The tall, suave man adjusted the red, dome-like hood on his head, straightened the lapels of his tuxedo, and began:
"Mahou Sensei Negima does not belong to any of us here at Ala Iridia. That said, it's been a long time since this has been updated, hasn't it?"
He struck a dynamic pose.
"This little collection was inspired by a charming, brilliant fellow among their number. Which one? Not telling~"
"RUBBER LOTUS!" a voice booms from somewhere outside. "Where the hell is my coffee?"
"And my Shonen Jump?" another voice adds.
"And my pizza! I told you to go meet the delivery boy at the front door!"
"How do you expect us to keep up with our multimillion-dollar epics in this state?"
"Keep this up, and we'll cut your salary in half!"
"... I thought he only made seven cents an hour..."
"And I'll round down, too!"
The man gulps, takes off the hood and tux as quickly as humanly possible, and shoves them under his pitiful excuse for a bed.
"C-coming, OverMaster-sama! SCM-sama! Iniquitus-sama!"
Such was life as Ala Iridia's chore boy... but someday, oh yes... someday, he would surpass them all...
Prologue: Unequally Rational and Emotional - by Rubber Lotus
Chao groaned, rubbing her eyes. It took her a good few moments to realize that she was shivering.
The teen genius looked at her custom-made H.G. Wells alarm clock. Three in the morning.
"I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams..." she quoted to herself sleepily. Half of her still wasn't sure why.
It was a frustrating feeling, that. The revered Number One Girl Genius of Mahora not knowing something. She cobbled together a time machine from an old pocketwatch, for God's sake! She was even more brilliant than any of them knew! Wiser, too - how many of them could boast about braving thousands upon thousands of timelines, watching them crash and burn time and time again, and keeping such meticulous notes on each and every one of them?
She then took a deep breath and exhaled.
"Ni hai shi ge hai zi... nao zi jen da" she muttered to herself in Mandarin. It wasn't her birth tongue, like she'd led her classmates to believe, but speaking in Mandarin always helped calm her down. The language demanded a good deal of concentration to pronounce even the simplest word, especially for non-native speakers.
Well, whatever the case, she wasn't going back to bed anytime soon. Just the thought of it made her heart rate double all over again.
And again, the worst part of it all was not knowing. Not knowing what the dream had been about. Barely remembering the tiniest scrap of detail. All she had to work with was the raw fear it had produced. She'd read before that humans typically remembered only ten percent of what they dreamed. She didn't exactly qualify, but she supposed that she was close enough.
There were eggs involved, I think. And my bed... except the room wasn't anything like mine... and something to do with East?
Psychology and psychiatry had never been her strong suits... maybe she should have paid more attention during those timelines when guys like Jonathan Crane and Hugo Strange showed up, either as 3-A's teachers or something much, much stranger.
"Screw it," she muttered to herself, getting up off of her bed and making a beeline for her computer. "Might as well go over some of the files... remember what to look out for..."
Two minutes later, she was clicking away, no specific target in mind, and in fact more concerned with blinking out the sleep out of her eyelids.
Then her crusty eyes fell upon a folder that seemed slightly unfamiliar. Then she remembered what it was, and that it wasn't unfamiliar at all. Merely a case of her not having added to it in a long while. That particular event, and all its myriad branches, had occurred rather late into Negi's career. Most timelines never made it that far.
Confessions, the folder said.
Such a harmless name to describe a moment that featured Negi hanging from a giant leek by the butt, about to be coerced into revealing the name of the one he loved the most. The girls of 3-A knew no mercy. Or privacy.
Theodora! by rikalous
Chizuru blinked uncomprehendingly.
"Magic world princess. I'll explain later, " murmured Haruna from the side of her mouth. "Now, Negi! Explain how you could choose some foreigner over your own precious students! Over we who have bled, sweated, and wept with you! How could you betray us so?"
She threw her arm across her face in theatrical grief. Asakura privately rated the performance a 7.5/10. The overdramatic gestures were unpolished, and she should have denigrated Theodora more.
Once he was sure she was finished, Negi resumed speaking.
"Well, that's the thing. She's not my student, so our relationship won't be inappropriate. She's a consummate politician, so she'll be a major help with the political aspect of Blue Mars-"
"Later, Makie. Keep talking, Negi, " said Haruna.
