shivered as she opened her eyes. "Did it work?"
"Why don't you look and see for yourself?"
Anya took a deep breath before opening her eyes and looking down.
"Yes! It worked." She smiled widely as she pressed her hands to her chest, which had expanded from an A-cup to a C-cup. "I was kinda expecting them to be a little bigger, but it's still a really great improvement. I'll definitely get some attention with-"
Her entire body spasmed as another wave of magic rushed over it. She blinked a few times and shook her head.
"Whoa...what the heck was that...?" She looked into the mirror. Her chest was still at its new and improved size. But still, something wasn't quite right...
"Uh...Anya-chan..." She looked down to see Chamo nervously rubbing the back of his head. "There's something you might want to check..." He pointed at the base of her skirt.
"You pervert!" Anya grabbed the front edge of the skirt and pulled it down. "What the hell are you doing looking up there!-? And I don't even have panties on! I report you or...or...some...thing...something is wrong..." The blood drained out of her face as she craned her neck to look past her newly enhanced bustline. "Please don't be that...please don't be that..."
Chamo stuffed his fingers into his ears as he watched Anya lift the front of her skirt.
"EEEYAAAAAHHHHHHHH! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO!-?"
"Oh great..." Chamo sighed. "I guess I'm going to have to get that refund..."
Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking either. If you haven't already guessed, this story is basically a shout out to the cursed springs from Ranma One-Half, which you should definitely check out. I got the idea for this one while proofreading a chapter for Watchtower14 (Magister RanMagi, a Negima/Ranma crossover which is hosted on this very site and you should go read it). He said that he didn't have any plans for any Negima characters to get cursed by the springs, so he graciously allowed me to co-opt the idea. And naturally this was the best place to fit it in without making it a straight crossover. I realize that Haruna isn't exactly abusing her artifact much, but the idea was too good to pass up.
I'm well aware that there are quite a few loose ends here (the most obvious of which is girl!Kotaro's reaction to Negi), and I'm planning to pick up those threads in a later chapter. This one was getting absurdly long (pushing 20 single spaced pages) as it was and the main conflict was already resolved, so it was a good place to cut it off. There's no way I'm letting the "Kotaro gets flustered by Negi" bit go by so quickly. I assure you that I plan to bring that up again.
Then there's the bit at the end. From the beginning, it was basically given that someone was getting screwed over at the end of the story. At first I was just going to go with the most obvious solution, which was to have Kotaro get the right barrel of water, turn back into a guy, and then spill the barrel on one of the girls. Then I decided that it would be funnier if he got nailed with second curse. There was also the fact that I decided that Haruna would get the cash by stealing and selling Eva's pills, at which point it became obvious that they had to backfire somehow. After that everything just kind of spiraled out of control. I think that in previous chapters I alluded to them having stolen pills from Eva (if not, it still works, so whatever), so it only made sense to make Eva aware of Haruna's shenanigans and develop countermeasures. And it was inevitable that Anya get caught in the crossfire.
Similarly, I thought it was funny to have Kotaro cured by accident at the end. I don't know why, but I find it hilarious when these characters go to outrageous lengths to achieve something only to realize that there was a much simpler solution right next to them the whole time.
Anyway, I hope this was enjoyable.
Thanks for reading, and please leave some sort of review.