Space Trip Steps

Sweet Mountain: My Sweet Passion

Where was Negi in all this? Quite simply, he was still much too serious, even after trying to avoid Ayaka and her mountain of amassed chocolates.

Trying not to look like he was running away, while making his escape as fast as possible, Negi briskly walked down another candy path, closer to a valley of mountains. "Man, I can't keep up with my students at all, least of all Misora-san!" he lamented. "And the few people I can keep up with would rather force feed me chocolates—"

"Negi-bouzu!" called out a voice.

Negi skidded to a stop and turned to see Ku Fei, running up to him. If he didn't have to blink, he could have sworn a blue glow had just left her. "Ku Fei-san!"

"You okay?" She asked him.

Negi sighed. "I'm okay, but I don't know if any of the class is. They split up so quickly. And this place is so dangerous!" He flexed a muscle, and some of his dark magic hissed unseen beneath his clothes. "Just over the past hour or two, I've been bashing robots and deactivating traps!"

"Actually... it kinda make things fun, too," Ku Fei impishly responded, and Negi's eyes grew wide.

"You can't be serious!" He gasped.

"Well, it's a little annoying keeping people like twins from accepting candy from strange robots, but beating robots up afterward is great practice!" She smiled brightly. "Oh, and there weird aliens in capsules. I freed one. It make me super fast runner, though not as fast as Misora-san."

Negi sighed and shook his head. Again. This class... "Only 3-A would relish wrecking the park of a suspected super villain..." A pause. "Wait... aliens?"

"You and Eva-chan know us well," Ku Fei offered a bright smile. To her credit, it did improve Negi's mood a little bit. "As for the aliens..."

But their conversation stopped, however, when they saw a ship emerge from the mountains. Moments later, a tan blur dashed after it, trying to keep even with it. The two of them didn't have to be geniuses to figure out who that was.

"Misora-san!" they chorused.

Ku Fei, however, was faster. She burst ahead, adding her own blue-yellow blur in pursuit of the tan one. While Negi had a lightning ability that was even faster, it took a moment to charge, and that moment was all he had to lose.

"Negi-senseeeiiiii~!" His own name stopped him short.

Negi whirled to see Ayaka had in fact caught up to him. "Um, Ayaka-san."

She beamed at her recent first name earning. And of course, she was dragging a small wagon of chocolates. "Please accept this gift on behalf of Yukihiro Corp. and Eggman Industries!"

Negi wanted to turn her down. So badly. Not because of any grudge against the Class Rep—on the contrary, they had gotten closer after the visit to the Magic World. But there was no damn way he was going to eat that whole wagon of chocolates. No way.

But her face was so pure, happy, and innocent...

"Sure!" He said, smiling and already working on his first piece. He was already loathing his pathetic resistance.

Across the landscapes and through the mechanical bays, Misora kept in pursuit of the ship. Cocone held on for dear life, also holding the doll that Sayo herself haunted. She took a sideways glance, seeing the ship above and by their side, not yet aware of their pursuit below.

The flying ship easily cruised by, heading between chocolate mountains. Misora took note and tried to pursue, but the mountain would be too steep, or at least too steep for her to maintain pace. "Geez, we won't make it at this rate!"

"You'd have to be able to go through the mountain if you wanted to keep up," Cocone said. "Try going through the side."

"Wait... go through, you say?" The wheels in Misora's head spun. It seemed that the fastest way to launch herself on the ship undetected was to use the little ability she learned today. How fortunate that moments later, the yellow Wisp that had been following them finally caught up. "I know how to do that." She turned to the drill-shaped alien. "You can help me out, right? We need to drill up!"

It nodded, spun, and plunged into Misora's body. The nun began to glow, rapidly shining yellow before striking a finger pointing pose. "Hang on tight!"

Imbued with the Wisp's power, she drilled into the mountainous earth, swinging upwards.

"Uwaahhhhh..." Cocone moaned, trying not to get dizzy from the sheer speed and power of Misora's drilling.

"My drill will be the drill that pierces the heavens!" The prankster cried, bursting out of the mountain into a ridiculous dynamic leap. She hung in the air, seemingly forever, before finally landing downward on the stern of the ship. Somehow, her other passengers landed without screwing up Misora's landing as well.

Untouched by Misora's antics, Cocone landed by her side. They began to look for Asakura, and any captive aliens while they were at it. They didn't have to look very far.

The deck was huge, but not unnavigable. The entirety of it could be seen about the length of a football field, seeing little more than the deck itself, plenty of cannons and the few poles holding the masts. Secured in the middle was a larger version of the red capsules she saw last night.

