"It's been six weeks since Kotaro and I left the power center of the Ariad Empire and set out for the shipyard in orbit over Aquitar. We have two weeks worth of supplies, but there seems to be something of a problem - we should have at least be in the system by now. Since there don't seem to be any nearby planets within scanning range, it would appear that we've gotten off-course somehow."

Kotaro added, "And evidently, you've just begun talking to yourself."

"There is that, too." Negi grabbed his drink before re-checking his star charts, as he had a personal preference of paper to computers.

"So..." Kotaro trailed off.

"No. I understand quite well that you like fighting, Kotaro. You enjoy punching people in the face. And over the past few weeks I am exactly aware of what you can do because you've already told me. Repeatedly. And similarly, we've discussed most of my capabilities. We're each familiar with what the other is capable of, and despite not having yet had a chance to put it into practice, we seem to work well enough as a team so far. I can sympathize with you being bored, given that there's no interstellar radio system handy for us, but it would be nice to have a different subject be the topic of discussion."

"Okay, okay. Jeez. I keep forgetting that despite how strong you claim to be, you're still a pacifist first and foremost. Oh yeah, and you keep spacing out - meditating or whatever, I guess - which you say is some kind of way to get stronger in your head and that translates to being stronger in reality or something. Fine, shutting up now."

"I'm not an expert in the field of interstellar navigation, Kotaro, but none of these stars match up to what they ought to. I think we can officially say that we've gotten off-course somehow."

Kotaro irritably snapped, "I know that! Damnit, how the hell did we get so lost when I punched in the friggin' coordinates and it's been going in a straight line since?"

A beep from the communications screen interrupted Kotaro's frustrated rant, as he took a breath to calm down and examined the readouts.

"Oi, Negi. Sensors picking up a vessel off to the side, and it looks like they're armed to the teeth. Orders?"

"At this point, we might as well ask for directions..."

Rolling his eyes, Kotaro honed in on the other ship's frequency and attempted visual contact, cueing Negi to speak.

"My name is Negi Springfield. My comrade and I seem to have gotten lost on our way to the Aquitian orbital shipyards. Is there any chance you'd be willing to provide some assistance?"

After about twenty seconds, the screen came alive and Negi was greeted by a raven-haired woman wearing a costume that almost defied description... but as it was, neither of the men really cared enough to try in the first place.

The woman introduced herself.

"I'm Haruna Saotome, Captain of the great Overlord Paru. If you're headed to Aquitar, kids, then you're quite a ways off course. Let me guess, you pointed yourself in a straight line and left the engines on. Without performing course corrections to account for the occasional gravity wells caused by nearby cosmic phenomena?"

Negi asked "Course corrections?" while Kotaro visibly froze, before standing up, walking to the bulkhead, and slamming his face into the wall over and over again.


Haruna howled with laughter. "Yes, sweetheart, course corrections. You've never taken even a basic piloting class in your life, have you?"

While also trying to keep Kotaro from giving himself permanent brain damage, Negi said, "I don't suppose you'd be willing to set us on the right course, would you?"

With a grin bright as a star, Haruna lazily replied, "Why, more than that, my dear boy and mutt - my crew and I will ferry you there ourselves... for a fee, of course."

"And just what kind of fee are we talking about?"

Haruna's grin became that of a predator, certain beyond doubt that her prey was cornered and helpless before her.

"Why, that would be your shuttle and everything on it of interest, naturally."

Kotaro suddenly stopped smashing his head against the wall and looked to the screen in suspicion.

"The hell's wrong with you?

While disapproving of the language, Negi agreed with the general sentiment. "That seems rather high, Captain Saotome. If it's notably cheaper, I believe we'll simply ask for directions and take our chances without you."

"Pfft... MMMUWAHAHAHAHA! It's so adorable how you think you have a choice, misters Negi Springfield and unnamed pilot."

Taking a bottle of alcohol from one of her crewmen, Haruna said, "For you see, I am not just any beautiful, overwhelmingly sexy space captain."

Downing the entire thing at once, Haruna shattered the bottle against the deck of her ship as she gleefully roared, "I'M A PIRATE!"

There was utter silence for all of three seconds, during which Kotaro's left eye twitched, before Negi responded.

"I see. Well in that case, I must ask you to power down all battle systems and turn your vessel over to me, at which point I'll turn you over to the relevant authorities and you'll likely be imprisoned or sent to a penal colony. Or else."

