Author's Note To End All Author's Notes:
Because I'm back, I'm back, I'm really really back, because I'm back, I'm back, I'm really really back!
"Sinking five hundred airships would prove a hard task even for one like you…"
"I don't like easy tasks."
"That is just as good. The task I will assign you is by its very nature, far harder."
Chapter 30: Conflict Isn't Only Violence
Negi shook his head as he landed on his feet, on the extremely long and thin bridge that separated the library from the tunnel they'd used to get there. His legs failed him for an instant and he almost fell to the floor, but managed to stop himself by going to one knee and using one of his hands to remain standing.
He almost wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Now that he'd had sufficient time to sit around and get an idea of what was going on, he noticed that there was no physical trace of whatever the light being had been anywhere.
It was probably ethereal in nature, then.
He stood up and shook his head, ignoring the faint burning sensation that he felt after using such a ridiculous amount of power at once, then he decided he might as well make his way to the library so he turned around and started to walk…
… Only to meet the people whom he'd accompanied here standing just outside the bridge, all of them rooted to their spot and expressing clear shock.
"What… was that, partner?" Derflinger voiced the unanimous question.
Negi sighed. "Well…"
Louise blinked. "What was that?" She repeated, taking a step forward.
The familiar merely offered her a smile. "That is the most powerful spell in the Darkness system. A weakened, single-target version of it, but still the same spell, more or less." He explained, taking a few steps forward. "Suffice to say, it's not a very pleasant spell to use or be hit with."
"You don't say." Said Julio, dryly.
Agnes raised an eyebrow. "What does it even do? I've never seen magic like that… not even yours." She said, reminding herself that Springfield's magic was not often like her own world's and would thus naturally do the unexpected every once in a while.
"It's a very complicated spell and very dangerous. It's actually rather interesting in that it requires knowledge well beyond what a combat mage would ever learn, since it deals with the more theoretical aspects of magic rather than anything you could learn by practice…"
"Short version." Agnes said, flatly.
"… Basically, I build an alternate plane, flood it with darkness, and then I compress the darkness around the target until I can recreate the effects of the Big Crunch."
"What's the Big Crunch?" Asked Colbert, suddenly perked up by the explanation of magical theory that was well beyond what most people ever bothered to learn.
"The theorized death of the universe once it expands too much and collapses on itself. I would explain more than that, but it would require a very lengthy explanation of the workings of the universe and a variety of teaching aids that I do not have at the moment, not to mention that it would most likely challenge everything that you believe in. Right now, we just don't have the time."
"You know, sometimes, I forget that you once were a teacher…" Louise said, looking positively surprised.
Negi smiled, feeling an overwhelming need to pat Louise's head. Sometimes, she was just adorable.
"Isn't he teaching you how mages from his world make combat?" Eleonore asked, raising an eyebrow and adjusting her glasses. Negi absent mindedly noted that her face was surprisingly flushed.
Maybe they'd run all the way here?
"Yes." Louise admitted. "But that's more torture than training."
Negi chuckled. "That is the regime that I put Montmorency and Guiche through, Louise. Are you saying that you're less capable than them?" Preying on her pride to keep her motivated was a low blow, but Negi was a teacher: Keeping students motivated was an art that required pragmatism and his time teaching 3-A was not wasted.
Louise shook her head frantically. "No! I'm just… saying that you could be nicer…"
Negi laughed, as did everyone else.
It was only then that most people realized something that was starting to bother everyone there.
Negi looked around, seeing that everyone sported heavy blushes and seemed to be looking at him, although Julio was pointedly looking away.
The pinkette of the group gasped and quickly went for one of the pockets in the inner side of her cape (ridiculously useful, that thing) to dig for the artifact that would save them from the current threat.
Negi took an involuntary step back when he noticed Eleonore closing in the distance between them with a face that was halfway between curious and aroused. It was giving him flashbacks and he was not entirely certain about his preference in the matter.
"Oh, for the love of…" Agnes rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Put your glasses on, Springfield." She barked as Louise produced said magical artifact and quickly threw them at Negi. This caused Eleonore to take a step back and blink.
"Wow… you're… really pretty." She said, her breathing fast and shallow.
"Indeed." Colbert agreed. "Please don't remove your glasses in my presence ever again." He added.
