A/N: Once again, thanks for the support. I'm still alive. I'd actually been planning to write more than this for this chapter, but I didn't want to scare you guys again, so I'm keeping track of my word count now to cut off when things get too ridiculous. Anyway, as this is still early in the festival, there hasn't been a lot of divergence, but there's some significant stuff here anyway. Even the first scene has a significant divergence. See if you can guess its significance before it's revealed later in the chapter.
The start of the festival saw Yue, Nodoka and Haruna leading Negi, Anya and Kotaro to their classroom. Yue lectured as they walked and Negi gushed over the festival attractions. They walked past the long line to the classroom to meet Yuuna, Sakurako and Fumika. "Look, look! We made it!" cried Yuuna with a wink. "Thanks for your help." They had slept very little for the past few days as they finished setting up, but the place looked very professional after all that hard work.
"Because of you, the 'Ba-bump Nothing but Babes Haunted House' is a huge success!" added Sakurako, winking as well.
"Why are there only girls? What is the meaning of this?" asked Negi.
"Every guest has a girl as their partner, every touch will cost five hundred Yen!" explained Sakurako as she stuck out her tongue.
"Are you opening a touching tea shop!-?" cried Negi.
"I thought that the idea was to not do anything depraved!" Anya reminded her.
"Aniki, this looks more like a place for adults." Chamo whispered from Negi's shoulder.
"Please don't say those kind of things to Negi-san." whispered Yue.
"You should all come and experience it yourself." Yuuna suggested.
"Why do they get to go first? That's unfair." grumbled a boy in the line. "Is it because they're kids?"
"I apologise…" Sakurako said with a smile, a wink and a raised finger. "Anya is our teacher and these are her guests!" She guided Negi, Anya and Kotaro down the passage. "For the needs of our guests, this haunted house…has prepared three different paths for you to choose."
"Then I chose the least scary path." said Negi as he blushed and placed a hand behind his head.
"Typical of a Westerner." snorted Kotaro. "You can't even man-up in the face of fake danger. What are you going to do in real danger? A true man should take the scariest path."
"Are you saying that I can't take the scariest path?-!" said Anya indignantly. "I'm not afraid!" They arrived at a set of three doors. The doors were guarded by Ayaka, Makie and Akira.
"W-welcome to the 3A h-haunted house." Ayaka greeted them. Her eyes darted between them and she was paler than normal. Negi took one look at Makie and Ayaka's enormous eyes and pointed at Akira.
"Then I choose this path." he said as he placed his other hand behind his head.
"Negi-kun!" moaned Makie.
"I need to speak to one of you in private!" Ayaka cried. "Negi-san! Kotaro-kun!...Anya-sensei?"
"Well done." Kotaro said noticing the three star fear factor and eighteen age restriction of Negi's choice. "You manned up!"
"Why, Negi-san?" asked Akira. "It's quite scary. Are you sure?"
"I have a feeling that if I choose the other paths, something scary is going to happen." Negi replied with a blush.
"Well, I suppose that if the three of us each go down a different path, we'll experience it as it was designed for without holding up the customers." said Anya. "And Ayaka apparently wants to speak with one of us. Why don't you go with her, Kotaro, as you're her roommate."
"Sure, stick me with the kid's route." complained Kotaro.
"Please, Kotaro-kun!" begged Ayaka. "Come with me!" She grabbed his arm and led him through her door.
"I suppose that leaves me with Makie then." smiled Anya. Mission accomplished. No need to speak to Ayaka and no leaving Negi alone with her or Makie.
Meanwhile, two men left the crowds for the first private area that they could find. The one gestured dramatically and waved his hands in front of his face as well as his partner's. Instantly, their faces melted off, revealing a more familiar pair of faces.
"At LAST!" cried Mark. "WE have infiltrated! The current base! Of our foe!" He pointed dramatically into the sky. Roger facepalmed.
"I thought that the point of doing this in the shadows was to prevent anyone from noticing us?" he sighed.
"NO!" cried Mark. "The Heavans themselvesDECLARE the righteousness of our pursuit! None shall stop us! STEALTH is unnecessary! We merely required it while we removed our spell! We wouldn't want it to wear off in public!"
"Right." sighed Roger. "And how are we going to find Springfield in this?" He pointed back into the crowds.
"It is our DESTINY! To find him! Searching shall be unnecessary!"
"…Can't I just grab a hostage?" Roger sighed, rolling his eyes.
"NO! Mine is the side of JUSTICE! There's a reason I don't give you weapons! I am your Magister! You should do as I say! Or do you want me to punish you with that pactio feature that leaves you short and feathered again!-?"
"Fine!" sighed Roger. "We'll do it your way. Also known as the stupid way!"
"Remember that if it wasn't for me, you'd still be rotting in prison!" replied Mark.
Anya followed Makie through the door labelled "Japanese Ghost Story" as Negi was guided through the one labelled "School Curses" by Akira. The passage that Anya and Makie walked down had traditional, Japanese, shoji walls. Hanging from the ceiling were Japanese lanterns.
"How did all this fit into the room?" asked Anya. "This passage is too long to fit!"
"Chao-san said that her technology could do it." chirped Makie. "I don't know how it works. By the way, after the festival, I won't need to practice as often because I'll have finished my big performance. So I can take you up on that offer to teach me a bit of magic." Anya raised her eyebrows.
"Well, if you're still interested…" she began.
"Oh, it's starting!" Makie squealed. "Don't worry! I'm here for you!" The room darkened before suddenly lighting up in blue. A large shadow with claws covered one of the walls.
"Gyaaaah!" cried Anya as she grabbed Makie. A panel slid open and a small robot tanuki crawled out. The panel immediately slid closed again.
"Isn't he cute!" squealed Makie. "Hakase made him. He's going to guide us down the passage."
"It's a passage." said Anya. "Why would we need guiding?"
"It's about setting the mood." giggled Makie. They followed the robot as the room darkened and the blue light changed to strobe lights that danced along the walls. "We're passing through the spirits' territory." Makie whispered.
A panel on the ceiling shifted and strips of paper hung down from the new hole. On each strip of paper, the word "beware" was written in glowing ink. The spot lights shifted so that the number "four" shone in blue all over the walls. Another panel shifted on the ceiling and dead butterflies rained upon them.
"Yaaah!" squealed Anya. "What are these…!-?"
"It is an omen!" Makie cried. "The spirits are angry!" Ku Fei then fell from the ceiling. Besides a kimono, she was wearing large butterfly wings and antennae. She wasn't moving. "Oh dear! Come with me, Anya-chan!" Makie cried, pulling Anya after the robot that they'd been following, but then a gap opened in the floor and a large hand reached out and grabbed the tanuki before pulling it below the floor. Loud crunching filled the air.
"Wh-what was that!" cried Anya as she gripped Makie's kimono tightly and pointed at the opening in the floor. The hand rose out of the hole again, followed by another one, holding a spiked club, covered in what appeared to be blood.
"Gyaaaaaaaah-wait!" cried Anya as she pointed at the robot oni rising from the hole. "That species of oni only has one horn! Not two!"
"Graaaaaarg!" roared the oni as it raised its club.
"Boo!" came a voice from behind them as Anya felt a pair of hands grab her shoulders.
"Yaaaah!" squealed Anya as she jumped She turned around to face Kazumi dressed as a kitsune.
"We've got to get out of here, Anya-chan!" cried Makie as she pulled Anya passed the oni which swung its club down. As they passed the oni, the panels on either side of them opened up. Out of the resulting darkness walked two girls outlined in blue, wearing white dresses and with their long hair in their face. They walked towards them with their hands outstretched, groaning. Anya and Makie ran passed shrieking leaving the girls to brush aside their hair to reveal the faces of Chao and Chachamaru. "Look! There's the exit!" Makie cried, pointing at a curtain at the end of the corridor as sinister laughter played in the background. Just as they were about to reach it, Misora sprung out from below them, dressed in a kimono and covered in the apparent blood.
"Graaaaarg!" she cried.
"Kyaaaaah!" squealed Anya. She pulled Makie through the curtain and back into the light, clutching Makie's kimono and shivering.
On the other side of the curtain, they found Asuna, Konoka, Setsuna, Yuuna, Sakurako, Akira and Negi.
"So-so scary." Negi was mumbling. "Especially the last part."
"D-don't be such a baby!" said Anya as she slowly let go of Makie's kimono. "We're outside now!"
"Where's Kotaro-kun?" asked Konoka.
