I do not own Kamen Rider Wizard or Mahou Sensei Negima. They belong to their respective creators and not me. I am only writing this for fun and not for any kind of profit. If you like the story then please continue reading. If you don't like it then you can read something more to your tastes elsewhere. I can't please everyone so I'm not going to try.
Mahou Ridaa Negima
By Ten-Faced Paladin
Chapter 9: Underground Library Run
Negi's return to consciousness was an assault on two fronts. On top of his head, something was pecking him most insistently while against his cheek some kind of granular substance which shifted as he moved his head in response to the strikes to his head. grunting softly, he tried to grab what was pecking at him, but his clumsy grab was dodged. The source of the pecking then resumed once it found another space to strike. Negi gave off another groan and finally forced his eyes open and grabbed at what was assaulting him.
"Nn, Garuda?" asked Negi, looking at the flying red construct.
"Bloop! Bloop!" the yellow form of Kraken joined its comrade.
Negi smiled weakly as he allowed the two Plamonsters to land on his shoulders. They didn't remain long though as their bodies flashed and vanished, dropping their rings to the ground. Plucking them up, he pocketed them only to feel the Unicorn Ring in his pocket. His Rings recovered, his rubbed his head to try and recall what had happened.
'We came looking for a book...a Phantom was hiding in the library...we played Twister for the book...and then we screwed up and got dropped down some kind of shaft. Oh bollocks…' Negi groaned mentally as he began to look around. He couldn't help but openly gape at what he saw.
Negi found himself inside a massive underground cavern which had all kinds of ancient tree roots crawling along the walls of the cavern. The sand Negi and his students had fallen on was part of a sandbar lined with crystal clear water which looked perfect for swimming in. Some lone islands of sand or rock were connected by wooden walkways. In the distance, Negi could spot all kinds of trees and even some buildings that looked ancient and hadn't been lived in for a long time. Possibly they were made by the first denizens of Mahora looking for a secret place for their documents. Cracks in the ceiling illuminated the cavern with sunlight leaking out from above, but it was like the walls were glowing and making everything appear it was in broad daylight. What was incredibly odd was the bookcases strewn about the area, looking like they may have simply dropped down from above. With some of the bookcases being half submerged in the water indicated that idea.
"Wow…" he admired. Were they still in Mahora Library or had they ended up someplace else entirely?
Soft groans and a whine or two alerted him of his other students regaining their wits. One by one they managed to come up from their sleep and begin to take stock of their surroundings. It took a few moments for their minds to catch up with what they were looking at but the shock and awe Negi felt was reflected on their faces.
"Holy crap…" Asuna gasped. "Where are we?"
"I...don't know," Konoka murmured.
"Sugoi," Makie gasped with sparkling eyes.
"Aiyah," Fei Ku admired.
"Amazing," Kaede agreed.
"Oh my Kami-sama," Yue gasped softly, her face practically glowing in rapture as she eyed their surroundings. "I've only heard stories about this… The Illusionary Underground Reading Room!"
"The what?" asked Negi. "Yue-san, do you really know what this place is?"
Yue nodded slowly, "It's underground, but designed to give the feeling of warmth, life, and peace. For a book lover, this is the perfect illusion of paradise."
"Ow wow," Makie admired.
"Of course," Yue's outlook turned downright dark, a shadow covering her eyes which sported a very evil gleam. "They also say that anyone who went in search of and found this place never came back to tell the tale."
A shiver ran through the spines of the group, suddenly seeing the paradise-looking place as something much more sinister than before. Much of the group were too afraid to move before Fei Ku of all people made a comment, "Um...if no one come back, who tell story?"
Yue's evil look suddenly vanished, adopting a look of contemplation, "Oh, good point. In any case, we'd better work on finding a way out of here."
"Well, we fell from up there..." said Negi and then a look of realization came to him. He spun around, looking frantically for something.
"What are you looking for, Negi-kun?" Konoka asked.
"The Phantom-I mean the monster! It fell in here too! Where is it!?" Negi exclaimed. He remembered the Leprechaun Phantom lunging for the Melusedek before it got swatted down to the abyss below. The same place where he and the girls had just woken up in. It was news that served to snap the group out of their awe of the supposedly legendary reading room.
"Monster here?" Fei Ku asked as she held her guard up. Kaede was back-to-back with her, somehow possessing a number of daggers which she held between her fingers which had fallen out of her sleeves.
Makie let out a terrified whine, "M-M-Maybe it went splat when it fell down here?"
"We'd have seen remains somewhere," Yue spoke up, toneless as ever. "Or some kind if sign that it died. All I see is a crater and footprints."
"HUH?!" Negi and Asuna almost gave themselves whiplash turning towards Yue as quickly as they did. The soft-spoken girl pointed to the edge of the sandbar where they landed where a depression in the ground could be seen. A few gold coins littered the area, but the unmistakable imprints of feet could be seen heading towards the walkways which connected the areas of the cavern.
"WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" Makie screamed, going deep into hysterics complete with flailing arms and fountains of tears. "THAT MONSTER'S GOING TO EAT US AND NO ONE WILL FIND OUR BODIES OR KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO US!"
Surprisingly, it was Konoka who had done that.
"Konoka-san?" asked Makie and then she was hugged by the one who slapped her.
"We'll be okay. Everything will turn out okay," Konoka reassured her terrified classmate. It certainly seemed to soothe Makie as she hugged Konoka back, sniffling a little.
"Well, while we do have that monster down here that doesn't mean we shouldn't allow our fear of it to make us panic," Negi spoke up. "So let's keep calm and try to find a way out of here. There has to be one otherwise no one would have built this place," he looked to the distance where more trees were collected together and where the buildings were situated. "We should also try to find some food and water. We may be here for a while and we need to keep our strength up."
"Good idea Sensei," Kaede nodded approvingly.
The collected group of girls and one boy stepped onto the boardwalk and began walking towards the buildings in their search for an exit. They were all nervous, half-expecting Leprechaun to leap out at them again but they saw no sign of the green monster. Negi remained the most tense of all since he knew what they were dealing with and just how bad the situation could get if Leprechaun found that any of the girls were potential Gates or heaven forbid, the Melusedek somehow fell down with them into the place.
'This is going to be tough,' Negi thought to himself.
Mahora Academy - Class 2-A
The early morning rabble of the students were abruptly interrupted by the screams of Ayaka as she once again flipped over something. Considering her reputation while Asuna was around, everyone rubbed their ears to get the ringing out, shrugged their shoulders, and simply got on with their day. The girls of 2-A didn't have that luxury as Ayaka had the aura of a fierce war deity as she stared down Yuna and Sakurako, both girls sweatdropping while trying not to let their dear show.
"Did you just say that if 2-A comes in last place, Negi-sensei will get fired?!" Ayaka demanded hotly.
"Well...kinda…" Yuna chuckled weakly. She and Sakurako had only begun to gossip about it but Ayaka seemed to have some kind of super-hearing when it came to anything about their teenage hottie teacher.
"And you didn't think to say anything?!" Ayaka snapped, her dark aura growing even darker.
"W-well, Negi-kun wanted to keep it a secret," Sakurako offered weakly.
"Not good enough!" Ayaka raged. She turned her attention to the rest of the class who were muttering worriedly to each other. All of them liked Negi to some extent. Not only was he a good teacher who tried to make the lessons fun, but he was the first hot guy they had regular access to all day rather than simply outside of school hours. None of them were ready to see him go anytime soon. "Alright everyone, it's time to hunker down! Especially the slackers in our class like you Chisame!"
"The problem is Asuna's bunch," Ayaka continued to fume, ignoring her classmate's indignant cry. "Even if you put all five of their scores together then a zero is the best you could hope for. We're going to have to cram like crazy to make up for them."
"Aw come on Rep! Have mercy!" Yuna whined. "We'd all have to score 100% to make up for them!"
"Then we'll score 100% then!" Ayaka snapped. "Now get to work!"
Some of the girls were ready to complain or downright offer a means to cheat if they were desperate enough. They were however cut off from offering a few scandalous suggestions when the door to the classroom slammed open. Dashing inside were Nodoka and Haruna, the manga-ka looking panicked and Nodoka on the verge of tears.
"We've got a problem!" Haruna shouted. "Negi-kun and the Baka Rangers are missing!"
The class grew silent. A first in Mahora's history since forming the infamous class.
