Of all the ways she had thought this would end, she had never seen it happening this way.

Long ago, Aisaka Sayo had told someone - she couldn't remember who, had always had problems holding on to memories for long - that when Asakura Kazumi left Mahora for the last time, she would also leave it forever, going wherever ghosts went when they stopped haunting the world of the living. And now that time had come. But she had never imagined it would happen like this.

She had never told Asakura about it; whatever else she was unsure about, she remembered that. She had never burdened the one she loved so much with the knowledge of how her departure would mean her own ending. But perhaps Asakura had guessed. She'd been a clever girl. Or maybe one of the people Sayo had told, and couldn't remember now, had passed on the tale.

Her memories were very poor. Perhaps that was simply because she had nowhere to keep them, being only a thought, of sorts, herself. But some things were as vivid to her as though they had happened only yesterday. Among them was watching as Asakura had barged in to the Headmaster's office at the end of their third year of junior high school and demanded that Sayo be allowed to graduate with the rest of them. "She's earned it. She's more than earned it!"

And then again when she graduated with the survivors of 2- and 3-A who'd made it all the way to the end of high school.

She remembered wondering whether that would be the end, whether Asakura would choose a better university than the one here at Mahora. But the Mahora Papparazzi had stayed right where she was, becoming first an editor of the school newspaper, then its editor in chief, all the while pursuing her degree in education. That should have been a hint to Sayo, perhaps, but she'd never been the cleverest girl.

Once she had a degree, Asakura found a job teaching at Mahora. Not journalism, of course, but language and composition. Sayo remembered how they'd laughed together when they realized that she was teaching in their old homeroom, and pretended to remember who her beloved friend was talking about when she pointed out various students as the little sisters or daughters of their classmates. Her memory was very poor, though.

Time passed, and kept passing. Asakura gradually moved out of teaching and into administration. Sayo was with her every step of the way, even as Asakura's own memories and her sight and hearing began to dim. But her smile remained as sharp as it had ever been, and the day that she became headmaster was happy for both of them. Many were the nights they spent playing go in the Headmaster's office, just like ... like ... like someone she couldn't remember. Two someones. It probably wasn't important.

And then it had happened, and the heart attack or whatever it was had carried Asakura away right in the middle of one of those games. She'd sat with the body of her love all night, not really believing it, until the other teachers came in and found her this morning.

Morning. Mourning. That was a homophone. She'd learned that in English class. She couldn't remember her teacher, but she remembered that.

Numbly, she watched as the stretcher carrying Asakura's body was loaded into the back of the truck that would carry her away from this place for the last time. Her ashes would return, but not she herself. All around her, Sayo could see weeping students and teachers watching it with her, and thought that some of them seemed familiar. Very familiar. There was an old man among them, carrying a strange looking staff, bent under the weight of sorrow, who seemed very familiar, and an old woman with eyes of two different colors, offering him comfort, but she couldn't really place either of them.

It wasn't important. She would be leaving soon.

Though she did not know the way.

As the truck pulled away, she followed it up to the gates of the academy. She had never been able to pass beyond them on her own power. She didn't know what would happen if she tried. But surely -

"Sayo?" said a voice behind her.

- it was time -

"What are you doing?"

- to find out.

She turned to look at the person who was addressing her, and wondered briefly when Asakura had started dyeing her long white hair red again, before the absurdity of the idea occurred to her.

"Kazumi?" she asked, eyes filling with spectral tears.

"Che, if I'd known this was what it took for you to use my name instead of calling me Asakura, maybe I'd have done it a while ago," came the reply. And the smile.

And then they both moved, and they were together, and their lips touched for the first time.

Behind them, someone coughed. In the fullness of time, they broke their embrace and turned to look at the person who'd done the coughing. She was taller than either of them, pale white in a black top and jeans, with an odd design in black makeup around one of her eyes. She was holding a black umbrella that reminded Sayo of ... someone, but that person was not this one. Sayo knew who she was. They both did.

"Okay, girls, it's time to go. You've kept me waiting around for more than a century, y'know," she said to Sayo. "I really don't approve of that sort of thing. But you wouldn't have done it if you weren't supposed to, I guess. But now it's time to say goodbye."

"But where are we going?" Sayo asked.

She smiled then, and nodded her head towards the academy gates. "Well, let's just put it this way, in the words of a distinguished colleague of mine. 'Wherever you go, you go together.'"

And they did.

"Then there is a love that casts out fear, and I have found it. And love is greater than illusion, and as strong as Death."

from Death Takes A Holiday, by Alberto Casella.

Mahou Sensei Negima was created by Akamatsu Ken. This parody is not intended to offer any challenge to his copyrights, or those of any other author.