"He must still be with Ayaka." Anya said with a shrug. "Well, he was planning to split off around now anyway. He's going to go see the first performance of Natsumi's play. We may as well meet him again later."
"Okay." said Konoka. They started walking away from the class room. "This really is cool. It's going to make a lot of money."
"Oh, is it?" asked Chamo from Negi's shoulder.
"It's only the first day of the festival and it's already this bad." sighed Negi. Then he lifted his head up. "What am I doing? I have to work hard today!"
"Oh! That's right." Chamo agreed. "Aniki made a promise."
"Come to think of it, you have a date today." laughed Asuna as she covered her mouth with her hand.
"No no no…It's not a date." Negi protested as his face reddened.
"But isn't Nodoka-san on the last day?" asked Konoka.
"Nodoka-san said today would be okay." replied Negi before suddenly collapsing into Konoka's chest.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"Wh-what are y-you doing?-!" yawned Anya.
"Hey, what's the matter? Are you alright?" asked Asuna.
"I'm okay." replied Negi as he stood up and placed a hand behind his head.
"Maybe you two are tired from your help with the haunted house." Setsuna suggested.
"You two shouldn't force yourselves to help out." Konoka scolded them. "Ten year olds should get more sleep. Go to the Nurse's room and sleep there for a while."
"Oh, okay." Negi agreed.
"I'm fiiiiiine." yawned Anya.
"I'll go as well, because my club doesn't have any activities." offered Setsuna. Anya spun towards Setsuna.
Negi will be alone with Setsuna! she thought. She's an ally but Nodoka is too and she's still trying to take him for herself! I can't take any more risks!
"Actually, I'll also come. It might be a good idea to sleep a bit before the next item on our schedule." After Setsuna promised to look after the younger children, they got into bed and Setsuna sat down on a chair and watched them. The nurse served some tea which they gratefully accepted with Chamo having some as well. Then they all nodded off to sleep.
"Ah." gasped Negi as he lifted his head off of his pillow and opened his eyes. "…Eh? Why is it so dark now?" The sun had already set and the room was in darkness. Setsuna's eyes fluttered open and she raised her head. Chamo yawned as he raised himself off of Negi's bed. Negi turned to the clock on the wall. "Eight-eight o' clock? Eight o' clock at night!-? Cra-crap! I overslept!-!-? What should I do!-?"
"Wh-what's go-going on?" yawned Anya as she opened her eyes and stretched. "Why are you yelling?"
"We had all those plans to see what everyone's been doing and help the teachers and all sorts of things! We had so much to do!-!" cried Negi.
"Wait! We slept through all that!-?" cried Anya. They all got to their feet.
"What-what should we do?" asked Negi as he started running around the room.
"I'm sorry, I overslept as well!" cried Setsuna as she frantically waved her arms. "Normally this doesn't happen!"
"We had important duties that we missed!" cried Anya as she tugged on her pigtails.
"Aniki, Aniki." said Chamo as he waved his own arms. "What about the date with Nodoka-jochan?-!"
"It was this afternoon at four!" said Negi.
"Eh!-? Eh!-?" squealed Setsuna.
"I better go to the meeting place first!" said Negi as he grabbed his jacket and started pulling it on.
"But it's too late!" cried Setsuna.
"No…Knowing Nodoka-jochan's personality, she probably waited for four whole hours." Chamo rebutted.
"That's bad, bad, bad, bad!" Negi cried as tears started running down his face. "What should I do!-?"
"I apologise. It's my fault." Setsuna said with a bow. "This isn't good. Your schedules were already full today and you slept through it."
"I'll have to head to The World Tree and apologise to the other teachers!" said Anya.
"Okay! But what should I do?" asked Setsuna. Suddenly, Chao's gift clicked unnoticed and the scenery whirled around them in blurred motion. The room distorted and spread in waves and lines which thickened into block splotches which whirled and grew around them, surrounding them in darkness. As the darkness retreated and the room settled, daylight filled the room once more.
"Huh…Now is…What's going on…outside?" asked Negi as he looked out the window at a passing airship.
"Eh…Ten o' clock?" said Setsuna as she looked at the time displayed on the clock on the wall.
"This makes no sense!" cried Anya. They left the building and walked into the daylight and crowd of costumed festival goers.
"The sky was dark a minute ago." said Negi.
"Yes, it was!" agreed Anya.
"What's going on?" asked Setsuna. "Maybe we're dreaming? Is the clock in the infirmary broken?"
"What time is it?" asked Chamo.
"Hm…Eh?" said Negi as he pulled out his cell phone. "It's eight o' clock!"
The cell phone display said, "20:06".
"What!-?" asked Setsuna. Biplanes flew overhead in an aerial display. "…Wow. There's a special performance tonight."
"Is that performed by the students as well?" asked Negi. "It's so cool." Crowds rushed passed them.
"Attention students! It is past ten o' clock." came an announcement. "Mahora Festival officially starts now!-!" Their jaws dropped.
"Eh…eh…Starts now?" asked Negi as he turned to Setsuna.
"What does this mean?" asked Setsuna. "It can't be?"
"Anyway, let's calm down." Chamo suggested from Setsuna's head. "Don't let other people see you."
"Eh…why?" asked Negi.
"Yes, do you know what's going on?" asked Anya.
"Let's regroup in there and discuss it." Chamo suggested. They headed into the restaurant he indicated and sat down.
"Chamo-san?" asked Setsuna.
"What's going on here?" Negi elaborated.
"Aniki, take that thing out." said Chamo.
"That thing?" asked Negi.
"The watch that Chao-san gave you." Negi handed it over and Chamo began examining it. "Hmm…It's really suspicious…Apart from this thing, there isn't anything that can roll back time."
"Eh?" asked Negi.
"What are you talking about?" asked Anya.
"Hmm…Roll back…So it's really true." said Setsuna.
"What's true?" asked Anya.
"I don't know anything about science, so I don't know the reason but from the looks of it, this is probably the real thing." said Chamo as he picked it up.
"Ah, Chamo." said Setsuna. "That thing? I really don't believe it. No matter how powerful the mage is, that spell cannot be cast. To say that Chao-san from our class can do it…"
"But time really did roll back." Chamo interrupted her.
"Hey…" cried Negi as he waved his arms. "What are you two talking about? That thing? Roll back? Explain more clearly!"
"Yes!" agreed Anya. "What do you mean when you say 'time rolled back'? That sounds like a load of bollocks!"
"Well." said Chamo.
"Er…I'm sorry." said Setsuna. Suddenly, Nodoka bumped into Negi.
"Ah." she said with a blush.
"Um, sorry." said Negi as he turned towards her and placed a hand behind his head.
"No, no…eh?" said Nodoka. "Ne-Negi-san? Anya-sensei?"
"Oh. Nodoka-san." said Negi.
"Eh? But why are you…?" began Nodoka as she spun her head back and forth. "A minute ago you were at…"
"Eh?" asked Negi.
"No, no, no. It doesn't matter , Jochan. We're gonna go back now." said Chamo as he waved his arm.
"You go first!"
"Er…yes." said Nodoka before walking off.
"What's the matter, Chamo-kun?" whispered Negi.
"Don't ask. Watch." replied Chamo. They followed Nodoka and watched her meet up with Haruna, Yue, Anya, Negi and Chamo.
"Eh, is that us?-!" asked Negi. Nodoka turned around and Setsuna pushed them out of view.
"Hurry up and hide!" she hissed.
"Wait! So we really travelled back in time!-?" gasped Anya. "But that's impossible!"
"Yet it seems that Chao-san's gift really was a time-machine." replied Chamo.
"Time-time-time machine. Eh!-? Time machine!-?" cried Negi.
"Not so loud!-!" Setsuna hushed him with a finger on her lips.
"Is-is it really true?" asked Negi. "I've only seen this in movies and manga. Is it really a time machine? So small!"
"There's no other explanation." replied Chamo.
"Then we can still make our appointments!" said Anya. "Let's hurry!" She started dragging them away from the crowd. "We'll have to stay away from anyone our past selves were in contact with for now."
"I wanted to see the dinosaurs first!" complained Negi. "We can repeat the day as often as we like to do everything else."
"But we haven't even figured out how to use it!" protested Chamo.
"He's right, Negi-san." added Setsuna.
"No problem!" said Anya. "This is technology, not magic. So we'll need help from someone good with technology!" She pulled out Chisame's pactio card and placed it against her forehead. "Telepathia!"