Library Island - Underground Areas
It hadn't taken long for the group to find a spot to make some shelter. In fact, they didn't really have to do anything for it. Several cabana-like huts were already constructed and were fully stocked with food and supplies for the group to stay for weeks. There were even clean and ready-to-use bathrooms for boys and girls. The water wasn't even too cold, allowing for wonderful swimming conditions.
"Books, warm weather, and good food," Yue admired with a smile. "I think I could stay down here forever."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Asuna muttered.
As the group continued to explore, Konoka had wandered over to a bookcase which was partially submerged in the warm water. Removing her shoes and socks, she waded through the shallow water to the shelf. Passing her fingers over the books, she saw that all of the books were pristine and didn't even feel like they were even wet with the moisture in the air. Curious, she touched the books that were in the water and tried to pull one out, but quickly found that she couldn't. "Hm?"
"What it is Konoka?" asked Makie.
"The books that are in the water, they aren't real," Konoka replied, giving up the task of removing the fake books. "Weird, but the rest are all English studying books and other subjects. I picked these up to help me study before tests a lot."
"Really?" Makie leaned in closer to see the titles. Sure enough, all of them were books which any school girl their age would find perfect for studying. Guides, and easy to follow explanations into any subject a student might find themselves struggling in. "Hey, think I could take one?"
"You don't need my permission silly," Konoka smiled, passing one such book to the pinkette. "We've got the time so why not study?"
"You're thinking of studying at a time like this?" asked Asuna incredulously.
"Well, we are in a library," Yue shrugged, taking Konoka's lead and beginning to explore the shelves of books that were littering the area. "We may as well take the opportunity to brush up while we're looking for a way out."
"True, true," Kaede agreed.
"Is good to keep mind occupied," Fei Ku chimed in.
Negi really had to marvel at the Japanese dedication to education, even if the girls weren't the most dedicated students out there. Even he with all of his bookworm habits wouldn't have thought about studying while he was trapped in an underground cavern. Granted if it was filled with books he'd read one or two to keep his mind occupied but never use it as an opportunity to cram before an upcoming exam. He'd be more concerned about survival. Of course, maybe he was jaded after fighting Phantoms for so long?
"Hey Negi-kun, could you help explain this?" asked Makie, gesturing to an open page of a book she was reading.
"Sure," Negi nodded, approaching the girls so to answer their questions. If it kept their minds off of the Phantom stumbling about half out of his mind then that was okay with him.
Soon the study session seemed to turn into a miniature class, Yue having found a chalk board complete with chalk Negi could use to show what he was talking about. The girls found a few crates to use as desks for some workbooks that were stacked among the shelves and soon they were working their way through some of the exercises which Negi suggested they try to help them improve. It was actually more pleasant considering the relaxing atmosphere which allowed the girls to ease into their studies instead of simply cramming and forced to sit in classrooms which catered to a larger group rather than individual needs.
It wasn't quite what the group had intended when they entered the library, but they were desperate enough to pass the exams that they were willing to even study for their grades.
Negi, however, had more to worry about. Where had the Phantom wandered off to?
"Hey, Medusa," said Phoenix.
"What is it, Phoenix?" Medusa replied.
"Whatever happened to that Phantom assigned to grab that book? Heard from the dude, yet?"
"It wasn't funny the first time you mentioned it and it isn't funny now!" the Gorgon Phantom hissed in irritation. It only made Phoenix chuckle as he returned to his drinks. Having found a teasing point, Phoenix loved tweaking his fellow Phantom over how some of the soldiers she picked to hunt gates had gone AWOL while none of the ones he chose did.
It was only fair payback over how she'd tweak him over being destroyed by fire.
Library Island - Underground Area
"OK, Nelson," said the Leprechaun Phantom to his 'friend'. "I think we'll be OK right here. I dunno where they went by they're here! I can smell em!" The Leprechaun Phantom had made his own little residence inside a grove of trees where a raised floor decorated with ivory and surrounded by bookshelves was found. It was isolated and private, perfect for a Phantom looking for some space.
"You got wet though Nelson," Leprechaun cooed over his book, running his gauntlet-clad hand over the cover. The pages were dark with moisture, but otherwise fine. "You'll be okay. You'll be fine. Let's just rest and dry out. You'll be fine. Then we can find those little lassies and the boyo and make some new friends before finding Melusedek!"
The book was of course silent, but Leprechaun apparently heard the words it spoke in his mind, striking up a conversation.
"Aye, this is a nice place to live isn't it? Maybe when we turn those kiddies into Phantoms we can set up our own village down here?" Leprechaun pondered, nodding to his book friend. "We can invite all of the other Phantoms to make it our base. We won't be alone anymore. How's that sound? Nice, eh?"
Underground Area - Baka Rangers Camp
After some hours of studying and the adrenaline of their situation draining away, everyone began to feel fatigue and decided to turn in for a few hours. The scenery seemed to agree since the light in the area dimmed slightly as if to accommodate their need to sleep. Finding a stash of futons, the group turned in for some sleep. One by one, they all drifted off until Asuna and Negi were the last ones awake. Both of their minds were trained on the Phantom and where it may have ended up. All they knew was that it was down there with them and it was looking for something besides Gates.
"Still awake?" asked Asuna.
"Yes. My mind's still a whirl of activity," Negi sighed, looking up at the dimly glowing ceiling of the cavern. "And that Phantom…"
"Yeah," Asuna grimaced. "This was the last place I'd expect to see one. Why did it want the book so bad though? Was it really magic?"
"Magic is just putting it lightly," Negi sighed, closing his eyes. "The book that we were going after was the Melusedek. That book is the most sought after magical tome of all time. I had no idea that it was even in Japan."
"Really? It's legit?" Asuna gasped. "How powerful is it?"
"It was written by an organization of the greatest magic users of their time. Back then, most mundanes considered magic to be unholy and had to be destroyed. With many magi going into hiding or getting killed it looked like magic might die out on Earth. In an effort to save the magical arts, the best magi in the world chronicled every spell they knew into one book, the Melusedek. There are spells in there that no one has cast in centuries and haven't even come close to recreating if you believe the hype. If you girls wanted to boost your brain power, it could do that as a warm up. If that Phantom gets his hands on it, or worse if Wiseman did…"
"You think he could turn people into Phantoms easier?" Asuna grimaced.
"He could probably recreate the Sabbath without needing an eclipse, or make one happen himself," Negi frowned. "The Phantom alone could boost his power to an Executive Phantom level at the very least."
Asuna trembled at the thought of the psycho Phantom being as strong as Phoenix, "Man, good thing that book's back up on the higher levels and the Phantom is down here. Even with us being here with it."
"That's why we need to find that book. Unfortunately..." Negi's gaze was cast towards the others.
"Oh, right. Your secret," Asuna realized. Besides herself, Mana was the only one who knew of Negi's secret as Kamen Rider Wizard. The other members of their class didn't know Negi and the ring-wielding magician were one and the same. Negi needed to keep his identity a secret so he could hunt Phantoms without interruption. The school staff was already on the hunt for his masked alter-ego. If he blew his identity, the magical members of the staff would fry him for risking the secrecy of magic.
"Right now Garuda, Unicorn, and Kraken are looking for it," Negi continued, having summoned his Plamonsters earlier while the girls were off exploring their surroundings. "If they find anything, they'll let us know."
"Let's hope they can find us a way out of here," Asuma murmured, deciding to nestle in for some sleep.
"Let's hope," Negi agreed with a sigh, deciding to likewise try to get some sleep. With no way of calling for help, they were left to their own devices. There was no sense in driving themselves to exhaustion.
'Sleep now, worry about the Phantom later,' Negi sighed to himself as he tried to get some sleep.
Unbeknownst to the group of students and their teacher, one of the trees had been shifted to the side slightly to allow a silent watcher to view them. The form was massive and the glow of the walls would have allowed the group to see the golem that sent them down to the underground area in the first place. The giant stone being eyed the group for a short time, simply watching them sleep without any problems. Seeing that the group was asleep, the statue gently let the tree return to normal without the wood groaning and turned to walk deeper into the cavern.
He had a Phantom to find.