Julio chuckled. "See? I told you that a sufficiently attractive person works regardless of gender."
Negi sighed. "Well, at least it's nothing like the Spin The Bottle incident…"
Eleonore and Louise blinked, in perfect unison. "You're explaining that. Right now."
The redhead felt like smacking himself for even mentioning it, right then and there.
Negi hummed, absent mindedly rubbing his chin as he did. There were many things to do. So much, in fact, that he was actually distracted from dwelling on it.
"Oh, come on, this is ridiculous, he's not even paying attention!" Someone yelled. Negi blinked and realized he was holding off three of the musketeers' blades with one single hand. His eyes quickly scanned his surroundings and locked for mere seconds on the face of each of them, all of which were contorted into the very image of exertion.
It was clear that they were trying their best.
"He doesn't need to because you're doing everything wrong." There was another voice, this one far harsher, colder and commanding. It was also a voice that Negi recognized rather easily. "You should have known, right from the start, that you would not defeat him in a contest of strength!" Agnes barked, folding her hands over her chest.
The three musketeers trying to push Derflinger down let up and took a few steps back, panting as they did.
"You should have taken notice of that and instead worked together to find a way past his defenses. You got complacent because of your superior numbers and in a battle, he could have killed you five times over before you knew it." Agnes berated the three women, glaring at them as she did so. "Pay attention to his movements! His mind is elsewhere, you should have had an easy time finding a hole in his defense but instead you thought you could overpower him for an easy victory."
Her voice had become simply stern rather than the bark of a commander annoyed with incompetent troops by the end. Negi noted that it had to come from having experience teaching a whole bunch of people.
He smiled slightly and then took a few steps forward.
"I'm sorry for not paying attention, I was just lost in thought." He said to the chewed out musketeers. "But what she is saying really is correct. I'm a mage, I can enhance my own physical strength. I'm fairly decent at the use of self-enhancement spells."
The musketeers were an elite unit, supposed to be able to combat mages as well as they could combat normal people. They were supposed to be able to use a variety of weapons, strategy and dirty tactics to overwhelm their opponents who usually had the power advantage on their side. Versatility, adaptability and creativity were their best weapons, really.
These three had gone for what they thought would be an easy, simple victory when they thought they'd had the advantage.
"I could have ended this fight the moment you three rushed in." Negi said.
Agnes nodded, but the three musketeers displayed faces of disbelief. The three of them looked not unlike the people Negi met with back when he was ten, when people simply didn't believe that the plans that would save the Magical World from extinction could come from him. It was kind of nostalgic, really, since by now he was famous and credible enough that most people scoffed at the idea.
The redhead mage brought his hand up. "Iaculatio Fulgoris." He said, as lightning suddenly took shape in the form of heavily ornate spears, floating behind him. He waved his hands down and, in a flash, the spears lodged themselves in the ground. They'd moved fast enough that even an experienced fighter would've had trouble dodging them.
The three musketeers flushed. "We understand, ma'am!" The three of them said, saluting Agnes.
"That's good. You're still doing punishment drills." Agnes said, a cruel smirk on her face.
The three of them discolored at that, looking not unlike a deer facing the headlights of an eighteen wheeler.
Negi chuckled as they dejectedly trudged away.
"Hm… You two are getting along." Negi heard his tiny master's voice. It sounded slightly off, and when he turned around to greet her, he understood why. She had a contemplative expression on her face.
Negi scratched the back of his neck. "Agnes needed me, and who am I to say no to a friend in need?" he asked, smiling.
"He's a perfect training dummy." Agnes admitted.
"Dummy?" Negi pouted at that, causing the other two to laugh.
"You've stepped up their training." Louise noted.
Agnes nodded. "We were getting complacent." She said. "We need to be ready." She added, looking at her musketeers as they went about practicing using the fabled and incredibly useful tactic of 'bringing a gun to a swordfight'. Agnes narrowed her eyes, then outright glared at one of the musketeers, who had missed her shot quite badly. "Hold yourself steady. If you can't properly grip the musket, you will never hit your target. Hold your breath when you take aim."
"Yes, Ma'am!" the woman replied, saluting and proceeding to implement Agnes advice when the musketeers prepared to fire the second volley.
Louise smiled. "You were born to do this."