Everything has already been set up. We can start letting people in now. Zazie told Ayaka. I'll head off to my post.
"All right, Zazie-san." Ayaka said with a nod. "Thank you. I'll tell the others on the first shift to head for their posts as well." She headed down the corridor telling everyone to head for their posts before finally reaching Chisame. She was about to open her mouth when she heard a voice.
"Chisame! We need to talk to you! You'll never believe what happened!"
"Anya-sensei?-!" asked Ayaka. Chisame's eyes widened as she turned to Ayaka.
"I already know." came Chisame's voice, despite her increasingly confused expression. "You were sent into the past by a time machine. Meet Chao-san on the airship and she'll tell you how to use it. But Iinchou can hear this conversation so my past self has to explain this to her." Chisame's eyes widened even more.
"Ayaka can hear!-?" asked Anya's voice. "What do you mean!-?"
"Never mind! Just trust me on this!" came the exasperated reply. "And don't use telepathy! It's really annoying having to hear this conversation over and over again!"
"Um…Okay. Bye." replied Anya's voice.
"…What was that about?" asked Ayaka.
"Um…I don't know." replied Chisame. "I didn't know anything about a time machine."
"Well, what caused the voices?-!" asked Ayaka. "I heard a promise of an explanation! Give it to me! I need to know why I'm hearing voices!"
"Must have been your imagination." said Chisame.
"Don't give me that!" cried Ayaka. "I can tell that you heard it too! Your voice promised an explanation! Give it to me!"
"...Okay. That was telepathy." sighed Chisame. "I still don't understand how you could hear it."
"Telepathy?-!" asked Ayaka. "How can you and Anya-sensei use telepathy? Since when can anyone use telepathy?"
"Does it really matter?"
"Fine. Anya-sensei is a mage." sighed Chisame. "And I'm one of her partners, which is basically a helper."
"Anya-sensei is a mage!-?" asked Ayaka. "And one of her partners? How many others are involved? Why did she trust you and not me?"
"We all found out by accident!" said Chisame. "Well, except those who already knew about magic. For example, Kotaro-san and Evangeline-san were already mages as well. Well Negi was a mage since long before he came here as well, but Anya-sensei still started training before him."
"Then how…?" began Ayaka.
"Look, we'll have to discuss this later." said Chisame. "It's not really my secret and it's time to open anyway." She headed for her post and Ayaka sighed and turned to hers. She'd have to ask Anya, Negi, Kotaro or Evangeline about this.
"Chamo, what's the meaning of this?" Setsuna protested as she scrunched up her eyes and blushed. She indicated the bunny outfit that she was know wearing.
"You said that you had the perfect disguises for us, but these are just perverted!" Anya complained as she opened the door of the changing room open and stuck out a hand holding her own bunny outfit.
"It's a costume. It looks good too!" said Chamo.
"It's perverted! Not good!" complained Anya. "Give me something else!"
"Then you won't match!" replied Chamo.
"Why does that matter!"
"Dressing as a group will get you to cooperate better." Said Chamo. "You need the benefit of such teamwork building advantages in these circumstances."
"Even if that were true, Setsuna shouldn't be dressed like that either!"
"Exactly!" Setsuna agreed. "My stomach is showing!"
"Give us something more normal!"
"But it is normal!" Chamo rebutted. "This is a festival! Dressing to show off will hide you better as it's what everyone else is doing!"
"There are plenty of less outlandish costumes out there!"
"But showing off proves that you have nothing to hide, so no one will pay attention to you!" Chamo said. "I'm giving you these disguises as it maximises your stealth capabilities and provides maximum chance of success to the mission. My intentions are pure hearted!"
"Fine!" growled Anya as she locked the changing room again.
Soon, Anya, Negi and Kotaro were shown to the doors. This was her chance. "W-welcome to the 3A h-haunted house." Ayaka greeted them. She shifted her eyes between them.
"Then I choose this path." Negi said as he placed his other hand behind his head.
"Negi-kun!" came Makie's protest.
"I need to speak to one of you in private!" Ayaka cried. "Negi-san! Kotaro-kun!...Anya-sensei?"
They began to discus which path they should each take.
"Sure, stick me with the kid's route." complained Kotaro.
"Please, Kotaro-kun!" begged Ayaka. "Come with me!" She grabbed his arm and led him through her door. She closed the door behind them.
"All right." sighed Kotaro as he stepped forward. "Let's do this."
"Wait!" cried Ayaka as she grabbed his arm. "Let's wait here first. I need to talk to you!"
"Um...Okay." said Kotaro. Ayaka let go.
"I found out about you, Negi-san, Anya-sensei and Evangeline-san being mages." she began.
"What!-? I'm not like them!" cried Kotaro as his eyes widened. "And how did you find out!-?"
"I found out from Chisame-san after I overheard her conversation between Anya-sensei and her future-self."
"Future self!-?" asked Kotaro. "What are you talking about!-?"
"I don't know anything about it either." said Ayaka. "But I know that you are a mage! Does Natsumi-san know?"
"No! She doesn't! Please don't tell her! And don't make the mistake of lumping me with Western mages. I do things differently." replied Kotaro.
"Your own sister doesn't know!-?" gasped Ayaka.
Kotaro frowned before answering, "That's right. She never found out about me becoming an Eastern mage. That's how important it is to keep this a secret. We could be badly punished if people find out."
"All right." said Ayaka. "But I heard that there are others that know already. And they've become partners."
"Well, Ku Fei-san isn't a partner, but the others are, yes." Kotaro said.
"And a partner is like a helper, right?" asked Ayaka.
"That's right." said Kotaro.
"And the others are partners?" Ayaka asked. "Well, who are they?"
"Anya's partners are me, Chisame-san, Nodoka-san, Yue-san, Haruna-san, Asakura-san, Sayo-san, Kaede-san, Mana-san and Asuna-san. Negi's partners are Konoka-san, Setsuna-san and Asuna-san again."
"Who's Sayo-san?" asked Ayaka.
"The class ghost."
"The class ghost!-? We have a ghost in the class!-?"
Okay, I've got to learn more about this, but leaving that aside, what about your partners?"
"Oh, I don't have any partners."
"They have all those partners and you don't have any!-?" asked Ayaka. "Well, that settles it! I will be your partner!"
"Um, Ayaka-neesan, I'm not sure that that's…" began Kotaro.
"Nonsense!" Ayaka interrupted him. "If the others can be partners, why can't I?"
"Um, well…" began Kotaro.
"Yo! Iinchou! What's taking so long!-?" called Chisame's voice. "The door opened, but you're not here yet!"
"It looks like we'll have to discuss this later." sighed Ayaka. "Well, I suppose that you wouldn't want to spend too long here. You have to go and see your sister's performance. You wouldn't want to miss that." She took his hand.
"You don't need to hold my hand." said Kotaro with a frown.
"Nonsense!" replied Ayaka. "I'm your guide! Of course I should lead you by the hand!" She proceeded to guide him down the dark, stone corridor.
Torches lit with green flame adorned the walls and gargoyles stood on the ramparts. Splashes of red and claw-like gouges covered the walls. Lights flashed from the ceiling and the rumble of thunder filled the passage. Miniature puppets covered in white cloth with eyes drawn on dropped from the ceiling and bobbed up and down as the hall was filled with a "Wooooooo!" Kotaro poked one, turned to Ayaka and raised an eyebrow. Ayaka just smiled and led him further down the passage. Suddenly, Chisame jumped out from behind a gargoyle wearing a frilly dress and lots of pale make-up.
Seeing who Ayaka had brought with her, she rolled her eyes but still raised her hands and twitched her fingers, giving another "Wooooo!"
"I've seen Chisame-san look scarier on a normal day." muttered Kotaro.
Chisame was pulled along by a cord which carried her over their heads. Then, a section of wall slid open to reveal an operating table in the middle of a dusty laboratory filled with cobwebs and jars of assorted liquids. Satomi stood next to the operating table, wearing a lab coat.
"Mwahahahahaha!" she laughed as she threw her head back. "It's alive! My creation is alive!" On the operating table, something was covered by a sheet. That something raised the upper half of its body, allowing the sheet to fall off. Underneath was a robot designed to look like Frankenstein's monster. It raised its arms and groaned.
"Okay." said Kotaro, backing away. "I admit that that's creepy."