Raising an eyebrow at the boy's decree, but still clearly enjoying the banter, Haruna got up and sauntered over to the screen. "Or else what, kiddo?"

Pounding one fist into the other, Kotaro bragged, "Or else we make you."

Captain Saotome actually snorted at that. "You, a pair of teenagers with a tiny shuttle that has no weapons, will force a battleship armed with several very nasty particle beam weapons, missiles, and Mobile Fighters, into submission. You've got one hell of an attitude, and I think that's sexy as hell, but honestly kids, just who the hell do you think you are?"

Negi's smile seemed to twist into an amused smirk as he countered, "You see, Captain Haruna Saotome, I am no mere lone teenager with attitude on an unarmed shuttle. I'm a Paladin of the Holy Ariad Empire."

"And I'm a badass wolfman mercenary!"

Back to back as they faced Haruna, the boys declared, "And you all, therefore, are under arrest."

"Oh-ho, is that so, now."

Turning to face her crew, Haruna said, "You hear that, boys? We've got ourselves a Paladin and a mercenary on our hands. Are we scared of the big bad space cop wannabes?"

As one, the voices of several men roared, "HELL NO!"

"Atta boys! Tosaka! Disembark and show Sir Negi and mister Kotaro precisely what we think of Paladins and mercenaries foolhardy enough to hunt pirates with unarmed shuttles!"

"Aye-aye, Captain!"

The visual channel cut off, and the duo was treated to a view of the glorious Overlord Paru.

It was a massive thing, comparable in size to a prison barge capable of holding five hundred inmates. Across the deck, there were numerous cannons and missile batteries. In addition, the relative top side of the ship had what appeared to be doors to several hangars. From one of these emerged a humanoid-looking machine, five times the size of a man.

Eyes widening, Negi instinctively backed away towards the center of the shuttle.

A rocket sled on the deck of the ship suddenly activated, launching the mecha straight towards him.

"Think very carefully about what you're doing, Tosaka..." Negi muttered.

The Wing-Model Mobile Fighter drew its sword, activated its antiproton blade, and with one strike split the shuttle in two, slicing through its miniature reactor and causing a small explosion.

Haruna watched with a sort of sad satisfaction as her pilot slashed the ivory shuttle apart.

It's kind of a shame, really. Those two were real lookers - Negi moreso -, and they kinda made me laugh a little. Even if things didn't work out, I'm sure they would've been magnificent conquests.

Then she shook her head, amazed at the display she'd witnessed.

But really, anybody who'd challenge a ship like the Overlord Paru without any kind of weapons is just too dumb to live.

Clearing her head, Haruna began issuing out orders.

"That was fine work, Tosaka, head on back. Robertson, you have the bridge 'till I get back. I've got some catching up to do with our cute little guests."

"Happily, Captain!"

Everything set in order, Haruna left for the brig.

One minute earlier...

"Think very carefully about what you're doing, Tosaka..."

Seeing that the Mobile Fighter pilot was probably not going to spare the shuttle, Negi sighed.

Kotaro was slightly nervous despite himself.

"You do have a plan, right?"

Negi paused, just long enough for the wolfman mercenary to notice.

"I've got something in mind that might work. Just stick close, all right?"

Closing his eyes to concentrate, Negi twirled his staff. At that moment, the shuttle's lighting failed as a mystic glyph took form beneath the two.

"Spirits of wind, uphold the contract and obey me."

Eyes opened once more, the Paladin cast his enchantment.

"Bind the atmosphere in this cabin around us!"

The Mobile Fighter's antiproton blade came down and split the shuttle in two. When the light from the ruptured reactor faded down, Negi and Kotaro were clinging to the back of the mecha's legs, enveloped in the captured atmosphere from within the shuttle.

"Holy crap, that was a neat trick. This way, we have at least a few minutes' worth of oxygen for as long as your spell holds. Not to mention that the atmospheric pressure is maintained so we don't start bleeding out."

"I just hope this guy doesn't take his time returning to his ship. This spell can't hold forever..."

Haruna removed a bottle of wine from her cape as she dramatically strode into the well-furnished room, her two 'guests' unhappily sitting in the corner.

"A drink, then, to my old friends? Eh, Nodoka? Yue?"

"You were always on a different mental wavelength to the rest of us, but I honestly thought you were better than this."

"Oh, that's right! I almost forgot, you have that weird taste for avocado-prune-cranberry-asparagus juice. Here ya go."