In the distance, on the bow of the ship, was one tied up Asakura.

She didn't look too distressed, more annoyed than anything. Unfortunately, she was at the edge of the ship, and true to Sayo's fright, they were in fact, making her walk the plank. Misora expected to hear some witty comebacks from the reporter, but alas she saw her mouth was sealed with cloth. Or something. And a bunch of little guys were poking her towards her doom.

Damn, there went her quick rescue.

Still, there could possibly be a way to distract them. Misora stepped up and motioned Cocone to follow. The yellow wisp and Sayo's doll hid in her shirt. Sneaking quietly, Misora approached, trying to formulate some sort of plan.

The loudspeakers came to life, Misora wound up freezing too loudly and her element of surprise was completely ruined. "Attention! Visitors are cautioned to avoid feeding, petting, or saving any aliens!"

Misora grunted her disapproval and shook her head. The timing of this jerk...

"Oh, and also no saving snooping reporters either."

Cocone face-faulted.

And of course, that got the attention of the robot pirates. They angrily hopped towards the duo, pointing their nonexistent limbs in fury over the intruders.

Peeking out from behind her hiding place, Sayo shouted, "Give back Kazumi-chan, you meanies!"

While Cocone looked mildly cowed, Misora straight up laughed. "These guys kidnapped Asakura? Dahahahaha!" They looked so cute and harmless? Maybe they all just got the jump on her, thus the problem—

Suddenly: GOTCHA.

Misora paled and dived out of the way just as a gigantic lollipop crashed into where she stood just moments before. "What the—" She whirled around to see her attacker. "Oh crap."

The imposing Captain Jelly himself loomed over her, his lollipop weapon aimed menacingly in her direction. The robot spoke gibberish akin to a villain of a low-VA-budget kid's video game, but that didn't make him any less threatening.

Cocone stepped back.

"This is not good...!" Misora cried as she grabbed Cocone and sprinted backwards, trying not to get beaten by the giant lollipop. The wicked pirate robot leapt again, bringing down his sweet weapon in an attempt to crush Misora's head, followed by another sweep towards her when she rolled to evade that.

Captain Jelly bounced up and shouted gibberish, pointing his lollipop in Misora's direction. At once, she heard mechanical whirring.

"That doesn't sound good," Cocone muttered.

That didn't sound good because the cannons whirred and fired in their general direction. Cannonballs sailed into the air, crashing down and exploding around them.

"Waaaaaahhhhh!" Misora cried out, sprinting like mad to evade the cannonballs, which exploded with magnificent force, nearly shaking her out of her concentrated run. The ship seemed to be immune to its own fire, so just running around until the ship destroyed itself was out of the question. Misora needed to get Kazumi out of there, and quickly.

She had been sprinting for a good while now, and she could now feel the burn in her legs as she pumped them in an effort to evade the sailing cannonballs—oh yipe, nearly tripped on one of the tiny robot pirates!

The small fry had been gathering around her slowly, almost as if they were hoping she wasn't paying attention. And indeed, thanks to them hopping around, speeding around was no longer an option. "Aiyah! Those little guys are everywhere!" She complained.

Cocone brandished her tiny trainer's wand. "Let me take care of them." She pointed, drawing upon her latent power. "Saggita Magica... Series Fulguralis!" Seventeen arrows of lightning shot out at her wand, blasting through the robots and blowing them to smithereens.

"Nice one!" Misora crowed, leaping away as Captain Jelly leapt in to avenge his comrades and attempt to smash her down.

On the other side, still being poked ever so closer to the edge of the ship, was Asakura. By now, she was actually trying to fight back against the tiny buggers, but the rope around her ankles and binding her hands behind her back pretty much made her a weakling. She mumbled her displeasure under the gag as the tiny pirates continued to bounce like demented grasshoppers and try to shove her forward.

You know, this is a pretty embarrassing way to die, she thought idly, annoyed at such prospects. So if Kasuga would so kindly hurry up...

As if reading her thoughts, Misora yelled, "I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying!" It was getting trickier to hold her footing against all the projectiles and leaping robot pirates trying to bludgeon her from above. But if she pulled off this next move...

Not quite. Captain Jelly twisted his body and smacked Misora from the side, sending her spiraling away painfully. She crashed against the edge of the ship. "Oww..." She complained.

Captain Jelly leapt to strike again, but this time, Cocone was there. Desperation sneaking into her voice, Cocone muttered, "Dark Barrier," Lollipop met dark purple shield, but Cocone strained this time to keep it up. "Still not strong enough..."