Suddenly, one of the gargoyles reached out its arm and swiped at Kotaro. Then toy spiders rained from the ceiling. Kotaro dodged them, only to find a hand on his shoulder. He turned around to see Kaede wearing a long, black cape. She gave him a fanged grin.
"Don't worry, Kotaro-kun!" said Ayaka as she pulled him along. "Come with me and I'll keep you safe!" A pile of bones rose from the floor the resulting skeleton danced forwards. Another panel slid open to reveal Mana covered in rotting skin. She raised her arms and groaned, shuffling her feet towards them. Then Zazie swooped over their heads on a broom. She was wearing a dark cloak and pointy hat. Finally, they reached the curtain and stepped through it and into the light. "Are you okay, Kotaro-kun?" asked Ayaka.
"I'm fine." replied Kotaro.
"All right." Ayaka said with a smile. "I suppose that you'd better head off to your sister's play and I'd better head back to the customers." They started walking down the corridor. "We'll have to continue discussing this late-" A door flew open and a hand grabbed Ayaka and pulled her into the room.
Ayaka was turned around and made to face…herself. The other her quickly beckoned Kotaro to join them. He entered with massive eyes as he took in the scene before him. Not only were there two Ayakas, but there was also another him, as well as Negi, Anya, Chamo, Chisame, Kaede, Ku Fei, Asuna, Konoka, Setsuna, Yue, Nodoka, Haruna, Kazumi and Sayo.
"I still don't get why we had to wait in here for so long." sighed Chisame.
"We need to keep the timeline stable." replied one of the Ayakas. "I hope that that is a good enough explanation or do I have to use this?" She pulled out a card and showed to Chisame.
"What's going on?-!" asked the other Ayaka. "Is today the day when all sorts of weird things happen to me!-?"
"She's starting to sound like me." muttered Chisame.
"We've already lived through this day and used the time machine to come back." replied the first Ayaka. "I'm here to take over from you so that you can spend the day with Kotaro-kun. The others have other business, but you'll meet up with their past selves later."
"Um…Okay." said Ayaka. "I-I travelled through time and spoke to myself!-?"
"That's right." said the first Ayaka.
"H-How...First magic and now this!" cried the other. "Is this what was being discussed on the telepathy!-? What's going on!-?"
"All willbe explained later. Now, we'd all better leave." said the first Ayaka. "You don't want to be late for Natsumi-san's play.
Negi, Anya, Setsuna and Chamo stared out of the window of the airship. "Couldn't we at least have changed before getting on the airship?" complained Anya. To her and Setsuna's frustration, they were still in bunny suits. Even Chamo wore a pair of ears. "I'm going to look ridiculous in front of Lingshen! It's hard enough maintaining a student's respect under normal conditions when they are older than you and can apparently build time machines!"
"There wasn't really an opportunity." said Chamo with a shrug.
"At least we've been able to enjoy the festival." said Setsuna with a smile.
"Yes, those rides were a lot of fun!" agreed Negi.
"They were, but I can't believe that you wanted to ride them before looking for Lingshen." sighed Anya.
"We've got all the time in the world." said Negi with a shrug. "And we already know from Chisame that we're going to be successful."
"True." said Anya, perking up.
"And I'm glad to spend some time with you two and get to know you better." said Setsuna with a smile. "I'm grateful to Anya-sensei for improving my relationship with Konoka-ojou-sama and Asuna-san. And I've seen Negi-san practice. I'm honoured to be the partner of a mage like him."
"Ah. So you enjoy watching Aniki train?" asked Chamo.
"Well, yes I…Wait, what are you trying to say?" asked Setsuna as she suddenly furrowed her eyebrows.
"Well, it seems that you two have been getting along really well recently." replied Chamo with a grin.
"And you worked well together in the battle yesterday. Don't you think you two are suited for each other?"
"What are you talking about, Chamo!-?" cried Anya. "They weren't the only ones involved in that battle! You could just as easily say that Setsuna was meant to be with Kotaro!"
"But can you really deny that you like Aniki?" asked Chamo.
"Well, I do like Negi-san and I think he's cute and maybe when I saw the grown-up version of him, my heart did skip a beat, but…" began Setsuna as her reddening face darted between looking at Chamo, Negi and a glaring Anya, "I mean…it's not that…" She placed a hand on her chest. "Look, I only have feelings for Konoka-ojou-sama!"
"Oh, so it's like that!" said Negi. Setsuna turned to face him and started waving her hands around.
"No! I didn't mean it that way!" she cried.
"Ha ha ha!" laughed Negi as he ran away. "So Konoe-san is in your heart! How interesting!"
"Negi-san!" complained Setsuna as she grabbed Negi and spun him to face her. "You don't have the right to say that about me! If we're going to discuss that kind of thing, then who's in your heart!-? Is it Nodoka-san!-?"
"How did we get onto this topic!-?" squealed Negi.
"Because teasing Setsuna-nee-san is fun." giggled Chamo.
"I need to go to the toilet." Negi announced as he placed a hand behind his head.
"Oh. Okay." said Setsuna.
"We'll meet you here." said Anya.
"You are mean, Chamo." complained Setsuna as Negi left.
"Yes!" agreed Anya. "What were you trying to pull!-?"
"Oh, sorry." said Chamo. "I was just trying to have a bit of fun."
"But where is Chao-san?" sighed Setsuna. "We're supposed to meet her here on the airship. Hmm…"
"No need to worry." came a voice from behind her. "Trust me. It's not good for you-yo. I'm right here." They turned to face a smiling Chao who was walking towards them. She was wearing her Chao Bao Zi uniform.
"Chao-san!" cried Setsuna.
"Finally!" cried Anya.
"So, how does it feel to time-travel?" asked Chao. "Personally, I find that experience is the best teacher so I decided to have you discover this yourself rather than explain it in the beginning. I had to put sleeping pills in the tea-yo. Ones that even a professional wouldn't notice. I didn't want you getting suspicious of an evil plot! But I'm sorry that I had to deceive you all."
"What!-?" cried Setsuna.
"You drugged us!-?" Anya gasped.
"There won't be any lasting negative effects." Chao reassured them as her smile widened.
Come to think of it. thought Chamo. "There is something I wanna ask you first." he said. "A time travelling spell…No matter how much of a genius you are, a normal human cannot succeed in making a time machine. Who are you?-!"
"You want to know more about me-ne?" asked Chao. "Well, you're right. Unfortunately, I'm not human." Her smile faded slightly before brightening again. "I'm also an alien from Mars-yo!"
"What kind of joke is this!-!-?" cried Setsuna.
"Seriously!-?" cried Anya holding up her palms. "An alien!-? From Mars!-? How gullible do you think we are!-? This isn't Science Fiction!"
"No, I really am a non-human alien." said Chao. "But that's not how I was able to make the time machine. That just comes from genius and hard work."
"Well, in the class, there are vampires, robots, ninjas and even spirits." said Setsuna. "So I won't be surprised even if you are an alien."
"Well, you're one to talk, Sakurazaki-san, ne?" said Chao as her smile widened. "But I won't hold that against you. I'd prefer it if I was merely half-youkai."
"You even know…!-?" began Setsuna before pulling out her pactio card. "What is your real intention here? If you betray Anya-sensei or Negi-san's trust, as his partner, I will not forgive you!"
"Calm down, Setsuna." said Anya, though her eyebrows had narrowed. "I nearly thought that you were an enemy in Kyoto. Let her explain before we resort to violence."
"Plus that outfit isn't very intimidating, even if it does suit you." said Chao as her grin widened. "But you needn't worry. I want you all to use the time machine to enjoy the festival. I certainly don't want to hurt Negi-kun. After all, he is my relative."
"WHAT!-?" cried Anya. "How could you possibly be related to Negi!-?"
"Wha…What!-?" agreed Setsuna as she stepped back.
"Is it really so hard to believe?" asked Chao. "You only know Negi-kun's closest relatives and only on his father's side of the family-ne? Well, my relationship is a bit more distant. How do you think I know about magic? I know the stories about my relative, The Thousand Master."
"Then how are you related to him!-?" asked Anya as she threw her arms into the air.
"Martians never lie." said Chao. "But we do have secrets. And I'm going to have to keep this one for now. But if you and your allies use my time machine for the festival, I'll tell you more. You must especially bring Kagurazaka-san. Make sure that you bring her on several loops to help her prepare for the tournament."
"Why do you need Asuna-san to prepare for the tournament?" asked Setsuna.
"You'll get a better idea of that when it starts." said Chao as she raised a finger. "And here comes Negi-kun!" Negi was indeed walking back to them.