"-so I can focus more on the magic-and-science end. With the way her race ages, she's effectively my age-"
"Wait, she's not human?"
"Neither's Zazie. Twins shut up, Negi speak, " growled Haruna. Did nobody have any respect for drama these days?
"-and they're very long-lived, so even my immortality won't be a problem."
"... Nobody's going to ask about that? I sure didn't know about that. I don't think Asakura knew about that."
"Be quiet, Haruna. I think he's about to say something else."
"Be... besides..." Negi's already substantial blush was starting to make it hard to tell where his hair stopped and his skin began. "When she kissed me... I understood why ministras so often fall in love with their magisters."
(Normally, Ayaka falling into a nosebleeding swoon on top of a sloped roof might have put her life in danger. However, the Mahora Equestrian Club holds its members to standards of fitness that would have given your average horseback nomadic civilization pause. She won't even get bruised.)
"Plus she's smoking hot, " noted Yuna. "What? I'm straight, not blind. Makie and Nodoka can back me up."
"Regardless of any tingly feelings this woman might inspire in Yuna, our course is clear!" roared Haruna, her composure regained. "We cannot stand in the path of true love! We must support it however we can! And since the artifact he got from Theodora is more powerful the more people pactio with him, that means he needs a kiss from every girl who hasn't yet! Narutakis front and center! Cheerleaders to me, double time! Sayo, grab your robot and get in line! Zazie, you support your teacher, too. Asakura, get the word out! Do you have visual contact with Akira and that stripper?"
From his vantage point safe within Kaede's cloak, Kotaro shuddered and thanked his lucky stars he didn't have to worry about that lovey-dovey crap. Girls were scary.
Chisame! by Darkenning
"It-it-it-it's going to be broadcast live, " Chachamaru stammered. Well, there's a whole swath of technical terminology to explain what exactly her speakers just did, but let's stick with stammered right now. "What should we —"
"How should I know?" Chisame snapped, blushing. "It's not like I'm interested in hearing who he likes."
She wasn't. She really wasn't.
She knew it wasn't going to be her, but hearing it would mean that it was real, and so she really didn't want to hear it, and yet it was much too late, and now she was going to —
"Chisame-san, " Negi said a moment later.
— going to —
— going to —
— going to —
"Oh, come on! How the hell can that little bastard lie like that!" Chisame eventually shrieked.
And then firm robotic arms were wrapping around her.
"I'm happy for you, " Chachamaru whispered into her ear. "I'm so, so happy. But if you ever hurt him, and doubting his sincerity under these circumstances will hurt him, I will kill you."
"Oh, what a frickin' wonderful development this is!" Chisame yelled. She was so mad, she was practically crying! These certainly weren't tears of joy falling from her eyes! No sir!
AND HER HEART WAS NOT SINGING! LALALAALAAAAA! CAN'T HEAR YOU!
Sextum by rikalous
"Is she English?" asked Fuka cheerily. "She sounds like a skank!"
"Fuka! You know what your name sounds like in English, right?" said her sister.
"Seriously?" Haruna asked as Chizuru dismissed her artifact. "You saw her for what, ten seconds of combat? I know you saw her naked, but that wasn't exactly your first glimpse of ladyparts."
"I... I don't know what it was about her, but she's really pretty, and most of the people in Cosmo Entelechia aren't really bad, and I'd like to get to know her better after everything's done and it's safe to let them out again... Anyway-have-fun-with-the-festival-and-goodbye!"
And he was off, in a burst of embarrassed lightning.
Well within earshot but well out of sight, Tertium "Fate" Averruncus drained his specially reinforced coffee cup and carefully smoothed out the dents he'd just made in it. That wasn't what Springfield should have answered, but he could certainly work with it. All it would take would be a few discreet alterations. His creator wasn't available, and asking a favor from the Doll Master was too absurd to be worth considering, but that Hakase girl had some experience with artificial lifeforms.
With a little luck, Springfield would hardly know the difference.
Chamo by OverMaster
Negi's head hung down in shame, biting the tongue that had just betrayed him.
Haruna's jaw slacked down.
Nodoka and Yue collapsed on each other.
Ako took a hand to her mouth quickly, as her cheeks seemed to swell up with something pumping up her throat.