The pirate produced a small box from the window in her cleavage and handed it through the window.

Despite her longing stare, Yue hesitated to take it.

Scoffing, Haruna rolled her eyes. "Oh come on. I mean, sure I order a few people to die now and then, routinely steal things for a living, and sometimes molest people, but I take the survivors somewhere habitable, I make sure the molestees enjoy it, and poison's just way too boring."

Caving slightly before the incredulous expressions, Haruna took back the juice, poked it with the straw, and took a sip of it herself. "Told ya it was safe. Still want it?"

Yue paused for several seconds, clearly grappling with her baser instincts.

"I still don't forgive you for imprisoning us, you know." However, that didn't stop her from accepting the juice.

Hiding behind her bangs, Nodoka asked, "W-why are you doing this, Haruna? You were one of our best friends..."

"You know you could just enter my mind and take the answers for yourself. But of course, our little bookworm's just too sweet for that." Haruna smiled as she shook her head. "Man, you guys haven't changed a bit, have you? Why am I a pirate? Well, you guys know me. The quiet life of a librarian on some semi-obscure asteroid just didn't sit well with me. I wanted adventure, and excitement, and all that stuff. My first plan was to take over the galaxy."

Clenching her fist, she continued, "Then I realized that in order to do that, I'd have to take on the Megalo and Ariad Empires, Helladian Confederation, and probably punch out two of the Gods - namely, the Destroyer and the Preserver. Since, of course, I'm only a normal human being without magic or any kind of mass-smiting ability, that's a wee bit out of the question. So I promptly settled for piracy. You know, if you guys ever wanted a life of adventure, I'd be more than happy to have you aboard..."

Before either of them could reply, the intruder alarm sounded.

"Wha - but nobody's come around in forev..."

Haruna's expression slowly changed from one of surprise to sadistic anticipation. "Oooh, this is going to be interesting..."

"I've got a Paladin and a mercenary to deal with. Back later... old friends."

With a dramatic swish of her cape, Haruna left.

Nodoka glanced at Yue, and could effortlessly tell she was upset. Furthermore, a brief glance at the surface thoughts made it clear that Haruna was the reason.


"Damn you, Haruna. Hiding juice in your boobs when you know I'm flat as a washboard..."

As the Mobile Fighter neared its mothership, Negi stubbornly crawled his way from the back of the leg to the side of the cockpit.

Sorcerous Archery - seventy-eight arrows of lightning, come to me!

For an instant, Negi's arm crackled with electricity, before he punched through the metal shell and tore the cockpit open, terrifying the pilot.

Tosaka, in a pressurized space suit, attempted to punch Negi. However, the Paladin caught the fist with little effort and used his tactile telepathy to broadcast a simple message.

This machine is now ours.

Wisely choosing not to argue with the seemingly unkillable sorceror who could punch through the armor of a Mobile Fighter and was crazy enough to take on space without any kind of protective suit, Tosaka nodded and began cowering in the corner.

Once he managed to follow Negi, Kotaro used his shadow to seal up the hole in the cockpit.

"Since I think we're close enough not to worry about course corrections, do you know how to pilot this thing?"

"The hell -" Kotaro yelled "- I've never been inside a mecha in my life!"

Negi paused, and then the two glanced at Tosaka.

Morphing his arms into claws, Kotaro demanded, "Bring us back to your ship or else."

Trying to muster some defiance, Tosaka countered, "Or else what? If you can't pilot the Mobile Fighter, then you can't harass the crew without my help."

"Ah, but if you don't cooperate, then we'll simply forgo piloting and just crash-land it. And I think I can get us all through it unscathed."

Kotaro smirked, "But he might slip up at a crucial moment. We'll survive without much trouble, but will you?"

"... Fine, you win."

Upon gliding into the hangar, Kotaro dispelled the shadow, revealing the hole in the cockpit. Gleefully smirking, he grabbed Tosaka and casually tossed him through. "Thanks, now get out."

Negi stepped out and counted the pirates in the room. "Looks like they've got us thirty to two."

Two minutes later, the two were surrounded by several unconscious pirates.

"What does she feed these guys, nothing but cheese puffs?"

"Remember that we're not exactly normal, Kotaro. Now then. I'm not an expert, but for a proper ship, the two main control points are the main order room and the engine room, right?"

Seeing the wolfman nod, Negi continued, "Then as you said before, we will force these pirates into submission. I'll see if I can find the main order room, you head for engineering and subdue any pirates you come across."