"Hello, Chao-san!" he greeted. "I'm glad that the others found you. We were wondering where you were."
"And it's good to see you again as well, Negi-kun." said Chao. "Now, I wouldn't recommend that you use my device in the air, so I'll explain it to you when we land. For now, how about we enjoy the view-ne?"
After they left the airship, Chao said, "All right. Get out the gift that I gave you." Negi held out the pocket watch. "As you will have noticed, I made this machine to travel through time."
"Wow!" gasped Negi. "So this really is a time machine!"
"That's right." said Chao with a smile. "This is the Cassiopeia. It's a high-tech piece of equipment that allows the user and their companions to jump through time, yo. You're lucky that it worked properly and didn't malfunction horribly, ne? After all, it's only been used twice and the last time was two and a half years ago. But let's not dwell on such morbid thoughts. They aren't healthy."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Negi.
"Yes." agreed Anya. "Were you expecting a malfunction?"
"I would have come up with something else if I expected a malfunction." replied Chao with a raised palm. "It's best to be prepared for unexpected, horrible events, though. This watch requires an enormous amount of magical power from the user. That's why I haven't used it. Thanks to you, the experiment was a success."
"So, you don't have that kind of magical power?" asked Anya.
"I just said that that requirement is why I haven't been using it, ne?"
"Eh...What would've happened if something had gone wrong?"asked Negi.
"You probably would have fallen into a different dimension and floated there for eternity, but don't worry about that." said Chao. "Clearly, there was nothing to worry about."
"Hey hey hey!" cried Negi.
"You tested something that dangerous on us!-?" complained Anya.
"We were Guinea pigs." gasped Setsuna.
"But clearly it wasn't dangerous." said Chao. "You all worry too much."
"Well, at least now I won't be late for my meeting with Nodoka-san!" said Negi. "Chao-san, thank you for lending me such a great item."
"Here's the manual." said Chao, handing over a book. "Feel free to use it as much as you like. Just please bring Kagurazaka-san with you on your trips to give her more training time."
"Thank you very much." said Negi. "I'm sorry, but we have things to do. We'd better get going."
"Please enjoy it." asked Chao.
"Setsuna-san, hurry!" called Negi.
"Let's not use the time machine as an excuse to waste time!" added Anya. "We have things to do before we meet the others."
Chao Lingshen. thought Setsuna. She said that she's a blood relative of Negi-san, but also not human. What's going on? "I still don't really trust Chao-san." she announced as they walked through the streets.
"Ah, Setsuna-san, Chao-san is a really nice person!" argued Negi. "Just trust her for now. There's no harm in it."
"Yes, while she was acting suspicious for a while, she seems all right again now." added Anya.
"But..." began Setsuna, "but we shouldn't use this unless we need to."
"If you're so worried about it, maybe you should look after it." said Negi.
"Hm. Okay." said Setsuna. "How are your schedules today?"
"Oh, okay." said Negi. He pulled out his schedule as Anya rummaged for her own. "Hm...I'm meeting Nodoka-san at four."
"I've got the tournament at five thirty." said Anya. "And I'd like you to watch me compete."
"Yes! I'll have to do that!" said Negi.
"But that would mean that you only spend an hour and a half with Nodoka-san!" gasped Setsuna.
"Ah tha-that's not good!-?" asked Negi.
"You really are a ten year old." said Chamo. "You don't know how to spend time with a girl. But the schedule is already tight, so it can't be helped. I feel sorry for Nodoka-san. Only an hour and a half."
"Is it really so bad?" asked Anya. "It's not like he has the same obligation to her that he has to me as a long time friend."
"It still seems sad." said Setsuna. "Well, as we're short on time, we can borrow the power of the watch again."
"That's fine." said Anya. "I see no reason not to use it now that we have it and have seen that it works. I suppose that I'll see Zazie's circus in the mean time. I have to do that eventually."
"Are you going to see Nodoka dressed like that?" Setsuna asked Negi, staring pointedly at his rabbit outfit.
"Is that not a good idea?" asked Negi.
"Being disguised is not what we have to worry about now, Aniki." replied Chamo.
"What do you have to do before meeting Nodoka-san?" asked Setsuna.
"Well, I had to walk around and see some of the others as well." replied Negi as he looked at his schedule.
"Forget it, forget it." Chamo suggested as he waved an arm. "Cancel them all. Let the other us handle it. We're supposed to use this a few times with Asuna-nee-san anyway."
"In that case, we'd better use the time to help you get ready for Nodoka-san." suggested Setsuna. "But Konoka-ojou-sama is better at this than me."
"We can call her with the pactio card." suggested Chamo. "And Anya-aneki, before you go, could you call Chiu-ane-san as well? She's good with clothes."
Konoka had been very excited to have her first conversation via pactio as well as to help Negi prepare. Asuna had been with her, so Konoka had brought her along. "I can't believe that I got roped into this." said Chisame as she handed Negi a shirt. "I have plans for today!"
"Well, thanks to Chao-san, we don't have to worry about that." said Konoka with a smile as she placed a hat on Negi's head. "Do you think the hat is too much?"
"The hat's fine." said Chisame. "This still seems like Science Fiction though. Why do things have to start changing to Science Fiction as soon as I'm starting to get used to Fantasy?" After they had finished changing, they left the shop to discover a familiar face rushing towards them. "Is that Sasaki-san?" Chisame asked.
"Yes, it is." replied Asuna. "Hey, Maki-chan! What's the rush!-?" Makie turned towards them and adjusted her direction of movement slightly in order to run right up to them.
"Hi everyone!" she greeted them. "I just want to get to my performance with lots of time to spare, Asuna-chan. By the way Negi-kun, thank you so much for the pa-pakuti...the card-thingy! I really like it, but I didn't get round to asking how to use it."
"I...made a pactio...with...?" began Negi as his eyes widened.
"Oh...oh dear." said Makie. "This is the you from before, isn't it? So you don't know yet!"
"What!-? You!-? No, we didn't know." sighed Chisame. She turned to Negi. "What, were Konoe-san, Sakurazaki-san and Kagurazaka-san not enough for you!-? So you decided that you needed to kiss Sasaki-san as well!-?"
"I-I don't know anything about this!" Negi protested as he waved his hands.
"Whatever. If you need to use the pactio, hold it in your hand and say 'adeat'. Then, when you're done, say 'abeat'."
"Okay! Thanks, Hasegawa-san!" said Makie. "I better get going! Bye!" She ran off.
"But...you don't need to rush...if you have time travel." Chisame slowly muttered to herself before sighing. "I guess that we'll have to sort that out later."
Kotaro and Ayaka took their seats and waited for the play to begin. The curtains opened and those playing Theseus and Hippolyta walked onto the stage.
"Beautiful Hippolyta, our wedding is just four days away but it still seems to move too slowly for me." Theseus began.
"I heard that it doesn't even have to be a confession. Even a kiss will work. And if it's a deep kiss, it'll work twice as much!" came Haruna's voice through Nodoka's cell phone.
"Eh! A deep...!-? P-Paru, why are you telling me this!-?" Nodoka cried as her face reddened. "A date is enough! Y-you pressured me into this in the beginning!"
"A date isn't enough!" Haruna protested. "You won't get a better chance than this! Otherwise someone else will steal him from you!"
"B-but he's not mine to steal from!"
"He will be if you listen to me!"
"I-I can't give N-Negi-san a deep kiss! What k-kind of girl would that make me!"
"You've kissed Anya-chan before for your pactio! It should be easier to kiss someone you like and you should do it more passionately! Think about it!"
"But I can't just...!"
"Oh, sorry. Am I interrupting?" asked Negi from behind Nodoka's shoulder.
"Oh n-no!" squealed Nodoka as she snapped the phone shut. "We've finished!"
"Were you waiting long?" Negi asked. "Sorry about that."
"Oh, um, I j-just got here m-myself, so..."
Meanwhile, Asuna, Setsuna, Konoka and Chisame joined Yue and Haruna behind the bushes as they watched Negi and Nodoka. "They're both shy." laughed Haruna.
"They actually look cute together after all." declared Asuna.
"I don't think that matters." muttered Chisame. "It doesn't make the age difference any smaller."
"Oh, don't worry about that." said Konoka. "I'm still not sure about the hat though. Se-chan, what do you think?"
"Eh? I think it's really cute." said Setsuna.
"Wha-? When did you guys get here?" asked Haruna as she turned towards them.
