A/N: if you like it, Rec it on TvTropes. TvTropes, dattebayo!

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Of Princesses and Swords

by Shadow Crystal Mage

Chapter 1: Loss and Reunion

Disclaimer: Negima belongs to Ken Akamatsu-sama, proof of the existence of anthropomorphic personifications, because the man is AWESOME INCARNATE!

...

Konoka looked at the girl in front of her. She was sitting awkwardly and would sometimes fall over, face contorting almost comically, sometimes wailing, sometimes giggling and pushing herself back up. Konoka had never met the girl before. She'd remember meeting someone. After all, it wasn't like she ever met that many people. The five year-old princess, because that's what her father called her, sat next to him as he spoke to Aunt Motoko and Aunt Tsuruko. They talked about boring things that Konoka really didn't understand. She'd tried to join in, telling everyone about the pretty butterfly she'd seen, and they'd listened, but it didn't seem like they found it very interesting. So Konoka was watching the other girl.

"How did it happen?" Eishun asked.

Motoko sighed in a nearly exaggerated fashion. "Well, you know how Haruhi is– was, I suppose I should say," she said. She looked like she was trying for sorrowful and stricken, but it only came out highly exasperated. Haruhi had that affect on people, and death seemed not to have diminished it one bit. "You'd think her getting pregnant after her one-night stand with that gaijin, that psychotic nutcase who took her hostage and threw her off Tokyo Tower would teach her a lesson, but NO! a few days ago, she was watching those violent, surreal movies she likes on TV when the baby changed the channel to a foreign news show. The next thing we know, she'd run off in the night, leaving a note about, 'Getting her J-sama back from that Harlot', and the next we here from her she'd been killed in some American city during an incident with that insane clown, a man who thought he was a scarecrow, and that insane American who dresses like a bat!"

Motoko let all this out in one big burst, before seeming to deflate, wilting like a burning hair. "I'm sorry," Motoko said. "It's just been a stressful few days."

"Anyway, I know this is a big inconvenience to you," Tsuruko said, "but her will–"

"I can't BELIEVE she actually thought to make a will!" Motoko cried.

"– said you were to have custody of the child if anything happened to her," Tsuruko said smoothly. "I know you two weren't really all that close, but she was closer to you than anyone else. And as crazy as she was, she loved the child. She was her world. Well, most of her world." Tsuruko smiled as Motko grumbled about psychotic American clowns. "I understand if you can't take her–"

Eishun raised a hand to interrupt. "No, it's fine," he said, looking a little sad as he gazed down at the giggling girl next to Tsuruko and Motoko. "Haruhi and I talked about this when she was pregnant. I will be honored to take her in. Besides," Eishun smiled down at his daughter, who smiled back brightly, not sure why but glad her dad was happy, "I think Konoka might like to have a sister."

The adults talked on about more boring stuff as Konoka looked back down at the girl opposite her. She looked barely three. "What's your name?" Konoka asked.

The girl gave a gap-toothed smile. "Tukuyobi!" she cried loudly, then giggled, clapping her hands together…

...

On the day Tsuruko and Motoko came again, Konoka and Tsukuyomi were playing with a ball. Papa had told Konoka she was to take care of Tsukuyomi, since she was new and didn't know where everything was. The little girl was energetic, but that was okay because Konoka was too young to be worried, except maybe about big scary dogs. And how Tsukuyomi seemed to like baiting the big, scary dogs.

As Konoka and Tsukuyomi stopped their play to look at the two visitors, they caught sight of a girl trying to hide behind one of the two women…

...

"Here it comes, Ojou-sama!"

"Eh?-! Come on, Set-chan, you don't need to call me that!"

"AH! Pass the ball to me, Setsuna-neechan! Konoka-neechan, me next!"

...

She spread out her arms, her practice sword shaking in her hand as she faced the dread 'Big Scary Dog', Konoka and Tsukuyomi behind her. "S-stay back!" she cried, her legs paralyzed with terror. "I'm warning y-you! S-stay back!"

The dog yawned and trotted off, bored. Setsuna watched it, heart pounding loudly in her chest, until she felt sure it was far enough away, before she lowered her hands.