"Sounds like a plan."

Once she returned to the bridge, the weapons officer suppressed a shudder. Noticing the reflex, Haruna demanded, "Problem, Evan?"

"With all due respect, you're wearing the rape-face again, and it's kinda creepy."

Her previous expression returning, Haruna cheerily said, "Excellent! Who knows what the day may bring." Dampening her excitement a little, she turned to her second-in-command. "Now then, Robertson, what's the story here?"

The man was brooding, and seemed to be in a state of deep thought.

Impatient, Haruna smacked him. "Hey, Mark! Sit-rep!"

The man was startled. "Sorry, Captain. I was in deep thought. There have been reports of wolves running about the lower decks, and it seems most likely that the men from the shuttle survived somehow. And if my suspicions are correct, then I would not be surprised in the least."

Intrigued, Haruna bade him continue.

"For you see, Captain, the red-headed boy introduced himself by the accursed name of Springfield. Spriiiiiiiingfiiiiiiiieeld... Even now, the merest thought of that name sets my very soul aflame with righteous ANGER!"

Stroking her chin, Haruna mulled that over for a second. "I see. And because of both the name and the physical resemblance to the late Thousand Master, you think he's related?"

"That I do, Captain. That... I... Do. I beg of you, Captain, allow me to deal with this..." He spat out the word like a curse, "Paladin. 'Tis a matter of honor, as I have recounted to you before."

With a careless wave of her hand, Haruna bid him leave. "You know me, I don't make a habit of interfering with my crew's personal issues."

His face coming alive with a sinister smile, Mark came to his feet, and with a grandiose flourish, he strode into the elevator.

As he neared a door, Kotaro's superhuman hearing detected a pair of girls talking. And from the sound of it, they seemed to be captives.

Deciding on the fly that if they turned out to be Pirates faking it, then he'd subdue them, Kotaro reared back with his fist and then let it fly.

I really hope that they actually are captives. Fighting women is so uncool...

Fortunately for Kotaro, they were indeed prisoners. The taller girl, whose eyes were obscured by her hair, let out a timid squeak and hid behind the other, whose most notable feature was her forehead.

"If you haven't figured it out, this is a bust! So if you've got any fighting skill at all, do yourselves a favor and help me take down the pirate scumbags!"

With that, Kotaro promptly ducked a fist coming from behind, before spinning around, kicking him in the face, and then sending a pack of shadow wolves to the lower decks.

Yue turned to Nodoka and said, "Somehow, I get the feeling that we're placeholders of some sort..."

Having cleared his way to the upper levels, Negi found himself face to face with a man in a mantle.

"For the past six years, I have long despaired of ever receiving my justice." Mark dramatically raised his hand to his face, before clenching it into a fist with great force. "But now, AT LAST, I have my chance! Fate and fortune have conspired, most hated enemy of mine, TO ENSURE our destined encounter on this blessed DAY!"

"Erm... Sorry, but do I know you, mister...?"

Seething with rage, "No, I should not be surprised at your complete and utter failure to recognize me."

"... Is there a reason you paid special emphasis to 'complete' and 'utter failure' while glaring at me like that?"

Negi was studiously ignored.


"I still don't understand what's going on here..."


Negi paused.

"But I don't have even the slightest recollection of my father. In fact, there's a thing or two I'd like to hold him accountable for as w-"


It was then that Mark pounded his staff upon the deck.

"I am the unforgiving rivers. I am the vengeful tide. I am the righteous ocean. With rod in hand, shall I reap the justice due to my family and cleanse our name in the waters of ANNIHILATION! I AM MARK! EDWARD! ROBERTSON! THE END HAS COME!"

Mark clenched his fist, and subservient to his will, the trace amounts of water vapor in the air coalesced into several spheres of water, each the size of his fist, before flinging them at Negi.

Using his thunder magic, Negi extended his staff into a halberd before using it to expertly slash apart the projectiles before they could hurt him.

"Robertson, are you sure we can't simply talk this out like gentlemen? I don't exactly like fighting..."


Mark unleashed a stream of water at Negi, who countered it with a blast of wind. However, the pirate continued on with an unrelenting assault of water, pushing Negi back.


Negi called a sphere of air into his hand before blasting it to hit Mark in the chest.

"Well, since you've used up the water in the air, your means of magic attack have been effectively exhaus-"

"Hehehehe... Ha ha ha ha ha ha... BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

"Erm... are you okay?"

