Disclaimer: I do not own Negima, but you know that, so I question posting this here. No, really.

Full Moon Shuffle

Prologue: The Eternal Friend

By Traingham

He never figured that he would die on a Tuesday. There was just something so anti-climatic about Tuesdays, Negi Springfield thought to himself, bleeding his guts out in the snow, dressed in his finest clothes. He always amused himself with the idea that if he ever died he would look his best when he did; a nice three piece suit, a pressed white dress shirt and a pair of black, polished shoes. The coroner would examine his body and think to himself "Well, the man knew how to go out in style", and so whenever the young man went out to go about his business he made sure that he looked classy, even if that business was the investigation of demon affairs. Not that it mattered now, really. His clothes were drenched in a rich coating of his own blood, with tears here and there, courtesy of his companion for the evening. They were a curious lot, those creatures of the darkness (Not referring to vampires, though they were just as interesting). Some of them were pleasant company, the sort of crowd that could carry a conversation and charm you with their words, and then there were those who much rather preferred to dig their fingers along your guts (One could liken them to humans, really). Unfortunately, Negi had come across the latter. Not that he was unaccustomed to the sort, mind you, but this particular sort caught him off guard. Apparently the reputation of the Springfield clan preceded its members, something that didn't mean well for them, more often than not.

"He never even bothered to shake my hand." Negi laughed to himself, spitting out the copper tasting blood that accumulated in his throat when he did. It was absorbed in the blotch of red that gradually blossomed around his body like a magnificent rose, though that was just his own imagination attempting to impose beauty in something that was anything but. Death was not beautiful, at least not this one. Of all the ways he could die, Negi would have preferred it to be peaceful, and certainly not alone, and yet that too was something he would not have appreciated. The thought of death frightened him, actually, now that he was brought to the point of dying. It was a curiosity back when he was in good health, but that curiosity was satiated and leaving very little to desire.

"I don't wanna die." It started out softly, getting louder with every dying breath that he expelled. "I don't wanna die...I don't wanna die...I don't wanna die." He hushed when his ears picked up the crunching of boots against snow from behind. Either a criminal in search of a body to search, or a common class vampire looking for an evening meal.

A shadow loomed over, blotting him out from the moonlight that peered into the dark alley. "That's a relief to hear. I don't think I'd want for you to die either, Negi Springfield."

"Are you a friend?" Negi questioned the feminine voice that spoke to him from behind. She must have been much older than him judging by the mature inflection in her tone, and the coolness in her voice indicated that the sight of blood didn't faze her, which could have indicated many things, more bad than good to be frankly honest, but she said she didn't want him dead so it couldn't be too bad. Then again, it could mean worse, but Negi wanted to believe that his luck wasn't that rotten despite the circumstances of his current predicament.

"Would you like a friend?" The woman inquired, though with her tone it was hard for him to detect any ill humor.

He opted for an honest answer, "I could use one right now, actually."

"The best answer I could ask for." The woman said, walking around him into his line of view, and what a beauty she was. A tall woman with raven black hair a few shades darker than her tanned skin. Her face was a mask of indifference that drew attention to her magnificent, piercing eyes, the sort that were difficult to meet for longer than necessary. A black turtleneck and black slacks molded to the elegant curves of her athletic build, worn beneath a tanned long jacket that fell down to her knees. The boots that alerted him of her presence earlier weren't the sort for fashion now that he had the opportunity to get a look at them, and the gloves pulled over her hands were not made for the cold weather. This one was not common practice.

"And why would you befriend a young man knocking on death's door, my lady?" Negi kept to his manners in spite of his grim situation. "Is it in your nature to tease those who are about to pass?"

"It's not in my nature to befriend anyone, kid." She answered him, kneeling in the blood stained snow to caress the side of his face. "But I'd like to make you the exception."

"You honor me." To his surprise his voice was losing its strength. He would expire before long. "Unfortunately," His voice was a mere whisper now as the world around him began to lose vibrance and color, "I'm...ahm...ugh..." His body leaned forward and fell against the mysterious woman, held in her secure arms as she brought her lips to his ear.

"This friendship of ours will be eternal, Springfield. For as long as I live, so shall you." The woman stood with him still clutched in her arms, lifting him from that red gash in the blanket of white. "I am Mana Tatsumiya. From this day forward you and I are one and the same, living on two separate sides of the same coin. Those who would take you from me are my own enemies, and should you attempt to part from me of your own free will..." Her lips curled. Into what, Negi was never to know. "...You'll find that this contract is absolute, my consort."

...A Chapter Closes...