Underground Area - Morning
The Baka Rangers Party woke up once more and tried to find some way to get out of the cavern but once again didn't see anything that could count as an escape route. After a few hours of searching, the group decided to take a break and go through their studies once again. Negi again took the lead and put the girls through their lessons as well as what he knew about the other subjects that the girls would need to know for the upcoming exams. Despite their situation, Negi had to admit that he was seeing some progress on the girls' part. Makie had been on a roll, answering several questions which Negi was sure she didn't know the answer to before the ill-fated library run.
Everyone had really begun settling into the area. Fei Ku had discarded the top and pants of her outfit, leaving her in her cheongsam. Makie discarded her jacket and vest, leaving her blouse untucked for comfort. Yue and Konoka had discarded their tops entirely, using small towels as tops so they could bask in the warm atmosphere of the area, eventually forgetting to put their tops on again. Only Kaede and Asuna kept their uniforms the same, Kaede likely out of discipline and Asuna from being stripped one too many times and wishing to keep her body covered as much as possible in such situations.
"Good work, all of you," Negi praised as he closed his teaching material book. "You've all been improving steadily."
"Thanks Negi-sensei!" the majority of the girls beamed.
"Can we get some food now?" asked Asuna, spoiling the mood somewhat. "I'm starving!"
"I guess we could stop for a break," Negi chuckled weakly. His own stomach was growling in rage at not being fed. "I think some food isn't out of the question."
As the girls darted off to get their next meal, Negi yawned and stretched, but winced when he smelled his own stink wafting around him. Grimacing, Negi realized that it had been some time since his last bath. Not wanting to stink up the area, and subconsciously not wanting the girls to find him repulsive, he quickly raided the bathroom for bathing supplies and went to find one of the waterfalls which were so common in the area. Despite the working plumbing in the area, there was not one bath or shower anywhere.
Finding one such area, Negi stripped and stepped under the waterfall, allowing it to soak his body. The warm water felt rather soothing to his muscles and he could almost claim it was even soothing the old soreness of some of the scars he collected in his career against the Phantoms. It was a welcome reprieve to all of the activities he committed himself to since arriving at Mahora. Teaching, fighting, casting spells, it wasn't easy being a teacher. Anyone who said otherwise obviously never was a teacher or weren't very good at the job to begin with.
"Hah," Negi sighed, bracing himself against the rock behind the waterfall. "I needed this."
"Oh wow, this is heaven!" Makie groaned in delight as water splashed down on her body.
The pinkette gymnast, after the lessons were done, felt she was getting a little grungy so she managed to get Fei Ku and Kaede to go with her to one of the waterfalls so they could have a bath. Partially Makie wanted them to come since she didn't want to get jumped by another monster and for her it was always more fun to have a relaxing bath with friends around. So the three found a nice place, stripped, and began to clean themselves as best as they could.
"Mn, just what sore body need," Fei Ku beamed, stretching her arms.
"That is is, de gozaru," Kaede smiled, running her fingers through her hair.
"Still, who'd have thought we'd end up in a place like this?" asked Makie, scrubbing off the grime on her arms. "In an underground study paradise like this I mean. If Negi-kun could teach us down here all the time then we'd do so much better if you ask me!"
"Especially if Negi-sensei one teaching you!" Fei Ku teased, Kaede chuckling along with her.
"So?" Makie huffed, turning away with red cheeks. "Don't tell me you two don't enjoy having Negi-sensei all to ourselves!"
"Mn, I guess I see the appeal but you won't see me getting all excited," Kaede shrugged. She had other things on her mind besides boys. Having one of her own would be a nice experience, but one she could survive without. She had good friends, her health, and good digestion. What more did she need?
"Ah, if Sensei is strong then I getting excited," Fei Ku waved off the question. "Boy need to be more than eye candy to make me go 'aiyah'."
Makie huffed, seeing that she couldn't embarrass the pair. She then asked something else, "So, what about that guy Asakura-san's been reporting about? You know, the one fighting monsters."
"I is wanting to fight him!" Fei Ku grinned. "He sound like good challenge!"
"I have to admit that I'm curious about him too," Kaede replied, but her face seemed to be a bit more serious than Fei Ku's cheerful energy. Unlike many of her classmates, she had a better idea of the truth of the world. While she didn't know what the monsters were, she had no doubt that they were appearing in Mahora for more than just to cause trouble.
"The campus has always been wild, but this has got to be the wildest thing to happen yet," Makie sighed. "Seeing that mermaid thing try to go after Akira was one of the scariest things I had ever seen though…"
"Is okay! We see monster again we fight it!" Fei Ku reassured her friend.
A slight splashing noise that didn't come from the girls moving about sounded off, causing Makie to squeak and both Kaede and Fei Ku to stiffen, ready for combat. Kaede drew a kunai from her bathing supplies while Fei Ku moved through the water to the edge which overlooked another pool of water. She moved expertly, flowing with the water rather than crashing through it, showing her skill at movement that martial arts brought about. She reached the edge of their small pool where a bookshelf offered some form of privacy and peeked around to the next pool.
The Chinese girl grew silent.
And stayed that way.
. . .
For five minutes.
"Ku? Ku, are you okay?" asked Makie, slowly approaching Baka Yellow from behind. She did it slowly since the last time someone came up on her from behind, he had been thrown several feet down the street before Ku realized he was one of her students in the martial arts club trying to return something she dropped.
Both Kaede and Makie looked at each other in confusion before they approached Fei Ku and peeked over her shoulder so they could see what she was staring at so much. Looking out at the water, they wondered what the big deal was…
...and likewise froze with their friend.
In the middle of the waterfall which poured into the small lagoon area separate from their own was Negi Springfield. Of course, he was in his birthday suit as he let the water splash over his shoulders while he scrubbed his hair out. His back was turned to the girls, but it didn't take away the image of his muscled back or his firm butt that looked like it was made from granite. Even the faint scars that were found on his body only seemed to enhance his sex appeal. The bathing under a waterfall scenario certainly helped make the whole image steamier.
"Wow…" Makie gasped.
"Aiyah…." Fei Ku repeated herself.
"Oh ho," Kaede admired, cracking one of her eyes open.
Negi seemed to finish scrubbing his hair and abruptly turned around to get the back of his head. All three girls' eyes abruptly dipped low, admiring his muscled torso. He held the expected muscle which was always appreciated even if he had more scars dotting his skin. Their eyes dragged down his abdomen before landing on the sight between his legs. Their eyes all widened, even Kaede's eyes opening in surprise.
"Wow," all three uttered as one.
Finished washing the back of his head, Negi stepped back from the waterfall and into a shallower spot. He didn't try to grab his towel though, obviously feeling like he was in a private spot rather than anywhere he could be easily found. He took a few moments to stretch his limbs and get the stiffness out that the soak in the warm water didn't already remove. He then actually shifted into what looked like a martial arts stance before moving through kicks and punches, dodges and feints, moving like an experienced fighter would . . . only nude.
"Aiyah…" Fei Ku uttered a third time, drool actually leaking from her lips.
Kaede had to withhold the urge to make some inappropriate comments of her own, but she could still think (somewhat) clearly. She was a teenage girl and had never seen a male nude before, not since her days of needing her father's help to clean up. Still, she had enough presence of mind to analyze what she was seeing. Fei Ku may have as well, but between seeing a naked guy who was strong and obviously knew what he was doing when it came to martial arts she was off in her own world. The less said on Makie's state of mind the better.
Indeed, the sight before the girls was mind-numbing and to think they were lucky enough to see their teenage male teacher in all his natural splendour. Nothing could ruin this moment, except…
...Makie's hand slipping and she splashed in the water slightly.
"Hm? Negi stopped his movements and looked to the source of the noise. His eyes met the eyes of his three students and for several moments, no one was able to say anything. They could only stare at one another as their faces heated up.
The girls ducked behind their cover while Negi dove for his towel and supplies, hoping for some kind of cover to prevent the other from seeing more than they should. Morbidly embarrassed, Negi wrapped his towel around his waist and glanced over to where the three girls had been, "What the devil do you three think you're doing?! Can't a man bathe in peace around here?!"
"Sorry!" Makie squeaked from her side.
"AIYAH!" Fei Ku screamed out.
"Hn, hn, hn," Kaede chuckled, seeing the whole event as one of those funny stories one would tell about themselves later than anything embarrassing.
Negi grumbled, feeling his face heat up even further. It seemed he wasn't going to get any peace at bathing while he was at Mahora. First that bath house debacle which left him paranoid about going there and now this mess. What did he do to get humiliated in such a way?