Natsumi looked oddly reinvindicated as she looked at the other girls. "Who's the Furry Lover now, huh? Tell me! Tell me!"
"WE NEVER SHOULD HAVE DONE THIS!" Fuuka realized, taking her hands to her head. "NEVER! WE HAVE SINNED BEYOND ANY REPAIR! THIS IS OUR HELLISH PUNISHMENT!"
"... B-B-B-B-But... Buh-But I'm n-not even a girl ermine!" Chamo managed to whimper, even as Ayaka picked him up and began strangling him—
Five seconds later, the universe, unable to cope with it all, imploded into itself.
It was for the best.
Chachazero! by rikalous
After a brief moment of euphoria, Chachamaru sank sobbing into Chisame's arms.
Meanwhile, Negi was beginning to sob with guilt. "Oh, I'm so despicable! Nekane warned me about getting mixed up with girls who like to stab things, and I know she has an understanding with Chamo, but I just can't help myself! Her dazzling, everpresent smile, that twinkle in her eye when she talks about murder, it's all just so alluring!"
The tears were beginning to fall in earnest, and the assembled girls were feeling very awkward indeed, when a small, furry body ran up Negi's clothing to grab him by the collar and look him straight in the eye.
"Snap out of it, man! If it were anyone else trying to steal my babydoll away, you can be damn sure they'd get a burning cigarette butt to the genitals! But this is you, Negi. I've known you were a man among men from the first time I laid eyes on you, and with every spell learned, fight won, and student seduced I've become more impressed. I would be downright honored to share Zero with you."
"But what she think of it? What will everyone think?"
"Negi, my boy, I roleplayed as you not three nights ago. She'll be thrilled that you're joining us. As for everyone else, what do the Lightning God, Bloody Hand of the Vampire, and Genital Burner need to care about what people think? We know it's love, and that should be enough for anyone!"
Revitalized, Negi rushed off to get Chachazero's doll contract transferred to him. A cheer rose up behind him, because cheering distracted the girls from thinking through the implications.
The universe utterly failed to implode, although nobody who knew about the three was ever looked at them in quite the same way again. Even Eva wasn't certain how Chachazero was capable of blushing without blood.
Eva by SCM of 2814 (Shadow Crystal Mage)
Evangeline snorted her alcohol out her nose, managing to choke and gag at the same time. "Wha… Wha… Wha…"
"THIS IS ALL STEPHENIE MEYER'S FAULT!" Ayaka screamed. "I DON'T KNOW HOW, BUT IT IS!"
Zazie by SCM of 2814
Everyone blinked, then turned to stare at Zazie.
Zazie stared blankly for a moment, then did the Snoopy happy-dance.
"Wow, you can actually do that?" Makie said.
The catgirl fetish maid by SCM of 2814
Everyone stared. "Who?" they all asked.
Negi squirmed. "Well, it was that time when Rakan-san took us to that restaurant, and I bumped into her when I went to the little magisters room, and she gave me her number, and one thing led to another, and now we're expecting kittens…"
The resulting screams of "WHAT THE HELL?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!" drowned out anything else.
Fate… by SCM of 2814
Somewhere, Tertium perked up.
"… Testarossa, " Negi finished.
"Who?" Haruna asked.
"Oh, she's from another fandom. The artist of the Negima Neo manga, who also draws Vivid, introduced us when them came to do that drawing for volume zero. Fate and I hit it off, and…"
"NO, THIS ONE IS TOO META!" Chisame cried. "DELETE! DELETE!"
Arika by SCM of 2814
Everyone stated at him.
"I'm choosing to believe this is a purely filial love and not something Darkenning-inspired, " Ayaka said.
Negi looked around shiftily. "Uh, yeah, let's go with that…"
Cassandra Cain by SCM of 2814
3-A paused thoughtfully, then nodded in sage agreement.
"Yeah, she's hot, " Ku agreed.
Asuna by Darkenning
"What?" asked the girl herself as she dangled from the flagpost with the edge of Setsuna's blade gently resting at her throat. "What did he just say?"
"Ummm ... apparently, the first girl wins, " Setsuna told her, smiling wanly.
"... oh, so he said Nekane."