Agnes smiled slightly, but then shook her head. "What's bothering you?"
"It's going to happen soon, isn't it?" Louise said, her tone slightly sorrowful. "The princess will go to the front. She'll be in mortal danger, every day…" She muttered, looking at the distant sky, beyond the walls of the academy.
"She will leave in seven days." Agnes said, nodding. "I will accompany her directly, as I am her bodyguard, and I will take direct command of the Royal Guard as well as the musketeer squads directly under Her Majesty's command. We will most likely see a lot of deployment in Albion."
Negi, however, simply shook his head. Agnes was intrigued by that reaction to her words, but chose not to further dig into his reasons. "I'll join up with you." The redhead spoke. "We will make one last attempt at diplomacy. We… have to take measures to encourage Albion's surrender to stop as much unnecessary bloodshed as possible."
Louise blinked. "So you're definitely going, then?"
The smile that greeted her was not one of the usual smiles that she had learned signified that he simply wasn't feeling like showing the world the fact that he was conflicted by his actions. She got the feeling that the smile was of the kind that meant that he absolutely loathed what he was doing or what he was about to do.
The question was… WHAT was he about to do? Both curiosity and anxiousness washed over Louise and from a glance, she could tell that Agnes was openly curious about his words and disposition himself.
"If we are lucky, I'll not need to be deployed." Negi assured her, patting her head.
She flushed and sputtered a few protests as he ruffled her hair, moving quickly away from his hand and then glaring at him. He chuckled and then looked at her directly in the eyes for a few seconds before giving her a final, wider smile and turning back to face Agnes.
Louise did not miss the fact that her heart had skipped a beat, and not because of a silly crush or anything of the like, no. There was something about that smile… something about it that simply didn't sit well with her.
"I guess you're fully done here, then?" Negi asked Agnes, who shook her head, frustration evident in her face and posture as she did so.
"My only regret is that I could not discover the name of the man who burned D'Angleterre to the ground." She said, her voice almost a low growl as she did. It was clear that she was still quite bitter.
Negi again shook his head. "Don't talk like that, Agnes." He said. It was clear what he was referring to.
"It's hard to shake off the shackles of the past." She admitted, her voice so low that it was almost a whisper.
"Trust me… I know."
Louise felt left out by that conversation. She pouted as she looked up at the two people who seemed to both have brought each other's mood down so easily. She decided she might as well break the mood. "I'll go with you." She said, glaring at Negi as she did.
The redhead merely sighed and shook his head. "Louise, if you went to war as you are right now… you would die." He informed her. Better to be blunt and to anger her than to let her go off to war half-cocked and with her idealized image of war still on her brain.
"W-What!?" She nearly yelled, gasping as she did.
"What I said." Negi said, shortly. "As you are right now, you would not survive in a warzone. I trained Guiche and Montmorency whenever we had a chance to train, Louise. I trained them very, very hard, because I knew Guiche would have no choice but to go to war. I pushed them as much as I could and I did my best to impress on them the reality of a fight. I broke their bones more times than I can recall and I nearly killed them several times."
"I've trained hard too!" Louise shot back.
"Yes, you have." Negi admitted. "Enough that you could defend yourself from a mage. You've got a lot of power, Louise, and you've got the talent to use it. Your magic is very effective in a war and you could hold your own in a small skirmish. However, this is not about being in a battle, Louise. This is about being in a war. As powerful as you are, you are still an innocent."
Agnes sighed. "No one is really innocent." She retorted, looking at the redhead for a few seconds. "She is much too useful as an asset to not use her. Her magic has proven itself very destructive and it can even destroy magical shields and wards without problem."
The elder mage shook his head. "As we are right now, our advantage in power against Albion is tremendous." He began, looking at their surprised reactions. "We might be treading into their land, which gives them the advantage of knowing the terrain better than we do, but we have superior numbers and they lost their greatest warship in a prior battle, which will most likely have an effect on their morale. We've had nothing but victories in our campaign repelling them from Tristain, as well, which will further diminish their morale. I just hope it's low enough to force them to surrender."
Agnes shook her head. "Albion won't surrender." She spoke, shaking her head. "They are not smart enough to."