...oh yeah, he stripped Asuna that one time. Then there was Touko-sensei…
Negi shook his head with a sigh. Yes, he probably earned the humiliation for that. Still, he probably paid that off by this point in his life. He'd prefer not to become a spectacle for his students anytime in the future. As he reached for his clothes so he could dressed, something told him that his hopes in that particular case were destined for failure.
Ayaka blinked and looked up from a textbook she was studying from wondering, "Had I just missed a grand opportunity?"
"Where the heck is everybody?" Asuna demanded hotly, stomping around the boardwalk but seeing absolutely no one. "Jeez, I turn my back for one minute and everyone vanishes!" Where had they gone off to, especially Negi? "I swear, if they're all goofing off...!"
As she approached the main study area, she was ready to just go and have a bath or something when she saw Negi emerging, shirtless and with only his pants on with his Hand Author in the centre of his belt. Asuna couldn't help but flush as she saw Negi's bare chest decorated with muscles like any teenage girl would want to see. However, her flush vanished when she saw the multitude of scars dotting his skin.
"Negi?" she asked.
"Hm?" the foreign teen blinked, but finally took notice of Asuna. "Oh, hi Asuna. I was just coming in from a...bath. Did you need something?"
"Ah...n-no," Asuna shook her head, trying not to let her first sight of a real topless muscled guy distract her. She had Takahata-sensei! Steeling herself, she pointed at his torso, "Just what the heck are all those?"
Negi looked down at himself and spotted the scars, "Oh, these are just some souvenirs I got from fighting Phantoms over the years. My armor isn't unbreakable after all. Some of the Phantoms can score a lucky hit and cut through it."
"Oh man. Have you ever taken a vacation or something?" Asuna grimaced. "Some of those scars look kind of big."
"Do Phantoms take vacations?" asked Negi rhetorically. "Besides, I'd rather take a few deep cuts to being disemboweled by some of the Phantoms who managed to break through my suit with their weapons."
"..." Asuna remained silent, but she didn't like the thought of Negi being forced to fight so much against the Phantoms. She considered Negi something of a friend and she knew that one person couldn't take so much responsibility without it starting to strain. Asuna was sure he couldn't take much more since he pushed himself to near-exhaustion while he was trying to make his new transformation ring. She didn't want to see him break when he was trying to do so much for her and her class, both for school and protecting them from harm.
"Have you always been doing this on your own? No help at all?" Asuna asked.
"Doesn't your mentor try to help you or anything?"
Negi shook his head, "He's always all over the country trying to track down Phantoms and get leads on Wiseman. I rarely see him unless he delivers a new Wizard Ring, but he usually delivers them with White Garuda or through the mail. It's pretty much been just me fighting the Phantoms."
Asuna blanched. Just Negi against a horde of monsters. Sure, he fought them one at a time, but Pheonix had been incredibly powerful. If not for the new Flame Dragon Style that Negi had acquired, he would've been killed. There was no doubt in her mind that other Phantoms at the same level as Phoenix may appear. Maybe Phantoms even more powerful. Yet, Negi had to fight them all on his own. He had no allies to fight them alongside him. It was just him.
How could he do this for so long and not break down under the pressure?
She may have pressed for more information, but the sudden outbreak of screams and crashes echoed through the ara. Both Negi and Asuna stiffened and looked in the direction of the noise. They dashed towards the source, almost crashing into Konoka and Yue as they were running away from the source.
"Konoka, what is it?" asked Asuna, catching her friend.
"It's that big statue from upstairs!" Konoka cried, pointing back at the chaos. "Its fighting that monster that tried to jump us before!"
"What?!" Negi gasped.
He and Asuna looked past their friends to see that chaos was breaking out. One of the large trees had topped over, being crushing by the large bulk of the statue which had sent the group down to the underground area they were residing. It was sitting down and shielding its face from a vicious assault by the Leprechaun Phantom who was wailing away on it with its pot of gold. Probably the only weird thing was that the Phantom was still clutching the book with the face drawn on the front.
"Gimmie the book! Gimmie the book! Gimmie the book!" it shouted, smashing against the golem's arms again and again sending rock chips in all directions.
"Book? Doesn't already have one?" asked Asuna.
"No, the magic book is on the golem's collar!" Yue snapped, pointing to the golem. From the angle that the teens were standing at, they could see the dark cover and yellowed pages of the powerful book sticking up from behind the statue's collar.
Negi's eyes widened when he saw the Melusedek so close to the Phantom's clutches. Digging a hand into his pocket, he produced his Wizard Rings while looking to Asuna, "Get Konoka and Yue someplace safe! I'll find Makie and the others! Go now!" Of course, Asuna already knew that Negi wasn't going to look for the other three students. He was going to try and destroy the Phantom and needed her to get any witnesses away so he could transform.
"R-Right!" Asuna nodded before grabbing Konoka and Yue's hands and began dragging them away, much to their protests and demands for Negi to follow them. Once they were gone, Negi put on his rings before passing one over his Author Stone.
"DRIVER ON, PLEASE!"
Negi flipped the switch, moving the Hand Author to a different position.
"SHABADOOBIE TACHI HENSHIN!"
Leprechaun stopped his assault, having heard the call. Both it and the golem looked to see Negi with his belt glow. The golem stiffened at the sight and seemed to be stunned into stillness at what it was seeing. Leprechaun reeled back as if her were shocked with a taser before looking to his book companion, "Look Nelson! The Ring-Bearing Wizard! He's here too!"
"So I am," Negi flipped the eyepieces of his ring over the ruby surface. "Henshin!"
"FLAME, PLEASE! HII, HII, HII HII HII!"
Negi ran forward as his red magic circle appeared. Running through it, there was a blast of fire before Wizard emerged from the heat in his ruby encrusted armor. Swiftly switching rings, Wizard summoned his primary weapon.
"It's showtime!" Drawing the WizarSwordGun in its gun configuration Wizard shot several silver rounds through the air which crashed against Leprechaun's side and knocked the Phantom off of the statue into the sand with a thud.
"Owie! That hurt!" Leprechaun groaned, pulling himself to his feet. "You could have shot Nelson!"
"Fortunately for him, I was aiming for you!" Wizard snapped, firing more silver rounds from his gun. Leprechaun cursed under his breath and slammed his pot into the ground, causing several gold coins to rise into the air and fire back at Wizard. The projectiles of silver and gold crashed against each other in sparks as the warped pieces of metal fell to the ground in twisted heaps.
The statue was watching the events unmoving, but then began to stand up with a slight groan, pieces of its damaged body falling to the sand. Gripping its fists, it lunged for the Phantom in an attempt to smash it from behind. Phantoms were powerful, but even they would be destroyed if a ton of solid enchanted rock came smashing down on their heads!
"Heee hee! He thinks he can trick us Nelson!" Leprechaun laughed as he patted his pot once again. More gold coins leaped out from the pot and launched at the statue, striking it in several points of its body and cracking its surface even more. The force of the impacts knocked the statue onto its back, dislodging the book on its collar and letting it drop into the sand.
Grabbing his pot, Leprechaun swung it wide and launched a wave of gold coins which Wizard attempted to shoot down, but the numbers were just too many and several exploded against his armor, knocking him onto his back. "GAH!"
Leprechaun then turned tail and ran, hopping over the statue before landing in the sand and scooping up the Melusedek. He gave off a loud whoop before lifting the ancient book into the air, "WOOHOO! We did it Nelson! We found Melusedek! Wiseman will be so happy!:
"No!" Wizard groaned, sitting up. Raising his weapon, he aimed at the Phantom to try and shoot the book out of his hand. Leprechaun snorted and opened the book, the pages flapping of their own accord before stopping on one particular page, "Gol, Gol, Golden, Denden Gol! Magia antiquis. Hostis terga verterunt hoc ipsum!"
Wizard fired off several more rounds of silver, but as they approached the Phantom a field of golden energy which was made of interlocking pieces formed together, each a protective magic spirit in themselves. The bullets crashed against the barrier before the pieces spun and launched the bullets straight back. Wizard cussed and rolled to the side, avoiding the bullets which struck the sand like small meteors.
"Oooh! The Melusedek works! That was so easy!" Leprechaun cheered, amazed over the simplicity of the spell he had cast. "I truly can harness the power of pure magic spirits! Oh isn't it wonderful Nelson?"