"N-no, he —"
"No, Asuna-san, he —"
"Cripes, has he been crushing on some poor girl he met on the train this whole time?"
Setsuna stared at her for a long moment. "Bridge of birds, you really are an idiot heroine, aren't you?"
? by rikalous
"Who do you like, Negi?" asked Chizuru, deceptively sweetly.
Against all his conscious will - though who but sex-obsessed old men from Austria can say what the subconscious wishes - Negi burst out with "Kotaro!"
"Well, that'll be a disappointment for Natsumi, " muttered Haruna thoughtfully.
"Sayo!" continued Negi.
"Fate!" Tears rolled down Negi's face, though whether of sorrow or shame or ecstasy none could say.
"Chizuru, you sure your artifact's working right?"
"And Master Eva!" He sank to his knees, in the throes of that same ambiguous emotion.
"All of them? I thought you had your eye on one person in particular."
"Yes! All of them! Forgive me, Nakane. I tried to act as a proper English gentleman. I expected to marry the fire mage next door one day, and have two or three children after I retired from saving the world. But I think my assignment here, here in this hormonal hotbed was meant to teach me that I cannot deny my true desires. You of all people, Haruna, will understand the allure of the forbidden. Dating any one of my five-year-older students would be just too vanilla, but a bisexual harem including quasi-bestiality, student-teacher age-gap-of-decades necrophilia, eternal-shota age-gap-of-who-knows-how-much hatesex, and student-teacher-both-ways eternal-loli age-gap-of-centuries pining-after-my-father? That would satisfy me." Sober now, he rose to his feet. "I am not a fool. I do not expect that any of them, much less all four, will accept someone as perverse I am. Still, I could not lie to myself, and now I cannot lie to you. Enjoy the festival."
And with a nod, he started to walk off.
"Wait!" cried Kotaro as he burst from Kaede's cloak. "Negi, I mean, I do respect you, and I wouldn't mind, er, a little more, but I think I'm kinda with Natsumi right no-"
Natsumi turned from where Zazie was telling her about some full-blooded wolf demons of her acquaintance. "Go, my puppy. Follow your heart. Loving someone means knowing when to let them go."
"Then I'm in, Negi."
Sayo flew in in her robot body. "Negi, I died a virgin and the closest thing I've had to sex in decades was hiding and listening to other couples getting it on. I'm in. I'm in for anything."
Fate rose up from a puddle, his face so red it should have turned the water to steam. "Well, it's n-not like I'm interested-"
"Fate's in, " translated Haruna.
"That's three for three! Do we have camera contact with Eva?"
"Boya, I want to be very clear about something. I will not be in your harem. You and anyone else you bring is being allowed into mine. Understand?"
Negi turned to Kotaro, Sayo, and Fate. Three heads nodded agreement. Anything was worth a piece of that boy. He turned back, tears once more brimming in his eyes. "Oh yes, Master! I'm coming!"
He would soon have good reason to repeat those words.
Takamichi by Iniquitus the Third
The collective jaw dropped. (Apart from Negi's, clearly.)
"I... How does that even— you haven't even talked with him for, like forty chapters!", Chisame exploded.
"Well, yes, but ever since that time he split a waterfall for me with his bare hands..." Negi sighed wistfully.
"But you're ten and he's approaching forty!", sputtered Chisame, incandescent with rage as Chachamaru began her total system reboot.
"That's why there's no time to lo—" He stopped as Asuna moved in front of him and locked gazes with him, her expression unreadable. His horrified brain reminded Negi of that sorta-crush that had been one of the cornerstones of her character development early on, and he closed his eyes reflexively when he saw one of her hands rise. "N-now, listen, A-Asuna-san, I—"
Asuna grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. "Good on you, Negi!"
"I'd given up hope by now, but it seems you finally came around to the charms of older men!" She dug around in her pocket, searching intently. "Hang on, I think I put it somewhere here a few hundred chapters ago... Ah, here you are!"
Asuna pressed a little badge with a safety-pin into his hand in the shape of a heart with a cake at the centre of it, along with a membership card without a photo or signature.
"Here's your official Cake Eaters' Association badge and card! Meetings're every second Friday in the old arcade, bring snacks or a drink and—"
"Hold on a minute!", Chisame interrupted her, close to going mad.