"Kah!" Konoka cried, clapping her little hands. "Set-chan, you're so cool!"

"Setsuna-neechan is the best!" Tsukuyomi declared, her little fists clenched under her chin in adoration as she stared up at the blushing Setsuna with shining eyes. "I wanna learn kendo too! I wanna be cool like Setsuna-neechan!"

...

The big, scary dog had appeared again. Tsukuyomi had run in fear, and Konoka, being the responsible girl she was, had gone after her to keep her from falling and hurting herself while Setsuna bravely brandished her stick at the dog. There'd been some loose dirt, and a fall into water. Setsuna had dived…

"I'm sorry I couldn't protect you, Kono-chan, Tsuku-chan… I'll train more. Become stronger, better…"

"Why? Setsuna-neesan is already the best! No one is better than Setsuna-neesan! Setsuna-neesan is the coolest!"

"You don't really have to… can't we just play together…?"

...

"How was kendo, Tsuku-chan?"

"Meh! My arms hurt. Let's go play, Anee-chan!"

"Only after you wash up and we have lunch." A pause. "Did… did you see Set-chan?"

Pout. "No… but I suppose someone as awesome as her won't be in the same class as me…"

"Oh… I see…"

Hug. "I miss her too, Anee-chan…"

...

"Set-chan, Set-chan!" Konoka cried, her heart light and floating as she spotted the girl midway up the stairs, her back to her. She'd know that back anywhere, strong, straight, confident. Next to her, Tsukuyomi gasped in joy and added her own cries of greeting as they rushed to her, leaving their new roommate Asuna blinking in confusion.

Setsuna turned to look at them as they neared as they descended. Despite herself, Konoka slowed. Setsuna's face was blank, the pale skin making her look like a statue, like an unreal embodiment of some impossible ideal. Her gaze was level, and filled with a seriousness that seemed wrong, even thought Konoka remembered well how serious Setsuna had been at everything. Tsukuyomi ran on, heedless of all this, crying to Setsuna to see her uniform, did she think Tsukuyomi looked cute in it, and check it out, Tsukuyomi was a Shinmeiryu now too, wasn't it cool, although she'd never be as cool as Setsuna-nee-ch–

Setsuna gave an abrupt, jerky nod. Or perhaps it was a bow. It was hard to tell, she was so stiff. "Konoka-san," she said, voice impersonal, tone distant and dismissive. Konoka felt she'd been slapped. She turned to a blinking, confused Tsukuyomi. "Tsukuyomi-san." That was all. She turned with almost military precision and continued walking down the stairs, back perfectly straight, the sword over her shoulder vertical enough to be used as a flagpole. She didn't look back.

It was no longer a slap. Konoka felt she'd been punched in the gut.

Asuna finally reached them, frowning down at the retreating girl. "Man, what a bitch," she said.

Tsukuyomi, enraged, kicked her hard in the shin. As Asuna gave a loud, indignant cry about her shin being broken and started running awkwardly after the grade-schooler, Konoka firmly kept her own feet planted on the ground. Asuna didn't need another kick…

...

In the small hours of the morning, as Asuna did her paper-route with a slight limp, Konoka shakily prepared breakfast. She heard Tsukuyomi snuffle a little in her bed, and tried to focus on her cooking.

"Konoka-nee-chan…?" she heard Tsukuyomi ask, "Did we do something wrong? Does… does Setsuna-nee-chan hate us?"

Konoka couldn't answer. Her cooking burned as her vision turned watery and useless.

She heard fabric being thrown back and feet shuffling on the floor, before a small pair of arms wrapped around her waist…

...