Boisterous laughter fading to a chuckle, Mark smugly declared, "'Twould seem that someone NEGLECTED their RESEARCH!"

Negi felt like he'd just been slapped in the face.

As magic permeated the corridor, Mark's eyes took on an azure glow.

"IGNORAMUS! The very FIRST lesson taught to a WARLOCK OF WATER... is how to summon more WATER!"

Negi's eyes widened.

"Asuna darnit, I knew I forgot something important about water magic..."

Forming a barrier of water to protect himself, Mark proceeded to make lots of grandiose, sweeping gestures in time with his voice as he bellowed his incantation.


Obeying the sorceror's will, every cubic centimeter of the corridor in front of Mark was flooded, before the water then began compressing around Negi, trapping him.

After a few minutes, Mark's eye twitched.

"Why, Springfield, are you not crushed yet?"

Negi blinked, then looked at himself.

Even though he could feel the pressure bearing down on every square inch of his body, it wasn't crushing him. Instead, his body was enveloped in a bright green aura which apparently rendered him invulnerable to pressure differences.

Why would that be? I don't know of any magic that could -

Eyes widening, he thought back to before he'd left the Academy.

Asuna said, "...you just go do whatever with my blessing."

Oh, wow. Didn't think She'd be so literal with Her blessing. Still, I can feel my head getting a bit lighter, so clearly I still need to breathe. Even so, now that I know about this, I have a means to counterattack.

Negi paused for a beat.

This is probably going to hurt, and I wouldn't dare try it if we weren't so far away from the hull, but here goes...!

Calling upon his magic, Negi built up an electrical charge and released it into the water surrounding him, breaking down the bonds holding oxygen and hydrogen together.

Mark narrowed his eyes, wondering what his hated enemy could possibly be doing.

Hrm. Even if he finds some way to dispel the water from around him, I can just - wait, those are air bubbles, and far too many of them just to be a sign of his suffocation. Why are there air bubbles?

Then, the realization dawned on him, and he hasitly started taking water from Negi's prison and using it to thicken his shield.

Cue kaboom as Negi's electrical field detonated the hydrogen and oxygen.

The force of the blast freed Negi from his watery prison, while also breaking Mark's barrier and violently throwing him against the wall.


And Mark lost consciousness as his head took a severe blow.

Negi shook his head clear, brushed his sopping wet bangs from his eyes, and saw his opponent slumped against the wall.

Feeling for a pulse, Negi was relieved to find Mark still alive, if unconscious.

"Thank Asuna I managed to keep the damage down. Still I wonder what this guy's problem was?"

Deciding that it was ultimately irrelevant, Negi cast a quick wind spell to dry his clothes and ward off hypothermia bfeore entering the elevator that the water mage had been blocking.

"Next stop, command bridge."

Kotaro paused, looking out the viewport for a moment. "Oh, hey, an asteroid field. ... Why did I stop moving just to point that out? ... Goddamnit, now I'm starting to talk to myself like Negi."

Kotaro shook his head, muttered something incomprehensible, and continued onto engineering, where he was met by a few dozen crewmates.

"... If any of you are stronger than all the pirates I beat up to get to this point, step forward. If not, do yourselves a favor and just knock yourselves out to save me some time."

When none of them obliged, the wolfman just sighed.

"Fine then. Since this has been getting kinda boring, I'll just wipe you all out at once!"

With that, Kotaro's eyes widened and his muscles bulged.

Falling to all fours, the mercenary howled as he took on his beast form.

The pirates had only a second to glance at the massive lupine form before Kotaro vanished.

Seconds later, half of them were sporting gashes across their chest while the others had been tackled to the floor by wolves crafted from black energy.

Un-morphing, Kotaro wiped the blood from his nails onto his pants. "Goddamnit, I keep forgetting that I need to take off my shirt and jacket before I do that. Oh well, nothing for it now."

He paused.

"Damnit, I really need to quit talking to myself. Jeez, I didn't have this problem until I met Negi..."

The room cleared, Kotaro looked over the controls. "Okay, the scheme is... close enough to what I'm familiar with... there's the self-destruct... environmental controls... here we go, propulsion."

A few keystrokes later... "Okay, propulsion reversed, we have now come to a complete stop. Next up, gotta make sure they can't restart from the Bridge..."

"Cap, it would seem that we've stopped."

"Oh really? And why would that be?" came the dry reply.

"Erm... because one of the intruders got to engineering?"