Meanwhile, the pinkette was not particularly discouraged. No, in fact, she was only even further encouraged due to this speech. War was not a thing that she wanted to force the princess to go through on her own. It would be difficult, she knew, it'd be grueling even, but she couldn't just leave her childhood friend alone at a time like this.
"I'm going anyway! I don't care if I'm in danger! I won't let the princess face this on her own!" She said, conviction clear in her voice, stamping her foot for emphasis.
Negi looked at her for a few seconds. The magister seemed to be lost in thought. He simply turned away and started walking, ignoring both Agnes and Louise. There was simply too much in his mind at the moment.
Tabitha had felt him coming from a mile away. In fact, she'd not only felt him coming, she'd heard and seen him too. And when he was close enough, she'd smelled him, as well. "You need a bath." She curtly informed him.
"I do, don't I?" He said, absent mindedly. He also chuckled, as if it were some kind of great in-joke that she wasn't privy to. Regardless, she didn't even twitch as she continued reading her book without a care in the world. "I need a great many things." He concluded.
Tabitha briefly let her eyes rest on the man that needed a bath. The same redhead individual that had gone from a mere nobody, someone thought of as a commoner who'd gone from, in a manner of speaking, rags to royalty in a matter of mere days. He didn't seem all that different from usual.
He had several sets of the outfit he was wearing, as apparently he'd found a tailor who would make his outfits to his specifications with no problem. In truth, she thought he'd looked better in the outfit he'd originally come with, but that was just her opinion.
Maybe it was the lighting (the setting sun did not leave the hallway very lit), or maybe her glasses were just dirty, but Tabitha could have sworn that there was simply something off with him. His body language informed her of such. The smile was just the slightest bit strained.
"Something bothers you." She said, not beating around the bush in the slightest. Then again, she wasn't one for such.
"Yeah." Negi admitted. "I don't know what to do."
Tabitha raised one eyebrow, inquisitively, which he took as an invitation to continue. However, the redhead merely shook his head and looked away.
"How are you?" He asked her.
She understood instantly that it wasn't even a disguised attempt at changing the topic, but she didn't press the issue. After all, if he wanted to talk about it, he surely would have. He trusted her, didn't he? "I'm well." She said, slamming her book shut.
"Ah, that's nice." He said, smiling and sitting down next to her.
Negi blinked, then looked at her curiously.
She merely looked at him for a few seconds, her expression a cross between slightly bored and slightly more bored. He almost winced when her eyes focused on his.
"... It's nothing important, really." He said, waving his hand, as if willing the problem to dissipate. His smile was still as forced as ever, though. "It's just that I feel like a hypocrite."
"Are you?" Tabitha asked, raising one eyebrow.
"I told Louise she's not ready for war. And she's not." Negi explained, letting himself drop the pretense of cheer. It was pointless, by then. "Neither am I. No one is ever ready for it…" He said, sighing. "I've seen combat. I've been overwhelmed and almost killed more times than I can count. I have faced impossible odds and triumphed. I've killed. And… I was never ready for any of those things. It feels hypocritical of me to deny her when I did the exact same things she is trying to do. Do I have the right to deny her will to join the war effort?"
The blue haired girl stopped paying any attention to her book. "You want to protect her." She said, blunt and unmitigated as ever. This caused a weird smile to come up in his face. "That's not wrong." She concluded.
"… There were many willing to protect me. To fight for me. To risk their lives to safeguard mine." He said, a nostalgic tone to his voice that Tabitha did not miss. "I couldn't just stand by and watch them suffer so I didn't have to. I know how much it hurts to see that…"
Tabitha looked at odds at that point. "It does." She admitted. He absent mindedly noted the wince that coursed through her right then and there. "I… understand. Even so…"
There was a gust of wind and a blue, slightly blurred form descended from the sky. It was large, though if Negi had to guess, it was actually smaller than most of the dragons he'd met so far, and decidedly less threatening, if he had to go from just the fact that it seemed to be anything but angry.
Maybe simply not being raised for war did that.
"Hi, Sylphid." Negi said, smiling.
The dragon let out a cry and seemed to do what would have passed as a grin before looking pointedly at Tabitha. "No food until dinner." She said, prompting the dragon to let out a loud whine at being denied her food. All of its attempts to convince Tabitha to feed it only managed to make Negi laugh at how creative Tabitha could be to shoot them down.