"Yahoo!" Konoka greeted her with a wave.
"Well, it's good timing anyway." Haruna continued. "There's something I wanna ask you, Hasegawa-san."
"What?" sighed Chisame as she turned towards Haruna.
"I will come straight out with it. Is there a chance for Nodoka?" asked Haruna. She pointed at Chisame. "What is your relationship with Negi-kun right now?"
"Wha…?" cried Chisame as she stepped backwards and widened her eyes. "Okay, fine! We! Are! Roommates! That's it! We don't even train much together! He's ten years old! I'm not interested in him and I don't see how someone else would be! I don't know who he's interested in and I don't really care! How often are ten year olds interested in girls anyway!-?"
"Well, I've read about…" began Haruna.
"Don't use your manga as a basis to judge reality!" cried Chisame. "We don't live in a manga! Or a book! Or any other professional work!"
"Why did you feel the need to mention 'professional work' in particular?" asked Yue with a raised eyebrow.
"Well, if my world was created by someone who wasn't a professional, it would explain a lot." sighed Chisame.
"We're getting off topic." said Haruna. "The point is that there's still a chance that Negi-kun could develop feelings around this time and I'm asking you who has the best shot of making him like them. Spill it."
"I'd actually like to know that too." said Setsuna.
"And you're asking me because…?" asked Chisame.
"Because you're his guardian and rank high on the suspect list!" replied Haruna.
"Okay! That proves that your suspect list is absolutely bogus!" said Chisame as she flung her arms into the air. "And what makes you think I'm his guardian!-? Why not ask Hakase!-? Or Anya!-?"
"Hakase would only be able to tell if someone was in love if a machine told her." said Haruna with a laugh.
"What about when I told her?" asked Konoka.
"Okay, but a machine was involved then." replied Haruna with a shrug.
"And Anya?" asked Chisame.
"Yeah, that'll turn out well." said Haruna as she rolled her eyes.
"Well, Konoka and Asuna were also given some responsibility over him." added Chisame.
"Don't look at me!" said Asuna as she held up her palms.
"If we leave out the time when we're asleep, even you librarians spend more time with him than I do! But if any of you paid attention, you'd notice that he's too young for this anyway!" added Chisame.
"Exactly!" agreed Asuna. "He's too young to fall in love!"
"Besides, Westerners don't usually end up with their first girlfriend anyway! That's just something from fiction!" Chisame finished.
"Oh, Negi-kun and Nodoka are moving." said Konoka.
"Hm, gotta hurry and catch up." said Haruna. They all stood up.
"Hang on there, Saotome!" said Yue. "Weren't we going to leave them alone today!-?"
"Ah, I'm still interested." said Haruna with a smile as she placed a hand behind her head and followed the others as the couple walked down the street to a bookstore.
Anya sat in her seat and watched as the ringmaster, whose face had been whitened and was wearing fake cobwebs walked onto the stage.
"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen!" he called out. "And welcome to the greatest show on Earth! The Nightmare Circus!" He waved an arm and his cape and a drum roll began as the floor filled with mist and brightly coloured lights turned on. A hearse drove into the ring and giggling clowns began to climb out.
As the second act of the play began, Kotaro finally perked up as Natsumi finally took to the stage.
"Hello there, spirit! Where are you going?" asked the actor playing Puck.
"Over hills and dales, through bushes, briars and parks, through floods and fires, I go everywhere, faster than the moon itself." answered Natsumi. "And I serve the fairy queen. For her, I add dew to the greenery. Tall cowslips are her pensioners. Look at their gold colours. These rubies are favours to us fairies. I must look for some drops of dew here and add them to every cowslip's ear. Goodbye spirit. I've got to go. Our queen and her elves are coming soon."
"Being faster than the moon isn't very impressive." whispered Kotaro.
"The moon is actually pretty fast if you consider the distance it has to travel." replied Ayaka.
"Still, who talks like that!-?"
"She's being metaphorical." Ayaka explained. "She's explaining the role of her character in the world in a way that we can relate to her."
"So that the story means more to us." Ayaka replied. "If we understand the motivations of the characters, we'll enjoy the story more."
"It'd be easier if there was more action." Kotaro sneered as he leaned back into his chair.
"Emotions can be entertaining as well." Ayaka replied. "You should learn to enjoy them for your sister's sake. I can help you with that." She gave him a smile. "Now, let's watch the rest of the play."
Anya watched as the tent seemed to fill with smoke and fireworks and Zazie led a horde of blob-like creatures into the ring. She was dressed in a black and white jester suit and seemed to cartwheel up the tallest pole in the ring. Once she reached the top, she grabbed the trapeze and swung near the centre of her swing, she flipped, grabbing the trapeze with her feet. She then pulled some batons out of what seemed to be nowhere and began juggling them, while upside-down, swinging on a trapeze.
A man dressed in spandex and a cape, riding an armoured elephant then entered the ring. The man climbed onto the elephant's head before being picked up by its trunk and flung into the air.
Zazie caught him with one hand while continuing to juggle with the other. The man then breathed fire, setting Zazie's batons alight as she continued to juggle them. Zazie swung the man over to another trapeze and the two began to loop-the-loop on their handles, Zazie by her feet. Zazie blew out the flames and pulled out five knives and a bowl of fruit.
She began to juggle them, slicing the fruit in the air and catching it in the bowl. She grabbed one of the knives which transformed into a spoon as the others transformed into doves and flew in a ring around her. She ate the fruit from the bowl while hanging upside-down by her feet from the swinging trapeze. The spoon then transformed into a top hat which she dropped the bowl into before it transformed once again, this time into a brightly coloured handkerchief. She wiped her mouth before tying the handkerchief to the rung and lowering herself down its ever increasing length.
A man rode into the ring on a unicycle and she lowered herself onto his shoulders. She then pulled out six balls and continued juggling as he drove her out of the ring again.
"Watch out!" cried Negi as he lunged forward. Nodoka tripped over a book and fell into his arms. Negi twisted, trying to stabilise himself and Nodoka. He managed to steady himself just as Nodoka was right below him, looking up into his eyes from his arms.
"Oh oh oh, that was nice!" cried Haruna from her hiding place. "As expected."
"Hey!" said Asuna with a blush.
"Oh...So sorry." Nodoka apologised as she blushed and stared up at Negi. It was the best look at her eyes that Negi had ever had. They were beautiful. Dark but clear with a twinkle from the reflected light. The unusual purple colour matched her hair and seemed to fit her rather than looking unnatural and out of place. They were large and deep enough to give him the feeling that he was being pulled into them where he could swim in a dark lagoon at night where all was peaceful and relaxing.
"No..." began Negi before suddenly looking up.
"What are you doing, Negi-san?" asked Takane. She had just walked in with Mei and they were both blushing. Mei held a beeping device in her hand.
"No, that's not it, this is...We just tripped." said Negi as he helped Nodoka to her feet.
"While everybody is on a look out, you're dating a female student? Do think you are special or something?" asked Takane. "Although the effect is one hundred and twenty percent on the last day, it's still as high as sixty to eighty percent on the first day. Isn't it a bit careless to do this now?"
"No, that's not it." said Negi as he stretched out his arms in front of Nodoka. "We're not dating or anything no matter what your machine says!"
"Oh?" asked Mei. "Because it says that her stats are high enough for her to be considering confession and recently spiked. While they're not exceptionally high and indicate that she probably won't confess today, another spike like that would mean that she's almost sure to confess! Regardless of what you say, she's clearly finding this romantic and could confess if you continue!"
"What are you talking about?" asked Negi. "It's rude to say such things!"
"Sensei, for you to continue would be dangerous! Step away from the student!" ordered Takane.
"No! I won't let you take her!" cried Negi. He grabbed Nodoka's hand and guided her away from Takane and Mei, weaving through the bookshelves to slow them down. As they followed, he turned back and they slipped out the door.
Zazie was back in the ring with what seemed to be every member of the circus. They were all standing on a platform that was being lifted by the strong man. He held the platform against a ramp that the other members had used to climb onto the platform and would also presumably be used for them to leave once again. The acrobats formed an intricate pyramid on top of the elephant, with Zazie at the very top, balancing on her hand with which she held the head of the performer below her.
"This way! They're still following us!" cried Negi as he led Nodoka down another alley. He continued to make turns at various intersections before his eyes widened and he darted his head about in the middle of a street. "They're coming from both sides!" He suddenly dragged Nodoka through a door and up the stairs until they reached the roof. "Sorry about that! I think that we're okay for now."