Haruna nodded, encouraging him to go on. "And at times like this, the protocol I've trained you all in dictates that you should..."

The helmsman visibly paused for a few seconds, before he asked, "I should attempt to retake control, and if that doesn't work, go down there with the second mate to do so manually?"

Haruna beamed at him. "There ya go!"

"R-right, Cap!"

The helmsman turned to the elevator, while Haruna sat back in her chair. "Not the biggest rocket on the pad, but he's sweet and a good pilot. Shame he's not great for anything else..."

At this point, another voice cut in.

"Please stand aside, I'm going to ask your captain to stand down."

Sighing as she got back up, Haruna turned to the intruder.

Negi Springfield, Paladin.

"Any chance I can get you to give up peacefully?"

Haruna made a show of stroking her chin. "Hrm... let me think about that for a second. Hrm..."

Then she spun around, brandished her rapier, and cheerfully replied, "Nope!"

Negi sighed, before glancing at the helmsman. "Are you going to stay out of this, or do I need to subdue you too?"

The helmsman pondered for a second, before drawing a blaster and pointing it at the paladin.

Negi paused for a full three seconds, staring at it, before he decided to try the peaceful approach once more. "I took on someone I'm guessing was your first mate, was subjected to twenty thousand fathoms' worth of water pressure, promptly blew myself up to escape, and I stand before you unharmed. Do you really think you're going to get very far with your pewpew gun?"

The helmsman took this new information under consideration, mulled it over for a second, and then knocked himself out with a punch to the face.

"Wasn't quite what I had in mind, but I'll take what I can get."

Haruna massaged the bridge of her nose. "Tsk tsk tsk. I keep forgetting that one lacks any sort of ambition. Well, I can worry about dispensing punishment after dealing with you. Mark always does say I spoil the crew..."

Negi made one last attempt at a nonviolent resolution. "Please surrender."

"Oh, wow, you said please. And with a straight face, too. ... Man, you are innocent, aren't you? Look kiddo, let's make this clear right now. I have no intention of giving up. The only way you're going to get a peaceful resolution here is if you surrender to me, at which point I will have you bound in an Anti-Magic field, I'll molest you, and then I'll have you executed while you're still out of it from the happy."

Negi blinked. "That was... unusually straightforward."

Haruna shrugged. "What can I say? Murder, molestation, and thievery are totally okay, but I find lying distasteful."

Acknowledging that the time for violence had come, Negi powered up his staff into a halberd again, electricity forming a wicked blade. "When you say molestation, what you really mean is rape, right?"

Haruna actually took offense to that. "Silence, brat! You don't have any idea what you're talking about. Everyone I've taken chose to submit to me of their own will!"

She surprised Negi with the speed of her slash, though he blocked it without much trouble, and effortlessly forced her back.

"While I do indeed love using other people to satisfy me -" she swung again at Negi's head, allowing him to deflect her blows so that she could spin around and attack even faster "- I will never take those who actually have the willpower to refuse me!"

Incredulous, Negi kneed her in the gut, stunning her for a second.

As he went on the offensive, bringing his halberd around to chip away at her defenses, he demanded, "Then why do you keep using that word?!"

Haruna was hard-pressed to block each attack, and he eventually managed to catch her in a blade lock. Willing the electrical blade not to come any closer to her body, Haruna grinned, "I'm a pirate! I'm expected to be a sleazy scumbag with no morals at all! Hence why it's so fun cultivating a reputation and then seeing people's expressions when they find out how morally neutral I am!"

Then, she leaned forward and passionately kissed him.


So surprised was he by the sudden kiss that Negi lost all concentration... and without ending the kiss, Haruna punched him in the gut.

Negi stumbled back and fell on his butt, wiping the lipstick off of his face. Narrowly evading a stab at his face, Negi yelled, "What the heck is wrong with you!? Do you just randomly kiss every person you see or something?!"

"Well, yeah," Haruna flippantly replied. "I really don't see why you're freaking out about a kiss though -"

Her face suddenly lit up with an evil grin as she stalked over to him and leaned over, causing her 'talent' to sway a bit.

"Don't tell me... that was your first kiss?"

Negi promptly kicked her in the gut with enough force to send her flying over and behind him, slamming her against the bulkhead.

Backing away, Negi called upon his magic.

"Spirits of wind and lightning, obey the contract and bind this woman to the ground!"