Also, he found himself in wonder of Tabitha's ability to decipher what her dragon might be saying just by its cries.
Neither Tabitha nor him noticed a voluptuous figure observing them.
Eleonore already knew that Louise was clingy in her sleep, and she knew that Louise liked to sleep with her familiar. This wasn't a very well kept secret, all things considered. She also knew that this was her one chance at averting a tragedy, so she disregarded the possibility that this might be thought of by some as, to put it in the colloquial speech, a bitch move.
She opened the door almost silently, making the least noise she could as she took three steps inside the darkened room. Extricating Louise from her position would be complicated, but not impossible. She'd done far more difficult things. Precision magic was her thing.
She tapped the rope she'd brought with her wand, and watched it levitate away from her hand, coiling itself above Louise, as she pondered how best to take Louise away without waking up either of the pair. There was no doubt in her mind that alerting Springfield was something astronomically stupid when trying to prevent Louise from doing something stupid like this.
She wasn't entirely certain where he stood in this matter, and she was above simply asking him. And it was NOT because she couldn't stop thinking about a certain wet dream of hers every time he so much as smiled in her presence. Given he was pretty much constantly smiling, her life was getting harder by the second.
"I could wake both of them up anytime now." Came a sudden metallic voice in a whisper, startling Eleonore almost enough to lose control of the coil of rope floating above her little sister and her familiar. She would've gasped, but she was too controlled to do something that would give her up so easily.
It was… that talking sword. She sighed in relief, glad that it was only that and not some insane magical ward placed on the room. After all, she'd come to assume the impossible out of Louise and her familiar after Louise first introduced them.
"Sh!" She commanded, glaring through her glasses at the sword that she couldn't see.
The sword would've laughed if that wouldn't have interrupted Louise's sleep. A cranky Louise is something nobody wants to deal with. Unless you're into that sort of thing, anyway. "I'm doing this for her own good!" She said sharply, turning back to the coil of rope… only to find Louise hugging a pillow as if her life depended on it and a shirtless Negi sitting in the bed.
"Did I wake you up, partner?" Derflinger asked.
"I don't sleep, I wait." Negi stated, rubbing at his eyes and trying to blink the sleep away from them. I'm not gonna call you out on quoting the Chuck Norris facts, Negi, just this once.
For some reason, Eleonore felt the need to giggle at how silly the statement sounded, coming from him. The blond Valliere wanted to run, at that point, but it'd be pointless. So she just began to walk away with as much dignity as possible, knowing he'd follow. She just hoped he would throw on a shirt or something.
That was bloody indecent.
Once they were properly alone in the hallway, and he had covered his upper chest, she began to explain the reason why she had decided to visit during the night. "This little idiot wants to join the war effort!" She began, a hissed whisper that would've passed for a silent scream.
Negi sighed. "I know." He said. "I… don't know if I should allow her to or not." The redhead added, frowning as he did. He turned around and glared at a wall. "I have no right to deny her the dream of protecting Henrietta." His brows knit together.
"She's still too young! She can't even do real magic, all she can do is explosions!"
Negi smiled grimly. "Yes, she can do explosions. Explosions that destroy anything they touch. Explosions that rip right through magical barriers." Negi informed her, dryly. "She also has enough raw talent, knowledge and practice to pull off a complex spell on her first attempt. In my hometown, she'd be called a genius."
Eleonore raised an eyebrow. "I can't believe that!" She said, glaring at the redhead.
Turning around, the magister locked his gaze with hers for a few moment. Then he let himself laugh slightly. "I'm not lying to you." He said. "Louise studied her hardest. Her theoretical knowledge of magic challenges the teachers' own and she's actually very driven when it comes to her training. She has all the qualities of a genius."
"Then why can't she execute even the simplest of spells, if she has all of that?" Eleonore snapped.
"I don't know, truly." Negi retorted, his eyes locking with hers once again. "She has the power. She has the skill. She has the ability. I don't know why everything she does turns into an explosion… But I've discovered that it depends on what spell she uses. Every single one of her spells explodes. There is no exception to this rule. However… The spell's effects are conducted normally before it explodes. An unlocking spell would unlock a door… and then it'd blow it up. A spell designed to interweave raw wind and lightning mana into a concentrated storm would do exactly that, and once it hits its target, it'd explode. Or so far, that's where my observations have gone."