"Who were those people?" asked Nodoka.
"They're acquaintances of mine." said Negi. "We're technically colleagues, as Principal Konoemon-sensei asked us both to work on a job, but you don't have to worry about that. I'm so sorry. It was supposed to be a happy festival but now it turned into this." He bowed and scrunched his eyes shut.
"No, not at all. That's not true." said Nodoka as she raised her arms before holding a fist in front of her chest. "That's not true."
"Oh, I know!" said Negi as he lifted his head and began to smile once more. "Is there anything that you would like me to do as an apology?"
"Anything I want to do?" asked Nodoka.
"Yes. It can be anything. Even something magical! Of course, I couldn't use my spells or my friendship with Anya to get you exam questions or something like that. It wouldn't be right. But anything else."
"Anything?" asked Nodoka.
"Yes." said Negi. "Anything." She was obviously really uncertain. He could hear the beginning of what she was about to say but still had no idea what she was about to ask.
"I...Negi-san...I heard a lot about you from Anya-sensei. She denies it, but she cares about you a lot. I can see why. You...are just as kind as you sounded...in the stories she told us about you. I...I heard about...how brave...and determined you are. I know all about how you want to...find your father. It's...so sad that you don't know where he is. Ev-even Anya-sensei has-has had a hard life. I-I would have never...thought that I could help someone like Anya-sensei...but I did. And-and I liked it...I liked helping her and I would like to help you too."
"But Nodoka-san, this is supposed to be something to make up for today!" said Negi. "And you're already helping me so much!"
"No." said Nodoka. "I-it's not enough. I want to help you more. Be-because I enjoy helping you, Negi-san. I enjoy...spending time with you and...I enjoy knowing that I am able to help...but-but...I know that I can't help you as much as I want to yet."
"Wait, Nodoka-san, what are you...are you...wai-!" began Negi as he held out his hand, but Nodoka had now closed her eyes and balled her fists in determination.
"Negi-san, I know that you need more partners and I like you. I like you so much that I want to kiss you. If that kiss is for a pactio, then that's fine, because I want to be your partner! Please, even if it's just for a pactio, please kiss me!"
Anya watched as the lion tamer placed his head into the lion's mouth. The stadium suddenly filled with gasps and screams as the lion shut its mouth. But the lion tamer stood up and his head popped back out from his shirt.
Negi began to glow and his eyes glazed over. "All right Nodoka-san." he said in an eerie monotone.
"Are you all right, Negi-san?" asked Nodoka.
"I am fine. Unfortunately Chamo-kun isn't here. Therefore, it'll have to be an ordinary kiss."
"Um...O...kay. Are you sure that you're all right, Negi-san? If we need to wait for Chamo-san, then I don't mind."
"Crap!" cried Chisame as she ran towards the building. "The World Tree just flashed! And Negi did too! Knowing our luck, that can't be good! She probably confessed to him after all!"
"If so, good for her!" said Haruna.
"No! Not good for her!" cried Chisame. "Negi was told not to let anyone confess as it might cause freaky mind control, making people into love slaves or something."
"Cool!" cried Haruna.
"No! Who thinks that it's a good idea to use mind control to make someone love you!-?" asked Chisame.
"Me?" asked Haruna. Chisame facepalmed.
"Ignore her." said Yue. "The important thing is making sure that they're all right. If he's been affected by magic, we need someone to drain that magic from him. Such as one of his pactio partners. Preferably one who won't be affected by any negative magic." She turned pointedly to Asuna.
"Fine!" said Asuna.
"Activate the artifact that you got from Negi and get up there as fast as you can. You may need to boost yourself." Yue told her. "We'll be right up."
"Got it." said Asuna pulling out a card. "Adeat! Sim tua pars!" She was instantly covered in armour and wore a round, white shield with a red rim. It was also marked with a red cross running through a circle. She jumped, soaring onto the roof of the building.
She stared at Negi who was slowly advancing towards Nodoka with a glazed look in his eyes. "What's going on?-!" she asked. "What's wrong with you!-?"
"I have to kiss Nodoka-san." said Negi.
"What are you talking about!-?" asked Asuna.
"Um…Y-you really d-don't have to if you don't want to N-Negi-san." mumbled Nodoka.
"No. Nodoka-san asked me to kiss her so I must." replied Negi.
"Nodo-What!-?" asked Asuna as she span around. "Did you ask him to kiss you!-?"
"Um…Y-yes…but…I didn't th-think he would start acting so s-strange afterwards." Nodoka replied as she tried to cover her flushed face. The door to the roof swung open and the rest of those spying on the date ran out. Negi slowly turned to face to the crowd.
"Oh, look." he said as he stared at the occupant of Konoka's shoulder. "Chamo-kun has arrived. He can draw a pactio circle."
"Honya-chan told him to kiss her and now he's acting weird!" Asuna explained.
"He looks like he's being controlled by something." said Setsuna. "This-this is the power of The World Tree."
"We'll have to stop him before he does something that he'll regret." said Chisame.
"Right." said Asuna as she stepped in front of Nodoka.
"Please move out the way, Asuna-san." said Negi.
"No way!" replied Asuna.
"Then I'll have to move you." said Negi. "Come to me, eleven spirits of wind and bind my enemy. Sagitta Magica, Aer Capturae." Asuna raised her shield and the magic arrows dissipated upon connecting with it.
"Asuna-san, you have to dispel the magic that he's being affected by!" called Setsuna.
"Try using your harisen." suggested Yue.
"All right!" said Asuna. "Could you hold him still?"
"Adeat!" said Setsuna and her card turned into a dagger. She let go and fifteen copies of it formed in the air. They flew towards Negi, piercing his clothes and pinning him to the floor.
"Abeat!" said Asuna. She tucked her card away and pulled out another, saying, "Adeat!" She then swung the newly formed harisen which connected with Negi's head. The glazed look in his eyes was instantly replaced with one of horror. At that moment, Mei, Takane and eight of her shadow puppets jumped onto the roof.
"Wha-wha...Did I...? Did I really...?" began Negi.
"I knew that this would be trouble." said Takane. "What happened here?"
"Who are these people!-?" asked Asuna. "Did they come to help?"
"Eh...I think that they're acquaintances of Negi-san." replied Nodoka.
"They are co-workers of ours for the duration of the festival." explained Setsuna. "We're all supposed to protect people from the magic of The World Tree, which Negi-san was affected by."
"He was affected by the magic of The World Tree!-?" asked Takane.
"We've already removed the influence of the magic." Yue reassured her.
"How could I...?" began Negi.
"I see." said Takane. "Although a lot of unprecedented factors have led to this unfortunate incident...this wouldn't have happened if you'd realised the importance of this mission and had committed yourself to your job, Negi-san! Plus you exposed a student to a potentially dangerous situation. As an employee of Mahora Academy, you should have known better."
"Ah ah ah..." said Negi. "I'm sorry. I got carried away by the festival. I understand my mistake now."
Takane and Mei blushed. "It's not easy handling a ten year old kid." whispered Takane.
"He's so cute, it's unfair!" replied Mei.
"Um...Because of the fact that you're still needed for the rest of the festival, we're going to leave the matter at that, but be more careful next time!" Takane said with a blush as she turned away. "I can't let this kind of thing happen again!"
"Yes." agreed Negi with a bow. "I'm so sorry, everyone! What did I actually do?"
"It doesn't matter." replied Yue. "It was the influence of the tree."
"But I even caused trouble for Nodoka-san...It's supposed to be a happy school festival." Negi placed a hand behind his head as he turned towards his date.
"No, please forget about it." replied Nodoka.
"Again, as soon as we're in a safer place, I'll do anything as an apology." said Negi.
"No...really, please forget it." said Nodoka.
"Well, let's finish our time together and see what we think afterwards." said Negi.
"Kazumi-san, let's not do it." Sayo pleaded as she floated along behind the reporter. "I don't think that you should trust that person."
"But I'm very interested in the World Tree." protested Kazumi. "Besides, we have ways of making sure that she isn't conspiring against us."
"But she stops talking whenever something suspicious comes up." replied Sayo. "As if she knows that we're listening."
"And I do!" said Chao as she walked out of the shadows of the alley. "I take it that you received my note and are considering joining me anyway, though-ne?"
"You can hear me!-?" gasped Sayo as she raised a hand to her mouth. "You know about me!-?"