Haruna just got back up and chuckled. "Ooh, for a guy who just lost his first kiss, I didn't think you'd be into bondage."

Studiously ignoring her, Negi called out his spell.

"Magical archery! Twenty-seven arrows of wind and lightning!"

As Negi fired the arrows at Haruna, she ran forward, weaving and dodging in-between the arrows as she cut several of them in two. Most of the remaining wind arrows went on and dented the wall, but the few remaining lightning arrows doubled around and slammed into Haruna's back.

Convulsing, Haruna slumped to the deck. Determined not to fall, however, she continued staggering towards Negi and tried to stab at him.

However, just before she could attempt another attack, a book fell upon her head with a meaty thump.

Eyes rolling back, Haruna fell to the floor in an unceremonious heap. And behind her, massive tome in hands, stood a girl, blue bangs obscuring her eyes.

"Erm, mister, are... are you okay? My friend didn't hurt you too badly or anything, did she?"

Still trying to regain his composure a bit, Negi chose to overlook the 'friend' part for a moment as he asked, "And you are?"

"Oh! Well, um... I'm Nodoka Miyazaki."

"And how'd you end up in this situation?"

"Well, my other friend and I are librarians at the asteroid complex in the Megalo system, and Haruna took us captive while we were going on vacation to Aquitar..."

"Is that so? Well then," Negi stepped on Haruna and cast Arc Restraints, channeling electricity through her until her hands and feet were effectively cuffed to the floor, before continuing, "just how do you know Captain Haruna Saotome?"

"Erm, well, the three of us - Haruna, Yue, and I - were schoolmates a long time ago. Even though she's a pirate now, I think she still considers me and Yue to be her friends... O-of course, that doesn't excuse her actions at all..."

Stepping off of Haruna and moving to restrain the helmsman, Negi pondered that for a second. "I see. So -"

At that moment, the vessel began moving again, if the viewscreen was anything to go by. "We're moving again. Why are we moving again?"

Negi went to the console, took a few seconds to figure out which was for the comm, and tried to reach engineering.

After four attempts, Negi muttered, "Something's wrong. Kotaro shouldn't be having any trouble with this."

Turning to the girl in the shorts and sweater, he asked, "Can I trust you to keep a handle on things up here?"

"U-um, actually... I think I can help you out more if I stick with you. Um, I can't really defend myself all that well, but I'm a telepath, so I can warn you of nearby enemies..."

Negi paused to consider that.

Even if the Captain considered miss Miyazaki to be a friend, it's probable that Nodoka doesn't share the sentiment. Or at least not enough to help Captain Saotome out, since Miyazaki and her other friend were imprisoned. And if Haruna's offer to Kotaro and I is anything like her standard MO, then I'd bet this woman has also been robbed.

"If I bring you along, are you sure you can keep up?"

Slowly getting accostumed to Negi's company, Nodoka said, "I may not look like it, but I... I do a lot of spelunking and adventuring in my time off. I don't really think you need to be worried about me too much..."

It took all of two seconds for Negi to make his decision. "If you're sure, then you're welcome to come along. I'll be counting on you."

Just before he stepped onto the elevator, he paused and lightly smacked himself on the head. "Forgot to introduce myself. I'm a rookie Paladin from the Holy Ariad Empire. Name's Negi Springfield. Pleasure to meet you."

"R-right, Sir Springfield. Nice to meet you too."

"So, how do your powers work, exactly?"

"Well, it's a mental ability I've had for as long as I can remember... I can detect the thoughts and emotions of other people, and... project my own thoughts and emotions to others as a means of communication. I have to intentionally reach out and consciously make contact with other minds in order to do either, though."

"I see."

As the two went on to the lower decks, Nodoka suddenly spoke, mildly alarmed.

"Several levels below us, there are two very strong wills fighting each other... One seems to be getting exhausted, while the other one's become some sort of reptile!"

Negi clenched his fist, willing the elevator to go faster.

Just before the door opened, Nodoka cried out, "There's a strong malicious will on the other side and heading this way! He's preparing a powerful water attack!"

Eyes narrowed, Negi muttered, "That guy again, huh?"

Gritting his teeth, the paladin sprung into action immediately upon the door opening. Negi easily deflected the water attacks with one-hit wind barriers and leapt at the recovered first mate.

"I'm sorry, but I don't have the time - " Negi created several lightning arrows and integrated them into his fist - "to deal with you now!" and punched Mark in the liver, causing an instant knockout and restraining him to the floor.

