Big thanks to Windfalcon and the TFF group for helping me flesh out this idea. Equal thanks to Ikari666 for being an awesome editor. Let's not waste anytime and jump right in!
By Ryoga's best friend
The countryside crawled past the window while the light rhythm of the tracks beat steadily from below. It was the second train ride in so many weeks for the child teacher known as Negi Springfield. Kyoto was still clear in his mind, a little bodyguarding and a simple package delivery had turned into a desperate fight for the lives of both his precious students and himself... and if not for the timely intervention of Evangeline, he'd have lost. To a mage his own age no less. The fact that so many of his students got wrapped up in the madness weighed heavily on him. Luckily, things turned out well enough and it seemed several members of his class were not as normal as they appeared. He didn't want to be ungrateful, and knowing he had such people to rely on was reassuring in a way... 'But I should be the one to protect them.' It was a hard pill to swallow, but he still had a lot of work left to do. He had intended on doing intense training, to be more prepared for next time... So the last thing he was expecting was another mission. Though this mission was to be a bit more subdued...
"Hm, what?" Negi was brought out of his musing as he was joined in his booth.
"I picked up some snacks. Best keep your energy up. We're to be on duty soon." His companion was Mana Tatsumiya, student 18 in his class registry. One of the quieter members of his class, but apparently quiet didn't mean one was what they appeared to be.
"Thank you, Tatsumiya-san." he said, gladly accepting the small snack. Mana took a relaxed position across from him and took slow, small bites out of a protein bar. Negi had been a little surprised to see her arrival alongside Kaede and Ku Fei at the Konoe estate, but he hadn't had all that much time to think about it at the time. It went beyond the fact she was just a strong fighter, because this was not the first time the headmaster had hired Mana. 'Hired.' Though after Ninjas and Vampires, a mercenary really didn't hold the same amount of shock. But the quiet aspect did not disappear with her cover, his student was content to watch the scenery rather then make small talk. His earlier attempts were shot down with ruthless precision. The only time she made to converse with him was if it was mission related, but the crowded train was hardly the best place to speak of such issues.
The Mission. It was pretty straight forward. There had been some strange emanations of ancient magic in the Tokyo area. Mana and he were sent to observe the situation and report on any findings. The headmaster decided that this would make for another test of the young mage, as well as giving him some more field experience in an area that is less magically inclined. 'It should only last a week, maybe two... At least that's what the headmaster said. Until then, Takamichi will be subbing in my place... Hopefully, the girls will behave.'
"Eh?" A cry of shock and surprise rang through the halls of Mahora Junior High.
"Now, now, everyone calm down." Takahata said, chuckling lightly. "Since Negi is still learning his craft, the Headmaster decided to give Negi-kun a bit more experience in teaching. It's only temporary, but we wanted to give him the chance to teach in a mixed gender setting." The explanation calmed the atmosphere of the room a little bit. Overall, the feeling of the class was one of disappointment, it would be strange without their cute little homeroom teacher around to fluster.
Sensei... Nodoka drooped noticeably at the news. After all the craziness in Kyoto, she had so many questions. The diary weighed heavy on her mind. 'But maybe... maybe I can use it to make contact.' The temptation was great, but reading Negi's mind felt like such an invasion of privacy. Her face reddened at the possible discoveries that could be made... Maybe just a little peek.
Yue frowned, Negi had much to answer for from Kyoto. 'It was magic, I'm sure of it... not that I'd ever seen anything like it before but it's the only explanation.' It had been the Baka Leader's intention to corner the boy and get answers straight away but that wouldn't be an option now... Of course, there were others who were mixed up in this mess.
"Sensei?" A few eyes turned to Makie as she raised her hand with tears in her eyes from Negi's departure. "Where was Negi-kun sent? Will he be okay away from us?"
Looking up at Makie, Takahata considered the question, before giving a slight shrug. "He was sent to a public middle school in Tokyo. The Juuban District, if I recall correctly. The Headmaster is friends with their Principal, so it was the best place to send him." Chuckling a bit at the worried faces a few of the gathered students had, Takahata made a calming gesture with his hands. "There, there... Don't worry too much everyone. He'll be perfectly fine there, and in his absence, I'll be taking over as your substitute."