"You're in the ballpark of several decades older than Takahata-sensei!", she protested, pointing at Asuna.
"Humph. You're only as old as you feel, I say, " Asuna said.
"Hey! I've been trying to get into that club for ages now! How come he gets in like that?", Ako complained.
"You're attracted to Negi. Dammit, Ako, we've been over this..." Asuna said tediously.
"But I even had all those sorta-shippy moments with Tosaka..."
Asuna tutted. "But you went back to wanting to bang 'Nagi' the moment he reared his head."
Natsumi turned awkwardly to Kotaro. "Wow. Uh. Talk about the unexpected, huh?"
"I dunno... the old guy's pretty strong, and he's a proper man, too, " Kotaro said thoughtfully. "In fact, I... uh, I need to go talk to him right now. Like, about training and fighting... yeah..."
"Eva, let me in! Please, I need your help!"
The dread Evangeline yawned in the way a toddler does, wriggled for a moment in her little nightdress, snuggled up to her heart-print pillow and rolled over against her maid-plush doll to go back to sleep as Takamichi desperately bolted for cover to dodge the Yukihiro hitmen's shots...
Fumika by rikalous
"And the winners are the Narutaki twins!" said Asakura, broadcasting to all her active golems.
"No," said four people at once.
"Fuka is mine, " said Kaede, eyes half open for emphasis.
"We are two different people, you know, " said Fuka.
"Yeah, what she said, " said Fumika.
"While I may have fallen low enough to have this sort of relationship with my own student, I am not depraved enough to abandon monogamy, " said Negi.
Elsewhere, Chachamaru put her head in her hands. Elsewhere from that, Luna felt her face heat. Back with Negi, Yue and Nodoka very carefully did not look at each other or Haruna.
"Er, tell us, Negi. Why Fumika? My viewers are dying to know."
"Well, she's a delightful person and wonderfully easy to get along with, especially when not influenced by her sister's...exuberance."
"Plus, look what he wrote on the class roster!" said Fuka, deftly pickpocketing the said item from him. Call her a bad influence, would he? "See? 'Surprisingly skilled.'"
"Fuka!" cried her sister. "You just wrote that to prank him. You even wrote that you have adult tastes."
"I do. Kaede looks like an adult. And I don't remember underlining the note by yours. The pen practically tore the paper."
Chao! by rikalous
"Yes, Chao! I've met women I could have an intelligent conversation with, or spar with fists or magic with, or plot to save the world with, but only Chao could do it all and more. But no, she is a relative, and long gone to her own time. Besides, our relationship would be a paradox that would no doubt do horrible things to the timestream. It can never happen."
"Not so, teacher!" said the jetpack-borne Hakase, entering the scene as gloriously as, well, an engineer on a self-designed jetpack. "With so many generations between the two of you, and some of the truly fascinating advances in genetics yet to occur, you're hardly more related to her than you are to me! And she told me a location to leave a message if I needed her to return to the future, so contacting her won't be a problem."
"That's wonderful news! And you're certain we won't be damaging time itself?"
"Certain? I have no idea! It might do nothing, it might split off an alternate universe, it might make Biff Tannen crash into a manure truck. Or it might collapse all of existence past and future into a lemony-tenor sludge. If we let little things like that stop us, we'd never have invented the Large Hadron Collider! Or the atomic bomb!"
As Hakase posed dramatically and paused for effect, a rocket-powered bed rose into view. On it was Chao, wearing nothing but a Princess Leia slave bikini and a sultry smile.
"For the sake of Science, you must tap that!"
Epilogue: Unequally Rational and Emotional - by Rubber Lotus
Chao rubbed her eyes and groaned. That was where she drew the line.
The girl genius clicked a few more times, and watched as the folder vanished from the screen. She hadn't gotten to all of them, but there was really no more point in looking at the rest.
She then chuckled humorlessly to herself. As if there was ever a point in the first place... she could just barely remember why she'd even opened the file.
Shrugging, she turned the computer off and went back to bed, wondering if this particular timeline would get that far. And if it did, whose name would come out of Negi's mouth this time? Evangeline's? Kaede's? Satsuki's?
As she closed her eyes again, she could almost hear a voice from beyond mockingly whisper, "D. None of the above."