He did not want to repeat the Exarmatio experiment.
Eleonore blinked. "So… her magic really does work?" She asked, tentatively. "We've tested every way we could. Tried different foci, spells and even rituals, and nothing worked to let her magic go off as intended, so why…"
"Have any of you ever noticed that the majority of Louise's explosions don't create fire?" He asked.
Eleonore blinked. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"When her Fireball spell exploded, it was a fiery explosion. There were burns on the tree she destroyed with it. Likewise, when I had her try to use a water spell, the grass she exploded was wet. Whatever is interfering with her magic only does so with the ultimate result. The spell goes off as intended and then it explodes. When she intentionally explodes something by simply forcing her mana without giving it a purpose… There's nothing to indicate anything but concussive force. And if she uses the actual spell she knows that explicitly causes things to explode, there is nothing left of whatever is destroyed."
"It doesn't make sense." Eleonore quickly replied. "If she executed the spell perfectly, there's no way that it could suddenly explode unless she subconsciously did it herself. Even if she had an opposing affinity to the element she is trying to use, she would still be able to use spells at a reduced potency." She said, shaking her head. "So it must be a problem with Louise that goes beyond simple affinities."
The magister chuckled. "That's thinking with a limited spectrum of elements."
Eleonore raised an eyebrow, willing him to continue.
"The elements you use are rather limited and although composites exist, such as Lightning and Ice for starters, you don't truly treat them as their own elements. I will admit that our magical systems are wildly different, and I do not know enough about yours as of yet to truly discern why this is so and my ideas are still too far from the theoretical stage."
Eleonore huffed. "The similarities and differences of our systems would be far easier to compare if I had access to knowledge about how your magic works. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before." Then again, he was the source of many things he hadn't seen before. "I will admit that the topic is interesting, however, we are digressing."
For a moment, Negi had forgotten he was dealing with a noblewoman raised all her life to perform the tasks of one. Namely, politics. He was not certain how close to the middle ages Tristain truly was, culture-wise, but it seemed that its treatment of women, at least of those women with access to nobility, seemed to be wildly different from what he'd expected a society as this to be.
"I can't allow her to go to war." Eleonore said.
Negi let out a long, suffering sigh. "I will think of something. If worst comes to worst… I will do what I must."
Eleonore seemed surprised, both by the solemn tone of his words and because he had actually not complained even a bit about her insistence. That seemed to be a recurring complaint amongst the people her father chose as possible marriage candidates.
"You have my word as King Negius Springfieldes Entheophysia of Vespertatia that I will not let any harm come to Louise. I swear it on the name of my father, my mother and the noble house Entheophysia." He didn't truly remember how the actual swear went, so he was winging it. He did not, however, fail to insert conviction into his every word.
The blonde was taken aback, and it must have shown, because he even nodded to reassure her. "K-King!?"
"I am many things." Negi said. "Technically, I am but the crown prince to Vespertatia, as I was never crowned due to a variety of incidents that would take too long to explain and would be, in the end, unnecessary at this moment." And quite redundant, as well, as I've mentioned them before, he neglected to add.
"We should probably discuss further, when we have the time, because there are many things that deserve an explanation."
Negi finally smiled. "There are, aren't there? It will have to be another day, as I have an appointment with Colbert at sunrise, and sunrise is almost upon us." He said, passing her. "Maybe you could keep the fact that this conversation ever happened a secret? I'm bad at keeping those, but maybe you can do a better job, ne?"
He didn't know why he added that last bit. He just felt like doing it. Maybe it was in remembrance of the person he'd just based that phrase on. After all, Chao, his own descendant, had taught him a great many things. Even now, her lessons continued to help him.
As he walked down the halls that lead outside, he wondered if Chao could have predicted something like what was happening now. She had certainly correctly guessed just about everything that happened during his trip to the magic world, more or less. She had knowledge from the future, didn't she?
He wondered if he'd ever see her again, now. Would she be born in this timeline? He had no doubt that he'd be able to prevent the war torn future she claimed she came from, yet… Wouldn't it be paradoxical?
Time travel hurts the mind, he said, as he reached his first right turn of the day.
Well, it's always best to start with the right foot, right?
