Negi was quite relieved that after the Mundus Magicus debacle five years ago, his life had been nice and quiet. Or at least, as nice and quiet as Class 3-A would permit, at any rate.

Negi recalled the fierce and violent battle, during which he and the rest of 3-A had managed to overcome the God of Magic. However, even depowered thanks to Asuna's Magic Cancel, the Lifemaker had still been wielding Nagi's body, and was therefore a skilled and mighty brawler.

Negi had been able to subdue the Lifemaker and restore control to Nagi, but in doing so, he had nearly burned out his Magia Erebea, vastly weakening it. As a result, it couldn't absorb nearly as much as before the battle, and rather than the nigh-invincible powerup it had once been, his black magic was now more of a mere "super mode".

After the battle, the massive magicks within the Lifemaker's soul had rejuvenated Mundus Magicus, stabilizing it for the next several thousand years.

Going through puberty had been complete and utter hell, he recalled. Misa and Haruna had been the worst of it. Thankfully, interest from the majority of his students had gradually waned over the years, and despite letting most of them down softly, he'd managed to maintain a solid friendship with them all.

Takamichi passed him a glass of lemonade across the table at Chao Bao Zi.

"You've had that far-off look for quite some time now. Reminiscing again, Negi?"

Slightly chagrined, Negi accepted the glass and took a sip. "Yeah. Sorry about that."

"It's not a problem at all. So, what did you want to talk to me about?"

Negi paused for a moment, pondering how he should put it. "I've been thinking, Takamichi. I think I'm starting to fall for one of my former students, and I wanted your advice about the possibility of pursuing a relationship with her now that she's graduated."

Takamichi lit up a cigarette and let out a puff of smoke. "I see. Who's the lucky lady, then? I seem to recall that you put most of your students in the friend zone, Negi."

Negi hesitated for a second, clearly anxious. "It's Asuna. I want to ask her out tomorrow. Do you think I should?"

Takamichi coolly regarded Negi through his specs for a moment. "Are you sure, Negi? It's going to be one difficult battle after another, and it's a fair bet you won't win. If you've got the determination to try and pursue her anyway, then I suppose I shouldn't try to discourage you further."

Negi smiled. "Thanks. I appreciate that."

Paying for his unfinished drink, the boy professor ran on out, intending to get some rest and to hope for a good day on the morrow.

Exhaling a small cloud of smoke, Takamichi mused, "Don't go thanking me just yet…"

Three years before, once it had become apparent that Negi was starting to get... interested in ladies... Negi had moved out of Asuna and Konoka's room, and into his own on the other side of campus.

The resulting end of the constant close-quarters contact with Asuna had led to a small amount of distance between them over next couple of years, which in turn led to Negi seeing her as less of an older sister and as more of a potential love interest.

After an anxious half a day of teaching his new students – who, thankfully, weren't nearly as smitten as his first class had been – Negi found himself fortunate to be getting a call from her. "Hey teach, it's been a while since the last time we hung out together. I was wondering if we could meet by the park?"

"ABSOLUTELY YES! Er, I mean, yeah, I'd like that. I was just thinking of calling you, actually. I'll see you in a bit."

On the other end, Asuna chuckled a bit. "Yeah, I'll see you soon."

After hanging up, she muttered, "I wonder what he was so excited about...?"

It was indeed, only a few minutes before Negi arrived at the park, having tracked her down effortlessly. His face was more than a little red as he started, "Asuna, I was, well..."

Asuna playfully and lightly punched him in the arm. "Just spit it out, already!"

"Well, I was hoping we could go to the movies sometime soon. For instance."

Asuna nodded and smiled. "Yeah, I'd like that! Been a while since I saw a movie with a friend."

"Not as friends, Asuna. I meant, more like... boyfriend and girlfriend. I'm trying to ask you on a date."

Asuna's jaw dropped.

Then she started laughing, though it wasn't at Negi. "Oh man, Haruna warned me this might happen... but yeah, sure thing. You're not the little kid you used to be, so I guess we can give this a shot."

Negi began to smile, then faltered as he sensed an incoming attack. Asuna also sensed it, and they both immediately jumped out of the way.

And barely an instant later, the spot where Negi had been standing was a smoking crater, with a silhouetted figure standing in it. As the dust settled, the figure was-

"Takamichi?! What are you doing?"

His glasses shining ominously, Takahata replied, "I told you that you'd have to fight a series of battles if you wanted to start dating Asuna, Negi."

Waving his hands hysterically – mostly because he was still on an adrenaline high – Negi yelled, "I took that as a metaphor! That any kind of relationship will have problems and I must persevere through them to make it work!"

Takahata smiled. "While that is also certainly true, I was speaking literally. It was your father's idea – anyone who wants to pursue the Princess has to go through Ala Rubra to do it. An oath of honor that we all swore to uphold. I myself am actually not opposed to you two getting together, but I gave my word I'd impede you. Not you specifically, of course."

Asuna was starting to get pissed off. "What the hell? I don't recall you duking it out with Rakan and the others when I was crushing on you in middle school!"

Takahata coolly replied, "That's because I wasn't returning your affection. If I had, then it's a safe bet that Eishun, Rakan, Al, and the others would've had their fists in my face before you could say..."

His hands were encased in an ethereal glow – red for his left, yellow for his right – as he finished, "Kanka."

And with that, Negi found an ochre fist in his face.