OK, a Phantom on its own was bad enough. An insane Phantom was worse. However, an insane Phantom now with a source of incredible magic in his hands was even worse. The secrets in the Melusedek could harness forces nobody had a faint idea how to use anymore. The insanity of the Phantom could turn Mahora into a smoking crater if they were misused.
Wizard could not allow that. He would not allow that. This Phantom was going down, hard. Removing his Flame Ring, he replaced it with his Flame Dragon Ring before passing it over the Hand Author.
"FLAME...DRAGON! BURN, BURN, BURN BURN BURN!"
Leprechaun was forced to shield his face from heat and light generated by the magic circle which released a spectral version of Dragon made of fire. It encircled Wizard before fusing with him, shedding off his armor to reveal his Flame Dragon Style Armor. He used the Copy Ring again and scanned it over the WizardSwordGun's Hand Author.
Now dual-wielding identical blades, the red dragon Wizard was ready for combat.
"Ooooh! He's making me mad Nelson! But I have the perfect answer!" Leprechaun stomped his foot before producing several round Ghoul Stones and threw them to the ground. The stones broke apart and grew into the shambling forms Ghouls all clutching their weapons. Satisfied with their appearance, Leprechaun allowed the pages of the Melusedek to move and give him another spell. "Gol, Gol, Golden, Deden, Gol! Aurum velut aquam fluere, arma milites ferro!"
Magic spirits appeared in the air and dove into Leprechaun's pot of gold before the contents seemed to melt and bubble without any heat. Once all the coins were melted, several streams of liquid gold shot out and enveloped all of the Ghouls. The liquid gold formed skintight armor before it hardened, turning the ghouls a vibrant gold with bronze horns. Their bodies no longer looked cracked or shoddily constructed, but sported a perfect physique with bronze accents on muscles. Even their weapons were marked with more gold.
"Oh bollocks!" Wizard cursed.
"Attack!" barked Leprechaun. The Golden Ghouls lifted their halberds and charged at Wizard ready to cause some damage. Wizard shot at them several times, but the bullets splashed against the armor, the silver unable to damage the Ghouls with the enchanted gold coating their bodies. The first of the Ghouls managed to get in close and take a swing at Wizard, forcing the magic-user to leap to the side to avoid being hit. Quickly configuring the WizarSwordGuns into their Sword Mode with enough time to block a second strike from another Golden Ghoul. The force of the blow made Wizard grunt, making him realize that adding the power of the spell to the Ghouls actually made them stronger than before.
Kicking out in a sweep, he knocked the Golden Ghoul onto its back before he got up and slashed another Ghoul across the chest. More of the modified Ghouls attacked, but Wizard managed to block two blows before kicking a third across the face. Slipping his weapons away from the two he was blocking, he stabbed them both in the chests to knock them both away in blasts of sparks.
"Well, at least they're still awful fighters," Wizard muttered, taking another stance.
"They can still hold you off Wizard!" Leprechaun laughed. He then seemed to lose interest in the fight and slipped his book friend over the pages of the Melusedek. "What's that Nelson? Oh, that's right! There are those girlos down here too! Some of them might be Gates! Let's go find out!"
"No! Don't you touch them!" the statue growled, moving once again, attempting to swat Leprechaun once again.
"Sorry! You aren't invited!" Leprechaun snapped, smashing his pot against the statue's face once again. The stone head cracked even further, looking like it might fall apart before the construct fell to the ground, the magic animating it finally dropped to the ground either out of power or unconscious, if something like that was possible with golems. The pest dealt with, the Leprechaun Phantom began hopping away from the scene as if he were dancing a merry jig.
"Oh no you don't!" Wizard snapped, kicking another Golden Ghoul away to give chase after the Phantom only for the remaining Golden Ghouls to try and attack Wizard once more. Wizard was forced to fight them once again, giving Leprechaun more time to hunt for the girls as they tried to find their friends.
"Get! Out! Of! My! Way!" Wizard snapped, slashing at the Golden Ghouls with every word snapped out. The Golden Ghouls stumbled back from the blows but they were quick to come back for more with their golden bodies protecting and empowering them. Wizard prepared for another round, but that was when his usual form of battle was interrupted.
A blur leaped over Wizard's shoulder before landing in front of the approaching Golden Ghouls in a crouch. When they came to a stop, Wizard thought his heart stopped when he recognized the form of Fei Ku moving into one of her martial arts stances. Her mouth was sit in a firm line with grit teeth and her hands held in a clawing position, "Tiger Form Fist!"
"No!" Wizard cried, moving to try and stop the Chinese girl from fighting the Golden Ghouls. Said monsters didn't seem to care who they fought as they continued to fight, raising their weapons and strike down anyone in their way. Fei Ku didn't even seem to mind as she cupped her hands together and thrust them together in a rotating pattern, striking the abdomen of the first Golden Ghoul, "Tiger Strike! Six Ways Heaven Strike!"
The blow struck, actually caving in the armor of the Golden Ghoul and sending it hurtling backwards into its fellows. What was even more amazing to Wizard was that a visible beam of energy passed through the Golden Ghoul and Strike three more Golden Ghouls and knocking them back with just as much force as their first comrade, knocking them all backwards like they had been shot.
Two of the Golden Ghouls were left and they were agitated, aiming to strike down Fei Ku for her attack. Before they could really strike her down, several small bladed kunai rained down from above, striking the Golden Ghouls in their joints and in some case even sticking in their golden hides. It was the opening Fei Ku capitalized on, not that she needed it as she lashed out in rapid succession with one straight punch to the Golden Ghouls' torsos, "Pao Quan!"
Both Ghouls had their chest armor caved in as they were sent tumbling to the ground in heaps alongside their fellows.
"A surprise to see you here Gemstone-dono," Kaede's voice spoke from above before the girl in question leaped down from a tree to land next to Fei Ku.
"U-uh...what?" Wizard gasped, slightly unnerved and all surprised to see two of his students beat down a group of empowered Ghouls. Sure it was possible, but the training needed to become strong enough and skilled enough to fight the Ghouls without magic boggled the mind.
"Aiyah, Paru is right! Gem man is real!" Fei Ku admired, releasing her stance and returning to her slightly spacey persona.
"Different outfit though," Kaede commented, taking in Wizard's crimson armoured form. "Here to deal with our monstrous friend?"
Wizard blinked, but then snapped out of his awe when he realized the situation was still serious, "Ah, right! That Phantom is hunting for the other girls that are down here! It won't stop until it found them and with how crazy it is…" Wizard didn't need to say anything as both girls had seen the insane Phantom on the upper levels, but his concern was halted when the groans of the beaten and dented Golden Ghouls announced their slow return to battle.
"Hm! They not down yet. Is good!" Fei Ku grinned, taking another stance as she stared down the standing Golden Ghouls.
"No, I'll finish them," Wizard denied the Chinese girl, gently pushing her both of his WizarSwordGuns in his hand, he popped open the Hand Authors which caused both constructs to speak.
"C'MON A SLASH!, SHAKE HANDS!"
He then passed his Flame Dragon Ring over both Hand Authors.
"FLAME SLASH STRIKE! BURN, BURN, BURN! BURN, BURN, BURN!"
Twin infernos lit up across the blades of the WizarSwordGuns while Wizard took them both in hand. Raising both into the air he slashed downward toward the Golden Ghouls. The flames burned everything in their path, forming the head of the WizarDragon. It bellowed as it drew closer, drawing all of the Golden Ghouls into its mouth before chomping down hard. The magical attack proved powerful enough to overcome even the spell from the Melusedek and caused the Golden Ghouls to explode, leaving fading magic circles behind.
"Oh! Is good finisher!" Fei Ku admired. "Quick and strong!"
"I've got a better one saved for the Phantom that made those things," Wizard said darkly before he took off running in the direction the Phantom had disappeared in. Fei Ku and Kaede looked at each other for a moment before they both nodded. They both then took off after Wizard, aiming to make sure their friends and fellow Baka Rangers stayed safe.
"Asuna, we can't leave Negi-kun behind!" Konoka cried as Asuna pulled her and Yue along away from the scene of the battle.
"He'll catch up later!" Asuna snapped. "I don't know about any of you, but I don't want to get caught in the middle of a fight between that thing and the rock!"
"Well where do we go then?" asked Yue, obviously aggravated.
"Anywhere but where we were!" Baka Red replied, turning past a tree.