"So, what you want, is for me to lend you my lab for today." Colbert said, raising an eyebrow. Then he smiled widely. "You're free to take it! I just wish to see what you can come up with after an entire day of brainstorming."
Negi grinned and rubbed the back of his neck. "Um… I might actually need it for the entire week. And you might not want to know what I'm working on. I have many things to work on, actually…"
"Oi, partner, just tell him already." Derflinger called from his back.
Colbert raised one eyebrow. "It's probably a combat spell…" He muttered, sounding defeated.
"The most terrible of its kind." Negi admitted, sounding conflicted. "I'm hoping that a display of it will be enough to cow the Albion forces into surrender as quickly as possible with the least number of casualties on either side." He felt like a scumbag, but if this was what was required to crush the last vestiges of Albion's morale and stop this war… He'd have to create a magical equivalent of the H-bomb. "Don't worry about other people being able to use it. I don't plan on teaching it to anyone else, and from what rough sketches I have in my mind of how it could possibly work, it'd be pretty much impossible to use for anyone else anyway."
Colbert let out a long breath he didn't know he'd been holding. "Please use your power responsibly. There is no telling what kind of disastrous weapon someone like you could create if you were given enough time alone."
Negi blushed slightly.
"Partner's not going to be alone!" Derflinger cried, its tone of mirth as it did. Sometimes, Negi wondered if the sword found more amusement in making its wielder's life as complicated as possible than it did in combat. Nah. Derflinger admitted that it loved being used as a weapon.
"I'm ashamed to admit it, but I kind of get engrossed in my research and tend to neglect certain… activities." He said. "Once, I forgot to eat or sleep for two days." He admitted, sheepishly. "My friend Anya had to drag me to the kitchen because I couldn't even walk straight." He continued, earning a chuckle from Colbert.
"Ah! Negi! I'm sorry I'm late, but my fingers were dumb and I couldn't put my uniform right!" There was a distinctly familiar voice coming from afar, as the maid that had hanged around the young magister the most came barreling into the scene, almost tripping as she ran to the small cottage that was Colbert's lab. She panted when she arrived. "Hello, professor Colbert." She said, before returning to the job of recovering her breath.
Colbert felt a drop of sweat run down the back of his head. "Please don't do anything indecent in my lab." He said, looking not unlike a man who just discovered his car was used by his teenage son as a motel.
"I can't promise anything." Negi said, offering Colbert a rueful grin. "I'm weak."
Siesta smiled, oblivious to the two's exchange, as she opened the door…
… And instantly closed it again. "This place is a mess."
Colbert and Negi nodded. "It may look like one, but I can assure you, it's a controlled chaos." The professor spoke, conviction in his voice. "Feel free to rearrange it, just tell me where you left everything later." He said to the maid, who, looking like she was only slightly annoyed, went to work on the messy laboratory.
Colbert and Negi were then left alone.
"If you need me, I'll be going over Tabitha's notes of what we have learned so far from the Dragon's Raiment." The man said. "Well, when I'm not giving classes, at any rate."
"Inform me if you have trouble with reproducing the motor. Mechanics is not my best subject by far, but two minds are always better than one, at any rate." Negi said, a serious expression in his face.
Colbert offered his hand, which Negi took and shook firmly. "Do clean up after yourselves…"
Negi pouted at that. Leaving a mess was not the gentlemanly thing to do.
Colbert went away, a laugh in his voice and a spring in his step that hadn't been there earlier.
Welcome to the Konoka Morning Show! And now, the most wonderful girl on television, with 7 Grammies, 9 Oscars, 3 Academy Awards, and the first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model NOT to wear a swimsuit, your friend and mine, the wonderful, the lovely, the completely dyke, please welcome... Konoka!
Konoka smiled. "Good morning everyone! Welcome to the show. Here today we have a very special guest. She's well-known for her leading role in the hit series Unequally Rational and Emotional, and highly praised for her layered, moving portrayal in Takamachi Nanoha of 2814, let's all give a very warm round of applause to our very special guest this morning, Hasegawa Chisame!"
Chisame blinked and looked at her. "Konoka, who are you talking to?" Konoka laughed lightly.