Konoka tried to make friends with Setsuna, which was helped by the fact they were in the same class. She thought maybe that first meeting had been a fluke, that Setsuna had been surprised to see them and hadn't known how to react except with formality, and she'd make up the next day. Konoka readied a little present for Setsuna for when that happened. It wasn't much, just a cute little eraser, a nice pencil and a sharpener, something she'd be able to use. Konoka really hadn't been expecting this. Maybe Setsuna hadn't been either…

She'd tried to talk to Setsuna and been rebuffed. Thinking it was because she was being shy, Konoka tried to meet with her alone, but the other girl would vanish like wisp of smoke in a hurricane. For days and weeks she would try, the little present burning a hole in her pocket as she futilely tried to welcome her friend back, only to be met with arrogant, icy perfection and a retreating back, or merely perfect absence. Her heart wrenched, and though she smiled, she found herself considering Tsukuyomi's question, wondering what she had done…

The younger girl was more determined than Konoka, or so it would seem to an outside observer. She made a pest of herself to the kendo club until they let her attend their meetings in exasperation, and followed Setsuna around, calling to her and asking her to stop and talk, and could they spar, she wanted to show Setsuna how much she'd learned! Setsuna determinedly ignored her, walking away, and Tsukuyomi as determinedly followed, unrelenting. When Setsuna started skipping the club, they threw Tsukuyomi out, lest they lose one of their best swords, only for her to break into their dojo at every opportunity to waylay Setsuna. People began whispering about the obsessed, crazy, four-eyed girl who stalked the middle-schooler.

Yet even those in the Kendo club who found Tsukuyomi unbearably annoying looked at Setsuna in askance or even faint disapproval whenever the blonde collapsed to her knees, tears streaming from her under her glasses, her practice sword clattering from her hands. "Why, Setsuna-nee-chan!" she cried, she whimpered, she whispered, she pleaded, and sometimes she merely echoed the words in her heart. "What did I do?-! Tell me, Setsuna-nee-chan! Please! I don't want you to hate me anymore! PLEASE!"

No one ever seemed to notice how Setsuna's steps would always slow, just the slightest bit…

...

Despite the fact they'd gotten one of the bigger dorm rooms because there were three of them, Tsukuyomi and Konoka always slept together. Asuna just joked about how close they were and teased them about being those kinds of sisters, and pretended not to notice the tears in the morning. And Konoka and Tsukuyomi were grateful. Somehow, the joke made things more bearable.

...

Konoka wasn't sure what to do with Tsukuyomi, who'd snuck aboard the train as it made its way to Kyoto. She'd called her grandfather to tell him where Tsukuyomi was, and he'd sighed, though he sounded amused when he said he'd inform her teachers. The teachers had been dully informed and though Nitta had been very disapproving, the others had merely sighed. Tsukuyomi was known for her… antics.

Konoka had kept the girl close as they toured Kyoto, although given how much trouble the first-year had gone through to be there, she was paying almost no attention to anything, her gaze fixed determinedly somewhere at the back of the line. Konoka had no doubt that was where Setsuna was.

She wished she could turn to look too…

...

There had been… monkeys. Weird monkeys. Konoka didn't know why monkeys and one of the inn's maids would want to kidnap her, but she'd never been worried. It had all been so strange, and she really couldn't remember much, but she did know one thing.

Setsuna was there.

That meant there was nothing to fear.

"It's all right… Everything is going to be fine… Konoka-oujo-sama…"

"I'm so happy… to know you don't hate me, Set-chan…"

...

Tsukuyomi didn't know what was happening. All she knew her big sister was in trouble and she, Asuna, Negi-kun and Setsuna were trying to get her back. She lagged behind, her practice sword in her hand, and realized that despite all her practice, despite all the time she invested, despite being Shinmeiryu, she knew jack about actually fighting. Yet she charged forward anyway. She already lost someone once. She wouldn't let it happen again.

She didn't know if she helped or not, whacking at the little monkeys as best as she could. She stared, stunned, as Negi, Asuna and Setsuna-nee-chan did things she'd only imagined on TV. She saw what Setsuna, her Setsuna, could really do. And it just confirmed everything she'd ever known, about how ineffectual she was.

And yet, when it was all done…

"You did well, Tsukuyomi."

It was all worth it.

...

- To be continued...

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A/N: I figure Tsukuyomi is a year, year and a half, two at the most, younger than Setsuna and Konoka. That's enough to explain her shortness, I suppose…

Please review, C&C welcome.

Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.