That got worse when a cannonball sailed into the air, crashing into the barrier and shattering it. Cocone fell onto her rear, the shock of the failed barrier stunning her. Captain Jelly seemed to sneer as it prepared to strike the duo, but by that time, Misora had recovered and suddenly dropped down below, dragging Cocone with her. Captain Jelly only struck part of his ship.

By the time Cocone could make sense of things, she was below deck, and Misora was glowing with the power of the yellow wisp. "Hehe, just waiting for this right moment to pop up!" The nun giggled.

Cocone was slightly impressed.

"Cocone-chan, I'll distract them! As soon as they're all away, free Asakura!" Misora crouched to her knees, waiting for something. The banging above obviously meant that Captain Jelly was still hopping around, looking for them.

Moments passed.

Once a bang shot above her, Misora shouted to her, "Now!" and sprang into action, whirling with the Yellow Drill's power. She smashed into Captain Jelly from below, knocking him off of his nonexistent feet for heavy damage.

Cocone scrambled up, emerging to see that, just as Misora expected, the munchkins beating up on a tied up and helpless Asakura abandoned post and bounced to help their leader once he actually took damage. Cocone herself edged by them, opting not to draw their attention.

Misora suddenly found herself evading the angry pounces of several tiny munchkin pirate robots. A simple kick took care of most of them, but with so many around, it was getting tougher to fight back.

It really wasn't helping matters that Captain Jelly had recovered—mostly—and sought to end the battle in furor. Misora's cowardly instincts kicked in again, and she scrambled to get away—

That was quickly stopped with an extending pole to his face. In moments, Ku Fei appeared, landing from her strike as Captain Jelly crashed into the ground, and failed to move after that. From Ku Fei's leaping strike, he had been thoroughly defeated and shut down. "Oi~!" She greeted the nun. "When you say 'I beat giant robot' yesterday, I thought you were joking!"

"You were actually paying attention?" Misora reeled back, surprised that her earlier slip had caught people's attention. "And geez, I know I'm a coward, but at least let me finish my own boss fights, okay?"

"Why?" Ku Fei asked, tilting her head. Then, an impish grin crossed her face. "You jelly?"

"That was obviously him," The prankster cast an irritated finger towards the defeated Captain Jelly.

"Yo!" Asakura crowed, shifting out of her ropes, thanks to help from the Sayo doll and Cocone. "Thanks for the help. Kinda embarrassing being caught by surprise like that." The golems she had out drew back towards her. "I got some good stuff, but apparently the gold was right here!" And as a side note, she muttered, "Abeat!" and the golems were but a card in her hand once more.

"I wasn't a hero. Honest. I just came by to save the aliens!" Misora protested, weakly. Speaking of which, the capsule in the center of the ship still glistened brightly.

"What's this about aliens?" Ku Fei asked idly.

"Look for yourself," Misora responded, walking over to the capsule. "Bet you've seen these (or smaller versions) around the park, haven't you? They're just capturing aliens!" She stomped on the release pad, and the capsules turned off. A rush of white aliens fluttered away to freedom, a few of them muttering gibberish in thanks to Misora.

"Likely story, Misora-chan," Asakura grinned. Already in reporter mode, she started with the questions. "So what made you decide to go heroic eco-terrorist?"

"I'm not an eco-terrorist! The guy that owns this park is a madman!" Misora shouted back in her defense. "He's got the heaviest kidnapping fetish I've seen, and whatever he's doing to the aliens can't be good!"

"But why would he capture them?" Asakura asked.

"Don't know the whole answer, but I'm gonna find out." Misora answered, winding her arm to stretch out the kinks. "When I rescued Miyazaki-san yesterday, they helped me out by granting me freaky powers, and when she read their minds, they mentioned somebody was trying to use their powers... for evil, obviously. I think Park Owner-san is the guy who's doing it. Plus he's got all this weird technology all over the planets, like..." Not too far away, the group saw a wide structure, silvery-white, with a glowing force field at the top. It had what looked like the bottom half of a skull on its center, glowing red lines outlining the shape, and comprising a single red eye.

The ship was heading straight for it.

"Can anyone steer a pirate ship?" Cocone asked.

"Nope." Said Misora.

"Not I." Asakura added.

"No." Ku Fei added.

Sayo and the yellow Wisp shook their heads.

"I think we might need to get off, then," Cocone said, as the ship approached the haunting building. "Like now."

"Aww, don't tell me that beating up the boss is gonna make this thing crrraaassshh!" Misora wailed. And the members of 3-A present screamed and got the hell out of dodge as their little world exploded from the failed ship colliding with what was apparently a generator.

Unknown to them at the time, a gold chain extending to the heavens (and back to the Tropical Resort) faded away.