"I know many things, Aisaka-san-yo!" smirked Chao. "The difficulty has always been making sure that others don't find out about me as you've demonstrated, ne? It was hard enough keeping my secrets from the class representatives, but your artifacts were too difficult for me to hide everything from, much as I tried."
"You know about our artifacts?" asked Kazumi with a frown.
"As I said, I know many things. But I'd much rather have your abilities on my side."
"And what exactly is your side?" asked Kazumi with a raised eyebrow.
"You've seen my recent conversations, ne?" asked Chao. "You know that I'm working towards exposing magic. I have reason to believe that it is in the best interests of everyone. As a reporter, you too wish to document magic, ne?"
"Yes, but I don't want my friends to be turned into ermines." replied Kazumi.
"It is not in my interests for any of your friends to spend years behind whiskers." said Chao. "If all goes according to plan, it won't happen."
"What do we need to do?" asked Kazumi.
"You've examined my conversations, ne?"
"Yes." replied Kazumi.
"So you know that I've given time travel technology to your friends, ne?"
"I need you to join them. I'll give you the technology to track their Cassiopeia. I also need you to make sure that Kagurazaka-san gets in more practice with her artifact. Then, I need her to join the martial arts tournament."
"Which one?" asked Kazumi.
"I'll buy them all so that there will only be one." Chao grinned. "You can be my announcer."
"Yes. Don't let Hasegawa-san make a pactio with Negi-bozu." said Chao. "It would be hazardous to the plan."
Setsuna, Negi and Anya floated around in the void. Back in Japan, Chao glared at her Cassiopeia. "Well, this sucks-yo!" she said.
Class Representatives at Mahora Academy:
As a school built my mages, Mahora has several built in magical features, some of which affect the students directly. The founders of Mahora considered the Class Representative or Iinchou to be an important position and decided that any individual elected to be one should have magical aid in fulfilling their duties. As such Mahora Academy automatically provides anyone elected to be a Class Representative for one of its classes with some magical ability. These abilities provide the class representative with supernatural ability to understand and communicate (such individuals being referred to in the magical community as "Great Communicators"), considered by the founders to be the most important ability for a class representative to fill their duties. Class representatives gradually gain greater power over communication over the years that they serve their post but the slow awakening of these powers and the tendency of those not aware of magic to dismiss the supernatural results in most class representatives not realizing that there is anything special about their powers. Ayaka has served as class representative for class A for most of the years which she has attended Mahora and is thus rather accomplished with these powers for someone her age though her powers will continue to improve if she maintains her position. The other member of class A to previously hold the position is Satsuki. Ayaka's powers as class representative allow her to understand any language regardless of whether or not she has even heard of it before, unscramble any code automatically and pierce through any attempt to disguise communication. She can pick up on any communication with any of her senses regardless of how little sense it makes. For example, she can feel conversation, smell text and yes, hear body language (This is how she can understand Zazie, even over the phone and if, for example, Zazie was holding a letter, written in a language that Ayaka had never heard of, in code, in invisible ink, Ayaka would have known what the letter said, though she would have assumed that Zazie had told her). She is also capable of intercepting telepathy, provided she is within hearing range of the sender or recipient. Assuming that she continues to remain class representative as is likely, she will eventually gain the ability to discern communication from beyond the reach of her senses, pick up cell phone conversations, television and radio broadcasts and even look at webpages with her mind.
From the files of Chao Lingshen, Temporal Renegade:
Full Name: Kageyama Hikari
Birth Date: 7 April 1990
Death Date (In My Original Timeline): 9 June 2014
Blood Type: AB
Likes: Control, organisation, power, banter, secrets, intimidation.
Dislikes: Mollycoddling, being out of the loop.
Sexuality: Most likely heterosexual though this is uncertain as she views sexuality as merely a tool to control. She has displayed attraction to my ancestor, but that doesn't say much after all.
Noteworthy Family: Her family's influence is purely mundane and unlikely to affect my plans.
Affiliations: Class Representative of Mahora Academy Junior Girl's High class 1A, member of The Public Speaking Club. Her only true ally in her class is Nakahara Minami. However, her nature as a Great Communicator means that she is perfectly capable of communicating with Arcana Midori (better known as Tatsumiya Midori) despite the fact that she simply believes that she has picked up Japanese Sign Language easily. As such, she is used as an interpreter for her.
Background: The Kageyama family used their wealth and political influence to secure a spot for Hikari in Mahora Academy. They also used that influence to ensure that she became class representative. They needn't have bothered. Even from a young age, Hikari had a love for power and the ability to get what she wanted. Her silver tongue was only strengthened when the magic placed on the school made her into a Great Communicator. Upon entering Junior High, with the mixing of old classes, she only had one possible rival in Barahime. But Barahime had only maintained her position of class representative due to her own family's influence and was glad to hand the reigns to another. Even if she wasn't Barahime hadn't honed her abilities to the same extent and didn't have the same social abilities, being a far more physical individual. Early in her school career, she gained the closest thing she had to a true friend in the form of Minami. While Hikari appreciates her and she both likes and respects Hikari in return, she is first and foremost Hikari's minion and will always act in her best interests, no matter how little she likes it.
Abilities: As a class representative of Mahora Academy, Hikari is a Great Communicator. She uses this ability to "sign" with Midori, despite the fact that despite what she thinks, she doesn't know how to. She also uses it to supplement her already silver tongue. Now, no one can ever miss her subtle compliments and veiled threats. Even without this boost, she would still be an excellent manipulator and master at using social interaction to gain everything she wants. She also has the complete loyalty of Minami, granting her extra resources and another set of eyes.
Possible Impact on My Plans: I do not want her to find out about my plan before it is fully implemented as she is sure to interfere in order to gain an advantage for herself. Unfortunately, as a Great Communicator, hiding secrets from her is extremely difficult. However, I have taken extreme precautions to prevent any Great Communicators other than Satsuki from finding out about my work. It is because of them that I leave my notes locked up as they would break any code and in many cases, wouldn't even need to see my notes to read them. Hopefully, my extreme caution will prevent them from finding out.
A/N: 1. The haunted house was kind of fun. Haven't written anything like that scene before. It required a lot of research and effort.
2. Zazie doesn't use quotation marks when "speaking" to Ayaka for the same reason that Satsuki doesn't use them ever.
3. There was some concern that some scenes were too similar to canon. I was actually a tad worried about that. However, things should change more now that Ayaka's in.
4. For those wondering about why Eva agreed to train Negi: She also wants to keep a close eye on him and it would be suspicious to Anya for her to refuse when as far as the others believe, Eva needs Negi to become more powerful to break the curse.
5. As for why Anya doesn't want Negi to spend time with Makie, Anya was freaked out by Makie's obsession over Negi's photo's (because he's cute.)
6. As for Nodoka, she has known a decent amount about Negi since before his arrival and Anya wasn't aware of her plan to ask him out until it happened (Technically, Nodoka wasn't much better off as Haruna pressured her into that).
7. As for why Negi didn't leave soon after arriving, the in-universe reason is: He was originally planning to, but Anya convinced him to stay for a while and help out as well as giving her the opportunity to come with. Also, he now wants to help Eva and train under her for a while.
The out-of-universe reason is: At first I was planning to have him arrive later and make that true, but I realized that that would cause me several problems.
8. Ayaka's role here was probably a controversial development: Ayaka and Kotaro get along MUCH better than in canon. Largely due to the fact that they met before Ayaka met Negi. Plus I think that they're a perfectly viable ship anyway even in canon.
9. What I'm trying to do with Mahorafest proves that I'm insane. The time jumps will be an even bigger logistics nightmare than in canon! I mean, I made Ayaka kidnap herself (okay, exaggeration, but still pretty close)!
10. Yo dawg! I heard you liked Mad Scientists, so I had a Mad Scientist play a Mad Scientist!
11. You may notice that Chao's dialogue is more different from her canon-self's than for other characters. There are reasons for this.
12. For those who are wondering Chao hasn't lied once.
13. I assume that they are going to translate the play (which I'm assuming is A Midsummer Night's Dream) into modern Japanese and I'm therefore rendering it in modern English.
14. In case anyone is wondering, the amount ahead of time that Negi can see depends on how certain the event is. It' almost useless at predicting someone as uncertain as Nodoka is being. It's just an anti-ambush spell. He has better ones for actual combat.
15. While I was the one who came up with the concept of Great Communicators, it was Darkenning who gave them that name.