Haruna blinked at a clatter to her side, her desk mate, Zazie, dropped the eraser and pencil box she was juggling when Takahata mentioned 'Juuban'. Though her face was blank she gave an oddly tense impression. Curious... Of course, before she could think of it further, the Class Rep, Ayaka, slammed her hand against the table, an angry look on her face. "Sensei! How can you be so calm? Haven't you heard the rumors? Tokyo is the worst place you could have sent my poor Negi-sensei! What if there's gangsters? Or car accidents? Or evil women?" This got some of the class started on the kinds of 'bad' things that could happen to Negi in humorous ways.
Settled in the back of the class, Evangeline snorted. A farce of a cover story. If the boy had still needed training, they wouldn't have instated him as a teacher, but it was flimsy enough to deal with these idiots. It was at least enough that no connection was made to the mercenary's 'family reunion' excuse. 'Admittedly it's going to be a bit more dull without the boya around.' Not that she'd ever admit that aloud. This news had already started having an effect; Chachamaru had been going about her duties at a noticeably slower pace since she had heard the day before. 'You better come back soon kid.' At Ayaka's list, Evangeline could only snort and shake her head. 'If the boya could be taken down by such mundane things... he wouldn't be interesting at all.'
Asuna sighed softly, she knew what was coming. As soon as class was over, She and Konoka were going to be mobbed with people looking for information. Even when the brat wasn't around, he caused her trouble. But at least Negi wasn't going to Juuban alone; if that battle in Kyoto showed anything, it was that Negi was in good hands. 'And we have Takahata-sensei teaching again!' That warmed things up considerably. He was a REAL man... And the school wouldn't have sent Negi to a dangerous place. It was only Tokyo. If it was important, she would have gone too.
... Of course, only Konoka knew that she had repeated the last part to herself so many times it became her personal mantra...
Among those few that were more relaxed was Kaede Nagase. She barely looked phased at the mention of Negi's reassignment, or the supposed 'dangers' in Juuban. Instead, she just smiled her lazy smile and paid attention in class. 'Soon...'
Next stop: Juuban
"This is it." Mana's sudden voice almost made the boy jump. He must have been zoning out. With hardly a word between them, they began to get their luggage together. Light muffled grumbles could be heard from Chamo, the trip had not been easy on the ermine.
"Just a little further Chamo-kun." Negi whispered as the train screeched to a stop. "Tatsumiya-san?"
"Is the apartment far from the train station?"
"Hm, if I recall correctly it's a bit of a walk but not so much that it can't be done."
"Well, I mean could we hail a cab?"
"No." Mana's voice snapped like a whip. "We have a stipend to last us two weeks, no need to spend frivolously. There is nothing wrong with walking." Her voice was firm and gaze intense, melting away any objections.
"R-Right..." Negi sighed softly. It looked like Chamo was going to have to tough it out a little longer. The train pulled to a stop, much of the assembled passengers heading out into the station. Shifting his backpack, he followed along behind the steady strides of his student, blinking as they came out and onto the street. "Whoa..." The city was huge, the streets and sidewalks were packed with a great amount of hustle and bustle.
"This is your first time in Tokyo?" He managed to shake off some of the awe to turn his attention up to Mana. The stoic girl bore a faint smile, the first he'd seen the whole trip. 'Best not pass this opportunity up.'
"Uh yes, I haven't gotten to travel as much as I would have liked."
"Well, you are very busy with your work."
"Ha ha, yeah. So, do you come here often?"
"Hm... Not as often as in the past. My work keeps me busy, coupled with school of course." Mana kept her answer somewhat vague. With that, the pair began to move through the streets.
"Oh, right, so are you going to be going to school with me?"
"No, I believe I can trust you with monitoring that area."
"Huh?" Negi frowned. "Then what are you doing for classes?"
"You're still in school."
"It's only for a short time. I can keep my grades up well enough." Mana was a little taken aback at the boy's sudden firmness. Though, in hindsight, she really should have expected this. "This isn't the first time I've taken a mission like this."
"That doesn't excuse it. I'll have to arrange some one-on-one lessons." At this point the boy was making notes to himself. His tutoring skills had grown with all the work he had put in helping the Bakas.
"With all due respect, Negi-sensei." she said with a small strain in her tone. "We are here on business. We must keep alert and observant."