"Due to Rock Candy Rain, the shuttle will be returning to Tropical Resort thirty minutes early. However, that time is not now. Until then, enjoy your 200 damage!"

The tired class of 3-A slogged back into the shuttle, trying to keep themselves sane and steady. Doped up on candy, however, that was a tough task, stomachs sick due to either overconsumption or the painful Rock Candy rain. The twins were the only people fully positively, bouncing off the walls as if they had their own Cyan Laser abilities.

Makie seemed completely unaffected by today's visit. "That was fun! And delicious!"

"Not as delicious as Setsuna, apparently," Haruna noted drolly, pointing over to where the duo were walking. The guardian's face was beet red as Konoka continued to innocently lick at the woman's fingers. Well, as innocent as one could look while licking fingers. "Who knows what they were doing while nobody was watching?"

"E-e-everybody was watching!" Setsuna complained, just as Konoka stopped.

"Why does everyone like watching us anyway?" the impish healer asked.

"Because you two are cute and obvious around each other?" came an attempt to be helpful from Yuuna.

"Enough clowning around!" Eva grumped. "Get in the freaking shuttle before we take any more damage!"

They were back at the Tropical Resort.

Negi, stomach aching from all the candy he ate (and it wasn't even his fault. So many of his well meaning students kept offering him prizes, surely it would be rude to turn them down!), struggled to enter his room before he plopped down on the bed, utterly defeated. "Auuughhh... my pancreas..." Negi groaned into his pillow. "If I see any more candy, I'm blasting it. To smithereens."

"Had enough, Negi?" Asuna taunted gently, coming into the room. She tossed him some stomach medicine. "Luckily we brought our own, this stuff had like 300 percent markup on the stores near here. It's ridiculous!"

Negi sighed absently as he gazed at the medicine. "Well, this place is a theme park. All the cool stuff has to be expensive."

"They snipe your wallet through that kind of crap!" Asuna groused. "It's highway robbery!"

Negi smiled. It was good to have a few days like this, especially after all of the chaos they had gone through in the magic world, and the harrowing adventures they all went through. But now he had time to take it easy—or at least, easier than he had been. Keeping tabs on all of his students was at least, slightly less painful then fighting for the fate of the world and nearly losing himself to darkness in the process.

There was one thing that concerned him, though. "Misora-san has been acting pretty odd, lately. I saw her chasing a pirate ship ride—before it crashed."

"Isn't she on some sort of 'RESCUE THE ALIENS' crusade or something?" Asuna asked, scratching her head. "That's what Bookstore said. Everyone's been seeing her run around all over the place. Not to mention the second big accident's hit the park since she went someplace on her own. Rescuing Asakura of all people..."

Negi nodded grimly. "I'm surprised Robotnik-san hasn't tried to press charges. First the Ferris Wheel, and now that pirate ship, though Asakura-san insists that Misora's actually doing a good thing..."

"Bookstore agreed," Asuna sat down next to him. "But I'm still a little dubious. As ripoff as the prices are around here, and the fact that I sure wouldn't invite the average non-mage, this place is actually kinda fun. And those aliens..."

"Nodoka-san mentioned to me that there are a bunch of alien creatures throughout the park." Negi answered. "And Ku Fei-san said that one lent her some power. While I don't like my students causing trouble, I'm having a little difficulty taking the side of Robotnik-san."

They heard the loudspeaker outside—faint, but if they were silent, they could still hear it clearly. "Please refrain from foiling evil schemes, plots, and/or plans while inside the park. Foiling is strictly prohibited!"

"Like Chisame-chan said, announcements like that don't exactly fill me with confidence." Asuna made a face.

But Negi's stomach growled in pain, and he rolled over. "Dang it, but I can't investigate like thissss," he moaned. He took the recommended dosage of medicine for his age, and hoped that the pain would go away. "It's enough challenge trying to keep the class from wrecking this place BEFORE we find out what's going on."

"Misora's the one who's all gung-ho about it, but I think if we keep some tabs on her, it'll all make sense," Asuna said. "We'll keep an eye on her (and bail her out if she's stupid). You just focus on having fun and keeping the rest of the class out of trouble, okay?" She ruffled his hair.

Negi closed his eyes. While slightly miffed at the ruffle, he was glad Asuna had his back. "Fine with me."


(Well now, this concludes the Sweet Mountain arc. Tune in next time for Starlight Carnival, where I can start amping up the chaos and change some bosses around! Dohohoho, keep your eyes peeled, and hang on for the new year!

Keep your eyes peeled on the author's notes, I'll be updating those in the near future, like within the next day.)