The trio continued to run, Asuna eventually letting go of her friends so they could follow. They didn't have much of a travel path. They hadn't found any sort of escape route during their time in the cavern so in essence they were going around in circles. Still, none of them were feeling completely logical in the panic of the moment. Dashing by some of the foliage, they were cut off by a flash of pink…
"Wah?!" Asuna cried out, Yue and Konoka almost bumping into her as she tried to stop herself. "Huh!? Makie!?"
"Asuna!?" Makie gasped.
"Where'd you come from?' asked Asuna. "And where the heck are Fei Ku and Kaede? We've gotta find a way to get out of here!"
"I was taking a bath with them…" Makie panted. "But then there was this crashing and lots of yelling from somewhere and they suddenly took off. I mean, I barely saw them move and then they and their clothes were gone! I don't know where they went! You know how those two can leap everywhere!"
"I hope they're okay," Konoka bit her lip in concern.
"I bet they're fine. You know how Ku and Kaede can fight," Asuna said reassuringly. Fei Ku was the uncontested strongest girl in absolutely all of the martial arts circles in Mahora. Kaede was also pretty strong too since she was one of the people Ku liked to spar with to keep her skills sharp. No one actually had seen her fight before but everyone knew she could. Asuna could only pray that they were both strong enough to take on a Phantom until Negi could take over.
"So what's going on?" asked Makie worriedly.
"Oh, the monster came back and got in a fight with the statue that sent us down here in the first place," Asuna replied almost tonelessly, as if the knock-down beat 'em up brawl wasn't any sort of big deal.
"WHAT?!" Makie screamed out, her eyes small in fear.
"Yeah, so let's go! We have to find someplace to hide!" Asuna grabbed and began to pull Makie with her, Yue and Konoka following after her once again.
The group of four crashed through the undergrowth and trudged onto the path. They looked around for any signs of their teacher or classmates. Only Asuna wasn't panicking over not having Negi around. She knew he was probably already fighting the Phantom and hopefully she wouldn't have to worry about it jumping them.
"Top of the mornin' to you all!"
The four girls skidded to a halt turning a corner on the boardwalk. To their horror, the Leprechaun Phantom stood in front of them, bouncing on the balls of his feet like a little child. In his arms were his book friend, his pot, and to Asuna's horror the Melusedek.
"EEP!" Makie squeaked in terror.
"Now, I think it's rather rude of you to leave without excusing yourselves. Nelson sure thinks so," Leprechaun chuckled as he slowly advanced on the girls. "Then again, everyone needs a playmate to stay amused at a party so I guess I can provide some." He slapped the Melusedek and the pages moved of their own accord before ending on a certain part of the book. "Gol, Gol, Golden, Denden, Gol! Spiritibus lignis! Adducis radicibus a terra contingere ramos vestros in terram! Et tamen per modum inimicis meis!"
Several beams of gold energy shot from Leprechaun's hand and struck several of the trees around the girls. At first the group hoped that whatever Leprechaun wanted to do screwed up. The trees then started to groan and shake of their own accord. Splintering noises echoed around the area as Makie and Konoka began to hide behind Asuna for comfort. Then as one, sic trees seem to explode at the trunk, heralding the arrival of wood figures which Asuna recognized as Ghouls...only made of wood. They looked exactly like Ghouls, but their bodies looked like they were covered in dark bark with lines of amber sap where the stone and bronze of the regular variety of Ghouls.
"Let's play a game lassies!" Leprechaun cheered. "It's called 'Who is the Gate!' It's Nelson's favourite." The Phantom chuckled delusionally. "The rules are: I'll drive all of you into despair and whoever the Gate is will die and spawn a new Phantom friend for me! The losers will just die! Doesn't that sound fun?"
"Gate!? Phantom!?" Makie screamed. "What are you talking about!?"
"You'll see! You'll see when you get thrown into despair!" Leprechaun laughed insanely. "I bet if I scare you all to death you'll feel absolutely hopeless!" He said to Nelson, "Nelson, you're gonna love this! We'll get new friends and then we can really have fun! Hahahaha!"
The Wood Ghouls took the comment as an order and began to lunge for the girls. Makie screamed and flailed to get away while Yue and Konoka frantically moved to avoid the clutching hands of the magic puppets. Asuna meanwhile faced the Wood Ghouls head on and when one came close enough, she followed the martial arts training that Takahata had put her through. She reared back her fist and collected her chi like she had been taught and once the Wood Ghoul was in range, she lashed out, "HYAH!"
Asuna's fist met the Ghoul's face and all of a sudden a section of its head shattered into splinters, but to Asuna the monster may have been made out of wet sawdust rather than solid wood. The rest of the body suddenly collapsed like a puppet with the strings cut. The sight made Leprechaun freeze and in doing so, made the rest of the Wood Ghouls stop their charge.
"Wha-what! How did you do that!?" sputtered Leprechaun.
"It's called a punch doofus!" Asuna snapped.
Leprechaun cocked his head and looked to his book friend, "Nelson, she's not making sense. I made those Ghouls so they could take more than one hit! She did something to my Ghouls! That's not good! We can't use Melusedek if she keeps doing things to stop my spells!" The Phantom looked up at Asuna again and the Wood Ghouls promptly began ignoring the other girls to lunge for the orangette.
"Hey!" Asuna squawked as she felt one of the Ghouls grab her arm. She slapper it across the face and the section she struck seemed to lose density, sagging and crumbling like sawdust.
"She's doing it again Nelson!" Leprechaun whined. "She's not playing fair! Cheater! Cheater!"
The Wood Ghouls continued their attack and finally managed to pin Asuna's arms and legs, although one of them lost an arm in the process. Yue, Makie, and Konoka tried to pull the puppets off, but whatever Asuna was doing didn't extend to them and their rough bodies held strong against their attempts, even when Makie tried using her ribbon to trip them up.
Suddenly, silver bullets covered in flames streaked through the air and hit the Ghouls in their heads, causing them to recoil from the impacts. They sank into the Wood Ghouls like a hot knife through butter, causing all of them to roll on the ground, writhing in pain. Their bodies soon burst into flames from the impact points, leaving them as nothing but dust in only a few seconds.
The girls turned to the source of the bullets and gasped when they saw the red-clad draconic form of Wizard with Kaede and Ku on either side of him, already in battle stances. The ruby face of the Kamen Rider showed no emotion and neither did his voice in his next words, "Get away from them."
"Ah! The Ring-Bearing Wizard again!" Leprechaun screamed.
"EH?! The Gemstone Wizard?!" Konoka gasped, looking amazed despite the situation.
"Looks different from what Haruna said," Yue commented offhand. "Upgrade?"
"You won't stop me, Wizard! When Wiseman gets this book he'll make us all unstoppable!" Leprechaun boasted. "You can't have it!"
"Really?" Wizard challenged. "Then how about this?"
Wizard plunged his right hand into the magic circle and his arm shot out the other side, gigantic in size. He grabbed Leprechaun in his giant hand and then threw him with all his might into the wall.
"Oh wow!" Konoka gasped in delight, her eyes large and sparkling. She had been a fan of magic for a long time, thus her membership in the Fortune-Telling Club. Seeing the real thing despite the situation was becoming a dream come true.
"My hero!" Makie cheered, her hands in the air.
Wizard gripped his WizarSwordGuns and charged past the girls after the Phantom. He found it recovering and still holding the Melusedek like it was stuck to him. Snarling, Leprechaun opened it's pages once again, "Gol, Gol, Gol-!"
A silver bullet impacted the cover of the book, knocking it from Leprechaun's grasp with a yelp.
"Hey, that book's priceless!" snapped Leprechaun. He went to pick it up but was knocked upside the head by Garuda. Garuda chirped and grabbed the Melusedek in its talons before flying over to Wizard, carrying the tome. The Plamonster dropped the ancient book into Wizard's waiting hand.
"This has done enough damage tonight," Wizard spoke, tossing the book to the side. Kaede leaped into the fray to grab the ancient book before leaping back to her friends who were practically gushing over either the fight or the book.
"Ah, I can get it back! I remember the spells I used!" Leprechaun snorted. "Gol, Gol, Golden, Denden,-!"