I really am sorry, but I can't afford to screw around with a civilian in tow!

Engineering was still a few levels down, but not every elevator went to every deck. "Please, let's make it in time...!"

Kotaro huffed.

Goddamnit, I was so focused on stopping the ship that I let a goddamn snake bastard sneak up on me... Gotta get rid of this guy!

Despite several broken bones, numerous wounds, and bruises covering his body, Kotaro was still putting up a decent fight. However, even he knew when it was time to start fighting with intelligence instead of ferocity.

"Get back here and die like a rat, you wolf bastard!"

Kotaro promptly created another pack of shadow wolves and sent them to try and maul the massive serpent. "Do you even listen to yourself, dumbass?!"

He'd managed to get a rough layout of the ship while in engineering, and had come up with a plan.

Tch. Bastard got lucky - if it weren't for the injuries dealt by his sneak attack, I could fight him head-on and kick his ass! Granted, I'd need to go all-out...

Having gradually led the second mate to a secondary hangar, Kotaro grimaced. He was running out of energy, and wouldn't be able to create anymore wolves.

Grabbing and equipping an oxygen mask and tank, Kotaro looked over the hangar, before running over to the control panel on the wall. "Goddamnit. Of course the shuttle hangar doesn't actually have any shuttles or even mecha in it..."

No sooner had he gotten in position than the second mate entered the room, still morphed into his huge snake form.

"Awright you punk, it's time to die!"

Kotaro smirked. "I may very well get killed today, but you're definitely going down no matter what!"

With that, he locked the door and deactivated the forcefield, the decompression blowing both him and the snake-man out of the ship and into the void.

The librarian froze, prompting Negi to stop as well. "What's wrong, Nodoka?"

Horrified, she said, "The two that were fighting earlier... they're gone. They're not on the ship anymore..."

"... What?!"

"I don't know what's happened, exactly, but they were near the edge of the ship and then they both just... vanished..."

... But how...? Wait. If they were near the edge of the ship, then Kotaro probably blew up an airlock. ... Asuna in Cosmo Entelecheia, we'd better get moving if we're going to try and find him. We've got fifteen minutes at the max - wait, he'd suffocate from lack of oxygen nearer to five minutes... darnit!

"Nodoka, you can pilot a shuttle, right?"

"Oh, erm, yes!"

"Try and run to where your confiscated shuttle is. I'll see if I can convince that one guy to pilot a Mobile Fighter and help. We're looking for a guy around my age and size with wolf ears and tail. Or he might be in wolf form. And see if you can get that friend of yours to help somehow, try contacting her through your telepathy!"

With that, Negi ran back to where he entered the Overlord Paru, intent on making a concerted effort to save - or at the very least, find - his comrade and pilot.

Negi has tactile telepathy in canon, if anyone remembers the very first few chapters - Asuna had him read Takahata's mind, after all.

I'm going to describe Haruna's costume here. It starts with thigh-high boots, the top of which are obscured by a loose-fitting skirt that covers to about her knees. Her well-toned stomach is bare, and one can see the hint of a corset beneath her tight-fitting white waistcoat. Also, she modified said waistcoat so that it has a cleavage window. She has detached the sleeves from the shirt, and continuing from beneath said sleeves are white opera gloves. She also wears a majestic-looking black cape that extends to her knees, which is black on the outside and red on the inside.

Also, Mark Edwards Robertson is a creation of Sereg(5), and originated in the fanfic Mahou Sensei Anya. His character has been borrowed and translated into a Space analog with Sereg(5)'s permission. I interpret Space Mark as having the voice of Crispin Freeman - specifically, his role as Jeremiah Gottwald, from Code Geass.

For anyone wondering, Nodoka's outfit consists of white shorts and a purple sweater.

Omake - covert pervert

written by Uber Nimrod

Negi paused to consider the offer. Even if Captain Haruna considered her to be a friend, it's probable that she doesn't share the sentiment. Or at least not enough to help the Captain out, since Miyazaki and her other friend were imprisoned. And if Haruna's offer to Kotaro and I is anything like her standard MO, then I'd bet both her and her friend have also been robbed.

Negi looked her over thoughtfully. 'And she is kinda cute.'

At that point Nodoka started to blush a little. 'Oh right. Telepath.' Negi thought.

He started to apologize to her but was interrupted by Nodoka. "I'msorryIshouldn'thavetriedtoreadyourmindwhil eyouweredecidingtousemeornot !"