"Well, there will be down time between watches and I don't see why a simple study session or two will throw things off." Negi may have been intimidated by Mana's fierce nature, but on an issue related to teaching his students he would not budge. Mana repressed the urge to sigh and let the matter drop. 'Hopefully with the work involved in the mission and the boy's cover, this 'study session' nonsense will get lost in the confusion.'
Conversation quieted from there on, the pair working their way through the city. Occasionally, Negi would need to stop and take in a sight or if something new caught the boy's eye. Mana gave some leniency in the mini tourism baring a ghost of a smile. Eventually, the pair made it to an apartment building and proceeded up to the topmost floor. All the arrangements had been made ahead of time. It was just a matter of using the key that came along with the directions.
"So this is one of Takamichi's places?" Negi questioned, mostly for conversation.
"Apparently. He must use this when he is on mission in Tokyo." Mana replied, opening the door. It was a nice apartment, lightly furnished with the basics that would be needed. There was a small bookcase with a choice of books and a few small plants hung by the windows. An envelope sat on the coffee table. The mercenary made a beeline for the sofa while Negi took a moment to undo his pack.
"There, it's safe to come out now."
"Keh, it's about damn time." Chamo popped his head out with a sigh of relief.
"Sorry, Chamo-kun but you didn't want to go in a carrier in the baggage car, right?"
"Hmph! Fair enough." The ermine slid free of his canvas prison and stretched. "I'm so stiff."
"Negi-sensei, it seems Takahata-sensei left us more detailed instructions."
"Oh?" Negi stood, Chamo retaking his usual perch on the boys shoulders mid way. Taking a seat next to his student, a map spread out over the coffee table marked with the locations of supernatural activity... There was two kinds of unknown magic at work. An underground battle. The Dark aligned magic would set up shop somewhere in the city, and then within a few days the other magic would flare up and snuff out the first.
"Hm, wow, some of these readings are quite high." Negi muttered, looking over one of the associated information sheets.
"Indeed... And there is little pattern where the dark energy begins to show itself."
"Well, not a pattern for placement, exactly, But wherever it sets up, people began to flock there." Negi pointed out, feeling Mana lean over to look at that information.
"Interesting... I guess until some manner of placement pattern opens then the best lead is to follow 'fads'." Mana frowned slightly. "Trying to find and trace a fad in Tokyo is hardly straight forward. But it's not like there's much else to go on." She turned back to the map, eying the marks. A jewelry store, a gym, a radio station and a theater... Aside from the radio station, they were all stationary set ups which implied that it took time to set up these collections of dark energy. They also had to have some manner of attracting the necessary victims. "Hm..."
"Oi, Aniki! Don't you have to stop by that school today?"
"Oh, right." The child teacher glanced to clock. He still had plenty of time to prepare, but he had to include travel and potential issues of directions.
"True, though you don't need to interview it's best to make a good first impression." Mana didn't look up from her work. "You'd best clean yourself up."
"But, Tatsumiya-san... I bathed this morning." Negi muttered in a rare moment of childishness. He flinched under the even glance of his companion. The girl had a look that could pierce granite. "Okay," he conceded, slinking off to the bathroom after fishing out his supplies.
"I will be checking your work." She could barely make out a muffled groan on the other side of the door. It was easy to forget sometimes he was still a child when he so rarely let it through. 'But some of us are forced to grow up fast.' "Konoe-san warned me well it seems..."
As Mana kept her focus on the paper work, Chamo returned to Negi's backpack and fished out a separately packed bundle. The ermine stumbled as he pulled the weighty sack free, a barely repressed grin on his face. "Heh, let's see if Takamichi kept up on his side." The familiar shifted the weight to a more comfortable position and scampered off to the bedroom.
Negi exited the bathroom a few minutes later, towel wrapped around his waist as he sped quickly to the bedroom with a slight blush. Mana gained a slight smirk at the antics. 'In the dorm, baths were hardly safe for him after all, so a little paranoia was understandable. Not that he has anything to worry about here, I'm not into kids.' Placing the information packet down, she tuned into the muffled conversation between Mage and Familiar. She held some doubts on Negi's part of the plan, there were many distinctive features to the boy that made him poor for undercover work. A ten year old teaching middle school is not exactly great for going unnoticed... but the headmaster insisted so there was no doubt arrangements had already been made.