That was as far as the Phantom got before out of the pool of water beside the Phantom came the hulking form of the Guardian Statue, somehow hiding itself in the water despite its size. Water ran like waterfalls from the cracks, but it was still able to move. Acting quickly, the hunk of stone slapped down and smashed the Phantom into the dirt, kicking up a cloud of dust. A groan came from the legs of the construct before it collapsed onto its back again, the legs finally beginning to crumble from all the strain they took during the night. Leaning up, one could almost say it was looking imploringly at Wizard, "Finish it! Now!"
"With pleasure!" Wizard nodded, pulling on a new Ring and scanning it on the Hand Author.
"VERY NICE! SPECIAL! FABULOUS!"
Leprechaun grunted and tried to stand. Looking ahead, it witnessed a flaming magic circle appear in the air which erupted with flames as a WizarDragon made of the same element emerged. It roared and circled around Wizard a few times before it dove down into his back. A blast of flames then emerged, bringing out the Drago Skull which bellowed savagely.
"A...a Phantom?!" Leprechaun gasped, recognizing the dragon for what it was. "A Phantom is helping the Wizard?!"
"My partner to the end," Wizard spoke. "For better or worse. Now have a taste of his power! DRAGON'S BREATH!" The Drago Skull inhaled deeply before unleashing a stream of fire.
"PROTECT ME, NELSON!" Leprechaun screamed as he held his precious book in front of him like a shield. Unfortunately, the flames incinerated the book. "NELSOOOOON!" Leprechaun screamed before the flames hit him, enveloping the Phantom with the supernatural blaze. It didn't take long before Leprechaun exploded, the sound of the air burning overcoming even his death screams.
The Drago Skull ended the assault and roared victoriously before Wizard sighed, allowing the portion of his Phantom to return to his Underworld, "Rest in peace Mr. O'shea." He then turned to his students who gaped at him, save for Asuna who smiled. "Looks like my job here is done."
"Wait! Gemstone Wizard-san!" cried out Makie. "Have you seen our teacher?"
Wizard stiffened, "Uh…"
"He was knocked out when that creature and I fought," the golem spoke, surprising everyone. "I placed him in an exit elevator. I can tell you how to leave this place, but I expect something in return."
"What do you want?" asked Yue.
"Please return the book. You saw how dangerous that book is in the wrong hands. It is why I was made to guard it," the statue explained. "Return the book, and I'll tell you how to leave this place."
"How can we be sure of that?" Yue asked suspiciously.
"I think we can trust him," said Wizard. Yue gave Wizard a look. Could she really take his word for it? He wore a mask and she had no idea who he was. He had saved their lives, though. Looking down at the book that she and the others had gone so far to collect, Yue gave a sigh and approached the Guardian Statue. It held out its hand expectantly and Yue placed the book on its palm.
"Thank you," the statue nodded, closing its hand. "There's a way out behind the waterfall near where you were all camped out. You can't miss it. Just answer the question and the door will open for you."
The group turned and began to follow the statue's instructions, heading back to their camp area. Wizard followed them, but dared not try to transform back to normal. The girls kept glancing back at him at random intervals. He did begrudge them for doing it. Likely aside from Asuna none of them had really seen anything like him before. They got back to their camp and spread out to all of the waterfalls to try and find the door that the statue had been talking about. Konoka's excited shouted announced her discovery, bringing the group to where she was, finding a smooth slab of rock with a metal plate on it complete with writing.
"English Problem. Question 1: What is the past participle of, in English, 'read'?" Yue read
"Oh come on!" Makie groaned. "After all this, we have to take a pop quiz too?"
"Well, if we want out then we're going to have to answer it," Asuna frowned. "Anyone got an idea?"
"I know! I know!" Fei Ku chirped. "Answer is 'read'!"
To the surprise of everyone there, the door slid open, revealing a spiralling staircase. The group almost groaned as one when they say the staircase travelling a ridiculous height straight up. They all trudged along the stairs, hoping they would be able to get away while there was still daylight. Only after going a few feet did the group run into a wall with a plate mounted on it marked with a second question.
"Math Problem. Question 2: In the graph below, determine the value of X," Yue read. Below the question was a graph with letters and numbers marked on certain sides.
"Hm," Kaede pondered, opening an eye. "I think that would be...46 degrees." As soon as she said the words, the wall began to slide into the wall of the stairway, leaving the stairs themselves clear for the group to continue.
And so the trek continued up the stairs. Questions of all subjects the middle school would cover were presented to the Baka Rangers. Wizard remained silent, allowing the girls to go at it themselves and they were doing quite well in his opinion. Perhaps all the Baka Rangers really needed was some special attention to get them caught up with their classmates. With the way they were breezing through the quiz answers on the walls, it seemed that they had what it took to take the high school exams and do well on them.
After several hours of trekking and answering questions from all scholastic subjects, the group finally came to an elevator. Everyone had to heave a sigh of relief at the sight of the machine. Happily loading onto the machine, Asuna pressed the ground floor button, letting the doors close with a pleasant ding. The elevator almost moved tortuously slow but it moved. As it turned out, they were down thirty floors below the ground, not to mention however deep the Underground Reading Room was. Another ding announced the return to the surface and the doors opened to allow sunshine to enter the machine.
"Ahhh! Freedom!" Asuna cheered, leaping out of the sand and sunshine. The group exited, just as happy to be up in the clear air again. Ironically, the elevator had come up through the sand next to the entrance the Baka Rangers had used to enter the library unnoticed in the first place.
"Well, this is where we part ways," Wizard sighed, walking down the beach away from the Baka Rangers. "Try to avoid tangling with Phantoms again will you?"
"Hai!" Konoka beamed. "Thank you for helping us Gemstone Wizard-san!"
"My pleasure," Wizard waved, walking off down the beach. He walked calmly not letting his worry about how he was going to protect his identity show. He of course had a plan, but there was always the saying about plans meeting enemy action…
The WizarDriver spoke as Wizard cast a spell once he was hidden behind a rock formation. A red magic circle passed over Wizard, making an exact duplicate of the Kamen Rider where the girls couldn't see.
"Keep walking as if nothing is wrong," Wizard ordered his clone who nodded and started walking. Wizard himself took a leap, jumping across several stones before landing on the bridge to Library island where he knew his students would be approaching soon. A quick command through his mana and the suit was stripped off in a flash of red, allowing Negi Springfield to take a seat on the bridge and look worried.
"Negi-kun!" Konoka's cheer soon came as expected, prompting Negi to turn to see the Baka Rangers scrambling onto the bridge from the beach. "You're okay!"
"Me? What about all of you?" asked Negi, playing dumb. "I woke up out here but the last thing I remember was being down below while that statue was fighting the monster! What happened?"
"Oh you wouldn't believe it!" Makie squirmed, bursting to tell the story. "Okay, the monster must have won its fight because it soon…"
Negi smiled and played dumb, but the relief on his face for their little adventure finally ending was genuine.
The mood was oppressive as ever at the bar which Medusa and Phoenix called their base of operations. Medusa seemed to be doing of all things her nails as she silently fumed over her partner getting one over her for once and not letting it go since. Phoenix was enjoying his drinking in peace, glad he could get Medusa to shut up for once about how he kept picking losers in her eyes.
Then their silence was broken.
"Hi~ Misa-chan, Yugo-kun!"
Phoenix and Medusa looked up from their pursuits to see someone standing at the entrance of the bar. He was a young japanese man with light brown hair sticking out from under a bowler hat. He wore a white shirt with a black vest with a colourful shawl over his shoulders with black pants. It made him stand on the border between playful and professional in terms of appearance. The huge smile he wore on his face pushed that image towards the former rather than the latter.
"Who are you?' Phoenix grunted, turning to face the newcomer.
"He's Gremlin," Medusa replied, her face etched in a frown of sheer distaste. "The one I sent after the Melusedek months ago."
"Oh please, call me Sora," the smiling man waved off the woman's tone.
"I don't care what you want to be called," Medusa hissed, almost literally considering her true form. "Did you manage to find the Melusedek after all this time? I'm most...cross with you taking as long as you did."
"Oh, yeah, about that," grinned the Phantom known as Gremlin. "I decided to delegate," He actually hopped over to the tables, sitting up on one which placed him between Phoenix and Medusa in the centre of the room. "I sent good ol' Seamus to test for traps and dig up the old book," Sora let out the most childish giggle as he explained. "He got lost down there and couldn't get out. He was there so long he started talking to a book for company. Isn't that funny?"