"Ah, Chisame-san, your wit is as usual legendary. We thank you for finding time in your busy schedule making love to Negi-sensei and Matoi-san, not to mention your highly-acclaimed character arc in the 2814 series to be with us today. I'm sure our audience is glad to, right folks?" Konoka paused as if expecting applause, smiling brightly.
A confused Chisame looked at where she was smiling. "Konoka, there's nothing there but a blank wall. Seriously, I thought you invited me for breakfast to study for a test?"
Konoka giggled in an almost adorable, almost perverted manner. "Oh, you jester you." she said, muffling the last few of her giggles with her long sleeve. "Before we proceed to the interview, let me introduce you to our most respected executive producer, Lord Mendasuit-sama, who finances our show from the kindness of his heart! A wave of applause, everyone!"
Chisame looked around and saw absolutely noone come in nor did she see anything happen.
It's my pleasure, Konoka-chan!
"What was that?" Chisame asked, alarmed. She hadn't just heard something, no. Something had made the words exist in her head. Almost like telepathy, but not.
"Lord Mendasuit-sama wishes all of you well!" The white mage informed her audience, before rounding up on Chisame. "Now, I'm sure we've all got questions for our special guest, but you will have to wait to get yours answered, as we're going by list!"
Then, from one of the borders of a screen, the head of a certain teenaged girl popped out of nowhere. "Uhm... Kono-chan..."
"What is it, Setchan?" Konoka asked, turning around to offer her ever helpful, if bumbling, producer a smile that made her go weak at the knees. Konoka watched, intrigued, as Setsuna stepped past her, her eyes trailing the backside that was revealed by the suit that was perfectly tailored to show her off, clinging to every right place.
Setsuna bowed to the blank wall. "Due to certain technical difficulties, we've been unable to properly inform our audience about this show in advance, so we couldn't get them to send their question. Please accept our apologies for failing to deliver on our first chance to do so!"
Konoka gasped. "But what is this show if we don't get to have interaction with our audience?"
"Seriously, there is nobody there!" Chisame yelled.
"There won't be one for long if we can't even do this much." Konoka said, rubbing her chin. "We'll have to improvise something to keep our ratings up..." She said, rubbing her chin. "Ah?" Then she turned around and tapped her ear, tuning out her producer's chain of apologies before smiling widely again. "Ah, well, we have green light from Lord Mendasuit-sama to wing it! Since today we have no queries from our audience to present to our honored guest, we'll have to make up our own entertainment for the time being!"
Setsuna looked very apologetic as she continued to bow towards the blank wall, offering later reparations as she did.
Chisame and Setsuna looked both very stunned when Konoka suddenly flushed red. "Ah? But... isn't that... it isn't? Oh! That's cool, then!" She said, letting go of her ear. "Setchan!" She said, smiling brightly. For Setsuna, the world was just a little bit brighter at that moment, the birds were singing, the rivers were flowing and everything in the world was right, because Konoka was smiling. However, at that point, her smile turned slightly mischievous, slightly perverted and very, very scary.
Setsuna didn't even get a chance to scream before Konoka pounced on her.
Chisame blinked. "Seriously? You're gonna resort to porn to keep your ratings up? Wait, what the hell am I talking about?" Chisame said, narrowing her eyes and glaring at the blank wall. Then she looked at the sheet of paper that Konoka had dropped when she'd pounced at Setsuna (and whom she was now chasing around the room) and decided she might as well read it. "Huh? What does this mean?"
Konoka stopped abruptly and suddenly appeared next to Chisame. "Good idea, Chisame! It's better if we inform our audience now so that they might remember the next time! We here at Konoka's Morning Show would like to remind everyone that if you've got a question you want answered, we are willing to force Chisame to answer your question for you! Just submit it in a review and it will be delivered to us by our magnanimous benefactor, Lord Mendasuit-sama!"
"Who is this Lord Mendasuit guy, anyway?!" Chisame asked, glaring at Konoka.
"And now, back to the lesbian porn!"
Setsuna gulped and tried to inch away from Konoka, whose giggles were starting to unnerve both of the other teenagers.
Special thanks to Shadow Crystal Mage, for being awesome and helping me write that omake. He came up with the idea and wrote the introduction for the show, Konoka and Chisame. And to OverMaster, writer of URAE, for being willing to throw in his answers if they involve URAE.