"Hm...Looks like I will end up doing the bulk of the patrolling, though I can't say I wasn't expecting it." The mercenary began to crunch numbers, figuring out how to set up her time properly. It wouldn't be easy but with so little to go on there was little choice in the matter.
"Oi, Ane-san." Mana glanced over to Chamo's furry head peeking over the armrest. "We need a woman's opinion, make sure we've got it right."
"Very well." She stood and followed the ermine along, curiosity growing. If the boy was trying something more out of the norm for him, maybe there was some hope. She swung open the door and blinked, spotting an unfamiliar boy. Her hand immediately sped for her shoulder holster.
"Oh, hello, Tastumiya-san."
"No! Don't shoot, it's Aniki!" Chamo panicked, he was hoping to give the stoic girl a little surprise, but such reflexes could be dangerous. Her hand rested on the grip but she never drew the gun. Negi sweated as her gaze traveled steadily up and down. The once Child teacher was about even with her own height, perhaps an inch or so taller. A slim frame was dressed in a nice, if somewhat old, suit. His expression nervous but his face had matured, loosing much of the baby fat going from cute to a more handsome face.
"Age deceiving pills..." she finally said, relaxing her grip and allowing the now teen Negi to let go of the breath he was holding.
"Um yes, Chamo-kun picked them up for me. Both the headmaster and Takamichi believed my cover at the school would work better with an older body."
"I see." Mana crossed her arms, "You'd do well to keep me informed next time Sensei, Chamo... I don't take well to surprises." Her tone was collected and dead serious. "Am I Understood?"
"Yes ma'am!" Mage and familiar said in unison. Negi even went so far as to salute.
"Good." Mana regained her usual neutral look and gave Negi another once over. "That's a good look, I venture that that is one of Takahata's older outfits?"
"Ha ha, yeah. He wanted to get my sizes before the mission and, though these are a little big, they are comfortable," Negi replied. He reached for his staff only to see a shake of his companions head. "Huh?"
"You shouldn't carry that around with you in that form. It's too conspicuous." Mana's serious tone gained a slight hint of amusement. "Besides, it doesn't go with that outfit at all."
"It doesn't?" Negi frowned looking to his suit. 'It is Father's staff. It should go with anything.' "What should I do about casting then?"
"The simple answer would be don't, having a wand with you would make you more tempted to use it should things go south, but it would break your cover. Unlike Mahora, there aren't any elder mages around to take care of any mess-ups." Mana started out firm but softened toward the end. "But considering we have little idea what we're dealing with, it would be best to be armed... try to pick a small wand, something easy to conceal."
"Right." He looked to his familiar, "Please keep an eye on my staff well I'm gone."
"No problem." The ermine replied with an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
"I'll be back later this afternoon after the orientation, Tatsumiya-san."
"Right, I'll be doing a little patrolling myself. I'll be back before dark." Her gaze followed the teen as he headed back into the living room to look for a suitable replacement. 'Maybe Kakizaki has something to that "reverse Hikaru Genji" plan...' She turned her gaze away before it lingered too long, focusing on her other roommate of sorts. "So ermine-kun. What kind of supply of those pills did you secure?"
"Heh," the ermine smirked as he hopped on top of the bureau, pulling out a large jar of red and blue pills. "I picked up the Jumbo Assorted Jar. These babies have all sorts of uses."
"So many." The frugal mercenary blinked in surprise. "That must have cost a fortune."
"Nah, not when you know the right people." Chamo pulled out a cigarette and lit it with a proud grin. "It's all about who you know, Ane-san." He exhaled a small puff of smoke which didn't bother the girl one bit. The corners of her mouth twitched up ever so slightly.
"That it is..." Perhaps there could be a little unexpected bonus in this mission after all.
AN – Well so begins yet another crossover from me. This was in idea I had a while back when brainstorming with my fellow author Windfalcon on different ways to cross series. It really appealed to me as a different way to present a cross and a chance to flesh out Mana, one of the more mysterious members of 3-A. This story will be entirely from the POV of the Negima characters, at least for a while, as they figure out whats going on.
Tsukimi means Moon Watching ^_^