"Jeez, and you say I'm dumb?" Phoenix snorted at Medusa, the woman's glare turning even more fierce.
"Did you, or did you not find the Melusedek?" Medusa scowled.
"Well, he found it. Even got his hands on it too," Sora grinned, kicking his feet in the air.
"Then give it to me!" Medusa snapped, holding her hand out expectantly.
"Sorry, he lost it," Sora shrugged, not even looking at Medusa. "The Wizard got involved and a whole bunch of stuff happened. He ended up losing the book and getting blown up. Now the old man in charge knows we're after the book and he's going to lock it up even tighter than before. He saw Seamus himself so he knows we're real too."
"Ha! Sucks to be you then," Phoenix snorted. Medusa on the other hand was positively livid, assuming her true form and summoning her weapon, the snake-themed scepter Arrogant. It was glowing with a deep purple aura and her eyes were glowing beneath the visor on her face.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you!" Medusa snapped. "We lost the Melusedek, we lost another Phantom, and now that annoying old man knows we exist! He's the leader of the Kansai Magic Association! He'll spread word about us all over! I should execute you for such failure!"
"Rel~ax Misa-chan," Sora waved off Medusa's fury. Reaching into his jacket, he produced a small handheld mirror. Rather than reflecting him though, it was replaying scenes from Leprechaun's life on Library Island from his point of view. "I didn't get the Melusedek, but Seamus did use a few spells from it. I think you might find them handy for future missions."
"Oh yeah? Anything good?" asked Phoenix.
"At the very least, we have Super Ghouls now," Sora grinned.
Medusa scowled, obviously not pleased but she didn't make any more threatening motions. After all, some piece of the pie was better than no pie at all. Stronger foot-soldiers were always a plus. She would have preferred to have the entire book but that was beyond her grasp now.
"Fail like this again and no amount of bribery will save you," Medusa hissed, returning to her human form.
"Thanks Misa-chan!" Sora grinned, tucking the mirror into his pocket again.
"Don't call me that."
The Baka Rangers managed to return to the dorms exhausted and with one day before the high school exams. The rest of 2-A was fit to be tied when they saw an exhausted group coming in with their clothes partially missing. Ayaka had a fit, attempting to 'protect Negi-sensei's modesty' but Kasumi called her out on touching his bare chest. Nodoka barrelled in Yue, sobbing in relief at her best friend being safe. Haruna was so relieved she didn't make innuendos based on the group's state of dress. Of course, Makie became the centre of attention when she revealed that they had met the Gemstone Wizard when he rescued them from another monster. Kazumi was all of them like white on rice with her tape recorder with the rest of 2-A following close behind, demanding information. The Gemstone Wizard and anything about him was hot news after all and everyone wanted to know.
Still, time moved on and the high school exams were looming ever closer. The girls of 2-A asked for intense study sessions to help improve their grades, much to Negi's shock. It certainly gave him hope that the girls were finally taking the exam seriously. So with the top scorers in the class helping him get to everyone, Negi set out to help all of his students cram both in class and outside of class so that everyone could have a shot at passing the exams.
Still, the day in question came and Negi had to send his girls off with his best wishes. He was exempt from dealing with the tests since he was a probationary teacher for the time. His main focus was to just teach and do the appropriate paperwork. It didn't stop him for worrying both for his homeroom class as well as himself. If the girls didn't bring themselves up then he could kiss his career goodbye. Still, he consoled himself that he had done his best and would see the results of the testing no matter what they may be.
The day rolled on and the tests were completed. They were collected by the teachers and immediately graded so the scores could be logged in and graded. Only a few hours after the tests were completed, the News Club had the results and had begun announcing them via public announcement as well as the internet and the public access channel the Mahora area had for itself.
"Alright everyone!" the News Club spokesgirl announced, stepping up onto the makeshift stage. "The results have been tallied and we have the class rankings for the second year classes!"
Negi and the Baka Rangers were all present at the announcement, each of them nervous and hoping for a positive announcement. They, along with the rest of their classmates, were waiting in anticipation.
"Argh, I'm so nervous," Makie whimpered.
"At least the that whole starting over from elementary school thing was just a rumor," Yue offered blandly.
"I still say Haruna made that up herself," Asuna huffed.
"Probably," Yue nodded. She knew that Haruna was an insatiable gossip and when things got boring, she'd think of something to kick up a fuss about, if only so she could have some fun watching the mass chaos.
"Now without further ado, we have our final scores!" the announcer called. "With an average of 81 points and just barely squeaking ahead of Class 2-F who was at 80.8 we have …"
'Please be us!' the collected girls of 2-A prayed to themselves.
"Our underdogs for the year, Class 2-A!"
Cheers and cries of shock echoed through the announcement area and just about everywhere else that the students were collecting to view the results. In the cafeteria Sakurako was gasping with wide sparkling eyes at the news. She had bet fifty lunch tickets on 2-A coming out on top. The odds were unbelievable and more people were betting on 2-A ending up in last place once again. By winning, Sakurako cleaned up to the point she would never have to pay for lunch at school ever again. Outside, Ayaka was with Chao, Satomi Hakase, and Chizuru Naba using Chao's laptop to get a live update. Ayaka went into transports of delight, hugging Chao to the point the poor girl turned blue.
"We did it!" Makie cheered, wrapping her arms around Negi's neck and squeezing him tightly. "We got first place Negi-kun!"
The Baka Rangers all began to cheer as did the other denizens of 2-A and began their various reckless celebration methods which made the former last-place class so memorable. Negi was at the centre of it all, feeling like the whole situation was more than a little surreal. He had done it. He had not only brought 2-A out of last place, but got them all the way up to first place! He hadn't just completed his final assignment, he blew it out of the water! His mind was a jumble of what he should do next. Should he report to the headmaster? Should he write home to Nekane? Should he go out and celebrate? He didn't know what to do!
"Ho, ho! Congratulations Negi-kun!" The wizened voice caused Negi and his students to turn around and see Konoemon Konoe approaching them with a proud smile. Oddly enough, he had a bandage wrapped around his head for some reason. Negi pondered how it happened, but remembering how Konoka would bonk him on the head with her little hammer sometimes he chose not to discuss it.
"Thank you sir," Negi bowed respectfully. "It wasn't easy, but we did it."
"And exceeded all of my expectations in the process," Konoemon smiled. "You should be rightly proud of yourselves for doing something so amazing. Never to my knowledge has the last place class made such a fantastic leap before. Truly one for the record books."
"Thanks Grandpa!" Konoka chimed in, smiling. "So does this mean Negi-kun can stay with us now? You're not going to send him home?"
Konoemon chuckled and stroked his beard, "After seeing the results of his teaching, I think it would be a waste to let him go now. I'll get started on the paperwork solidifying his employment with us right away."
"Yay! We've got Negi-kun!" several of the girls of 2-A cheered out and began glomping Negi once again, trying to get their own hugs in. The headmaster could only chuckle at the enthusiasm of his students, once again showing why 2-A was considered one of the most rambunctious in the entire school.
The sunlight was beginning to wane as Mahora's nightlife was slowly beginning. Down before were the happy students of the middle school as they finished their high school exams and were off to have fun and blow off steam. Among them was Negi Springfield who was being dragged by several of his students to learn about the joys of karaoke.
Above them, standing on one of the buildings was the bright form of the White Wizard. He watched the teenage teacher be dragged into the karaoke building by his students, some of which having a not-so-innocent gleam in their eyes, particularly the one with square glasses. The White Wizard didn't comment or even have an opinion of what he saw. What Negi did on his own time was his business. So long as he continued to develop his power by fighting the Phantoms then there would be no issue.
"Now with no threat of his removal, we can continue," the White Wizard spoke to himself. Reaching into his mantle, he brought out a hunk of glowing Magic Stone, a deep green emerald. Just holding it brought the tickle of the breeze to the White Wizard's hand. He would have felt it if he hadn't already been wearing gloves.
"Time for the next evolution," he muttered to himself, staring deeply into the raw Magic Stone. The uncut gem just continued to glow as if it was staring back.
To Be Continued...
A/N: Well, here concludes the trip to Library Island. Negi manages to save his job, but we also meet Gremlin for the first time. Anyone who knows Wizard knows he's going to be trouble. It also seems someone else has become aware of Negi's secret. Fans of the Negima series will know who that is, but everyone else will just have to guess. You'll find out soon though.